Tuesday, March 7, 2017

March 7, 2017 - Monthly Post #DITL

The following post is a contribution to the Day in the Life Book Project initiated by Tina Cardone:

Today I woke up to good news.  We had a two hour delay for ice.  This week is spirit week, and as senior class advisor, I end up staying at school late every day.  Yesterday I left school after 6 pm, and came home to do more work and cook and clean, so I was very excited to get some extra sleep.

This morning, however, I just couldn't go back to sleep.  Neither could my husband.  We decided to use our extra time to watch last night's episode of Bates Motel since I can no longer stay up past 10 pm and function the next day.  The time we had to just relax and watch tv was just what I needed.

Today was "Woke Up Like This Day" which meant dressing up glamorously.  It sounds like the opposite of "woke up like this", but I don't get to make up the spirit days.  Today I dressed how I used to dress for work before I began prioritizing comfort over style.  It was nice to see some of my students dressed up in their best outfits and looking spiffy.
The two hour delay caused my classes to only be 28 minutes long.  In each of my classes, I was only able to get through the basic instruction and guided practice.  We'll have to do the independent practice tomorrow.  In my General Geometry classes (1st and 4th periods), we learned about reflections.  Students seemed to grasp it quickly, but we'll see tomorrow when they have a practice worksheet.  In my Geometry classes (2nd and 5th periods), we learned about using trig to find missing sides of right triangles.  Thankfully I had already planned a second day of practice for this topic tomorrow.

During my lunch, my seniors held an impromptu meeting to prepare for our after school tasks.  We were able to better organize and prepare for later.  After this, I taught my 6th period SAT Prep class.  This was the only class not effected by the delay.  I started structuring this class differently for this semester.  I begin class by giving students a practice worksheet.  Then we go over the worksheet together, and conclude class by going over the content that students need to review.  Today's topic was solving linear-quadratic systems.  Students remembered this topic well, and were able to complete the worksheet without much trouble.

Today I used my 7th period prep to catch up on the grading that I had from students making up work that they owed.  Tomorrow my third marking period progress reports are due, and I finally completed my grading.  I recently acquired an 8th period study hall, and used my time during this period to catch up on my daily teacher tasks.  Study hall on the delay schedule was not enough time, and I had to continue some of my tasks after school.

Our school turns Spirit Week into an all out class war.  Classes compete against each other in Jeopardy, a scavenger hunt, a talent show, a recyclable fashion show, and in the main event, the Battle of the Classes.  Battle of the Classes happens on the Friday of spirit week.  Classes compete against each other in physical challenges such as tug-o-war, volley ball, an obstacle course, and dodge ball.  The biggest competition is the banner and bleachers.  Each class chooses a theme that is part of a larger theme, and decorates a banner and a set of bleachers in the gym based on that theme.  This year our SGA's theme was "Classic" Disney movies.  (With classic defined as movies from before 2005.)  The senior class's theme is The Little Mermaid.  Starting last week, I began staying after school with some of the seniors to prepare for decorating the bleachers.  We go all out, and the whole process ends up being very time consuming.  Today we stayed until after 8 pm painting, cutting, gluing, planning, discussing, sometimes arguing, and creating.

I feel pressured to get these posts up on the day that I am writing about, and since I didn't get home until 9 pm, I am going to edit this post later this weekend to add my reflection questions.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February 7, 2017 - Monthly Post #DITL

The following post is a contribution to the Day in the Life Book Project initiated by Tina Cardone:

 Today my school closed for ice.  I woke up at 5 am and waited for the call I was expecting.  About 5 minutes later it was announced that my school was running on a 3 hour delay.  I reset my alarm for 7 am, and tried to fall back asleep.  I was able to sleep again once my cat stopped her relentless pawing at me.  She's on my schedule, and loves when I get up in the morning (and conversely hates when I don't get up). 

I awoke again at 7 am, and was able to take my time waking up.  I checked my weather app and noticed that the mixed precipitation was supposed to continue until about 11 am, which would most likely mean that my district would have to close for the day.  Sure enough, I received a call at 7:45 that school was closed for today.  I had breakfast with my husband before he had to report school since his district didn't close.

Today, I was grateful for the day off.  This past weekend a family member passed away, which meant that I spent more time with my family, and completed less work for school.  Add to that staying up later than normal to watch the Super Bowl at my parents' house Sunday night, and this week got off to a sad, stressful, and exhausting start. 

The day off gave me the opportunity to clean some things around the house that were neglected this weekend.  I built a cube organizer and re-arranged my front hall closet.  I had the chance to make phone calls without students that are visiting during my off periods in the background.  I re-wrote my plans for the week to accommodate the day off, and wrote a test and review sheet for my Geometry class.

Unfortunately, today was not a stress-free day at home.  I was nervously checking how the vote for Secretary of Education was going.  As I'm sure you all know by now, Betsy DeVos was confirmed.  I'm shocked she was actually confirmed, but at the same time I'm not surprised.  I've never been one to speak about politics publicly, but this past election and everything that has followed was atypical.  I remember well when I was a junior in 2004, and my history teacher shared with us how he was not allowed to wear a John Kerry button without also wearing a George W. Bush button.  He explained that teachers were not allowed to share their political views with students because the district believed that students were too impressionable.  I've always followed suit, telling my students that "I voted for the president" whenever they asked.  However, this past election was so disturbing, that when students asked who I was voting for, I felt it was important to inform my students that I voted for them.  I openly voted against the candidate whose endorsement carried an endorsement for racism, sexism, misinformation, and hate.  My high school students were very knowledgeable about the issues, and were very worried about the implications of one candidate winning the election.  I felt that I had to let my students know that I was on their side, and that I cared about the issues that were troubling them.  (The district where I work has never said anything about teachers discussing their political views with students.)  After the election I put my focus on cultivating the best of America in my classroom.  I've emphasized acceptance for other peoples' viewpoints, celebration of other peoples' differences, how effort pays off instead of advantages someone inherently has, and showing kindness. 

After learning of the decision made today, I had a difficult time focusing on anything else.  I feel so disheartened, frustrated, and fearful of how we will all be effected.  We've been given the demand to perform miracles with waning support for so long, and now it seems we can only expect more of the same.  I am feeling totally defeated.  Teachers already give up so much to perform their jobs, and it is so hard to hear our society relentlessly put us down and blame us for what's going wrong in public education.  I am also tired of people trying to discredit our unions.  Teachers need protection more than most (if not all) other professions.  We simply cannot take care of our students if no one is taking care of us.  I've spent more of my day than I would have liked reading about the implications of the decision, actions that teachers can take, and the reactions that other people are having to the decision.  However, I think I needed this time to meditate and get my clear my mind so I can put my focus back on my students tomorrow.

This is not my usual post at all, but it was my day in my life.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

January 7, 2017 - Monthly Post #DITL

The following post is a contribution to the Day in the Life Book Project initiated by Tina Cardone:

Today is Saturday.  I had my alarm set for 5 am, as usual, but today when my alarm went off, I set a new one for 5:30.  I woke up feeling extra tired because I was up later last night than usual.  I laid in bed and dozed on and off until about 6 am.  My favorite thing about the weekend is being able to wake up slowly, and then lay in bed and play on my phone.

By 6:30, I remember that it's Saturday, which means that there is new content available in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club.  I joined the club in hopes of achieving work-life balance.  Today was my first time logging in, and getting started.  I had to figure out how to get the audio file onto my phone so that I could play it in my car on the way to the gym.  By 7:30 I gave up and left for the gym.

I have about a 20 minute drive to get to the gym, so usually after my workout I run some errands in town.  Today I went to Dollar Tree and Target.  Usually in January Dollar Tree has new organizational items, so I picked up some baskets for my house and school, a calendar, organizers for my make-up, and some random DIY supplies.  Two items into scanning my order the cashier said, "Let me guess.  You're a teacher?"  I then went to Target for a new water bottle because mine broke and a few other things I needed.  I left with those items and three pairs of boots.  By the time I got home it was almost 11:30 (because I spent a good hour meandering around Target - I love shopping early in the morning when the stores are practically empty).  When I got home I showered and put away all of my purchases. 

Today my husband was away for a conference, and I decided that once I was home I was not going to leave.  I figured that today would be a good chance to relax alone.  I really didn't feel like I had a break last week when we were off from school.  I had only one day where I didn't have to participate in holiday festivities with family or host house guests.  I know that to most people, this would constitute a relaxing break; and I did enjoy spending time with my family and loved ones.  But I'm an introvert, and teaching is especially exhausting for me because I have to put extra effort into my personal interactions with students and colleagues.  I feel like I have to be "on" the whole day.  I feel similarly when spending time with friends and family, but not to the same extent.  Last week I never felt like I really got to hit the off switch, so break was not super refreshing for me. 

So today I just spent some time with myself.  I didn't do anything fun or exciting.  I did two loads of laundry, hung a shelf, re-organized a section of my closet, and I cleaned my kitchen.  I watched a little Netflix and YouTube, and spent some time just sitting.  I tried to get some grading done, but found it hard to stay motivated.  As I blog, I am trying not to agonize over the things that I could have done, but didn't.  I really have to rationalize with myself that I needed this time to unwind, and that not accomplishing much is not a bad thing.

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

I feel like my past school week had its highs and lows.  We came back from break on Tuesday, and that day we had a much appreciated two-hour delay.  On my first day back I felt great, and I was happy to be with my students again.  On Wednesday, we had a department meeting that took half of the day, so it was like having a mini-break from the regular teaching duties.  Thursday was a normal school day, but I felt like it was a Thursday of a regular, full school week, and I was looking forward to Friday.  Friday ended up being the craziest day for me.  I advise the senior class, and our t-shirt order arrived.  All of my prep periods were devoted to counting, organizing, and distributing the shirts, while being interrupted by students eager to get the shirts they ordered.  Many realized that they want a shirt that they didn't order, so I had to figure out if and how to go about ordering more.  I had to stay an hour late to finish all of my regular duties.  It was frustrating, but worth it to see my senior so excited.
2.  Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.

One of my biggest goals this year to achieve a work-life balance.  I believe I've finally started making progress in this area.  I've devised a plan to implement a weekly routine to get all of my planning done, and I joined the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club.  I can't wait to start implementing small ways to save time and streamline my teaching procedures.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My New Favorite Routine

I have a habit of falling off the face of the Earth, and not blogging once the school year begins.  What better way to get back into the swing of things than with the 2017 Explore MTBoS Blogging Initiative?  This week's topic is "My Favorites".  (Is anyone else a huge Impractical Jokers fan that cannot read the words "my favorite" without hearing it in Sal's ridiculous voice?)

The thing that I am most obsessed with right now is my new routine.  I have not been able to get into a groove all year.  I was so frustrated with how my planning was working (or at times, not working) that I just had to make a long list of all of the things that I have to do weekly to prepare my lessons.  I blocked similar tasks together, and then designated days of the week to complete each task.  My goal each week is to complete the plans for the following week.

My new routine is as follows:
Sunday - write out plans, update the Google Calendar that is shared with my Geometry classes, begin worksheets, quizzes, and tests for the week
Monday - finish worksheets, quizzes, and tests
Tuesday - complete homework assignments and unit planning work required by my district
Wednesday - complete answer keys, make any corrections, and update my interactive notebook
Thursday - make copies, make SMART Notebook lesson presentations
Friday - finish SMART Notebook lesson presentations

Putting together my worksheets, activities, interactive notebook pages, quizzes, and tests takes up the most time, so I planned to make it a two day activity.  I made Tuesday just a homework day so that if I still needed to complete some of the worksheets etc., I will still have that time.  Although, now I'm thinking of making Sunday and Monday "worksheet and homework" days and Tuesday the "quizzes and tests" day.  The unit plan stuff that I have to do for my district may not be needed each week, so sometimes I can catch a break there.  I really needed to designate a day for completing answer keys and proofing the work I've done.  Regrettably, this was the part of the whole planning process that I sometimes skipped.  I save the SMART Notebook presentations for last because if I put them together before I do the answer keys, chances are I will have to change both the worksheet and the presentation.  The goal is to get as much of this done on Thursdays as possible because I have so many end-of-the-week routines to do on Friday.

I tried this routine out the week before winter break, and was able to maintain it since returning from break.  I still have some kinks to work out, though.  For one, I didn't get to update my interactive notebook this week.  It's only two pages, so I will easily be able to get it done this weekend. 

The other kink I still have to work is getting my third prep on the same schedule.  I've only had two preps until last year, and I'm still not used to having three.  Hopefully this new routine can remedy that.  This is a work in progress, and I'm enjoying the process.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Geometry Teacher Timesaver

As a Geometry teacher, I find that creating worksheets, notes, tests, quizzes, etc.  is even more difficult for me than other teachers because of all of the symbols that are needed.  Anytime you need an angle symbol, degree symbol, congruent symbol, etc., it takes a few mouse clicks and oftentimes some scrolling to get the symbol added to your document.  I've found different shortcuts in past few years, but there are so many methods to remember.  Today while typing an assignment I decided to play with my favorite shortcut, and found out that it worked for more than just the shortcut I was using.

I use Microsoft Word to create my documents.  Before using any of these shortcuts, you need to change one of the default settings.  After you open a new document, go to "File" and click on "Options."

Once your options come up, click "Proofing."

When the proofing menu comes up, click on the "Auto Correct Options" button.

Under the Auto Correct menu, click on "Math AutoCorrect" and then click in the box to "Use Math AutoCorrect rules outside of math regions."  You will have to repeat this process anytime you start working on a new computer.  (For example, I recently purchased a new computer and had to recall this process.  Also, my school resets the computers every summer, so I have to do this at the start of each year.)

Once you turn the Math AutoCorrect setting on, you're good to go.  You need to use the forward slash key (located under the backspace key), and the symbol will appear once you hit the space bar.  The big change here is that you can add many symbols without your finger tips having to leave your keyboard, and this ends up being a time saver.  (For me, every time I use my mouse pad, I have to realign my fingers on the keyboard because my fingers don't always go back to the home keys.  I'm thinking in the long run all the seconds I waste moving my hands to and from the keyboard will add up to save time.)

Here's a list of my most frequently used symbols:
\angle  (angle symbol)
\Delta  (triangle symbol)
\degree  (degree symbol)
\parallel  (parallel lines symbol)
\perp  (perpendicular lines symbol)
\cong  (congruence symbol)
\sim  (similarity symbol - it will appear differently from the one on the keyboard)

Now the only symbols I need to do extra clicking to incorporate are for naming lines, segments, and rays.  If you need symbol that is not listed, take a look at the list under the "Math AutoCorect" tab.  You'll most likely find it there.  What other symbols do you frequently use as a Geometry teacher?  Keep the list going in the comments below.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7, 2016 - Monthly Post #DITL

The following post is a contribution to the Day in the Life Book Project initiated by Tina Cardone:

Yesterday all of our after school activites were cancelled for the impending snow.  Sure enough, by 5 pm, it started to snow.  We were absolutely certain that with the snow falling at a steady rate all night we would have a two-hour delay today.

I woke up at 5 am, and no phone call.  I hit snooze.  Again no phone call.  I laid and waited.  Still no phone call.  Finally, at 5:30, I got out of bed and started getting ready for work.  We somehow had no delay.  I was able to leave my house just before 7, and make it work by 7:20.  Yesterday, I stayed late to make sure everything was set up for today because I knew today was going to be a little hectic.  I was able to make-up a homework assignment for one class, and get everything settled and ready for the day.

My first class is General Geometry.  Yesterday we worked on determining if polygons were similar.  Today students completed a worksheet independently to practice, and most students finished with enough time to complete their homework in class.  I like classes like this.  I walk around, answer questions, and get to check each student's work.  I even had time to prepare work for my absent students, and talk to students about their grades.

My second class is Geometry and follows right after General Geometry.  I often find the transition to be stressful.  Our administration wants us to be stationed in the hallway during passing time, but I have to set up my board for a different class, put baskets for the notebook supplies on my tables, and make sure that the handouts are on the table for students when they come in.  My Geometry classes are currently working on our proofs unit.  Today we took a break from proofs, and learned about isosceles triangles.  The best thing about proofs is that they make students appreciate algebraic problems.  The lesson went well overall, but it was a lot of me talking at the front of the room, and I would like to get away from doing that as much as possible.  Tomorrow we will apply isosceles triangles to proofs.  This will be our last topic, and on Tuesday we will finally test and move on from this unit.

The next period I had my prep.  Every other day a colleague uses my classroom, and I have to relocate to the faculty lounge.  This can be frustrating because the faculty lounge is usually full of substitutes, and since they don't have anything to do, they are often talking loudly.  I have to put in my headphones and listen to music because it can be very distracting, and I try to make my time as productive as possible.  Today I was able to grade some worksheets, write sub plans, and make copies. 

I returned to my classroom for my next two classes.  These classes are repeats of my first two classes.  When I returned to my room, the teacher that taught there third period told me to give our secretary a call.  Before I could, he called me.  The last fundraiser I did with the senior class was delivered a day early, and he asked if it should be brought to my classroom.  While my students completed their worksheets, I was able to organize the delivery and prepare it for students to pick-up after school. 

After these two classes, I had my lunch.  During this time I was able to prepare my objective and homework boards for tomorrow, and set everything up for the sub that was covering for my last class.  During my last class, I had to attend a meeting for a student.  The meeting seemed to be very productive.

After the meeting, I had my last prep.  One of my seniors came in, and we continued working on a project that she is making for her boyfriend for Christmas.  It's an adorable photo collage on a chipboard heart.  During this period I also had to call the travel agent to finalize the cost of the senior class trip.  The phone call continued into the next period, and I was 5 minutes late for my hall duty. 

Hall duty is the last period of the day.  Our school day ends just before 3.  Today after school, I hosted a math meet.  My job was to secure a location (my classroom and my neighbor's classroom), purchase snacks (with my own money for 45 students), and put together the answer sheets.  Just as I finished setting up the snacks, the other schools started to arrive.  Unfortunately, I forgot the aforementioned answer sheets, and was able to make copies quickly.  I learned from the other teachers that they're schools don't allow them to make their own copies, and one school doesn't even allow teachers to print anything out.  This made me very grateful for my school's copy and print situation.

Students had time to snack and socialize.  Then we got to work.  Meets consist of 6 individual problems given two at a time at 10 minute intervals, and then a relay question.  My team is not full, we are supposed to have 5 students, but only 3 out of our whole school are interested and able to participate.  This season has not been good for us because it's hard to compete with full teams.  (Each correct answer earns the team one point, so we're at a disadvantage.)  Today my team did well.  We tied for second, and my team captain scored the most points out of all the competitors.  He also answered the relay question correctly, which was a first for our team.  It was very exciting.

The math meet was over by 5:30, but I had to wait with my students that had to take the 6:00 bus home.  I returned home by 6:30, and had two packages waiting for me. I opened and sorted the contents of my packages (mostly Christmas presents), and ate leftovers for dinner.  I ran a load of laundry, and uploaded a letter of recommendation for one of my seniors applying to college.  Then I began writing this post.  It is now 10 pm, and once I post this, I am heading to bed.

Reflection Questions:
1.  Teachers 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 move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

There is one decision that I am in the process of making.  I am not sure that I want to continue serving as the senior high math team coach next year.  I was hoping to be able to consider this decision in the spring, but our budgets are due when we return from winter break, and now the money for the team has to be included in my budget, so I need to decide now.  I'm weighing the pros and cons.  Right now, I just feel like it is too much.  I would probably have been fine with advising the senior class and coaching the math team if I didn't have so much going on in my person life.  I won't be advising the senior class next year.  (Each advisor moves up with their class, and once my class graduates I am done.)  But even with less responsibilities, my heart is not really in it.  I was never the type of person to spend my free time toiling over difficult math problems for fun.  I would rather craft because I already spend so much of my time doing math.  The only problem is that if I'm not coaching the math team, I don't think anyone else in my department will. 

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

My latest challenge has been finding a good time to take a sick day.  I'm giving two tests next week, and don't want to take a day off and push back either test.  Plus, there's all the extra planning that goes into taking a sick day.  I know this sounds very silly, but I'm not too sick to make it through the day.  I think I just need a day of rest.  I've been stuck with a stuffy nose, congestion, and a sore throat on and off for over a week, and I am just exhausted in general.  Perhaps there will be snow day next week, and it will solve all of my problems.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Break #DITL

The following post is a contribution to the Day in the Life Book Project initiated by Tina Cardone:

My district gives us the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off.  We were in for a two day week, but on Monday we had our first snow day.  The snow was not as bad where we were, so after our roads were cleared my husband and I were able to head out and run some errands.  These are my favorite kind of snow days.

Tuesday became the only day we had school for the week.  Before school I was excited and invigorated, but once it started, I realized just how badly a break was needed; for my students as well as myself.  My colleagues and I were expecting students to be absent and unruly.  I am happy to report that I had the normal amount of students, and they behaved as if it were any day.

I gave my General Geometry students a coloring activity that reviewed parallelogram, rhombus, rectangle, and square properties.  They really struggled with this activity.  Every year students struggle with parallelograms and special parallelograms.  I really don't understand why, other than the fact that there is so much information packed into one lesson.  I'm wondering if next year I just have to teach each shape as a separate lesson.  However, I don't want students to view them as separate items.  I will have to continue to mediate on this.  On Monday, I plan to do a mini-lesson to review the properties, and then give them time to finish the activity.

We took notes in my Geometry classes.  We are starting congruent triangle proofs next week.  On this day, we were practicing identifying congruent corresponding parts and marking diagrams.  In my SAT Prep class, we examined systems of linear inequalities.  The weird thing here is that normally graphing would be part of teaching this topic, but since it's the SAT and all questions are either multiple choice or "grid-ins", we just look at graphs and situations and answer questions about them. 

Overall, Tuesday seemed to fly by.  I came home, and my husband and I went out to complete our errands.  We were planning on having a dinner and movie date night, but by the time we finished dinner and our errands, we were too tired to go to a movie.  We also had to go home and pack.  Our Thanksgiving tradition has been to visit his parents 3 hours away for the break.

On Wednesday, I woke up at my normal time.  My husband had to work at his school for a half day.  While he was working, I finished packing, mailed a package, and set up everything for our departure.  We left as soon as my husband returned from work.  We spent the rest of Wednesday and Thanksgiving relaxing and enjoying our time with family.  It wasn't until Friday that panic started to set in that I had so much work to do, and hadn't accomplished anything. 

On Friday, we continued to try to relax, and spend time with family, but I carved out two hours to get some work done before breakfast and dinner.  That made me feel better, but it didn't stop me from struggling to fall asleep that night.  I could only think about my long to do list, and all of the things that I was going to have to do when I return to work on Monday.  Right now I have a fundraiser to wrap up, deposits to collect for the senior trip, another senior portrait session to schedule, and I have to start taking orders for senior class t-shirts.  I'm overwhelmed with all of the senior class responsibilities that are coming up at once.

On Saturday, I did a little more work before we came home.  We returned at 4:30 pm, and I started the laundry right away.  We took care of our grocery shopping for the week, and made dinner.

Today I woke up at my normal time.  I made some blueberry muffins and got right to work.  I worked most of the morning, and then organized my closet.  This has been a slow process, and still is unfinished.  I wish I had a few solid blocks of time to complete my new home tasks, but it's hard with all of the school work that needs to get done first.  I've been getting 20 minutes here and there for small projects since the school year began. 

We left early this afternoon to join my family for a second Thanksgiving.  We didn't get home until after 8:30.  Now I'm worrying about all of the things that I need to do tomorrow, and still need to get done tonight.  I just hope that I can get to bed early enough to get a decent amount of sleep.