Author: 187 Days of Teaching

Day Thirty-Seven

It snowed this morning- the first snow!- so everyone was a bit giddy. Mr. T and I were looking out the windows and grinning like little kids before the first bell, and I was texting pics to my teacher friends in southern states.

My APUSGOV students were working on projects for all of Block 1, so that was chill. But then I was all alone for a double block in the Cavern of Learning because Mrs. T was at a conference. Students started class with end-of-unit reflections. After that, I had them get into groups, and do some stations on African Culture (watching a video clip about traditional art, answering some geography questions, reading folk tales), plus two on grammar and vocab for Mrs. T. It’s a lot of moving parts, and I was exhausted by the end of it, but it went SO well. I’m wicked happy about it. 

I spent Block 5 grading reflections, and then Ms. J and I went to a PD workshop because mentors and mentees are supposed to go to two together. I had to go in a dress and heels, with a full face of make-up, because I had to dash to a thing right afterwards. 

I’m not saying I did my nails while stopped at a red light (fast-dry clear polish)… but I’m not saying I didn’t.

So what was the thing? 

It was a fancy Democratic Party dinner, which I got to attend with four of my APUSGOV students. (the Republicans will give us tickets to their fancy dinner, too, but it’s later in the year). We had such a ball. Joe Kennedy III was the keynote speaker, and a bunch of candidates and elected officials were in attendance. They all love talking to young people, so it was such a cool opportunity for these girls. One of our state reps actually walked Joe Kennedy right up to them, which was SO nice. 

I know a lot of the staffers working on the various campaigns because I staffed the presidential when I was in college. A lot of my campaign colleagues couldn’t believe I gave it up- and easily, too- because they couldn’t imagine not being “in the room” forever… But I still got to be in the room tonight, and being there with my students was the way I was meant to do it. 

Day Thirty-Six

The Vice Principal turned 40 today, so every teacher in the ninth grade house (yay common prep time) snuck into her office while she was in a meeting, decorated with balloons and streamers, and sang “Happy Birthday” when she came back in. We also sent kids down with birthday wishes throughout the day. 

So that was fun. 

Life in the Cavern of Learning was a flurry of activity. Mrs. T corralled the half dozen or so kids who still had to finish narratives and worked with them since it’s due today. I took everyone else and moved on with Africa stuff, so I definitely had the easier job today. I just walked around and fielded questions as needed.

During flex time we closed our dividing wall (we usually just leave it since most kids need us both anyhow) because I had a bunch of kids who wanted retake vocab quizzes, and I wanted it to be nice and quiet. I love that they took advantage of the opportunity. That’s so good.

We re-opened the Cavern for Block 4 and got back to work. A double block, even with breaks like flex and lunch, takes a lot of academic stamina, which many of our students are still developing, but we find ways to motivate them. Today, six boys who were goofing off in the last twenty minutes greed to work silently for fifteen I let them have a “moo-off” for the last five. What’s a moo-off, you ask? It’s when people get down on all fours like they’re cows and moo at each other in silly ways; the person who can keep a straight face the longest wins. 

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OBVIOUSLY, I let that happen. It was hilarious. And the boys all got their work done beforehand.

Such a win.

I explained the moo-off to my colleagues during the team meeting, and to the NHS board (I’m subbing on that while Mr. B is on leave) after school. Then I spent until about 4:30 prepping for tomorrow. Mrs. T is out, so it’s going to be The Me Show! 

Day Thirty-Five

I started my day with a lecture on interest groups and lobbying (with a tangent on PACs and stuff because someone asked about that), then assigned a group project on interest groups and iron triangles. I had lots of little discussions while students did research: communism, chambers of commerce, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the establishment clause, gun control, Reagan… 

It’s good stuff. 

Fed. 10 will come back to haunt them shortly. Mwahahaha.

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Ahem.

Life in the Cavern of Learning was good, too. Mrs. T worked with anyone whose narrative wasn’t done. I moved everyone else on to the new unit- Africa- and to labeling maps, doing some cultural research, and reading books. There was a medical emergency in the building (I have no idea what happened, but the kids had tons of rumors), and a resulting lockdown right before Block 2 ended. That caused minor chaos- lots of questions, kids trying to look out the window at the ambulance, etc…- and basically ate up flex time.

In spite of that, it was a super productive double block, and a great example of the “move when ready” approach to learning that The Principal wants more of. We also got observed by an elementary school teacher after lunch, and she thought it was neat. Go us.

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Now, the other day, a bottle of Axe exploded in boy’s backpack, which was wicked bad for me because I have a fragrance allergy. We figured he’d wash the backpack, but nope. I did my best to stay away, but it wasn’t enough. By Block 5 my nose was stuffy and my eyes were itchy. I had an APUSGOV student in to retake a test, so I just had to sit and resist the urge to sniffle and CLAW MY EYES OUT OMG. 

I managed, though!

Day Thirty-Four

Today was SO much better than the last B day of our A/B schedule. Mrs. T and I assigned seats, which did wonders for the noise level in the Cavern; it did wonders for the productivity level, too, of course. I wish we didn’t have to play it that way, but so far the thing holding several of our students back is worrying how others will perceive them if they choose to separate themselves and focus on doing well rather than socializing. I’ve had a few talks one-on-one about that, and so has Mrs. T.

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I wish I was as good at it as Mr. Feeny.

Anyways. 

Students took a vocab quiz, did pronouns practice, and revised narratives. If they finished all that- and many did, including one or two who surprised themselves- I had them get ahead on stuff for the next unit. Specifically, I had them choose books for The Epic Book Paper and Research Project (redesigned from last year) and start reading.

We had a ninth grade house meeting during Block 5, so I spent about an hour after the bell getting ready for tomorrow. And that was that!

Day Thirty-Three

I just got home from a cold football game. I usually stay the whole time, but my feet were freezing, so I left at halftime when we got done selling tickets. 

My day started with a fun APUSGOV lesson on public opinion and polling data. It involved episodes 33-35 of CrashCourse, this Jimmy Kimmel sketch, and some exploring on PollingReport.com

World/English started with a vocab quiz for me, some pronouns practice on ChompChomp for Mrs. T, and narrative revisions for both of us. We rocked and rolled through the double block- and the flex time in between- and it was super productive. It got a little loud and unruly towards the end of the double block, but we handled that so much better today than yesterday (which is why we reflect after we teach). And, even when it was loud, there was still a lot of really good work happening. Some kids had us checking their narrative drafts 3, 4, 5 times to get them perfect- and team teaching means we have time to do that- which was so awesome. 

Of course, some did just want to be done with class. One boy who was especially determined to act out shouted about having big party plans this weekend. When I told him to quiet down, he yelled, “Didn’t you party, Miss M?” 

I said, “Nah, dude, I was an athlete. I didn’t have time for that.” 

That got a, “Preach, Miss M!” from across the room, and a “Yeah, right” from this boy, so I ended up gathering an audience and talking about collegiate athletics and life choices for the last five minutes of class. The main thing I said was something my coach always told my teammates and I: being an athlete is fleeting; we only going to get to compete for a little while, so we shouldn’t waste any of that time. 

Hopefully they’ll remember that lesson in addition to the content I teach. It’s a good one.

Day Thirty-Two

Mrs. Z brought coffee and donuts in for PLC this morning, which was amazing. She said it was because so many people’s progress report grades glitched in our grading program, and it caused a ton of stress. I mean, my grades were fine, but yay donuts.

I spent my prep time writing college recommendations for a couple of my APUSGOV students. It takes effort to craft good recs, but it’s also such a positive thing to do, especially for kids I’ve known all four years. I’m totally happy to sing their praises. 

World/English was… squirrely. 

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Mrs. T and I have a really challenging mix of students on the B days of the A/B schedule. A third need constant reassurance, a third need constant redirection, and a third want to escape our notice entirely. Since we’re conferencing, it’s hard to devote our attention to the whole room, which means the attempts to misbehave increase. We usually do a good job of anticipating that, but today we hit a few rough patches, and both had to raise our voices waaaay more than usual. It was kind of exhausting, and afterwards we discussed things we’ll do differently next time.

I did read some cool narrative drafts, though. They were about everything from cartel violence to the Argentinian soccer team to the Cuban Revolution. One of the boys who’d been having a hard time figuring out what to write heard me mention the Avianca bombing to someone else, did a bunch of research, and cranked out about half of a story already. It’s a tragic story, of course, but it’s gripping.

Oh, and here’s an adorable thing: one of my APUSGOV students came in during lunch to make up a test, and she was still there when the ninth graders came back to class, so I stood at the door to let them know. They were SO quiet so they wouldn’t disrupt her.

So they may be a pack of squirrels, but they are quite kind.

Day Thirty-One

I felt a bit out of sorts today. 

Our juniors were all taking PSATs, so the bell schedule was off, which meant my timing was off. And I am still getting over a cold, and my allergies were haywire. My allergies made my eyes so watery that I could hardly see during APUSGOV, which, of course, my students thought was funny. But I managed.

I did a lesson on media bias and selective exposure, and fake news. It’s a cool lesson, and it went well enough, but- aside from the moment when my students realized I know what 4chan is- it didn’t pop. I was hoping for a more animated discussion, I think. Must do better next time…

World/English was great. Mrs. T started class with some quick grammar lessons (pronoun usage, formatting dialogue) and then we divided students up to work on their narratives. Everyone without a finished rough draft went to her side of the Cavern, and spread out to keep from getting distracted while writing. Everyone with a finished draft grouped up with 2-3 others on my side for peer conferencing. Mrs. T an I did conferences, too. It was definitely a productive day.

And! During Block 5, a student who’s been behind on his work came by to turn the bulk of it in, which was awesome. I was so proud of him, and said as much.

Day Thirty

So I’m back at work after a long weekend. My nail polish is chipping, and I have whiteboard marker all over the sides of my palms. It was a good day, though. 

Students worked on their narrative drafting in the Cavern of Learning, and a bunch opted to stick around during flex to keep working with Mrs. T or I. I have this one student who always comes in with an attitude, tries to break some rule (which one varies), complains when I tell him to knock it off, tells me he hates my class, uses profanity, tries to distract his peers, gets separated from his peers… and then he buckles down and does his work. This seriously happens everyday he has my class, so… 

I’m just embracing the routine. This is a kid who cares a lot about how his peers see him, so he won’t separate himself to focus on his work, but if I separate him as a “punishment,” he protects his reputation and keeps his grades up. 

If that’s what it takes…

We had a team meeting Block 5, and a faculty meeting after that, so I did my prep for tomorrow between 3:30 and 4:30. I was hoping I’d get out of work sooner because it was a gorgeous day, but that’s all right. At least I won’t have to worry about anything in the morning.

Day Twenty-Nine

I managed to get through last month without catching more than a little sniffle, but this morning I woke up with a headache, stuffy nose, sore throat, and fever. So the September cold got me in October…

I still went to work because it was just a teacher workshop day: meetings, NEASC stuff, PLC & department stuff… I’m doubly bad in meetings when I’m sick, apparently. Like, one of my older colleagues announced- when we were well over our allotted meeting time, I might add- that one way we could save time is by showing each other how to use Powerschool more efficiently. He said there should be a process for that, so I said, “The process is that you find a Millenial and bribe them.”

Thank goodness my colleagues think I’m funny.

We cruised through NEASC. Then I went to lunch with Mr. W, Mr. T, Mr. F, Mrs. T, and Mrs. B. That’s almost the whole Cacophony. Most of them had PLC or Department meetings afterwards, but not Mr. T and I. Social studies is so far ahead of the game. So he went to finish entering grades and comments for progress reports, and I went to touch up my next APUSGOV unit (my grades and comments were done three days ago because I am a wizard). I ended up gutting my unit test and putting a bunch of new stuff in it, so that’s done. I also had time to redecorate the team bulletin board.

Not a bad day’s work.

Day Twenty-Eight

Today was an early release day, so our classes flew by. I introduced a new unit in APUSGOV with a lesson about political socialization We started by brainstorming the ten people, institutions, media sources, events, etc… that shaped our political views. 

Mine:

  • Parents
  • Catholicism
  • AIDS crisis
  • Columbine shooting
  • My AP Euro teacher
  • The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart
  • 9/11
  • Iraq War
  • Staffing on the Dean campaign
  • Twitter

Theirs: 

  • Parents
  • Other family
  • Parkland shooting
  • Orlando nightclub shooting
  • Terrorism
  • NPR
  • Youtube
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Applying for college
  • World Cultures class
  • Literature and Social Issues class
  • Youth and Government club
  • Protests at Standing Rock
  • 2016 elections
  • Working in small, local businesses
  • Political polarization

It was fascinating to chat about all of that, and that was all we had time to do. 

In World/English, we just had students continue drafting, Mrs. T gave a quick lesson about things like flashback in order to encourage them to play. She and I both read several full drafts, and I love how proud students were to show them to us. That’s so cool.

Once students left, we had an hour for lunch. My cacophonous friends and I went to Starbucks because early release days are late days for us. In order to take a day off our required 187, we have two teacher workshops until 5:30- one fall, one spring- which makes for a loooooong day. 

It started with an informational session about vaping; a lady from Poison Control gave a lecture. Then there was some administrative business. After that, our time was devoted to the NEASC self study (it’s an accreditation thing done every ten years). We’re all in groups, working to compile one part of the study.

I had to leave mine for what I though would be a short 504 meeting (and was actually a long one). While I was gone, one of my group members was online and found out the local brewery was having a cornhole tournament tonight, so a bunch of us went (beer, pizza, cornhole). So fun!