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MTBoS Mission #7: A Day In The Life

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This is for MTBoS Mission #7, A Day In The Life

In the past, I’ve taught in a very large public high school and at a science museum. This is my 6th year teaching at a small private school, and our schtick is that we teach almost all kids on a one-to-one basis (usually 1/2 hour twice a week). This allows us to flex to the student’s needs, even on a day-to-day basis; thus, my schedule changes each day, but is approximately the same on a weekly-level. There are some “group classes” for between 3-8 kids, but even these are tailored to match kids’ personalities (and avoid some conflicts) and skill levels. A lot of our students need to be here for some reason, which may include: has severe ADHD and can only focus for 1/2 hour at most; is extremely bright and is bored by normal school and wants more challenge; has severe anxiety and/or depression and needs monitoring or flexible schedule; is involved in Olympic-level sports competitions or ballet or equestrian events or motorcross and is frequently out of town for training or performing; has been in rehab (drug, eating, or behavioral) and needs a safe house; is autistic and can handle academics but cannot function in a 35-student classroom; has cognitive-functioning issues and needs help in particular areas but not special ed (and may have been mistakenly placed in SpEd at some point); was previously home-schooled or un-schooled and wants to continue that feel, or wouldn’t fit well into current grade-level status at public school; or some combination of the above. Not all of our students fit in these categories, but a large percentage do.

So, with that, here’s my Tuesday:

6am Alarm goes off… ugh. Remembered that last time “snooze” was actually “off” and bad words happened. Tiptoe around sleeping husband.

6:45 Dressed and all. Time to get the toddler up.

7am Toddler isn’t happy about waking up (wonder who he got that from…) Insistence for “WANT EAT CAAAAAKE!” reminds me of Allie Brosh and makes me laugh instead.

7:15 Take Toddler downstairs for breakfast, while I pack my breakfast and lunch. He’s clearly happy and starts singing.

7:35 Stuff last bite of breakfast into Toddler’s mouth. Stuff Toddler into jacket. Holy lots-of-traffic-Batman! Drop him at daycare, drive to work with “Wheels on the Bus” as an earworm.


my cubicle (a.k.a., where most of the action happens

8:20 Arrive at school, way later than usual. Catch up on the Twitter feed and click all of the links into tabs while munching breakfast. Update the Natural Disasters board with new earthquakes, cyclones, and flooding (volcanic eruptions are only updated on Wednesdays, so I do this Thursdays).


updated board… Scotia Sea is rockin’

8:58 ACK! First student in 30 min, and I have to set up a lab and make copies for chemistry!

8:58:15 ACK! I haven’t had tea yet! Go to make copies and get hot water.

9:16 Have copies of worksheets, lab handouts, and daily quizzes ready. No tea. What is wrong with me? Earl Grey Blue, don’t fail me now! Quick slurps, then off to wash beakers really well.

9:30 First student for the day. Just got her three weeks ago after long illness kicked her out of public school (for attendance). I meet with her Mon/Tues so her weekend’s free for competitive horse jumping. Physics HW’s pretty good, has good questions about accuracy. It will take a while to get this one to realize that it’s okay to ask about things outside the book.


the Individual Lab. whoa… need to put away dishes

10am Next student is tired, as usual (both Tuesday and Thursday mornings). She’s trying to graduate a year early, so is trying to cram in as much chemistry as possible before her heading to her successful career in hair. I reiterate the idea from her pre-calc teacher that she could be an engineer (we know she doesn’t want to, but we’ll keep feeding her the idea). We tromp downstairs to the individual science lab to burn things, to show that atoms have layers of electrons (at least, I hope that’s what sticks). My job involves getting paid for burning things.


the Group Lab

10:30am My Tues/Thurs chemistry group class of four kids, down to three because one is gone this week for competition. Group classes are 75 min instead of 30, so we get a lot more material covered. Daily quiz on previous material. Recap Lewis structures, trying to restrain the kid taking organic chem in tandem with this class and already knows everything. Introduce electronegativity and polarity, have kids help me with lava lamp demo (thanks, @andrewteacher!) They take phone-videos with promises of screen savers. Not enough time for the emulsifier lab!

11:40 Back to my cubicle to fill in the digital record book for the morning’s students. This is to record attendance and approximately course content.

12:15 Running late to the staff lunch. 2nd steeping of tea. Ideally, we’re all chatting about kids while eating, but conversations usually revolve around recipes and things heard on NPR. Today it’s some weird administrator issues, Microsoft Surface interfaces, and where to go hiking this weekend.

1pm High-anxiety student for low-level chemistry. I see her Tues/Fri. She’s also interested in hair, but is too nervous to concentrate on stoichiometry or things like that, even though she’s quite capable math-wise. She tells me about her rescue animals (down to only 4 dogs, and 5 cats, plus the lizards and fish now), and how she finally got more than 1.5 hours of sleep last night. Her Loop Loop planes worked pretty well, and she did a nice job of finding sources of error. I know this lab isn’t chemistry, but because our school moved to a new building 10 days ago, I still haven’t found all of my materials yet.

1:30 A half-hour break! I am researching Smarter Every Day, The Brain Scoop, Veritasium, and CGP Grey for my students’ benefit. 3rd steeping of tea (really just mildly flavored water now).

2pm Super smart 8th grader with ADHD and dysgraphia, here for general science lab. He finishes the Loop loop plane too, and thinks of interesting fixes to errors. I try to have him focus on the idea of not-always-one-answer-is-correct. We try to ignore the teacher two-cubes-down doing a Skype session with a student. His homework is to brainstorm new topics he’s interested in (he’s already requested nuclear stuff and batteries).

2:30 Disillusioned 9th grade with anxiety and ADHD for general science. Her Loop loop planes are of decent construction, but I’m working on measuring skills and metric system with her. 2.34m = 234cm whaaat?

3pm One more general science lab, but this student doesn’t show up. She’s in the process of withdrawing from our school, so I do my teacherly-duty of running around the building to look for her. I email her Consulting Teacher (the designated teacher for contact with this student’s family) with the word that she’s isn’t here.

3:15 Fill in the remaining student logs and attendance.

3:30 Register for Flinn Scientific’s website and watch updated “Right to Understand” training video to get OSHA compliant. Notice the periodic table behind the narrator is out of date. Also irritated with the certificate multiple choice questions (is it really important to know that the new SDSs will have 16 sections, or how to find info within those sections?)

4:05 10 minutes until the weekly staff meeting. Clean up my desk (hey, that’s what I call clean). Bathroom break. Find my meeting notebook and refill the tea water mug. Quick discussion with the photography teacher about the how to photograph snowflakes link he sent me earlier.

4:15 Staff meeting for the high school and other campus (K-7) staff. Discussion about how we assign grades as a school, and how to explain it to other people. Quick talk with the Tech guys about moving my computer within my cubicle.

4:45 Pack up stuff to go to daycare and home before traffic gets crazy. I’m a single-parent tonight while my husband is a guest lecturer at the university. This is my second (and last!) 15-20 min period that I’m allowed to curse during the day: some days, it’s necessary.

5:10 At daycare. Get Toddler, who doesn’t want to leave (awww… the teacher’s kid likes “school”!)

5:30, and beyond Get home, dinner (made by my husband before he left for the lecture), dishes, and Toddler time (playing, bath, reading, and bed). Quick time for planning for tomorrow (must find materials for potato clocks, a few descriptions on how ions move/work, review status of grading rubric for formal research papers). I won’t have much time tomorrow morning (it’s the busy day, with 10 individual students and a make-up appointment with another… lunch will be my only break). Catch up on my own interests, type up this mess. Bed.


12 responses »

  1. I love that you get to teach 1 on 1 like that! I also love that a school like that exists, especially for students in the categories that you mentioned. Sounds great!

    • It’s a different set of challenges from a larger school. This has way less grading at home (since I do it with each kid as I see them), but tons of prep for each class, depending largely on the individual, even though I have the same lesson multiple times in the same day.

  2. wow I’ve never heard of a school like yours before! Do the students miss out on the social side of school, or are there still common lunch breaks? I imagine that for some kids (like the ones who are there because they compete in sporting events) it might be hard if they don’t have the social side of high school too.

    • We don’t have sports teams or music, so kids can still do that in their local district schools. Because most classes are by appointment, most kids have breaks in their day and can meet up in the common areas (or the quiet study areas). Most upperclassmen go out together for lunch. The kids in the organized competitions are often very involved in those groups, and get their socializing in on that time rather than during school time.

  3. it sounds interesting where you work. I work in a public school, so I don’t get to see so many “specials” in one place. I hear you about the toddler. I have a 3-year-old and he fights me on almost everything. Thanks for sharing.

    • When I taught public school, one of my freshman science classrooms was 36 kids, mostly low-SES, 20 ELL (8 Spanish, 1 Japanese, 1 Korean, 6 Russian/Ukrainian, 1 Vietnamese, 2 French, and 1 Chuuk speaker), 3 with mild disabilities (ADHD). And the Korean kid was autistic. And we were trying to keep two kids out of developing gangs.

      I think it’s just a different set of “specials”.

  4. Pictures were a nice touch… and you’ve probably blogged somewhere about it, but “Natural Disasters board” has my eyebrows up. I’m not sure I could handle the diversity of a day like that… but then maybe I could. With the right support, like the proper tea or something.

    • I’m just kind of a weather-nerd and am mildly horrified that most of or students have little to no idea on current events. So, I post locations of current natural disasters (bonus: get some graphing/location/geography out of the occasional student helper).

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