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: 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!