Oh my, oh my! The days are so long and so chock full of EVERYTHING! I’m going to try and narrate a day in the life of this crazy teacher. I’m going to tell it from start to finish – because the school day starts when I leave my house, and ends – well, it’s still going on – because I am working on a Notebook for later in the week, answering messages on Skedula, and thinking about how I am going to present equations of lines and parabolas in a brand new light tomorrow.
I left the house in darkness (6:13 am or, as my daughter calls it ‘ass o’clock’); the sun was just beginning to rise as I got tot school. I usually leave everything prepared for Monday morning on Friday, but I am writing a new unit in Discrete Math (a new course I am putting together as I go), and thus needed to make a copy run first thing this morning for the lessons that were finished over the weekend. Luckily, there was paper, toner, and the copy machine was working. The Fates are smiling on me so far. In the office I run into Mr. R, who tells me that his daughters (who are 12 years away from college) used to love school, but now hate it because of all the Common Core work they have to do, and blame their teacher. Sigh.
My office, located in a former boys bathroom, is comfortable temperature-wise, which is a change – last week it felt like a sauna when the heat was on. I put together my copy requests for the coming week (the school Copy Center is one of my favorite features at school), chug a bit of coffee (it’s still not quite 8 am), and head down to my Geometry class, pushing an iPad cart topped with compasses, straight edges, and lots of scrap paper.
My 2nd period Geometry class is a challenging one – it is the first of three semesters (a slower pace), and all of the students in it are off-track – they have failed at least one term of math somewhere in high school. I am trying – REALLY TRYING – to bring the material alive for them, but they are a difficult audience – it is early in the morning, they are highly suspicious of anyone telling them math can be enjoyable, and their skills are weak. Today we are having differentiated construction practice and a quiz. Each student will take the quiz when they are ready (they need to produce 7 constructions). They can review on the iPads using mathopenref.com, GeoGebra, or an app called Geometric Construction Tutor Lite. Once they finish the quiz, students can opt to work on a project from Creative Constructions or explore GeoGebra. Everyone gets busy, which gives me the opportunity to work one-on-one with those students who have been struggling with the constructions, despite the cooperative groups in which they have been sitting. The kids are engaged and focused all period long; I hope the results on the assessment reflect their effort.
I love my 3rd period prep; it is usually a time when I debrief/brainstorm/dish/howl with my office-mate Albert, a gifted 2nd year teacher, who is a super-mathy, super-funny, and literally half my age. We argue about how much detail is required in 2 column proofs (or if 2 column proofs are required at all, another point of endless debate), work Exeter math problems on our wall-size whiteboard, and do the Peanut Butter Jelly Time song and dance.
Next are my back-to-back Discrete Math classes, a new course which I am teaching (and writing) this term. The current unit is Voting Theory, something which I haven’t taught (or studied) before, but which is very real and relevant to the students, and has thus far gotten a lot of kids talking and volunteering opinions. In fact, Thomas W., who barely passed my Algebra 2 class last year, and NEVER spoke unless practically forced to, has been raising his hand at least twice each period. These classes have an interesting mix of juniors and seniors, and a wide range of motivation and skill level – I have students who are several math credits short for graduation, and others who perhaps failed the second term of Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus and are taking this course as a filler math class until their desired class is offered again in the spring. The 4th period class is large and lively – EVERYONE wants to be heard, and side conversations – on topic – spin off from the whole class discussion frequently. We are using a hypothetical school mayoral election to examine the different ways votes can be counted, which led, in one discussion, to the proposition that all elections are popularity contests, even political ones. The 5th period class is more reserved, but they had a high level debate on Friday (during my formal observation, bless them) about whether a Borda count made sense in this type of election, and whether the candidate with the most first place votes deserved to win if all of their other votes (in a preference schedule) were last place votes. But I could not get a response from this same class that did me so proud on Friday; attendance today was poor – a side effect of teaching off-track seniors – and perhaps my delivery of the material was not as smooth as I would have liked, the downside of teaching something brand new. In the 90 minutes in which I taught these two classes, I went from very psyched to reflectively revising tomorrow’s lesson.
LUNCH TIME!! I am a lucky gal. My husband makes me a wonderful lunch every day, and I try to honor that lovely meal by not working. Today, however, this was not possible. My two honors track Algebra 2 classes immediately follow lunch, and with our departmental midterm coming up on Friday, I wanted to make sure that I reviewed as many homework problems as possible during class, as well as some practice on topics that they struggle with, like absolute value inequalities. So my lunch was eaten while doing math – not the worst thing in the world. And two very lovely things happened during this period: first, the younger sister of one of my former students came by with a gift from her sister, currently an Honors student at SUNY Oswego – her Geometry notebook from my class. (I got these notebooks for all of my students through a grant from Donorschoose.org.) Shortly thereafter, another student, Victoria T., came by to ask me if I would write her recommendation for the Brooklyn College Scholars Program – she wants to become a math teacher. Big warm fuzzy! Did I mention that the student at Oswego is double majoring in Math and Adolescent Education as well? Great reasons to have my lunch interrupted.
I finish my teaching day with 2 sections of Algebra 2, Honors track. Jam-packed classes – 34 students each. Totally different vibes. The 7th period class – they are diligent but humorless, at least with me. They ask questions – occasionally – but don’t like to answer them, or share work on the board. It’s easier to get through the lesson with them because I haven’t quite figured out how to draw them out, and there is not a lot of discussion (not happy about this, but it’s efficient, anyway). But my 8th period – well, that’s my reward for making it through the day (if you have been reading my blog this term, you may have heard this before). They walk in asking questions, volunteering to put work on the board, helping each other. They laugh at my ridiculous math nerd jokes, and even have started making their own. And today, when we proved that 2 complex numbers were multiplicative inverses of one another – there were actually ooh’s and aah’s. Really. Julius M. even said, “That is so cool!” I love those kids – they bring a big smile to my math teacher-y face. I wish we had more time to practice, to explore – there are so many activities I want to use with these students to bring meaning to the abstraction that is Algebra 2, but I am barely halfway through the pacing calendar, and more than halfway through the term.
I managed to leave school pretty quickly today – to come home and finish planning the rest of the week in Voting Theory. The lessons are done, but not the SmartBoard files, and I want to have guided worksheets so the students don’t spend all their time copying down preference schedules. One hour of tutoring, putting together the Hanukah package for my daughter who won’t be home for another 2 months , an hour of #alg2chat, and here it is – time for bed – because 5:20 a.m. (or ass o’clock, you know) is just a few hours away.