Teaching week 15

2016/12/11

It's the end of the semester and that brings good and bad. I'm done lesson planning for a few weeks and I'm not teaching new content which is a much needed respite. But there are students left and right scrambling to bring up their grade and that creates a lot of chaos for me. To compound matters, this week was retesting for students who have not passed their EOC exams which are required for graduation. The ELA 2 exam is an especially heavy hitter for the population I teach and close to half of my students were missing on Wednesday which just happened to be the day I was giving the only test of the six weeks. Blurg. So I'm at work again on the weekend, getting caught up on my grades. It feels especially important as finals begin this Thursday for students to know exactly where they stand in my class. If only they were as concerned about grades as I am.

Teaching week 14

2016/12/05

Sick. Not ready to be back from Thanksgiving break. Holding on. Counting down.

Thansgiving 2016

We road tripped to New Orleans for Thanksgiving again this year. This time with the girls and my mom in tow. It was a lovely week of sleep and delicious food.

We showed my mom around New Orleans, this being her first time visiting. We of course hit a cemetery, beignets in City Park, the sculpture garden, driving through the garden district, and of course lunch at Avery's.




We also spent a few days in Mississippi, always a lovely retreat. It was hard to come back.









Lost Maples

I thought I was majorly on my game when I booked not one, but two weekends at Lost Maples *a year ago* so we could backpack in the fall colors. But alas, both weekends I picked were still before the major color hit. We got a tease of color here and there but mostly not. Still incredibly worth it. Highlights for me would be finally getting Sylvie to nature pee and the glorious blanket of stars we saw as we meandered back to our tent. It was so nice to have a few days with the girls and no distractions (read: phones). Well, Sylvie did bring her graphing calculators (strange girl) so we were almost technology free.




Me

2016/11/09

And also, me.

The words to describe how I feel about this election are far beyond what I can muster today, after a night with little sleep. I am in complete disbelief. I feel physically ill. That this man and his insults and injuries, his bigoted policies, his outlandish lies is electable. I am grieving that half of my fellow countrymen decided that either his policies were great or his offenses were defensible. Either side of that equation is incomprehensible to me.

The past 12 months have been stupid emotional when I recount it all. I have dealt with domestic abuse of a family member, an exhausting pregnancy and miscarriage, a protracted and bitter fight with another family member, and some teenage antics that veer into the realm of personal harm. All of them viscous and taxing from a mental health standpoint for me. But honestly, this election cycle and this spectacular resolution totally ranks among the worst for me. It is more than I can carry and need desperately to find a way to set it down.

Teaching week apocalypse

I've been off the blogging train for a few weeks due to some epicly stressful personal events that I won't write about here. I'm struggling again with using a public medium to journal my thoughts. Because other people are involved, I don't always feel comfortable making the decision to disclose. Anyway, it has been one one of the most trying months of my adult life.

Enter election night and the nightmare that has unveiled. Teaching today has been so very difficult. It is the second worse day I have faced professionally. (It is thankfully second by a long shot.) There are so many of my students that are affected in a very real, very personal way by the election of Donald Trump. I have really struggled to maintain my composure at various points in the day. As have some of my students.

My greatest worry (for my students, the list of worries for myself, my daughters, and my fellow humans is longer) is that students will disappear from school because they fear deportation. The supreme court (at least currently) has guaranteed asylum at public schools for undocumented immigrants, but perception and fear are strong forces. How are they not expected to believe the man that has been threatening to deport them for months now? Students that do not get even the most basic education have such a small chance of being healthy contributing members of society. The path to shadow economies and crime opens wider.

Personally, I feel so disappointed today in my country. Minority poor kids are tragically accustom to being marginalized and dismissed. They know they have way bigger hurdles to face than their wealthy white counterparts. And yet they on a daily basis laugh, they shine, they climb. And this feels like we have failed them. These kids have been sent a message and it has been received loud and clear. They deserve so much more.

Tidbits

2016/10/09

Some tidbits that got lost along the way.

Dog sitting Kathryn's lovely Leo. Getting to know and love him just a few short weeks before he died.



And then the boxer pups that Xandy and Kathryn got soon after.



Taking the girls bowling. Yet one more in a long list of things that Sylvie is motivated to work on because she "has to beat Hannah".



Some Friday night high school football.


Candy making class with Sylvie. Part of a birthday gift and lots of delicious fun.


Many trips to the dog park. Here is one of the rare times Sebastian shakes off on anyone rather than me.


 Sylvie celebrates the end of a very difficult six weeks with some Magic Sand. I was happy for the spontaneous purchase if it meant a Saturday away from the computer screen.


Sylvie's new after school pastime, blowing bubbles in the back yard with the dogs.


And a late night costumer party as the girls rummaged through the Halloween box in anticipation of the upcoming holiday.


Teaching week 7

I seem to have managed to injure myself just enough to prevent me from running. Yet again. This time it is my ankle and I have no idea what it is but I'm starting to get the idea that my body is done with running. I am always worried the lack of exercise will manifest as agitation and increased stress at work, but teaching is going well. There are some rough edges showing on bits of my classroom management, but my lessons are going well and I'm still happy to show up to work every day.

I'm finding a lot more peace with the bureaucratic distractions at work this year. They just don't bother me like they used to. Not unrelatedly, each year I have a little more time due to increased efficiencies, and this year I find myself with time to rework materials that I've been using and 85% happy with to a place where I'm more satisfied. Which of course makes lessons run more smoothly and increases my satisfaction as well as student performance.

I was talking to a fellow teacher at the copy machine this week (the state of the copy machines are, by the way, a huge source of frustration this year) and she joked about it being October, a notoriously low point for most teachers as they trudge forward with no real breaks until Thanksgiving. And I was transported back to my first and second year teaching where October was a daily struggle just to get out of bed. I hadn't even thought about it being "October" in that sense. I am definitely in a good place.

Teaching week 5

2016/09/25

I feel a delicious amount of satisfaction when my gradebook is up to date. It reminds me of some of the enjoyment I used to get out of concrete and non-challenging routine tasks I would regularly perform in my last job. Not exciting or hard, but just satisfying to have accomplished. It is so much easier for me than lesson planning and the like.

I had a student trying to jab me this week and without giving it much thought he decided to tease me for being disorganized. I and all of the students within earshot just laughed. Of course I have many failings as a teacher, but disorganization is simply not one of them.

Gradebook, check. Neat desk and organized bins, check. If only that were all of it.

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!

July in New Orleans

2016/07/28

July is never anyone's preferred time to visit Louisiana and Mississippi, but that is when we seem to go. One of the few negative to the teacher travel calendar. But despite the heat we love to go spend time with Nathan's family. This year our highlights included: Pokemon Go in City Park, our first swamp tour (such beauty!), and a stand up paddle board for Sylvie's birthday and some super fun swimming in Margaret's back pond in Mississippi. Oh, and of course way too many dogs.  












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.