Sunday, May 7, 2017

May 7, 2017 - Montly Post #DITL

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

Today is Sunday.  When I signed on for the project, I assumed that any weekend post I did was going to be boring and void of any interesting school-related activity.  Luckily today landed on one of my favorite school traditions...

I woke up many times this morning.  Throughout the week I had a sore throat in the middle of the day, and it just went away.  I dismissed it as being allergies.  By Friday afternoon it was a full-blown cold.  Last night into this morning I wasn't able to  sleep.  I couldn't breathe.  I couldn't get comfortable.

My husband works on Sundays, so when he got up at 6, I got up.  Normally I would get ready for the gym, but since I can't breathe just staying still, cardio was out for the day.  I put on my usual gym clothes and went grocery shopping after eating breakfast.  I came home, unpacked the groceries, and made myself some tea.  After my tea, I got in the shower.  I took my time getting ready this morning, and put more care than usual into doing my hair and makeup.

Today we had my school's 66th annual Community Scholarship Lunch.  We honored 10 deserving seniors with scholarships.  Sick or not, I was determined not to miss this.  I look forward to the event every year.  We meet at a local banquet hall, and have a delicious buffet lunch.  After lunch each senior speaks about how thankful they are to receive the scholarship and what it means to them.  This year we had some especially heartfelt speeches.  We learned about how our students felt supported by their families and teachers, how much they admire their parents for the overcoming the obstacles they faced including immigration, and how they've overcome their own obstacles including being born with a health defect.  One student even took the time to thank me for being there for her from the beginning.  The ceremony is beautiful and very touching.

I put all of my energy into being fully present for the lunch and enjoying every moment of it (because it's becoming all too real that my beloved seniors will be graduating soon).  The lunch ran from noon to 2 pm.  Once I came home I put my pajamas back on, ran a load of laundry, and collapsed into bed. I decided to stay in bed for the rest of the night so I could get as much rest as possible before Monday (because I'm so far behind in my Regents course that I cannot afford to take a sick day).  Unfortunately, this meant that I didn't get any work done for school, and I will have more work ahead for me this week.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Not a DITL post!

I have been in such a blogging slump lately.  I have many things that I'm dying to blog about, but I haven't been able to give it the time and energy it needs.  Then there are things that I'm interested in blogging, but I don't know that they will interest anyone besides me.  I decided that I don't care if anyone else is interested.  One of the reasons I started keeping a blog is so that I can look back on the things I tried in the past, and to keep a record for my own personal reflection.

This week was our first week back from spring break.  It was rough.  It all started with Sunday night.  I had a difficult time falling asleep.  Once I was asleep, I woke up at some point each hour.  I remember reading the clock at some point when it was 12-something, 1-something, 2-something, 3:40-something, and then 4:49; eleven minutes before my alarm went off.

This really set the tone for my entire week.  Of course, I had my final mini-observation on Monday.  It went very well despite my sleep deprivation.  Our administration pieces together six 10-minute observations to inform our evaluations.  They come in twice at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the class periods.  This time he was looking for closure on my lesson (because it was missing the first time he came for an end of class observation), and I was able to present it well.

All in all, it wasn't a bad week.  It was just eventful.  Like on Friday, when our math department was greeted with the news that we were having a surprise half-day meeting.  First thing in the morning.  For the first four periods.  Meaning sub plans were required, and my plans for the day were pretty much shot.  The funny thing is that these meetings were planned in advance at the beginning of the year.  It was in my planner.  But every other meeting was altered to either a different day, a different time, or even a different purpose before this one.  Honestly, I was kind of hoping that everyone else forgot about it, and that we could just go on teaching as usual.  No such luck.

My only real gripe was that for the first time since I established a new planning routine, my routine didn't quite work out.  The goal of my routine is to leave school on Friday with all plans planned, all copies made, and all SMART Notebook files ready to go for the following week.  It is now 7 pm on Sunday, and I just made it to my goal.  The frustrating thing is that I would already be prepping for the following week if everything had gone as planned.  Truthfully, though, I am happy to have the opportunity to examine the flaws of my routine, and plan for solutions (if possible).

Here is what I think went wrong:
  1. I was exhausted all week after my interrupted Sunday night sleep.  I never caught up on my sleep, and it made it impossible for me to focus on my tasks.  Solution:  Naps are sometimes necessary.
  2. So many things kept popping up that took away my planning time.  (Copier malfunctions, Prom Dress Drive organization, a trip to Urgent Care, Senior Trip preparations, sitting like a bump on a log and staring off in space out of exhaustion instead of getting work done, etc.)  Solution:  There is none.  This is why my routine was meant to be flexible in the first place.  This was just the first week that I encountered daily obstacles.
  3. Hesitation.  I had two topics in General Geometry that I wasn't sure how to approach.  I took time to think them over, and started creating activities for each of them that didn't pan out.  When I found a flaw in the plan, I had to go back and start over.  I now have a matching activity and a worksheet.  I'm not in love with the worksheet, but it will get the job done.  Next year, (or hopefully over the summer), I can create something that I love to replace the worksheet.  Solution:  I plan to tweak things over the summer in all of my courses, but this is something that could still happen.  This is something that I don't think I can really control.  Also, Teachers Pay Teachers is a fabulous back-up plan.  (Even though it let me down this time.)
That in a nutshell was my week.  I'm hoping that this week goes much more smoothly.  I'm trying to enter it with a positive mindset.  Now, I'm hoping to make a quick and easy dinner, get my outfits set for the week, and engage in some sort of pampering before another week begins.

Friday, April 7, 2017

April 7, 2017 - Monthly Post #DITL

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

Today was the last school day before spring break.  Or what's left of it.  This week has been interesting at school.  We've come in to a putrid sewer smell throughout the halls, a car accident has caused our buses to be late, and after having to break up arguments between a few periods in a row, there were a couple of fights happening at once.  That was only Tuesday. 

It was a relief to finally make it to Friday.  This morning I got ready as normal, and treated myself to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.  When I made it to work, I ate my breakfast, took care of a few errands, and graded some make-up assignments. 

Yesterday, my first period students were talking all about a new show on Netflix.  So much so that we didn't finish our work.  Today I gave these students a day to make-up missing work and do test corrections.  Students finished quickly, and we watched an episode of the show when everyone was finished. 

In my Geometry class, we started our Coordinate Geometry unit.  Today we reviewed converting standard equations to slope-intercept form, writing linear equations, and calculating slope.  I couldn't really give students a free day.  We are 16 days behind compared to last year.  We had 11 snow days, and a bunch of early dismissals and two hour delays.  Next week we have to return to school in the middle of our spring break.  Those two days will also be lost since many students won't be coming to school.  I'm planning to give them one movie day and to have a hopefully interesting math activity day.

After my first Geometry class, I had my prep.  Every other day another class occupies my room, and I have to leave.  This often becomes a time-killer as I have to pack up, re-locate, set-up, and try to get work done in the faculty room that is often inhabited by socializing substitute teachers, and then pack-up before the bell rings and return to my room to teach my next class.  Today I brought my laptop in so I could work on SMART Notebook files, but my laptop decided that was the perfect time to complete an update.  So instead I spent my prep watching my computer screen.

The next period was my second General Geometry class, which also had a period to make-up work.  Most students were able to have a free period, and a few kids requested extra credit.  During this period, I was able to continue grading, and updating grades in SchoolTool.  Next, I repeated my Geometry lesson for my second Geometry class.

After my second Geometry class, I have lunch.  Today I was able to grade make-up quizzes that I assigned my Geometry class.  I use them to give students one last chance to improve their grades each quarter.  Our third quarter will end the week we return from spring break.  During my lunch one of my students from last year came in to visit and chat.

My last class of the day is SAT Prep.  They also had a day for make-up work.  This allowed me to finish any grading that I had left, and take care of my daily tasks.  In my second prep and last period study hall I was able to work on some of the SMART Notebook files.  A few of my seniors came in during my prep to do some work and chat.  This is usually one of my favorite parts of my day.  I've been focusing on cherishing my time with them because they are special to me and I am going to miss them when the graduate.

I left shortly after the last bell and came straight home.  I put my school things away, made an important phone call, and did a load of laundry.  I finished the last SMART Notebook file that I was working on before leaving school.  I decided that I would work on the rest of the files when I'm in school next Wednesday and Thursday.  I spent some time watching Netflix and just sitting.  My husband and I decided to order takeout from our favorite Mexican restaurant.  I rarely cook on Fridays.  By Friday afternoon I am completely drained and have limited patience for food preparation.  I am ending my day by writing this post and watching tv.  I am determined to relax on my break and work on some of the projects that I've been wanting to work on including working on my blog, DIY projects, and decorating my home.

Reflection Questions:
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?

The decision that I was proud of for today was to not move on in my General Geometry classes.  Trying to get through yesterday's material was a struggle.  In that class we do a day of notes and guided practice and then a day of independent practice.  Today was originally planned to be an independent practice day.  When we return from spring break we will start with this independent practice day and have a chance to review the work that we've done so far in our current unit.  I think this will be more beneficial than coming back from spring break and starting new material without a chance to review.

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.

May 7, 2017 - Montly Post #DITL

The following post is a contribution to the Day in the Life Book Project initiated by Tina Cardone : Today is Sunday.  When I signed on f...