Friday, August 26, 2016

Day in the Life – August 26, 2016

6:15am:  Wake up and finally get out of bed – it’s Friday, so definitely an extra challenge today!  It’s August in Atlanta, which means don’t bother straightening the hair, and opt for the extra few minutes of extra sleep.

6:50am:  Pack up lunch for today and eat breakfast.  Every Sunday, I make a monstrous omelette and break it up for breakfast each day of the week.   I also pack up my lunches for the week.  This is like Meg Craig does with outfits, only this would be more of a morning struggle for me if not made ahead of time.

7:15am:  Arrive to school and realize I need to rearrange student desks because Algebra 1 has their first Unit test today.  Begin doing that and work on what I call my “file pile”, which goes into my course binders.  Organization of paper has always been a struggle for me, but my last school whipped me into shape with that.  Now I can’t go more than a couple of days without dealing with piles.  I spent too many years trying to clean up those messes at the end of a semester with an enormous trash bin.

7:45am:  Meeting with my department chair and a member of my Algebra 1 team who started to become a rogue operator.   All of us on the Algebra 1 team are coming in from different schools, so it has been hard to get into a rhythm on the team.   He and I actually talked about it at lunch yesterday, but this formality meeting was set yesterday.  Another meeting….   Out of 5 mornings before school and 5 lunches this week, 7 of those time periods have been at one meeting or another.  Thankfully, I have 1st period planning, which helps to then get ready for the day if I still need to.  

8:40am:  Meeting lasted almost an hour; ran over because my department chair and I both have 1st period planning.  Good conversations were had, and I feel like we are back to a starting place in our PLC, but start-overs can be a good thing if everyone is committed to a definable better.  I could have sat and talked to my department chair much longer, but I realized that I needed to go and copy my tests for today.  Because I finalized them and sent the key out to everyone, there are no edits to worry about, but they do need to be copied!

9:00am:  Begin finalizing my instruction and notes for 3rd and 4th period Accel Algebra for today on Dimensional Analysis.  Not a welcomed topic by students, I want to make sure it has the proper hooks and want to find spots in the problems for good conversations and “What –if “ scenarios.  Yesterday during the unit rates lesson, we ended up with an amazing discussion on the business principal of profit and not being able to keep everything you may earn.  Further, we visited the fact that there is not guarantee of profit.

9:30am:  2nd Period Algebra 1 and time for their first Unit test of the year.  We have been doing some exciting activities in class the past couple of days to review order of operations, number types, writing algebraic expressions, and “terms, factors, coefficients, constants”, so I am looking forward to how they do.  Most finished in plenty of time and said they felt prepared, so I am hoping they knocked their first assessment out of the park!  During the test I grade their review homework and start writing lesson plans for next week as well as attend to the constant stream of email coming in.

10:30am:  3rd  Period Accel Algebra 1 and unit conversions/dimensional analysis.   As expected, it was not a welcomed topic by students, especially when converting to cubic centimeters, but we made it through.  I definitely need to find a way to spice this topic up much more on the front end, but I am excited about an activity using it next week for test review.  4th period with Accel Algebra went a little better on the uptake with conversions, but still – note for the future:  find a way to make conversions more engaging.  Better application problems, something.    During this period I get an email from my Accel Algebra team leader that we need to meet quick over lunch.  I am now up to 8 out of 10 hours of meetings this week. 

12:45pm   The meeting was in my room and about whether or not to replace a lowest quiz with next week’s test if they do better.  This is not a practice I use, but I agree to it to save argument and time.   As my Accel Algebra colleague is leaving, my mentor stops by and is trying to convince me to “eat lunch like a real person” in the office with others today.  I am panicking a bit now because I have no materials for math support 6th period today.  I had planned on puzzles, but I had also planned on my entire lunch period to print and copy an assortment.  I told my mentor I would try to get in there.  Next, my Algebra 1 colleague stops by to see what to do about giving the test 6th period because our principal is making the formal announcement of the death of one of our students this week; we both know that students may need to opt out of the test.  We come up with plan B for giving the test Monday for his class if needed.  As soon as that was done, one of my colleagues from my former school stops by to say hi and visit since he is subbing for us today.  He has gone out of the classroom to pursue a graduate degree in statistics.  He was an amazing teacher, and something tells me he will go back someday (I hope so).  I really miss working with him.

1:05pm:  I now have 15 minutes left to eat lunch and make copies.  I quickly decide to do Ken-Ken only with support today (they had their 1st major exam today in their core class, so I wanted to do something more relaxing with numbers today).   I print the puzzles, go to the math office with my yogurt and join the others while my copies were running.  It was nice to get some laughs in before the afternoon classes.  I have to push myself to do this more often.

1:30 – 3:30pm:  5th and 6th period came and passed.  It was hard to get support engaged into the puzzles, especially after the announcement from the principal, but they were good sports about it considering it was a Friday, unfortunate news, and we were all exhausted.  I was relieved when the bell rang at 3:30pm and excited to start my weekend.   I stayed a bit after school to talk with my team teacher and a couple of other colleagues about overloaded classes, lack of access to our gradebooks yet, and the fact that my support class will dissipate soon (more on that with a formal blog).

4:20pm:  I hit the road to meet up with my colleagues from my former school at Taco Mac for dinner and drinks.  I left too late of course and met up with some awesome and ridiculous suburb traffic...

Not really what one wants to deal with after a long day of work - this went on for 4-5 miles.  Gotta love North Fulton County, GA.

and was late, but when I got to the restaurant, there was a nice surprise.  Two other of my close colleagues from another nearby high school that I tutor for were there too.  We all sat together and caught up on our school year so far – all the crazy glitches, the stress, the awesome kids, etc.  What I love about this scene was the fact that were had 3 different schools worth of things to share.  It has taken some time, but with the many high schools in our area, we are becoming a pretty close knit set of mathies.  We don’t get our together often, but we do all know each other and have been around long enough to form these bonds.    It is great being in the company of those who share your path – we shared a lot of laughter too.  I love being a part of this community even if we are all at different schools.

7:30pm:  I arrive home after dinner and re-cap the day with my husband who is going into teaching as a second career; I am now re-capping my day for this blog.  I was doing the blog in real time until I finished the 10:30 am segment; then the day got away from me.  We are now three weeks done in our school year already, but this 3rd Friday feels the most exhausting, so I am glad I am at home.  My plan is to go to bed by 10pm and get a good night’s sleep.  I do not have much planned for this weekend, so hopefully I can get good and recharged for next week, which is a short one with the kiddos.  Our school has an extra professional day next Friday, but I did not know this coming into the school.  I will not share that learning day with my colleagues as we are going out of town for our annual anniversary trip and already financially committed.  I am so very much looking forward to it though, and I know it will help next week to have that pot of gold at the end of the week; then of course is the 3 day Labor Day weekend!!!

Until next timeJ
Reflection Questions
1) Teacher make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.   When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher mover you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried about?

     Today I am glad that I made the decision to give support math a break from the  math after their 
     first unit test in their core math class.  As I stated in the blog, it was hard to get them engaged, but 
     I think it was important for them to know that I do understand the need for a break from normal 
     routine after working hard towards a big assessment.

     I am concerned about the decision to not fight harder to not replace the lowest quiz in the unit 
     with the test score if it is higher, but I am going to trust my colleague on this one.  For me, I think 
     it sends the wrong message early and in the wrong way.  I am very much a proponent of finding 
     ways to reward hard work and mastery when it was not there before, but I o not like doing it on 
     the grand scale.  I like it much better by individual, and I think it allows for trust building and 
     individual  communication between students and teachers.  Still, teaching in our area is very 
     PLC-based and too  many times in a robotic sense, so I know if we are going to do this, my 
     colleague is right about the  process.

2)  Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us  some of what that is  like as a teacher.  What  are you looking forward to?   What has been a challenge for you lately?

     This year, I have been doing a lot more interactive activities with students; many of them
     open ended and task-orientated.  I have truly enjoyed this and look forward to continuing
     this process because I believe it has helped immensely with success in their first assessments.

     The most challenging thing for me this year is my support class as it is structured differently 
     than my support classes in the past.  I was used to having a support class for 2 hours in which 
     I was the students’ core content and support teacher.  Wow did we get so much done and build a 
     community!  This year, support is the last period of the day, and my students are coming from 4 
     other different content teachers.  It is so hard to build any kind of relationship with them or get 
     to any kind of consistent routine.  I find myself more and more frustrated by the day.

3)  We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with teachers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone lately.

    As mentioned in the blog, I had a member of the Algebra 1 team become a rogue operator within 
    the  last 2 weeks.   Both of us sought help from our department chair, and we planned to meet 
    today.  My colleague came to my room during lunch yesterday to talk, and we had a great 
    conversation about what had happened and what we could do to fix it moving forward.  This made 
    the meeting with our department chair much more rich this morning.  We were able to have a 
    sharing session rather than  a “fix-it”  session.  I am proud of us for committing to talk sooner that 
    required as well as the conversations we had.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and are often have specific goals for things to work on
     Throughout the year.  What have you been doing to work on your goal?  How are you doing?

     One goal for this year was to create more engaging activities for students.  So far I have been
     doing pretty good at implementing at least a couple of engaging activities per class per week. 
     I am able to keep up with this because I followed Sarah Carter’s idea of posting a tweet for 
     teach180 as often as possible.

     Another goal I wanted for this year was to spiral concepts into homework assignments to help 
     keep information alive whether a student is working on mastery or maintaining mastery.  So far 
     this has been a challenge because of time, but I have been able to do this with a few assignments.  
     My hope is that as the beginning of the year gets less crazy, time will allow for this.

5)  What else happened this month that you want to share?e

      My most exciting thing that happened this month was when I introduced MTBoS and Desmos to
      my colleagues at my former high school.  The reception I got was incredible, and I was so 
      excited to pass along these great resources that I have learned and re-energized from!!!

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