Category: apusgov… and you know they do

Day One Hundred Forty-Two

Student A: Why are Pope names so boring? 
Student B: They’re saint names and stuff. 
Student A: If I was Pope, I’d choose a name that stands out. Like Glamorous. Pope Glamorous I. 

I have no idea why my APUSGOV students were discussing Pope names, but that’s what I walked in on before the morning bell. It was good to have something to laugh at because otherwise I was just a hot mess this morning. 

Seriously, I don’t even know what was wrong with me, but I could not get it together. I burned my fingers, I tripped on the stairs, I put my car in reverse instead of drive when I headed to work (Luckily, I didn’t hit anything!)… And then, in APUSGOV, I just felt so scattered. My students took an FRQ quiz and I assigned a project, and it was all fine, but I couldn’t shake that feeling.

World was a lot better. I was clearer with the instructions for the Afghanistan assignments than I was yesterday; I took up less time, and fine-tuned how I explained the objectives of the work. So that’s good.

I spent my prep time doing scholarship recs because tis the season. Unfortunately, it’s not yet the season for warm weather, so it was another cold day on the track. My sprinters said they, too, were all discombobulated today- nice to know I wasn’t the only one- and blamed the weather. But we made the best of it. We always do!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Eight

Today was a bit wacky because it’s ninth grade college visit time; every year we take all the freshmen to visit one of three colleges: a private college, a state university, and a community college (they choose which one to visit) Half the freshmen went today, and the other half will go tomorrow.

I had APUSGOV today, so I asked not to chaperon (but I will tomorrow). We’re doing FRQ practice in preparation for the AP exam, and I really didn’t want to leave the class with a sub who couldn’t answer their questions. And I would have missed several hilarious stories about the massive Key Club conference that happened last weekend.

Some days, that class is just perfect.

During Blocks 3 and 4, I had half my team’s freshmen in the Cavern of Learning. It was kind of a study hall day; the other team teachers and I compiled list of things kids have due next week (paper revisions, math problems, novel reading, etc…) and I told them they could work on any of it. Some kids goofed off and had to be redirected, but most were grateful for the time. It’s a busy part of the year, especially for spring athletes. 

I sat and graded, for the most part, so it was a super low-key day for me. 

At practice, we shook out our sprinters’ legs with a set of 400m and 300m repeats, and a long, slow cool down afterwards. It’s still cold, but the sun was out, and everyone was in high spirits!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Four

So I’ve been teaching my APUSGOV students about the Civil Rights Movement, which is a fantastic thing to get to do. My lessons are protests, politics, and policymaking- nice and alliterative, right?- and I’ve been using a lot of primary sources. Today, for a change of tone, I invited a professional storyteller to tell stories of the era (and beyond), which was awesome. The handy thing is that his daughter is in the class and I’ve been close to their family for years. 

That was a great way to start the day.

And then there were debates!

I was nervous, at first, because I was all by my lonesome (Mrs. T had to stay home because her son has a fever), and- as I’ve written- this set of students didn’t use the prep time nearly as well as the set we had yesterday. Some arguments were brief, and one group reeeeeally struggled with rebuttal, so the lack of prep did show. But mostly? They pulled it off. And the final two debates  of the day were really fine: evenly matched, highly informative, spirited, engaging… It’s telling that the bell rang during closing statements and not a single kid moved; they waited until the debate was done, applauded, and then got up to go.

I graded everything during my prep time- while it was fresh- and then went to practice. It was a cold, windy day, so Head Coach and I just had the sprinters and jumpers do 300m repeats. We need to do more technical stuff, but it’s a good workout, and it warmed up their muscles, so it’ll do.

Day One Hundred Twenty-Eight

Today was long because I had to do CPR/First Aid certification after practice. All coaches are required to have it, even lowly assistants, and mine just expired. It’s generally good to have anyhow.

The day began with APUSGOV. I have a habit of reading poetry in that class because everyone should have more poetry in life, and there’s a poem for every occasion. Today I read Langston Hughes’ Kids Who Die, which is so very powerful and prophetic. Then we resumed our study of the Civil Rights Movement with a recap of the efforts to desegregate Birmingham, which they’d all read about, and we read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

If you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it in a while, click that link and then come back to me. I’ll wait.

It’s an extraordinary piece of writing, and every time I read it I find some new piece that catches my attention. My class read it aloud- we each took a page- because I think it’s valuable to hear it and discuss it. There was a silence after the last line as they took it in. One boy broke it with, “Now that’s some letter.”

Sure is. 

And imagine what it’s like reading it with these kids who have all become activists- long ago or recently- and have walked out, marched, spoken to crowds, written to the papers. One was called out by name in a letter to the editor this morning. There is a spotlight on their political participation right now- as there is on young people nationwide- and things are big for them right now. Watching them take that letter in… Chills. 

I don’t think many lessons will be as powerful as that one- it’s the timing- and World definitely wasn’t. There are a handful of students who just haven’t been taking debate prep seriously; it’s frustrated their peers, and Mrs. T and I. We’ve been warning those kids, and revoking privileges like sitting in the hall, etc… but some still aren’t putting in the effort they need to, and they’re getting petulant. We’re working on it, though. We’ll get them turned around.

Practice was shortened by team pictures, but I got to show our rookie sprinters how to do starting blocks. I like teaching skills like that, and I think I’m good at it. Hopefully, I am. 

I had just enough time afterwards to grab a coffee and a sandwich before CPR class, so that was good. And class was as fun as it could be. Mr. F was there, and he and I have serious banter, so we amused the rest of the students.

We do what we can.

Day One Hundred Twenty-Six

You all know that my APUSGOV class has eaten cake every time the government has shut down or passed a CR. Today, in response to the budget passing, they ate carrot cake. I’ll let you figure out the logic. It’s fun.

We also had a guest speaker today. One of our substitute teachers was a freedom rider, so the kids asked if he would come tell his story. That was extremely cool. And we had a few minutes afterwards to chat about the AP exam. I got a request for more FRQ practice, so I spent all my prep time planning for that. I’ll make it happen. 

I spent World, admittedly, thinking about those APUSGOV plans. Luckily, Mrs. T was running the lesson- explaining how to construct debate pieces- so my distraction didn’t really show. I supervised the room while she worked with particular groups, and I fielded various content-related questions as needed. 

After school, I had a couple students come in to ask me about course selection for next year, so I was late to my PD class. The professor was, thankfully, understanding. Three hours of school leadership, CBE, and a challenge to quote Aristotle in my next assignment (CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!) later, I headed home. 

Best thing? It was still light outside!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Four

Today was an early release day for students, and an extended day for teachers. I would like it noted that I started my day with a super fun FB notification that some random angry man had interrupted a civil political debate I was having with a friend to rant in all caps and tell me I should be fired (all of us should be fired, in fact). 

It wasn’t even 7AM, you guys. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

I had to laugh, honestly. No sense wasting time and energy getting bent out of shape about it. I got dressed (and I looked good today!), got breakfast, and got on with my day. 

Since APUSGOV had been pretty demanding this week, I went easy(ish) on them today. We watched a 44-minute documentary about the Freedom Rides in a 50-minute class, and explained how it would tie into our lessons next week. It’s a powerful film, so it wasn’t like this was a fluff class; I just gave them a less strenuous way to acquire information than others I could have used. And they got a lot out of it. I’m all about using visuals and oral histories to teach this era for that reason. 

I also just texted my students on Remind to send some AP exam study materials along, and to ask what we should do if the government passes a budget before our next class. If you’ve been reading my posts all year, you’ll know that we eat cake any time there’s a CR ora shutdown (because if you can’t have a functional government, you should at least have a cake). So far the response is “chicken wings” (with no explanation of the logic yet). 

I expressed skepticism about whether chicken wings were appropriate for a 7:30AM class and was promptly informed there was no better time. 

All right, then.

There was more debate prep in World, and I’m super impressed by the collaboration I’m seeing. There are some strong arguments shaping up as a result. Ooh, and I gave one group a great lesson in source analysis, checking biases and accuracy. What’s awesome about that is they called me over to teach them; I wasn’t remediating after seeing poor research. We had an amazing conversation about how wording impacts readers’ understanding, and they kept finding examples to show me. So cool.

Students were dismissed at 11:20. After a break for lunch, we started a teacher workshop on CBE. On a regular early release, we’d be done by 3:00, but in order to knock a day of our 187 required days we do an evening session, too, so I worked until 5:30. 

They did serve us awesome nachos halfway through. And I’d gone out at lunch to get cookies for my department because chocolate chip cookies make everything better except my behavior at meetings. I was productive, but also super salty. 

But now it’s done!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Two

Today we had one of the Republican congressional candidates visit APUSGOV, which was interesting. He spoke quite candidly, and his beliefs surprised my students at least a few times- and they aren’t easy to surprise- which was a good learning experience for them. On the whole, it was a really smart, wide-ranging conversation. And I love that candidates are willing to come and talk to these kids. I say so a lot, but it’s such a big deal for them to get that access. 

Mrs. T was out again today, so I did yesterday’s World/English lesson on my own again. I think it was better today- second time around tends to be- and I’m less wiped than I was yesterday. Ooh, and the conversation about the war in Yemen was really sharp; I have these two boys who ask amazing questions, and today the sparked more questions from their other peers.

I spent my prep time helping various students, and grading so I could get to track practice on time. Hill repeats today… So painful, so good. It’s a smaller team than in past years (may the sports gods curse AAU, JO, travel teams, etc…), but there’s potential. We’ll see what happens as the snow melts. 

The language honor societies had a dinner (feauturing Spanish, French, and German foods) tonight. It’s a fundraiser for their various endeavors, and Mr. W asked me to go so he’d have a buddy there. Since it was right after practice, and dinner I didn’t have to make is always awesome.

Day One Hundred Ten

Soooo I decided to rewrite all my upcoming lessons on the Middle East at about 2:00 this afternoon (school day ends at 2:20).

I had to rewrite some of them because the geopolitical situation is so fluid, and then I decided I wanted to deliver the information in a different way than I had in the past, so I ended up rewriting everything. I created some new activities, found some new video clips and articles to use, and just kept going until it was nearly 5:00. 

I think it’s going to be good, though. 

But let me go back to the school day because it was awesome. It started out in a very serious way: with a faculty meeting about school safety. We reviewed our lockdown procedures, our SRO spoke about the training the local PD does, the admins all talked about what we can do to promote the best school environment we can. And- this was gratifying- The Principal gave very clear support to student protests. 

So we heard all that, then went to do work. 

I went up to my APUSGOV class to start Court Madness. I blurred out my students’ names to let you get a load of these brackets (the goal is to argue which case is most significant):

We got through four of the opening round debates today. My students judged each debate they didn’t argue, and Mr. F and Mr. W came in to be guest judges because they knew it would be awesome (and it totally was). Brown v. Board of Education, Obergefell v. Hodges, Citizens United v. FEC, and Schenck v. United States all advanced to the next round.

The debate between NYT company v. United States and Citizens United v. FEC was FASCINATING. Both students did a heck of a job, and that’s just such a cool match-up (drawn randomly out of a hat). Really, they were all great debates, but everyone agreed afterwards that was the best one. 

And there were funny moments, too. The student who had to argue Regents of the University of California v. Bakke over Brown v. Board of Education knew she had a seriously uphill battle, so she baked brownies to bribe the judges. And the debate between Obergefell v. Hodges and Gideon v. Wainwright involved two students brandishing pocket constitutions at each other. 

They were still making dramatic gestures with their pocket constitutions, notes, and whatever else- and yelling about soup, which… I got nothing- as my World students came in. I’d say they were a mix of amused, bewildered, and slightly scared. 

We wrapped our study of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict the same way students did yesterday: on the subject of generational power. And then this unit’s Culture Projects were due- I don’t think I put this in yesterday’s entry- so we were treated to presentations on Middle Eastern sports, tourist destinations, fashion, and food. Students get so excited when their peers actually make food for their projects. I was informed I was the best teacher ever, even though I didn’t really do much.

We had some time after presentations, so we played vocab hangman (point for getting the word, point for defining it). It was uproariously fun. They get so competitive about it!

During my prep time I was mostly on the phone with a campaign staffer, scheduling his candidate as an APUSGOV guest. We’ve talked many times, and I just realized today I’ve been mispronouncing his name (I hear m and n, and b, d, and v poorly). I apologized, but ugh. So awkward.

These campaign staffers are going to get the hot mess version of me a lot.

As long as their candidates keep coming to class…

Day One Hundred Eight

So my APUSGOV students decided to invite every congressional candidate running in our district to come to class. Five have said yes so far, and the first one came in this morning. My colleague, Mr. I, brought his Contemporary Issues class up to join us, which was cool because it added more perspectives to the conversation. 

And what a conversation! Well over an hour on jobs, college debt, climate change, gun control, education, feminism, intersectionality, voting rights… I always say I let my students take a conversation where ever they want to take it, and I just enjoy the journey. It was tons of fun.

The candidate and his staff were very complimentary afterwards, which was nice. 

I always bring coffee and donuts when we have a guest (least I can do when someone gets up and joins us for a 7:30 class), and I had some extras today, so I had coffee and donuts with my Reading Break students during Block 2 as well as during APUSGOV. Reading Break is the 30-minute, district-wide reading time, but it also functions like a homeroom (kids stay with the same teacher all four years, announcements happen at the end of the block, etc, etc…) My group is super chill, so it’s a relaxing part of my day.

And today was a contest day. The school community was encouraged to wear purple in support of ending the opioid epidemic, and we were told that the reading break with the highest percentage of purple-wearing people would get a prize (donuts for everyone on Friday). Mine was 100%, so I think we won. Woohoo!

My World classes went all right, but when I asked my Block 4 class to tell me anything they’d learned about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, no one raised a hand. So I called on each kid to tell me one thing, which worked and generated discussion, but I wish I knew why no one wanted to volunteer an answer. It’s not typical of that class.

I had some students come by for help- or just a quiet work space- during my prep time, so I spent it with them. Then I spent an hour after school with my department for our monthly meeting. After that, I went home for about an hour, changed into casual clothes, and went back to work to sell tickets for the girls basketball playoff game. 

I hadn’t planned on that, but the AD had somebody bail on him, and it pays $35.00, so I said I’d do it. Easy money, right? I do sometimes draw a total blank as I’m trying to make change, though, which is super embarrassing. 

Anyways, our girls won, so that’s exciting!

Day One Hundred Two

Man, today was big. 

It’s a Monday with APUSGOV, which meant I got treated to their typically fiesty current events presentations. And, since we had a government shutdown…ish… between last class and this one, we had cupcakes (because they’re cake…ish). And the two kids who went to the Lincoln Dinner on Saturday shared what that was like with their classmates. They’re born storytellers, so that was fun.

Oh, and we geeked out over the Olympics hard. My students are all multi-sport athletes, they ski and snowboard for fun (and/or competitively), they go to a school that boasts multiple Olympians amongst its alumni. So it’s not surprising that they love it, is what I’m saying. Chris Mazdzer, the Shib Sibs, and ALL THE SNOWBOARDERS are big favorites, and I’m sure there will be more by next class, too. 

My freshmen wrote current events essays, and then we started tackling the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with a bit of history. They have to read and annotate an article for homework so that we can dig into the current issues next class. They have almost no background knowledge, so that’s got to come first.

I graded up a storm during my prep time because I had a PD course on CBE after school. I dashed out of that at 5:30- half an hour early, with the instructor’s permission- to make it to a 6:00 political event with one of the candidates for congress. Some of my APUSGOV students were there, which was fun, and so many of the things we discuss in class came up, so I was a happy, happy teacher. Real world relevance, folks. BOOM.