2014-15 Reflections, 2016 Ambitions

I realized, with only a few days of 2015 left, that I did not make an “official” list of “resolutions” for this past year. I did, however, make one two years ago and I’m actually really happy with how much I’ve accomplished from that list (which are in red below)! Along with my achievements, I’ll follow the same format by including my regrets from the past two years and ambitions for the coming year.

2014-15 Achievements:

√  Survived 2 months of a 4-hour round-trip commute to and from work. It wasn’t easy by any means.

√  Moved into an apartment with Tom in Brooklyn, cutting commute time to less than an hour round-trip. We pay too much money for too little space, but for now it works.

√  Graduated from Teachers College, CU with my Masters in Mathematics Education.

Columbia grad

√  Made it through the remainder of my aide job and booked my first real teaching job at the school I was already working at.

√  Got married and it was the most perfect day. Everything was as we wanted, except for my mom not being there.

Wedding collage

√  Had an amazingly wonderful honeymoon in Montauk.

√  Had our second reception to include my mom and upstate family and friends in our celebration.

Reception #2 Family shot

√  Kept up with student loans and actually paid the higher interest one off! We also refinanced the rest so the payments and interest rate is lower.

√  Survived my first year of teaching and re-booked a job at the same school as a full-time Math teacher.

√  Started working out regularly after school and even got one of my coworkers to join me – we still work out 2-3 times per week together!

√  Endured foot surgery to finally remove my bunions.

√  Celebrated our one-year anniversary by going to Montauk; we stayed in the same B&B as our honeymoon. It was tough with my feet all wrapped and swollen, but we had a good time regardless.

√  Became close friends with my coworkers because I work with so many amazing people.

I have amazing coworkers

√  Became more confident in myself and my abilities AND feel a little more confident when it comes to debating. I’m by no means perfect or a know-it-all so I’m still working on this; it’s a daily struggle.

√  Finished my Invisalign!

2014-15 Regrets:

  • Not getting any pets. This is a regret that couldn’t be helped since our landlady is anti-anything-that-might-cause-bugs-of-any-kind-to-invade. I have a small Christmas-tree-esque plant…shhh, don’t tell her!
  • Not becoming friends with people sooner; this has been happening with me for years, and I hate that I miss out on so much potential time with awesome people because I doubt myself or feel too overwhelmed with life/work/what they think of me/etc. to make the effort.
  • Not reading enough due to lack of time and energy.
  • Not actively finding a church to attend regularly.
  • Not visiting friends and family more.
  • Not traveling more, in general. This includes exploring NYC.
  • Not working out more and having more self-control when it comes to delicious treats and all other foods that I like.

2016 Goals:

  • Continue to grow my self-confidence, especially when it comes to how well I do my job.
  • Read more of everything, especially current events and other important historical stuff.
  • Write more – on this blog, in my journal, letters to people, etc.
  • Find a church to attend consistently and become an active member in; this has been a work in progress for quite awhile now and has become one of my biggest struggles.
  • Get a frame for my Masters degree; it’s the most expensive piece of paper I will ever own, so why not  try to keep it safe?
  • Travel more – we already have one trip set for spring break, but I’d love to go anywhere and everywhere.
  • Become more disciplined when working out and choosing to eat healthier. I’m starting by trying to replace one meal with a homemade juice/smoothie/protein drink 3 days per week. If this works, I’ll do my best to increase the frequency.

I’d be interested to hear your greatest (or smallest) achievements in the past year as well as what you hope to accomplish in 2016 and beyond. I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year’s Eve as well as an amazing 2016!

How to become a great teacher!

I remember when I decided to become a teacher and I was so nervous that I was going to mess up or screw up my future if I didn’t do everything perfectly. I wanted to share my top 13 tips to becoming a great teacher since I’ll be starting my second year soon and feel like I have it all down and can share my wisdom. I wish I had a list like this going in to guide me, so I hope this helps anyone pursuing a career in education!

  1. Go to an education school.
    • Duh! After 13 years of elementary, middle, and high school, put in the extra 4 years of undergrad, and another 1-5 years if you’re going Masters level. To be really safe, you might as well go for a Doctorate. You’re spending the rest of your life in a school setting, so why ever leave? Hopefully you’ve known since before graduating high school that this is what you wanted to do because otherwise it’s really hard to get into it.
  2. Student teach and do everything perfectly the first time.
    • You don’t want your cooperating teacher, supervisor, or students to think you’ve never done this before or that you make mistakes. That would be super embarrassing.
  3. Pass certification exams.
    • If you can’t pass these tests, what are you thinking being a teacher? Tests are the epitome of your intellectual abilities, just like they are the epitome of your future students’.
  4. Apply and interview.
    • Only after you have those pieces of paper (degree(s) and certification(s)) are you ready to apply to schools! Where do you want to end up? Do you want to teach at a public or private school? Urban, suburban, or rural? Once you fill out the applications, rock those interviews. Make sure you mention how much better and progressive your new-age philosophy is in comparison to those tenured or “veteran” folks. Also, don’t pay attention to what the school represents or how the people interviewing you make you feel. This is all about you impressing them, it’s not a two-way street.
  5. Accept the job of your dreams!
    • You’re obviously going to get hired at the perfect school on your very first shot, love everyone you work with, and love all the students you teach. You’ll most likely stay at that school for the rest of your teaching career until you retire with a healthy 401K at the age of 65.
  6. Enjoy all of the free time.
    • Teachers teach. Super easy, right? Some other minor time commitments include lesson-planning, leading clubs, coaching, covering after school study halls, lunch duty, parent-teacher conferences, department meetings, division meetings, while also keeping a very normal life and healthy relationships outside of school. Oh, and all of this results in a massively growing bank account. Don’t worry, you’ll find time to eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, and shower. It’s called summer vacation. Which reminds me…
  7. Never take a sick or personal day.
    • School cannot go on without your presence. What will the kids do without you there to teach them? No. It’s just not acceptable. You have winter break, spring break, summer vacation, and all other holidays off. Don’t be greedy.
  8. You also shouldn’t be leaving school before 8pm most nights.
    • If you are, you obviously don’t care enough and are not putting enough time into making yourself the best teacher.
  9. Set up your room perfectly and completely ready for the first day of school.
    • Martha Stewart won’t have nothing on you and your perfectly squared and hung posters, your immaculately clean and organized desk, and every desk and chair neatly arranged. No eraser or holepunch out of place, no clutter whatsoever. Make sure everything is set so that everyone knows you have your life together.
  10. Plan all of your lessons for the entire school year before school starts, if you can.
    • And make sure they’re fool-proof and perfect so you don’t ever have to go in and edit; that would be such a waste of time! Make sure every single one is dynamic and exciting because otherwise none of the students will learn a thing. They won’t even realize you’re in the room unless you teach with pizzazz.
  11. Always be happy and smile.
    • Never show any emotion other than happy because you don’t want your students to think you’re a human being. You need to be their role model and show them how to be happy all the time. That’s how you deal with absolutely everything: happiness. No crying, no complaining, no nothing. Don’t even talk about feelings or emotions.
  12. Do everything yourself.
    • Don’t ask for help or ideas or advice because you don’t want your co-workers, supervisors, and students to think you’re incapable of…anything. Troy and Gabriella and the gang sang that “we’re all in this together,” and while that might be fun and catchy, this is real life, not a Disney musical movie.
  13. Take this list and laugh at it because it’s a complete and utter bunch of ridiculous, flippant nonsense.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t thought about all of these at one point or another in my pursuit of teaching. I know the majority of them are totally ridiculous, like showing no emotion or the one about sick or personal days. But sometimes we as teachers feel a duty to stick it out even when we feel like we got hit by a bus. And free time? HA.

I also know that some people do try to plan their lessons way in advance and it works for them; BUT they are also aware that they will be going back in to edit those at some point to accommodate something that could be done better next time. And then there are people like me who plan pretty much a day or two in advance because that’s just how I work and I’m better at last minute ideas than trying to think of something for next week or next month.

Some of the tips are somewhat a tiny-bit helpful, like 1 and 2. Going to school to learn how to teach and gaining experience during student teaching is important, but don’t think you have to get a Masters or Doctorate and that you can’t screw up while learning how to teach. That’s what it’s there for. Heck, you might realize through those experiences that teaching isn’t for you, and that’s awesome! Plus, you might end up wanting to be a teacher after years of working in a different field, and that’s awesome too!

Obviously, most states nowadays require certain degrees and certifications in order for you to teach, but those don’t make great teachers. It’s experience in the classroom that makes great teachers. And an innate desire to teach. And there’s some innate talent that goes into it too. Point being: tests and schooling don’t solely make great teachers.

I’m hoping there was enough ridiculous sarcasm throughout all of the other steps that you realize this whole post is a silly guide to becoming the most unhappy and stressed out person on planet Earth. Teaching requires flexibility and collaboration and mental/emotional/physical strength. And a happy hour or twenty with co-workers…which could also be considered collaboration. Without those, you’re going to get burned out so quick.

I’ve learned so much from my prior long-term sub positions and first year of teaching (last year) and I am still preparing to learn for the next 30+ years in this field. If you try to do everything right the first time without preparing and being okay with making some mistakes or incurring hiccups or complete derailments, you will hate teaching. Obviously we all want to do a good job, but learning from mistakes is sometimes the best medicine for our egos. And that’s true for all walks of life and professions, not just teachers.

Let me know if you have any other ridiculous ideas that you may have actually had about the teaching life, or just some facetious teacher thoughts, and if you can relate to any or all of these!

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!

Writing Teacher Reflections

I started reflecting on my teaching (and school days in general) back in November. Two of my coworkers and I went to a professional development seminar at a Day School in Manhattan to hear Rick Lavoie speak. This guy is awesome. After spending the day listening to his stories (both humorous and heart-breaking), my colleagues and I agreed that we would love to have him speak at our school because it would benefit our K-12 faculty a lot.

Long story short: Rick served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for 30 years. This experience has provided him with a “living laboratory” in which he developed and refined his methods and philosophies related to the education of children and adolescents with special needs. He has now delivered his message to over 500,000 parents and professionals throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Rick’s main focus for this day was Strategies that work (and those that don’t) with struggling kids. I have 4 pages worth of notes from his presentation and still remember how much of a story-teller he was. Anyways, some of his strategies were…

One that I personally liked that would benefit my students and myself was the one where I would write daily reflections. His story for this strategy was that a teacher came to him for help because one student (student A) would come to her English class some days and be completely off the handle. There wasn’t a pattern that the teacher could notice – it wasn’t during certain times of the day (the schedule was the same every day) so it wasn’t that he just had a candy bar for lunch or anything like that.

The teacher started writing daily reflections in hopes that this might show a pattern, but no pattern seemed to come out of it. However, when Rick checked out the reflections and compared the days where the student was especially a handful, he realized that another student was absent on those days. It turns out that the two boys were partners in Science, the class right before English. They were in the dissection unit and student A hated dissecting things, so he always relied on student B to dissect while he took notes. On the days where student B was absent, the teacher forced student A to perform the dissections himself and it caused him to get really anxious and it would throw off his mood into the next class – English.

How cool is that? That you can find a pattern from just a reflection and note of who was absent a certain day!

It’s difficult to remember to do it daily seeing as my free-time and prep periods go to (duh) prepping. Or talking to and/or venting with co-workers. But it’s so helpful and calming, especially when it’s been a particularly difficult or stressful day. I recommend teachers try it out, recording positive and negative interactions between students, their own interactions with students, and how their lessons went.

The reflections don’t have to be essays or epic sagas; it’s actually better to keep them as bullet points: short and sweet. Who was absent? What was the lesson on? How did it go? Is there anything you will change the next time you teach it? What are some positive or negative interactions that occurred during the class?

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!

Back to school, back to school…

I’ve been seeing everyone’s pictures of their children’s first days of school lately. Well, tomorrow is the first *official* day of classes at my school, and I’m pumped. But I won’t be posting a “first day as a ‘real’ teacher” picture of myself tomorrow.

Instead, I’ll post a few of my “first day” pictures from my own childhood! Even better!

Fun flashbacks! Anyway, the last 2 weeks have been filled with meetings and orientations of all sorts. Technology. New policies. HR info. You name it.

This week, we finally got to meet/see the students, starting with parent-student-teacher meetings on Monday. I was nervous, but everything went really well and I learned a lot about my students whom I’ll be advising this year. Then yesterday and today were orientation days for students, so they came to school during regular hours but they didn’t have classes.

I haven’t been too anxious so far, except for this morning when I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t fall back asleep because my heart was racing, my stomach was knotting, and thoughts about myself as an incompetent and terrible teacher kept running through my head. I ended up laying in bed for an extra 2 hours before finally giving in and getting up half an hour before my alarm (which was originally set for 6).

Sigh. So needless to say, I’m pooped today. But I am excited to finally start teaching tomorrow! Plus it’s nice that we only have 2 days left this week, so it should be a smooth two days.

My room still looks pretty bare because only 2 of my 8 posters have been delivered. My advisory students want a plant in the room to spruce it up and I couldn’t agree more! They also named a couple other things they would like…more posters (on the way!) and a small basketball hoop to put near the recycling bin. I’m going to look into stuff maybe tomorrow or just wait until the weekend.

Or I’ll make sure they meet my demands and can be responsible and respectful teenage boys before meeting any of their demands. We’ll see.

But I’m prepared for the next couple days and have a rough timeline set for what I want to cover next week. And I have stickers, so obviously it’s all good.

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.