November 2, 2013


As first quarter draws to a close I find myself frustrated with my work flow. I always feel rushed, behind and overwhelmed by my pile of grading. I have ideas but forget to implement them, or do once and then lose them to some other more urgent priority. Some of this can be attributed to the panic the administration is feeling over inadequate progress after a year of being labeled an underperforming school. This panic is passed on to us in the form of more paperwork, requirements and initiatives. However, all of this is out of my control, so I need to find ways to manage the things that are in my control so I'm happy and healthy throughout the school year.

My school runs a block schedule and it worked out this year that I have a 90 min prep first thing both days. It's not been good because I put things off until the next day, knowing I have that chunk of time in the morning. I do use the time productively, but we all know that things come up and a couple times I've been scrambling to finish something as the bell rings (well, the imaginary bell, our system has been broken for weeks). So, I'm setting the intention to be a day ahead in my prep, that way if the bell rings I can save and finish after school.

It will be easier to stay ahead if I take the time to look at my unit plans more frequently. The district wants all the curriculum online, which has actually been good because it means lots of time for conversations about our units and sharing of ideas. For geometry the website has a list of topics, vocabulary and standards; this year we're adding in a suggested order (but are being clear with administration that we have no intention of being in lockstep). For PreCalc we are putting in all of that information as we go, but I have notes from last year to refer to. In both cases, I've taught the class before and have ideas on what works and what needs altering, but I need to take the time to look at all of that. So, I intend to outline the whole unit before starting day to day prep by looking at the online curriculum and my own resources.

Between things I think of, conversations with colleagues and conversations with you (my online math community) I always have new ideas I want to try. I simply don't have time to implement them all, and I need a regular reminder of that. If I try everything then I won't have time to follow through with any of them, and that's not good for anyone. So, I will be really picky about trying new things and follow through on those that make the cut. Note: this is not about lesson ideas - those can happen one day and be gone the next and I always love new lessons, I'm talking about procedures, classroom management methods and other such things that require continuity to work.

All that said, I've done tons of cool things this year that I'm really excited about. I will share some things that have been working in the next post. But before I end this post, a final intention:

Typeset Nix the Tricks. Yes, I just wrote an entire post about how I'm overwhelmed with things to do, but this is an at home project, not a school project (I only do school work at home on Sundays) and this project is one that reminds me why I love teaching. I can give up a couple episodes of Doctor Who a week to work on this. As other people work on their novels for NaNoWriMo I will work on taking this database and turning it into something readable. There are just about 30 tricks right now, so if I average one per day I'll be golden. I'm working in LaTeX because I hate typing formulas in anything else, and it even has a book template, which makes this feel very official. Plus pdf's are everyone friendly. As I finish each chapter, I'll post it here for feedback - I want a lot of feedback. I've realized that it's my project and no one is going to write it for me, but I still need your help! This community is hugely important to me and I want to spread our communal expertise to a still broader audience.

What are your goals for the school year? How are you faring so far? The world wants to know.


  1. "I can give up a couple episodes of Doctor Who a week to work on this."

    Well, I'd say that depends what season you're on.

  2. I hate first period prep. I had it a few years ago, and this year I have it every other day (school has shifted to a rotating system). My problem is usually that I don't like to leave school unless I know I've got the next day worked out... and I can't always do that BEFORE I've taught the current day. I need to see how THAT goes before I plan tomorrow. So I stay late, then twiddle my thumbs the next morning. (Well, or grade papers, photocopy, respond to emails, etc.) But I never really get to plan on my prep - or if I do, I never get to do it stress free. Ugh. I hope your system ends up working for you. I do tend to have a unit outline going in myself.

    All the best with your continuity and Nixing too. I'll try to check back for feedback, though our quarter ends in the coming week, so I'll be scrambling for the next few days.

  3. Michael - Just finished regular episodes of season 4 and have needed some time to recover from the sadness before I start the specials.

    Greg - our block schedule means I teach at least one of each course red day, then can prep white day for the following day when I see those classes again. I totally agree with you that I need to teach first then prep, and that's why I only want to outline the unit, not plan it all at once. I'll be writing for Nix all month, don't rush back, it'll take me a while to finish something!