Reflections on a Busy Year

Yes, I’ve been busy before, and yes, all teachers are perennially busy, but this year has been different. The summer before the school year, I was asked to teach a second section of Algebra 1. The enrollment at our school increased (yay!) but not enough to hire another math teacher (boo!). I agreed, and am receiving a nice stipend to do it (which we’re pretending we don’t have and putting straight into savings). What I wasn’t prepared for was just how little time I would have. Teaching six periods, with no prep period at school, and spending most of my time before school, during lunch, and after school working with students has left me no time during the school day to do those other parts of my job that are important (if sometimes menial) – reviewing lessons from years past, preparing and updating lessons, reflecting on daily lessons, communications with parents, and oh so much grading and student feedback. I had a schedule like this in the past, but there were a few things that were very different.

  1. I was much younger, and had much more energy.
  2. My commute was much shorter (15 minutes vs. 45-75 minutes).
  3. I didn’t have any kids at the time. Man, having kids really eats up your time. Making breakfast, giving baths, story time, preparing lunches, putting the girls to bed. (Make no mistake about it – my wife does as much as I do, sometimes more, but we do try to split the duties evenly).
  4. I decided to implement standards based grading (which I really need to blog about), an endeavor that is mostly working really well, but needs some tweaks to push forward.
  5. For my Algebra 1 class, I finally decided to move forward with CPM, which has meant a lot of extra work and a very different approach to my teaching style.

I fully chose to do this, but it’s led to working from 8 to 11 or later most nights, while waking up at 5:30 every morning, working most of the time on weekends, mostly not blogging this semester, and committing to myself to not do this to myself again. I ‘m well past the point of being in danger of burning out (I think) in this career, but next year I want some more time for myself and my family, and maybe really think about doing that Desmos fellowship that I decided not to apply for this year (but instead followed longingly on Twitter).

So, for all you teachers in a similar position, I’d love to know what strategies you have. What do you cut back on? What do you just cut out? How do you survive? Any thoughts on how to be productive during commutes besides listening to podcasts, etc.?

Also, if you are interested, blog posts should be coming, in no particular order, on:

  • Some Thoughts on Implementing Standards Based Grading (So Far)
  • Debate #2: Discrete vs. Continuous Graphs
  • Debate #3: Do We Need to Prove Things in Class That People Already Proved?
  • A Great Geometry Question from a Student
  • When a Pythagorean Triples Warm-up Becomes a Class Long Activity

I’ve got a nice long train ride from LA to San Jose after Thanksgiving, and maybe after finishing my Asilomar Talk (11:00, Oak Shelter – Get Your Students Talking: Introducing Debate to Math Class, with Noirin Foy), sub plans, and grading, I’ll put some thoughts down. Thankfully, the in-laws will be coming with us on the train, and should occupy the girls while my wife and I get some valuable time to work.

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