Day in the Life: First day of School (*2 days actually!)

Thursday, 9/8 was the first day of school this year. My alarm went off at 5:00AM, but I didn’t get out of bed until closer to 5:15AM. Luckily, my lunch was already made (and in my fridge in my classroom), so I only needed to make my tea and breakfast. I took a shower (15 minutes on my alarm), I shaved and I got dressed in my outfit for the first day (a green bow tie with chess pieces on it over a black shirt with gray pants, gray belt, and brown saddle shoes with fun green socks). I left the house by 6:45AM and walked to the subway. I think I caught the bus, so I was able to get the 7AM E train. I sat down and reviewed my checklist of things to do. Everything was printed and set up, I just needed to mentally prepare.

I exited the subway at around 7:25AM, and I decided that my tea I’d had at home hadn’t been enough, and I needed more caffeine. I decided to go to Starbucks and I got a Chai latte. I headed up to my classroom to meet my student teacher. He was also dressed nicely, in a button down and a nice patterned tie (I’m a big fan of dressing professionally – a post for another time, I suppose). I had enough time to turn on my computer, drink some chai, print out my class lists and organize some papers before my colleague came by at 7:45. She was about to head down to the gym, where we were meeting the 6th graders at 7:50. I needed to organize two more things, so I took a moment before I followed her, but then we went down the four flights of stairs together.

We were the first to arrive in the gym, so we decided where to stand with our signs that said our class numbers (I have 606, she has 601). We set up on opposite sides of the gym – she was near the door that the kids would come in, whereas I was near the door that we would exit into the building to go back upstairs – I wanted to be the first to leave! At almost exactly 7:55, they opened the doors and let the kids in! They streamed in and went to the tables with the PA members and class lists (and non-homeroom teachers on the 6th grade team) to find out which homeroom to go to (if they didn’t remember). When my students arrived, I asked them to check in with me, and I checked off their names on my roster, taking attendance. I noticed other classes were sitting on the gym floor, so I told them to sit down. I practiced names only a little bit because I had them coming so rapid-fire, one after another! At 8:10, I realized I had all but two students, and there didn’t seem to be anyone else entering the building, so I asked the team leader if we could go upstairs. She checked in with the principal and then gave us the okay.

I had 606 line up in two lines – I’ll confess that I’m definitely not an elementary school teacher – these lines were a bit crooked – and then I led them out of the gym, down the hallway, and up four flights of stairs! I had to remind myself to walk slowly because they were loaded down with lots of books and supplies in their bags. I forgot how little sixth graders are! I’ve taught 8th grade for the last five years, and there’s SUCH a huge difference between 8th graders (especially in June, which is my last memory of them!) and sixth graders in September!

Anyway, we got upstairs, and I had them (sort of) line up outside my room. Just outside my room is the hallway (fire) door, so there’s definitely NOT enough space for the entire class to line up outside! I quieted them down, and instructed them to find their names on the BLUE post-it notes on the desks and have a seat. They went in and did so. On their desks, I had placed a welcome folder that said Lab Middle School filled with all sorts of announcements for their parents. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive enough translations for all of my students, because the main office clearly doesn’t have their home languages sorted out yet – I got four copies of Chinese, but needed seven! I got no Korean, and no Spanish (and there was one other language too!).

First thing they did (and I’m so glad my new colleague advised me to do this) was used a Sharpie to write their names on their folders, on name tags (which we immediately put on our shirts somewhere visible) and on their school planners (which were distributed after we collected the money from the students who had it – but told the kids who didn’t have it yet not to worry! We give all of them the planners, and then those who can pay do). We also handed out the blue cards and the photo release forms (which weren’t stuffed in there for some reason), and talked about some procedures. I introduced myself to the students and welcomed them to my new MS. I told them I was new to Lab also, so sometimes, I might have to answer a question with “I don’t know yet, I’ll find out for you!” but I also told them I wasn’t new to teaching. Many of them knew my old school, either because it had been their second choice for Middle School or because their friends/siblings went there! One kid even thinks her older brother knows me (though I didn’t teach him!). We talked about the purpose of homeroom, and we collected supplies from the students. I asked them if they had any questions, and for the most part, they didn’t. I also gave them a gift – a pencil and an animal eraser that hangs on the pencil!

First period was over before I knew it, and I had to walk my homeroom to their next class (as they are not yet familiar with the building layout, and as sixth graders, they’ve never changed classes on their own before yet!). They had art class second, and he was surprised that class was over already! My new middle school shares a building with two other schools (both high schools), so there are no bells – those schools have different schedules to stagger student arrival/dismissal/lunch/gym, etc. times, so you have to keep track on your own. Anyway, he said his homeroom class had gym next, so I offered to walk them down so he could start with my homeroom (figuring either way I had to wait until that class was dropped off before I could leave my homeroom alone). I got to the gym, and the teacher came over to me and told me they had 100 8th graders and this sixth grade class did NOT have gym! Whoops! So I waited with them until their humanities teacher arrived to escort them back upstairs.

I went on my prep, and my student teacher and I “reset” the room for my homeroom to come back to math class. We placed the handout that would be turned into the name tent as well as the green card stock for their name tents on each desk. We placed the bins with markers on each of the rows. We discussed a little bit, and I reminded myself of the things we needed to do between classes. I also instructed him to “reset” the room for math with 704 when I walked my homeroom to their fourth period class.

When my homeroom came back, I told them to take out their summer math packets and grab a marker. I had them pass in the papers by passing them to the right in each row (I learned that from Harry Wong, I believe, and it’s one of my favorite time-saving procedures!). We folded the name tents together – some of them had trouble folding in thirds (which was interesting to see them not following the directions – some due to confusion and some due to finding another way simpler, perhaps?). Then I previewed what we would do with them at the end of class, and I had them write their names on it “large enough for everyone to see.” I then told them since it was math class, we were going to discuss some very important numbers! I then did my ice-breaker activity: mr-golan-numbers where I asked them to circle which one is true about me. I showed slides, and we went back and forth where I asked them to circle it, and then I told them to choose one to share with a partner. I had them introduce themselves to their “elbow” partner and share one of their important numbers. (While I was doing my numbers about me, I had my student teacher go around and pass out metrocards, because I forgot to do that during morning homeroom!).

Afterward, I had them pass in their numbers about them. My student teacher took those home to read that night, but I’ve taken them home this weekend, so I’ll catch up on it another day. I passed out their homework and had them take out their planners to copy it down from the board – which I now have them do at the start of class (since it’s already on the board each day!). I explained the Who Am I HW assignment to them (also collected on Friday for me to read this weekend), and the curriculum letter. When they were done copying the HW, I had them put everything away except a pencil and their name tents, and I explained what they were going to do inside – I read aloud the directions and then I gave them some quiet writing time. I had them pack up and line up, and before I could even leave my room, the seventh grade class arrived! I lined them up to wait with my student teacher until I got back from walking my homeroom to their next class – science on the far opposite corner of the building! (my new school’s hallway is shaped like a square).

When I came back, I did the same lesson for the first period of our double: we created the name tents, collection of summer assignment, and then the numbers about me and my student teacher. Then we had them introduce themselves to their partners with their name and one important number (I did an informal poll in each class – in my 6th grade classes, no one knew more than 4 other people in the class, but in 7th grade, they knew more than 10 but not more than 20!). That only took the first period.

For the second half, I wanted to spend a little bit of time getting them used to what math would look like in my class – very different than my colleagues and their previous experiences I assume (since I’m a huge Jo Boaler fan, and none of my colleagues are yet – one of them is resistant to her, in fact!). I spent a lot of time debating (in advance) what to do because on day 1, I saw my classes totally different amounts – I saw my sixth grade homeroom for two periods, but one of them was homeroom period with “school business” to handle and only one was for math. For my two doubles, I saw different grades: one sixth grade class had a double math and one seventh grade class had a double math! And the other seventh grade class didn’t meet me until Friday because they normally see me first period on Thursdays, so they were also in homeroom! I also worried about choosing something too content heavy on day 1 and giving students who already had some math anxiety/phobia a distaste for my class. So I opted to use Which One Doesn’t Belong? (my first time ever, btw!).

I LOVED it!! I thought it went really well. I started with the logo for WODB, and MOST kids were in either in the circle quadrant or the red square quadrant. I showed the picture on the board for a few minutes, and I asked them to give me a thumbs up when they thought they knew which one didn’t belong and had a reason. Then I directed the students to move to one of the four corners in the classroom corresponding with the top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right quadrants. I told them to find an efficient path to walk there before they got up and then I had them stand and push in their chairs. Two kids came over to me and asked which corner to go to because they thought of more than one reason, so I told them to think about what they noticed first and go there. Once they were in the four quadrants, it became obvious that some corners were more popular than others. I told them to pair up and talk with someone about why they chose that corner and discuss a reason for it. They did, and when I brought them back together again, I asked them who thought they could convince us their corner didn’t belong, and my student teacher scribed it up on the board for us. I called on someone from each quadrant, and I even asked who wanted to add on. We managed to get two reasons up there for each quadrant (some I hadn’t even thought of before!).

I sent them back to their seats and I told them that some of the students had come to me when we were moving to the corners and asked me a question. I asked that boy to share why he’d come to me, and he told the class that he thought there was a reason why EACH one didn’t belong, so he didn’t know which corner to go to. I explained that he had made a great observation and that when we did this routine, that would always happen. I showed them another image (shapes set 14 from, and I gave them some think time. I told them we were going to start the same – go to one corner that we saw first – but when they got there, they would need to discuss reasons not only for their own quadrant, but to try to come up with a reason for ALL of them! Again I noticed some quadrants were more filled than others, but the students came up with at least two reasons for each quadrant again, sometimes pointing out reasons for other quadrants!

During both of these share outs, I had to pause because there were some listening issues. Some of the students were having side conversations, so I had to set the one microphone rule and establish some good listening habits. I think some of it was that they wanted to socialize on day 1 because they were seeing friends for the first time after the summer. Anyway, for the third image, I had them stay in their seats and turn to their partner and share. I told them to come up with as many reasons as they could for ALL of the quadrants. This time, we did shape 51, which I really like because I think it looks similar enough to the dot patterns for the number talks that it was getting them ready to think about how we’re going to look at dots. We had lots of great words come up, and when there was a lull in reasons, I shared one about the dots in the BR being the only rows of horizontal dots, and so someone added on that the TR was the only one where the dots were all in vertical rows. I spent a little bit of time debriefing the activity, and talking about WHY we might do something like this (on the first day, no less!). We established that in math, sometimes the thing you noticed first might not be the most helpful for solving a problem, so it’s good to look at the problem from multiple perspectives. We also established that comparing and contrasting in general is a good idea. We also talked about the importance of listening to each other because someone might notice something important that you didn’t notice.

After we finished this, it was time to write in our name tents. I explained the activity, and I had them open up their name tents and write to me. Since they are seventh graders, I didn’t need to walk them to their next class – besides, they had homeroom next! My homeroom came back to me. We talked about the lunch procedure, as well as the out lunch permission slips they needed to get signed. I assigned lunch buddies by just pairing up elbow partners, and I asked them to share the most recent movie they’d seen and whether or not they had liked it with their partner. I lined them up and led them downstairs for lunch. On the way downstairs, a student from one of the high schools stopped in her tracks and was like, “Mr. Golan?” I taught her a few years ago at my old school and she was surprised to see me there! I said hi but I couldn’t stop to chat because I had to drop my homeroom off at the cafeteria, and they went in to eat lunch. I went back upstairs and ate lunch with my student teacher. I was finally able to go to the bathroom, and let me tell you – three periods in a row is a lot to go! At one point, I realized I wasn’t sure what time we had to bring the 6th graders outside during 8th period, so I went down the hall to the 6th grade team leader’s room, and I discovered a bunch of teachers eating in there together. They invited me to join them, but I declined (since I wanted to fix some of my slides and talk with my student teacher more), but they clarified when we needed to bring the kids downstairs.

My student teacher and I discussed the day so far while we ate lunch – I had a sandwich that wound up being hard (left in my fridge for three days, since I didn’t need it on Tuesday when the cafeteria staff made us lunch), but the cookie was yummy, and I treated myself to a caramel chocolate – a thank you gift from the teacher who I gave borders to last week. Before I knew it, lunch was over, and I had to go downstairs and pick up my homeroom. We brought the sign again, and I collected them at the back door by the the staircase closest to my classroom. We went back upstairs, and they got their belongings from my room and went to 7th period. I forgot to walk them there (plus, I wasn’t quite sure where it was exactly!), but it was okay because before I knew it, my next class was arriving.

Now, this is my sixth grade split class – kids from two homerooms are split between three teachers (and we teach simultaneously) due to IEP guidelines – so I had two different homerooms dropping kids off. One class arrived a bit before the other (since that teacher was right next door!), and I let them in and start folding their name tents. The other class arrived, and I had to re-explain it. I think that might be part of why I had so many more odd-folded tents in this class? Our lesson was almost identical to the 704 lesson, except that we had to end a little early, so we only did the first WODB (the logo). I saved the other two images for Friday’s class.

At 2:10, I had them put up their chairs and I lined them up to bring them downstairs to the yard. It took them FOREVER to pack up (I forget how long sixth graders take for everything!), so we weren’t downstairs until dismissal time (2:20). It’s okay, though, because two more classes came out after us! Anyway, when we were down there, the PA had lemonade and pretzels, and many of the parents were there to meet their kids! I dismissed students and I got myself some lemonade (and one for my student teacher who was wisely hiding in the sliver of shade next to the building!). Some of the kids brought their parents over to meet me, and I had a chance to introduce myself to the PA people handing out lemonade too! It was a nice event – I’ve never taught 6th grade at a school that did that before, so it was interesting to meet the parents before I even knew who their kids were (I don’t have the names memorized yet, obviously, and barely the faces even, so I kept having to ask what homeroom their child was in!).

I returned upstairs, and I met with the other sixth grade math teacher after a quick bathroom break. We discussed several topics. We talked about norm-setting activities for Friday and next week (she liked WODB, and she decided to make a powerpoint of it! She asked me how to run it, and I shared with her my experiences). We talked about some problem-solving stuff we planned to do next week – she plans to use the handshake problem (I don’t think I will yet); she plans to use the 100 numbers activity I gave her from Sara Van Der Werf (my plan for Tuesday!).

Then we started discussing integers, which we both plan to start on the following Monday – our first full week of school. We went on the computer and discovered that my predecessor had left the computer logged into her Lab Middle School Dropbox account, and so it had her folders on 6th grade math – so I shared them with my own account! My colleague and I went through some of the resources, and I decided that I didn’t like most of what they had done for integers. They did use the number line model, and they used bears walking the number line. But both reading and hearing the context, I felt a bit confused when it came to subtraction – “when you subtract, it means go to the left, but when you have a negative, it means to reverse direction, so go to the right.” There wasn’t any logic that I COULD remember well, and in WODB, I already discovered that some of my students are struggling with remembering left and right! I shared with her the hot air balloon game from Kent Haines, and she seemed intrigued by the game itself, but wary of the prep time involved in creating the game pieces. I submitted my copies of it on Friday, and I’m planning to have my step daughter do some of the cutting to help me – I might be able to convince her once I show her the pieces. (In a meeting on Friday, I think I might have support from the 7th grade team about getting her to use it, so we have a common problem for 7th grade teachers to reference the same context!). Plus, the 7th grade teachers liked the idea that the subtraction of a negative makes INTUITIVE sense, so they can go back to it if they get confused. (I also started looking at the anchors and floats on Friday, but I noticed the text was so light, I couldn’t print it out well!).

Anyway, she left us after about two hours, so my student teacher and I debriefed the day a bit and discussed the plan for Friday. We had to make some adjustments to the seating chart for the class I hadn’t seen yet because there were some last minute roster changes. He and I watched the videos from Jo Boaler’s WIM #2 and decided on some of the videos I would show in class on Friday. My partner called me a few times to find out when I was planning on leaving – first at 2:55PM (shortly after the kids were dismissed and I made it back upstairs), then around 4:00, and again around 5:30. I told her I would leave by 6PM (Since that’s when my building closes!), and I left right on time. I asked my student teacher to use the paper cutter in the morning to chop up the reflections for talking points.

I took the subway home and began reading the name tents on the journey and responding to them. I LOVE them. It was so great to see the kinds of things that the kids wrote to me. I may have spent too long writing back, though, because after my half hour train ride, I’d only done half of one class! I put them away when I got off at my station so I could walk home from the train. I walked into my building at the same time as the Chinese food delivery guy did (around 6:45PM/7PM). My partner, her daughter and I ate dinner together, and watched a little bit of Orange in the New Black (no spoilers please! Only up to the second episode of the most recent season). I decided I wanted to continue responding to the name tents before I did any other work, and I also decided that I wanted to get some exercise. I gained a lot of weight over the summer, and my work clothes barely fit me! So I decided to combine the two, and I rode our recumbent stationary bike for almost two hours while I wrote responses to all of the students! It was interesting how a few kids drew me pictures (one of my bow tie! and one of himself), a few kids wrote to me about their fears about math, some wrote about how much they liked math or the activity we had done that day, or that they were nervous. Some kids asked me questions, including how much homework we would have, what we would learn about, and whether class would be difficult! Some kids didn’t write much, so I tried to ask them a question they could respond to the next day to elicit more out of them. Surprisingly, five or so of the 7th graders wrote to me that they were cold! I thought they would be grateful for the AC (I know I am!), but I guess right before lunch, they’ve just been sitting all morning and in AC all morning, they don’t appreciate it as much as right after lunch!

When I was done with the name tents (and my bike ride), I took a shower because I was so sweaty. Afterward, it was time to get to work. First, I had to download the videos I had decided on showing, and I had to decide on what question prompts I wanted students to think about/discuss with their elbow partners during class on Friday. I started creating my powerpoint for the next day – I decided to do it in Smart Notebook (which I still have on my home computer) and then export the file to Powerpoint. I realized that I was trying to cram too much in because all of my classes had a single. I wanted to do two main activities on Friday: the Talking Points and viewing some of the WIM videos (#1, 2, and 4 were the three I settled on).

By the time I finally decided I was done for the night, it was almost 1AM! I had to wake up four hours later for Friday! When my alarm went off, I groaned and snoozed! I snoozed two more times, and I got up a little bit later. Since I’d showered after my bike ride the night before, and I wasn’t planning  to shave since my neck was feeling sensitive, I skipped my morning shower. When I went to make my lunch, I realized we were out of salami (all deli meat, in fact!) because we hadn’t gone grocery shopping for lunch supplies yet! I remember I had leftover Chinese food, so I packed some Chicken with Broccoli into a plastic container (I use ikea containers for all of my lunch items!), as well as another Kashi Cookie and a pudding cup for lunch. I had some fruit in my fridge at school, so I didn’t prepare any new ones. I made my tea and breakfast, ate them sitting at the dining room table (and reading twitter!), and then I walked the dog and left for the subway. I caught the bus this time, so I got the subway earlier, and I was exiting the subway in Manhattan before 7:20! On my way out, I noticed one of my students from last year entering the subway, and I said hi! I realized I forgot my tea in the microwave (I was reheating it while I walked the dog, but then I forgot to grab it!), so I stopped at Caffe Bene on the way to school. I ran into ANOTHER one of my students from last year in there!

Armed with my almond chai, I headed to my building. Clocked in, picked up my attendance, and went upstairs to meet my student teacher. I wrote the link for my parent and student surveys on the board for my students to do as HW this weekend). I had him place each student’s name tent on their desk, and opened the files on the computer. I prepared my slides and my videos, and I realized I needed to open up yesterday’s welcome activity for the split class 7th graders that I hadn’t met yet, but would see third period. I also played around with the doc camera to see if you could see the documents, but it’s not great. The font on the handout was pretty small, so I couldn’t stay zoomed out and have it legible.

Friday was the second day of school, and I was in the hallway by 7:55 awaiting my homeroom students. They dropped off stuff in my room (in the “closet” where there are some hooks for lunch boxes, etc.), and I sent them off to first period on their own! My seventh graders (704) arrived soon and I instructed them to sit in the same seats, take out their planners, a pencil, and their homework. We passed the homework in to the right. They copied down the links (though I realized later, I told them the wrong case! and I didn’t give them my email address, so unless they look at their curriculum letter, they won’t know how to contact me!). Then I had them read the messages I wrote to them in their name tents.


I began by telling them we were going to watch some videos today about learning math and talk about what we saw. I told them for the first video to think about what the math myth was, and if they’d ever heard it before. I played WIM2, Day 1’s video from Jo Boaler, and then asked my kids to put their minds on what they’d just heard and to tell their elbow partner what the math myth was. I heard lots of good discussions, and we shared out what it was, and that it wasn’t true. I asked how many of them had heard it before and many of the GIRLS raised their hands!

The next video I told them was going to be about mistakes, so I wanted them to think about what mistakes were good for. We watched the second video, and they discussed again. Then we shared out. We followed the same process for the third video about speed. Immediately after watching it, one of my students raised his hand and asked me if speed wasn’t important, why was the first part of the summer math assignment on delta math timed?? (I didn’t want to indicate to him that I neither had any input on that, nor that I had even known that in advance!) I thought about it for a moment, and I told him that unfortunately, our school was a part of the DOE, and the DOE is a large organization, so sometimes, it takes a long time for the practices to catch up to what the research discovers. I pointed out how last year’s state exam was untimed, and how we were making little changes. He nodded and seemed to accept that.

After the we watched the videos, we had about 20 minutes remaining in class, and I wanted to try to do the Talking Points activity with the students. I explained the instructions, and then my student teacher and I modeled what a round would look like. I showed the students how to turn their desks into groups of four and talk with each other. I gave them the handout, and then I circulated and listened in on a few groups as they got through their statements found on this document I created here: intro-to-talking-points-day-1-shortened. I told them I didn’t expect them to finish all 22 (and in fact, I think we’ll revisit this activity sometime another day because I think ALL of these points are important!), but the important thing was to practice the routine. As I went around, I saw many groups following it correctly, but two groups were rushing through it, and not following the no comment, nor the turn-taking, so I had to go and assist those groups in following the directions. I think they had people who were used to just saying the “right answer” and moving on, that they didn’t feel invested enough in this activity to take their time with it. Unfortunately, it was somewhat rushed, and most groups didn’t even get up to the third or fourth statement when we had to stop! I paused them and gave them the group reflection handout for it, but they didn’t have time to finish that either! I interrupted them again and I had them move the desks back and write on their name tents to me. At the end of class, one of the very quiet students (who I’m actually worried about) came up to me and said he didn’t have a pencil. I took out one of my extras that was a goody bag one, and I gave it to him so he could copy down his homework – but I discovered that he hadn’t written ANYTHING in his name tent because he had no pencil all period!

Second period, we had a prep, so I switched gears mentally to get ready for the other class that we hadn’t met yet – 701/703/705 (my split classes). I also prepared my powerpoint for my homeroom, so I would be ready for them. I taught back to back different classes – 701/3/5 and 606. I made sure every desk had a name tent, a handout for the numbers about me activity, and a pencil gift. My student teacher placed the post-it notes on each desk for the next class. Second period flew by and before I knew it, I heard students in the hallway.

Third period, I had my seventh graders arriving from different places (one class had come from the first floor while another had come from down the hallway!). So I let the students in as they arrived and wound up having to explain the directions several times on how to fold the name tents. I asked them to take out their summer math assignments, and a bunch of them were confused because they had submitted it digitally – so I told them that was fine too!

This class was a repeat of the day before, but I think I fumbled some of my opening (where I tell them to call me Mr. Golan or Mr. G), but I figure I can fix some of those details later (and already began!). I did the numbers about me activity, and had them introduce themselves and share (they were more like the sixth graders in that they didn’t know as many students in the room – probably in part because the homerooms are mixed up!). We did the introduction to an elbow partner and shared an important number. Finally, we concluded with the name tents. One thing that’s significant about this class is that there are only 24 students in the class! All of my other classes have at least 29 – 31. Part of the reason is that the way it’s split, there are four teachers (one for a SMALL class of like 8 – 12 kids who have IEPs and struggle a lot) for only three homerooms, and part of it is because the accelerated class is oversized at like 36 or so.

As they were still finishing up, my homeroom arrived with their third period teacher, so I collected the name tents and dismissed 701/3/5. I had my student teacher place the name tents on the end of each row in order so the students could take theirs and pass it down. The only trouble was with the kids on the end who were taking a long time to get out their HW and a pencil didn’t pass it down immediately. I helped out a few rows to get it done, and we began.

We watched the videos and had similar conversations, but it took us a little longer to model (I wanted them to get the routine right this time!), and I wanted to make sure that we took the opportunity to do it right. Unfortunately, we spent so much time moving our desks that most groups in this class only did one or two of the talking points before we ran out of time. We didn’t even have a chance to debrief it or do the group reflections! I chose to prioritize the name tents, and we spent a few minutes doing that instead.

I brought them to ELA, and then spent my fifth period prep looking over the revisions I wanted to make for the afternoon, for the other 6th grade class. I didn’t think last period would go fast enough, so I decided to hold off on the talking points activity. I decided there wasn’t enough time to do it right, so we would instead do the two WODB that the 7th grade class had done the day before but that they hadn’t seen yet.

I also tried to troubleshoot my projector. I don’t understand why it’s doing this (especially since it’s only sometimes!), but when I turn on the screen and the doc camera, and I turn on my ENO board, the projector often shows only the left 7/8 of the screen. The right-most 1/8 is cut off/invisible! I can’t figure it out, and so I sent an email to someone else this period, and he stopped by during lunch. Of course, by then, it obviously hadn’t made the same error, so he couldn’t offer advice!

When homeroom rolled around, 606 came back to me. I had them take out their folders and I collected a bunch of the school paperwork for them. I realized I needed more translations of items than I was given. I hate paperwork and I’m sick of it! I can’t wait for  September to be over in that regard (in others, I want it to go slower!). We paired up with same lunch buddies again, and I heard some groaning (so I might need to reassign them on Tuesday). Lunch buddies are my school’s way of helping ensure everyone has someone the first two weeks.

This time, I didn’t walk them all the way downstairs – I did remind them what the path looked like, when to come back (to be on time to 7th period!), and then I sent them on their way! I went to the bathroom again, and I ran into two high school students coming out of the stairwell (there’s one HS science lab on my floor). One of the boys was VERY tall, and he says, “Mr. Golan? Is that you?” I look up (and up and up!) and I recognize one of my favorite former students. I break into a big smile, and I say, Yes, it’s me! He asks me how long I’ve been working here, and I tell him this is just my first year at this school. He opens his arms wide and wants a hug! So I give it to him. I thought it was pretty adorable that here’s this boy who’s probably about 17 or 18 (senior in HS most likely) who wanted a hug from his 8th grade math teacher who he hadn’t seen since he graduated! I guess that speaks to my impact on him.

My student teacher and I ate lunch together again in my room, and we discussed siblings. It was nice to share a moment with him and know him as a person. I ate and relaxed a little and mentally planned how we were going to switch up the afternoon.

When lunch ended, kids came back upstairs anywhere between five minutes early and three minutes late. A few kids were grateful for the cool AC (since they’d been outside in the yard!), but I only had them with me from the time they got upstairs until they got their bags – I sent them right to next period! I told them the class and room number, and a few of them asked me which direction to go. When I realized that I didn’t know, I decided to go around the building and make a map. I’m still not quite sure of everything, but I have a much better mental picture – I think I might want to make it neater and project it for them so they can have a visual map too!

I went to my 7th grade math cluster common planning time 7th period. We started by discussing the grading policy for the summer assignments (ID yourself and Delta Math online). I wanted to make sure I was consistent, and so we did. Then we moved into a discussion of our topics for next week, and they mentioned how the kids in the split class (in one of the rooms) had trouble with integers and how they weren’t fluent with them yet. I bridge the 6th and 7th grade, so I was able to offer perspective on what my colleague had told me she did (or didn’t) do last year. We talked about the importance of developing fluency (but disagreed about the use of memorization vs. developing it through repeated usage and meaningful practice), agreed upon the idea that conceptual understanding was important and just giving rules would never help, and I began sharing the context of the balloons. They seemed to really like that idea, and said maybe this was the year to get in alignment (since I was new and provided perspective to all grade levels). I’m much more willing than my predecessor was to collaborate (and in fact, I ENJOY collaboration! I miss my former co-teachers from last year the most because we had such good collaboration by the end of the year!). I think they’ll support me in pushing the balloon model/game into our unit.

At the end of the meeting, one of them told me she received a parent email about a delta math assignment – and it turns out that the boy who asked about the timed nature of the HW hadn’t completed it for some reason (he told me he had problems with it!). It was really interesting listening to the  perspectives of my colleagues and realizing how much I disagree with them about speed and fluency. I just logged into the summer assignment myself, and I found the timer that’s counting up as you work both distracting and anxiety producing – and I have NEVER felt math anxiety before! I’ve always considered myself a good student, and I’m confident in my math skills now.

Anyway, we ran out of time, so I rushed back to meet my sixth grade split class. I had my student teacher lay out the name tents before we’d gone to the meeting, so they came in and read the messages, took out homework, and copied homework into their planners. I showed them the three videos, facilitating a very similar conversation with them about each of the videos. Instead of rushing the talking points though, the next thing we did was the Which One Doesn’t Belong? activity with getting up and moving, and discussing with partners, which we did for two different patterns. Then it was time to correspond on the name tents!

I dismissed the kids this time from the back of the room, and they just left (some were a bit afraid of getting lost!) rather than being escorted downstairs. I went over to the other 6th grade teachers’ class to check in about how we were grading the summer assignment. I met the special ed math sixth grade teacher and she was able to answer the question. We didn’t come to quite as much alignment, since her HW assignments are normally worth 2 points, and the summer HW was worth 27 points. I decided to make sure its weight was roughly 13 assignments, and that it would be fine!

Then I went back and checked in with my student teacher. I looked over the papers I printed out fifth period, and organized them to give in for copies. We discussed how he would grade the summer assignments this week and next, and we also discussed some of the plan for the following week.

I went downstairs to leave at 3:45, and drop off the papers to be copied in the office with the parent coordinator (who does all of our copies, since we don’t have a school aid!). She chatted with me for a bit, and then I realized I needed to dash to make my family therapy appointment. After therapy, we went to Ricky’s to look at nail polish (and my partner tried a few colors on my hand when she ran out of fingers to use!), then went out to dinner at Westville, and home on the subway afterward (deciding to forgo the gelato now that we’re on weight watchers).

On the subway ride home, I began reading and responding to some of the name tents, but I got through even fewer on the way than the previous day’s trip! When I got home, we made a to do list of all of the chores we’d neglected to take care of – paying the storage unit bill and setting up automatic payments, calling about installing Fios, etc. After those chores were done, it was after 9:30PM. I decided I wanted to finish the name tents, so I did – I fell asleep as soon as I did the last one, a little after midnight! I was exhausted.

Now here I am, just after midnight again, having written a gigantic post about my last two days. I definitely wish that I’d been able to blog about it sooner, because I feel like some of the stories are “fuzzy in detail” because it happened so long ago.

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?

Well, the decision I’m proud of is related to one I worried wasn’t ideal. I knew on Thursday night while planning that I had too much to fit into one period, but I tried to cram it all in anyway because I thought both things were super important. I think I wish that I hadn’t tried to do BOTH things in one day, but instead had waited until next week or so. However, I am proud of the fact that I decided to change it after lunch, and not make it rushed for the last class of the day.

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 getting to use all of the different activities I’ve read about this summer. Already, the ones I’ve used so far have been tremendous, and I’m excited to be at a new school too.

Challenges: balancing work life with family life. Today, I barely did any work, and I feel guilty! I spent the morning making breakfast with my partner and working on weight watchers recipes, then I biked in the afternoon again. We watched Ocean’s 13 in the morning (finished it, really), and then we watched Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as a family at dinner. We watched a second episode, and when they asked if I wanted to watch another one, I said I wanted to go write my blog! They couldn’t imagine that (neither of them use the internet socially as much as I do).

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 building the relationship with my students through the name tents, which I’m proud of and enjoying.

I’m building a relationship with my colleagues, but I’m also discovering lots of differences of opinions with some of the people I have to work with. For example, on Wednesday, we had some PD about dealing with more challenging students, and the way in which some of the teachers talk about “those students” made me really uncomfortable. Then, on Friday, at my meeting and in interacting with my colleagues, their persistent beliefs about the importance of speed in math (despite research that shows otherwise!), and other little things that keep cropping up – I think I’ve got some very strong opinions that are in conflict with theirs. I don’t like conflict, so I’m struggling with how to manage that, especially since I am still new and these are people who I want to respect me and build a good working relationship with.

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 think I did a good job of making a relationship with my students in the first two days. I LOVE the one-on-one conversations I’ve had with each of my students so far from the name tents. I can’t wait to look at the “Who Am I” handout. I also think I’ve done a pretty good job at incorporating ways to think about learning math and talking about math so far.

I think on that note, I’m going to sign off and go to bed!


One thought on “Day in the Life: First day of School (*2 days actually!)

  1. I like your choice of tie – and tea (I’m not a coffee person). I found this post of particular interest as I don’t really know middle school (I teach high school) and enjoyed your growing awareness of the sixth grade necessities. Funny enough, I have students make labels (for random groupings) though – also, I’m weak with names. Actually, I’m impressed you met parents with ease so early, I think I’d have found that intimidating. Interesting use of video too; I’ve had my projector act weird in the past. There’s so much in this entry, I’m guessing you’re a fast typist? It would take me hours.

    FYI, I’ve linked/summarized this particular post in my DITLife roundup; let me know if that’s a problem. (

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