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!

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