Monday, November 18, 2013

Mission 7: A Day in My Life

Word Wall
My day starts at 6:30 am.  After the usual morning preparations, I grab a cup of coffee, and make my lunch.  I’m trying to cut back on calories and stick with “real” food so today I put organic hummus, carrots, and celery in my lunch pail.  I added a few grapes and 2 tablespoons of almonds to round out the meal.  Then I head to my quiet corner.  I try to reserve 15 – 20 minutes for checking email, scanning Facebook for family happenings, prayer, and maybe even reading a blog or two.  This morning I blog a gratitude post on my other blog.  I also mentally review the day’s agenda.  My dear husband spoils me and brings me my breakfast.  He knows that the quietness of the morning is essential to my well-being!

Ambitious Agenda for the Day
I’m on my way to school by 7:45.  My drive is only 20 minutes or so.  I listen to NPR on the way.  It’s my only dose of the news other than what I read online.

This morning I check my school mailbox and pour a cup of coffee before heading to my classroom.  It is 8:15 and two students are waiting for me.  One needs to finish her test.  She requires extra time for assessments.  The other young lady knows that I have graded her test and she wants to see what she missed.  A third student shows up to finish his test.  Otherwise it is really quiet in my classroom - a welcome change from the previous week.  Last week was the end of the marking period and students were in my room every morning to repair grades.  

Killed too many trees!
I set out the day’s handouts.  Then I write the agenda on the board.  I also find the powerpoint that I emailed to myself from home.   I put two example problems from students’ homework on the board.

(The preparations for this day’s lesson started more than 2 weeks ago.  Our team met to create the unit test, and then outlined the required lessons.  We also exchanged ideas for teaching the unit lessons.  I spent several evenings scouring the Internet for additional ideas, activities, reading through math blogs about teaching solving quadratics.  A week or so ago, I blogged about our upcoming unit inviting folks to share ideas; I also tweeted asking for ideas.  I studied the responses to think through the lessons that needed to be taught.)

At 9:00 my students begin to enter the room and we officially begin class at 9:05.  I welcome students to class, and congratulate our band.  They attended a national competition of 91 bands from across the country.  They placed fourth at that competition and came home with an invitation to march in the Rose Bowl Parade in January 2015!  They were visibly exhausted this morning but very proud of their accomplishments.

Homework examples on board
We briefly discuss the 2 homework problems on the board.  I ask students to keep working on that assignment and tell them I will check it in our next class. 

In our introductory lesson on solving quadratics I want to make connections to the unit we just completed on the characteristics of quadratics.  So we start by graphing 2 quadratics and talk about their solutions.  How are those solutions represented on the graph?  How are they represented in a table of values?

We continue building background knowledge, strengthening vocabulary before jumping into the lesson on factoring.

Our team decided to teach students three methods for factoring:  factoring by grouping, the box method, and the “kick it” method.  I spend too much time building background knowledge because we have just enough time to work through notes on factoring.  Students get very little time to practice.  I know I will need to make adjustments in the lesson for the next day to provide more practice.

The bell rings at 10:35; students leave; students enter.  And I repeat the process with my second period class.

At 12:16, the bell rings again.  I put my laptop in a bag, grab my lunch bag and head to lunch duty.  I get to supervise the cafeteria for about 30 minutes; and I do this every other day.  At lunch I greet a few students but mostly I wander around the room keeping a watchful eye on 700+ students!

At the end of my duty, I head to a colleague’s classroom.  Today is A Day, and we have a PLC meeting on the first A Day of the week.  Our meeting will start in 20 minutes, so I eat in my colleague's classroom and we chat about our weekend.

At 1:15 we both move over to the team leader’s classroom.  The district coach and department chair join us.  Before long there are 8 of us in the room.  On our agenda for today is the semester exam.  We are reviewing last year’s exam to see how few changes we have to make to use it again.  We discuss a few specific problems and how they apply to on-level classes vs pre-ap classes.  Both levels are represented in the team meeting.  About an hour later, we are just about ready to put a wrap on the exams.  The pre-ap version needs a few more questions – a few topics are missing – but otherwise, the exams are satisfactory.

We spend the last few minutes talking about instruction in our current unit – specifically suggestions for the day we teach the quadratic formula.

At 2:25 I jump up.  The meeting is just about over.  I have to leave because my classroom is across campus.  All of the other teachers are clustered in the area of our meeting.  (I teach 9th grade TAG students taking Algebra 2.  Most 9th grade core classes are in the far building).

I arrive in my classroom just before the bell rings at 2:32.  Students begin filing in and I teach the same lesson to this new group.  In each version of the lesson I make minor adjustments to provide time for a little bit of practice.  That first period of the day is always my ‘trial’ run!

Class ends at 4:08.  Today I am not tutoring after school.  I am glad because I have the beginnings of a cold.  I’m eager to head home.  I respond to emails before I leave.  Our supervising principal asks for samples of writing in our classes to share at his leadership team meeting tomorrow.  I quickly snip a few samples, pasted them in a document and send them!

I arrive home at 5:10.  My husband is surprised because I am rarely home so early.  But my day is not over yet!  I have a stack of 145 tests to grade and my goal is to have them graded by Wednesday.  Down time will be in short supply!

I spend some time with my family.  We eat dinner and chat around the table.

I head back to that same quiet corner where I began my day.  I’ll grade papers there as soon as I finish this post.  While I grade I’ll check in at Twitter, read a blog post or two, and visit online through Facebook.

Most evenings I’m wiped out at 10.  I’ll head to bed and do it all over again tomorrow … almost literally since we are on a block schedule.  I will teach the same lessons to my Day B students.  Fortunately tomorrow, I won’t have lunch duty.  And instead of a PLC meeting, I will have a conference period.  I need that conference period because I need to pull together the details for upcoming lessons!

I am including a few resources in this post.
  • The factoring video I shared with students
  • The booklet we are using for this unit (created by colleagues on my team)
  • The circuit that would have been practice ... saved for another day 
  • The maze that is homework  (provided by a teammate)
As is often the case, I spent too much time on this blog tonight ... but writing this down was so much more fun than grading tests!  I have time to grade one class ... better get to it!


  1. Beth
    Thanks for the thoughtful post and the links you put up. How long have you been on a block schedule? Do you and your kids like it? I have taught at schools where we rotate days and have some drop days for each class. I found that kids rarely - if ever - worked on something when it was assigned and instead usually left it to do until the day before it was due. This meant that some skills were a bit choppy in their development since there was nothing like daiy work at any stretch in the year. I'm always interested in hearing how schedules have an influence on learning.
    Long day for you, but the pace of 90 minute classes seems to allow you to really settle in with each group of students.

    1. I have worked in this school just 2 years. I'm not sure how long the school has been on block schedule. It definitely has its pros and cons. I love the 90 minutes - not sure how I would structure a lesson without it! BUT 48 hours in between classes is a long time for some students especially the ones who are not going to do any homework. For my advanced students the A/B Day works well. Last year I taught students who were struggling and it was not the best scenario for them. Some of our students who have difficulty in math have "double block" math - so they get math everyday for 90 minutes. If I could be in charge of the world I would insist on double block for ALL Algebra 1 and maybe for Algebra 2 as well!