Better late than never…
It’s a rainy Friday. I drive to work because I have my monthly appointment with my oncologist on Long Island. Amazingly I got a parking spot, which relieves me of the parking meter dance – just one of the small details that makes life a little easier.
I arrive at school 6:55 am and go through the applications students have submitted for AP Statistics and Computer Science; I need to make my notes on them (students inflating their current averages by over 10 points – seriously? – student who has made it to class on time less than 50% of the term thus far, etc.) and submit them to my assistant principaltoday. I also need to submit the applications for Introduction to Python from my Geometry students, and sadly, there are only a few
of those. I go to work creating answer keys for the exam reviews for both Algebra 2 and Geometry; I am testing in all of my classes on Tuesday. The Friday following is the end of the second marking period, and I
have created a huge workload for myself grading. But it has to be, unfortunately. I check the school calendar on the wall; the end of the term is unbelievably close, and I feel those June 16 Regents exams looming.
My actual teaching begins at 8:00 am with three periods of Algebra 2 – we are finding points on and off the unit circle. Some students understand this topic intuitively (we have been working on the unit circle and trig for over two weeks), others struggle but finish. Only one or two students seem completely at sea, and I do my best to spend some one-on-one time with them, even if only for a minute. I distribute three different worksheets for my students to use for practice and review for the upcoming exam, wondering whether it’s too much. (Two of the worksheets are ‘puzzles’, and one is a practice exam based closely on the exam they will take next week. After several years of complaints that my exam questions were unlike the questions students had seen before, I decided to create a review sheet that modeled the exam.) The summative assessments in this class are supposed to be both preparation for the Regents exams, and indicators of future performance. This is not a practice I necessarily agree with, but it is the direction of my department. Given some of the comments and questions I am hearing during today’s classwork, I am somewhat worried about the upcoming exam.
During my prep period, I make sure my paperwork for the week is complete, and read an inspiring blog post by Jose Vilson:
“Actual living means taking into account all that keeps us from our fullest humanity and tapping into it. Yes, it leaves us vulnerable. No, it is not easy. Yes, it is more internal work. Yes, it is still worth it. What’s more, living for living’s sake allows us, especially those of us who are educators, to take this work as it comes. We get so exhausted thinking years down the future that we lose out on the moments that lift us. We need to draw ourselves closer to the joy that actually gives us purpose, not wait for purpose to bring us joy…If we’re willing to live, we never worry about dying. We can be risen.”
It’s a good read for this time in the school year (and for this time of day!) – sleep-deprived, worrying about things I can’t control. I need to think about the joy in my classrooms, the joy of the students, filled with possibility, every day.
Today in Geometry, we learn about the Midpoint Formula, a straightforward topic. I am doing my best in these classes to keep up the intrigue (writing equations of lines has proved challenging), and, as mentioned before, my eye is on the clock with midnight happening on June 16. This short three day week back from spring break has been rough – everyone is tired. Luckily, midpoint is pretty intuitive.
I clean up my paperwork (attendance, etc.) during my last period of the day while eating my lunch, rushing to get out for the afternoon drive. I drop off the AP applications, pack up a massive pile of grading and I’m off.
The drive to Long Island goes smoothly today, and I meet with the doctor with whom I spend more time and see more regularly than most (nay all) of my friends. The conversations that have become normalized for me would have been previously unthinkable (and probably are to many of you, hopefully) – genetic testing, cancer markers, monitoring medication side effects, and always, a conversation about politics and how are children are doing. I am tremendously blessed to have this man as my physician, and while I know I am ‘only’ a patient, there is mutual respect and affection between us, which is why I make this drive every 4 weeks. The round trip also my private car radio time – when I can sing my head off to Hamilton, inane Top 40 songs, or listen to podcasts. Today, I am highly entertained by a new favorite – 2 Dope Queens. Laughing out loud, which makes the rush hour traffic disappear.
I get home at 7, and my older daughter drops in for an overnight visit on her way back from a Historical Costuming Conference in NJ – yet another treat. We talk about friends, fabric, school, work – and she tells me Philadelphia may be her next city of residence. I try to contain my delight. I love visiting her in Plymouth (she points out Massachusetts is the bluest state), but Philadelphia! A great city, and even closer (she spent a year and change in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the long trip made this momma sad). And not far at all from my long time BFF in North Wales. Like I said, I’ve got fingers crossed – for her success and happiness, and proximity.
We talk until I have to kick her out of my room – I’m attending the Decolonizing Education Conference tomorrow and have to be up at 6:30 (which is an hour later than normal, but still…). It will be a long day, but filled with many inspiring ideas and interesting folk. I just wish more of this good feeling was related to my teaching. There’s always next week.
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 am really not happy with my concern over the upcoming Regents exams; this is not who I am as a teacher, and I find that I have to eliminate the exploratory activities that lead to deeper appreciation of the joy of math with deadlines approaching. But I know that (a) my students will live with these grades on their transcripts and (b) this is a priority of my school. I feel that it behooves me to do the best I can to prepare them, even if it means we need to be more test-prep-driven in the classroom. I am, however, proud of the way I can infuse teaching the Unit Circle (pretty much one of my favorite things; I’d even consider getting a tattoo of it!) with a lot of passion. Even if my excitement isn’t contagious to all students, it’s pretty engaging.
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?
You would think that a three day week would be easy. But everyone – myself included – came back from spring break exhausted. I’m so tired – this happens at the end of the year. I just can’t get myself to bed early enough. So I am looking forward to NOT GETTING UP AT 5:23 AM FOR THREE MONTHS.
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.
Unfortunately I am writing this reflection several weeks after I drafted the post. I’ve had a lot of relational moments recently. We had a tragedy at school – a sophomore had a brain aneurysm which ruptured while she was at school. Sadly, she died several dies later. Many of my students were friends with her, and I have been talking to many of them, hugging when I can, and reminding them of the supports available in school. There are no good answers in this terrible scenario, but I try to be a supportive and welcoming presence.
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What have you been doing to work toward your goal? How do you feel you are doing?
I am doing my best to be there in a personal way for my students, which has been my goal all year long, and I am certain I have grown in this direction. I am seeking out those students who I know are personally struggling and making sure they are getting help. That said, there are always more students who I can’t reach, don’t have time for – there are only so many hours in a [teaching] day, and I have only so much energy. But I’m always cognizant of the fact that these children are in my care, not only for math education, but for direction and motivation, and emotional support.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
Spring break was lovely! I had my first Passover seder in three years, spurred on by my kids. I really felt restored by the break. I’m just looking for some professional restoration at the moment.