Category: cavern of learning

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-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-Five

I did pilates with a bunch of my colleagues after work on Friday- between the pep rally and football- and I felt it this morning when I got up. My quads and abs let me know exactly what they think of my life choices.

It made walking around the Cavern of Learning a bit more challenging than usual, but I managed. Mrs. T and I did the same thing we’d done on Friday. It was harder today because some of our students have to be redirected a lot, but we anticipated that, so we adjusted our delivery and where we positioned ourselves in the room. Also, this bunch of students asks GREAT questions, so we allotted extra time for them to do it, and had a really cool discussion about immigration policy.

So now everyone is set to draft narratives, and will spend the next several classes working on that. 

We had a ninth grade house meeting during Block 5, so I did all my grading after school ended. I had some assignments to check in, and a few APUSGOV test retakes (kids did it in the office while I was in my meeting) to mark, but I got it all done pretty quickly.

Day Twenty-Four

So today was awesome. 

It’s Spirit Day, so everyone was decked out in school colors, glitter, and face paint. Classes were short to accommodate a pep rally at the end of the day, so APUSGOV was very chill; I went over the unit test they took last class, then we did current events presentations, and that was that.

Then Mrs. T and I did a tag team lesson in our Cavern of Learning. I started by dividing students into groups of six- three who’d read about drug violence in Mexico, three who’d read about drug violence in Brazil- and had them get laptops and headphones, and watch a 15-minute video to supplement their reading. They shared what they’d learned with their peers, I explained the growth of the violence to Honduras and neighboring countries, and we read an article about San Pedro Sula. So they had enough information to answer the question I posed last class-why are so many undocumented minors have been seeking asylum in the last few years- and I could see when it all clicked. 

Mrs. T tagged in to show them how to do MLA citations for my class materials, and set up a works consulted page, and assigned our first major assessment. She’s been teaching scenes and personal narratives for the past few weeks. What students have to do now is write a fact-based narrative based on anything we’ve studied about Latin America. So they’re plotting out ideas, fleshing them out with additional research (and citing it), and drafting. 

It all went SO well. We were happy about it. 

And then the pep rally was a ball. As we walked to the gym, Mr. T revealed he’d never been to one before, which… Wow. I grinned and told him to embrace the experience. Some teachers don’t, but me? Give me the band, the drumline, the fight song, and all the noise and cheering. Mr. F an I played musical chairs, as always, though I got eliminated early. 

Afterwards, it was parking lot tailgating (amazing chili dogs made by our hall monitors), and football. Half the town was there; it was packed! Our team lost, sadly, but it was still a fun day.

Day One Hundred Sixty-Seven

Today started with PLC. Both of my World counterparts were absent, so I spent the time wrapping up the project I started yesterday (planning for an incoming student with unique needs). Mrs. T is going to look over my work and add some English-y things, and then w should be all set. It’s important to us to work quickly; it reassures this student’s family that we’re on top of things, it helps us get organized and prepared, and it’s good for our professional reputations. We’re given these kinds of challenges because our administrators know we can handle them, and that’s a compliment to us.

We had a great day with our combined World/English classes. Students are drafting pieces, and they’re doing it with so little help from us. Fly free, little birds!

I wandered the room, answering questions and doing quick writing conferences by request. Meantime, Mrs. T took up a stationary position where she could check in finished drafts and monitor the 4-6 students in one corner who can be loud and unruly (but not malicious- they just need a close eye on them). It was good teamwork!

Unrelated note: I had a gift certificate to the restaurant our culinary program runs, so I went down to grab a salad for lunch. Instead I got a steak bomb, and it was amazing. 

I have guest speakers coming to APUSGOV tomorrow, so I shut the wall in the Cavern of Learning and spent Block 5 rearranging my classroom. I had a few minutes to spare, so I was able to change into running clothes and get out to practice a bit earlier than usual. It was a quick day: 4×4 hand-offs and a 3x150m workout. MOCs, here we come!

Day One Hundred Sixty-Five

It was back to school after the long weekend, into the home stretch, etc, etc…

Mrs. T and I opened the wall between our classrooms to begin multi-genre drafting. We like to team teach this part because it gives our students a solid 160 minutes to work (yes, there are breaks, including lunch), and one of us can supervise the whole Cavern of Learning while the other works one-on-one with particular students. Both of us walk around with clipboards, too, so we can do on-the-fly editing. 

The first thing we have them draft is the works consulted page. Once they do that, they can start an expressive piece: narrative, poetry, personal letter, etc… One of the students whose project is about school shootings asked if she could write in text messages- as if texting from an active shooter situation- and I okayed it. I thought she’d just type it out like a script, but she actually took her script and got her friends to text her the different lines while her phone was on screen record. She played it back for Mrs. T and I, and we both almost cried. It’s such a powerful piece of work. 

I hope she shows it to everyone. 

I hate how much school shootings are on my students’ minds these days, but they are and we can’t ignore them. So I want my students to express whatever they’re thinking. Their voices should be heard.

I find myself speaking more candidly, too, when asked about what I think. I have a few colleagues who are ready to leave teaching, who have recurring shooting nightmares. And, no matter how rare school shootings are- and they are rare, even now- I know my family can’t help worrying about me. Even the local priest worries about me.

I wish they wouldn’t, but that isn’t really up to me.

Anyways. 

Class went well, and so did our team meeting afterwards. We spoke to two sets of parents- one incoming, one outgoing- about some challenging stuff, but it was positive and productive. It ran long, so I was a bit late to practice, but it was all right. Only a few athletes qualified for MOCs, and The Head Coach had procedural stuff to go over with them, so I didn’t miss any of the actual workout. And, after, I stuck around to help the middle school coach, Coach B, with her sprinters. They’ll be mine in the future, so it’s good to build some connections.

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-Two

Athlete A: *says something I can’t hear*
Head Coach: Are you worried about cooties?
Athlete B: Only girls have cooties! *looks at me* I mean, uhhh…

Being a female coach of boys is generally hilarious, in case you were wondering. 

Today, in addition to being hilarious, it was cold and windy. I’m wrapped in blankets, sipping hot chocolate now. I want spring back. 

But that’s New England.

I started my day with an APUSGOV lesson about civil rights policymaking in the 1960s. My goal was to teach them the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but I ended up answering questions about a lot of other things, too (black nationalism, Vietnam, anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism, Reagan Republicans…) That’s the fun of a discussion-based class, though. It goes in several directions. 

I ended up rewriting my next lesson to include more detail about some of the things they asked about. I actually like the lesson better now. 

It was the last day of debate prep in World/English. Mrs. T and I have been a bit worried because this set of students struggles so much more with group work than our other set- for myriad reasons- so we tried to monitor their final preparations closely. I watched rehearsals in the hall while she helped groups polish their writing inside the Cavern of Learning.

I did step out for twenty minutes to do instructional rounds in Mr. F’s geometry class. Got to do some SOHCAHTOA, which I actually do know how to do. Woohoo! And it was neat to see my students in a different setting.