This is a story that answers the question – “How was your day?” I often answer “it was fine” or “fun day with the kids!” because there a million different details, emotions, triumphs, and failures that occur each and every day. This day, though, seemed like an extraordinarily normal day.
The day begins with me arriving to school at 7:20, already with a knot in my stomach because I am ten minutes behind my normal routine. I need to put the final touches on my lessons and figure out what I’m going to do in my advisory class because, at the moment, I had nothing planned (not a good place to be in but something you become skilled at figuring out as a teacher).
I walk into the school and before I even get to my classroom a coworker says, “Hey Casey, can you come take a look at this?” He asks about my input on an awesome idea we’ve been developing since a district math PD from a few weeks back. I give him the my two cents without giving away that I’m internally FREAKING OUT over the work I need to complete before the kids show up. He doesn’t have a clue about my internal affairs but he’s awesome and the idea is awesome, so I stick around.
I walk into my class to prepare for the day. Quick – make the slides, write the objectives on board, and finish the opening question before the students…. “EYYY, MISTERRRRR” (first student enters at 7:39). Do my best to have a conversation, help kids with homework, as well as finish planning before class starts.
In my frantic rush before school, I made groups for the students to prepare for their upcoming test. Of course, one student says “I’m not working with that group.” I plead, I beg, I negotiate. Nothing. Okay, you win. I change the groups slightly to make things work. The groups work really well together! Next thing I know, one student has ventured to my desk and finds a picture of me with my family. “How old were you?” “Is this your dad?” “Is this your brother?” “How old is your brother?” – you know, normal prepare-for-math-test questions. After a moderately brief interview the students continue to work but decide my family should join them (see pic). Class finishes up fairly well. I feel good about the class.
Shit. I’ve got one period to figure out what I’m doing for advisory. Growth mindset – it’s my thing. Let’s go with that. I tell myself that I can create a lesson that will have to suffice for today, and I can always build on it in the future. The knot in my stomach is back. I watch a video and create an activity for kids that speak every level of English. Magic! (or crap, depending on who you ask). I run downstairs to print for advisory and find that my planning partner has printed the documents I need for the next day (thank the Lord). I run back to class, proud that I was able completely avoid a panic attack and produce something of value.
The bell rings. The phone rings. “Mr. Casey, I’m just calling to let you know class C (the class about to come to me) might be a little late because they all worked so hard I gave them all Huskies!” Huskies are little statements of accomplishments when kids are caught doing great things. I’m super excited. Let’s keep this positive day alive!
FIRE ALARM GOES OFF.
I don’t even have all of my kids in my class yet. Why is the alarm going off between classes? Did someone pull the alarm? Is this like Parkland, Florida? Dumb thought. Is it a dumb thought? Let’s get all my kids to my room, then go outside. COME ON KIDS!!! Okay, everybody outside. I don’t have my green paper (to hold up when I know all the kids are with me). Who cares. Let’s go. Student crying in the stairwell. “Are you okay?” We still need to go outside. “No, mister”. “I want to hear you but we need to go outside”. We go outside.
My students are all scattered at this point and I try my best to wrangle them in. “Mister, do you think mutations are good for humans or bad?” “What?” The student asks again. “This is not the time to ask me that question”. Student 1 hits coca-cola out of student 2’s hand and laughs. We get the go-ahead to head back into the school.
Class C – the class that was just previously ALL awarded Huskies – now resemble that of an unsupervised 3rd grade recess in my classroom. I decide it’s time for meditation. “We are going to try to refocus. You can copy down the opening, you can put your heads down and sleep, but lets be quiet and try to focus. Let’s take three minutes.” We take 6 minutes because I’m putting out four different dumpster fires happening all at once. (I’m actually quite proud of 6 minutes).
We finally start class, kids complain about groups but mostly work pretty well together! Granted, they didn’t finish nearly as much because so much time was lost to the fire alarm. Bell rings. Success! Then I notice a protractor glued to the table with whiteout. Great. “Who did this?”
4th period – Advisory
My already rushed, under-prepared advisory lesson began by the two culprits of the whiteout fiasco cleaning up one of the tables. Although it was rather distracting to start class I felt this small ounce of pride in making students repair the damage they caused. Advisory continues. It goes fine. Not the lesson of the year, but I’ve taught worse lessons.
12:05 I hold one student back because I notice that he has not been getting along with another student who is in his math class and in our advisory. He gives his side of the story. I listen and try to give him feedback. We come up with some positive actions steps which includes me touching base with the other student.
12:12 I get 15 minutes of peace. Pretty sure I just ate my PB&J quietly and stared at a wall.
12:27 A student walks in that NEVER comes in to lunch. Actually he is usually absent a handful of times during the week. He comes in and we chat about life for about 15 minutes.
12: 42 Another student comes in early to class (class starts in 8 minutes). This student is newer to the school and has very limited English at the moment. I introduce the students and start to clean up the room and get ready for the next class. I overhear the first student telling the second how important it is to try hard and that if you want to learn, you will. If you don’t try, then you’re not going to learn. My heart swells just writing about it. SO AWESOME
Bell rings and students show up. A student shows up and makes a game out of trying to throw oranges into a cardboard box. Orangeball? I give him a look, he makes the orange in the box and gives me an I-told-you-so look. Another student comes running into class dripping sweat and grabs some napkins. Students get to work quickly!
Another student – usually absent from my 1st period class – shows up in my 5th period class. He’s kind of distracting but he is being quite respectful just trying to get to know other students. “What class are you supposed to be in?” “It doesn’t matter.” I check the schedule and give his teacher a call. “He’s supposed to be in the office.” Ah. That explains it. I call the office to let them know. I pull up a chair and have him work with a group until the AP shows up. “I wasn’t even distracting anyone!” A part of me is sad because he was engaging well with students but I owe it to his teacher and whoever he was disrespecting that there was follow through.
Class is working so well I change my lesson plans and let them continue to work together and teach each other until the end of class. I gave out a Huskie to the other teacher in the room and tell everyone to write a Huskie for someone in their group because they worked so hard!
Class starts fairly quickly. I note that when the bell rang there was only one opening out (showing they are ready to start class). A student leader starts class, another randomly yells nonsense. Take a minute break, dude. The other teacher in the class tells me the teacher across the hall is also in the hallway taking a breather – that kind of day.
Mister, I want to take my test. Mister, I want to check my grades. Mister, is this right? I pause the class and tell them how great they are at asking questions and being aware of what they need but terrible at timing. I get the classes started. Some work better than others but overall it felt, meh to good-meh.
End of the day
Take attendance, start looking at tomorrow, look at and respond to emails, clean up the classroom. I try to get out of school early around 4:30 because I have tutoring at 7PM where near where I live, 45 minutes away, and a good chunk of papers to grade waiting for me at home.
How was my day? It was fine.