Sunday, August 14, 2016

Riding The Pre-Planning Roller Coaster:  Part 2

Well, I am writing this over a week later than I had planned, so that says a lot  about how this  day impacted my first  week of school and ability to get to  projects outside of my classroom.  Just as the Wednesday of pre-planning that I wrote about last blog was so energizing and productive (the peak of the roller coaster ride), the Friday of pre-planning became the valley that drained me. 

In between Wednesday and Friday of that week, I had my first Algebra 1 team meeting for which I  am the team lead.  There are  5 of us, and four are new this  year, so that is quite an undertaking for leading a team.  I got them all signed up to dropbox and was planning  on Friday afternoon and early evening to get materials loaded up for them for the first 2 weeks.  We did manage to finalize our syllabus and calendar for the first unit; more specifically the first 2 weeks as we all had to stay on the same page due to students changing schedules.

Then came Friday.  It started out with a department meeting at 8:30am for an hour.  One of my colleagues was leading it and showing us how to work OneNote on our Surface Pro devices, which was informative and helpful as I had already started to play around with the program  on my computer.  I still as I write this have yet to  receive my device, and the students get them this coming Tuesday…   I am not worried about it though because they can utilize them for things other than OneNote while waiting for me to get my device.  They can access my Edmodo site, the course textbook when I do actually assign out of it, and best of all, they can download DESMOS!!!    There is still plenty we can do even if I never get my device. 

The department meeting lasted until 9:30am, and then it was time to start getting all those errands done that I had put off all week.  Most important was the parking pass, which I quickly regretted not getting on the first day of pre-planning.   My department chair had stopped by earlier in the week  to check if I had gotten my parking pass, and I told him it was on the to-do list’ he just smiled and said okay.  We have been professional friends for many years, and he is a very nice guy, so he did not realize that if he was trying to save me from myself he needed to say something like:  “hey dumbass, you need to go get a pass, or you will end up parking behind the school..”.   My former department chair was more of a straight shooter that way, she knew I was terrible at details.

I  quickly learned my lesson.  I ended up assigned in back of the school by the beautiful trees, and this is what our campus looks like except there are trees around it now.

My spot is is behind the corner of the building closest to the bottom right of the image, and my room is at the end of one of the hallways in front.  Enough said.

At 10:30am I had to attend a meeting for one of my Algebra 1 support students whose mother wanted to meet us and bring us up to speed his challenges as he transitions to high school.  It was a good meeting and helpful for me to start thinking about strategies to help him as the school year starts.
This brought me to 11am, and I was supposed to meet a past colleague for lunch at 11:45, so I used the time between to run to the School Box to get some additional supplies for my “not finished” bulletin board and other classroom décor.  I found out that School Box had moved down the street, so that process took up time, and I did not make it to lunch until nearly noon.  It was probably better for my bank account that I did not have extra time at School Box, but it made me feel like there was so much more I wanted to do to my new room.  I decided maybe mid-year (being realistic). 

At 12pm I met my friend.  I had not seen her in almost a year.  She left my former school at the end of 2015 and went to teach at a private school for students needing a different type of school set-up.  She was hoping that would revive her teaching soul, but it was not the right fit, so she is taking the year off to figure out what is next.  I have to admit that on this day at mid-day, I was just a slightly envious of that as I felt the stress and pressure building of the impending first day of school 3 days away.

I got back to school about 1pm.  I had agreed to help one of my Algebra 1 team members start her google-site set-up as that is required of us to carry a website.  We had just sat down to do so and do work together when the admin announced the ethics meeting for all new teachers and strongly suggested for teachers not new to the district but new to the school.  This is where the irritation started seeping out along the edges.  I had planned on 2 solid hours to get the dropbox loaded for my team, and start printing out materials for the following week and Monday’s copies made.  In retrospect, I would have done just that.  On Friday, I still felt that being new to the school meant better not miss a meeting; a week later that perspective has changed a bit.  I learned nothing new at the ethics meeting other than what some people with no scruples will do when left to their own element.  I am not, and never have been that person, and I have carried an ethical approach to my job for the last 12 years and always will.

The meeting lasted from 1:30pm to almost 3pm, and then it was time for our faculty meeting.  I went to that, which was useful information, but I lost the two hours before that could have set a less exhausting tone for the next week.  I finally got back to my room at 4:15pm.  I had not loaded materials to our team folder in dropbox, had nothing printed out, nothing copied.   Further, I was staring at a bulletin board that consisted only of new material stapled to it from 5 days prior; I had intended to have it done already; I completely cracked.

Thankfully my son had planned to help me re-hang some posters that we had not glued enough to the wall and lost the battle to the Georgia August humidity.  He helped me border the bulletin board as well, which was a double layer of black and silver, so not easy to do.  I was able to get it together with his help and only throwing one stapler out of 3 across the room.  Unfortunately, decorating bulletin boards is not my forte, and I have the up most respect for elementary teachers who have to change them several times a year – I could not make it through that!

Even with help and finishing the bulletin board, it was then 6pm, and I still had nothing I had planned done.  It was then coming to the realization  that I would not be prepared beyond Monday, which is not how I like to approach any upcoming week.   Luckily my teacher mentor calmed me down, got me to only focus on what I needed for Monday and let the rest go.  I printed out my syllabus signature sheets, the Auto-Biography that I wanted the students to complete, and the Accelerated Algebra 1 pre-tests that were giving first day.   Another colleague helped by cutting out color squares for the Algebra 1 meet and greet activity, and all that was left was to make the power point to go with the meet and greet activity.

The printing, copying, and organizing of Monday’s materials along with a few other loose ends (drop box loading)  kept me in the building until 8pm.   I was ready for the first day, but I was really uneasy with not having anything else worked out.  I would definitely work over the weekend, but I did not like leaving without print-outs for the week.

My next blog about the first week will reflect the impact of this pre-planning day.   The point I am reflecting on is how different one day is from another in a teacher’s world.  While one day can leave you flying high and so excited, another day can leave you on the ground and barely able to keep your head above water for the next few days.  A teaching job is truly like riding a roller coaster, with lots of highs and lows.  This first week proved out to be the same, but I can definitely say the highs did out count the lows.  As always, having the students back and interacting with them made it all worth it!

Reflection Questions (These Cover Pre-Planning Roller Coaster Parts 1 and 2)
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?   
     I am so happy I asked my colleagues from my former high school to let me present MTBoS and
     Desmos for them.  They took time out of their pre-planning schedule and were willing to learn
     something new.  Best of all, they found it useful, and that is gold to me.  As I have stated in past
     blogs, we are all tired from years of curriculum change and needed something new and 

     I am starting to be really concerned about my decision to transfer to a different school.  Life  in my
     new school seems really demanding, tense, and I feel lost in such a big building.  I am going to 
     trust that I am just resisting change that is imminent in the wake of a decision like this, and am
     hoping that in weeks  to come I will settle in better and enjoy my new home.  I have not met the 
     students  yet, so I know that will help with the process A LOT!!!

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?

     I am looking forward to meeting my new students next week and settling into a routine again.  
     Both of these blogs have demonstrated the “highs and lows” that a teaching career can bring to a 
     soul, and felt inspired by this ideas in metaphorically including the idea of a roller  coaster into the

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.  The relational  moment I felt this week was with my former colleagues.  I was never aware 
     before how much they valued thoughts and ideas I had.  I felt closer to them  professionally after 
     the presentation than I did previously.  I am excited to know that I have formed many professional
     relationships that appear to be long-lasting.  I hope to find even more to add to this list in my new

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.   I feel like my 
     instruction over the past two years has fallen really flat, and I want to get back in touch with the
     creative flair I had for many years in my classroom.  Being a part of the MTBoS community has
     definitely re-newed my energy and passions for teaching, and I am hoping that will drive me to 
     make the changes I want to.

     Another goal I wanted for this year was to spiral concepts into homework assignments to help 
     keep content learned alive whether a student is working on mastery or maintaining mastery.  This 
     is a big undertaking and may have to wait until well into 1st semester or even 2nd semester.  Still, 
     this will provide increadible review for or EOC exams and also work to connect and seal our 
     curriculum in the course.

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

      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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