A Day in the Life: Dictated (Dragon-style)

Most of this post was dictated using “Dragon Dictation” for the iPad.  A super-handy app if you have an iPad or iPhone/iPod and haven’t installed it yet.  It is faster than typing and during the day it was easier to get to the iPad and speak into it, however I apologize for any words that have changed because I did not speak clearly enough. Sometimes this can be quite humorous.

0550: I wake up to my alarm clocks. Yes that is plural. I need two because sometimes I do not wake up to only one and other at other times I accidentally hit the turn off button instead of the snooze button as happened this morning.

0610: I finally get out of bed after the alarm clock goes off a few more times and I stagger towards shower, which I usually take longer than I really should. I recall my dream was kind of a nightmare about teaching middle school and help students weren’t listening to me. Note: this nightmare is based on the reality that two years ago I did teach sixth-grade. I still have nightmares about it sometimes, and I have a ton of respect for teachers who teach middle school.

0705: After eating breakfast and getting dressed and thinking about how I should have graded all of the chemistry quizzes, I walk towards school. I think of dictating my morning on my walk, but it is way too cold for me to take out my iPad. I make the decision to let students grade each others quizzes and one of my chemistry classes. I’ve come to recognize the importance of students getting feedback very quickly on assessments as I compare the different years I’ve taught and how quickly I’ve been able to do that. The concern, when students grade their own quizzes, is that privacy is not protected. However sometimes getting quick feedback overrides that factor as I believe the cases today. It also saves me a little bit of time even though I was grading and working the entire time after school yesterday.

0720: After taking 10 minutes to dictate my morning, I write the agenda for the day on the board, as well as the homework.

0725: I remember to take my lunch over to the fridge in the teachers lounge. I go in and remember that over the weekend since it rained and snowed is a big pool of smelly water in there. It would smell much worse if it wasn’t so cold. Because of that, nobody has used the teachers lounge this past week and we are continuing to hope for a new school. Here is a picture of how old our school is. I would say that we need a new high school, but my definition of need is very strict, so currently I just want a new high school building.

0730: I quickly type up the warm-ups I had in mind into PowerPoint so that my students can theoretically began working as soon as they enter the classroom.  I also upload the notes we took from last week in Chemistry and post what’s going to be on the quiz Wednesday and Thursday for Precalculus and Chemistry respectively onto my website as I promised the students.  However, Weebly is not working completely, and I struggle to attach all the documents I needed to. (I blame our network)

0745: I turn on some music to get ready for the day, and I decided against letting my chemistry students grade their own quizzes because there are so, so many empty answers and wrong answers that it would be difficult for me to watch them not cheat. Perhaps I could give them each others’ quizzes, but again it would be very difficult to explain what the right answer is. I’m still debating it as school gets closer.  As I get my notes organized for the day and look over them, I remember to put the worksheet that I have to hand back to a student in a specific place (to help me remember to give it to the student).  The student misunderstood almost completely the method of naming ionic compounds.  There were also about a total of 10 students who were absent yesterday, six in one class, all of which have to take the quiz that the other students took yesterday. So therefore I have to send them out of the room and trust that they do not cheat. I e-mailed another teacher and I think he will be able to look over and make sure they are cheating.  I finish grading the quizzes 10 minutes before the first bell rings and put all of them into the grade book so that at least during one of my chemistry classes I can simply hand them back the quizzes instead of having them grade them. I really want to give them a chance to retake the quiz today and Thursday, although they have another quiz Thursday so that would be very difficult for many of them.  I then used Dragon dictation to remind myself to e-mail a parent because her child is not working as we had discussed in the parent teacher conference, and I believe that she will make some difference and his work efforts.

807: I am a little disappointed by the new YouTube interface because there is no button to stop playlists from continuing on. I typically like to have music going when students enter, but I can’t if it will keep going throughout the period. I suppose I could walk over and manually turn off, but that’s one more thing to remember to do.  I end up leaving the music running at the beginning of class.

1st Period, Precalculus. There are several things that I want to accomplish in class today: (1) do a warm-up related to the quiz tomorrow, (2) go over the HW (also related to the quiz tomorrow), (3) review radians, which will also be on the quiz tomorrow, and (4) begin learning new materials so we don’t get too far behind my other Precalculus class.  I only get around to (1) and (2).  One frustrating thing is that I come across two students who still haven’t taken out their books 15 minutes into class and started the warm-up.  FIFTEEN MINUTES!!?!?!  What am I doing??  I went around and checked HW (while they’re supposed to be working on the warm-up) but I usually end up giving them a little extra time after I check HW to do the warm-up, and I have a bad habit of waiting til most people are done, even though many of the students don’t deserve it because they were spacing out or doing other things than doing the warm-up.  What can I do to help them focus the minute they enter my classroom?  I’ll have to reflect more later.  We end up only doing about 4 different problems–I’m worried that the quiz will take a long time for some students when it really shouldn’t.

2nd Period, Chemistry.  Here’s what I want to accomplish in this class: (1) do a warm-up related to the quiz on Thursday, (2) check the HW (also related to the quiz on Thursday–do you see a theme here?), (3) have students grade each other’s quizzes (from yesterday), (4) do some more practice problems for the quiz on Thursday, and (5) continue with the notes that we started yesterday and are not related the the quiz (on Thursday).  We only got through (1), (2), and (3), and sort-of (4) via (2) (I made up a few examples on the fly to see if they understood what I had done while going over the HW).  No, I don’t normally assign two quizzes a week, but we didn’t have school Friday because our soccer team made it to the semifinals (weird, right?), so it got pushed back to Monday.  Also, naming Ionic compounds can get confusing if we just talked about naming Covalent compounds, so I wanted to make sure we hadn’t talked about the latter before quizzing on the former.  There will be plenty of time on the test later for them to get confused about those two. I ran out of time at the end of class. Chemistry ended with me giving them a problem, which usually doesn’t happen because I have a timekeeper who tells me when there are five minutes left in class. She did this but I continue teaching and ran out of time because I lost track of “we only have 5 minutes left”. I also promised students that they could retake the quizzes at lunch so I have to print off 38 copies of quizzes but I need all alter slightly so that they can retake the quizzes. Not sure when I’ll do that. Maybe during physics (I actually forgot to during Physics, even though I had the thought “I know there’s something I told myself that I would do now…”)

0950: Break between 2nd and 3rd period. I input attendance since I haven’t done it yet into the computer system.  We really should be doing it during class, but I find I just don’t have time, and I keep track of it on a clip-board so I can do it later if I forget (which is 100% of the time these days)  I also have 10 minutes to prepare for the next class (physics) and change classrooms (I share the “science lab” room with the other math/science teacher).

10 00:I briefly stop by the teacher lounge to see if anyone is there. Most of the other teachers taker 10 minute break there but I usually do not have time to since it is only my second year of teaching these subjects. I arrive in physics and have a little time to set up and think about what problems I want to show the students. I should stop dictating now because I will run out of time if I don’t work now.  Side note: I didn’t notice that my problem student from second period was missing until I put in the attendance. It is usually a pretty busy day when that happens.

3rd Period, Physics.  Class runs smoothly.  I meant to create a problem ahead of time for them to practice 2-D projectile problems, but I forgot and had to make one up as we went along.  Fortunately I’m getting good at those.  For the last 1/2 of class we go to the computer lab and work on the handout I created yesterday.  Some students finish it completely just as the bell rings, while others have a ways to go.  I feel like it was time well spent and I hope they understand acceleration and velocity just a little bit more.

4th Period, Chemistry.  This class is fun because it is smaller than 2nd period, I’ve already taught Chemistry that day, and it has all of my brightest students from Precalculus (scheduling of a small school).  We have fun, even when taking notes, and I get through (1), (2), (4), and (5) from above.  (Remember, I graded their quizzes, so they didn’t have to grade them–I’m not sure why I started with 4th period).

1149: Class lets out and I am late to chapel (every Tuesday and Friday) because I have to make a quiz so students can retake it during lunch. I feel little bad because we are supposed to be setting examples of being in chapel and not doing other things, and I enjoy chapel with the students–it is one of the unique things that we get to do here at a Christian school. However, the students really need to retake the quizzes and I didn’t have another one set up yet, so I really needed to make it. I was also beginning to grow weak from talking too much in my classes and I felt a strain on my vocal chords towards the end of fourth period. We’ll see if I have time to eat lunch during lunch hour today because I have to hold tutoring during lunch. That is a whole other story:

So last year we had tutoring after school (we received funds from the state to hold a program) which helped the needy students tremendously.  This year the government changed the policy and ran a check to see “how well our students were doing”.  They passed (which means that the after-school program was working) and because of this, decided “you guys don’t need after-school funding any more!”  Derp de derp.  SO, we do longer have an after-school program, and instead I wanted to offer tutoring to my students (some who live an hour away from school) and the best time to do that is during lunch.  I’ve found Tuesday and Thursday to be the best days when fitting into our schedule here, so every Tuesday and Thursday, I sit in my classroom while anywhere from 10 to 30 students join me and work on things.  I have tutors who earn points because they come and help out other students which is helpful for me. However I still I’m usually stretched between trying to give students re-tests on quizzes, teaching them what they missed because they were absent, or just trying to eat my lunch. This time, I managed to eat most my lunch and will be will snack on the rest later during my planning period.

5th Period, Precalculus.  The class goes well as it almost always does because I have very few students and they are the top in their class. It is a fun class to teach and we get through it even though I am winging most of the problems and figuring out how to do them on-the-fly. I know, I know, not good teaching practice, but I didn’t have time because of the other quizzes I needed to grade, and the students get to see me solving the and learn from that as well, which I think is often helpful.  This stuff is so fun for me, I really enjoy working with them anyways.  Plus, they are way ahead of the other class and anything that I can do to “slow them down” (read: give them more practice) is good.

Sixth hour is my planning period, and is usually my time to rest and catch up mentally. I was partway through checking my e-mails when my TA shows up and lets me know that he can help me already. That is actually wonderful news because he usually only helps during seventh hour. Between the two of us, we input the rest of my grades for the week and for the first time in nearly a month I am caught up on grades. Yay!

Seventh hour I spend helping some students in my study hall work on their chemistry because they did not understand what we’ve done class twice now. I do get excited, though when they start to show that they understand the material. They’re good kids and I do hope that they do well on their quiz on Thursday. I also spent seventh hour typing up a letter recommendation for a student who gave this to me about a week and a half ago. Not a lot of time, but I should have done it before now. The maximum is 2000 words and although I’ve typed a letter of recommendation before for the student, it was only 360 words. I guess I have some more to type. Hopefully I’ll get the post this on my blog before too long.

1520: The bell rings and I am talking about Google and other technology with the other math and science teacher which often happens after school (he’s a Mac person and I prefer Linux, so we jab at each other a bit–all in good humor). Around 4 o’clock he leaves and I am left here typing up what I’ve done for the day.  I lied earlier, I still have a few more papers to grade, but I am much further than I was earlier today. I am very fortunate to have a TA at the school. I do not know what I would do if I did not have that help.  He helps me manage my participation points, and has saved me hours of busy-work that otherwise I don’t know when would get done.  I am worried about going to another school eventually where I won’t have that help!

As I leave for the day I realize that I forgot to tell my seventh period study hall to put up the chairs. I tried to be as helpful as possible for the janitor because he works so hard and is paid so little, but without my two special-needs children (they were in Albuquerque for a doctor’s appointment), I usually forget to do that.  They are so good at remembering things like that and are so helpful and friendly, even though they can be a handful at times.

When I get home, I noticed that 13 Dropbox files were changed. (It tell because I turned on my computer and it downloads the files I worked on throughout the day.)  That means I created or edited/changed 13 different files throughout the day.  Thirteen files?!?  I can probably only count 2 or 3 of them, but it’s often the case that I did a bunch of things and made a bunch of small edits that I didn’t even think about.  Thankfully Dropbox keeps all my papers synced so that I don’t have the additional headache of e-mailing myself all the changes throughout the day.  (No, I’m not advertising for Dropbox, but you should get it if you don’t yet!)

As I look back on the day, one of the toughest things I think that I have to do is switch so quickly between subjects and between types of problems.  Fortunately discipline is not quite so big a worry as the vast majority of my students behave.  But especially during tutoring when I am going back and forth between Chemistry and Precalculus, sometimes every 15 seconds, it can get muddling to look back and think about.  No wonder I’m so shell-shocked when I get home (which is when I have to create new assessments, grade previous ones, and think about contacting parents, etc.

Wow, that was a lot more than I intended to put (thanks to Dragon Dictation, it didn’t take too long) and now I should really go write this letter of recommendation.  Thanks if you made it this far!

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2 Comments

Filed under Teaching

2 responses to “A Day in the Life: Dictated (Dragon-style)

  1. Thanks for participating! Counting the number of dropbox files I edit per day is a great way of keeping track of what I accomplish. Thanks for the idea!

  2. It’s interesting reading about your changing plans throughout the day. I do this, too. Quick feedback is super duper important, agreed!

    While I rarely do a trade-and-grade, I have become a big fan of Frank Noschese’s method: http://noschese180.posterous.com/day-22-quiz-day. Kids get immediate feedback on a quiz without a lot of class time devoted to the feedback-giving.

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