Well, considering it is now well into January, I guess I need to finish reflecting on 2013. I've come to the conclusion that if I don't do it in the next day or two, it probably won't happen. Last year, I summarized 2012 and my first experiences with student teaching and teaching in my very own classroom. It was fun to read back over what I had considered to be the most important and life-changing experiences of that year. If 2012 was the year of new experiences, then 2013 was the year that trying and challenging experiences that forced me to grow in ways that I never dreamed possible. I think one of the reasons I've been putting off this post is that 2013 wasn't a fun year. A lot of things happened that I haven't talked about on this blog thus far. Well, that's about to change. If it seems like I'm speaking very vaguely about something, it's probably intentional. :)
January 2013 started off with the celebration of Universal Letter Writing Week. One of the first things my students realize about me is that I don't believe in showing movies or giving them free days. We do math every single day. Throughout the year, though, I will occasionally take a day or part of a day where we pause our curriculum and create something I deem worthwhile. Writing letters of appreciation to teachers and staff members in our building and folding them up as origami letters is one of these. Origami cubes, hexaflexagons, and mobius strip hearts would also fall into this category. Algebra is important, but saying thanks every once in a while is important, too.
Towards the end of January, I had a life-changing experience in my classroom. It involved a student and a weapon. Nobody was hurt, but it's something that I will never forget. This situation and its aftermath turned my life upside down for months. Frustrations with my job and how certain things were working out had been growing for months by this time. And, this situation brought them all out in the open. There were confrontations. I cried, I yelled, I said some things that I probably shouldn't have, and I cried some more.
In retrospect, there were many positives that resulted from this terrible situation. But, it took me a few months to see those positives. Those were dark months, but through them, I made some amazing friendships with coworkers. Up until this point in my first year of teaching, I had been trying to go it alone. I thought that asking for help from others was a sign of weakness. I thought my principal would think less of me as a teacher if I admitted that I didn't have everything under control in my classroom. I couldn't have been more wrong. January was a month where I learned to communicate. I learned to accept help. I learned that teaching was a lot more enjoyable of an experience when I shared my journey, my triumphs, and my failures with coworkers. January was both a month of pain and friendship.
February was a month of reflection. I relived the events of late January so many times that I almost made myself sick. February was a month where I had to choose what was most important on a daily basis: my feelings or my students. As much as I was in pain over the things that were happening that I couldn't control, I knew my students needed me. They needed 100% of me. I poured myself back into my classroom and my lessons. This time, however, I decided that the world wasn't going to come to an end if I went home before all my papers were graded or every single copy was made for the next day. And, the world didn't come to an end. My early mornings and first-hour planning period were busier, but I was happier.
March brought with it Spring Break and a MUCH needed break from school! My sister celebrated her 20th birthday. I spent almost all of Spring Break sleeping and recovering from a terrible stomach bug that landed me in the emergency room on Pi Day after five hours in urgent care. I took an 11-day break from the Internet over the break, and it was refreshing. After returning from Spring Break, my students jumped immediately into EOI review for the upcoming state tests.
April was the month of state testing. I was a NERVOUS WRECK. The morning of the Algebra 2 test, I was pacing and giving my students last minute pointers, and I made them even more nervous as a result. 100% of my Algebra 2 students passed their EOI. And, my Algebra 1 pass rate, if I remember correctly, was in the low 80's. The results were good. My counselor and principal were THRILLED!
April also went down in the record books as the month I finally took down my Christmas tree! After I got back from spending Christmas Break at my parents' house, I decided to leave my tree up for another week or so in order to enjoy it. Well, you already read about what happened in January. Needless to say, I didn't exactly feel like taking it down in February. And, by the time March rolls around, what's another month of leaving your tree up? By April, I did force myself to take it down. I decided that there was no way that I was still going to have a tree up come summer vacation.
May marked the end of my first year of teaching. I even wrote a reflection piece on 50 things I learned during my first year of teaching. I took down all of my decorations off the walls. This led to rumors that I was leaving. I wasn't. I watched my first group of students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. I only new about 5-6 of our 32 graduating seniors, so the graduation was not as emotional of an experience as it could have been.
I might have overbooked myself for the Summer of 2013. I attended my first OCTM Annual Summer Conference. It was a blast! I served as director for my church's Vacation Bible School. We wrote our own curriculum that led our students through a Kingdom Adventure. Probably the best week of my summer was the week I spent in Edmond at the Oklahoma Geometry and Algebra Project (OGAP). It was an amazing week of Common Core Training! At the beginning of the week, most of us knew next to nothing about what CCSS truly meant. By the end of the week, I felt like the other teachers in the training were part of my family. None of us wanted to leave! And, we left with the confidence that we could tackle Common Core. We knew we had a lot of work in front of us, but we had been equipped with tools and support like we had never imagined possible.
July was a flurry of last-minute preparations for my classroom. I spent a week serving as a sponsor at church camp. Every summer, my church takes a group of 3rd-6th graders to the Kiamichi Mountains in Talihina, OK. I went three years as a camper (4th-6th grade), and I've been going back as a helper for the last ten years. This was my 13th week spent in those mountains in July, and it was amazing as usual. I also attended an AP Statistics week-long conference in Tulsa and a 4-day Pre-AP High School Math training in Tulsa. At the Pre-AP training, I was able to reconnect with the middle school teacher that I had done my student teaching with. I was busy, busy, busy!
I attended my first tweet-up. It was a blast to meet other local math teachers that I had been talking to via twitter! And, I went to my first minor league baseball game with a friend. (I did go to part of a game in the fifth grade on a field trip, but I don't count that.) Later in the month, I was able to catch up with a group of friends who I hadn't seen in over a year. While student teaching, we formed a sort of support group that met once a week for dinner and lots of venting. This was our opportunity to talk about the things we were too scared to bring up in our weekly seminar meetings.
School started early in August. Students claimed that my classroom was more colorful than ever before, something they had previously deemed impossible. I had a blast watching my students participate in The Marshmallow Challenge. I started teaching a new prep (statistics) in addition to my regular load of Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.
I made my Algebra 1 students take an oath. And, I started posting all the crazy things that my students say on my blog. Good Things became a Monday staple in my classroom. The stress of homecoming was very real. Student council is in charge of selling homecoming t-shirts as a fundraiser. I am in charge of student council. Therefore, I was in charge of all things t-shirt related. I took a group of students to a Chad Cargill ACT Workshop. I learned a few things from the workshop myself, but I never got around to blogging about the experience. Oops...
I went to my first Math Teachers' Circle with the lovely @druinok. Student Council attended our first District Meeting of the school year. We had parent/teacher conferences. The school I work at is notorious for low to no parental involvement. Last year, I had 6 parents (out of 65 parents) come for conferences. And, 3 of those parents are employees of the school district. This year, I had 51 parents! (And, I only have 85 students.) What changed? My principal mandated that each teacher give extra credit points to each student whose parents come to conferences. It looks like it worked! I've never talked to so many parents in my life! I talked to a lot of the other teachers, and they only had 20-30 parents show up. Apparently, a lot of students decided my class was the only one they needed extra credit in. I hosted an Algebra Bootcamp for students who failed the EOI last year in order to help the prepare for the PLAN test. Turnout was extremely low. But, I hope it helped some of my students.
In November, I celebrated my 24th birthday in style. My students brought me cake. We did math. It was fabulous. Over Thanksgiving Break, I made a giant coordinate plane for my classroom out of a shower curtain and electrical tape with the help of my mom and sister. I'm seriously proud of this thing. There was no way it wasn't make it in the year-end review!
I attended my second Math Teachers' Circle. Student Council helped put on a Veterans Day Assembly. I played bunco for only the second time in my life. I even won the prize for losing the most! I worked the basketball concession stand twice which turned out to be a lot of fun.
December was cold. We suffered the wrath of Cleon. We were out of school for three days. Some districts in this area of the state were out of school for five days. Including the weekend, we were out of school for five days. Since I live alone, that means I went five days and fifteen hours without seeing another human. So, in other words, December was the month I almost went insane. On the first Saturday of break, an ice storm hit the area. I spent Christmas with my parents and sister. It was fun! I spent a lot of time playing KenKen puzzles and reading. Relaxation at its finest!