A Day In The Life

The fact that I took my Day-In-The-Life notes on Monday, and it is now Wednesday as I sit down to type them up, should tell you something about my schedule. [Update: and not posted till Thursday…more evidence supporting my theory.]

As for many teachers people, the alarm clock goes off far too early on Monday morning. I lie in bed for several minutes listening to NPR until my internal clock and my bladder tell me I’d better get up pronto. My morning routine is about as bare-bones as it gets. I make tea, clean out the cat’s litter box, brush my teeth, put in my contacts and get dressed. No breakfast until I get to work; Monday is a “bagel day” at my school.

I head out the door maybe a few minutes 7:00. Hopefully, not too much later, or I might miss my bus. I climb up over the hill and down to Haight & Masonic. Three buses pass through the intersection as I approach my stop and each sets my heart racing, but none are mine. Three minutes until the next MUNI. I made it.

I get a seat in the back of the bus. Today it’s not crowded at all. Where are all of the students? Then I remember: it’s Veteran’s day. Public schools are closed. I feel a moment of annoyance that I have to go to work, and some frustration that private schools don’t seem to feel that recognizing Veteran’s Day is important. I wonder if it will be mentioned at all throughout the day.

At the next stop a student from my school gets on and sits down next to me. She proceeds to chat with me for the duration of the ride. Part of me is happy to converse. Part of me wishes I could zone out and relax for just a few more minutes before putting on my teacher hat. I don’t teach, and actually have never taught, F, but we know each other fairly well from various connections, including our shared bus route. F also happens to be one of those students that everyone in the school knows.

The walk from the bus stop to school is glorious. It’s chilly outside, but the sun is shining and the grass and trees in the Presidio are green and sparkling with dew. Framed between two buildings is one of the orange towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. I am damn lucky to work here every day.

I let myself into my office and glance up at the clock. 7:50. I plug in my laptop and then change out of my sneakers and into one of the three pairs of shoes lined up against the bookcase behind my desk. I go back downstairs and grab a bagel, then come back and check my email. One of the other Math 2 teachers asked me about a review activity I did last week. I quickly grab my notes and type them up to send to her. By now it’s 8:08 and I need to head down to Morning Meeting. As I head out the door, I hear the gong. I’m late, so I turn around and head the other way so I can sneak in the back.

A teacher and a freshman student are giving a presentation on beekeeping. Both of them are dressed in their bee suits and they have brought an assortment of tools to show what beekeeping entails. It’s pretty awesome, but I wonder about the choice  to not talk about Veteran’s day.

We sit in meditation for a few minutes, something we do every day at Morning Meeting. Then students and faculty give announcements before we are dismissed to classes at 8:30—on time for once.

I don’t teach first block on Mondays, so I grab a cup of tea from the coffee station before I head upstairs. Once there, I finish reading a ThinkThankThunk post I’d opened earlier as I sip my tea.

By 8:40 the problem sets to be graded are calling me. I pull out the stack of papers from my bag. I took them home over the weekend but, as is my MO, I didn’t touch them. I have good intentions about doing work at home, but I never follow through unless it’s really crunch time.

I grade for a while, make some copies, get some more tea. As I’m heading back to my office with my copies, I notice a typo. Too late to fix it now. By 9:45 I’m done grading my stack of reassessments and late work. Class starts in 10 minutes. I don’t have time now to attack the problem sets, so instead I send an email to the parents of one of my advisees in response to a question they’d asked me. Then I write another to a group of students who owe me an assignment to remind them that they have to get it done before the end of the week.

At 9:55 I head to class. The room is freezing, so I give instructions to one of the students about how to turn on the heat. Then I head back to my office to put up my second NaNoWriMo sticker on my progress chart. I passed it in the hallway and remembered I’d gotten past the 20% mile-marker.

We have two visitors to class—one from @cheesemonkeysf’s school, though not her class. Having visitors is not unusual—this year our admissions staff has told us repeatedly that we have over 600 8th graders signed up for visits. I’ve actually been a little surprised at how few visitors I’ve had in my classes so far this year. I welcome them and give my little visitor spiel, then start class.

We work our way through the agenda.


1-Check ToC

2-Practice Quiz

Grade or No Grade

3-Work on Review project

I gave the students an assignment to write the “Table of Contents” for their math binders yesterday, which they were supposed to finish for homework last night. Most have done it, and I hope it helps them to review the concepts for our final test at the end of the week. We do a short practice quiz, which I have them decide whether or not I should grade it. I did this for the first time last Friday, and the results were great. Most students asked me to grade their work. This time, I can tell from the looks on their faces and the length of time students are taking that the results will be different. Oh well. Sure enough, when I look over them, every student has asked for “no grade.” Well, that tells me what I need to review during tomorrow’s class.

The rest of class is spent on their review projects. I took a page out of SomeBloggerICan’tRemember’s notebook and assigned a very open-ended project for my kids. [I mean, seriously, this person really inspired me & I canNOT find the post in my Evernote] They were asked to create some type of review activity (those were, quite literally, the instructions. I kid you not). Most are doing games or some type of flashcard-style activity. I circulate around the room to see which groups need supplies or help. I grab a hole-punch, a glue stick and some index cards, but that’s about the extent of my involvement. The students are on a roll.

At 11:25 class is over and I remind students of our quiz tomorrow. They ask me to open another assignment on our online site so they can practice, so I quickly do that.

It’s lunchtime! We get fed here, which is one of my favorite perks. Today’s menu is mac ‘n cheese, which is kinda meh. I go to the salad bar so I don’t have to wait in line. I sit down with a table of teachers and have a very pleasant time. One of the norms of lunch at my school is that we don’t (usually) talk about work.

Monday is a clubs/lunch day, and I don’t sponsor any clubs this year. So, I have a nice long, relaxing lunch. At 12:15 I head up to my office again and print out the stories from my Wednesday writing group, then look at old versions of Math 3 tests so I can start to piece together one for my students.

I head to my next class at 12:37, which is not in the same classroom as my class this morning. All 16 of us are kind of crammed in to a small room. During class, two of my groups work outside in the hall on mini-whiteboards. The rest of the class does their Investigation inside. We’re starting a new Investigation today, so we go over the homework and then I pass out the new packet. I roam around the room and answer questions when students “page” me at assigned checkpoints throughout the packet.

At 2:00 class is over. I head back to my office, drop off my materials for class, pick up my stack of problem sets and make a U-turn back out the door to go to my Flex room. Each week every teacher monitors a “Flex” (most schools would call this period a study hall, but my school tends to develop its own language for EVERYTHING). Monday is my lucky day. Not that it’s a bad gig. The freshmen in my flex are pretty easy to deal with. They get to work pretty quickly and with minimal prodding, and they stay fairly quiet. I’m a pretty strong stickler for silence, so they know what the expectation is. I often get more work done during Flex than many of my free blocks.

I grade problem sets until I can’t focus any longer and then I play a few rounds of Dynomite. It’s the end of the day after all. I read an article on learning in the US and Japan that a colleague forwarded and that a few other teachers have responded to over email. Interesting, but not much is new.

At 2:55 I announce that it is “Free Flex,” which means that students have free time for the last half-hour of the block. I head out and go back to my office, plug in my laptop, which by this time hasn’t been charged since lunch. I print out the old versions of the Math 3 test that I’d glanced at earlier and organize them into piles based on the content of the problems.

A knocks on the door. He has come by to go over his “Recycle” (revisions) of a homework assignment. We go over the problems for about 20 minutes until school is over at 3:30. After A leaves, I run to the rest room, and then take the collection of tea mugs that has accumulated on my desk to the kitchen. I run off copies for tomorrow. By 3:40 I’m shutting down my laptop to leave for the day.

I see a colleague on my way out who’d asked me for a minute of my time earlier in the day. So I pop in to ask her what she wanted. We talk for a moment about homework assignments in Math 3. Thank goodness it was a quick question. I’m out the door, slipping on my sunglasses at 3:45, on my way down to the climbing gym.

I change into my gym clothes and hop on the elliptical machine. Students from school are rock climbing for their activity (required physical education credit) and several notice me and wave. I go for about 20 minutes until Avery arrives. Then we climb for a couple of hours. The gym is busy from people who’ve been off of work for the day, but we manage to get several good climbs in. I have almost finished all of the 5.9 climbs, so I start on some of the 5.10a’s—and I get a couple finished. They feel challenging, but doable. I think I’m officially up a level.

We drive home and heat up leftovers from last night’s mini-Thanksgiving feast. Foul-smelling smoke starts billowing from the microwave. One of us put in something melt-able and it has met its maker. Shit. We open all the windows, close all the doors, and “evacuate” to the bedroom. Avery sets up fans in the kitchen and living room and I move the cat’s litter box into the hallway. We hole up in the bedroom for the rest of the night with the cat, who is thrilled to be allowed up on the bed for a change. I work on my NaNoWriMo novel and crank out another 1,316 words—not too shabby for a school night. I’m behind by quite a bit, though I do have a bunch of old material banked in case I wind up needing to cheat in order to win, so I’m not too worried about it.

For those of you who were counting along at home, I taught two 80 minute classes, plus a 50 minute study hall and went to a grand total of 0 meetings. Tomorrow I’ll teach three classes, and have a 40 minute meeting during the first half of my one free block, leaving me with a grand total of 40 minutes of prep time and 40 minutes of lunch between the hours of 8:10 and 3:30. Also, for the next three days, school will end a half-hour earlier so that students can drop in for tutorial to ask questions and get help. Wednesday will be much the same as today, though I’ll meet with my advisory instead of Morning Meeting and attend a staff meeting after tutorial. I’ll take the shuttle and the BART over to Oakland when I get out at 5:00 to go to my weekly writer’s group; I won’t get back home until after 10:30. On Thursday I’ll teach two classes again, and have a meeting for the full 80 minutes of my second free block, followed by the last tutorial of the week—and of the trimester, since we’ll be done after this week. Friday will be another three-class day, but no meetings and no tutorial. And then we go on break for a week. Thank goodness.

2 thoughts on “A Day In The Life

  1. I also love NPR and wrote a tad about it in my Day in the Life post, but on a different topic. I thought the Struggle for Smarts story was terrific. While I didn’t learn anything new, our district admin explicitly wants our students to struggle, and learn the value of effort. I think I may play parts of the podcast to my sixth graders–not to instill competition between east vs. west–but to discover that we learn most when there’s a healthy dose of struggle.

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