[2016 Blogging Initiative] Week one: A Day in the Life

A day in the life: 1/13/16

6:30 am My watch buzzes and wakes me up. I have an alarm clock across the room that buzzes at 6:31 just in case I don’t wake up, but this way I have 1 minute before I have to wake my wife up. Of course on Wednesday she’s already out the door at the gym until 7:30 I shower, eat, and get dressed, all hoping not to wake our 1 1/2 year old son. If he wakes up, I have to change & feed him, which means I can’t get to school 15-30 minutes early and make sure all my plans are ready for the day.

7:30 Benji (my son) wake up just before Anna (my wife) arrives home and I spend 10 minutes with them before heading out. Benji still gets really upset as I’m walking out the door, which makes me feel loved and sad for him at the same time.

7:40 I arrive at school. Since I live on campus, it takes about 90 seconds for me to walk and get to school. If we ever leave this place, I’m going to miss the commute. A few students have already arrived and one comes in to ask me how she did on yesterday’s quiz. I get ready for the lesson today in Precalculus, which involves making boxes out of 8.5 x 11 paper and comparing the volume to the size of the square in the corner, so I need paper (easy), rulers (little harder), and scissors (I knew I had a box somewhere… 5 minutes later I find it).

8:10 First bell rings, student pour into class as I give them high fives @gwaddellnvhs style. Some students still grin, even though I’ve been pretty good about doing it every day.

8:15 Class starts. I pray and then I demonstrate, silently, how to make a box from 8.5 x 11 paper without wasting any paper. Here’s a picture.



We didn’t get as far as I’d like, mostly because students really struggled to come up with creative math questions after I showed them how to make a box. Even after I made a second one with different dimensions, they still took nearly 15 minutes to say anything remotely close to “Which box has the most volume?” I need to work on improving their creative thinking. We’ve done a 3Act lesson nearly every week and yet they’re still quiet after the think-pair-share, which often gets off-topic very quickly in the “pair” part of that. At least we made a table on one whiteboard and a graph on another (though only half the students actually put their “point” on the graph. Ignore the student names, ha.


One new twist this year is I had students figure out how many cubes go in the box, which helps many of the students to get a feel for volume. It shocked me how many students forgot how to find the volume of a box (rectangular prism) in Precalculus.

9:50 Class ends. I have 10 minutes to get 12 iPads across the street (yes) to my 2nd classroom before Physics.

10:00 First bell rings. Second bell rings at 10:05, but I don’t wait until then to start class since you can’t hear the bell from the classroom anyway. I just wait until all 12 students are there. Today there are only the 9 boys–all 3 girls are absent at the start of class. We start the mistake game and this is the first year that I feel the activity has been a success (I’ve tried it 3 or 4 years in a row now!). The primary thing that helps, which I can’t remember whether Kelly puts this on her blog post or not, but I would highly recommend, is to make everyone’s situation different. We did this today (this is the 2nd time in this class I’ve done it) by having students go outside and shoot a tennis ball into a basketball hoop. They recorded each other using Vernier Video Physics and because each partner pair shot from a different location and threw it different heights, they each started with different values, so it wasn’t as simple as “oh, that’s what was different from our board”. Some students had really neat mistakes, stumping the entire class, even though (a) it’s only the second time we’ve played the mistake game and (b) many students make these mistakes in their own work!

The second part of physics involved setting up the momentum transfer model and intro experiment, but we didn’t get to actually do any of the experiment since the mistake game took so long (which is OK!). [1]

11:35 The bell rings and I have 35 minutes to get to the lunch hall (we get a free lunch once a week) and get home (90 second walk, remember?) to eat with Anna & Benji and get back to class, but a student stops me and asks to see his Physics exam from last semester, which is in my first room of the day. I get it for him and do all the above and am walking back to school just as…

12:10 The first bell rings. I now have a “class” of 2 remedial students who both failed my Chemistry last year. Jealous? Well, this is supposed to be my planning period [2], so don’t get too jealous. Oh, and we meet in the computer lab because there isn’t a classroom free for me to have them in, so I’m kinda in my 3rd classroom of the day. These two students really, really failed Chemistry, so I’m taking a different approach in the form of 3 steps: (1) get them excited about science, (2) jump into chemistry via a modelling-like curriculum [3], (3) make sure we’ve covered all the parts of chemistry and that I feel comfortable passing them. Today they were working on this PhET simulation and playing the game. They both got 10/10 on all 4 games. I told them “let’s do a quiz on this on Friday” (their smiles faded), “where the quiz is you have to get 10/10 on all 4 games again” (they smiled a little more), “and you get as many chances as you want to make it” (they broke into huge grins again). These smiles coming from students who hated chemistry last year when I taught it. It’s amazing how successful students can feel when they’re not comparing themselves with others who just get stuff before they do. Here’s a list of “atom rules” that they came up with just a little prompting from me.


1:50 The first bell rings for the last class of the day and I move across the hall (again) to teach in my 4th classroom of the day. It’s Precalculus again, but since this mostly group is juniors (the other was mostly seniors), we’re a little ahead of the other class and we’re working on exponential growth. I showed them, and we have a good discussion about, this graph of the Ebola outbreak from 1.5 years ago [4]. We talk about why ~4,000 (a small number compared to the number of people in the world) people having such a contagious disease is a very frightening thing. They take a quiz on exponential functions and all work on an old practice AMC test for “fun” while waiting for others to finish. When everyone is done, they divide into groups and talk about the “homework”. I’m trying a flipped classroom, so it’s really about the guided outline they had to fill out and answer questions on as they watched a video I created. The topic was an intro to logarithms.

3:20 The bell rings to go home but I hang out and answer a few students’ questions. We’re supposed to stay until 4:00 (or 3:45 if you arrived at 7:45 in the morning) but our boss is away on a trip and I think the secretary and myself are the only ones in the building by 3:50.

4:00 I get home and play with Benji in a “cave” we’ve made out of our comforter and one of his pack-n-play cribs. See photo.


5:25 We go to Wednesday night dinner, which happens to be in the same building as where the students eat lunch earlier in the day.

6:30 I finish eating and help wash the dishes. There’s a lot of help this week since it’s the first one of the semester so we get done early and I go home at…

7:00 This is the time that I have to prepare for tomorrow, but I foolishly hop onto ESPN.com, among other websites and follow Wake Forest basketball. We lose to VT :/

8:00 We go across the street to visit our elderly neighbor as we do every night. We do that because he doesn’t have family that lives nearby, but he loves seeing Benji every night.

8:30 I go play pick-up basketball with several of the teachers and locals which include some alumni, whom I’ve taught.

10:15 I get home from basketball, take a shower, ignore the grades I was planning on doing cause I’m tired, and go to bed.

6:30 am My watch buzzes…


[1] Yes, I steal almost my entire Physics curriculum from Kelly O’Shea.

[2] No, this semester I don’t technically have a planning period, but one class of mine is 1 student and another is 2 students, so I plan around them while they’re working.

[3] I’ve never done a modelling curriculum for chemistry, though I’ve done some modelling-like lessons in the class.

[4] I did not create that graph and I’m sorry that I’ve lost where I got it from. Please let me know so I can credit them if you know!



Filed under Teaching

6 responses to “[2016 Blogging Initiative] Week one: A Day in the Life

  1. I’ve been teaching with you for a year and a half and haven’t gotten around to visiting your classroom!! Let’s make this happen. Also, my goodness you fit a lot in your day! I love all your activities, real life activities, and fun stuff!

  2. Ha—I scrolled down to leave a comment about mistakes on whiteboards, and saw the first note. 🙂

    Anyway, yes! In my class, we never do mistakes if everyone is whiteboarding the same thing. So never for a board meeting after an experiment, and never for the very rare problems where I have everyone whiteboard the same problem. We only do mistakes when each group is presenting a different problem. I agree that it would be tough to buy in the other way! 🙂

    • Oh, so you rarely have everyone even whiteboard the same problem! Ohhh, you just shifted my worldview on whiteboards, and I think I understand better how to keep all my students from becoming bitter towards the whiteboards. Thank you so much!!

      • Yep. Only if it’s a really tough problem that’s a big step for them—one where I want everyone to slow down and get on board together. When everyone whiteboards the same problem, it’s one I know ahead of time there will be lots of different wrong answers at first. We don’t put in intentional mistakes. Instead, we circle up for a board meeting and look for where we agree and disagree. Then they have to talk until they reach consensus. Ask questions about another board that disagrees with some part of their own work. Change things when you are inspired to do so by the conversation or the questions. Even if we all have different and wrong answers to start, that process almost always results in agreeing on the right answer at the end (and with little or no talking by me). 🙂 Let me know how it goes if you try out something like this!

      • Will do, thank you so much for the ideas!!

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