Things I want to accomplish this summer…

As a teacher, I have the privilege of having 2 months off from work (in theory) while still getting paid. While this is true, we are usually doing school-related work over the summer months to prepare for the school year and the lack of time we will have between September and the following June.

Although I want to relax as much as possible and don’t want to work anywhere near 8 hours per day for the next 2 months, there are a few things that I definitely need/want to accomplish over the next 60 days.

  • Create a really great Statistics course – it is not only a new course for me but is also new for our school and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
  • Learn ASL – my work friends agreed to teach me in return for some food and beverages.
  • Relearn Calculus – although I won’t be teaching it, I would like to re-explore and remind myself of the concepts.
  • Develop/explore projects for my classes – Students love projects and I love projects, so if I can find some really great and applicable projects, that would be a win-win!
  • Read a whole lot – I have a whole shelf’s worth of books in my apartment that I have yet to read and would like to do so this summer.
  • Exercise at least 4 days every week – since I spent the majority of last summer on the couch recovering from surgery, I want to up my fitness levels and spend very little time on any couches.
  • Spend a ton of time outside – walking, sitting, eating, running, etc.
  • See all the people I love – work friends, school friends, family, etc.
  • Explore NYC
  • Volunteer – Last summer I volunteered with BARC (Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition) and walked two of their shelter dogs and had a blast. Granted, this happened on the hottest day (it was well over 90°) but it not only helped a community in need, but I got the chance to hang out with cute animals and get some exercise!
  • Continue the Uncharted series – I got all four games a couple weekends ago and just finished the first game of the series. I really like it although there were times that stressed me out so much! That’s how most video games affect me, though; I get better as I get used to the game, but for awhile I am a giant stressball.
  • Take tons of pictures – I want this to be a memorable summer.
  • Travel – We’re going upstate for our friends’ wedding and I’ll be staying a bit longer to see friends and family back home. In August, a group of my high school girlfriends and I are heading to the Poconos for a girls’ weekend getaway. Tom and I are also trying for a trip to the Dominican Republic in August.

Are there any activities/experiences you would suggest or that you hope to accomplish this summer?

Reblogged: Degrees vs. Radians

While re-exploring and relearning much of Geometry this year to teach it to my high school students, I myself wondered why I learned and used radians when I was in high school. This post captured my attention and is really interesting and insightful…ya know, if you’re interested in why we use radians instead of degrees. There are [bad] drawings, too! Thanks, Ben, for the awesome work! Radians SNL Two Pi

2014-15 Reflections, 2016 Ambitions

I realized, with only a few days of 2015 left, that I did not make an “official” list of “resolutions” for this past year. I did, however, make one two years ago and I’m actually really happy with how much I’ve accomplished from that list (which are in red below)! Along with my achievements, I’ll follow the same format by including my regrets from the past two years and ambitions for the coming year.

2014-15 Achievements:

√  Survived 2 months of a 4-hour round-trip commute to and from work. It wasn’t easy by any means.

√  Moved into an apartment with Tom in Brooklyn, cutting commute time to less than an hour round-trip. We pay too much money for too little space, but for now it works.

√  Graduated from Teachers College, CU with my Masters in Mathematics Education.

Columbia grad

√  Made it through the remainder of my aide job and booked my first real teaching job at the school I was already working at.

√  Got married and it was the most perfect day. Everything was as we wanted, except for my mom not being there.

Wedding collage

√  Had an amazingly wonderful honeymoon in Montauk.

√  Had our second reception to include my mom and upstate family and friends in our celebration.

Reception #2 Family shot

√  Kept up with student loans and actually paid the higher interest one off! We also refinanced the rest so the payments and interest rate is lower.

√  Survived my first year of teaching and re-booked a job at the same school as a full-time Math teacher.

√  Started working out regularly after school and even got one of my coworkers to join me – we still work out 2-3 times per week together!

√  Endured foot surgery to finally remove my bunions.

√  Celebrated our one-year anniversary by going to Montauk; we stayed in the same B&B as our honeymoon. It was tough with my feet all wrapped and swollen, but we had a good time regardless.

√  Became close friends with my coworkers because I work with so many amazing people.

I have amazing coworkers

√  Became more confident in myself and my abilities AND feel a little more confident when it comes to debating. I’m by no means perfect or a know-it-all so I’m still working on this; it’s a daily struggle.

√  Finished my Invisalign!

2014-15 Regrets:

  • Not getting any pets. This is a regret that couldn’t be helped since our landlady is anti-anything-that-might-cause-bugs-of-any-kind-to-invade. I have a small Christmas-tree-esque plant…shhh, don’t tell her!
  • Not becoming friends with people sooner; this has been happening with me for years, and I hate that I miss out on so much potential time with awesome people because I doubt myself or feel too overwhelmed with life/work/what they think of me/etc. to make the effort.
  • Not reading enough due to lack of time and energy.
  • Not actively finding a church to attend regularly.
  • Not visiting friends and family more.
  • Not traveling more, in general. This includes exploring NYC.
  • Not working out more and having more self-control when it comes to delicious treats and all other foods that I like.

2016 Goals:

  • Continue to grow my self-confidence, especially when it comes to how well I do my job.
  • Read more of everything, especially current events and other important historical stuff.
  • Write more – on this blog, in my journal, letters to people, etc.
  • Find a church to attend consistently and become an active member in; this has been a work in progress for quite awhile now and has become one of my biggest struggles.
  • Get a frame for my Masters degree; it’s the most expensive piece of paper I will ever own, so why not  try to keep it safe?
  • Travel more – we already have one trip set for spring break, but I’d love to go anywhere and everywhere.
  • Become more disciplined when working out and choosing to eat healthier. I’m starting by trying to replace one meal with a homemade juice/smoothie/protein drink 3 days per week. If this works, I’ll do my best to increase the frequency.

I’d be interested to hear your greatest (or smallest) achievements in the past year as well as what you hope to accomplish in 2016 and beyond. I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year’s Eve as well as an amazing 2016!

How to become a great teacher!

I remember when I decided to become a teacher and I was so nervous that I was going to mess up or screw up my future if I didn’t do everything perfectly. I wanted to share my top 13 tips to becoming a great teacher since I’ll be starting my second year soon and feel like I have it all down and can share my wisdom. I wish I had a list like this going in to guide me, so I hope this helps anyone pursuing a career in education!

  1. Go to an education school.
    • Duh! After 13 years of elementary, middle, and high school, put in the extra 4 years of undergrad, and another 1-5 years if you’re going Masters level. To be really safe, you might as well go for a Doctorate. You’re spending the rest of your life in a school setting, so why ever leave? Hopefully you’ve known since before graduating high school that this is what you wanted to do because otherwise it’s really hard to get into it.
  2. Student teach and do everything perfectly the first time.
    • You don’t want your cooperating teacher, supervisor, or students to think you’ve never done this before or that you make mistakes. That would be super embarrassing.
  3. Pass certification exams.
    • If you can’t pass these tests, what are you thinking being a teacher? Tests are the epitome of your intellectual abilities, just like they are the epitome of your future students’.
  4. Apply and interview.
    • Only after you have those pieces of paper (degree(s) and certification(s)) are you ready to apply to schools! Where do you want to end up? Do you want to teach at a public or private school? Urban, suburban, or rural? Once you fill out the applications, rock those interviews. Make sure you mention how much better and progressive your new-age philosophy is in comparison to those tenured or “veteran” folks. Also, don’t pay attention to what the school represents or how the people interviewing you make you feel. This is all about you impressing them, it’s not a two-way street.
  5. Accept the job of your dreams!
    • You’re obviously going to get hired at the perfect school on your very first shot, love everyone you work with, and love all the students you teach. You’ll most likely stay at that school for the rest of your teaching career until you retire with a healthy 401K at the age of 65.
  6. Enjoy all of the free time.
    • Teachers teach. Super easy, right? Some other minor time commitments include lesson-planning, leading clubs, coaching, covering after school study halls, lunch duty, parent-teacher conferences, department meetings, division meetings, while also keeping a very normal life and healthy relationships outside of school. Oh, and all of this results in a massively growing bank account. Don’t worry, you’ll find time to eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, and shower. It’s called summer vacation. Which reminds me…
  7. Never take a sick or personal day.
    • School cannot go on without your presence. What will the kids do without you there to teach them? No. It’s just not acceptable. You have winter break, spring break, summer vacation, and all other holidays off. Don’t be greedy.
  8. You also shouldn’t be leaving school before 8pm most nights.
    • If you are, you obviously don’t care enough and are not putting enough time into making yourself the best teacher.
  9. Set up your room perfectly and completely ready for the first day of school.
    • Martha Stewart won’t have nothing on you and your perfectly squared and hung posters, your immaculately clean and organized desk, and every desk and chair neatly arranged. No eraser or holepunch out of place, no clutter whatsoever. Make sure everything is set so that everyone knows you have your life together.
  10. Plan all of your lessons for the entire school year before school starts, if you can.
    • And make sure they’re fool-proof and perfect so you don’t ever have to go in and edit; that would be such a waste of time! Make sure every single one is dynamic and exciting because otherwise none of the students will learn a thing. They won’t even realize you’re in the room unless you teach with pizzazz.
  11. Always be happy and smile.
    • Never show any emotion other than happy because you don’t want your students to think you’re a human being. You need to be their role model and show them how to be happy all the time. That’s how you deal with absolutely everything: happiness. No crying, no complaining, no nothing. Don’t even talk about feelings or emotions.
  12. Do everything yourself.
    • Don’t ask for help or ideas or advice because you don’t want your co-workers, supervisors, and students to think you’re incapable of…anything. Troy and Gabriella and the gang sang that “we’re all in this together,” and while that might be fun and catchy, this is real life, not a Disney musical movie.
  13. Take this list and laugh at it because it’s a complete and utter bunch of ridiculous, flippant nonsense.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t thought about all of these at one point or another in my pursuit of teaching. I know the majority of them are totally ridiculous, like showing no emotion or the one about sick or personal days. But sometimes we as teachers feel a duty to stick it out even when we feel like we got hit by a bus. And free time? HA.

I also know that some people do try to plan their lessons way in advance and it works for them; BUT they are also aware that they will be going back in to edit those at some point to accommodate something that could be done better next time. And then there are people like me who plan pretty much a day or two in advance because that’s just how I work and I’m better at last minute ideas than trying to think of something for next week or next month.

Some of the tips are somewhat a tiny-bit helpful, like 1 and 2. Going to school to learn how to teach and gaining experience during student teaching is important, but don’t think you have to get a Masters or Doctorate and that you can’t screw up while learning how to teach. That’s what it’s there for. Heck, you might realize through those experiences that teaching isn’t for you, and that’s awesome! Plus, you might end up wanting to be a teacher after years of working in a different field, and that’s awesome too!

Obviously, most states nowadays require certain degrees and certifications in order for you to teach, but those don’t make great teachers. It’s experience in the classroom that makes great teachers. And an innate desire to teach. And there’s some innate talent that goes into it too. Point being: tests and schooling don’t solely make great teachers.

I’m hoping there was enough ridiculous sarcasm throughout all of the other steps that you realize this whole post is a silly guide to becoming the most unhappy and stressed out person on planet Earth. Teaching requires flexibility and collaboration and mental/emotional/physical strength. And a happy hour or twenty with co-workers…which could also be considered collaboration. Without those, you’re going to get burned out so quick.

I’ve learned so much from my prior long-term sub positions and first year of teaching (last year) and I am still preparing to learn for the next 30+ years in this field. If you try to do everything right the first time without preparing and being okay with making some mistakes or incurring hiccups or complete derailments, you will hate teaching. Obviously we all want to do a good job, but learning from mistakes is sometimes the best medicine for our egos. And that’s true for all walks of life and professions, not just teachers.

Let me know if you have any other ridiculous ideas that you may have actually had about the teaching life, or just some facetious teacher thoughts, and if you can relate to any or all of these!

In my classroom: Five days until finals

When this blog goes up, Tom and I will be participating in the Color Run 5K in Queens. Honestly I’m not feeling it at the moment (T-11 hours until it starts…no turning back!), but I’m excited because a bunch of my teacher friends will be doing it and a few more will be cheering on the sidelines. And then we’ll hang out and chill (literally, as in icing our sore, out of shape bodies) for a while after the race. Here’s Tom and I at our first and only other 5K two summers ago!

5k

Anyways, a consensus of students and teachers at our school [and probably any school in America] would say that the past two weeks were hell-a long. They’ve been stressful and busy and long and…well, I mean, that’s typical for teachers at the end of May with final exams and reports coming up. We are down to 5 school days until final exams start. Like, what?!?!?!?

Last week, my Algebra I class continued with linear functions, focusing on figuring out if a point lies on a given line and finding the equation of line given the slope and a point on the line. This past week, we found where lines intersect (AKA solving systems of linear equations) by graphing and by substitution. They took the unit test on Thursday, and we started reviewing for the final exam on Friday.

I was so relieved when I finished creating, printing, and copying review sheets for both of my Algebra classes because that meant I was set for the next week. It also means that I have a pretty decent foundation to create the final exams. This week will be devoted to reviewing/studying for the final, so it’s pretty much just autopilot from here on out.

For Algebra II, I’m really happy to be able to say that my students have been using trig functions (all 3!) to find a missing side and a missing angle. I originally was only going to cover sine with them, but once we did some problems together, they told me that it was really easy. So we then worked through cosine and tangent problems and they have been doing so well. We even did some word problems with trig functions (you know, the shadow of a pole is this long and the angle between the ground and the top of the pole is the much, find how tall the pole is…). We also learned the Law of Sines because they were doing so well.

They took their unit test on Wednesday and we started reviewing for the final exam on Friday. Except they’re all seniors except for one and they seem to have checked out, so not much was accomplished during the last period on Friday. Oh well, I see them all 5 days until the final exam, so I think we’ll be okay.

Math in Everyday Life has been heavily focused on finding tax (we stick to 10%) and the total amount of a purchase with tax included. We’ll be reviewing in that class too so they feel comfortable going into their final exam.

Over the past 2 weeks, we had a Performing Arts Night and the school musical (it was Annie this year and the students did phenomenally!), I judged the middle school science fair, I attended a professional development conference in Times Square, and Mary and I have worked out four out of the five school days both weeks. Yeah!

As much as I’m looking forward to the end of the school year, the end of the stress that is at its peak this time of year for teachers, I will miss the routine and the people I get to see and interact with every day. It’s so convenient and easy to see these people I care about because we’re all under the same roof for 8+ hours everyday and we’re all dealing with similar issues. So as much as I’m feeling overwhelmed and can’t wait for June 19th (official last day for faculty), I plan on enjoying and savoring these next 3 weeks before people start scattering for the summer, some to return in the fall and others who will begin new adventures elsewhere.

In my classroom: Counting down and toning up (and I’m almost 40?)

This week was low-key because the majority of the freshmen were gone for most of the week. It was also weird because Tom was also gone for the majority of the week. And what’s funny is that both the freshmen and Tom were in Europe – students were in Berlin and Paris, Tom was in Brussels.

I also realized that we are down to 26 school days left until finals start. Twenty. Six Days. Sure, with finals and stuff, there are 33 or so school days, but still. That’s crazy! My first year teaching is coming to a close!

Spongebob Squarepants marching band celebrating

You know what else is crazy? I had an interesting and hilarious conversation with one of my students about my age. Now, if you know me, you’ll know that for years I’ve had people think I was still in high school based on my looks. Since September, one of my junior boys has commented on how young I seem, how it feels like I’m his age, and how it’s weird that I’m married already. But this week, another student (a sophomore boy) actually thought I was a lot older.

It all started when he was playing a hip-hop song from the 90s that everyone has heard before, but I have never actually heard the song in its entirety – I only know the chorus. So he started playing another song – ‘Jump’ by Kris Kross – and said that if I didn’t know this song, I was definitely not a 90’s kid. I told him I knew it, but I was still pretty young in the 90s.

“Come on, what were you doing in 1993?” he asked, thinking I’d say I was in high school.
“I was four years old; I was born in 1989.” I responded.
“What?! I thought you were born in the 70s! I thought you went to Woodstock and stuff,” he said while laughing. Obviously this kid was joking about Woodstock (I hope…I told him that it was in 1969) but even if I was born in the 70s, I would be pushing 40 by now.
So I said, “Oh? I’m sure you also think I fought in World War II, then?” He just laughed and could not believe I was only 25.

It was so ridiculous. Then he showed me this video of a guy who actually thinks he can sing and dance and things got even more hilarious. Fair warning: it’s painful. Yikes.

So my Algebra I class finished up their ethnic statistics projects on Wednesday – the four of them each presented their projects and the information that they found during research. When the freshmen came back on Thursday, we began our linear functions unit by taking the unit pre-test. We then began the unit by talking about coordinate points, how to write them, plotting given coordinate points, and identifying what a given point was.

My Algebra II class finished up our absolute value unit and will begin reviewing for a test this coming up week. I’m thinking our last unit is going to be trig – we’ll go back to the Pythagorean Theorem, then talk about finding missing angles using trig functions, etc.

Finally, my Math In Everyday Life class worked on giving directions given a map. I screenshotted an image of Google Maps that showed directions from school to a local supermarket and also to a subway station. We then tested their directions and how well they did by following their instructions and seeing if we made it to the store correctly. They’ve realized that they need to be more specific, use left/right instructions, and also use street names. We also continued working on number bonds and they’ve gotten SOOOO much better and faster at identifying the number bond of a given number.

One of the highlights of my week (aside from Tom returning Friday from Europe!) has been that I worked out four times after school. This is actually the second week in a row that Mary and I have done it successfully! And it feels great! I’m so happy that I have a co-worker that I can work out with and trust to push me while also pushing her. We have our set routine, but this week we switched it up by trying a Tone It Up High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) video.

And it kicked our butts. And thighs. And shoulders. And while we complain a whole lot afterward (and sometimes during) workouts, we still keep it up. We’ve both noticed a huge difference in the way we feel and look since we’ve switched from the elliptical to the treadmill, doing speed intervals for 20-30 minutes (level 11, baby!!), so it makes all the pain worth it. Here’s to another four days this coming week!

But first, a relaxing weekend with my husband…cheers!

In My Classroom: Exciting News + Museum Trips

First off, happy weekend!!!! I hope everyone got a restful sleep last night and slept in this Saturday morning. Even just 5 minutes later than weekday wake-up time. Take what you can get!

Let’s start off with the good news: I recently found out that I will be teaching Math classes full-time next year! After teaching 3 of my own Math and co-teaching 2 Chemistry classes, I’m SO ready to be teaching all Math, all the time. I mean, I went to school for Math and that’s my end goal, so I’M PUMPED!!!

This week has been strange because the majority of our freshmen and a few of our faculty are off on the yearly trip to Europe. My wing of the school is super quiet because the teachers next to me are on the trip, and the students that usually walk past my door aren’t around. It’s been kind of lonely, but also very peaceful.

On Tuesday, my co-worker and I took the remaining six freshmen plus two other students to the NYC Transit Museum. It was my second time there and it was much more enjoyable this time around. The students had a blast sitting in the old train cars, playing with the different interactives, and just being out of school for an hour or two. I got a lot of great pictures and the kids enjoyed themselves so much.

Check out some of the old ads that used to be in the cars. My, how times have changed! Or maybe not: ’84 out of 100 women prefer men who wear hats’.

Subway ads

And then there are these ones that have just been aesthetically changed. I see the ones on the right everyday, but look at how far they’ve come from the 50s and 60s! Although, it seems as if people have not changed…

Subway ads 2

Also, did you know we used to have a ‘GG’, ‘LL’, and ‘KK’ train? A lot of the double letters were dropped, so we have a G train and an L train, but we don’t have a K train at all. And, look: an H train!

H Train

Anyways, my Algebra I class went from nine students to four with the freshmen gone. On Wednesday, I gave the remaining students a project about their ethnic backgrounds. They are to choose a country of their ancestry to research, create a poster, and present to the class (of four). The project focuses on the statistics of a country (such as population, economy, and climate) but they have the freedom to include some history, pictures, personal stories of visits to their countries, etc. The students seemed really interested in the project, got right to work on their computers, and worked quietly the entire rest of the class! It was fantastic!

My Algebra II students made the connection for transformations of a graph (in this case, absolute value functions) when a constant is added or subtracted within the function or outside the function. It was great. I used Desmos graphing calculator to allow them to see the graphs and make the connections, so they were a lot more receptive seeing as they’ve already graphed a bunch of functions and disliked it a lot.

I’ve decided to begin a “reading maps and giving/receiving directions” unit for my MIEL class. I started by getting them to write down directions from my classroom to the lobby. As they read their directions to me and I followed, they quickly realized that their directions weren’t as clear, specific, and thorough as they needed to be. We will work on that!

Yesterday (TGIF!!!) I joined my co-worker to take the small group of “left behind” freshmen to the American Museum of Natural History. We ended up with only five freshmen boys on our trip. Due to an “investigation” up in the 100s of Manhattan, we ended up taking 3 different trains to get there when it should’ve just been a straight shot on the C train. We missed our original exhibit time, but they ended up giving us tickets for a later time, so it worked out fine.

We ate lunch around noon outside, looking over the planetarium. I had some funny conversations with a couple of the boys, including them asking me about if I use social media and if what they were saying would be shared with anyone. I told them if it was funny or interesting enough, then maybe. And if it was ever about anyone getting hurt (hurting themselves, hurting another person, another person hurting himself or herself) then I would be obligated to share it with someone at school. Luckily, it was only the silly social media commentary, so that’s okay.

After lunch, we went to a 3D movie about a chipmunk in the forest and a grasshopper/scorpion mouse in the desert and all of the predators and harsh conditions they have to endure to survive. No cute, furry creatures were killed during the movie (thank goodness) but I can’t say the same for the scorpion (good riddance).

 I was so exhausted by the time we got on the subway for the trip back to school. And I went right home after school because this week kicked my butt. Even though it felt pretty low-key with the freshmen gone and the weather getting nicer, I worked out FOUR DAYS IN A ROW this week (high-five Mary!) and have started coming down with a cold or something, so sleep has been pretty sucky too. Here’s to a restful (and apparently gorgeous weather-wise) weekend!

Writing Teacher Reflections

I started reflecting on my teaching (and school days in general) back in November. Two of my coworkers and I went to a professional development seminar at a Day School in Manhattan to hear Rick Lavoie speak. This guy is awesome. After spending the day listening to his stories (both humorous and heart-breaking), my colleagues and I agreed that we would love to have him speak at our school because it would benefit our K-12 faculty a lot.

Long story short: Rick served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for 30 years. This experience has provided him with a “living laboratory” in which he developed and refined his methods and philosophies related to the education of children and adolescents with special needs. He has now delivered his message to over 500,000 parents and professionals throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Rick’s main focus for this day was Strategies that work (and those that don’t) with struggling kids. I have 4 pages worth of notes from his presentation and still remember how much of a story-teller he was. Anyways, some of his strategies were…

One that I personally liked that would benefit my students and myself was the one where I would write daily reflections. His story for this strategy was that a teacher came to him for help because one student (student A) would come to her English class some days and be completely off the handle. There wasn’t a pattern that the teacher could notice – it wasn’t during certain times of the day (the schedule was the same every day) so it wasn’t that he just had a candy bar for lunch or anything like that.

The teacher started writing daily reflections in hopes that this might show a pattern, but no pattern seemed to come out of it. However, when Rick checked out the reflections and compared the days where the student was especially a handful, he realized that another student was absent on those days. It turns out that the two boys were partners in Science, the class right before English. They were in the dissection unit and student A hated dissecting things, so he always relied on student B to dissect while he took notes. On the days where student B was absent, the teacher forced student A to perform the dissections himself and it caused him to get really anxious and it would throw off his mood into the next class – English.

How cool is that? That you can find a pattern from just a reflection and note of who was absent a certain day!

It’s difficult to remember to do it daily seeing as my free-time and prep periods go to (duh) prepping. Or talking to and/or venting with co-workers. But it’s so helpful and calming, especially when it’s been a particularly difficult or stressful day. I recommend teachers try it out, recording positive and negative interactions between students, their own interactions with students, and how their lessons went.

The reflections don’t have to be essays or epic sagas; it’s actually better to keep them as bullet points: short and sweet. Who was absent? What was the lesson on? How did it go? Is there anything you will change the next time you teach it? What are some positive or negative interactions that occurred during the class?