My alarm started blaring at 5:00AM, but I snoozed until 5:20AM. Even though I gently led myself back to early morning wake-ups, it was a tough thing to get out of bed this morning. I’ve got to be at a meeting promptly at 8AM, so even though there are no students, I plan to arrive by 7:30ish. I gave myself much longer than I have in the past to get ready – I woke up (even with the snoozing!) about an hour and a half before I had to leave to take the subway to work. I showered, shaved, made my lunch, breakfast and tea, and walked the dog (though I almost forgot to walk him – I had to go back!). I walked to the subway the whole way because I just missed the bus by two minutes, so I caught the 7:06AM train instead of the 7AM train. I’m leaving at a different time than my last school, so I’m still getting used to when to leave to catch the good transfers. I managed to snag a seat at the next station, and I was surprised by how quickly my ride flew by – I was getting off the subway by 7:30! I get a text from my student teacher asking if it’s okay that he’s waiting in my classroom for me – and I love that he’s taken my advice about punctuality to heart and is there before me!
As I’m walking from the subway to my school, I spot some other teachers who clearly work in my building – they’re carrying posters and other supplies! I notice my friend is ahead of me, and I run into her in the main office. She’s there with another teacher who was trying to find my mailbox (which I don’t have yet because I’m new) – she delivered a thank you and a bag of chocolates to me because I gave her some of my extra borders on Friday when she had a “bulletin board emergency” (accidentally taking down someone else’s board!).
I chat with them on our way to the elevator – I’m still not used to my school having one! We get in together and ride up to the fourth floor. I don’t think I’ll do that every day, but it’s nice once in a while! I say good bye and head across the building to my room to get settled. I meet my student teacher there; he’s dressed even nicer than I am in a dress shirt and tie (I just wore a button down shirt for the first day, figuring we’re gonna get sweaty with final cleaning and postering!).
I answer a few of his questions and I decide to take my iPad to the morning meeting. We head over early, because I’m not 100% sure where room 417 is yet. There’s a breakfast outside of the room, but I don’t take anything because I ate before I arrived. When I arrive, the Principal is there early, prepping for the meeting. I notice there are folders at everyone’s seat with names on them, so I look around for mine. I find the folder with my name on it, and there’s a name tag with my name in it too! I love that both my first AND last name are on it; my last school only used first names which felt very stuffy and distant. This first name usage makes me feel like I’m joining a family. I ask my principal about a chair for my student teacher, and she points out that she already placed an extra chair at my table for him, as well as a blank name tag and a Lab Middle School hand bag for him too! We got some swag – nice colored pens for grading, electronic timers, as well as a Lab mug with a handwritten note from the principal welcoming me to the family!
They give us a little bit of time to socialize and catch up, and I notice that I know the woman sitting next to me because she’s also a 6th grade math teacher and we met back in June, but I don’t know the other three people at my table. Introductions around and we chat until the Principal calls us to order. She introduces the agenda for the day and points out all of the paperwork that’s in our folders (and our official handbooks!). She also pointed out important people whose faces we needed to know.
Then we start with a TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership?language=en
We watched the video and discussed in our tables our own “lollipop moment” – someone who had an impact on us. I thought it was really interesting that everyone at my table spoke about someone who was in an educator role; many about formal teachers, but mine was a camp counselor I had at Space Camp. We connected because we both were from NY – she’s from Long Island and I’m from Queens – space camp is located in Hunstville, AL, so it was a long way from home. We kept in touch over the years, and she invited me out to visit her when I was about 15 or 16. In high school, I had a difficult time making friends; few of my friends had the same interests and passions as I did. This former counselor introduced me to a different type of board game – I discovered so many cool board games from her in my adventures to visit her. It gave me insight into the fact that I was a gamer geek – and despite the fact that there didn’t seem to be anyone at my all girl’s high school who also liked them – there were other people out there in the world! It gave me hope and it gave me something to seek out when I got to college (and beyond). Now I own over 89 board games and I play regularly with my friends (many of whom are passionate board gamers themselves!). I even have a board game library in my classroom, and I’m considering running an after school board game club for students (though I might wait until next year to start).
Anyway, the principal called us back to order after we’d had a chance to reflect on it as a group and then she previewed some more things that were coming on the agenda. We finished a little bit early, and had time for a bathroom break before heading down to the auditorium for a campus-wide safety meeting.
My new school is one of three schools in the same building, but we’re the only middle school. One of the two high schools used to be affiliated with us (it was originally a 6-12 school), but some years ago, it split into two separate entities. All three schools share certain things like the auditorium, the gym, and the cafeteria, as well as responsibilities like safety. The building safety presentation was almost identical in content to the one at my last school – very intentionally! A few years ago, NYC developed (or began using?) the GRP (general response protocol) so there would be a common language about emergency situations – things like a shelter in, an evacuation (no more fire drills!), and a lock down (both soft and hard), as well as a missing student and door alarm protocol. We were in the (ever hotter!) auditorium for about 35 minutes before we finished with those basics.
Then I headed upstairs and one of my coworkers enlisted me to help set up her computer. I’m pretty tech savvy (I built my own computer when I was a teenager with help from my uncle’s friend), and I hooked up my own work computer, so I was pretty easily able to hook up hers. Our computers are ancient dell desktops. I think that’s my least favorite thing about leaving my last school – the technology downgrade! Maybe I can research some grants and help get us some funding for new/more technology.
Anyway, helping her set up made me a few minutes late to my first 6th grade team meeting. Luckily, I was only one minute late, and other people were later, so I was able to join in the pre-meeting chat before-hand. We talked about homeroom colors (I chose blue because it predominates my wardrobe, so I’ll always be able to wear my homeroom color on those days!), as well as the agenda for 6th graders on day 1. I think it’s cool that we go down and meet them in the gym with a sign with our homeroom number, and we escort them up to our classes where we give them their seats (suggested with a post-it note), and then we have them make name tags to wear all day (that’s in addition to the name tents I’m going to make). They tried to suggest having the same name tent all day, but I vetoed that idea because I plan to collect mine and respond to their comments/questions daily (taking a page out of Sara Van Der Werf’s blog!).
I took notes on my iPad during the meeting (as I always do for myself), and it was noticed by the grade team leader. She stopped by my room later in the afternoon to ask me if I could share my notes with everyone. I said sure, and I created a google folder for us, adding our first agenda (with my minutes), as well as the overview of day 1 that she shared with us.
As we were winding down, someone came in and warned us that the supply closet was closing in thirty minutes, and if we wanted stuff, we should go ASAP! We ended the meeting immediately, and jumped on it. Some teachers really needed to stock up on supplies, but I was pretty well supplied, between the ones I brought with me and the ones that the teacher who had my room before me left for me. However, there were a few key things I got: dry erase markers (those dry up so quickly and they’re always useful!), highlighters (for the activity that Sara Van Der Werf has with 100 numbers), and some replacement tape rolls for the bazillion dispensers I have.
Once we got back to my room with my supplies, my student teacher had questions about the first day with students, so I began to run him through my agenda/plan. I showed him my powerpoint with my “Numbers About me” slides (including one slide about him!), and then I said I wasn’t 100% sure about everything I’m doing yet – especially since I have a double with two classes and I don’t see one of my classes at all! So I’ll need to finalize the plans with him tomorrow.
Then I realized that it was 12:05PM, and the lunch people were going to make us lunch. We interrupted discussing the plan so we could go check out the cafeteria food. It was a campus-wide lunch, so I ran into one of my MfA Master Teachers who I’ve known since the start of my fellowship. The funny small world is that she knew me and another woman who turned out to be the person that my student teacher was told to say hi to for his former high school teacher! So the four of us sat together – both of them work at the high school, so I probably won’t see too much of them during the year, but my friend from MfA said if I ever needed anything to just stop by and ask. Her classroom is one floor below me and near the corner of my quadrant of the building.
We had to rush through lunch because the Jupiter Grades training was at 12:30PM. It was in my 7th grade math teacher colleague’s room, and she was running it. I’m sort of excited to be switching back to using Jupiter Grades because in many ways, it’s more intuitive of a system than Skedula was, but the last time I used it it was still called Snap Grades! So it was very helpful to be walked through the various stages of setting up our grade book and how to make anecdotals for logging behavior (or zeros for missing assignments!). They told us a lot about the way parents interact with the grades website and how to avoid some of the problems that happened at my last school (with students believing inflated grades were “REAL” because you had only entered in five homework assignments so far, so OF COURSE they had 100%, but once they took the first quiz, they had only a 75%!).
I managed to convince her to do a basic google classroom introduction after the jupiter grades training, which was super helpful. I’m not used to either of these programs (my old school used e-chalk and Skedula), so there’s definitely going to be some playing around with both of them this weekend. I’m excited about the way google has everything right there – and how if you store documents in google drive, you can easily link to them in google classroom. I’m going to need to redownload the apps for my laptop, so I can use the folders on my laptop to upload files directly – I’m super excited!
After the digital training, I ran into my 6th grade math colleague, and we decided to meet and discuss the curriculum letter that our “cluster” is sending out. I told her that I liked some of the details from the 7th grade letter, so I asked the 7th grade math department head if we could steal and she said we could take the whole thing if we wanted. One of the members of our team was delegated the task of editing the letter, and she said she would print it out, get copies for us, and get approval from the principal/AP on it.
We started talking about the first few weeks of school (when we do community building and math norms) briefly when my girlfriend arrived at school to help me organize/clean my classroom. So we decided to table our conversation until tomorrow. By now, it’s about 2:45PM.
From 2:45 until about 4:45pm, I was in my room with my girlfriend and my student teacher organizing and putting up some more posters. We unpacked my boxes of board games and loaded them into the cabinet. We reorganized some of the bin locations. We hung up some posters on the walls and bulletin boards and on my filing cabinets. My student teacher is SO much taller than me (and I’m taller than my girlfriend), so it was very helpful to have his assistance in hanging posters! He could stand on a chair and reach places that I would’ve barely reached while standing on a table!
The last task of the day was moving the old furniture that I didn’t want. My predecessor had a GIGANTIC desk as well as a broken down filing cabinet, neither of which I needed. Since the custodial staff hadn’t removed either yet (despite signs on them!), I enlisted my student teacher to help me move them into the hallway (since my principal told me if it’s in the hallway then it’ll get removed more immediately). We moved the filing cabinet and then we were in the midst of moving the desk when the custodians walked by – they stopped us and got a dolly and took the desk away immediately (because god forbid we mess up the newly waxed floor!). So that was a great thing – the desk took up way too much space in my room, and there were ALREADY two desks available for my usage – one with my desktop on it and another one for my ELMO doc cam and other papers and assorted school supplies. Apparently, kids playing around with school supplies isn’t an issue at my new school – something I found quite surprising (as in, I’m not sure it’s actually true, but I’m hopeful).
On our way out, I saw someone disposing of an old smaller computer desk, so we snagged it (as well as two extra old computers put out to pasture that I might be able to repurpose!). Then I turned the hallway, and I found another student desk, so I snagged that too! My partner and I had to dash after that to get home in time to get the grocery peapod delivery. She came directly home to meet those, while I went to Home Depot to try to get more shoebox size bins. A week ago, they had a sale of five of the steralite bins for cheap, but today the “seasonal” was no longer back to school – now it was Halloween! So I looked in the regular aisle to no avail! My girlfriend recommended waiting until she could go to the container store and get new bins for her shoes and then giving me her current shoe box bins, so we decided to do that. She’s going to come back tomorrow to help me finish organizing one of the closets that hasn’t quite been organized yet.
After I got home from my fruitless Home Depot trip, it was dinner time and we were all starving! We had leftovers from a large family dinner last night, so we just reheated it and ate dinner with my cousin again (he’s staying with us this week). After dinner, I finished copying some files onto my portable hard drive, got some programs for learning Spanish and Hebrew from my cousin, and then did a little bit of work (creating the grade team folder and uploading the minutes I took earlier today).
Afterward, I sat down to type up my blog – which took me over an hour (due to various household distractions!). I need to head to bed because it’s now after 11PM (and 10PM is supposed to be my bedtime!). We have a second full-day of PD tomorrow! I need to be up at 5AM again!
Let’s answer some questions so we can head to bed:
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?
I’m proud of deciding to arrive to school over a twenty minutes early and arriving at many of my meetings early. I’m also proud of taking notes at my meetings (and being noticed by the grade team leader). I also raised my hand to share out during the morning PD discussion about the TED talk, and I’m glad I contributed to the conversation and got my principal used to hearing my voice at meetings. I wouldn’t quite use the phrase proud, but I’m definitely happy with the way my classroom is coming together and getting set up. I’m also proud of the decision I made last week to put in for all of my copies in advance so I don’t feel rushed or pressured for Thursday. Though I do need to figure out something to do with my students who have me for a double!
I don’t think I made any poor decisions today – but ask me again on Friday!
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?
I’m looking forward to the first day of school with my sixth graders at a new (to me) school. I’m nervous about teaching two grades: that’s two different sets of curriculum to get familiar with, and two sets of lessons to plan. I’ve got four classes this year, which means more students than ever before. On the other hand, from what I understand, the students are more engaged in class, and they’re more interested in the subject to begin with, at my new school.
I also received the feedback from my student surveys last year. I only gave it to my homeroom (because we only needed to give it to one class), and there were certain questions where I wasn’t highly rated that were surprising to me (though the way they give me the feedback in comparison with how they collect the data is honestly confusing!). I think one of the challenges I’m setting for myself (or perhaps it’s more like a goal) is to consciously build relationships with ALL of my students this year and make them feel like I care about them more (because I DO care about them, but clearly, from the survey results, I’m not conveying that to 100% of my students).
3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.
I’m meeting all sorts of new people at my new school – everyone outside of the math department is new to me! On Friday, I was in my classroom preparing/organizing/cleaning when one of my neighbors came by and asked if I had any extra borders. I said sure, how much did she need, and we picked out a border she could have. She offered to pay me, and I declined, saying not to worry about it. She said, “I owe you one” and then today, brought me a bag of chocolates and a thank you note! I borrowed push pins from her today, and I felt comfortable asking her to borrow them.
Also, today, I met a lot of new people, and I started working on their names – I mastered the two cafeteria workers, my custodian, and a few of the teachers I haven’t met yet (plus I practiced some of the teachers I had already met last week).
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.
First post: What is a goal you have for the year?
I would say I have three main goals for this year:
- To learn what topics are taught in the 6th & 7th grade math curriculum at my school. Once I know the topics well, I want to find good problems and good contexts to use to introduce students to the math. I want my students to be solving problems to learn math!
- I want to have my students work on convincing each other, and prioritizing talk within the classroom as a tool for learning. I want to work on the kinds of talk at various stages of the lesson.
- I want to work on the close of my lessons, and ensure my pacing is fitting my whole lesson within my 43 minutes!
- I want to build relationships with my students.