A day in the life of a high school math teacher

So, what’s a day-in-the-life of a math teacher, you ask? If you were to guess that it includes Facebook status updates, spiking volleyballs and playing video games, then you’re absolutely right.

Before your head explodes, let me explain. I’m a hockey fan, so I’ll give you a play-by-play of a typical day as a math teacher and volleyball coach.

Here’s a breakdown of one of my days from last week.

5:55 – Alarm clock goes off—it’s set to a local radio station. Usually one song comes on before the news, and, almost always, it’s a David Wilcox song. If I were a gambling man, I’d give it a one in three odds. Each morning starts out the same, just like Bill Murray’s did on “Groundhog Day” (I think my celebrity doppelganger status has dwindled).

6:30 – Wife (also a teacher at my school) is already “up and at ’em” just like Fallout Boy (any Simpsons fans out there?), so I eventually get out of bed.

6:55 – Quickly pack a lunch, head out to the car and wait for my carpool friend (who is also my co-coach) to arrive. With the three of us piled into our car, we begin our journey south.

7:10 – Usually on the 400 southbound by now. Destination: Bradford. Depending on the day, we discuss current events, sports, our team that we coach (senior boys volleyball) or we listen to the news in silence—all the while, lovingly sipping our coffee.

7:35 – Arrive at Bradford District High School. I’ve been teaching here for 8 years, and I’m impressed by how far it’s come. With lots of renovations, an addition and some new bricking/windows, the school is very inviting. I head into the staff room and check my mail box before making my way up to the math office.

8:10 – Period 1 is about to begin, and I settle in to teach my Grade 11 workplace math class about taxes and discounts. There’s some discussion about why cigarettes are priced so high and why they don’t go on sale. I quickly re-direct and tie in our unit from last week as to where tax money goes, specifically health care, and how it’s good that money collected from cigarette taxes can be used to help those that contract a lung disease (hey, I’m trying here!).

9:30 – Period 2 starts. It’s my prep period, so I use this time to mark my Grade 11 university math class’ quizzes from yesterday. I believe in quick turnaround with quizzes because this allows me to determine challenges that a student may have with a concept and helps me to identify areas in which the entire class has faced troubles. Then we can work on those areas.

10:50 – Our school’s lunch period begins. Most days I grab my lunch and eat with some staff in the staff room before returning to my classroom to provide extra help to students who come looking for me. I teach two Grade 11 university math classes this semester and have encouraged them to seek extra help when difficulties arise—I believe in walking the walk, so I make sure I am there to help. Some students come and ask some good questions, others sit quietly but don’t ask anything and others just need a quiet place to work.

11:55 – Afternoon classes start, and today is a review day for my 11U class. I start out by going over the quiz that I had given them yesterday so that they can see where they had difficulties. They then have a chance to do some review questions as I circulate and help them with various problems. I speak to a couple of students who are getting distracted by their cell phones, and remind them that this period is better used as a review period rather than a Facebook status update period.

1:10 – Almost a carbon-copy of last period, including discussions with students to put their cell phones away. It’s amazing the technology that is available today compared to “when I was their age” (I sound old!), but they can also be a distraction. I often feel like a cell-phone cop, policing the use of them in class. I think we, as teachers, need to teach appropriate use at an early age so that students know when it is a good time to use them. But for now, I keep track of how many times I encounter a student using their cell phone per class. It makes for interesting statistics for parent-teacher night when I inform their parents of their usage stats. I quite often see a decline in cell phone use afterwards.

2:30 – Classes end for the day. I tidy up my room (a bit—my colleagues know me better), put any marking that needs to be done into my bag and head down to the gym to start volleyball practice. I have a great bunch of senior boys this year. Having coached them for 3 years already, their routine is already established. So much so, that even if I get caught up with parent phone calls or after school help, I know that by the time I get down to the gym, the nets will be up and they will have stretched and peppered (warmed-up) by 3 p.m.

3:00 – Practice starts. Today we are working on passing, that was where most of our difficulties arose from our last game against St. Joe’s. It’s an intense practice. I give feedback to my players as some of my top hitters crank hits at them. I think we make some great strides defensively, so we end the practice with an up-tempo game of king’s court.

4:15 – Nets down and balls away, I head to the parking lot to go home.

4:45 – Arriving home, I do some marking while my amazing wife makes some dinner. (I ask if she needs any help, but she says “no”). I continue marking and checking my twitter feed (@MrWilsonMath) to see if any of my students are asking questions about their upcoming test.

7:00 – After dinner I wind down by watching a bit of hockey.  I’m a pretty big Montreal Canadiens fan, so my Achilles heel is watching their games on the French TSN, RDS (because not all their games are broadcast living here in Leaf Nation). Otherwise, I am either marking or pretending that I can still be a gamer by playing some PS3. Call me 12, but there’s no better way to relax than playing some NHL14.

10:30 – Bedtime. After a full day, it doesn’t take long for me to get to sleep, and I’ll be ready to do it all again tomorrow.

So there you have it. I get to include all the things I love most in life: teaching, coaching volleyball, watching hockey and, of course, spending time with my wife.  I like that teaching isn’t a regular 9-to-5 job, my typical schedule changes from day-to-day—except for that pesky David Wilcox doing his “Bearcat”.

Jason Wilson is a math teacher at Bradford District High School, a volleyball coach and a regular contributor to Sharing Simcoe. Read his bio here.

One thought on “A day in the life of a high school math teacher

  1. RajMistry

    As a prospective math teacher and hockey fan (although I am a leafs fan), this sounds like a great day/routine.

    Thank you for the perspective!

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