Monday, August 26, 2013

A Day in the Life of a High School Teacher, Part 2

The most visited post ever is this one from about five years ago in which I describe a typical day.  That was awhile ago and it’s time for an update.

-My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I’m really feeling groggy.  My cats were active last night and I was fading in and out of being asleep. 

-Mornings used to be the local news.  Now I drink coffee and read the iPad for a half hour.  The local news is just too negative.  Instead I check e-mail, then read local and national news, and if I have time I peruse blogs.  Then breakfast; a couple of frozen waffles, two eggs, and some bacon.  Then I shower while listening to the Sunday talk show podcasts; Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, and Fox News Sunday.  I’ll listen to the interviews if I’m interested but I’m more piqued by the news round tables.

-I’m out of the house by 6:30.  This year I’m leaving earlier because I’m more prepared.  However I can see myself getting to school any later than 40 minutes before the bell (7:30).  I wander into a dark room, unlock the doors, and flick on the lights…..then wave my arms like a seal on crack because the motion detector doesn’t sense me in there for 20-30 seconds. 

-I finish up the Talk Show podcasts and throw on my school playlist (appropriate music for school) and begin to work on today’s schedule.  It takes ten minutes to write on the board and with every class I’m pulling up files on my laptop.  In APUSH I pull up Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God and a power point, in Economics I pull up a Cookie Monster parody of Call Me Maybe to illustrate scarcity, and for American government I grab an Economist chart that shows marijuana legalization status around the world.  Then I head out to make copies.

-I’m at the copy machine with 25 minutes left before the bell.  My copying has dropped 80% easy over the last few years as I’ve adopted a combination of Edmodo, Dropbox, and Google.  But this is a court case out of a book that I want kids in Government to interpret.  Good bet we won’t get to it today.  But better to be prepared.  I then mosey over to the teacher boxes, find nothing, and head back to class. 

-Students start to wander in with 15 minutes to the bell.  One has an AP Environmental Science project that we discuss, only I bring up the Economics end of things and we end up with a little banter.  We have some fairly progressive teachers on campus and I feel like its my duty to bring actual pragmatism to some subjects.  I wander outside to greet my students for the bell.

-Economics starts with a quiz from the first section of the book, and as usual they do lousy.  It’s a simple case of laziness; some read last minute, others “forgot”.  Yet I hold them too it and most will figure out that they can’t skimp on reading when assigned.  We watch news and Syria is briefly discussed in class.  We then get into the fundamentals of scarcity, having a decent discussion about some basic problems of society and their relationship to scarcity.  It’s a well engaged class.  At the end of class some students complain that the podcast that I’m assigning for Friday is an hour long.  The bell rings and I head outside.

-My first Government class is a little dead.  You can tell immediately that the Monday energy is in full effect, so I beef up some hamminess to liven up spirits.  The news first and discussion about Syria and the National Zoo panda.  Then we finish up an assignment from Friday and move to the basic terminology of government.  Definitions are first, then we look at organizational examples and ask “Is that a government?”  The engagement level is a little better but I’m finding that it is just one of those days where only a half-dozen are really involved in the class.  That changes when one of my trigger slides comes up about interpreting the First Amendment.  First of all, 75% of my students don’t really know what the First Amendment is until I read it to them.  Then the debate begins about what the amendment means.  It’s a perfect jumping off point for tomorrow when we look a a case to interpret (the one I copied earlier) that involves loitering.  Quiz tomorrow on notes we did today, and the bell sends them off. 

-I wander into the communal area at the center of the building and talk to my colleagues about nothing in particular during break. 

-Third period is my full APUSH class, and since they have a quiz that day they are trying to take advantage of Silent Reading time to study.  It’s a good five minute physical presence exercise to get the point across.  One student in particular, while very bright, is dying to be the center of attention.  I crack open my own book, Cobra II, and do a balancing act of ignoring her attempts at attention while reading and occasionally making sure everyone else is reading.  Reading period ends and quiz time.  Quizzes are marginally ok.  The first two weeks of APUSH is about flow and many of these students haven’t found it yet.  I then read an excerpt from Jonathon Edwards Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in my best crazed preacher voice.  It has the desired impact.  Now some review of the summertime as we address the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment.  Lots and lots of engagement, although my attention seeking student is still seeking it, and in this class that kind of energy can’t be wasted on one students theatrics.  It will have to be addressed this week in a quick shot.  I talked longer than I wanted to in this class but the students seemed engaged enough for it not to matter.  Bell, and I wander out and get ready for my second Economics class.

-Although only 16 students, the attitude more than makes up for a lack of bodies, and I say that in a good way.  Quiz first and immediately some students want to challenge the wording on questions.  These students were the same as I had in APUSH last year so I’m already ready for the onslaught and the insurrection is put down.  Quiz scores, like first period, should be better.  News and not any questions so we jump into the Cookie Monster video, which is humorous and beneficial at the same time.  It gets the point across (Cookie Monster actually says he’ll sell his soul for a bite) and we jump into scarcity.  The students are much more engaged than the morning.  That could be the time or the dynamics of the class.  No complaint about the podcast for this period and the bell sends them away. 

-The center communal area is pretty empty with everyone starting to stay in there classrooms during lunch.  Two other teachers come in and we end up talking about all sorts of issues; some school related and others not.  Then a colleague comes in and mentions not retiring this year, and for the first time this year I’m reminded about why I detest the system of teaching.  Last year the middle of the salary schedule got a 3% raise.  The top end of the salary schedule got more than double that raise.  I leave the table before I say something snide and head to the door to greet 5th period.

-Some people don’t like their after lunch students because they have checked out.  Not my Government class.  News and immediately there are questions about Syria, the Rim Fire in Yosemite, and the panda (why is it news).  We then look the marijuana chart from the Economist and have an interesting discussion about Federalism, which dove tails right into the government basics power point.  I only get through half the slides I want to get through because the discussion and engagement is really high.  And it isn’t “hey, let’s distract him” kind of discussion.  These kids are engaged and retention seems very strong.  It was a good class.  Assign the quiz for tomorrow and they are out. 

-Prep period is sixth and I head to the office to finish paperwork and stop by one of the VP’s to ask a question.  He’s busy so I head back to my room and check e-mails.  A couple of coaches from around the state are looking for JV basketball games buy my team is already set.  That reminds me that I have a question for the Athletic Director so I head to his office.  He’s in a meeting so I talk to the Student Activities Director and get the monetary situation in all the basketball accounts.  Then I talk to the varsity baseball coach and we chat about whether or not Independent Study students can play sports now that they are considered in a different school.  They can since the school is on campus.  A couple of laughs and I’m back to my room.

-More e-mails.  This one is from our school union rep welcoming us to the new year and saying how excellent it was that people got raises last year.  Now my blood pressure boils.  For a group of people that preach solidarity, the Ukiah Teachers Association had no problem fucking over a solid majority of teachers to benefit  the self-interest of the elder membership, which happen to inhabit the power positions of the union.  Assholes.  I convince myself that unless the raise is equal across the board (minus bring up the newbs), I vote no in the future.

-School is out and I’m prepping for tomorrow.  I write assignments on the board and once again get my files ready on the computer.  I’ll prep quizzes tomorrow morning and input some grades.  After that I throw in grades for an online quiz and notice that some students that are behind in APUSH are not doing much to catch back up.  That will need to be addressed tomorrow.  I check Facebook and Twitter, grab my bag of papers to grade (which I probably won’t get to) and leave the school at 4 p.m. listening to The Mike O’Meara Show.  I came in listening to serious and when I leave, I need to laugh. 

-I get home to my wife leaving for Yoga.  I empty the dishwasher while listening to podcasts and then prep my news for tomorrow.  The Newshour’s Syria story is good and I tape the usual Newshour summary.  I skim BBC World News for anything having to do with the AP Comp Gov 6 (Iran, China, Russia, Nigeria, UK, Mexico) and nothing tickles my fancy. News done, make dinner, wife comes home.

-We eat pretty much in silence.  We are both teachers and we are both tired and today is a day where sound is just noise, and quiet is ok.  We chit-chat after dinner and she heads to bed while I check blogs and e-mails.  I browse the lousy Giants game and decide on this blog post. 

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