Wednesday, 20 November 2013

TCH: Stretched, Taught

Pic by Errol of Debs and Errol
Intro: Back in September, I signed up for "Explore MTBoS", an eight week event connecting math educators online. This is the seventh post connected to that event. If this is your first time on my blog, welcome! For the record, I post about writing in addition to math teaching. I also have a second blog, "Taylor's Polynomials", a story about personified math. Find it here:

This week's mission came from Tina Cardone (@crstn85). It asked us to participate in "Day in the Life of an Educator", similar to what happened last year (archives here). Called it.


WARNING: As a writer, this is completely up my alley. Last year, I did "Day in the Life" every day for a full week, each in a different narrative perspective. (Check out the wrapup here.) This year, for whatever reason, I'm much more stressed out - so you're getting one LONG post rather than... well, a bunch of long posts.

Incidentally, being a teacher is why I cannot do NaNoWriMo.

If any teacher CAN, I applaud them. Don't know where they find the time. Of course, NaNoWriMo isn't my style anyway, and this day is a BIT more action packed than the norm. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is clear sailing, 10 is high stress, and 5 is typical, I'd rate this day a 7. (aka "Stretched Taut") If you think it's relevant, I'm basing that on teaching for over five years, but less than ten.

Catch the pun there?
Oh, and I'm going to have Dr. Elizabeth Weierstrass (from my web serial) tag along for the ride. But since I'll be in third person, and her comments will be interjected continuously, I doubt you'll be able to differentiate Weierstrass at any point.


12am: He's still awake. He wants to finish this one piece of marking. Then he answers an email. He's in bed before 12:30, but with thoughts running through his head, so it takes a half hour to fall asleep.

6:45am: The tradition of waking up before the alarm on a "Day in the Life" day continues from last year. This is a stupid tradition. His body needs to get with the program.

7:00: Alarm goes off. He's out of bed and into the shower within five minutes.

7:20: He's at the computer, with a bowl of cereal. Tweets out the latest episode of "Taylor's Polynomials" - it auto-published at 7am. (Find it here - race is suddenly a factor!)

7:50: Leaving home. A little bit earlier than normal, for two reasons: He was away Tuesday, so wants to allow time to catch up, and he wants to drop off his shirts.

8:00: CBC News on the radio. Mention it because they talk about the Federal Government's bill against Cyber Bullying, and this happens to be Bullying Prevention Week in Ontario. (There's a talk on Thursday. He doubts he'll have time to attend.)

8:10: He's at the shirt place. Seems they've changed their hours in the last month or so, don't open until 8:30am. Close at 7pm. What are the chances of getting back before 7pm? (Hint: He almost never drops off the shirts early, so the fact he was trying....)

8:15: At school. He starts by catching up on the missing day; all seems in order. Falls into the rabbit hole of email for a bit. Ensures first period is okay to go. Copies some files off his laptop that he'll want over next 24 hrs.

Having first period Prep SUCKS. Especially on Wednesdays and Fridays. He spends the first five minutes watching the student announcements; one of his last period students is a co-anchor. Today they're spoofing "Big Bang Theory"; student remarks that those writing the Math Contest tomorrow should give Mr. Taylor 1,000 pennies, or ten dollars. Har har. (It's funny because Canada doesn't use pennies anymore, y'see.)

8:45: Notices that courses on the board since Sept 6th have been erased, likely by substitute teacher. Thrown off stride. Recreates. Then he needs to create a quiz for MAP 4C this afternoon. Slams something together based on previous one, with an eye to the test he still needs to generate for Friday. He's normally got those ready a day in advance, so he's even more out of sorts.

Doesn't sound so great on the outside.
9:05: He heads to the office to pick up mailbox items and photocopy items for the day. He's lucky - last time, the photocopier jammed and led to a 20 minute struggle that made him late for his duty. Speaking of...

9:15-9:55: Library Duty. The librarian gets a prep period just like any other teacher, so teachers have duty slots to keep the library open on those periods. Can't complain about this duty - can actually mark sometimes, unlike lunch duty.

There's also a presentation going on here for a class (about depression), so less need to wander the library. He sifts through his mailbox items. Finds a guidance slip for a student -- from yesterday. Sub didn't check the mailbox. Fair enough, but now need to drop by the office again. Manages to do a bit of marking, as well as scan the Serial currently running in the Metro newspaper.

9:53: Librarian lets him go a bit early. Hurries to guidance to explain the missed appointment, to office to check on if can hand out report cards, runs into student in hall who was sick last week and is wondering about missed assignment. He talks to the student and is still on time for...

Two people still need to write a test from last Thursday. Neither are present. (One arrives late, and should write tomorrow.) A number of students still need to give in their summative topics! He gives a handout, then makes the rounds. At end of period, still not everyone has their topic, which was due Monday.

10:35: At this point, he remembers the schoolwide fundraiser about Typhoon Haiyan, which affects this period in the rotation. Reminds students. Then instructs about Correlation Coefficient and r^2 measures, based off handout.

11:15: Class ends, two students donate to Typhoon relief on the way out.

11:15-12:05 LUNCH: MATH CLUB
Wednesday is math club day. With tomorrow being the Waterloo Math Contest, our blogging teacher goes to make a schoolwide announcement. Despite that, only person to come is one of the two actual club members. (Small club.) Students gets a puzzle to work on, as teacher remembers he still has to reassemble slides for period right after lunch - 3U is being taught in a different order from last year (experiment that he should really blog about...).

11:30: A couple more students arrive.

11:40: Afternoon is set, but now students have some questions about last year's math contest - and money to pay. He deals with those aspects, can't remember everything about one of the questions on the fly, checks on the internet.

When in doubt, check the internet.
11:55: Students heading out, teacher decides food might be an option before lunch ends. He apologizes to the math club member for getting totally distracted. Response is "it's fine, having lunch in this room is relaxing".

11:56-12:01pm: Lunch (5 min)

12:01: Head back to office to photocopy a sheet that had been forgotten.

12:08: In class, students show a calculator spelling out something... slips his mind at this point, y0l0 ("yolo") was involved.

12:10-1:25: PERIOD 3: GR 11 FUNCTIONS
Happens to be the intro day of "TrigGate r=1", the most popular post by far on this blog. (Now over 400 views!) He's doing it earlier than usual this year though, and trying to integrate it into previous day, despite not being there previous day. And before that...

12:12: Student reminds him that she needs to write a test from two weeks ago when she was out with surgery. Realization the test variation (since that test was returned) hasn't been printed off. Go to print that from prep room. Get student set up to write in hall.

12:15: Start working through material, but student borrowed teacher textbook last week. We never got it back. Not sure where it is. Run to the book room to get one temporarily. Field trig questions from previous day, then into the unit circle.

Ultimately make Trig connections which seem to resonate with a number of them, hopefully everyone's on board by tomorrow. Only five minutes in the end to try questions. He's not pleased with how this went on his part, but supposes it could be worse.

1:30-2:45: PERIOD 4: GR 12 COLLEGE MATH
Seventeen of eighteen students are here. No, no, you don't understand. Don't think there's been more than 15 students present at once since mid-October. Not a slam on this class either - the last time there was perfect attendance for ANY class was likely over a month ago. This is going to be a bit hectic. Oh, and no textbook for this course... we're running two sections, and only have enough texts for one section.

Everyone in the room is on task, right?
Hit the highlights of yesterday's work for those who were away. Then a quiz, before the test on Friday. Unit is regressions, and identifying linear v. quadratic v. exponential models. They're still kind of freaking out about this. Some get to work, others he has to encourage. One girl's working on science but assures she'll do math before end of period. (She does.) Why do they still put the FIRST table column on the VERTICAL axis? This has NEVER been a thing!!

Oh! And there's a cake auction now on Friday for this period. Football team won locally and is going to OFSSA in Toronto, but that costs money. SO. In light of this auction now coinciding with the test, and losing tomorrow's period to an assembly, and student concerns, teacher is convinced to change test to Monday. Will find more regressions to do Friday, maybe. Whee.

2:45: Period ends. Time to enter attendance.

2:50: More math students come wondering about the contest tomorrow. @MathFitton comes by and helps field some questions, which is good.

3pm: First chance to visit washroom since 7am that morning.

3:10: He leaves students in class talking math, changes for Yoga session. (It's in the school, meant to help with stress relief. Not free.) Finds $20 in pocket (from lunch), puts it with rest of math contest money.

3:15: Drop by office to leave report card for absent student. He runs into fellow teacher organizing a trip for them, agreement they really need to talk about Edinburgh issues. Where to find the time.

3:17: First chance to drink anything all day, at water fountain. (There was milk in the morning cereal.)

3:20: Arrive at 3:15pm Yoga session, already underway. Not the last to arrive, a fifth person comes in a bit later.

 Ordinary Day, by Great Big Sea

Wait, shavasana is supposed to be done on the back...

4:15: Yoga session ends. It's taking place in the same room as the Math Contest next morning, so he starts to set up the room. Others assist, which is great, goes faster.

4:25: Change, head back downstairs.

4:35: Back in classroom; students are gone, piles of paper need to be sorted. Hey, screw that.

4:37: Back in prep room. Finish lunch while listening to @MathFitton and @JPBrichta talking about the PD session from the other day. (Something else that needs to be blogged about.) Difference between ACCURACY and PRECISION is brought up -- level marking is Accurate, but not necessarily Precise to a percent.

5:00: He shows a video to @JPBrichta. Takes the opportunity to tweet out about his web serial again. Also discovers he's still signed into the prep room computer from printing the test at 12:15 earlier. Derp. Is signed out.

5:05: Discussion about issues with simple interest and compound interest in @JPBrichta's class. This helps to put things into perspective for the day.

5:20: Enough stalling. He's back to the classroom. Organize piles of paper. Clean out desks (someones left candy bag, handouts). Discover calculator is missing... recall lending it to someone. They'd better return it. He then uploads lessons of the day to course website. Also updates website, and plans topics to end of current unit.

6:15: Back to office to do photocopying for next few days - student is away next week, needs materials early.

6:30: Principal pops head into photocopy room to say goodbye. Scares the daylights out of our overly focussed teacher. Brief conversation. ("Long day?" "Maybe slightly." aka 7 on scale of 1-10.)

Heads you win, tails I lose...
6:35: Back to classroom. Need to do so much more marking, SO behind it's NOT even funny.

7:10: Email break. Discover pep rally will be next week. Plans of one hour ago now already obsolete. Will need to tweak going forwards to accommodate. Also, United Way drive wrapping up soon.

7:15: Back to prep room to search for United Way form. Chat with @JPBrichta again about Level 4 exponentials question.

7:40: Phone wife. She's on her way home. Suggest just picking up food tonight, she's in agreement.

7:45: Back to classroom to do a bit more marking. Decide will call it before 8pm.

7:58: Check school voicemail on communal phone for first time since last Thursday, due to long weekend and being away. No messages. (Wise people do not rely on voicemail to reach teachers.)

8:00pm: Pause on the way out to chat with custodian. Topics range from the unpaid workday on Dec 20, to VLAP, to tow trucks that were clearing the parking lot early this morning.

8:10: Actually drive out of school parking lot, just shy of 12 hours after arrival. Actual work time, were this being recorded: About 10.5 hours.

Yes, I did plan to be leaving work around this time.
Granted, I had hoped to have accomplished more.

8:15: Stop in at Wendy's for Mushroom Melt. Former student asks if I recognize her! Says I taught her Grade 9 and 11 -- I *do* know she looks familiar, I'm lousy with names. I go with Kira, which is right! But I've likely spelled it wrong.

8:25: Orleans Traffic Circle. (Only hit it going home these days.) Wanted to stop by the bank, that didn't happen. Obviously didn't get my shirts, may never see them again.

8:40: Arrive at home. Brief chat with wife. Start working on this blog over dinner.

11:00pm: Finish blog. Start watching Jon Stewart while editing and getting images for this post. Multitasking slows things down.

Final post at 11:50pm. Final note about NaNoWriMo: This post is about 2,400 words, so more than 1,670 per day, but doing this every day would probably kill me. Didn't get to finishing task corrections as it is. I just hope the math contest goes well tomorrow. Oh, and me and Weier hope you enjoyed this slice of non-fiction! Feel free to comment below on whether you would rate this day a '7' or not.


  1. I also hated first period prep when I taught public school. Never quite enough time to get going, so everything's done the day before. Ugh!

    Also, yes on copiers. They suck. I'm fairly certain they're actually programmed to jam every 20-50 jobs (otherwise that'd be considered a problem, right?)

    Data Management class? What kind of stuff do you cover in this course?

    Yeah, about a 7 on the stressy-twitchy level.

    1. Yeah, and the other aspect of first period prep I don't like is on days when I have busy lunches, I'm effectively on from 10am to 3pm without any extended break. Then again, I do like the regularity, not sure I could do what you do - with differences every day. As to copiers, I've been pretty lucky with them generally.

      Data Management is Probability and Statistics, so (hitting the highlights): factorials, conditional probability, sampling, types of graphs, normal distribution and binomial/hypergeometric probability distributions. Also a Culminating Investigation they have to do. You're the second person to inquire this week. Maybe at some point I'll assemble a post about it.

  2. Wow. That is all. How you stay sane is beyond me. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Maybe I don't stay sane. Hard to tell what I'm up to when I'm asleep. Thanks for reading!

  3. Greg your amazing. Great meeting you at math PD day. Totally impressed with your commitment to your job and your blog(s).

    Stay the course.

    1. Likewise meeting you! Dare say you're more impressive, based on the video I saw at the Ron Bender Conference yesterday. Though I suppose what I lack in interactions and group work I make up for with said commitment?
      Appreciate the encouragement.