First Year Teacher: Final Exams Week

Last week was the week. The week that all of my and my students’ hard (and, in some cases, not so hard) work has built up to. The week where we get a sense of just how well I taught  and how much knowledge I was able to pass on to them.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think tests are the end-all-be-all to establishing good teachers (take that government officials who think they can rule classrooms without having stepped foot inside them) but they are one of many ways to see how much a student has learned over the past 8 months.

As a first year teacher, this year has been crazy. I’ve been going day-by-day in lesson creating; I know I could try to plan a week at a time or something, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I work better under pressure and end up with better ideas at the last minute. Not totally last minute since sometimes [read: most times] that’s irresponsible and dangerous, but I just can’t plan so far ahead.

Two weeks ago, both of my Algebra classes finished and took a unit test on their last unit of the year. I then had to kick it into high gear and create review packets that would cover the entire year! I ended up taking my review packets from all of the units and just copied and pasted the problems I felt should be included on the final into a new document. Of course I changed numbers and took out those problems I thought weren’t as essential but it was no easy feat. I made two different versions for my Algebra I students based on their learning levels. Plus the Algebra II and Math in Everyday Life packets as well.

And as accomplished as I felt once those were all typed up, I then had to print each, make multiple copies, create a key for each, and then go through the packet once students had a couple class days to go through and complete them.

So last Wednesday was the day Math finals were to be given/taken. And although I’d like to think I looked calm, cool, and collected the entire time, I was probably more nervous than the kids. All of us Math teachers were scrambling during lunch to make sure we all had enough calculators and rulers for each of our students, so the meal was kind of rushed and not really enjoyed.

Overall, I think it went fine. The students that asked for the most help were students I expected to do so, and I’m so glad they reached out and weren’t afraid to ask. Usually if I gave them a slight hint, they would go “ooh” and know exactly what to do from there. I don’t think I stopped running between two of my five designated classrooms full of students over the entire 2 hour period of time before students could leave. But it was totally worth it because I know they felt much better to have finished one more exam (Math was fourth out of the five main subjects, so they had already taken three exams over the course of two days).

I have finished grading all three exams and I’m so proud of my students. Although no one received 100%, all classes averaged in the B range and I know (most) of them will be ecstatic to see those grades.

So yeah, overall, this experience has been stressful to say the least. But I still feel so lucky to be where I am, teaching the awesome kids that I teach, sharing my knowledge of math and life with them while they keep me young(ish) and smiling (most of the time).

To end this post, here’s a picture I took of my white board. My Math in Everyday Life students took their exam in my room; once they all finished their tests and before they could leave the school, they created these pictures. I didn’t get a chance to see them before they left, but when I walked into my classroom after the whirlwind that was My First Math Final as a teacher, I was instantly smiling. I honestly started to get a bit emotional (I know, I know, get a grip Holliday!).

 These kids have been so great this year and they actually like me (and are weirdly obsessed with my husband, Tom haha). And most of them think I’m a good teacher and that I’m nice without trying to take advantage because they know I’ll lay down the law if I have to. Like, seriously, I could not have asked for a better first year of teaching. I know it’s not “technically” over just yet – we still have until next Friday with students and then until the Friday after that (the 19th) with faculty meetings – but it’s just about there.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, believe me, but I know it could have been much worse. I’m grateful for my first year teaching, my incredible co-workers, my awesome students, my husband and his family for putting up with my complaints, and my mom for telling me that she’s proud of me and happy that I found a job that I love at a place that I love. And giving birth to me – thanks, Mom!

On that note, I’m gonna go. I need a tissue or two. Happy Almost Summer Vacation!

Halfway There

So I have not written a post in a couple of weeks. I have a good reason, I promise. Just hear me out!

I started graduate school this past January at Teachers College, Columbia University. And just an hour ago I finished my last final for the semester. I survived a semester of graduate school in New York City!

Up until about 2 weeks ago, I had planned on getting my degree next May. However, 2 weeks ago, I realized something. I am only 1 credit shy of being halfway done with my Masters requirements. What the what?! After crunching and re-crunching the numbers, reading and rereading the requirements, I spoke with my advisor just to make sure I was not overlooking something. Sure enough he confirmed that this is more than doable.

I kid you not, the clouds opened, the angels sang, and God said, “Holliday, you shall finish in December.” So that’s what I plan to do.

How awesome will it be to save a whole semester worth of housing and credits and the God-forsaken ‘College fee’ that is mandatory but no one knows what it is used for. Oh, maybe to supply us with those goofy ‘Student Senate’ plastic Ray-Ban wannabes. And our 20 “free” printed pages per week.

Anyways, so saving money will be fantastic. Except then reality hit:

“I will be done in December. That means I have to be an adult that much sooner. I will need somewhere to live. I will need a job to support myself. Not to mention, student loans will kick in that much sooner. Gah, what did I get myself into?!”

But, in all honesty, I am excited to see what will happen. I am over the moon that I get to start my “real-world” life sooner. I have been exploring careers outside of the typical ‘math teacher’ realm; coming to TC has really opened my eyes to the possibilities outside of the classroom.


I am not completely abandoning the idea of becoming a classroom teacher (especially because I totally want that shirt!), but it is exciting what new and improving technology is creating in terms of jobs and experiences.

So the point of this post was:

1.  To apologize for not posting in awhile. I’ve been a good girl, telling myself that instead of writing a blog post I should be studying and doing homework.

2.  To let out some built-up fear and excitement for the future.

3.  To share this journey and hopefully help others who may be going through or will go through similar situations and may have similar decisions to make.

So what are your thoughts? Any ideas about what future endeavors a Masters in Mathematics Education could possibly explore? What do you hope to do by the end of this year?