First of all, notice that the LAUSD -- just like the districts where I subbed last year -- takes an entire week off for Thanksgiving. This means that the last day of school before Thanksgiving should be Friday, November 18th -- or so I thought. You see, last week it was announced that Friday would be a Pupil-Free Day for professional development. The last day I'll see the students is actually tomorrow, November 17th, rather than Friday the 18th.
But why, you may ask, does this affect my blogging schedule? Well, let's think back to the "Day in the Life" project. My monthly posting day is the 18th, yes, but look at some of the other days when I'm supposed to post besides the 18th:
week before students arrive (a PD day)
First day of school
Day before Thanksgiving break?
Before and after Christmas break
State test day (pick one)
Last day of school
A day you work during the summer(this could be summer 2016 or summer 2017)
We see that the day before Thanksgiving break is a day that I'm supposed to post no matter what. As far as I'm concerned, "day before Thanksgiving break" refers to the last day that students attend class before the holiday. This means that I must post tomorrow to satisfy "Day in the Life" requirements.
But notice that tomorrow is Day 63 -- a multiple of three, thus a scheduled day off from blogging. All along I thought the day before break would be Friday, Day 64, not Thursday, Day 63. In short, a day I wanted to take off from blogging is now a day I'm required to blog!
To accommodate this change, today's post is now a one-day post, Day 62 only. Tomorrow's post will then become a two-day post, Days 63-64, with Day 64 referring to Cyber Monday (that is, the Monday we come back from Thanksgiving). And that day will be, for my students, a literal Cyber Monday as they'll be coding that day. Since I try to avoid posting on coding Mondays anyway, making tomorrow a two-day post gives me a ready excuse to skip posting on Cyber Monday.
Now let's look at that list of key posting days again -- one of them is Parent Conferences. Notice that this week, being the first of the new trimester, is Parent Conferences week. (In fact, today is our "long day" for conferences, with conferences as early as 7 AM and as late as 6 PM.)
This means that I ought to make a post this week for conferences. Well, tomorrow's post, which I'm already submitting for Day before Thanksgiving break, can serve double-duty as my Parent Conferences post! I just hope that at least one parent shows up tomorrow -- it will do no good to label a post as a Parent Conferences post without any parents. If no parents show up, then I'll go back and edit today's post and submit two separate posts -- today for Conferences and tomorrow for Day before Thanksgiving break.
With all of this going on, notice that I'm still obligated to make my monthly post on the 18th! But now this is no longer a student day. I could write a "Day in the Life" post about the PD meeting I'' have that day -- but then again, I already submitted a PD post back in August, and I don't think Tina Cardone needs another PD post. So instead, I'll briefly mention the meeting and then focus more on Cardone's reflection questions, just as I'll do when the 18th falls on Saturday or Sunday. Before the unexpected PD meeting, I almost thought I'd be able to make one post serve triple-duty -- post about both Day before Thanksgiving break and Parent Conferences on the 18th! But now I'll see neither students nor parents on the 18th. (The 18th now counts as my first holiday post -- one that I post during a break rather than the school year.)
Renumbering Cyber Monday as Day 64 rather than Day 65 now means that many of the statements I claimed about the blog calendar are now false:
-- I wrote that my charter school and LAUSD differed by only one day -- in the spring. Actually, there are now two differences between the charter and LAUSD calendars -- the first is this Friday, and the other is still coming up in the spring.
-- I wrote that the 18th will not fall on a multiple of three again. Actually, it will again at some point.
-- I wrote that there would be no more two-post weeks (Monday holiday, followed by Tuesday and Friday both multiples of three). Actually, there will be such a week again.
It also means that my original plans for this week have been altered. At first this is what I wanted:
-- Monday: Coding
-- Tuesday/Wednesday: STEM projects
-- Thursday: Quiz #4
-- Friday: Turkey Graphing Activity
But now there's no longer school on Friday. Instead, this is my week:
-- Monday: Coding
-- Tuesday: STEM projects
-- Wednesday: Quiz #4
-- Thursday: Turkey Graphing Activity
So now there's only one day for STEM projects. Actually, I sneaked in extra time for the seventh and eighth grade projects -- 8th on Monday before coding and 7th on Tuesday after nutrition (and again today after music during "advisory.") But once again, the 6th graders get the short end of the stick when it comes to projects. And that's due to not the Benchmark Tests, but the pre-holiday schedule.
Today all students take a quiz on the last topic they covered before the Benchmarks. For eighth grade this is Intro to Functions, for seventh grade opposites, and for sixth grade long division.
The "Day in the Life" poster whose monthly posting date is the 16th is Matt Baker:
Oh yeah, I remember this blog -- Pythagoras was a nerd indeed! Here is today's post from Matt Baker, the New York high school teacher:
Actually, though Baker posted this today and the 16th is his posting day, this is officially not his November 16th post. Instead, the date of the post is November 3rd -- and since the 3rd isn't his posting date, it must be one of his special dates. You guessed it -- it's his Parent Conferences post!
Notice that Baker is a high school teacher, and most high schools don't use trimesters. Then again, New York still has a Labor Day Start. So we conclude that November 3rd was chosen for conferences because it's the end of the first quarter in New York. We see that the first quarter on the Labor Day Start Calendar and the first trimester on the Early Start Calendar both end in November, which makes this a big month for conferences.
Also, notice that Parent Conferences week usually doesn't occur at high schools -- and it's even rare at pure middle schools that aren't K-8 schools. Most likely, Baker's school has only a single Parent Conferences night, not a full week.
Let's take a peek at Baker's post and compare his conference day to my own:
We have parent teacher conferences this evening. At our school we try to focus on having the students lead the conferences, talking about what’s going well and what they want to improve.
That's interesting. I don't think that would work at our school -- trying to have middle school students lead their conferences.
Students are supposed to see me to schedule a time to meet ahead of time, but for some reason I haven’t had many kids sign up yet. Somehow I have a 50 minute window in the middle of the evening tonight. Which actually means I’ll have a bunch of parents just dropping in. It’s good that the parents have come in and are looking to meet teachers, but it’s frustrating to not be able to predict which conversations I’ll have to have.
Now that is exactly like my own school's setup!
The problem with how we do conferences is that every conference is supposed to last 10 minutes, but then they’re also supposed to start one right after the other. So if I start at 5, talk for 10 minutes, I’m done at 5:10. But then that family has to be somewhere to start at 5:10.
My school is so small that all middle school students have the same three teachers. So the three of us all meet in the one classroom and have the parents speak to all three of us at once. We decided that it's too tough to have the parents sign up for specific times, so there is no rigid schedule for us. Of course, it's often the case that a middle school student has a younger sibling in the elementary grades, so sometimes parents still had to rush to another classroom.
Notice that Baker's conferences lasted until 8 PM (actually the last was around 7 PM). My own conferences end at 6 PM tonight, our longest night -- but they start as early as 7 AM (and the first parent doesn't actually arrive today until around 7:40 AM).
Even though I want to focus on Baker's conferences in this post, I couldn't help but notice the following from his description of the school day:
In Algebra 2 we’re teaching the Quadratic Formula, so we get to sing the song. We showed kids the derivation, but honestly that level of algebra is a stretch for a lot of kids. We’ve been flying through the Quadratics unit because it’s presumed prior knowledge. Except we don’t offer Algebra 1 at our school.
So apparently, Baker's high school actually enforces eighth grade Algebra I, with Geometry as the lowest class for freshmen. This is unexpected at a school in New York, a Common Core state. Notice that the California pre-Core standards encouraged eighth grade Algebra I, but even then, most Cali high schools offered Algebra I to freshmen who didn't excel in the course the previous year.
And of course, I know that "sing the song" almost certainly refers to the parody of "Pop Goes the Weasel" that classes often use to learn the Quadratic Formula. Since my eighth graders aren't learning Algebra I, that song won't be sung in my class. Notice that my class doesn't have music breaks this week, since we don't have 80-minute classes.
This concludes today's post. Tomorrow will be the first of my two "Day in the Life" posts, where I'll discuss my own Parent Conferences day as well as the last day before Thanksgiving break.