Year 8

The story of the 2013-14 school year (“Season 7”), and this blog’s original raison d’être.

Assorted thoughts, now that summer is winding down

…and as I prepare to enter year number 8 (if you round up) of teaching…

My routine for the previous 5 summers has been to start (or end) serious prepping / revamping / etc for the upcoming year ~July 10 – roughly half of the summer. This will be the first summer in 6 years that I have taken *completely* off.

This will be the first time that I will be teaching a class for the 4th year (AP Stat). The *only* other class I’ve taught even 3x was Pre-AP Algebra 2.

Each year, I have had a different class for the first period of opening day:
2007-08: Pre-AP Algebra II
2008-09: Algebra II
2009-10: Geometry
2010-11: Precalculus
2011-12: AP Statistics1
2012-13: Statistics

The only school year in which I’ve missed days due to serious physical illness (aka, more than just a “cough” or a “sneeze”) was in 2009-10. That was also the only year that I taught Geometry. Not sure what that says…

And if my memory serves me right, I have not missed a single class period of Statistics. (knock on wood)

  1. this was actually 2nd period, as I had 1st period off that year []

The hardest part of the first week of school (for me)

After 7 years1 of teaching, you know what I consider to be the most difficult adjustment of coming back to school after a summer of chill?

It is NOT having to wake up early... nor is it having to make lesson plans... or any of that stuff. The most difficult part of coming back to school (for *me*) is:

Having to talk all day.2

More specifically, having to use my vocal chords all day.3

I'm not the type of person that likes to talk any more than necessary to begin with, but projecting one's voice (even mildly) for three 90-minute periods each day can take some getting used to.4

This is part of the reason why I enjoy drinking coffee in the afternoons after my classes are done - it feels good on my throat after a long day of talking / facilitating / projecting / whatever.

. . .

13 days until opening day number 7.

  1. Even though I started teaching mid-year in 2006-07, I did student teach during the Fall of '06, so I [sometimes] like to count that year as a whole. (this sentence has awkward grammar. my bad.) []
  2. A very close second is having to write legibly. []
  3. I'm not sure how many of my peers feel the same way -- based on the behavior I observe at most of our meetings, I would say "not many". -_- []
  4. Interestingly, I always feel that this is even worse on the first day back from winter break in January than it is in August. []

They tell it like it is.

Photo Aug 14, 9 58 25 AM

Let’s just say that this is not the way I pictured starting this year off.1

There was a student up on campus yesterday that was kind enough to help me move a chair or two from my old room to the new one. His words upon seeing my new digs:

Dude. You got downgraded.2

And that’s what we love about kids, right? They don’t mince their words.

As a teacher, I suppose it’s difficult to explain to a non-teacher the significant attachment that we develop with our physical classroom. In a profession mostly devoid of “promotions” (either in pay or position), our classroom is one of the few things that is sacred to us. In other words, telling a teacher that they are being kicked out of their classroom invokes a similar “getting kicked in the gut” type of feeling that usually accompanies the words “it’s not you – it’s me”.

Photo Aug 14, 9 43 41 AM 2

In truth though, the new room isn’t all that shabby. I’m seriously considering giving it a paint job one of these next two weekends, however. I miss the old pastel purple and sunshine yellow.

The first thing I moved over this morning was my coffee maker.3 Thankfully I still have a room with a sink.4 Almost enough to make it feel like “home”.

Feels like home...

My schedule is also falling into place, but you can read about that over here if you so desire.5

12 days go to.

  1. in case you missed it, I was notified yesterday afternoon that I was being moved across campus to a different classroom. []
  2. on a side note, does anybody remember those old “DUDE. YOU GOT A DELL” commercials? []
  3. wipe that look of surprise off of your face. []
  4. at least for now… knock on wood []
  5. this would be a whole other issue, altogether… []

The more you know…

Some will tell you that teaching gets easier with each additional year of experience.

I would say that perhaps on the contrary, my job feels as if it has become more and more difficult each year. Perhaps it is because with each passing year, I become increasingly aware of the intricacies of our professional. Perhaps it is because with each year I become more acutely aware of my imperfections1 and shortcomings as a professional. And perhaps part of it is that the expectations I place upon myself as a teacher become weightier and weightier with each passing season.

Its like they say:

The more you know… the more you realize you don’t know.

Each and every one of the past seven years has carried its own unique, special kind of magic that I can’t even begin to describe in words. But oftentimes at this point in the year — depending on the minute of the day — I am either optimistically excited about the upcoming year, or scared to a cold sweat that this might be the one where the magic runs dry and I just totally suck at my job.2

Or worse: This might be the year where kids stop laughing at my jokes. 3

I look around at some of my co-workers who have taught for 20… or 30-plus years… and I am in absolute marvel of them. Knowing how hard I have pushed myself these past six, making it to double-digits seems almost unimaginable to me. 4

I’m not really sure WHY I held onto this, but it fell out of my wallet a couple of days ago.

Photo Aug 17, 9 29 28 PM

Worth a chuckle, and something I’m just gonna hold on to.

  1. being a perfectionist doesn’t help []
  2. the latter is probably irrational… but fear and anxiety usually are []
  3. this one is not at all irrational as my jokes aren’t even that funny []
  4. this is why I forced myself to take this entire summer off, because I knew I would probably otherwise run myself into the ground at some point []

Opening Day, First Period(s)

I’m about to start my 8th year of teaching.

This is utter madness, considering how it feels like yesterday I was scared I wouldn’t last a week of student teaching.1

By some strange twist of scheduling voodoo, I’ve somehow managed to have a different opening2 class every single year.3

2006-07:4 Algebra I
2007-08: Pre-AP Algebra II
2008-09: Algebra II (regular)
2009-10: DB Geometry
2010-11: Precal
2011-12: AP Stat5
2012-13: Stat (regular)

Opening Day #7 kicks off on Monday with AP Statistics.6 This will actually be only the second time that I’ve had a 1st period Pre-AP/AP class.

The first was opening day #1 — August 27, 2007.


I was pretty freakishly über nervous that day and I don’t remember a whole lot, but I do remember that the kids in that first period class looked nervous that day — maybe because they could tell that I was nervous :). I also remember that day for forgetting to teach half of the notes to that 1st period class… they forgave me — eventually.7


That day started an incredible three-year run with Pre-AP Algebra II that I feel was the foundational arc8 for my career. While I feel that that was the most difficult of all the courses that I have taught,9 it was incredibly fun to teach from a pure subject-matter perspective, especially in the NCLB age where “Algebra II” isn’t really Algebra II anymore.10 11

. . .

It’s amazing how much our campus has changed since that first year. I sometimes think we have more turnover with our staff than we do with our students — and not just teachers either, but principals, counselors, office assistants, you name it.

. . .

The last time I taught Geometry, this happened:


Five days to go~~~

  1. that is a whole other story, for another day — maybe in September []
  2. in the years when I had 1st period off, 2nd period []
  3. I think that’s worth repeating: I have had a different first period class every single year []
  4. couple of things about the first year: I started teaching mid-year, which is why next week is opening day #7, and not #8… but also, I didn’t start teaching the Algebra I classes until the 2nd week of the semester, so the first class I actually taught at McNeil was DB Alg2 []
  5. I had 1st period off that year, with AP Stat 2nd period []
  6. so there goes this trend… sort of. Getting to teach the 4th year of a class is new as well []
  7. I don’t think it was until year 3 or 4 when I stopped screwing up on opening day []
  8. along with those first two years of regular Algebra II []
  9. when you take into account sheer amount of material, pace and speed and demands of the course, along with the number of good students that at times were almost ready to crumble — especially in years 2 and 3 — it’s not even close. Yes, I teach AP Statistics. I’ve taught Precal. Again, not even close []
  10. On a somewhat related note, I usually find it misguided or disingenuous when people suggest that Pre-AP or AP classes are “easier to teach” or “less work” than on-level classes. I’m not gonna write what actually goes through my head whenever I hear someone say something along those lines. Of course, I fully realize that not everyone teaches in similar subject areas or academic environments, so if your perspective as a teacher differs from mine, I totally respect that. []
  11. On another related note, I wish that fewer people would equate “easier” and “less work” with “more desirable”. I know, work smarter, not harder. But very few good things in life come easy. While I won’t get into the politics of it all, I really feel like the advent of the 10% rule have really messed things up. Sitting on the bench is “easier” and “less work” than getting playing time. Nobody wants that. []