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!

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!