Category: coaching

Day Sixty-Eight

Mr. F and I were supposed to go to an IEP meeting this morning, but it got rescheduled, so we were able to go to the prep room, grab the cinnamon rolls Mrs. T made, and grade papers and stuff. 

World/English started smoothly. It was day two of introducing the research project, giving public speaking pointers, and laying down the law about being able to choose seats, etc… About twenty minutes in, Mrs. T got a call to pick her son up from preschool because he had a fever, so I was left alone in the Cavern. I hate to admit it was frustrating because, obviously, she had to go… But, yeah, it was a little frustrating in the moment. When there are two of us, one can handle the particularly needy and/or disruptive students while the other handles everyone else; it’s exhausting to do it solo. 

But, again, nothing for it. I survived.

I did end up assigning seats, though. The class couldn’t even manage five minutes of quiet work time in the seats they chose (yes, I was timing). When I told them that, and pointed out that I’d warned them repeatedly to stop talking and focus on their work, there was a general acknowledgement that my assigning seats was a reasonable move. 

It was mostly quiet and productive after that.

I saw some cool projects coming together. Topics include the Biafran War, Nelson Mandela, refugee camps in Kenya, the rehabilitation of child soldiers, the hunt for Joseph Kony… It’s all big stuff these students knew little or nothing about prior to ninth grade, and I’m hoping their presentations will be really eye-opening by the time we’re through.

I spent Block Five editing APUSGOV papers, mostly, but I did take a break to talk to Mr. F, Ms. N, Mrs. R, and The Vice Principal about how hard this year is. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling that way. 

At practice, The Head Coach had me take the sprinters to do starting blocks, which was fun, and it’s something I pride myself on doing well. I spent some time after practice finishing those APUSGOV papers, so my car was all alone in the parking lot when I left. 

Onward…

Day Sixty-Three

I really liked my APUSGOV lesson today. Each student got a handout describing a bill’s path to becoming a law, and they had to “follow” it by walking around the room and finding answers to twenty questions about the process. I’d taped info blurbs all over the Cavern of Learning (Mrs. T doesn’t have a Block One class, so I could use her half, too).  Half the class had bills that originated in the Senate, and half had bills that originated in the House, so students were spread out and didn’t bottleneck in any part of the room. It worked super well, and it got them out of their seats- which last class did not do- and got them asking questions as they went. 

Definitely a keeper.

World/English started with a vocab quiz. By popular request, Mrs. T and I split the vocab into two parts this unit (the given terms and their choice words), and gave two quizzes instead of one. The grades and the students’ feedback both indicate that we should keep doing this, so that’s the plan. We like it when they advocate for something and experience success as a result. That’s a great thing.

After students finished their quizzes, they got back to work on their book papers (or research projects, in the case of the half dozen students who are ahead). Mrs. T and I both did five or six conferences, and sat with various students needing one-on-one help with their writing. It was a wicked productive day- perhaps because the due date is approaching (Thursday)- and we were impressed. We said as much repeatedly. 

During my prep time I had one of my APUSGOV students in to make up a test. While she worked, I did my grading, hung up some new posters (Christmas gifts from my mom), and glanced over my lesson plans for the next couple weeks. And I got an email from our front office secretary, who does Pampered Chef, telling me I’d won a raffle at an event I was at yesterday! So my mailbox was full of Pampered Chef goodies, and that was awesome.

It was almost 50 degrees, so we got outside for track practice and did 50m time trials followed by a bit of a workout. There were some surprises in the time trials- in the form of big improvements from last year- and that’s delightful. 

Day Sixty-Two

A student cussed me out again today. 

That totally sucked. 

But I escorted him to the office to cool off, let the Vice Principal have a talk with him, and got on with class. Sometimes, that’s all that can be done. Meantime, three other students had crises of varying proportions, and Mrs. T dealt with those. She’s a mom, so she’s good at that.

I’m saying, though, it just wasn’t a good day for a lot of folks.

image

It wasn’t totally bad, though. 

There were some laughs. A student attempted to sneak out of his assigned seat by stuffing his hoodie with his backpack and a tissue box (for the head) so it looked like a person, and Mrs. T and I both cracked up about that. Plus, we got to read some beautiful papers, and encourage a few students who’d been struggling and finally had some breakthroughs. I even got a smile out of one of my least smiley students because he finished his book- which I know was hard for him to do- and I told him how genuinely proud I was.

During flex I had a couple of my seniors come retake their last unit test, and crush it. And I had some great conversations about life and current events with some upperclassmen who came to see me during my prep time. I love that they come by just to chat.

I had to dash out before the bell to go to the doctor, but then I came back for the tail end of track practice. It’s always fun ending the day with my team. 

Day Sixty

There are still closed roads and power outages throughout the district, but we did have a full school day. Mrs. T and I spent part of Block 1 revising our plans because of the snow day, and part of it making a seating chart for our ninth grade classes, which was definitely helpful. 

We explained our rationale for assigning seats to the students when they arrived: many are behind, they- by their own admission- work better if it’s quiet and they have fewer distractions, and we want to set them up for success. We also reiterated basics like don’t throw stuff, don’t touch each other, get off Snapchat… It’s not stuff we’re used to having to say this far into the year, but if that’s what it takes… Most of our students nodded or shrugged, and got to work, and really did benefit from the changed atmosphere.

One did cuss me out, though. Twice.

Can’t win ‘em all.

We had a team meeting followed by a 504 meeting during Block 5. Mr. F brought candy, which was such a win. And, I have to say, all of our 504 meetings have been super positive, and this one was no different. It’s not like that every year, so yay for that.

I went to track practice afterwards. We had to do battle with the ski team for space on the stairs and in the halls, but we managed. I really like the team dynamics; there’s a ton of enthusiasm, and I’m starting to see a lot of potential in our rookies. It’s fun.

Day Fifty-Nine

Last night I decided I wanted to redo an entire unit in APUSGOV, so I stayed up late to edit some papers, and went to work a little earlier than usual this morning to print copies and update my boards. Was I ready to teach the new stuff by the time the bell rang? You bet I was.

I actually spent the first half hour of class going over the unit test they took last class. Then I handed out unit guides, assigned the first assessment (a research paper on major legislation, which I wrote instructions for at about midnight), and started talking about Congress. I showed some West Wing (”Mr. Willis of Ohio”), too, because it’s a fun addition to my teaching.

Mrs. T and I had our hands full in World/English because, well, it’s Monday after a vacation. We had kids who were coming off a rough time at home, or too little sleep, or something else, so we had to be mindful of that and manage any disruptive behaviors that resulted. Also, it was snowing, which distracts even the most focused students, and we just had to live with it.

I did raise my voice once to end an argument- I had to get up over it- and I’m annoyed because it’s not something I like doing. The problem is I haven’t yet found another way to deal with this group of students. They respond if I yell; they don’t respond to anything that worked in past years.

It’s wicked frustrating.

image

I know I keep saying that, but it’s true, and maybe I didn’t expect it fourteen years into this profession. It doesn’t make me want to quit or anything dramatic like that; it makes me want to just figure it out already. 

This is the struggle of the impatient perfectionist.

There is good work being done, though. Most students are drafting, a few are revising, and two are totally done. Those who are behind are catching up. And I’ve answered lots of cool questions about writing and about African history, so this is sparking some curiosity- and that’s the goal.

I tinkered with my APUSGOV lessons some more during my prep time, and put shiny new books (for the unit on Central Asia, and courtesy of Mrs. T’s giant English budget this time) on my shelves. Then I went to track practice because, once again, tis the season.

The team is about the same size as it was last year, and it’s young- only three seniors- so it’s got a lot of potential. The Head Coach and I are looking forward to seeing what they can do.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Five

Today was long, but it was a good day. 

The merry band of activists that meets in my classroom made cake and started designing a website to spread their message. So that’s awesome. One of the kids’ moms does site design for a living, so she came in to help, except I totally forgot no one can log onto our wifi networks without our tech folks okaying it. D’oh. But they managed to get some work done anyhow.

Then, in World/English, Mrs. T and I conducted more multi-genre project writing conferences- another nine each- and we’re really feeling good about our students’ work. I think everything I read was quality work; even if pieces needed to be improved, it wasn’t hard to explain to students how to go about it. And I did read two projects that were just straight-up AWESOME. One was about mass shootings and the other was about mental illness, and both packed in some powerful writing.

It’s all very serious, and so was what I did with my prep time. Tom White was back in Mr. I’s Genocide Studies class, so I went down to see him lecture. Those of you following along will remember that he was one of my high school teachers, so it’s always amazing to be his student again- even as an interloper!

We had to say a quick goodbye because I had a faculty meeting. That was, well, a faculty meeting in June. There were cookies, though, so that’s something.

Afterwards, I had about an hour to go home and chill before going back to the school for Spring Sports Awards. And that was amazing, as it always is. It’s  recognizing a season of tremendous work, goodbyes and hugs from the seniors, flowers and other coaches’ gifts… We had five amazing captains this year, but one of them stood out because this sport changed him SO MUCH for the better. And I got to tell him how proud I was of him. 

That’s what it’s all about.

Bonus Day

Today we took a dozen athletes to the Meet of Champions. 

This meet is fun because my middle and high school coaches are always there, and it’s good to catch up with them. My middle school coach always shakes his head about the fact that I’m not twelve anymore, but then he asks after my team and wishes us luck.

It was a bit hot for a track meet, but that didn’t stop our boys relays from PRing in the 4×800 and 4×400, or our long jumper from making New Englands (and sprinting a decent 200m, too). Our girls didn’t do quite as well, but one of the seniors on the 4×800 ran a monster PR, and our sophomore vaulter made a mark, so that’s good.

Coaches aren’t allowed infield at big meets like this, so Coach T and I, who usually run all over the place, spent much of our time jumping up and down in the bleachers and grabbing each other by the arms while our athletes competed. 

We’re kind of ridiculous.

But we should be, right? Getting athletes this far is exciting. 

We celebrated after the meet with pizza before the long ride home. And that’s it. The Head Coach will take the long jumper down to UNH for New Englands, but for everyone else- including me- the season is over.

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-Six

If you tell me about a thing that needs doing, even if it isn’t urgent, there’s a good chance I’ll sit down and do it as soon as possible so it isn’t stuck in my head. Yesterday I learned that one of the incoming ninth graders will need significant modifications to first semester work for World/English, so I started writing them today. 

I had extra time because it’s senior skip day and my APUSGOV students all skipped. I think it was a good way to use it. I did more during my prep block, too.

And, in between, there was multi-genre madness! So many cool projects are in the works. And we know it’s going well when, even this late in the year (and on a hot day), no one tries to pack up early for lunch or for the end of the block. Mrs. T and I are calling that a win.

What we’re not calling a win: the number of students who didn’t turn in an Afghanistan Novel Project, which was due to Mrs. T last week. Steps will be taken to address that…

Practice was short and sweet today- my job in it was just to fine tune sprinters’ block form- so I got home about two hours ago. Aaaand got back to work on the stuff I was doing for next year.

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.