In my classroom: Ultimate Pi Day Week

As I write this, I am officially on spring break. That’s right, I don’t have to work for 2 weeks. Although, teachers’ work is honestly never done. I don’t just say that to sound philosophical or righteous. I say it because it’s 100% true.

During these 2 weeks, I will be entering grades and writing some comments about said grades for upcoming third quarter reports because they are due the Monday we come back from said break. I will be planning lessons that I will teach the week we return. I will be looking through student outlines about organic compounds for Chemistry. I will be grading a recent test I gave my Algebra I students. And so on, and so forth.

Then again, I don’t have to go to school for 2 weeks. As mentioned in my last post, I will be going out to Long Island today to see my in-laws and Tom’s cat, Finster. And that’s only for a couple days, which leaves me with a whole bunch of time to do whatever I want!

Finster and Holliday

Backing up, though, let’s talk about this week…

Monday was long. I was at school for 13 hours straight because we had an inaugural Language Festival at 7pm. It was fantastic. Students in Spanish and ASL (American Sign Language) classes prepared skits, stories, and songs via real-life interactions, videos, and writings. They did great and it was wonderful seeing our students do such awesome work. Great job Language Department!

That day I had started reviewing with Algebra I students for the functions unit and continued reviewing with Algebra II students for the linear inequalities unit. My plan, as long as everything went smoothly, was to give my Algebra I class their test on Friday (I know, awful teacher giving a test on the Friday before break) and to give my Algebra II class a take-home test to do over break (again, awful).

BUT Algebra I students were totally understanding, especially since they had a long period on Friday, so of course it wouldn’t take the entire 70 minutes, and once they all finished we would just relax on the day before spring break. And Algebra II students appreciated the ability to use notes (no classmates, other adults, or the internet) for this test because some of the material was very difficult.

So there.

Tuesday was fine, more review for those two classes, and I kept going with number bonds in MIEL. Everyone in the Math department met during lunch and we started really getting down and dirty with the logistics of our inaugural Pi Day celebration. We started planning a while ago, but this week was crunch time. We began delegating tasks, getting the big picture taken care of, and started getting some details worked out.

Wednesday: again, more review, more number bonds, and more meeting during lunch with Math department folk. Excitement was building – not only for spring break, but also for our Pi Day plans! I sent out an email to students about becoming Pi Day pie judges – it would cost $3 to be a judge and it would be a first come/pay, first served basis.

Thursday: you guessed it; reviewing and reviewing and number bonds. Thursday was our regularly scheduled time to meet during lunch as a department, so we figured we would get the rest of the details taken care of and be all set for the next day. But, instead, it turned into a meeting about next year’s classes and how many of each section would have to be created based on how many students would be going into each level of math. Something pretty shocking and bothersome came up about my schedule for next year, so that kind of threw off the rest of my day.

We ended up meeting again right after school to make last-minute plans before Friday came around, and we each had a job to do. We needed materials for pies to be thrown at teachers, we needed a plan for the pie-tasting competition, we needed some emails sent out, and we all needed to create our page of math tasks for each of our math classes. That night, I created my “Pi Day tasks” sheets, and baked two pies – pumpkin and pumpkin chocolate chip. I was super unsure about how they turned out because the filling seemed runnier than I remember it being when I made it with Mom as a kid. Hopefully that meant it would be more (ew) moist?

Friday: THE BIG DAY! I was so excited to see my Pi Day t-shirt in my mailbox, just in time for the festivities. Unfortunately, Friday was so nuts, I don’t have any pictures of said shirt! All of the math teachers either bought or made a shirt for the day, but I don’t think we got a picture of us at all! Sad.

Anyways, for my classes, Algebra I students took their test and we ended up with about 15 minutes left in the class, so we played “Man in a box”, the Quaker version of Hangman. They all seemed pretty confident, so we’ll see when I actually start grading them! Algebra II was really chill, even though we went through two word problems dealing with systems of linear inequalities to prepare them for the take-home exam. We had a few minutes left after we finished, so we watched “Mean Tweets” videos on YouTube.

MIEL students worked on more number bonds and then we went on a walk and talked about our spring break plans. My next period (time before lunch) I had a free/planning period, so I was racing around the school collecting pies people had baked so that I could set up the pie sale in the kitchen/cafeteria. We had a great spread – (from bottom L to R) chocolate cherry, pumpkin and pumpkin chocolate chip; (top L to R) a mixed berry yogurt-y one with a lemon-y crust on top (student-made), apple, black-bottom oatmeal, and another apple.

Students had been informed about this since the beginning of the week, so they were aware that if they wanted a slice of pie, it would cost them $3. In the email I sent out, it said each slice would be $3.14, but we would give them a discount for Pi Day and give it to them for $3. All money raised was going to an organization our school has been raising money for since February – Red Hook Rise. “Its mission is to provide sports, educational and physical fitness programs that empower and educate youth.”

Pies pies pies pies pies

So we had a lot of students come during lunch to buy pies, and thank goodness my colleague Jen came down to help because it was insanity with cutting and serving and taking money and explaining all the pies and preparing the plates for the judging later on. Overall, it was a success.

I missed most of my next period co-teaching because I was cleaning up and then was seeking a colleague’s advice on the situation that had come up during our math department meeting the previous day. I’m not going to lie, there were tears. As of right now, I’m hopeful that the situation will be worked out. Fingers, and toes, and legs, and eyeballs crossed.

THEN. IT WAS PI DAY TIME!!!! For those of you who have made it this far, thank you! Glad you made it! I would offer you a cup of coffee or tea, but this feature of teleportation is not possible. Yet. If you’re confused on what Pi Day is, let me briefly enlighten you. If you recall from your days of high school (and maybe even middle school) math classes, you may recall the number π (pi). It is an irrational number, meaning it is a decimal that goes on and on and on forever and ever without repeating. It is the ratio of a circle’s circumference and its diameter (circumference ÷ diameter) and there are a few fractional estimations, but they match up with a minute number of decimal places.

π = 3.141592653… Mathematicians (and now computers) have been able to calculate pi to trillions of decimal places. Every year, March 14 is considered Pi Day because March 14 = 3/14 is like 3.14. This year (technically today, Saturday, but obviously we had to do it Friday) was Ultimate Pi Day because not only would it be 3/14, it would be 3/14/15. And going further, at 9:26:53, it would be the absolute ultimate time on the ultimate day of pi. This exact sequence of this date and time will not occur again for 100 years. It is a once in a lifetime thing!

Now, going back to Friday, I ran down to the gym because I was one of the MCs. Once everyone came down, I began explaining to everyone what they would be required to do. They were to get into their math class groups and find the teacher they were assigned to. That teacher would have a folder with their tasks in it, so they were to complete as many of the tasks as possible in order to possibly pie a teacher. The teacher had an answer key but could not give them any help other than to tell them whether their answers were correct or not.

During the 10-15 minutes that they were all solving their problems, the math teachers set up the pie-ing station. We laid a plastic covering on the gym floor and started filling empty pie tins with Cool Whip. I also cut in every few minutes with a corny math joke to keep people entertained. Students started filing back in the gym, having answered the questions and/or realizing time was up. Then the pie-ing began.

Five of us teachers signed up to be pied – me, John (another math teacher), Vicki (Spanish), Will (music), and Kirk (Director/Principal). Three ponchos had been made out of some more plastic sheeting, so we took turns – John, Vicki, and Will stood in for 3 rounds of pie-ing, and then Kirk and I switched in and endured 4 rounds of pie-ing.

There were plenty of pictures and videos taken during this time, so here are just a few…

This first picture is a prologue to the video that comes next…

John in waiting

This first video is from Sue who got an amazing shot IN SLOW MOTION!!! This video shows John getting a pie straight in his face. This is actually round 3 I think, so this is the first pie that actually made it right on one of their faces.

 Thanks to Jeannine for the following picture of students who are totally ready to pie us:

Determination and Fear

And this one. It’s a gif, so you have to click on it for the full experience. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Pi Day gif - fear relief pie

This video was submitted by a student and it shows the two pie-ers totally cheating by coming right up to Kirk and I with their pies. This was the last (thank goodness) round of pies, so it ended on a messy note.

As we were cleaning up, students made an announcement about student government. I ended up getting a total of 8 students that signed up and paid to judge the pie-eating competition, so during this time those students tasted the pies and voted on their favorite. And guess who won? My pumpkin chocolate chip!!! Woot! I had whipped cream in my hair and on my clothes (and in my nose from that last pie) but I didn’t care.

Everything went as planned, although it was a bit hairy the entire time with last-minute hiccups, but it was a blast. Messy, yes, but the students and teachers alike enjoyed every second of it. Plus, we ended up raising about $80 for RHR! Not bad, not bad at all.

Overall, this week was beyond overwhelming, beyond stressful, but beyond fun, exciting, rewarding, and tasty (I got to eat a lot of pie and whipped cream). I have the best crew of teachers to work with and the best students to be pied by…although some of them are total cheaters. Now I’m off to go do anything I want for 2 weeks!!!!!

In my classroom this week: FoodBank NYC, Conferences, and Good Feelings

This week was a weird one. And (do I even need to tell you?) an exhausting one. But it was also very fulfilling.

We started the week off by traveling up to the Bronx to volunteer at the FoodBank of NYC. Seven adults and about 30 students all helping an organization that feeds millions of people every day. Seriously, millions. We were shown a video before we got to work at the warehouse, giving us an idea of just how much FBNYC gives and helps the people of New York City – 1 in 5 New Yorkers are helped by them. And they don’t “just” provide food – they also help adults file taxes for free, provide families education about healthy meals on a low budget, as well as helping families file for the food assistance program (SNAP).

Foodbank NYC logo

For about 3 hours, our group of teachers and students unboxed pallets full of donated items (food and non-food), sorted out the opened and unusable items, replaced the acceptable items into FBNYC boxes, and reloaded those boxes back onto the pallets. It was a great time and I think the students actually enjoyed it.

I have a bunch of great pictures and would love to post them, but that’s what sucks about being a teacher is the privacy issues that go with pictures of students. I mean, I understand the reasoning and all, but it stinks that I can’t share their work and how awesome they are! So that’s why I will only use the one someone took of me (I wasn’t posing 😉 I swear) while we were there. Anyways, we had some great conversations when we returned to school, talking about our experience, what we enjoyed, what surprised us, etc.

Tuesday was a regular day of school. Algebra II started a review packet on linear inequalities – they may be having a test this coming week before spring break, we’ll see. My MIEL students continued rounding to practice for their test on Wednesday.

Wednesday was a half day of classes, with the other half dedicated to parent-teacher conferences. I saw all three of my math classes, Algebra I doing more function stuff, Algebra II working through their review packet, and MIEL taking their rounding test. We had an hour between students leaving and conferences beginning to eat lunch and get ready for our meetings with parents and students. I really only had one very stressful meeting and the rest were all pieces of cake.

My last one was the best and it made me remember how much I love my job. Actually, a few of my students told me I was a really good teacher and they really liked math this year in comparison to years before because I make it fun and understandable.

Aww Lauren Conrad reaction

When I finally got home around 8pm, the sheer exhaustion set in. I showered, ate, and went to sleep, just to go back to work bright and early Thursday for more conferences. But I can’t complain because it was a really easy-going day. Students were required to come to their conferences, and I think they really benefited from that one-on-one time for me to tell them how well they were doing and then what they should try to work on. I only had a handful of conferences between 8am and 3pm, so the enemy was boredom and sleepiness.

I worked on some crosswords and Sudokus to keep myself awake between conferences and decided to workout during my long 4-hour gap from 11am to 3pm. The weather was pretty crummy, so I was hoping that my last conference would cancel, especially because they were heading in from Staten Island. I didn’t have anything other than good things to say about that student anyway, so when I got the notification that they canceled, I was pumped.

My co-worker and I worked out pretty hard; like, I haven’t sweat that much in quite awhile, and it felt amazing. Then, I went home and crashed. Hard. One more day. That’s it, one more.

Friday was a surprisingly easy day; Algebra I worked on determining function rules and whether a table actually represented a function or not. No Algebra II on Friday. I started working with number bonds with MIEL students so we could start working with making change (example: What number would you add to 20 in order to make 100? 80.).

This week is our last before a two-week spring break! Woot! I don’t have any plans other than going out to Long Island to see my in-laws, Tom’s cat Finster, and some friends out there if they’re free (yay!). I also have a couple doctors’ appointments, and, oh, I’m getting my taxes done. All super riveting stuff. No trips to any exotic or warm places for me. But that’s alright because I’m ready to just sit and relax and see people I haven’t had the time to see since Christmastime!

Do you have any spring break plans? Let me know so I can live vicariously through you, pleaseandthankyou.

In my classroom this week: Frustration, Budgeting, and Basketball

This week was seriously never-ending and super frustrating. But thank goodness it ended on a high note and I can’t complain too much. So I’ll complain just enough.

You know when you spend a bunch of time on something only to realize that all of that hard work (physical, mental, and emotional) was a waste? That happened a lot this week.

Students and adults alike who don’t want to/can’t be helped even after spending so much effort on doing everything in our power (within reason, duh) to get something accomplished. That’s the most frustrating of everything that happened this week, and I was ready to pull my hair out. It didn’t just start this week either; it’s been culminating since September, but this week just exhausted me beyond belief. I mean, I was physically drained by Monday afternoon, each day becoming more and more drained.

I’m human, so I’m not perfect either – you wanna know how many times I created a lesson, typed up the note/worksheets, and made copies only to realize that I had made some sort of mistake that wasn’t easy to just have the students make small edits? Too many. For example, in Algebra II, the coordinate grid I included on the word problems didn’t work with them (totally Desmos’ fault because why, oh why would they only put 3 grid lines between 0 and 5?), so then I had to re-make the grids, re-print, and re-copy the notes. I know it sounds like I’m complaining about stupid little things, but as a teacher without much time to spend doing something more than once, it’s annoying. I just made so much extra work for myself because I wasn’t careful and instead I hurried through. Dumb-y.

This week was all about introducing functions to my Algebra I class – we talked about what functions are, practiced filling in function tables given a function rule, and on Friday we learned how to create the function rule given a full table. They’ve been doing really well, and even those students who struggled in the beginning have improved so much!

Algebra II focused on solving, graphing, and answering questions about systems of linear inequalities word problems. They’ve been really disliking this mostly because each problem is very involved and takes quite awhile to solve. But they’ve also liked it because they get to use colored pencils to color in the shaded regions.

My Math in Everyday Life (MIEL) students finished their budget component this week; I asked them to each choose two jobs: one was a job they really want to do in the future, and one in a fast food restaurant. They chose movie actress, veterinarian, TV sports broadcaster, ASL interpreter, and surf-lesson instructor for their desired jobs. For fast food, they chose places like McDonalds, Starbucks, and Five Guys.

They were asked to find the average salary for each of their two jobs, and from there we calculated the monthly salaries. I then gave them a list of expenses they could choose from and the corresponding prices (estimated, of course). They could choose things like owning a car versus buying a subway ticket every month, owning a pet, having a cell phone, having cable TV, and other things.

When they added up their expenses, they then were to calculate the amount left over every month when subtracting expenses from their salaries. They quickly realized that they were spending way too much, even with higher salaries at their “desired” jobs. None of them could afford their desired expenses when working solely at fast food (which we calculated came to about $15,000/year or about $1250/month).

My student who wants to be an actress realized that with the starting salary, she would not be able to afford her expenses, so I asked about where she thinks the term “struggling actress” comes from. She made the connection that usually actresses are also waitresses, and that’s because they can afford their expenses if they work two jobs. This was true with her acting and fast food salaries combined. It was really cool for them to see all of this and realize that they can’t always have everything once they’re out on their own.

Finally (FINALLY!), yesterday was Friday. We had a student-faculty basketball game after school to raise money for an organization in Red Hook – people had to pay to play and to watch. I signed up to play but was actually quite nervous because I’ve never been good at basketball. I’m better at the endurance portion necessary for running back and forth, bursting down the court to knock the ball out of students’ hands. I don’t think I played horrible, but I didn’t play amazing; I did a good job on defense, and also almost made a basket.

But it was really cool being in a different setting with students, seeing their talent up close, and having fun with them while also getting to be aggressive with them. Teachers won by about 5 points, still holding the championship 2 years running now (it started last year, so teachers have had it from the beginning). We also had a great crowd including a bunch of awesome teachers with signs and other paraphernalia to cheer us on. It was a great time.

This week is going to be crazy – we have a volunteer project Monday, regular day of school Tuesday, half-day with parent-teacher conferences following Wednesday, full day of P/T conferences Thursday, and a regular day on Friday. Only 2.5 days of lessons to prepare, but P/T conference days are exhausting. I’m just hoping it’s not as frustrating as this week was.

I hope everyone had a great week; what was the most (or least, we can be positive here!) frustrating or fun thing that happened to you this week? It’s good to let it out, get it off your chest, and seek help of others – I’ve learned that big-time this year working at my school with some amazing co-workers acting as my rocks to vent to and lean on.

In my classroom this week: Good news!

This week was a short one, but it felt oh. so.  l   o     n       g. Most schools in New York had this week off for their “February recess” or what-have-you; we had it back when I was in high school. However, my current school only had two days off, and I think this is because we get a full two weeks off for spring break every year, whereas all of those other schools don’t.

We had Monday off for Presidents’ Day and then Tuesday was dedicated to professional development; overall it was a great PD day. We had a child psychologist come in and talk about recognizing the signs of ADHD and how to teach students with ADHD. Then we watched a really great documentary about bullying called Reject which made me kind of emotional; hearing these families and friends of victims of bullying talking about their unfortunate experiences was difficult. I started thinking about the possibilities of any of my students or even my own future kids being bullied to the point of hurting themselves and/or others. Let’s squash bullying!

On Wednesday, I reviewed Circles with my Algebra I class, continued systems of linear inequalities with Algebra II, and continued working with money in Math in Everyday Life (MIEL). That afternoon, my group of advisees and I went to read to a group of elementary school students from our school system. It was cute watching my five junior boys reading to pairs of 4th and 5th graders. It really shows their character when they get to work with younger kids; it takes down their “I want to be treated like an adult while still acting like a kid” and “I’m too cool for everything except basketball” walls and replaces them with enthusiasm and sincerity. They get to be like cool older brothers for 20 minutes, without the real-life responsibilities of older brothers.

After work, I got to hang out with one of my co-workers whilst checking out a venue for our all-faculty end-of-the-year party. It was great getting to talk for a couple hours, chatting about our pasts, presents, and futures. However, by the end of the night, I could tell that my voice was starting to get weak from talking all day at school and then talking over the music at the venue.

When I got home, Tom noticed that my voice was a bit raspy, but I figured it would be fine after a night’s sleep. Thursday, I introduced word problems for systems of inequalities in Algebra II and continued with money in MIEL. My voice started out okay but progressively got worse. By the time I got home, my voice was super raspy and squeaky, cutting out every other word. And trying to speak with inflection? Forget it.

And Friday, I had no voice. I started out the day whispering. It was great because it really made them stop and listen to what I was asking or telling them. It was also funny because I found that students ended up talking very quietly, even to the point of whispering, because I was unable to talk so they followed suit. I told them they could talk normally, but they still were weirdly quiet.

I had the help of Read&Write for Google, an extension that can be used for text-to-speech on Google Docs. It’s also good for speech-to-text, translating to and from different languages, defining and suggesting words while writing, among other things. My  MIEL students got a kick out of it, asking me to change the voice of the computer, to type their names so they could hear them on the speakers, and wanting to hear my message in different languages.

I was supposed to lead the lesson in Chemistry, but I wasn’t able to because I had no voice. After lunch, my advisees along with 2 other advisories got together and made posters for a food drive we are running at school. This coming up week, we will be collecting goods to donate to a local food pantry or soup kitchen to supplement our volunteer work at the FoodBankNYC. My last class of the day, Algebra I, took their Circles test. And then it was Friday afternoon and I was going home to relax the weekend away!

Although out of order chronologically, I had my supervisory meeting Friday morning, and this is where the good news from the title comes in. I know there is a bit of anxiety among teachers at my school because “contract season” is upon us. April is the time when people are either offered a contract to teach next year or are politely (and with difficulty) excused.

Private schools don’t have tenure, so even after three or five or ten years, your job is still not entirely secure. This is actually a great thing because this keeps teachers much more accountable (education buzzword!) than those in public schools who are protected from losing their job that they totally suck at. They might get lazy knowing that they can do [practically] no wrong in terms of their ability to teach their subject.

Good news though: she said there is absolutely no doubt that I will be given a contract to teach again next year! When I acted somewhat surprised and extremely happy, she asked if there was any indication that I wouldn’t be offered the position again for next year.

Well, I mean, I think I’ve done well since starting in September. I think I have good rapport with students and coworkers. I absolutely love my job. However, I’m “only a teacher” and I don’t have the power to make contractual decisions on behalf of myself. In the realm of teaching, you just never know. So as long as I don’t do something royally stupid between now and June, I have a job next year!

In my classroom this week: Circles, Pretzels, and Supervisor Observations

Whew, this was a crazy hectic week. But that comes with the territory of being a teacher. It usually seems to be more hectic at the beginning of the week because you’re getting back into the swing of waking up early, accepting that weekends don’t last forever, and making sure everything is set for the day, among other things. By Friday you’re on the homestretch and everything just kind of goes fairly smoothly, and then the week is over.

But not this week. So that’s kind of a warning because this post is a little long; but there are pictures and anecdotes about students and lessons and all that jazz!!! And there are chocolate covered pretzels involved, so stick around!

The whole week seemed to start and end at high-stress levels. The weird thing is, I think I got home earlier than usual most days this week. I think I stayed until maybe 4:30 (9 hour day) most days when usually I’m at school anywhere from 10-12 hours. On Thursday, I actually got home around 4:30 and Tom asked if everything was okay because I was home so early. Even he knew that it was out of the ordinary for me to be home before 6.

But even though I was getting home earlier, making it seem like a more easygoing week, it was because the school day itself had been so incredibly stressful that I just had to get out ASAP. Between difficult humans at school and the everyday duties that come with being a teacher of 3 Math classes and a co-teacher of 2 Chemistry classes, I was physically and mentally ready for bed by 8. But, of course, there were still things to get done before finally throwing in the towel for the day.

I won’t get into details about who or what specifically has stressed me out for the sake of being professional. I mean, I don’t think a ton of people are reading my blog, but it only takes that one person from administration or hired computer ninja to read it and then everything blows up.

Anyways, my Algebra I class blew me away with their creativity while they worked on their Circles project that I made for them. It was nothing too involved but it required them to find three circular objects in their daily lives, measure the diameter and radius, and find each item’s circumference and area. They then were to put all of their information onto a poster, including a picture they took or drew of each object. And dangit, these kids are so creative! I mean, I know they are but, as their math teacher, I don’t get to see their artistic creativity as much in-person. I enjoyed it so much and so did they!

Circles projects

On Tuesday, my supervisor and I scheduled a time on Friday for her to observe me in my natural habitat – one of my math classes. I know that I’m a good teacher (not in a braggy, self-righteous way) for it being my first year, creating my own curriculum, and everything else that working with students with learning disabilities entails. However, it’s still nerve-racking knowing another adult is critiquing your every move. Of course I’m ready and willing to hear suggestions and/or criticism if it’ll make my teaching better for the students, because, at the end of the day, they are the priority. Are the students benefitting from me as their teacher? Are they learning? Are they being supported? Can they be successful and are they being encouraged in my classroom? All of those should be a resounding YES (duh)!

So Friday was crazy from the beginning. I had everything planned in my head as to how the day was going to go. I kept telling myself that as long as I made it to lunch I was golden. First class of the day, Chemistry, was okay because students took a quiz and then I helped them organize old work and find missing work to be graded. My Algebra I class was just beginning to review for the upcoming Circles unit test next week. The third class, Algebra II, was when my observation would take place, and then I was making chocolate covered pretzels with my Math in Everyday Life class.

The morning was like the huge hill of a rollercoaster (particularly the Superman, if you’ve ever ridden it or have seen it at Six Flags). Waking up and getting ready for work, running the day’s schedule through my head and assuring myself 100 times that it would be great was like waiting in line for the ride. I was excited and happy with my decision to be a teacher and knew my lesson was planned well, but I was still not sure how the ride would be.

The commute to work and the time before the first class was like getting into the rollercoaster car and strapping in. My heart started beating a bit faster and I had a slight knot in the pit of my stomach. The ride started ascending to the top of the first huge hill, putting all my effort into making it up the hill and not passing-, burning-, and/or freaking-the-heck-out.

I reached the top of the hill right before my observation. My hands became a little clammy. My heart was started pounding a bit harder. The butterflies in my stomach began fluttering even harder. I reached the apex and then my supervisor walked in, and so began the crazy-wild descent.

Roller coaster terrified nervous silly funny

And then, exhilaration as my students totally followed along. Of course, as usual, lessons have their hiccups, but it went better than expected. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and all of my students know this about me. Also, I have a tendency to have, like, a motor spasm or tic (or I’m just super clumsy), and the whiteboard eraser flew out of my hands at one point as I went to erase the board. It’s dangerous and a little embarrassing, but we all had a good laugh. They kept saying that the lesson (graphing systems of linear inequalities) was fun because A) they got to color their graphs with colored pencils, and B) it made sense to them what was happening with said colored parts of the graph.

Woot!!! And after that class ended, I had no time to relish in my successful observation because I had to bolt down to the kitchen in order to maximize the time my next class would have to make chocolate covered pretzels as a Valentine’s Day themed baking lesson. If you’re wondering about the math involved, students had to double the recipe, we had to measure the amounts of ingredients, and we also talked about the prices of the items before and after we bought them.

It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of messy. The actual dipping of the pretzels wasn’t bad (although one of my students ended up with chocolate all over his hands…and shirt?!) but the clean-up was a bitch and a half. All in all, though, the students loved it and they ended up with awesome treats to either keep for themselves, share with friends, or give to a special someone. I took a few pictures but obviously for privacy reasons won’t be posting the ones with students’ faces.

Chocolate covered pretzels math baking

The rest of the day was a blur – lunch meeting, walk with a co-worker during our free period so she could vent, study hall where I helped students and packaged up the chocolate covered pretzels, then last period was another Chemistry, so another quiz. At one point, during study hall, I realized I hadn’t checked my computer for about 3 hours, and I had 16 unread emails. Deep breath.

I debriefed with my supervisor at the end of the day and she had some questions about my lesson (mostly about real-life applications, which we’ll get into next week…they just needed to learn how to actually solve and graph first) but said that it was good overall. Phew.

After school, I hung out with my co-workers – it’s our weekly de-stress time from the mayhem that is teaching. And I honestly love my co-workers. We bond so well and it’s just so awesome to have people who understand your work struggles and frustrations and jokes and stories because they have a ton of their own. I had no idea, but we spent 3 hours bonding over our mutual dislike of something (again, no details for professional reasons)! When I was walking to the subway afterwards, I checked my phone and was flabberghasted at the fact that we spent that much time talking!!!

I also love that I now can contribute to “student stories”. Last year, when I was invited to these Friday hangouts, I was only able to contribute about maybe a couple students because I was only an aide to one of them. If you know any teachers or are one yourself, then you know a huge chunk of out-of-school discussions are about the kids. It’s so great to hear the students’ successes, to laugh about their silly tendencies, and it’s frustrating to hear their annoying habits or how difficult their lives are at home.

But such is the life of a teacher. I’m so glad I decided against becoming a physical therapist after 3 semesters of community college. I honestly love the community that school brings, and I’m so lucky that this is my first official school community and I’ve bonded so well with them. Although the weekdays are stressful, there are always great moments to look back on, frustrating moments to learn from, awesome stories to tell, and wonderful people to lend an ear to or lean on.

Happy weekend all!

In my classroom this week: “Can of worms”

Sometimes, it’s important to take a break from the academics for five or ten minutes and focus on outside stuff that students are dealing with, see others dealing with, or have genuine questions about (that’s the beauty of having the freedom to create your own curriculum!).

In my opinion, flexibility is a super important quality to have as a teacher. I wasn’t born with it, believe me; it took work, but I’m so glad I’ve gotten better at it! And I’m not talking, like, physical flexibility, like touching your nose to your knees or anything like that. I’m talking about flexibility in planning and time and such, if you didn’t pick up on that. Rigidity is necessary as a foundation (having a routine, knowing when it’s time to re-focus, etc), but can be the biggest enemy of the teacher.

Anyways, my students and I talk about a lot of stuff, math being number one, obviously. But I like weaving in real-life stuff, letting them discuss issues in the country or world around them, hearing their opinions, giving my own, and just allowing them to have a safe space to talk about school and non-school things.

However, because I am their teacher and not their friend or older sibling, I make sure to keep it on the “school-appropriate” side as well; I can’t make them feel too comfortable!

In the past, my classes have discussed race, religion, sports, politics, and things that have happened in their lives. When asked, I have also shared the story of how I met my husband, how he proposed, and what my college experience was like.

My Math in Everyday Life students tend to ask the most questions and get the most off-topic because they have the most need of discussing and being made aware of math and non-math concepts, phrases, and other everyday occurrences than my other students in Algebras I and II. They also make me more cognizant of the words I use and the tone in which I use them, which helps me to become a better teacher in the long-run.

This week, we were discussing budgeting, a part of our “money” unit. I asked my students (comprised of freshmen, a junior, and a senior) what kinds of expenses they might have to pay when they are out of school (including college, if they choose that route) and living on their own. They brought up the usual – apartment/house, bills (electricity, water, gas), food, and extra expenses (clothing, movies/theater, etc.).

One student then raised her hand and asked, “What about kids?” I reiterated that we were focusing on their personal expenses post-school and pre-children; it’s just them on their own with a job. “That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms,” I joked. They all chuckled but gave a kind of confused look.

“Have you ever heard that expression, ‘A whole ‘nother can of worms,’ before?” I asked. They all shook their heads.

I was wondering why we were talking about worms,” one said.

Oh boy. I explained that it just meant I didn’t want to bring in a whole other situation into the mix. They would have enough to worry about after school living on their own without bringing children into the mix. They nodded, but it was obvious that they didn’t get the connection between a can of worms and having a baby.

I mean, I’ll admit it is a very strange phrase, and I couldn’t find the origin or history behind why the heck ‘can of worms’ was chosen over pretty much anything else. I did, however, look up images of them for a possible featured image. They all made me a bit grossed out and queasy, so I decided to use that white board design from my student instead. But I digress.

Another great conversation happened on Wednesday; four or five times a year, we dedicate an entire school day to a different topic and organize workshops in-school or off-campus field trips surrounding each topic. Usually it’s something about social justice or history, but this week we focused on math (yeah!), specifically the powers of 10.

Towards the end of the day, we watched a 45-minute long video called The Blue Planet. During the movie, a student whom I have never taught or interacted with very much (other than the usual “Hi, how are you?” in the hallway) was in my group and openly asked questions about the concepts discussed in the movie. He mostly asked about certain weather phenomenon:

  • Can we see tsunamis from space? Answer: Not unless it’s super clear and the satellite camera is zoomed in closely. I also Googled images and there aren’t any real pictures, although that would be super cool!
  • Can we have earthquakes here in New York? Answer: Of course! Usually the earthquake starts elsewhere, but it has reached NYC – this actually happened a couple years ago!

And I was able to correctly answer them all! I honestly surprised myself in my ability to answer him, bringing my knowledge up from the depths of dusty high school cobwebs and past/current events. I Googled stuff after I answered, to make sure I wasn’t misleading him and the other students in the room. And, by golly (another strange phrase), I was right!

It’s funny and a little scary when the kids think I’m a genius. Another co-worker explained to his math class why we get tired after we eat – a lot of our blood goes to our stomach and our energy goes toward digesting the food we just ate. The students were blown away at this new knowledge and how much it made sense; they told him he was so smart and that he knows everything. He assured them that he didn’t know everything but they weren’t convinced.

I’ve had the same reaction and, though it feels good to feel smart, I am by no means a genius! I wonder if this is what my mom felt like when I was growing up and was amazed at the amount of stuff she knew and could explain to me. I was always in awe of the stuff my mom told me, and the fact that she could do the majority of the crosswords in the newspaper without consulting her crossword dictionary was incredible.

Most of all, I love the times when my students blow me away with their knowledge or ability to think and reason critically. When they make connections from what they have learned to new material, or when they are able to express their thoughts and opinions in a clear and concise manner (especially when it’s difficult for them to do so in math), those are the best moments.

Granted, it doesn’t happen all the time or even every day. Some days I wonder if they’ve remembered anything I’ve taught them. But it’s on the days when they make those connections to new concepts, have their “oh my gosh, that makes sense!‘ moments, or ask those questions that make me think about how and what I have learned in the past (can of worms, anyone?) that make it all worthwhile.

Ultimately, I hope I’m doing a good job in helping my students become well-rounded, knowledgeable citizens so that, when they leave my classroom, they will be capable of managing the world around them, of asking questions and finding answers, and contributing to the betterment of our world.

End the cheesiness already!