Documenting my experience as a teacher with FLVS!

11 months later…

Okay… so 11 months later… wow I’m really not good at blogging regularly!  I need to add blogging to my calendar.  If there is anything that I have learned in the past 11 months … I have learned that if it’s not in my calendar it does not get done.  I live and die by my calendar these days.  So here’s the 11 month update…

Virtual teaching is AH.MAZ.ING!!!  It is definitely a LOT of work and I have realized that I am in fact a type-A personality.  It is so hard to step away and S.T.O.P. working when there are no custodians to kick you out of the building!  There is always “just one more thing” to do.  I was getting better at putting my work – life and my family – life in balance and then … SUMMER!

Yes, summer, that time of year that most teachers look longingly forward to all year, dreaming of sleeping in, going to the beach, traveling, curling up with a good book (Mr. Grey & Ms. Steele … wooo!), and of course the planning for the new school year (righting all the wrongs of years gone by), workshops, and professional development.  Most of all summer is the time when teachers recharge their batteries.  It is a much-needed break from the insanity that is the school year.

Prisoners of Time is a publication that, “resulted from the 1991 federal legislation that created the National Education Commission on Time and Learning (PL 102-62), whose sponsors included Senators Jeff Bingaman, Edward M. Kennedy, Claiborne Pell, and Mark Hatfield and Representatives William D. Ford and Dale E. Kildee.” [1]  It’s interesting to me that the idea to shake things up in education started in 1965 (see the letter on page 1), the report was originally published in 1994 and the version above is the 2005 reprint.   An abridged version of this report was emailed to me with my interview day instructions.  In addition to the other instructions I was told to read the report as it is “the cornerstone of FLVS philosophy and integral to our work.”  In virtual learning, because students are able to work at their own pace, they are no longer prisoners of time as they are in physical schools.

Why did I mention Prisoners of Time when speaking of the bliss that is summer?  Well, because in the virtual world summer does not exist as it does in the world of physical school because students are NOT prisoners of time!  In physical school at the end of the school year if the student hasn’t yet mastered the standards they are assigned a failing grade and have to repeat the course, in the virtual world given the same scenario, the student continues working until they master the standards and are assigned the grade they earn.  During the 8 – 9 weeks of summer I have students (some who were assigned a D or F at the end of their 180 days in the course and others wanting to get ahead) trying to complete a course that is paced out for 32 – 36 weeks.  So instead of completing 5 assignments per week their task is to complete 21 – 22 assignments per week and now multiply that not by the 150 students that I normally have but by the load of 175 students (upped due to a waiting list for the course of over 2000 students – our course is VERY popular during the summer) and you have one very busy summer!

Life balance is OUT. THE. WINDOW.

Here’s the craziest part… I still LOVE my job!  First was the insanity of senior season, then closing out the school year and now … the insanity of summer.  The one thing that I know is that when August rolls around in a little less than a month and I start to get loaded with kids needed to complete the course in 32 – 36 weeks that I am going to feel as though I am on vacation!

I was told that the learning curve for this job was one full year, and nothing could be more true.  I am looking forward to that time of year but for now, I’m managing to keep my head above water by clearing my grading every day.  I’m nervous about catching up after this 5 day respite we were given for the Fourth of July, however in the meantime I am enjoying the downtime.  Today, I fixed two of the computers in my house, had lunch with one of my FLVS colleagues and her daughter, watched some TV and did some reading.  All in all, a very relaxing and wonderful day off!  My Instructional Leader (Principal) instructed us to shut down the black box, step away and enjoy time with our families.  I didn’t finish my grading on Tuesday so I finished on Wednesday morning and shut the laptop down.  I have not touched it nor have I looked at my email, text or voice mail messages.  I am soooo tempted to peek and see how much work my students have submitted, but I have managed, thus far, not to.  It is an incredible struggle because I know that my stress level is directly proportional to how much work is in my inbox UNgraded.

Most likely, I’ll check it tomorrow and possibly do some grading so that I don’t have a horrible week next week. My routine is to empty my inbox on Sunday evening, pull my data from the previous week and get my progress reports sent or ready to be sent on Sunday.  Last week that meant going to bed at 3:30am on Monday morning.  I know how horrible that sounds, HOWEVER it allowed me to have an awesome Monday.  Not only did I sleep until 8am, but I was able to focus on my students, call parents, and tie up loose ends before the 4th.  Tuesday was not quite as successful due to a series of horrible DBAs (Discussion Based Assessments), but sometimes that happens.

So, for now, I am looking forward to the end of summer and the beginning of the “physical school” year and then Staff Conference in September!  I will be registering on Monday morning for conference and although I attended last year and it was awesome, I didn’t know enough to really appreciate it.  Now that I have nearly a year under my belt, I can hardly wait to be in Orlando at the Hilton with all of my colleagues.  I hope to blog again soon, at the very least before conference!

[1] Prisoners of Time. Rep. Denver, CO: ECS EDUCATION REFORM REPRINT SERIES, 2005. Prisoners of Time. Report of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning Reprinted with a New Introduction and Examples. Funded by a Grant from Washington Mutual to the Education Commission of the States, with Support from Learning Point Associates. Web. 05 July 2012..

Wow… what a week!  I don’t even know where to begin! … So… perhaps at the beginning?


I drove down to Orlando through a tropical storm to the hotel.  Why do people NOT know how to drive in the rain?  REALLY?   Oh well, the hotel was nice!  I was so anxious Sunday night that I really didn’t sleep well.  So, I was up at 4am in the hotel fitness room walking on the treadmill.  The hotel staff was surprised when I asked them to unlock the gate to the pool to let me pass through to the room.  I guess they thought that only a lunatic would be up wanting to work out at 4am. Oh well… I am not quite sure what I did to my knee that morning, but it still hurts…..smh….

Monday – NEO (New Employee Orientation) Day 1 …

So after the workout I took my time getting ready for the day.  I REALLY took my time, to the point where I ended up almost running late!  My shoes somehow felt too big so I had to run to Walgreens to get heel pads to put in them and cushiony things for the toes because I haven’t worn anything but flip-flops all summer except when working out and wearing sneakers!  My poor feet were dying just walking from the room to the car!  Also made a stop at Starbucks for caffeine!

I arrived at the FLVS – VLC (Virtual Learning Center) and felt as though I was late!  It seemed like everyone was there before me!  If you know me, you know how uncomfortable this makes me!  I arrived at work nearly an hour early every day for the past 3 years.  Partly out of necessity to beat the ridiculous traffic in the Jacksonville area and partly because I needed that hour to settle into my day in order to function properly.  So, showing up to the training 5 minutes before the start time was extremely nerve-wracking to me!  The first person I met was Tiffany who was seated next to me and also a math teacher.  We discovered during our introductions to each other that we live 20ish minutes from each other!  She in Keystone Heights, me Middleburg!  Go figure!  The training was… well training!  Teachers you know what I mean!  We spent a good portion of the morning logging into what felt like fifty-billion different systems and changing our passwords to our shiny new complex, yet easy to remember, secure passwords!  Do people still use the name of their dogs and cats as passwords?  I was amazed that we had to be taught how to create complex, secure, passwords, but then I’m a computer, math nerd…. so I may be  am ahead of the curve on that one!  For lunch we went to Crispers… a group of us just got in Kim’s SUV and went to lunch!  We found others once we got there and sat down to eat.  We became fast friends, each sharing the story of how we ended up in this place together.  We were definitely in this together!  I was a total spaz at lunch!  I overfilled my drink a couple of times and got soda all over the floor.  They were laughing AT me not WITH me about that one!  Total S.P.A.Z!!!!

The big disappointment of the day was not being able to take our new laptops with us back to the hotel that night.  We were informed that we would take them when we left on Wednesday.  We got over that disappointment at dinner…

Dinner time…  We were starving at the end of this first day of training!  We went back to the hotel, changed out of the professional attire that we are required to wear at the VLC, and met in the lobby … lots of us were in the lobby deciding what to do for dinner… our core group was formed at this dinner.  Kim, Nicole, Tiffany, Angel and I, we walked over to the Ale House (it’s in the same parking lot as the hotel) for dinner.  I know our waitress was less than thrilled with us at first, but she totally warmed up to our lovely personalities!  The guy sitting at the next table who was trying to work on his laptop was very distracted by us.  The best part of the dinner was when we decided we needed to exchange contact information.  All of us with the exception of Angel have an iPhone, so we decided to use the “BUMP” app so we wouldn’t have to all type in the info… should make it easier right?  LMAO… it was absolutely hysterical… the guy next to us was extremely entertained by us bashing our very expensive phones together and not really understanding how the app works.  After about 30 minutes of iPhone bumping we figured it out and had our contacts updated!  Back at the hotel, I talked on the phone with Emily, my friend who has worked for FLVS for a year now and missed the first hour and a half of the Bachelorette finale show while talking!  The conversation WAS really that important!

Tuesday – NEO Day 2 …

We were told that day 2 would make our heads spin and it was very intense.  I think that the training part is very difficult because you are working in a training environment on the computer and although it is similar to what you will do in reality it is also very dissimilar.  It’s difficult to stay focused on fake students and fake contact logging for me, but I did it.  Honestly the best parts of the week were the lunches and dinners!  So, Tuesday’s lunch we could NOT decide where to go.  This was the day that from the “going straight lane” Kim turned left AFTER the left turning light turned RED.  Which would not have been a huge deal except that she announced what she was going to do prior to doing it, and Nicole waited until she was going through the intersection to point out that there were, not ONE but TWO police officers at the red light on Kirkman to our right.  Wow!!!  We ended up at Jimmy John’s and had subs and then I got some caffeine at Starbucks next door while some of the other ladies got smoothies at Planet Smoothie which was on the other side of JJs.  Great location!  Something for everyone!

Dinner time… It was not just dinner, it was an adventure and a lesson in EXTREME patience!  We decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.  We had a group of 10 people.  While we were waiting for a few to finish getting ready the first car of 5 people left to go secure a table for us.  They had to have left a good 30 minutes prior to our departure, but when we arrived at the restaurant, they were walking in just in front of us.  Apparently they got lost!  So much for that idea!  The wait was an hour and 45 minutes so we had to punt and go with plan B.  Of course there was no plan B, so we had to come up with one!  Five of the group decided on Brio because it was right there, the other 5 of us decided on BJs Restaurant across the street.  So, Kim, Tiffany, Christina, Angel and I had the worst ever dinner experience… we really were beginning to think that we were on Candid Camera or some other reality show because not one of us thought in our wildest dreams that so much could go wrong with one dinner.  To make a VERY long story short, my pizza came out wrong twice(wrong crust the first time, with tomatoes the second time), Kim’s pizza was wrong but she resolved it by getting a side of BBQ sauce since that was missing from her BBQ chicken pizza entirely, Christina’s pizza was cold, Angel’s pizza, a cheese pizza, came out with chicken and onions on it … really?…. and Tiffany’s soup and salad came out with Kim’s appetizer and was cold by the time we all got our food.  So, the manager, Terrell told us that he would buy us dessert.  We were pretty okay with that because BJs has “Pizzookies” and we were drooling over them when we looked at the menus.  So we ordered our pizzookies and waited… and waited… and waited… 30 minutes later Kim’s sampler comes out… no spoon, ice cream all melted, one of the items completely wrong AND a complimentary JET BLACK HAIR on top of her melted ice cream, then came the others.. mine was cold, Tiffany’s was perfect, Christina’s was completely melted and Angel’s brownie was not cooked in the middle.  Terrell returned to us so that we could thank him for the lovely dessert… NO.. really!   Terrell was speechless… and told us that some people were getting fired… so we asked him for the check so we could just go because we’d been there for 2 1/2 hours at this point and really just wanted to get out of there.  So we look out the window and it is monsooning outside!  Yay!!!  Let’s get wet!!!  *sigh*   Our fabulous waiter *gag*, Roger, returns to us 10 minutes later and informs us that Terrell took care of the entire check.  So now we have to scrounge for some cash to leave Roger some kind of tip that he totally didn’t deserve because although we don’t know for sure if it was Roger putting the order in wrong or the kitchen cooking it wrong… we could not just stiff the poor guy who was probably about to get fired from a job he had been working for an entire 3 days!  WHAT A NIGHT!!!

Wednesday – NEO Day 3 …

The final day of in person training!  This day was for me more about the anticipation of going home to work.  We had mentors come in and they were good!  Watching them role-play various call types was hysterical!  The welcome call, the no work call, the academic integrity call… all funny!  Heather played the student, and was completely believable!  We could tell that she was definitely drawing from real life experience when playing those students!  This was the most laid back of the three days, the anticipation was overwhelming at this point because I didn’t feel like I had possibly learned anywhere near what I needed to know to go home later that day and do my job.  I just felt as though I knew pieces but not entirely what to do.  Now that I am reflecting on it I think that the discomfort was that I had to know what to do and when to do it.  When you work in a building (brick & mortar) the schedule is provided to you.  Everything is timed to the minute.  The bell schedule is your schedule.  You will be at lunch from 11:17 – 11:47, not a minute more or less, not a minute sooner or later.  Very defined.  You teach during these times, you plan during this time every other day… very regimented.  I did not have that regimented feeling yet, although everyone kept telling us that life would be better once we figured out what type of schedule works for us.  I guess as teachers we need that schedule… but I think now that I’m looking at it, the beauty of what I am doing now, is that it is MY schedule, and I can adjust it if I need it to be different.  Lunch was Chipotle and I made Kim take the scenic route because I wanted to see where it went.. got picked on for that one.. but it’s all good!  😀  Lunch was awesome… our last lunch together! 😦

No dinner on day 3 unless you wouldn’t get home until 8pm… not a chance of that for me with leaving around 4pm.  The drive home was much better than the drive there.  Sunshine!!!

It was good to be home with my family!  I will continue the Virtual Training in another post… need to get up and move around right now!  Stay tuned because Friday I made my first Welcome Calls and they were pure AWESOMENESS!!!!

Here we go… AGAIN!!!

Okay.. so I didn’t ever really blog/vent last school year about my frustrations or celebrations at my school.

Instead.. I resigned yesterday!!!

Mrs. Marsh has left the building!

Yes I RESIGNED from my teaching position at Andrew Jackson High School!  Congratulate me because I have accepted a position to teach with Florida Virtual School!  My commute has gone from 60 miles round trip daily, to a walk from my bedroom to my den.  I will now teach in whatever comfy pajamas are clean that day!   My life is good!  I have partially set up my home office although I need a larger desk!  I did find a decent wooden one at the Salvation Army for $99, so I’m going to go back today and see if it is still there because on Fridays at the Salvation Army (the one near me anyway) they give discounts on furniture!  They had an okay bookshelf for $69… but I think I’m going to pass on that for now.  If it’s still there next Friday.. I might get it!

So, you are wondering what one does as a virtual teacher!?!   Well, I will be making a LOT of phone calls!  And equal amount of grading will be done, but NO LESSON PLANNING!  Let me say that again… NO LESSON PLANNING!!!  Gone are the nights of sitting up writing three-page long Intervene School Compliant lesson plans, with pre-written higher-order questions, and all kinds of things that should and do just come naturally to me.  However, the lesson plan must be written so that the billion or so people who walk through our classrooms in any given week will know exactly what is going on… as if they couldn’t just sit down and watch!  LOL  But…. I digress…  The curriculum is all packaged so no lesson plans, just grading, talking on the phone and helping the students who need the help!  WHAT???  Did I just say helping the students that need the help???  Yes!!!!  Differentiation at it’s finest!  The students who can do the work on their own – DO and they move on, no more holding capable students back because some of the other students haven’t gotten it yet!  So, time is spent focusing on those who need the help the most!  Now, I will have to make contact with all of the students on a weekly basis and of course their parents as well!  This is the time-consuming part of teaching online… playing phone tag!  I’ll let you know how it goes!

So… I will be blogging about VIRTUAL TEACHING rather than teaching at an inner-city school.  Stay tuned!

Here we go!

After spending more hours than I care to admit reading blogs this morning, I have decided that I need to use this medium to share/vent my celebrations/frustrations about teaching at an inner-city high school facing closure by the powers that be at the state level.  I spent the morning reading blogs by other math teachers and am now inspired.  I feel better about the fact that I work nearly 24 hours a day honing my craft for students that could really care less about math.  I think know that my husband, especially, will appreciate the fact that I will now let loose on the “blogosphere” rather than on him regarding the daily trials and tribulations of my career.

So, hang in there for a wild ride!

Mrs. Marsh =)