Area Man Who Talks a Lot About Teaching Teaches His First Full Day in >10 Years

Tweet from Dan: My local district had the fantastic idea to adopt the  @Desmos  curriculum, a side benefit (?) of which is I'm going to bug them to let me sub and no one needs to make a sub plan!

I have taught demo and observational classes regularly since I left full-time teaching but yesterday was the first time I taught every class for the day. Leaving myself some quick notes & impressions.

  • The setup. I taught four classes of students in three different rooms. Plug. Unplug. Plug. Unplug. Plug. Unplug. This works for me. I am the Mirrorworld Sarah Carter with how little attention I generally pay to the physical environment of the classroom. Another growth area for me, but great for modular subbing.
  • Teaching is tiring. The pace doesn’t quit. I brought a thermos of coffee with me and brought every drop of it home. I also forgot that you absolutely abuse your vocal cords for the first few days of teaching. Then they realize you’re seriously going to talk this much throughout the day. They relent, and you’re set.
  • Wearing masks all day. The best of a bunch of bad options, I guess, but I didn’t like it! Beyond the discomfort, they really shrink down the non-verbal communication channels. Hard to get a vibe check on anybody! It was also hard to hear and understand quieter students.
  • Prep time. I have taught three courses before and never loved the prep time that schedule required. Up until the day I left the classroom, I spent multiple hours outside of class every day creating materials and planning lessons for the next day. Not to plug our curriculum too hard here, but it was unreal how it let me spend so little time planning for subbing overall and how I was able to spend the majority of that time thinking about facilitating the lesson and all the ways students would develop their ideas about math throughout—teaching in a word! Whether or not it’s our curriculum, I don’t know, but every teacher deserves that kind of experience IMO.
  • Interacting with the youth. From my notes: “How is everything I’m saying an innuendo somehow?” Is there some kind of almanac I can use to keep myself up to date here or something?
  • What our plan for AirPods, please? Or even corded headphones? Music in class? Are we just going with this? One ear only? Only during classwork? Is this one of those battles we just aren’t picking these days?
  • I love the energy of a school. Love it. Where else can you find so many different people all growing so dramatically in every conceivable way? Where else do you get to work with such a huge cross-section of society as your peers in a hierarchy that’s nearly flat, everyone relying on one another in crucial ways, but also accountable and trusted individually with their own pieces of the overall mission.
  • Next time. My interest in subbing divided into roughly 25% field-testing our program, 25% giving some local teacher friends a break, and 50% because teaching is unique among all other jobs I have ever had. It’s only in teaching that someone with my particular interests and aptitudes has the chance to help people understand their immense value and power in a moment (being a teenager) where they are very actively sorting out the question “What is my value?” in a context (math class) where they often feel like the answer is “not much.” In just one day, so many students communicated to me that they aren’t any good at math and they were absolutely incorrect every time. “You don’t know how to calculate the angles in that diagram? Fine—but which ones look the same? See—your eyes are mathematically smart. That’s smart.” Or “You don’t know the scale factor. Fine—but what’s it between? Between 2 and 3? How’d you know that? Okay let’s call it two-ish for now. That’s good math.” There’s so much I don’t know how to do in this world, but I know how to do that. I have only ever created human connections of that sort in math classrooms. Nowhere else. For now, I’m happy I get to create tools and experiences that help other teachers create those connections. But I think I know what I was made to do and it isn’t obvious to me how long I’ll be able to go on not doing that.
About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.

8 Comments

  1. Reply

    An outsider’s question.
    How much of your teaching is devoted to learning how to be taught in in a particular curriculum, and how much for learning to anathematize what you encounter? Thanks.

  2. Reply

    All of this. 100%.

    This bullet point REALLY resonated with me and made me value my time in schools even more:

    “I love the energy of a school. Love it. Where else can you find so many different people all growing so dramatically in every conceivable way? Where else do you get to work with such a huge cross-section of society as your peers in a hierarchy that’s nearly flat, everyone relying on one another in crucial ways, but also accountable and trusted individually with their own pieces of the overall mission.”

    The last bullet point was excellent as well. Helping students see that they do indeed have mathematical ability especially when they don’t believe they do is the heart of what we do as teachers. Content is secondary. Belief in their own ability as mathematicians is Primary and it’s not even close.

  3. Reply

    It’s fascinating to hear this at this moment – I just informed my supervisors that this is my last year in teaching for a litte while. After 8 years in the classroom I need to step away, but I can’t help but feel like I’ll be back eventually. The burn out is just too real at the moment, the compensation to miserly, the beurocracy to oppressive.

    I saved this post when you wrote it, and the sentiment has carried me a long way – I suspect it’s also what will bring me back. https://blog.mrmeyer.com/2014/speaking-to-new-teachers-at-their-graduation/

  4. Leeanne Branham

    October 8, 2021 - 11:48 am -
    Reply

    This piece resonated with me so much.
    “For now, I’m happy I get to create tools and experiences that help other teachers create those connections. But I think I know what I was made to do and it isn’t obvious to me how long I’ll be able to go on not doing that.”
    Thinking that I am down to my last 5 full time work years. Do I really want to go out without having my own class one more time???
    But could I live that pace on a daily basis for a whole year??
    For me this summer, summer school was a great “teaching/kid fix”. But we’ll see what these next 5 years hold….

  5. Reply

    I’ve formally been out of the classroom since 2012 – but did a long term sub gig from Nov-May in the 2013-14 school year and had the fortunate/unfortunate luck to be 6 weeks into a long term sub gig when Covid shut it all down – 6 weeks in person followed by the mess that was online learning in Spring 2020. My general thought process is that you need to get your ass kicked by the job frequently enough to still be taken seriously when you talk to teachers. I’m always humbled/grateful for the opportunities.

    I’m with you on… I love the energy of a school – there is nothing else quite like it for me. In the before times I was still in schools a ton, just not as a teacher. Now, I do 100% of my work virtually and I miss it terribly. Here’s to a future version of work where I get back into buildings with kids and all that entails. Glad that you are able to make that happen!

    • I love the energy of a school – there is nothing else quite like it for me.

      Doesn’t hurt that you got to work at one of the best! Nice seeing your name around here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *