I was happy to see the newest challenge in my email inbox this morning. Rather than work on my finals, I am going to tackle this challenge first thing today. For the purposes of this exercise, I will use Thursday which was my last ‘regular’ day here at school. Friday was 25 minute classes, a 45 minute chapel, and two and a half hours of conference time as we begin fall finals tomorrow. So, here we go on a trip back in time. Cue the harp music…
Thursday began at 6 AM. Most school days start a bit earlier, but I had dorm duty on Thursday night, so I slept in a bit. Normally, I have Monday duty and I did this past week. One of my colleagues was sick, so I agreed to take his dorm duty for the first two floors of our building. I live with my family (wife, 10 yr old boy, and 4 yr old girl) in a four story boys’ dorm with about 80 students.
We have an 8 period day at our school with each period meeting every day in the same order. We have a variety of schedules with classes ranging from 25 minutes on special assembly days (like Friday) to 50 minutes (like Thursday.) With exams around the corner and Thursday being our last regular class day, I had a day of reviewing and wrapping up the term. Not the most exciting stuff, to be honest.
At 6:40 we start waking up the kids to get the to the dining hall for breakfast before their bus. It’s always nutty getting four people out of the house and this morning was no different. On the way out, my boy decides he needs to bring a basketball to school. He is in his last day of full play practice and he also has basketball practice after. Not wanting a fight at 7:05, I just grab the ball on the way across the street. We have a pleasant breakfast catching up with friends, but my little girl is nervous because her bus buddy is not at breakfast. Luckily, she shows up at the bus stop – a mini crisis averted. Kids off on the bus, my wife heading to the car to head across the river to her job and I head upstairs. For seven years now, I have had the pleasure of walking to work. It’s a huge quality of life bonus.
I get to my room at 7:45 every morning and open up the computer lab first thing. I fire up some music (this morning it was mellow – I listened to some of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (the Eroica) and put up today’s schedule on the side board. We have no bell system at our school, so I always write the schedule to keep myself organized.
My first class is a quiet, small BC Calc class. They had two interesting AP FR questions for HW but this class is not big on conversations. I run through the solutions and look at one interesting question together. We get a nice conversation going but it’s clear I did not plan enough for today. I usually hope for some spark of conversation to eat up time. My backup in these cases is to share a TED talk to see if some interesting chat will ensue. Thursday I chose to share Dan Meyer’s TED talk since he touches on some issues that have frustrated my kids. I think that they sometimes feel I am less helpful than they want me to be. No one really says much and they wander off to the rest of their day. I have a second period planning slot but it often gets eaten up. Today I had a good chat with a new colleague who inherited my old non-AP Calc class. We looked at his term final together. Nice chat, but I wish i had some down time with a long day ahead.
My third period class is one of my AP Stats classes. We’ve been struggling with probability and had a great conversation Wednesday about the ELISA medical test accuracy problem. I’ve been pleased with the questions they’ve been asking. They had their final quiz for the term and we had a lively review before their twenty-minute quiz. While they were quizzing I was pushing through on reading their essays that they had submitted about the Spongebob TV study. I had dragged my feet on this work and was pretty mad at myself. We had just finished our unit on looking at experimental design and had asked them to make some smart commentary about the design and strength of this study. I got some good work from them.
My fourth period class is my Precalculus Honors class and we did some nice trig today. One of the problems we did was a conversion from revolutions per minute to miles per hour. I was pleased that the kids questioned the result so we went to google to verify our answer and discuss the implications for a typical car. We also had a few nice triangle problems and some graphing reminders. Honestly, by this point in the week we were all kind of reviewed out. Since my tests are not until Weds and Thurs next week, my kids are not exactly focused on my classes right now. Given that, I’m pleased with the engagement.
Lunch time! Lately, I’ve been grabbing lunch and coming back to my room, but today I enjoy the company of some of my colleagues. Two more classes to go – another AP Stat and then the other AP Calc BC.
The afternoon stat class is very similar to the morning with some good questions before the quiz. My afternoon Calc class is generally more engaged and outgoing and today is no different. We work together through the AP FR I had chosen and then I share Dan’s TED again. This time, a lively chat develops. One of my students feels that higher level math classes need more teacher driven practice and that Dan’s prescription works better for earlier classes and possibly for students who have seen less success. I counter that the students who have seen success are precisely those who can stand less support from their teacher. An interesting conversation about college pressures, etc. ensues. Normally this would be the end of my day. But the colleague who is sick also teaches an Algebra I class the last period of the day. I told him I’d cover for them, so it’s upstairs to his room to do some word problems with his class. I get a little resistance at first – ‘Just let us go, it’s the end of a long day’ – is the general sentiment at first. They settle in and we work our way through a couple of coin problems and have a nice conversation about some absolute value problems they did for review. It’s now 2:55 and I have another 9 hours to go before sleep. ugh.
After school I am in my room for about half an hour for our afternoon conference time but no one comes by for help.
My daughter and two of her friends – her bus buddy and her buddy’s older brother – have an afternoon date with a colleague to work on some Thanksgiving crafts. I head to a local bagel shop to get them some car treats (bagel and butter!) and head down to our lower school to pick them up. A fun ride back, happy kids with snacks, then an easy handoff to crafting. It’s 4:30 and I don’t have anything to do until 6:15 when our campus Thanksgiving dinner happens. We sit with our students two nights a week at ‘family-style’ dinners but exam week blows that schedule up. So, two weeks before thanksgiving we have our version of it. I head home for about a 45 minute nap and awake recharged.
Our dinner group has been delightful this time around (it usually is). We have a new girl from Ohio, a new boy from NY state, and a boy and girl from China both of whom are school vets. A day student joins us for dinner and my little girl arrives with some lovely crafts she designed. We have a yummy yummy dinner and some fun chatter. Having my little one at the dinner table makes conversations much easier.
We head back to the dorm after my son comes home from basketball. A colleague took him home for me since my wife is working late on her university’s fund raising phonathon. It’s 7:30 when we get home and my kids have each been out of the house since 7:05 this morning. I am on duty in 30 minutes and my wife won’t be hime until about 8:30. I start a tub and go looking for my RA who doesn’t know I am on duty. There has been an RA swap of duty as well as a swap of faculty so a little confusion ensues.
We have one night of study hall proctoring each week in the dorm. Study hall runs from 8 – 10 PM. For the first hour, the boys are supposed to be working in their room. For the second hour, they have the freedom of working with others. From 10 – 11 it’s a bit of a free-for-all until night time check in at 11 PM. Luckily for me, the combination of a tiring review week AND a heavy turkey dinner left most of the boys pretty sedate. It was one of the quietest nights of my time here. I got some more essay grading done (quizzes are put off until the morning) and I had a number of nice chats as I toured the floors every twenty minutes or so. An uneventful evening of dorm duty caps off a long day at the end of a long week.
Life is not always this full of activity – but it is usually more filled with planning thoughtful classes. My kids are getting active in their after school life, my wife is in a busy phase at her job and I keep agreeing to do things on campus. Whew… I apologize for the lengthy post here but I also wanted to actually walk myself and any brave readers through my most recent ‘real’ day of school.
Aside from the hectic schedule that sounds like a wonderful day overall. I am impressed that you have enough time to prep with one period, two AP BC classes and an AP stats class…of course, I am impressed you have enough students to have that many AP classes, we struggle to get more than ten in our one AP AB class…and my new district has a whopping four students…with no AP stats. Sounds like all kind of wonderful though, and I love the fact you can walk to work and you have some time for the family. Great read, thanks for posting.
You know, it was a wonderful day and that is probably why I was able to remember it so clearly. Our high school student body is about 450 students and we have about 20 Calc Honors students, about 45 Calc AB students, 25 Calc BC kids (they all went through AB already), and 38 AP Stats kids (many of whom are doubling in math this year in a level of Calculus.) We’re pretty fortunate, we have quite a few interested and able math students.
I share your sentiment in getting to the end of the post and realizing how ridiculously long that was. My post was similar. Although not all days are as long as that one, many are. People who trash teachers aren’t aware of the hours and hours good teachers put in to crafting quality lessons for their students. You are generous with your time and you still make space for family, so it sounds like things are going well.
I really enjoyed reading your post. Your situation is different than anything I’ve ever experienced and your descriptions made me feel I was walking the halls with you. I imagine you get to know your students much better because you see them so much outside of the classroom. Is it ever a problem separating your family life from your work life, or do they mesh together comfortably? Thanks for sharing your day. I know many people envy you your commute!
The separation of family life and work life is always a real challenge here. Being Mr. Dardy 24 hours a day has its rewards for sure, but they do not come without a price. You’re definitely right about the commute, though!