Category: apusgov… and you know they do

Day One Hundred Eighty-One

You know, I’ve written a lot about teaching APUSGOV, and I still don’t think I’ve conveyed what an amazing experience it was, so let me review. My students got a sitting congresswoman to come to class and have a chat. Then they got nine (of twelve) candidates vying to replace her to do the same, and not one left without telling me “Those kids are brilliant.” They showed me that brilliance  in class and beyond it. They led a walkout, they met with the governor, they spoke to the press. 

They were a one-in-a-million bunch of students. 

I bring that up again today because The Principal wrote me a really nice note about them and the work I did as their teacher. I say I was mostly just along for the ride, but I appreciated that he took the time to do that.

I gave World finals (reflective essays, just like the midterms) to two of my four sections of the course. I haven’t graded them yet, but I don’t anticipate anyone did really poorly (I can spot that at a glance). The students said they felt confident about it and I got a bunch of sweet thank you messages. I also got an unexpected and awesome gift. Behold the Death Star plant:

Teaching is cool.

Day One Hundred Eighty

Underclassmen started taking finals today. There are two each day with a half hour break in between; today they were for first block classes. This block was my prep time on A days and APUSGOV on B days, so I spent the day grading multi-genre projects. 

Given that the project instructions are basically “Write about something that matters right now,” here’s a telling photograph: 

And, remember, I only have half of the projects in my possession; Mrs. T has the other half. 

I didn’t just put grades in all day today. I had a meeting with next year’s APUSGOV students to go over their summer work; it’s a big class, so it’ll be a whole new set of challenges. I also had a chat with The Principal, who complimented me on the work I did with my APUSGOV students this year. That was really gratifying.

After finals, there was a little party for retiring teachers at a local restaurant. I went with Mr. W because we’re both introverted souls who hate arriving alone to events like that. This is why we’re friends, haha. And it was a fun party! Lots of good food and funny stories… Also, a bunch these teachers’ former students made a goodbye video, which was sweet.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Seven

It’s a late entry because I just got home from a political event. I got to see the candidates and staffers I’ve met through APUSGOV, and make some new connections- which is the point of going. I’m not a big networker, really, but I’ve been learning… 

Anyways. My school day was good. Mrs. T and I wrapped up writing conferences with the set of students we had today, and helped kids prepare for our finals. I know I’ve sounded a bit like a broken record these past few entries, but it’s all going so smoothly (here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx it). Our last days of classes are tomorrow and Monday- followed by four days of finals- and it’s still kind of hard to believe. 

Graduation rehearsal happened this afternoon, and some of my APUSGOV kids came by to say thanks. I got a gift card to a local restaurant from one, which is so nice! I will seriously miss that awesome little crew…

But! I will see them at graduation and on Project Grad, so that’s good. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Two

Today was incredible.

It was the final day of APUSGOV. We ate donuts and watched The West Wing (”The Stackhouse Filibuster” because I love a filibuster, and the episode’s ending fit the occasion: “Tonight I’ve seen a man with no legs stay standing, and a guy with no voice keep shouting. And if politics brings out the worst in people, maybe people bring out the best.”). And then I delivered my last lesson. I told them this was their time, I thanked them for the amazing journey they took me on this year, and then I gave them the farewell letter I wrote.

I won’t share its full contents, but I will share a bit. I’m fond of quoting poetry, and this class was fond of hearing it, so I left them with a snippet from Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?“

I didn’t cry, but it was a near thing. 

I got to see most of my students again during Block 5 because we had one last congressional candidate in as guest speaker. This one’s the democratic frontrunner, and I’d bugged his campaign SO MUCH about scheduling a visit that I was actually super nervous. Like, if it didn’t go well after I was a total pain in the neck? Oh man… 

My World students made fun of me for my nerves in between drafting and conferencing, which… Okay. 

I didn’t need to be nervous, of course. It went so well. It may have actually been the best meeting with a candidate we had. I know I sound like a broken record at this point when I say my students asked such good questions, but they did. One of the underclassmen who’s been joining us even came with prepared notes. I am so proud of her! 

The Vice Principal caught up with me after the bell to ask how it had gone, and to congratulate me on getting so many guests in. I still can’t believe that we did! The lesson is that it never hurts to ask. I have engaged, inspirational students; folks in politics should want to meet them.

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

Today I got to eat some wicked good cake. 

Mrs. T baked cake because it’s her seniors’ last day in Reading Break, and that calls for celebration. My Reading Break got in on it because the wall between our classrooms is open, and it would’ve been mean not to share with us. So yay.

World/English went… mostly smoothly. I had to chase down a few kids who went hallway wandering after lunch, but that’s all. Mrs. T and I both spent much of our time editing drafts for students, and their work is so good. We’ve got ninth graders writing and revising two, three times to perfect a piece; there’s such high engagement- and it’s June!!! 

This is our biggest triumph. 

One of my seniors came in during our team meeting to say goodbye because he won’t be in APUSGOV tomorrow. That was sweet. My colleagues ribbed me a little for being a pile of sentimental goo afterwards, but I can’t help it. I love that class.

Tomorrow’s going to be a lot.

Day One Hundred Seventy

Sometimes parents tell me that their kids are watching the news, and starting discussions about current affairs, and so on. They’re usually incredulous, and grateful, and I’m just delighted. I feel like I’ve done something right. 

Buuuut sometimes parents tell me that their kids are using what I’ve taught them to make mischief, and I just have to own it. Someone asks a priest about The Flying Spaghetti Monster during CCD? My fault. Someone’s quoting nihilist philosophy at a family dinner? That’s on me, too. 

But the kid who decided gravity is fake? I DIDN’T DO IT.

I did preside over a fairly silly APUSGOV class: second to last day, finishing up projects with The West Wing on in the background (at least half my students were trying to figure out their undone physics homework, too). 

My day got busy after that because Mrs. T was absent. Managing our combined classes alone is a challenge, especially given the number of kids whose new thing is breaking minor rules just to be contrary (I shut it down by saying it’s boring). I managed, though, and was able to check in drafts and help kids edit. They were very patient with the fact that my attention had to be divided.

Now I want to go to bed. Heh. 

Day One Hundred Sixty-Eight

There’s a group of young activists who have been using my classroom as their organizing HQ since Parkland; they planned the March 14 walkout, spoke at community demonstrations, met with elected officials, wrote letters to the paper, organized a voter registration drive… and, off of about ten minutes of social media organizing last night, they came in today with orange ribbons to wear and distribute for Gun Violence Awareness Day. 

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Also, at today’s meeting, the freshmen gave the graduating seniors pins decorated with the group’s logo. It was a way to thank them for building up this thing they’re leaving behind. It was a terrific gesture, and some of them definitely got a bit teary-eyed. 

A lot of those seniors are also in my APUSGOV class, so I saw them repeatedly today because- in addition to that meeting- we had not one, but two congressional candidates as guest speakers! At this point, the fact that we have candidates as guests is so well-known that other students get permission to miss their classes to join us, which is fine by me because I like a full room.

The first guest, a Democrat, came in during our actual class time, Block 1. He’s a young guy: ex-military, city attorney, very smart. He was totally frank, too, and my students- who have no time for vague, wishy-washy answers- approved of that even when they disagreed with what he was saying. As one girl put it, “He just went for it, Miss M.” And he got asked about EVERYTHING: gun control, Israel-Palestine, global warming, North Korea, legalization of marijuana, prison system reforms, infrastructure, national defense… Afterwards, I asked him about his military service, and discovered he’d been in Iraq at the same time as my older brother- and, for a few months, on the same base outside Baghdad. Wild, right? It’s a small world.

And, yes, it’s strange when you find out the thing you have in common with someone is a war.

Our other guest, a Republican, came in during Block 5, which is when most of my students have a free block, He’s also ex-military, and an ex-police officer, which was fascinating to hear him speak about. My students asked him similar questions to what they’d asked our first guest, and his answers were equally smart, but- as you’d expect- rather different. He’s a real limited government conservative, and I know I have students who don’t hear things articulated from that perspective often. So it gave them some food for thought, which is a good thing. 

Both guests told me how impressive these kids are (which is true), and how glad they were to have gotten to talk with them. Both said it made them hopeful for the future.

Me, too.

In between guest speakers, I was teaching World, which is also inspiring, especially during multi-genre. Because my room was set up for guests, and because it was pushing 90 degrees and muggy, Mrs. T and I made the brilliant decision to move our combined classes to the air conditioned computer lab at the end of the hall. I had the idea; she actually went and signed us up on the lab schedule so no other teacher could claim it. Now, the lab has computers and chairs for one class, and we had two, so there were kids with laptops sprawled on the floors, or in chairs they carried over from our rooms. It was a bit ridiculous, but it wasn’t hot, so our students were happy. 

So, all in all, today was awesome. Definitely one of my favorite days of teaching.

Day One Hundred Sixty-Two

My APUSGOV class hasn’t eaten cake since the government passed a budget, but we have eaten waffles! Today was “Waffle Wednesday” because, well, we felt like eating waffles. And, yes, they were totally Mickey waffles.

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I did actually teach, too, I swear. I’ve been teaching about state and local government since the exam; that’s why my last two guests were state legislators. I also had students read the NH Constitution, and today I did a lecture-discussion on the basics of our state government. I gave a vocab quiz, as well. 

In World, I introduced the multi-genre project for the second day. My Block 3 class was immediately fired up about it. My Block 4 class was… not. At least, they weren’t initially. They looked at sample projects from past years and said it looked like too much work, and they didn’t wanna, etc, etc… But I explained how much choice they have, and had them look at the daily calendar that breaks down all the work, and then they got excited. They actually brainstormed my biggest list of topics. 

Oh, but I did give out my first detention in ages today because a kid cut class. That was annoying. 

Practice was quick but awesome. I worked with the girls 4×1 team (boys missed qualifying by one spot… like .3 of a second). We checked their marks, then did an “all around,” which is when each sprinter does a full 100m, but accelerates into the hand-off as opposed to sprinting the whole way. It was flawless, and I had a feeling it would be. These four girls work so well together; it’s three seniors and one freshman, which can be a tough dynamic, but not in this case. They did a cheer before the all around, and congratulated each other after they finished, and I just loved it.

We finished practice with couple hollow sprints, ate cupcakes one of our captains brought for her birthday, and went home. I’d say it was a good day.

Day One Hundred Fifty-Eight

Today, the Speaker of the NH House came to APUSGOV, which was very cool. There was a good discussion about some big pieces of state legislation that have come up recently (medicaid expansion, death penalty repeal, vouchers, banning conversion therapy…) And I love listening to my students talk to our guests. They’re so informed and well-spoken. A handful of freshmen, galvanized by Parkland and beginning to explore politics, joined my class, and I’m psyched they have such good role models. 

World was pretty solid. I did the same lesson today as I did yesterday.My Block 4 class was a bit slow, at first, in figuring out how different philosophies (Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism) influence other aspects of culture; I had to give multiple examples and reword my questions a few times. But once it clicked they were on fire. I think, ultimately, they understood it the best.

Halfway through the block, Mrs. T sent a student over to say it’s Mrs. H’s birthday, so she and I stepped out during Block 5 to get her a giant bar of dark chocolate (her fave). We miiiight have gotten ourselves one, too, along with coffee. We got coffee for Mr. F because he didn’t get home from his lax game last night until after 11:00, and we are awesome friends.

Track practice was short and sweet. Tomorrow’s off, and then Saturday is the conference championship. We’re as ready as we’re going to be.

Day One Hundred Fifty-Three

The students in both of my World classes were writing essays today, which went well in spite of the fact that there were multiple interruptions involving cupcakes.

The first one was unexpected. A girl on one of the other ninth grade teams came in during Block 3 to hand a cupcake to one of my students (yes, she asked my permission first). Then another of my students realized this girl had more cupcakes to give out, and bolted down the hallway. She returned a moment later, looking very proud of herself, with a cupcake in hand. I cracked up at that point.

The disruption to my Block 4 class was my doing, and I’d warned my students it would happen. See, my APUSGOV students took their exam this morning (and my colleagues laughed at how jittery I was during PLC), and I promised them cupcakes after it was over. So they came running up to my classroom en masse, which was fun. We’re not allowed to discuss the test, which is WAY HARDER than I anticipated it being, but they were in good spirits. That’s a good sign. 

I spent Block 5 having a grading party with my cacophonous friends because we wanted to sit and chat about stuff, but we all had work, too. Then I spent practice doing 4×1 passes with the boys. One of our former athletes came by, and he did relay for four years, so he critiqued, too. This one will coach someday, too, I think, so it can’t hurt to practice.