Thursday, 13 December 2012

Day as Math Educator - Limited Edition

 In August 2012, the Ontario Liberal Government recalled the legislature early, in order to pass Bill 115 (the "Putting Students First Act"). This Bill gave the provincial Education Minister the power to preemptively shut down any strike action by public education workers, and impose contracts onto them at the end of 2012, should their unions not reach deals with school boards of a "substantively identical" nature to what the government wanted.

Of note, from the Bill:
14. (1) The Ontario Labour Relations Board shall not inquire into or make a decision on whether a provision of this Act, a regulation or an order made under subsection 9 (2) is constitutionally valid or is in conflict with the Human Rights Code.

There's Pros and Cons

But this blog post isn't about that. Nor is it about how a deal was tentatively negotiated between union and board two weeks ago, only to have the minister suggest some additional language before ratification. Which killed the whole thing. No, this is about the aftermath. This is about education workers doing what we can to get Bill 115 repealed, so that we can actually negotiate fairly, and do the jobs we were hired to do.

This is...

A Day in the Life of a Math Teacher: the Job Action aka "Limited" Edition.


(In other words, this is what a day would be like if we clocked in and clocked out the way many in the public think we do already. I'm all about the teachable moments.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

4:44am - Good lord. It must be tradition that on DITLife days, I wake up early for NO REASON. Though here it may also be due to me still trying to shake off a cold. It takes over a half hour and some kleenex before I'm back to sleep again.

6:30ish - My wife wakes up, turning off her alarm before it sounds, creeping out of the bedroom. I'm vaguely aware, still mostly asleep.

7am - My alarm goes off. Get out of bed, listen to the news. Then wish my wife well as she heads off to the gym.

7:30am - Dressed now, breakfast, scan through Twitter.

7:55am - Head out to school. Need to be a little earlier than usual, since there's a logjam of cars when everyone (including parents) arrives at the same time. There's what looks like sillystring outside - I learn later it's freezing fog. Weird, wish I'd thought to take a photo.

8:10ish - Traffic circle. ^_-

8:15am - At work even earlier than I thought. Position my car well, then wait inside it listening to Crush Rush (radio quiz show).

8:20am - Head for school doors. Chat with some colleagues. Our parking lot, by the way, is a bumpy skating rink, all ice since last week. Someone remarks, "that's what you get when you hire the lowest bidder".

8:25am - Our contract officially says to be present 15 minutes before classes start, so this is when we head in. For the second time this week, I'm the first person in our prep room. By about 2 seconds, but still, this is REALLY WEIRD if you know me.

8:30am - Down at the office photocopier. Last night I recalled a handout I used two years ago about trig triangles in a completely different course. Found it, now running off a set for the class.

8:35am - Back to class before the warning bell (no one else was copying this morning). Don't recognize the "get to class" music, but the music before this was "Total Eclipse of the Heart", reminding me of a Twitter conversation a week or so ago.

8:40am - PERIOD 1

This class we're currently doing sine and cosine laws. There were problems yesterday when a couple of the textbook solutions were wrong. Yeah, I didn't doublecheck those (and I can't blame it on job action, I usually only check the trickier ones anyway). So lost time there affirming that methods were correct, textbook sucks.

I bring it up because it almost looked like we were heading for the same situation today... but the problem was a calculator that had slipped into radian mode. (Crisis averted?) I advise looking at one question in particular, give them time to do it - lending out my textbook and my calculator (to different students) in the process. Makes taking it up a tad trickier, plus my form on the board sucks today.

Decide we should to move next Tuesday's test to Wednesday, unless there's objections. (Nope.) Then summary note of cases on the Smartboard after, followed by some application. Decide to let them work through the actual mechanics of it for homework and sing in the last five minutes: "Cosine It". Not one of Kristina Maria's more well known numbers, but was getting more airtime a year ago. So, solidifying concepts through earworm.

9:55am - Period changeup. I take the opportunity to write up the solution to the application question to show tomorrow as the next class comes in.

10:00am - PERIOD 2

Data Management - test tomorrow on statistics. I hand back their last test, and have them do a self-evaluation on goals for the next month. (Did it with other classes earlier in the week, wanted to return at least one more item to the Gr 12s first.) A number want mark updates. Yeah, I haven't had a chance to make any printouts - promise something before the Holiday.

Rest of the class is review time; oh, recycling gets taken down by a volunteer, and I have them do self-evaluations, which I try to get to once a month.  Then I go around answering questions, suggesting to the one guy he stop doing his English, wishing best of luck to a couple students doing the arts performance tonight (nuts, writing this I realize I missed one), and allow a couple students to go work in the quiet of the library as long as it's open, and they check back in with me.

On a roll from last period, and to try and lighten the mood at the end, I do a reprise of "The Medians", a song from last week. Normally don't do callbacks, but again, hoping it helps earworm some information in.

11:15am - LUNCH

Start by checking email. Also write solutions up on the board for a quiz I'm giving this afternoon, to speed things up. (I can slide another board over it to hide them.) I'm a tad concerned about my afternoon pacing, but need to give another test before the Holidays. Dropping trig identities until January as it is.

Just before I head back to the prep room, a student asks if she can borrow my metre stick. The LAST person who did that (on Friday) never returned it, I only got this replacement yesterday from a colleague... but I teach this student, and she assured me it will be returned by next period, so alright.

Grab my lunch from the fridge in the prep room. Briefly chat with a colleague who teaches the same course and level as my Period 1 to mention I'm moving my test. She is too, so that works nicely. I decide to vary things up today - I go to the staff room. (Yesterday I also varied things up by leaving the school, coincidentally the same day the Elementary Teachers were doing a one day walkout.)

Today, I'm in the staff room for probably the first time since my last DITLife post, during our PD Day. Feels like more teachers in here than usual, but my "usual" is about two months out of date. Topics range from politics to the weather to music. Head out about noon with another brainstorm - I run off some photocopies of the unit circle for my next class.

12:05pm - Travel time. Get my metre stick back.

12:10pm - PERIOD 3

This is the U-level class, we're quizzing on Sine and Cosine laws, then I'm introducing trig on the cartesian plane. (I've tried doing it the other way - also how the textbook does it - but feel like I lose people with the four Quadrants, and never get them back when we hit the 'laws' later. So I'm trying to keep people with me as long as possible. Something that needs feeling out with every class though - I might have flipped it here, if only I'd had an extra two days before the Holiday.)

So a little over half an hour for the quiz, then the dramatic reveal of the answers, and we talk about those. In the last 35 minutes, I introduce terminal arms, related acute angles, the Quadrants... and the dramatic reveal of the Unit Circle and (x,y)=(cos,sin). With accompanying handout.

I know I get far too carried away here (think I called it "the most exciting ten minutes of this unit"), but I'm hoping some of it rubs off. One guy remarks that I'm funny - I counter I hope he doesn't mean funny looking. When the period ends, I overhear at least one student commenting on Tangent being Slope, so I feel like my job is done.

1:25pm - Period changeup. Similar to the morning, I use it to fix up my slide a little so that I can upload it onto the web.

1:30pm - PERIOD 4

This is it, folks. This is the only 75 minutes I have in my day to prepare lessons and quizzes for three classes, do all of my marking, my data entry, plus respond to parents, and set/verify exams for January. I've done bits of all of that the last four days... needless to say, haven't been checking Twitter from work lately.

But this is exactly what some of you thought, right? Teachers can do all of that and still knock off work at 3pm? Heh, okay, just kidding - normally I'd have a 37 minute duty thrown in there too, once every four days. But with the job actions, I'm not doing it, the same way colleagues aren't doing lunch supervision duty.

Where was I? Right, now I have 70 minutes. (Slowness of my computer and the internet combined to make me lose 5 minutes.)

1:35pm - Make some modifications to tomorrow's lessons based on what happened today. I'd like a better example in one case, but know I won't have time to find it. In fact, I'm going to have to forgo this prep altogether pretty soon; fortunately I CAN improv lessons from old notes, just not my preference. Ten minutes max. Turns into fifteen. DARN it!

1:50pm - I need a quiz for tomorrow, Period 1. I have a number of old questions I can cut and paste, and a quick glance in a textbook inspires me for another. Done. Printed.

I've lost track of time checks.

I need a quiz for Monday... and since one student is leaving early for the Holidays, I actually need it for TOMORROW, so they have it before the weekend, to write their test early too. Bit harder to find a good example in old files, but done. Printed.

Go to get printouts in prep room, then down to the office to copy them so that I don't have to deal with it in the morning. Which now in retrospect is silly, I have to go to the office every morning to check my mailbox anyway... this wasted a perfectly good two minutes in walking time. There's a message in said box about the assembly next week. I scan through it.

Get back to my classroom with all my handouts.

2:25pm - Glance at clock before responding to an email from admin regarding work for a suspended student; also send a message to a student regarding some work we did today.

2:35pm - Related to that student writing their test early, I need said test before Tuesday! I'll be adapting from a couple sources, so I start pulling them together. Get the skeleton of a test done as the bell rings. Time to shut everything down. Didn't get a chance to do ANY marking. DARN it!


2:45pm - Shut down computer, try to quickly tidy desk, back to prep room, grab a printout from desk regarding the Problem of the Week to take home (think I printed that at lunch?). Have to change back into boots, my shoes get stuck, I'm grumbling.

2:55pm - Leave school. Since I'm positioned well in the parking lot, and a number of the early parents left five minutes ago, takes less than ten minutes to be on the road.

3:25pm - Arrive at home. It's still light out. CANNOT get used to that this far along in December. Take advantage of it though; I shovel the walk a bit more, as it's warm enough to remove a bit of the ice. Don't fully hit pavement, but it's better than the school parking lot.

3:40pm - Actually go inside. Realize I haven't had anything to drink all day. Rectify that. Earlier this week I already changed lightbulbs and cleaned the kitchen, so pretty much head for computer to catch up on email and Twitter. As well as blogs... I find I have more time to comment now.

5pm - Start writing this post. Do it on and off; my wife arrives home at some point in there.

7pm - Dinner. Except here's the thing. I'd rather not be having dinner.

I'd rather be at the school's art night, watching some of the students I teach perform.

I can't.

It might be mistaken as supervision.

And I get it, I do, if something were to happen, I'd be in trouble if I interceded, and probably in worse trouble if I didn't. So best to avoid the situation entirely. No collateral damage that way. Same situation for coaches, who now can't be in the stands; in fact, we're lucky the arts night is going ahead at all, it's thanks to the principal being awesome and stepping forwards to take over.

But it sucks.

I can console myself with the fact that I saw one of their rehearsals. And they were AWESOME. (One of the acts still needed stuff like, uh, props and costumes though, I hope that came together.) I can now use this time instead for... well, blogging. Which includes the fact that my Math-Tans series will probably return in January.

Here's another thing, about how the math crunches down:
1) With 75 minutes in a day to do the non-teaching parts of my job, that's 25 minutes per class. Could YOU prepare a 75 minute class (including quizzes) in 25 minutes? Abiding by the curriculum standards? And have it actually be something worthwhile?
2) Ironically, I also have 75 students across my three classes. My tests are four pages. If we assume it takes me one minute to mark a page (it doesn't), assuming no interruptions, it would take four days to get through a set. Ignoring quizzes, we're looking at a set of tests every 2.5 weeks, on average.

So that's 12 days, 36 lessons (well, 30, let's not count the review day and test day). Lose 4 to marking (should be 5 owing to not a minute and always interruptions, but I'm going bare minimum). That's 8 days of 75 minutes, or 600 minutes to prepare 30 lessons. We're now down to *20* minutes per day for one lesson prep. Now, some teachers are fortunate enough to have two of the same class, but even then, this 20 minutes ON LESSONS assumes NO communication with parents, or discussion with colleagues, or marking BACKLOG (I have a hell of a one), or organizing field trips...

Yet this is what a portion of the general public believes we can do. All that crammed into 20 minute slots. I know this because they figure we still have plenty of time for extra-curriculars. Like sports practices, organizing busses for games, or doing band and choir, or helping to run math contests, all of those things. Or like arts nights.

Well, surprise... is it any wonder we normally work past 7pm? And into the weekends? And during holidays? And pretty much ALL the time except "the summer"? (And even in August there is prep going on.) For the record, Bill 115 also imposes it's maximum of 10 sick days, etc, etc, on custodial staff, and office staff, who have to go into schools - albeit maybe on reduced hours - through said "summer". Teachers are not the only education workers, which even the MEDIA forgets. CONSTANTLY.

But anyway. Went off on a tangent there. Where were we?

Yes, DITLife.

9pm - Caught up to the present, so I ponder how to spice things up here image-wise. Also let it sit for at least an hour to make sure I can edit if needed.

10:30pm - Return. Edit.

11pm - Watch "Daily Show". Go to bed, hoping that this isn't going to become the norm.

So there it is - an atypical day, but just possibly it's the sort of day the public thinks I do all the time.


EDIT: Noticed an error this morning, went in to change it, somehow ended up deleting the entire thing. Blogger, I hate you. I've restored most of it from a text file, there may be some minor inadvertent editorial changes though.

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