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: 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: 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!