Home » The Last Day of First Semester, Year Four…

The Last Day of First Semester, Year Four…

I kept my phone close, and memo-ed anything I’d want to remember to blog tonight.  It was not an average day, because it was our last day before semester finals.  Some students were burnt out, some were well behaved.  I was somewhere in the middle.

At about 7:30, I’m finished with my morning routine and sit down to check my social media and eat breakfast.  I hear about David Bowie.  This causes me to panic and look at check the ages of my other favored rock icons.  As is tradition, I pull up David Bowie on musicstack.com.  I am a very casual vinyl collector and usually just buy what I see, unless someone significant passes away.  Then it becomes a rush to add a piece of them to my collection before everyone decides to hold tight to what’s left.  I’m still awaiting my Motorhead album in the wake of Lemmy’s passing…

I get to school right on time at 7:50.  A student is waiting outside of my door to discuss the existence of Bigfoot.  We casually chat about ‘Squatchers’ while I pull up my plans for the day.  He doesn’t really believe in Sasquatch, and neither do I, but we have a good laugh.  Since it’s the last day, I decide to use Keep Change Start Stop from Math Equals Love.  My plan is to use this as an activity while students come up and one last little talk about grades before finals.  It’s what I did at the end of last year, and I liked and blogged some of the responses.

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Because my printer is out of ink, I send a copy to the teacher workroom.  I’m not so much a morning person, so I accidentally make a few white copies before remembering that I wanted my handouts in color.  One side says ‘I should …’ and the other says ‘Mrs. Skinner should…’  I chose yellow for Transmath and orange for 21st century skills, two per page.  I grabbed a rough amount of each color and loaded the copier.  I made 50 copies for those 4 classes.  After the copies were done, I opened the copier to see that just white paper remained.  Feeling rather arrogant about my paper amount intuition, I sliced the copies in half .  On my way back to my room, I stopped to chat with a member of the SpEd department about the protocol for certain students regarding finals.

Once in my room (about 8:00), I do various organizing tasks on my desk while the early students come in.  A boy I’ve never met pokes his nose in, looks at all of the roller coasters, says “WOAH!” and scampers away.  I’m hoping this boosts enrollment in my Physics class.  At this point I realize the room is a nontraditional mess, and take a few pictures.

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One of my students stops by to talk about semester vs year long classes.  Our school is all semesterized as of this year, with the exception of Math.  I make all of my instructional classes take the semester final because I don’t want them to get hit with the whole 15% of their grade at the end.  Students tend to complain about this, but I feel like breaking up the final makes in more manageable.  My Physics classes get final grades each semester, and my TransMath 3 classes get their final grade at the end of the year.  Math is moving to semester grades next year, but I don’t think it will be a huge transition for me.

The principal comes over the intercom to remind us that we are meeting during our staffing hours.  Because I’m on an extended contract and teach six classes instead of five, there is no traditional ‘prep’ time for me today outside of lunch.  It’s not really a big deal, as staffing usually only happens once a week.  I kind of like staffing because I get to talk to other teachers.

It’s about 8:15 and I have 10 minutes until class officially starts.  I open feedly and read a few blog posts while I make idle chatter with the students in my room.  Normally this is grading time, but since the semester is almost over, I’m relatively free.

The bell rings and I greet students.  I don’t go out into the hallway because my TransMath students haven’t quite learned how to leave physics projects alone, and I need to gently remind them to sit in the desks at the front of the room instead of the tables in the back.  The bell rings and we do the Pledge of Allegiance.  I stand by my computer and mumble the 20ish names and make eye contact as I take attendance.  When I’m finished a student is up at my desk.  I ask if he needs anything, and he brags that he doesn’t have to do anything today because he finished his work on Friday.  I joke about that being Friday, and today being a new day.  He is not thrilled and heads back to his desk.  I engage the class in a chat about final times and expectations while I wait for 4-5 students to trickle in tardy.

We’ve been doing Accelerated Math scanning for the last week as final review, and the class goal was to be finished by Friday.  They had 18 objectives about integer operations.  Because AM gives students multiple choice questions, many students would write random things down and bring their scan cards to the front.  The machine would respond by delivering even more practice questions.  I’d never used the Accelerated Math system before, but I’m not quite sure if I like it.  I could be biased.  Out of our math department of 8, only two of us had reliably working scanners and printers.  I had been spending the last week doing most of the scanning for the other teachers and missing time with my own students.  It had left me a little bitter because my classes were frequently interrupted.

I have all of the students get out a half sheet of paper to talk about skills they could study and problems they could work to practice for the finals.  I have to stop the class and quiet them down multiple times because many students are not writing anything down.  After that, I pass out the KCSS handouts and talk them through the process.  I had to explain the handout multiple times, the class was a little bit rowdy.  As they work on their handouts, I call them up one at a time to talk about grades.  I am interrupted twice by two students who need to scan on Accelerated Math.  My printer ink cartridge manages to make suitable copies and I send the students on their way.  I somehow manage to conference with all of my students before the bell rings.

During the passing period, I read through the few KCSS worksheets I got back.  Nearly all of my students want me to quit giving homework.  A decent amount want me to add more hands-on tasks.  This really bums me out because TransMath is a complete program with required homework and very little room for supplemental material.  (The class is softly scripted, with a bellringer, two 20-min lessons and then 5 min at the end to assign homework.  It is a lot to do in a day, and sometimes the class feels rushed.)  Some students comment on being in pods or rows or particular seating chart arrangements.  They are currently in rows until finals are over.

My Physics class doesn’t need a bellringer or a briefing on the lesson because we’ve been building K’Nex roller coasters for the last week.  I finally remember to check my e-mail for the first time today.  The students are at the point where most components of their roller coasters are built, and they just need to put everything together to begin testing.  I have a lot of control over my Physics program, and feel good listening to them use the proper vocabulary and reasoning as they build their creations.  I wander around the class as they all work, sometimes commenting, sometimes lending an extra set of hands.  They are very appreciative of educational play time, and discipline issues are rare.

One student is using his head as a temporary pylon for his roller coaster while his team builds another brace.

After about 20 minutes, I call the students who have to take the final to the front row, and give them basic tips on what to review and study.  We’ve gone through 8 chapters in our book so far, and I notice that as I describe what they need to know, they are hanging on my every word.  This is a stark contrast to my 1st hour class, and as I talk, I contemplate the difference between the two groups.  (Transmath is freshman through juniors, and Physics is juniors and seniors)

I hear my e-mail alert go off.  It’s a message from the other math teacher with a working Accelerated Math scanner.  She wants to know if I have printer ink.  I chuckle before telling her I don’t.  I tell her to send the printouts to one of the other teachers’ printers.  I’m half-serious.

As my students work, I remember that today is January 11th, and my last online grad school class starts today.  I make a mental note to check it later.

I continue helping students with roller coasters until the bell rings.  I sneak out to refill my water bottle and use the bathroom during the break.  I chat with a co-worker about how my physics students have convinced me to apply to be an astronaut.  When the call was released, I made a joke to my class about having the qualifications.  We decided going through the process would give me a cool story at the very least, so I decided to give it a go.

My 3rd hour class is called 21st century skills.  I am more or less a glorified math tutor who helps students polish skills and get their homework done.  This hour is also homeroom so we watch the school announcements on my SMART Board.  The principal describes the last day of the semester like being at the top of a roller coaster…I would agree.  I give this class the KCSS handout as well, and let them work on the Accelerated Math for their Algebra teachers.  I call them up and discuss both their grades in my class, and their grades in Algebra.  Most students enjoy my help and are eager to hear my recommendations for finishing the semester.  They’ve worked hard.  Quite a few students have questions about their Algebra grades, so I shoot e-mails to the teachers.  Only one student refuses to come up and check his grades.  Most students turn in the KCSS worksheets, and there are quite a few jokes about cloning myself so I can help more people faster.  My 1st hour co-teacher stops by and we chat about students.

21st century skills is a difficult class to teach because any student in the class could have one of 4 algebra teachers, and of course all teachers are different.  One of our goals for the year is to have common assessments across the classes and to have all of the algebra teachers in the same spot in the text book.  I hope we get there before next year.

Meanwhile, one of my physics students comes in to work on his contraption in the back of the room.  He’s quiet, and the 21st students are used to him at this point so he is not a distraction.

The rest of the class is pretty quiet aside from a student throwing a water bottle and almost knocking over a roller coaster while my back was turned.

The bell rings and the next round of 21st century skills students come in.  There is unfortunately not too much to say about this class because they are a small class that is very well behaved.  It follows the same format as 3rd hour.  I finish the grade conferences rather early and spend most of my time helping students with Accelerated Math.

After 4th hour, I get 1/2 hour for lunch.  I grab an Uncrustables and a Chicken wrap from the cafeteria.  I take a break by myself and read some news and twitter as I eat.

5th hour is my prep time, but today is staffing.  Staffing is held in my room every week, so I just grab my tablet and sit in a student desk and wait for the principal.  We talk about our pending transition to the new school building.  We talk about potential furniture, we talk about deciding who gets which room.  I picture myself having a class with lab tables during roller coaster week in physics next year…it’s a nice daydream.  I chat a little bit with another teacher about the TransMath program, what it is, and where my students come from and go.  I’m a little bummed that nobody comments on all of the roller coasters.  It means my coworkers are apparently used to the weirdness that happens in my room.  The principal just steps around the pieces as he presents on my tiny whiteboard at the front.  Staffing finishes a little early, which is good, because a student immediately comes in to make up a missing Physics test.

My husband stops by to bring me a Coke before classes start again.  We work in the same building and have the same off hour, but we usually only see each other during the end of 5th every day. We walk to the workroom and check our boxes.  I ordered a new stapler about a week ago, and see a package in my mailbox.

On our warehouse order form, there was an option for a small or large stapler.  I assumed small and large.  I’ve inserted a picture of the stapler I got with a quarter for scale.  My husband made fun of it.  I made fun of it, and every student to use it today made fun of it.  Oops.  Maybe I’ll stick googly eyes on it and make it a new class pet.

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He looks like a ‘Rex’ to me…

I email the other 21st century skills teacher to try and arrange a meeting to plan our lessons during finals week.

6th hour Physics is very much like 2nd hour, except they prefer to sit on the floor as though around a campfire as they work.  I find this endearing.  Again, I brief the students on the final and help them out as they build.  One student stops by to ask if he can take the final in an attempt to raise his grade.  I tell him, “Of course…”

The class decides they want to crank some tunes, so they put on top hits.  I wasn’t originally a big fan of Adele and Taylor Swift, but I can’t listen to them anymore without associating them with my physics classes.  It makes me smile.

Several of my Physics students had me for Algebra three years ago.  They tell horror stories about my final test to the students who have never taken a final with me.  It’s a good attempt to scare the others, but it doesn’t work.  My students are all familiar with my testing style at this point.

7th hour is another group of TransMath.  This class has fewer tardies than first hour because all of the students are already in the building.  This means I usually get a lot more done.  We talk about what’s on the final.  Some students complain about having to do 25 questions.  I think they’ll be fine.  They do the KCSS worksheets and I discover that my shoes are a topic of conversation.  Apparently I have horrible taste in shoes because it comes up every year when I ask for feedback.  (In case you’re wondering, I have these in black and they are wonderful.)

Overally my class seems mostly ready to take the final and I feel good about them.  Like 1st hour, they think I should nix homework and add more hands on activities.  One student wants me to tell more stories.  Some students turn in their last little bit of make-up work.  The bell rings and I feel like it was a good day.

Even though I’m officially done at 3:20, I sit in my desk for a minute.  I log into my online class (History of Math).  I’ve never taken a history of math class before, because my Physics minor removed some of the math requirements in undergrad.  I look at the syllabus.  It follows the same format as every online class I’ve ever taken.  I need to post a certain number of discussions and replies each week.  I need to read a certain number of chapters and write reflections.  I need to do two curriculum projects.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I feel oddly disappointed to be doing more of the same.  I check the class roster and I’m currently the only person in the class.  I wonder how that’s going to work…

I’m all caught up on grading, so I decide to spend the evening alternating between knitting and playing video games.  (Will Konami EVER release Metal Gear Online for PC?)

I feel good about today and can’t wait to see how my students do on their finals tomorrow.

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