A Hurried Beginning to My School Year
This is the 2nd post in the Day in the Life of a Teacher Series
I am taking a mini-family vacation to Maine to recoup and reconnect and to BREATHE. The first thing I did when I got here was run down to the water and said "I can breathe!"
It has been a hurried, chaotic, overwhelming beginning to my school year. Just a combination of many things. I feel like I am constantly working hard to do things on my to do list and making progress by prioritizing only to wake up the next day and having an even longer to do list. I feel like a car constantly revving the engine and working hard, but this weekend is about putting it in neutral for a while as I recharge by the water and reconnect with my family. Three of my four sons are here with us and my mother in law. It is nice family time to eat dinners together, fish, throw the ball to the dogs in the water, play games. I love it!
We started our school year with being told we had to do 10 hours of mandated training on the computer by the end of September, so I sat with my computer over Labor Day weekend and did it. Then, we were told they adjusted some of it to make it optional. It still was 10 precious hours of my time.
I had to write 17 letters of recommendation. I do like writing them and bragging about the students. I have most of them in Algebra 1 and 2 and some on Relay for Life, Cross Country, or Youth Group so there is a lot of good stuff to talk about, but again, takes time. I wrote those all in September.
I coach cross country boys. There are 56 boys on the team. We start a week before school which is good because there is so much paperwork to deal with - trying to collect all the boys' emails and their parent emails. I need to make sure they have submitted their permission form and their up-to-date physical forms. I ask them to email me their goals for the season. I also have to design each practice as a differentiated school lesson because the runners come to me with a different base. Some are capable of running 6 miles, so cannot run 1 mile, so I have three different plans each day. We practice or race six days a week. It is a second job and takes a lot of time. The kids are great and make it all worth it though.
Church Youth Group started up in September. Three other moms and myself work hard to keep it alive. We met with our group and came up with our school year calendar of events. We had a parents' meeting that is not well attended to get other parents to help us plan and drive to events. It is our church's 150th anniversary and we are getting for a big mass and celebration on Oct 23rd where our youth group will sing and serve.
I am in my 12th year of teaching and decided some things needed some freshening up. I teach three different classes - Accelerated Algebra 1 and 2 and Foundations of Algebra 1. I decided my graded assignments needed to be updated. These are 10 questions to be worked on outside of class and are due once a cycle. Our cycle is 7 days. I am getting the new questions from SAT, ACT, math team, and Exeter problems, but that means I need to do them first and decide if they are appropriate, type them, do an answer key. It takes more time to grade them because I am not as familiar with the questions. The questions are good and causing some great conversations for the kids. I came up with a WYR: Would You Rather:
**Would you rather be the student who does 10 challenging math problems in 7 days or
**The teacher who has to read/decipher/find/analyze/grade 1100 math problems in 7 days?
--> I vote for being the student.
I went to TMC16 (Twitter Math Camp) this summer and was inspired to try VNPS - Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces with VRG - Visible Random grouping - a fancy way of saying have the students in random groups working at the white boards. It was a bit of work up front to buy and make the white boards and hang them in my room and I hold my breath every day that when I walk into my classroom, they will still be hanging. It has been worth every bit. It has changed the way I teach and I love it! The problems the kids are working on are richer. The conversations/discussions/debated are awesome. Nothing like having a student physically step back and take a look at their group work. I love it. So, I am spending more time finding meaningful, meaty problems.
I also decided I wanted to make new tests and quizzes for my Alg 2 class. Again, find and write new questions, do edits, check for timing, do answer keys.
All this happening, going on and BAM! In mid-September, my father-in-law died. It wasn't a surprise. He was fighting all year. He died of liver and kidney failure. He was very sick and we were with him the day before he passed. He lives 1 mile from us and was a very important person in our lives. He was the most proud Grampa ever. He went to every sport/ball game my kids had. He just loved to brag about them all. It was the first time my kids experienced someone close to them dying. So, school life was put on hold as we planned the funeral and wake, shopped for clothes to wear, made a slide show, wrote a eulogy. It was an exhausting week. My students were great and understanding and gave me hugs. My cross country captains came to the wake. It was on our Back to School night so some of my teacher friends stopped in before they went back to school.
Add to this I have one of my son's is a senior, so we are busy trying to get him to write his college essay, figure out where and if he might want to go to college, applying for financial aid and just trying not to miss any deadlines.
Can you say crazy busy?
That's why I needed a breather.
Yesterday I tried paddle boarding. It wasn't exactly fun given that the water in Maine is very cold and I didn't want to fall in, but I took the risk and did it!
I caught a nice bass with lots of other little fish.
The sun was beautiful yesterday.
And, then I woke up today and went for a run on these hills and it reminded of my year so far so I came up with a little prayer:
May I always remember to notice my beautiful surroundings,
know the sun will continue to rise,
work hard on the uphills, and
breathe on the downhills.
Now....it is time to fish!