Teaching week 4

2016/09/20

First week teaching sick. I was amazingly in a good mood but it is still a thing. Having your energy taken to 70% when you really need 103% is not fun.

Teaching week 3

2016/09/12

I am always surprised how quickly my preparedness level changes. I can feel like I'm completely on top of my shit and then the very next day I'm working all evening because there's, big surprise, more! I know this shouldn't be surprising by now, I just happen to have a brain that really craves order as opposed to chaos. I do what I can to stay organized but it is truly never enough.

I had one day this week when I was feeling grumpy to do the job. This really is nothing remarkable as it inevitable for even the cheeriest teacher, but last year I had some pretty big patches of irritability (a lot to do with personal emotional drain from outside of school) and I felt a little panicked to feel that dark specter grab me so early in the year. Gotta breathe deep.

Teaching week 2

2016/09/04

And then the tiredness seeps in. This is a known factor but the reality of it is always disheartening. When energy and creativity are high it is such a wishful delusion that I might feel that way. Just like forgetting how bad a hot summer or a cold winter really feels when you're enjoying life in the 70s. This week I felt my energy crash hard. I'm falling into my bed near the 8 o'clock hour every night, giddy when I make it there earlier. My alarm at 5:40 comes too soon. But I'm enjoying my classes even more. Things are running more smoothly; I'm connecting with the students.

Each year I find myself making small but significant progress in my pedagogy. Most of it is due to improved efficiencies that allow me to focus on more or perhaps better things. Tasks become more routine and take up less mental energy. My second year teaching I was able to stop grading every test with the scantron machine and started requiring students to justify answers and did a lot more hand grading. A ton more work but it is better feedback for the students and better input for me to know where each kid is. Last year I expanded that effort to quizzes, getting rid of multiple choice all together. This year I'm trying to take that to homework which is from a volume standpoint, no small thing. It won't last through the entire year, but at least starting off expectations that way I'm hoping will show dividends for student learning. The biggest complaint in Algebra 2 is that the content is irrelevant to "real life". And my new stock answer is to acknowledge some of that argument, but emphasize that everyone, and I mean everyone, benefits from being able to justify and articulate their thinking and problem solving and I'm pushing my students hard to be able to do that. For a population where the majority do not speak English as their first language, that is a challenge. Baby steps? Jumping off a cliff? It's hard to say.

Teaching week 1

2016/08/28

I'm interested in a series of posts chronicling my teaching year. I am hesitant to commit considering the low points in energy are significant, but I guess that's part of the point. I'm shooting for weekly but reserve the right to flake when necessary.

This was our first week back with students and my energy and positivism are high. There are good and bad things about the beginning of the year. I love the optimism of the students, all freshly committed to doing things right. Classroom management is easy and most students are paying attention and engaged. The part I dislike wholeheartedly is the lack of personal relationships and deep knowledge of each kid's struggles and strengths. I run my classroom largely on rapport and that take some time to build. I would peg myself at low average among teachers in the game of learning students' names and I feel slightly awkward in class until that is mastered. My Algebra 2 class sizes seem to be slightly lower than prior years, plus I have two sections of my Senior Financial Algebra class where I know roughly half of the students from last year, so that puts a dent in that particular struggle.

So, good first week overall. I am energized to be back (something I wasn't sure I would feel 2-3 week ago when I was still enjoying thoroughly the unstructured days of summer) and feeling hugely positive about the year. I am feeling more relaxed and confident as I sit atop the first crest of my fifth year teaching. Here we go!

More good things about summer

2016/07/25

Time to finally (attempt to) learn Spanish. I feel like it's going pretty well although it still feels like Spanish words will never naturally congregate when open my mouth.
My morning routine taking the dogs to Walnut Creek. I am not feeling much like a runner these days, but moving outside is something I'll always love.
Finding again Monday night bluegrass. Worth the drive down south to Radio Coffee and Beer. Love this city.
My new bike! I've been trying to use July as a time to focus on feeling healthy again and biking daily to yoga and the Y has been a big part of it. So fun!

Heaven

The crown jewel of our summer was a week spent in Glacier National Park. I had originally planned on bringing the girls, but as plans started to solidify and I probed their interest level more and found begrudging tolerance rather than outright enthusiasm so Nathan and I opted to go alone. I am never sure if I am missing out on making family memories by traveling more without them, but at least in the short term, I am quite sure I am missing out on endless small scale squabbles and truncated excursions due to stamina shortfalls. Who knows if the trade off is a good one? Anyway, Nathan and I had a small cabin just outside of Polebridge and made that our home base for a great week exploring the park. A few days were rainy, a few days were lazy, and many days were unscripted and lovely. It was a quiet and relaxing trip in arguably some of the most beautiful land in this nation full of beautiful lands. No way could I capture it all in words or pictures. Here are a few of my favorite pictures to spark my future memories.


























Utah

After L.A., we flew to SLC to drop the girls off to see their grandpa and enjoy a few days in my Wasatch mountains before Nathan and I headed out for our last leg of our trip in Glacier National Park. We only had a few days for me to dissuade Nathan of his wrongheaded idea that I grew up in the country so I was strategic with our activities. The mountains were first priority, followed closely by opportunities to seek out fry sauce and shakes. A few surprising things happened during our stay. First, I was uncharacteristically nostalgic and reached out to some old friends to reconnect. I am usually not interested in revisiting the person I was in high school but it was really nice to see friends and talk about our idiotic youth. Also, it felt comfortingly familiar to drive around Salt Lake, something I haven't done in many, many years. The roomy expanse of perfectly square and numbered streets with those familiar mountains marking the East felt so much like home. It is the exact opposite of driving in New Orleans - something I fear I will never be comfortable doing.

We spent Monday afternoon at Red Butte Gardens, one of my favorite spots in all of SLC, with dinner with friends on Ogden's revitalized 25th Street. I was too daft to take a pic with friends, but I did stop by my childhood home and got a grainy shot there. Hasn't changed hardly at all.



Tuesday we hiked in the breathtaking Millcreek Canyon and had dinner with another old friend near the U. Man, I love these mountains.



Wednesday we hiked a ways up the back of Timpanogos, one of the most beautiful places on God's green earth. Our morning start was too slow to have enough time to make it all the way up, but we made it to the snow fields and considered that good enough.



Los Angeles 2016

2016/07/04

My brother and his love Katelyn got married in Thousand Oaks on June 18th. We decided to extend out trip by a few days and make a little family vacation out of it. I had intended on more hiking and ended up with more lazing around, but I suppose in this case the trip took the shape it needed to. We stayed in Topanga Canyon, in a quirky "art cabin" I found on Airbnb. The location, although about a half an hour away from the wedding festivities, was perfection.



We flew in Tuesday night and went immediately out for a delicious Malaysian meal as well as an opportunity to catch up with one of Nathan's college friends. It was late enough that that was it for Tuesday other than a quick contraband toe in the night ocean by Nathan and Tessa.

Wednesday we went to Santa Monica beach and it was a delightful day. My favorite was our ride on the Ferris wheel, but the tiny but well curated aquarium was great too. The weather held in the mid 70s which was more than I could have asked for, but no way was I getting in that cold water.









Thursday we hung tight in Topanga. Meandering around the hills but mostly just reading in bed. We had dinner with Katelyn's family and then that evening my sister Anna and her beautiful babe came to stay with us and we stayed up late into the night chatting.






Friday was spent on wedding prep all day. The wedding was in Katelyn's parent's back yard - a gorgeous and intimate venue. It was fun helping out and I was amazed at how calm Katelyn and her parents were.

Saturday was the big day of course. The ceremony of the wedding as well as the preparations and location were beautiful.











Sunday was our last day in California and we spend it at the Getty Museum, one of my favorite places ever. The heat finally showed up to L.A. and that made the day a little heavier, but still great. We got some more time to hang out with family and also got to meet up with another old friend of Nathan's for some art and dinner.