Back at school! But only for today!

It was MLK Jr. day on Monday of last week. In the afternoon, I started to feel a bit sick, and then it got worse. I stayed home on Tuesday, and tested positive for COVID then too. I’d somehow managed to avoid it, which is a miracle since I think most people I know have had it. In any case, I felt super awful on Tuesday and less awful on Wednesday, and slightly human on Thursday, and fairly good on Friday. However, because of COVID protocols at my school, I had to stay home the whole week.

Today (Monday) is my first day back. And I had some nice notes from students, including two in one of my classes who wrote on a post-it note “I just want you to know that we appreciate you. We hope you are feeling better. You are our favorite teacher.” It was extra special because I would not have anticipated these two students to be the author of that super sweet note.

I thought I was going to die since I’ve been so bedridden and I had to wear a KN-95 all day, and I was teaching all my classes today. But I actually got through my classes fairly well and it was lively and I didn’t get tired. I had the long band free so I used that to do a ton of grading … I had a bunch to do from last week and I only had done about half of what I needed to over the weekend. Shockingly, I had the stamina to do more grading! And more! And I even did something I was planning on putting off! It’s taken such a weight off my shoulders.

So I’d say a lot of good things happened today.

However, one of the best things happened this morning. Although our school COVID protocols say that no matter how I test, after Day 5 of having COVID, I should come in and teach if I’m feeling well. But I’m chaperoning a trip to Greece which leaves tomorrow, and the program rules say I have to test negative for COVID today in order to be able to go. And this morning, I did two different tests (different companies), and both came up negative. So tomorrow, I’ll be getting on a plane to go to Greece with a gaggle of children!

So even though I’m back at school today — hence the update on this blog — I won’t be posting for the next couple weeks!

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Polenta

Today, I made the executive choice: to go into the day deciding it’s wonderful. So I went through my day with mucho positivity and energy, and … it worked! My first-period class went okay (normally this section during the first period are super quiet because the kids are tired, and just aren’t a really talkative bunch, but today they talked). For lunch, we had polenta. Polenta is one of the most delicious things that our kitchen has, and today’s was glorious. And then during long band Precalculus, I was nervous I was going to run out of things to do, but we all had fun discussing what they thought would happen for various parametric equations that I was displaying on desmos… and of course, when I showed them this (below), it led to a whole new set of questions kids were asking.

Hearts

Today I was having lunch with my friend Sandra and I had mentioned that I think the younger generation makes a heart with their hands differently than we do (we put thumbs at the bottom and the rest of the fingers curled at the top to make the top of the heart). I showed her what I thought the kids did (middle fingers form the bottom of the heart and the index fingers form the top).

Then we went on a hunt and asked a bunch of kids what they do to illustrate a heart. And it was a fun mix of both, and also involved a lot of laughter.

Then we took a photo of us and another teacher, to send to one of our mutual friends who was going through some medical stuff today… and we made the heart symbol. ❤

Also, during our assembly period, we had a former student come back with their college acapella group to give a performance and their singing was beautiful and it totally put me in an awesome mood.

This morning I saw a colleague counselor friend of mine who told me they overheard a student I taught last year say some really nice things about me-as-mentor/role-model-to-them. I didn’t feel like I was really that, but if they felt it, I’m grateful!

Euclid’s Elements

I had a meeting with two students who were confused and I felt like the meeting went really well… like I conveyed through my actions that I appreciated them asking for help, that I gave them all the time they needed (even a bit into after school time), and I think they felt supported and ideas were falling into place.

I went to check if I got reimbursed for someone on our online pay system, and noticed that my upcoming paycheck was radically different than what I was used to (in the “this is too low!” direction). So I emailed HR with what I thought the problem was and they fixed it! But it was a good thing that I randomly saw it before the paycheck was issued!

I had a French teacher come into the math office with a student of theirs, who I also teach. They had watched a movie that involved the Collatz conjecture, and they were wondering what it was, so I got to explain it to them! Plus I got to use some of my very broken French from grad school.

A kid in my geometry class asked a really thoughtful question about postulates — basically wondering how we could build up all of geometry from just them… I don’t remember the precise question right now but I appreciated the curiosity they brought to the table… and it inspired me to have kids look at a translation of the beginning of Euclid’s Elements as part of their assignment for tonight.

After school today, I popped into the science office to talk to my friend. And I had a nice 5-minute conversation with all the science teachers there, and that brought me joy!

Going out for lunch

Today, I wasn’t into what we had at school for lunch, so I went out for boba (my first brown sugar boba!) and a Korean cheese dog. It was a DIVINE lunch!

I met with a student who was not getting what we were doing in precalculus, and they were also really bad with understanding radians. But after a 25 minute meeting, they were really getting things! And later when I saw this student in the hallway (on my way back from lunch) and I quizzed them: “What’s the cosine of 5pi/4?” and they got it!

I got a kickstarter email about this puzzle that is a 2 FOOT by 3 FOOT puzzle that made me die laughing in the math office. So during long block, during the break, I went to the next room to see my teacher friend who loves doing puzzles. I showed her this (see below) and her immediate reaction of horror was priceless.

Baby Hat

I had knit a baby hat for my department head who is having a baby, and so I gave it to her and she was very effusive about it.

I asked one of my department member colleagues what they did over the weekend, and they responded THEY GOT ENGAGED!

During long block, a student said when we were switching to our groups for the second half of the period, “THIS IS THE BEST PART OF THE DAY” with verve and enthusiasm. I know she was joking, but she said she was saying it to keep the energy up, and I appreciated that!

I got an email from a former student who graduated last year telling me about an interesting math problem he’s gotten obsessed with.

A student I taught last year (who I wrote a college recommendation for) emailed me that they got into college.

I got to observe another teacher’s class for the first 15 minutes of their class, and that was fun!

Advising Meetings

Today is an exhausting day. It’s Friday, and also my busiest day with classes. And thus far, some classes have been doing really strong work with the ideas, and some classes have shown they don’t have great perseverance (and when they saw anything slightly different from what they had previously done, started giving up.) Sigh. So that’s been a mixed bag. However, I did see one student see another person at their group try to catch up (because they were out the previous day) and they said so kindly “don’t rush! It’s okay! We’ll help you when you need!” and it was a small but sweet gesture I noticed.

I did have two advising meetings, and both were just lovely relaxed conversations with my advisees and I left them feeling happy.

At the end of the day, I went to the knitting club I advise, and we didn’t get out the needles/yarn and just hung out and talked about life, ice cream, and why some of us are vegetarians.

Today after school I have plans to hang out with two middle school math teachers, and we’re going to have a “knitting party.” (I learned to do the basics of knitting this past summer, and now I’m working on my fourth project… each time I pick a project, I try to push myself a little bit further with what it asks of me, so I can learn.) I’ve been really looking forward to that!

Yesterday, our “Upper School” held a belated holiday party. I was too tired to go. But the school got us all some really sweet gifts and I thought it was so nice. I picked up the gifts today!

Former students!

Today two students who are now sophomores in college came by the math office to say hi! One is doing data science and the other is doing creative writing and economics,

I was grumpy with my geometry class yesterday. I put them in new groups and everyone was so silent. Ugh. But today I had them create group commitments and then spent the rest of the period working and they were more lively and it restored my faith.

I returned some quizzes to some of my classes today. And one student, who I had marked with a perfect score, came up to me after class and told me I had misgraded their quiz and I actually had taken a point off for something. The level of integrity that this student must have, internally, to do that… wow. I just wrote them a very nice email.

I walked a bit of the way home today with my teacher friend, instead of taking the subway from school. And I took a short detour. And on the detour I passed by so many fun places I wanted to visit, and one I did go in and buy a mochi donut!!! I then did some shopping at Trader Joe’s and went home.

Spot It!

Today I honestly have almost nothing I can say. After school, though, I went to the science office to see a teacher, and another teacher asked me about the math behind the game Spot It!. I knew there was math behind it, but I had never really investigated it. And she was pretty insistent that we spend some time thinking it through. So we got index cards out, and spend 20 minutes working out some simpler cases and seeing what we could. Even though we didn’t come up with a lot before I got tired and wanted to leave to get home, it was fun doing some small-time investigative problem-solving!

First day back!

Today was my first day back after winter break! I have only a few minutes to type (since I’m going to see a musical tonight and I need to run), but today was a day of crazy tiredness. Around 3pm, my eyes were literally literally tearing up because I was so exhausted. (I probably got around 4 hours of real sleep last night because I couldn’t fall asleep and then I woke up every hour.) And we had an after school meeting that lasted until 5pm.

But:

  1. My classes were lively and so they kept me awake
  2. A number of students asked me how my winter break was, which felt nice and thoughtful
  3. There was a folded up piece of paper in one of my classrooms and it said “open me” on the front, and so I did, and it said something about how “You make the room light up with your smile” (or something wonderfully corny like that). So I folded it back up and I left it there for someone else to find and open up
  4. I got a lot of smaller tasks done
  5. On the first day of class this school year, we celebrated “New Years” and kids wrote their own personal resolutions. And today, two days after the calendar “New Years” I returned those resolutions. Kids totally forgot about them, so it was fun to see their reactions to what they initially wrote. One gave me a high five saying they had accomplished their goal (which was eat breakfast every day). Loved it!
  6. Students played a short game at the start of class with their new groups, and that went over well
  7. A teacher said they met with one of my students for an advising meeting, and that student was singing my praises and that made me feel good
  8. I got to meet a new student who is joining our class for the 2nd semester (they were away for the first semester)

I think that’s all!

BYEEEEE!