I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. I’ve been some combination of sick and swamped for most of this school year. There are tons of lessons, activities, and challenges that I would love to talk about, and hopefully, I will find time to do some more writing soon with Thanksgiving and winter break not that far away. But there are three things I can’t wait any longer to talk about.
New Role: Lead Teacher
As I wrote about in my last post, our department head left at the beginning of the school year to take a new job (at the high school I attended). After much deliberation, I applied for and got the job as her replacement. As a result, I unfortunately had to say good-bye to my first period Algebra 1 Honors class, but on the bright side: now I only have one prep (four sections of Trigonometry & Precalculus).
I’ve quickly learned how complex and challenging being lead math teacher is. I have a wealth of logistical responsibilities (scheduling access to our computer cart, taking inventory and purchasing supplies, ordering buses for the AP Saturday session, making copies for sick teachers), but in many ways, my role is also similar to that of an instructional coach: I run PD through department meetings, I do non-evaluative classroom observations, and I collaborate on curriculum documents and lesson plans.
Thus far, it has been very challenging and stressful. Because the role was vacant for five weeks, I’ve had a lot of catching up to do, which is doubly difficult when so much about this role is new to me. But mostly, the job is challenging because we are a very inexperienced department working with brand new year long plans and demanding initiatives.
On the plus side, this role provides constant intellectual stimulation. Watching intensified algebra and sheltered english classes forces me to confront teaching problems that I do not face in my precalculus bubble, and teaching teachers adds a new level of abstraction to how I approach mathematics instruction. It is interesting to reflect on how I am treated differently by my colleagues now that I am in this role, and I relish the opportunity to learn more about the administrative problems we deal with as a school and a math department. There are lots and lots of opportunities for creative problem solving, so I’m into it.
With so much else going on, Play With Your Math has slowed down a bit this year. We only make two problems during the first quarter, but it continues to be a project that I really enjoy and am extremely proud of. And now, in addition to reflecting about the experience on this blog, there is now playwithyourmath.com. On the website, you can see all of the problems we have used so far and access pdfs of those problems so that you can use them in your own classroom (one teacher is already using maximaze at his school). Plus, now you can play right along with us and our students!
A big thank you to Joseph Botros for putting the website together.
Being a Sick Teacher
I hate being sick in general, but being a sick teacher is the worst. You still have to plan activities for your class, but it is impossible to plan something that they will actually learn from without being there to instruct, answer questions, etc. In fact, I feel lucky if they look at the sub-work at all. If I’m trying to teach without being there, I’m probably making a worksheet, and then somebody else has the burden of making a bunch of copies (which as I said, they probably won’t do). Plus, missing a day of class throws off our momentum and sets us behind my anticipated schedule.
Last week, I was sick and missed a department meeting, which is awful since I now plan and run the department meetings. I am lucky to have colleagues that are willing and capable of stepping in with little notice and leading the meeting in my absence – not to mention the additional support they provided as I recovered the rest of the week. Thanks guys!
For me, coming back to school after missing time is wonderfully re-energizing. Being sick means spending entire days at home, alone on the couch and in bed doing little to nothing. The lack of activity is depressing, and getting back to school, doing math, and working with students is invigorating. I guess when it comes down to it, the worst thing about being sick is not being able to teach.