My name is Breedeen Pickford-Murray and I am a math teacher. And a writer. And many other things besides.
Last week, at TMC 2015, Darryl gave the great suggestion that we use the About pages on our blogs to give the “ecology” of our teaching set-up (that’s Lani’s term for the context of our classroom/school environment). So, here it goes…
The 2015-16 school year will be my 10th year teaching math. I began my teaching career in Seattle and wound up moving down to the Bay Area right at the start of the budget crisis. While I spent (roughly) the first half of my career in public schools, the instability in California’s school system pushed me into the independent school world. For a while there my “number of schools worked at” was equivalent to my “number of years teaching”. Thankfully, I’ve been at the same school for the last several years.
These days I teach in a small independent (read: private) school in the Presidio in San Francisco. This is the view from one of my classrooms:
You may have noticed that I said “one of” my classrooms. At my school, teachers move from room to room during passing periods, along with our ~320 students. Each class meets 4 times a week, for 80 minutes a block. Students have 5 blocks each trimester, one of which is a non-academic studyhall-style block, which occasionally is used for things like Freshman Seminar and College Counseling.
Teachers teach 3 blocks per trimester. I typically have around 15-18 students in my classes.
We are a 1-to-1 school. We don’t have bells. We do give letter grades, but we also write narrative reports at midterms.
Three days a week, after classes are over we have a 30 minute “office hours” session where students are encouraged to meet with teachers to ask questions, revise/redo work or just come and talk. Every day, except on Wednesday (when we have advisory) the entire school meets for 20 minutes at the beginning of the day for Morning Meeting, which involves some kind of presentation, a few minutes of silent meditation and announcements. Sometimes I begin my classes with meditation, but usually I don’t.
Frankly, my school is majorly expensive–however we have one of the most generous financial aid packages in the city. While every school talks the talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, I see my school taking steps to walk the walk. We still have a ways to go, but adding things like affinity groups (I’m in the teacher’s white affinity group, White People Unlearning Racism a.k.a. WPUR) has helped to make this goal more and more of a reality. People *always* comment on the strong feeling of community my school has–which is my favorite part about teaching here.
If you’re ever in the Bay Area and you want to come visit, let me know!
If you’d like to read some of my short stories, just click on the tabs above.