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!

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!

In my classroom this week: “Can of worms”

Sometimes, it’s important to take a break from the academics for five or ten minutes and focus on outside stuff that students are dealing with, see others dealing with, or have genuine questions about (that’s the beauty of having the freedom to create your own curriculum!).

In my opinion, flexibility is a super important quality to have as a teacher. I wasn’t born with it, believe me; it took work, but I’m so glad I’ve gotten better at it! And I’m not talking, like, physical flexibility, like touching your nose to your knees or anything like that. I’m talking about flexibility in planning and time and such, if you didn’t pick up on that. Rigidity is necessary as a foundation (having a routine, knowing when it’s time to re-focus, etc), but can be the biggest enemy of the teacher.

Anyways, my students and I talk about a lot of stuff, math being number one, obviously. But I like weaving in real-life stuff, letting them discuss issues in the country or world around them, hearing their opinions, giving my own, and just allowing them to have a safe space to talk about school and non-school things.

However, because I am their teacher and not their friend or older sibling, I make sure to keep it on the “school-appropriate” side as well; I can’t make them feel too comfortable!

In the past, my classes have discussed race, religion, sports, politics, and things that have happened in their lives. When asked, I have also shared the story of how I met my husband, how he proposed, and what my college experience was like.

My Math in Everyday Life students tend to ask the most questions and get the most off-topic because they have the most need of discussing and being made aware of math and non-math concepts, phrases, and other everyday occurrences than my other students in Algebras I and II. They also make me more cognizant of the words I use and the tone in which I use them, which helps me to become a better teacher in the long-run.

This week, we were discussing budgeting, a part of our “money” unit. I asked my students (comprised of freshmen, a junior, and a senior) what kinds of expenses they might have to pay when they are out of school (including college, if they choose that route) and living on their own. They brought up the usual – apartment/house, bills (electricity, water, gas), food, and extra expenses (clothing, movies/theater, etc.).

One student then raised her hand and asked, “What about kids?” I reiterated that we were focusing on their personal expenses post-school and pre-children; it’s just them on their own with a job. “That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms,” I joked. They all chuckled but gave a kind of confused look.

“Have you ever heard that expression, ‘A whole ‘nother can of worms,’ before?” I asked. They all shook their heads.

I was wondering why we were talking about worms,” one said.

Oh boy. I explained that it just meant I didn’t want to bring in a whole other situation into the mix. They would have enough to worry about after school living on their own without bringing children into the mix. They nodded, but it was obvious that they didn’t get the connection between a can of worms and having a baby.

I mean, I’ll admit it is a very strange phrase, and I couldn’t find the origin or history behind why the heck ‘can of worms’ was chosen over pretty much anything else. I did, however, look up images of them for a possible featured image. They all made me a bit grossed out and queasy, so I decided to use that white board design from my student instead. But I digress.

Another great conversation happened on Wednesday; four or five times a year, we dedicate an entire school day to a different topic and organize workshops in-school or off-campus field trips surrounding each topic. Usually it’s something about social justice or history, but this week we focused on math (yeah!), specifically the powers of 10.

Towards the end of the day, we watched a 45-minute long video called The Blue Planet. During the movie, a student whom I have never taught or interacted with very much (other than the usual “Hi, how are you?” in the hallway) was in my group and openly asked questions about the concepts discussed in the movie. He mostly asked about certain weather phenomenon:

  • Can we see tsunamis from space? Answer: Not unless it’s super clear and the satellite camera is zoomed in closely. I also Googled images and there aren’t any real pictures, although that would be super cool!
  • Can we have earthquakes here in New York? Answer: Of course! Usually the earthquake starts elsewhere, but it has reached NYC – this actually happened a couple years ago!

And I was able to correctly answer them all! I honestly surprised myself in my ability to answer him, bringing my knowledge up from the depths of dusty high school cobwebs and past/current events. I Googled stuff after I answered, to make sure I wasn’t misleading him and the other students in the room. And, by golly (another strange phrase), I was right!

It’s funny and a little scary when the kids think I’m a genius. Another co-worker explained to his math class why we get tired after we eat – a lot of our blood goes to our stomach and our energy goes toward digesting the food we just ate. The students were blown away at this new knowledge and how much it made sense; they told him he was so smart and that he knows everything. He assured them that he didn’t know everything but they weren’t convinced.

I’ve had the same reaction and, though it feels good to feel smart, I am by no means a genius! I wonder if this is what my mom felt like when I was growing up and was amazed at the amount of stuff she knew and could explain to me. I was always in awe of the stuff my mom told me, and the fact that she could do the majority of the crosswords in the newspaper without consulting her crossword dictionary was incredible.

Most of all, I love the times when my students blow me away with their knowledge or ability to think and reason critically. When they make connections from what they have learned to new material, or when they are able to express their thoughts and opinions in a clear and concise manner (especially when it’s difficult for them to do so in math), those are the best moments.

Granted, it doesn’t happen all the time or even every day. Some days I wonder if they’ve remembered anything I’ve taught them. But it’s on the days when they make those connections to new concepts, have their “oh my gosh, that makes sense!‘ moments, or ask those questions that make me think about how and what I have learned in the past (can of worms, anyone?) that make it all worthwhile.

Ultimately, I hope I’m doing a good job in helping my students become well-rounded, knowledgeable citizens so that, when they leave my classroom, they will be capable of managing the world around them, of asking questions and finding answers, and contributing to the betterment of our world.

End the cheesiness already!

My first semester as a full-time high school teacher

What a whirlwind couple months!

If you had asked me five years ago (during my first semester at SUNY Geneseo) where I thought I would be in five years, there is absolutely no way I would have had any inkling it would be where I am. My roommate Becky and I were too busy annoying the obnoxious girl next door, making our room into “A Little Girl’s Mind” for my art class, and getting used to living together.

I would never have imagined living in New York City with a teaching job that I enjoy as much as I do. I wouldn’t have said I would be married to an amazing guy like Tom, or that I would’ve received my Master’s degree (let alone from Columbia U).

It’s so cliche, but I don’t care. I have been blessed beyond my wildest (within reason) dreams or (realistic) expectations. I mean, I can think of crazier things to include in my wildest dreams, but I am much more of a realist (like Iggy Azalea, duh).

But anyways, I love my coworkers, I love my students, and I love waking up and going to my job. Sure, Mondays are usually difficult, and 6:15 comes way too quickly most mornings, but I have never had a job that I was actually happy and excited to go to every day. Until now. [Disclaimer: I also love my friends, family, and my husband and our future puppies and kitties and children and so on, but that didn’t fit so much seeing as this post is mostly about my job.]

From my first job as a newspaper deliverer at 12 years old (that lasted a couple months), to serving at Dunkin Donuts (for a year during college), cashiering and supervising at Walmart (4 different times over the course of 4 years because of college), and my two long-term substitute jobs (7 weeks and 10 weeks), nothing has been as satisfying as my full-time, first-year teaching job.

And I know how rare and wonderful that is. I’ve heard so many teachers complain about their first year(s) being hell and beyond stressful. Yes, of course I’ve been stressed and sleep-deprived and run ragged some days/weeks, working 12+ hour days, taking work home, and learning how to work with each student and each coworker individually.

BUT. Overall, I am completely content at this point in time and feel like I’ve been successful for my first semester of teaching. I’m actually contributing to the lives of young people, and I’m hoping they take at least one positive thing away from my time with them, whether it’s math-related, life-related, a sense of humor, or higher self-worth (or, bonus, all of the above).

Holliday is the Best

And not only that, but they’re contributing to my life as well – they make me laugh, but they also challenge me and make me think and re-think my ways, both in and out of school. They make me a better person…just don’t tell them that, or they’ll get big heads.

It wasn’t always this way, especially in the beginning of this school year.

I worked at my current school last year as a student’s personal aide, so I already knew all of the staff and most of the students (except, of course, the incoming freshmen this year). In that sense, it was a little easier getting more acquainted with my coworkers because I had already interacted with them and gotten to know them last year. They invited me out to happy hours on Fridays even though I wasn’t technically part of the faculty.

And we still go to happy hours every week – sometimes, we don’t all go because we all have our rougher-than-usual weeks where we would rather just go home and crash at 6 pm, but that’s completely understandable. But I love that our faculty is such a close-knit community. Even within our school system, the elementary and middle school faculty don’t seem as close as we at the high school do. Yay for community!

As easy as it’s been to incorporate myself into the faculty, it wasn’t as easy among the students. I think they still saw me as ‘that girl’s aide’ and couldn’t see past that to see me as a competent and college-educated math teacher. But I think we’ve gotten past that because the amount of trust and respect I’ve gained since September is significantly higher. I mean, check out the amount of chocolate and cookies I got from them yesterday!

Teacher haul

The last two weeks were especially stressful with meetings, covering fellow teachers’ classes, and scrambling before the upcoming break. And now we’re off for 2 whole weeks for winter break. Ah, the perks of being a teacher.

Rambly post: Update on life (in a neat list)

Wow it’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything on here.

But I have some pretty stellar excuses:

  1. I got married (Aug. 16)
  2. I then honeymooned in Montauk for 4 days (Aug. 18 – Aug. 21)
  3. I turned 25 on our ‘leave Montauk, travel back to Brooklyn, and pack for upstate reception’ day (Aug. 21)
  4. We flew upstate for my second wedding reception (Aug. 22 – Aug. 24)
  5. I started my new teaching job (still in ‘meetings all day’ phase) the following week (Aug. 25 – Aug. 29)
  6. My friend flew down and stayed with us this past weekend (Aug. 29 – Sept. 1)
  7. We all went to our other friend’s wedding that Sunday (Aug. 31)

If you’re interested and not tired just from reading all of that, I’m going to address each point in a little more detail now! So come on, let the updating begin!

1.   Our wedding: Our rehearsal dinner and wedding days were both absolutely perfect; honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing…except for my mom’s ability to be there in person. Luckily, we got both the livestream to work as well as our GoPros, so she got to watch the livestream that day and I showed her the GoPro footage the following weekend! You can watch our vows here if you’re interested!

Everything was just fantastic – the weather was perfect, the girls looked beautiful, the guys looked dapper, our vows were wonderful (people clapped!?), the decorations were phenomenal, the food was delicious, seeing our friends and family was the highlight, as was dancing…I could go on and on.

I’ve already posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook that my father-in-law took that day and they’re great so I can’t wait to see our photographer’s pictures! (Update: Click here to see our photographer’s pictures!)

2.   Honeymoon: Between our ocean-view B&B suite (and hence the beach right across the street), the gorgeous weather, the amazing food (my first lobster roll!), our amazing sunset sail, seeing the Montauk lighthouse, and being able to call Tom my husband (eeeek!), I was sad when we had to leave. I think we should make this a yearly thing, maybe call it “Anniversaries at Montauk”?

Montauk collage

3.   Turning 25: It happened. I can now rent a car without any extra stupid fees. I also belong to a new category whenever I take surveys and have to state which age range I fall into. Cool?

4.   Upstate reception: The second reception was a much more low-key shindig, so it was great sitting and visiting with friends and family. Plus, my mom had such a great time visiting with everyone. I’m so glad she got to come and see her friends and family (and me, duh), but as much as I enjoyed it, I’m honestly much happier that she came and enjoyed it. It was good for her to get out of the nursing home, be in a pretty dress, have a glass of wine, eat great food, and talk to old friends. She was tired and her ankles were swollen the next day when we visited to say goodbye, but she seriously seemed brighter and happier.

Reception #2 Family shot

5.   Work: Since returning from wedding-palooza, I’ve been spending all my days at work, learning about technology, students, and emergency procedures, all while also trying to plan lessons, put in supply orders, get a bite to eat, meet with colleagues, and decorate and organize my room (and, let’s be honest, my life).

Phew. And that is why I am currently sitting on my couch with a glass of wine, just relaxing after a long day. And school hasn’t even begun yet.

Okay, it’s not that bad – I’m so glad I got this job because I already knew all of the teachers (except this year’s new-hires) and administration from last year, know most of the students (again, except for the new ones), and am genuinely happy to be a part of such a great team of human beings.

I definitely want to try to chronicle my first year as a full-time teacher, maybe writing once a week as a reflection of my teaching, things that happened, lessons that worked/didn’t work, classroom set-up/decor, etc. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I’m working with pretty much an empty slate at the moment! The room was mostly unused last year, only housing one English class and me while I sat on my computer doing grad school homework or watching YouTube.

All of the posters in these pictures have been taken down, I’ve ordered a few math posters, a number line, and also acquired a small bookshelf. Hopefully it’ll start looking nicer when the posters and student work get put up.

classroom

At this school there are no Mr. So-and-so’s or Ms. What’s-her-name’s; we all go by our first names. So it’s cool because changing my last name to Harrigan won’t be throwing anyone off (except me because I’m still getting used to signing documents and saying it out loud); I’ll still be Holliday and no one will have trouble finding me on the email list or phone directory.

I’ll admit this was a strange concept to me when I first encountered it last year as a student’s private aide. My main thought was ‘Doesn’t this create a lack of respect towards the teachers and staff?’ But now that I’ve been involved with the school for a year and have seen how much respect these students have, I honestly don’t mind that they’ll call me Holliday instead of Mrs. Harrigan.

6.   Friend visited: Our friend Courtney came down this weekend and stayed with us because we were all attending our other friend Erika’s wedding in Long Island. Courtney and I went to see Aladdin on Broadway and it was fantastic! We stayed after the show to meet and take pictures with some of the cast members! She also brought with her The Lego Movie, so Tom and Courtney and I watched it. I will forever have The Lego Movie theme song stuck in my head.

7.   Friend’s Wedding: Erika’s wedding was great – she was beautiful (obviously) and I had so much fun dining and dancing with so many college friends, some of whom we haven’t seen in quite awhile. It was also Tom and my first wedding together as a married couple!

Okay, I’m done talking now. Until next time, cheers!

I got to teach today…

I got to teach today. And it felt so good.

I haven’t gotten to “properly” teach in over a year and a half now. Since my last long-term substitute gig, I’ve been a teacher’s assistant and have covered and helped out in a few classes at my current school. But I haven’t gotten the chance to truly teach (make my own lesson, deliver it, evaluate my teaching, etc) my own class for awhile now.

At the moment I’m a paraprofessional for a high school student with Cerebral Palsy. I’m in a school all day, everyday. And I’m certified to teach middle and/or high school math in New York State. And I’ve been getting antsy since finishing grad school.

I’ve been applying to teaching jobs for the coming up school year. So far I’ve had 2 interviews at two different private schools in Brooklyn, and both asked me back to do a demo lesson.

So today was one of those demos, and it went really well!

I chose to teach a trig lesson about the basics of the unit circle that included using trig functions like sine and cosine. I can hear your anxious groans and sighs from high school memories of this stuff.

But it went great! Some of the students in the room had not taken trigonometry yet, and others only knew the basics like SOH CAH TOA (which I went more in depth about the meaning of). There were students that were eager to participate, and others that would not have said a word had I not called on them.

One student, while I asked everyone to discuss something with their partner, actually called me over and told me he was very lost. I asked where he got stuck, and he showed me. I re-explained the work we had just done (he got that), re-explained what I was asking them all to do (he got that), and re-asked where he got lost.

I love when that happens! Not only was I really proud of him for admitting he was lost and asking for help, but he also made me think deeply about what I was asking and how to ask it differently in a way that was more clear. He ended up getting it, only taking an extra 30 seconds or so, without me spoon-feeding the answer to him!

The lesson was only 30 minutes long so it definitely flew by. I over-planned, causing me to only get through half of my lesson, but we stopped at a good spot that completed one idea. By the end, everyone understood what we had done and the only questions I received were about my name (whether ‘Chatt’ was English) and about teaching (whether it’s difficult to get a teaching job, especially at certain parts of the year).

I was told my name was awesome (I told them my whole name) and was thanked multiple times by the students. I think I’ll find out any hiring decisions within the next few days at that school so that the math teachers who sat in on my lesson can talk it over and also report to the headmaster.

My next demo lesson (at my current school!) is coming up on Thursday and I can’t wait – it’ll be about area and perimeter, and I’ll throw variables and “real-world” problems into the mix, not just numbers.

I forgot how wonderful I feel when I teach and get to interact with students. Even though I’m the teacher, I come out of each lesson having learned something.

I learn that I sometimes talk too fast.

I learn who needs a bit more time to answer a question.

I learn math in a deeper way so that I can teach it in a deeper way.

It’s a really great feeling and it reminds me that I chose the right profession for me.

Fingers crossed that I get offered one (or both!) of the jobs so that I can continue to grow and learn as an educator and mentor.