The fabulous life of Megan Schmidt

I read an article recently that asked when being “busy” became the new black.

When we ask students how they are, we always get the same answer: tired. Teachers, on the other hand can always be counted on to tell you how BUSY they are. Sometimes, you’ll even be lucky enough to get a teacher to tell you, “busy, but good.” As if to say, “I want to be polite, but get the heck out of my room so I can get something done!”

I once asked myself, if I had extra hours in the day, would I use them to be more productive with what I have on my plate? Or would I find new projects to fill up the time? If I’m being honest with myself, I’d have to say it would be the latter.

My day begins at about 5:25 am after about 45 alarm snoozes. I unglue the two beagles that have suctioned themselves to my arms and feet during the night. My husband and I leave to drop our daughter off at Montessori at 6:15. I want to take this moment to acknowledge how blessed I am to work at the same school as my husband. Getting to drop our daughter off together is a priceless bonus. I’m always drawn to the different building sets and usually sit down and play with her before we head off to our own school.

We try to arrive a little before 7am which doesn’t always happen.  Our school day starts at 7:25am so those 25 minutes can be pretty frantic.  Lunch goes into the fridge in the math office on my way to my room.  Then I walk into my classroom and wonder why I left it such a mess the afternoon before.  I then organize my paper stacks to give my desk some semblance of order.  I then need to run upstairs to grab copies, say hello to the office professionals up there, and hit the bathroom (very important).

We run a 5 period, trimester schedule, which makes each of our classes 68 minutes.  First hour is math recovery, which is about 20 kids that have failed a previous math course.  Their abilities are all over the place and their motivation to do mathematics is as well.  It’s a challenge to engage them sometimes, but they’ve gotten to know Andrew Stadel pretty well.  As Mr. Stadel talked about in his recent post, I too have acquired some puzzles over the course of the last 9 years and let this class work with them during the last 20 or so minutes of class.

Second hour is college algebra so I’ve got 7 minutes to run to the bathroom (I know but I drink a lot of soda).  This class is amazingly exhausting.  I’ve been just blown away by the mental power in that room.  When I give them a problem, those kids go AT IT.  I swear that the brain sweat is palpable.

Third hour is my prep period.  I have a million things going on during this 68 minutes since I am also the head of our department.  I never feel like I get enough done, but is there any teacher that feels like they are caught up ever?

We then have a 28-minute “study hall” time where kids can study, meet with clubs, go to the media center, make up assessments, etcetera.  Most students use the time to sit and chill out.  I don’t blame them; high school demands a lot.

At about 11:30, 4th hour officially begins.  This is an advanced probability and statistics course, and it has been fun to challenge these kids with real world scenarios.   These kids are naturally curious, and we often spend an entire class period discussing a problem and all of the statistics that come into play.  I end that class period wishing I taught it more than once a day.

It’s now 12:41.  Yep, the day starts at 7:25 and some of the kids don’t eat until 12:41.  Brutal.  I run to the bathroom, suck down my kale salad, and laugh with my co-workers.  One great thing about my department is lunch usually brings about hilariousness for one reason or another.   I really enjoy that comradery and I’m very lucky to be part of a department that enjoys one another.

1:17 is the beginning of 5th hour, so I will of course need to run to the bathroom one last time.  This class is college algebra again.  This is the last hour of the day, so the kids are a little more energetic but no less mathematically clever.

The bell rings at 2:25 for the day.  Unless I have a meeting after school, I leave between 2:50 and 3:30.  I want to get my T25 workout done before I pick up my daughter from her school.  (T25 is a great workout program from Beachbody.  Best workout I’ve ever done.)

Once my daughter is home, we usually build with Legos, play a game, or make a fort.  Bedtime routine starts at 6:00 so it’s not long before we are watching her allotted half-hour of TV and then reading books.  (I try to suggest Team Umizoomi everyday, but their mighty math powers are usually trumped by Minnie and her Bowtique.)

She’s asleep by about 7:30pm and we won the kid sleeping lottery, so unless it is an extreme circumstance, we don’t hear from her until we wake her in the morning.  Now it’s time to catch up on blogs, lesson plans, working through problems, or adding student feedback.  Since mathematics has also become a personal passion of mine, working on these things at night is enjoyable as well as productive.

I enjoy most of my days because I have a pretty positive outlook on being a teacher.  I have a strong belief that what I do makes a difference and that belief is what drives my passion for teaching.  When you show kids that you believe in them, there is a tremendous benefit to both you AND them.  Each day, I try to spread that to my students.  If they know that I believe in them first, they are more likely to believe in themselves and achieve more mathematically.

6 Comments

  1. Great post. For a few reasons. First, I like how you linked out to sites! I teach stats, and wasn’t aware of that infographic one – interesting. Second, some of those little asides I can identify with. Like how you mentioned math is a personal passion and would likely just be finding more projects if you had more hours… yeah, suspect I’m guilty. Finally, some of the great messages all through about students. Also it’s great that you get to work with your husband, and I’m sure you make a great department head! Hope you don’t have meetings after school too often. Keep on being amazing!

  2. I love how you have carved out time periods for balance in your life. I enjoy knowing that your little girl gets priority time in the morning and at night, and you have time for a workout. I’m jealous! I keep thinking “I need to get to the gym this morning…”, but my feet just don’t take me there! LOL I am amazed that you teach such a wide variety of areas of math during one day. Awesome! I’m also jealous of your passing periods – we have 3 minutes as we are a small school. Bathroom breaks are a luxury!

  3. I enjoyed reading about your day! You seem to have found a very healthy balance between family, work, friends (co-workers), and your health. I am fascinated by your first period class. Have all of the students failed the same previous math class, or just any previous math class? I’d love to hear more about this class, how you structure it, and the trials and successes that you have had with these students. Oh, and your closing paragraph just makes me smile! Thanks for sharing your day!

    • It’s students who have failed any previous math class. There are kids anywhere from basic algebra 1 to upper algebra 2. It’s an interesting mix.
      I could put them in front of a computer and have them do a Plato learning module, but I did that for 3 years with (no surprise) not a lot of motivation or success. The challenge was creating activities that are open to a wide range of abilities. I used visualpatterns.org, estimation180.com, some yummy math, some nrich. Basically, a variety of math skills structured around low entry, high ceiling. The main skills I was trying to hit was number sense and estimation. I definitely had the most success when I gave them a task that was sort of a puzzle. It didn’t always work and some of them were close to impossible to engage, but overall, I’d say that the break from what they think of as “math class” into something that engages them and makes them think mathematically was pretty successful.

  4. Stumbled on your blog tonight and read through your posts. Your blogs are very motivating for any field because your passion is very apparent. In addition it has given me some insight, as a kid who always struggled in Math I hope to have curious kids who will try their hardest. I hope they have Math teachers who are half as passionate as you. Kelly Fear L.

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