Friday, April 7, 2017

Day in the Life:  January 26, 2017:   Unexpected Realizations

Almost a month has gone by now since I have gone out of the classroom.   My days are pretty redundant, and I am finding myself pretty non-productive in the redundancy spiral…   This week is different though because unfortunately, my best friend’s father passed away this week.   Thus, I find myself on my way back to Minneapolis for the 2nd time this month.

9am – Wake up and grab coffee, still trying to get used to having the day all to myself.

9am-11am:  Browse Twitter and other social media, read some MTBoS blogs, and book a rental
                    car for my trip on Friday 1/28.   I am finding that it may be more challenging to 
                    rearrange a tutoring  schedule for my students and worry about income lost than it is to 
                    request sick leave in teaching and write lesson plans for a sub.   I never thought I would 
                    hear myself say words like that.  Still, I would not be anywhere else but by my friend’s
                    side to support her, so anything it takes.

11am-12pm:  Rearranging tutoring schedules, contacting parents, and prepping tutoring materials for
                       the evening.

12pm-2pm:  Reading current book selection:  Kristin Hannah’s latest book – The Nightingale.  
                    turns out to be phenomenal by the wayJ

2pm-3pm:  Prepare and cook dinner for later in the evening.

3pm – 10pm:  Tutoring Pre-calculus, Algebra 2, Geometry, Honors Algebra 2, 
                        Honors Pre-calculus, Honors Algebra 1, and Honors Algebra 2; all in that order.  
                        Definitely getting a varied fill of math each evening!

10pm-11pm:  Decompressing and finishing up texts to tutoring parents.  Off to bed at 11pm, so I can
                      get all errands run during the day before I leave early morning on Friday for 

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?

Because I am out of the classroom, I do not experience the day-to-day deluge of decisions throughout the day.  Many would think that is a lucky thing, and I thought I would enjoy being free from this for a while myself.    In fact, I miss this challenging part of being a teacher terribly.  Tutoring is predictable from week to week except for a schedule change or two, but the students come for tutoring, I help them, they go home.  I don’t make the big decisions, someone else does, and I find the materials to enhance the instruction that has already taken place.  I did not look at tutoring this way when I taught during the day and then tutored at night; back then I still had the challenge and excitement of running my own classroom.  Yes, that is right – excitement; folks I MISS it!!!  Today I am proud of the fact that I did not look back on the decision to get to Minneapolis to help my friend despite all the scheduling of tutoring is off balance now, and the parents and kids have been great about it.
The decision I am worried about is the one to leave teaching for a while – will it affect my ability to get back into the classroom as I am definitely thinking that is where I need to be.
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 definitely in a low right now, and I never thought I would be.  Not seeing colleagues and students on a daily basis has been challenging for me.   I am not using my time during the day productively.  I had visions of working on developing materials for tutoring during my day hours and learning to try new recipes and adopt healthier eating habits.   None of this seems to interest me or engage me.   Of course I am prepared for tutoring each day, but planning for 4-6 different preps for students that have been instructed differently than my delivery kills my energy to prepare beyond extra practice.  Trying to think about doing so just reminds me that I no longer have a classroom to prepare and care for.  I browse Twitter for inspiration, but it makes me miss teaching even more.  Still, I save the ideas, activities and blogs I see for a later date.  I figure this is just temporary and normal and that I will shake this funk eventually.

I am looking forward to seeing my friend.  Helping her will help me to get my mind off of not teaching, and being with her will probably comfort me as much as I intend to be there to comfort her.

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.  

One cool thing with tutoring this month is that one of my new tutees is a former student of mine from last year.   It was great to know that when she needed extra help in honors pre-calculus, she chose to contact me and seek help.  In working with her this past month, we have been able to laugh and share some great memories from her class last year, and it is really exciting to see the things that she remembered from honors algebra 2 last year!   Still, polar and parametric equations are a different mathematical world for students, and she has not formally had physics yet, so the applications were tougher for her.  Best of all, I talked her into taking calculus next year!  She did not want to do AP Calculus, and I agree that she may not yet be ready for that, but she did not realize they were going to offer non-AP Calculus.  She is definitely a candidate for that course, and then she could either continue into AP Calculus or then take AP Statistics.  With her, I know I have made a difference both in the past and presently.  She is such a hard-working student, and she will do great!

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 of my professional goals for my self-induced sabbatical included visiting other teacher’s classrooms to observe, gain ideas, and reflect on my own practices for growth.  I wanted to visit Minneapolis South High School since I had student taught there in 2004.  My cooperating teacher Don Winnes is still there, so I wanted to visit and catch up with him.   I also wanted to visit Sara VanDer Werf’s classroom again (I observed her for about 20 hours during my pre-service practicum in 2004), and my hopes were to see a couple of Sara and Don’s colleagues’ classrooms.   Luckily, the week of my trip worked with their schedules as school was back for Minneapolis that week.  She gave me a choice of days, and I chose Friday because it was supposed to be up to 6 degrees that day/warmest day of the week.

Yes – 6 degrees…  I had really thought the weather channel was kidding, but no chance.  Good thing I crocheted that big ball of yarn into a new scarf and picked up new boots – this weather-pansied Atlantan was COLD – can you tell?

I am glad I made it the scarf long enough to wrap all around my head and neck!  Here I am at Matt's Bar trying to warm up, so I can order a Jucy Lucy!

I honestly do not know how I made it through so many Minnesota winters back in the day….

BUT-it was totally worth braving the cold to go back to Minneapolis South High.  I got to observe my former cooperating teacher Don, Sara, and her colleague Morgan Fierst.   I spent an extra period catching up with Don, and it was great to be able to pick up the conversations we had many years ago.   I was observing Sara and Morgan’s classroom around the time they did the Fireworks Task that Sara posted usingDesmos to model projectile motion with quadratics/parabolas.  Morgan had introduced the activity the day before and was continuing by helping the students to explore contextual component.  She did a great job challenging the students to connect the contextual ideas to the components of the graph of a parabola.   The contextual part of the problem was several paragraphs long, and I loved the strategy she used to keep students engaged and navigating through the problem.   The context of the problem was broken into smaller paragraphs that she numbered off to help students disseminate and discuss the information in the problem.   I now realize there are so many problems that I have unnecessarily skewed down to avoid students being lost in context; now I have a great new way to help me to keep the content rich in context and mathematics.  As always, activities using Desmos are great, and I will definitely be using it at first opportunity when I return to a classroom.  

Here is my copy of the activity Morgan gave her students including the numbering strategy that the kids and she were using to connect the context and the math

When I observed Sara, she was reviewing operations of polynomials in order to connect the past and push forward into more work with solving quadratics.   This connect back and push forward strategy is a common one of mine as well, and I was happy to see that my work falls in line with a teacher who has a huge amount of experience and success.  I felt very comfortable circulating in her classroom, and the coolest thing was when one of her students asked me for help when she was helping someone else and could not get over to him.   Another cool thing was the table she set up in the back of the room for the kids to work with geometric block tiles to build mathematical patterns. There was a design in progress on the table, and it was clear that kids are at pattern play in her classroom (no surprise thereJ).   This is another idea I want to incorporate into the next classroom I find myself in.

At the end of my visit I sat and chatted with Sara for a while.  She asked me what was still the same about South High, and my immediate reply was that I remembered how awesome it was.  The student body and faculty are very diverse, the environment is so friendly, and students are active learners.   I loved the students and teachers when I student taught there many years ago; it was great to see that had remained the same. 

Going back to Minneapolis South High School and observing was a great experience.   Sara, Don, and Morgan all made me feel very comfortable in their classes and introduced me to their students.   I wish I would have taken pictures to share, but I was so happy to be there and absorb the things around me that I did not think to do so.   Besides, it was probably weird enough for the kids to have some random teacher from Atlanta roaming around their room let alone snapping photos.  I took away some great strategies and ideas, visited and met great people, and re-connected with the beginning of my teacher career.  What I did not know at the time though was that it was the first realization I had that the passion for teaching that I thought was lost and needed searching for was still very much alive in me and did not need extraction.


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