Category: cue the music of triumph

Day One Hundred Eighty

One of my seniors slipped a thank you card under my door before I arrived this morning, and I almost bawled my eyes out when I read it. And, like, I do not cry very often. Or, at least, I didn’t cry very often before this year…

I did keep it together while I taught my final A day classes, though. The first thing I did, obviously, was lead a cheer because we all made it to this point. After that, I went over some information about the World final (a reflective essay about second semester), and gave students the bulk of class to either prepare for that, or finish up their Multi-Genre Projects. I was available to help as needed, but mostly I just perched on my desk and observed them with pride. It’s the last day of class, and these students were fully focused, and they were also having fun. The number of them who were talking about how proud they were of their work, how prepared they felt for next year… Ahhh, it was all so great!

I finished class, as I always do on the last day, by showing a video recap of the year and giving one last lesson: if you understand the world, you can change the world.

So class started with a cheer and ended with applause.

But that wasn’t the end of my day! This evening, we had Spring Sports Awards, which was big for the track team because it’s The Head Coach’s 40th year and our captains made him a photobook to commemorate the occasion. They gave us all gift bags, too, after we gave out awards and letters. There was a framed team photo in my bag, as well as a giant box of relay chalk (YES!!!), and a new spike wrench. And- best and most unexpected thing- there were cards from individual sprinters, as well as one from the captains, and I ended up crying again. And again when the two rookie seniors came up to hug me.

What an amazing season we had… 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Nine

Longtime followers will know that this was one heck of a year. Discipline issues from day one, a challenging ninth grade population, a number of students dealing with serious medical issues, students in crisis, vaping, the lockdown, the flooding, various Incidents that I can’t detail any further… We just got rocked.

So it was probably fitting that, midway through Block 2, as Mrs. T and I were conferencing with students and everything was going well, the fire alarm suddenly went off. I shrieked and jumped about a foot into the air, so… not my coolest moment. But then I pulled myself together and led my class out to the baseball field, which is our usual gathering spot. 

It was a rainy day, and my students marveled at my ability to walk across a muddy field in high heels, which I thought was funny. I was worried we’d be out there for a while, and that the weather would get worse, but the fire department gave the all-clear pretty quickly. I think it took them fifteen minutes, tops, to figure out what had triggered the alarm (some overloaded sensor or something).

We went to flex block, then to Block 4, which is when my day got really awesome. One of my special needs students came running up to me at the start of the block to hand in his final project- like, running so fast down the hall that his aide couldn’t keep up- and he was absolutely beaming. And his work is beautiful. He loves art, so he drew a picture of the ending of N.H. Senzai’s Shooting Kabul, which he absolutely loved reading. The other piece of the project was a comparative essay about Shooting Kabul and a book he’d read earlier in the year about Nelson Mandela. I loved reading about the parallels he’d found in the two stories; he noticed things I hadn’t noticed, which was so cool. 

The other cool thing was the culmination of a lot of work. We have a student who really struggles with reading and writing, and his self-confidence is so low sometimes that it makes me sad, and life is just rough, you know? Most of this semester, he’d been avoiding work- no matter what we did- so he was in danger of failing, and was ready to give up. But, instead, he did something that was really hard: he gave Mrs. T and I a chance to try and help him. For the past two weeks he’s come in after school, during study hall, during flex block to work with one or the other of us- or both of us- to make up work, and to have additional time on the current stuff. Today- two days ahead of schedule- he finished his Multi-Genre Project. 

I had to sit beside him for the better part of an hour to keep him on track instead of on his phone or talking to his friends… and I had to prompt him to keep going, and reassure him the his work was good so he wouldn’t just delete it all… and I also had to be unobtrusive enough that my presence wouldn’t make shut down out of anger… And, boy, did it pay off. He finished a project that he’d been convinced he wasn’t capable of finishing. He smiled. He’s going to make it.

Block 5 was a blur of the music of triumph, and then I had to go to the last faculty meeting of the year. Fittingly, one of the topics for discussion was what we thought our successes were. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Five

Today was the last day of senior classes, so the culinary class threw a celebratory cookout at lunch, which was DELICIOUS. I had awesome pulled pork, pasta salad, hotdogs, etc… And all day long there were seniors popping by to say goodbye and thank you, which was adorable, even when I was mid-teach.

I did writing conferences for nearly all of Block 2, but during Block 4 there weren’t a lot of students ready to conference, so I just walked around and helped out as needed, and tried to keep everyone on task. I may have promised to freestyle rap in exchange for two students finishing the pieces they were working on.

Also, this conversation happened:

Student A: I have a golf tournament this weekend.
Student B: Gotta go all Tiger Woods, man.
Student C: Tiger is so good. Like, I bet he’s so good at everything, not just golf.
Me: I mean, he was pretty bad at marriage…
*chorus of “Ohhhh!”*
Student C: Drag him, Miss M! Just for that, I’m going to write another paragraph.

Whatever it takes, right?

And during flex block, I met with all my incoming APUSGOV students, went over course information with them, and assigned the summer work. I know about 2/3 of the students already, and am excited to get to know the rest. It’s going to be fun.

During Block 5 there was a house meeting, which was fine, initially. Then one of my coworkers said something pretty cutting. I’ve written before that there’s one who just doesn’t like me, and I stopped trying to change her opinion a long time ago, but her comment today still stung a little. So I was more than happy to leave when a student came to see me. He’s behind on his Multi-Genre Project, so he came to get some help, and ended up almost back on track by 3:30. I think he’ll get there by the end of next class, which is awesome.

As he was leaving, he thanked me and smiled. I don’t think I’d seen this kid genuinely smile before, and that erased how I was feeling coming out of my meeting. Let folks say or think whatever they want about me, you know?

I know who I am, and what I can do. 

Day One Hundred Sixty-One

My APUSGOV students were discussing some things this morning: the new abortion laws in Alabama and Georgia and the broader strategy of trying to challenge Roe, the influence of religion on conservatism, the Second Amendment, the militia movements out west, divorce law, online radicalization… This wasn’t a formal discussion. They were working on projects, and a couple of them started talking about Alabama, and a couple more chimed in- and I’m talking, like, throwing thoughts across the room while typing information about the NH state government- and I occasionally got asked for my two cents. And the conversation bounced from thing, to thing, to thing. It was fascinating, and it was obvious students had strong opinions, but it wasn’t contentious or ugly. If anything, they’re tired of the ugliness and extremism that tends to dominate the discourse, especially in the online spaces they occupy. 

So that was neat.

In World, I read over lots of student writing because there was a 100% turn-in rate on drafts for the first piece (expressive) in The Multi-Genre Project! That’s huge, given the struggles so many students had to meet deadlines on the last project; something has clearly clicked for them, and I made sure I took note and told them how proud I was of their work. I’m all about ending the year on a powerful, high note. 

I had a meeting during Block 5, followed by another meeting, and then I had practice! It’s the last practice before our conference championship, and we got a surprise visit from Dee, who’s up visiting his folks for the weekend. It’s always good to see him and catch up. He’s old enough now that none of the kids on the team knew him, so they treated him with a bit of awe when he started vaulting and giving advice to our vaulters. They were pretty adorable thanking him afterwards, too. 

I rue the day when he settles down in southern NH and ends up helping out a rival team…

Day One Hundred Thirty-Six

Today started with The Principal doing his best impression of the Hump Day Camel from the Geico commercials before saying the Pledge over the PA.

If that’s not a good way to start a day, I don’t know what is.

After that, I taught the coolest class I have ever taught. My APUSGOV students did a Socratic discussion (inspired by a presentation Mrs. T and I saw at NHCSS last fall), which is something I’ve never done before. Half of them discussed Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the other half discussed Macolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” and we closed with a whole class discussion of how history has remembered both men and how they’re discussed in schools. It was incredible. There were definite discussion leaders, but everyone contributed something valuable, and they were not shy. They dug into the rhetoric of the two pieces, debated its efficacy, discussed the way in which people judge protests and judge anger. Then they went in on state of race relations around the country and in their own (mostly white) community. They talked about Rodney King, Ferguson, Charlottesville, the debate over Confederate monuments and flags, the differences in what their peers are taught about the history of racism depending on where they go to school… They made some great points about the intersection of religion and racial prejudice/racial justice, too… Overall, it was just a really impressive, insightful 80 minutes. I barely said a word; I just listened. At the end, I thanked the class and told them how proud I was of them.

My World classes were just fun. Students did an exploration into different aspects of Hindu culture, so they read about traditions surrounding birth, marriage, death, dietary customs, etc… And they had to write some reactions, compare/contrasts, that kind of thing. Of course, since it’s an A day, and my A day students have all the questions, they wanted to talk about EVERYTHING. Which was awesome. Also, one of the things they read about was naming customs, and my assignment asked them to find out the meaning of their own names, which caused so much more hilarity than I thought it would.

I went to observe Ms. D’s class at lunch (finally- I’ve been meaning to do it since I was assigned as her mentor!). She came up to my room to chat about it during Block 5. She hadn’t been up to my classroom before, so when she walked in she took a moment to admire the space (which was nice because I am rather proud of it). Then we talked about how her lesson had gone. It was such a cool, reflective lesson. I had a ton of praise for it. We got into the broader, philosophical conversation about teaching, what our styles are, how we were trained, and how there are definite ways to do teaching wrong but no one way to do it right. 

Then I went to practice, which was obviously awesome. And I’d just like to point out that this is how my sprinters keep their water bottles cold: sticking them in the gigantic, dirty snow pile beside the parking lot.

Whatever works!

Day One Hundred Three

I felt the need to spread a bit of Friday cheer this morning- it’s been a busy week for all of us (meetings, meetings, meetings!)- so I got three amazing maple bacon muffins from the local bagel shop: one for Mr. F, one for Mrs. T, and one for me. We had a little team breakfast before our first classes, and it was so good.

In APUSGOV my students did some AP exam practice work, then continued their preparations for Court Madness. I answered questions about a few cases, defined some terms, and looked over the study sheets they’re creating. It’s a class full of students who like to talk and banter as they work, which is fine by me because they’re usually hilarious. Today they had jokes about my casual Friday outfit (jeans, boots, flannel, puffer vest) revealing just how basic I am. It’s so true, but I was comfortable.

In World students wrote current events essays, and then we returned to our discussion of current issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. They summarized the research they’d done in groups in previous classes, and I put it all on the board, and then took questions. I like how many questions they had, too, and I especially like that some of them came from students who don’t often ask questions. I finished by explaining the US’ interest in the conflict, and mentioning that the US’ position is one of the reasons that extremist groups like al-Qaeda declared jihad. We’ll study more about religious extremism next week, and a lot of students told me they’re looking forward to it because they hear about it on the news, and have lots of questions. I’m glad that they have faith in my ability to answer them! 

Ooh, and unrelated but super cool thing: I have a student in World who completes a modified version of the curriculum in order to meet his learning needs, and today he handed in a full essay that he’d written about Nelson Mandela. This is a student who’d struggled to write one paragraph back in September; I’ve been working with him, Mrs. T has been working with him, and our special educators have been working with him… and now we get to celebrate this amazing progress. 

Even if nothing else had gone well today, that would have been enough for me to call it a good day.

Day One Hundred Two

I fell on my icy steps and was about five minutes late for my morning meeting, so my day did not start out well, but it got better. My reaccreditation committee finished its work with about fifteen minutes to spare in the allotted meeting time, so I was able to have some coffee and get squared away for the day. 

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On the last B day my World classes didn’t go quite as well as I’d wanted them to, but today they actually went way better than I was expecting. Everything clicked, there was a ton of participation, and I felt confident that my students understood the material… I was initially worried about my Block 4 class doing the research part of the lesson (on current issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict) because my Block 2 class found it challenging. I helped each group one-on-one, and then they did really well, so it was all good. But, usually, if it’s challenging in Block 2 it’s going to be REALLY challenging in Block 4. So I adjusted how I gave instructions, added a bit more specificity about what they should look for, and they did excellent work. Most even finished early, and they were able to explain so much about the conflict when asked.

So I’m pretty happy, especially when I reflect on how hard it’s been, at times, to reach some of my students this year- and in that class, in particular. I feel like we’re in a good place now, the vibe is positive, and important learning is happening… Mr. F and I did have a bit of a tough meeting with one student this afternoon (Mrs. T had to leave, or else she’d have been there, too), but it ended on a good note, so I’m feeling optimistic.

Day One Hundred One

I think a third of my students are sick right now. There were a bunch of absences, and the kids who were there were coughing and sneezing. I washed and disinfected basically everything before I left.

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My APUSGOV students came in with SOTU memes, assuming (correctly) that I’d let them share those for the first ten minutes of class. Afterwards, I showed the PBS highlights of the speech, and we discussed it seriously. My students had a lot to say about the President’s remarks on abortion, his “partisan investigations” comment, the “USA! USA!” chants, and the glimpses of NH’s representatives in the audience. I let them say what they had to say, then gave them the rest of class to prepare for Court Madness.

I had former students stopping by to talk SOTU throughout the day, too, which was great; I love that they care, and that they want to talk to me about it. Plus, some of my ninth graders asked if I’d answer their SOTU questions at the start of World, and, of course, I agreed. Afterwards, a few said they want to take APUSGOV as seniors.

AWESOME.

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In World I showed the follow-up to Promises, and continued teaching about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. I lectured through recent history, then had students group up to do some research on the current obstacles to peace (we’ll discuss their findings in detail next class). It went especially well in my Block 4 class because they had tons of questions- good questions!- and my answers kept sparking more. It was so fun.

Day Ninety-Nine

I was tired today, as were many of my seniors, but we still rocked and rolled through APUSGOV. We picked up where we left off: with Marbury v. Madison. I had students group up, get out their copies of the Constitution and Fed. 78, and try to figure out how the Court ruled in that case. 

We discussed their thoughts, and the actual holding, and I gave them a study sheet with all the salient points. Then I told them they were each going to make a similar study sheet on another significant case (I had slips of paper with the case names; students drew them from a cup). That’s in preparation for Court Madness!

It’s going to be fun.

In World, I started teaching about some of the current issues in the Middle East. I introduced the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by showing a bit of a documentary film called Promises. I’ve shown it in past years, too, but never as part of my introductory lesson. I think it worked really well this way, though; my students were wicked curious about the conflict after watching, and eagerly started researching its history.

So, rather than it being just one more source of information, Promises was a great hook. Which brings me to my teacher-y advice for the day: don’t be scared to change a lesson- even one that’s already pretty good- if you think it could be better. The results might be awesome.

Day Ninety-Eight

I have a confession to make to my fellow New Englanders: I don’t own a Patriots jersey. Or any other Patriots gear. 

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Because of this, I wasn’t dressed like the majority of my colleagues today. Instead, I was wearing jeans and a plaid flannel, and one of our new substitute teachers definitely mistook me for a student. So, basically, I knew right off that it was going to be a good day.

I have a big project coming up in APUGOV (Court Madness!!!!), so I spent most of my prep time getting ready for that, but I also did all of my grading. It’s the B day in the schedule, so my World lesson was the same as yesterday’s. I think it went better today, though: better timing, smoother transitions, and more participation. My Block 2 class has been on fire since the day I waited them out, but it was my Block 4 class that really impressed me. They had SO MANY questions during the video about the hajj! Sure, some of them were wacky hypotheticals, but nothing I couldn’t work with. It’s so awesome when they come alive, and I got to teach so much more than I’d planned to.

Also awesome: during flex time, one of my students who’d had a really rough second quarter, and was out sick for the past seven or eight school days, came to see me. He’d printed all the work he’d missed off my website, did it all, and wanted to make up his midterm. Now, this was a kid I couldn’t reach for the life of me- sometimes, that’s how it is- but I’m so glad someone did. 

Another student who was sick during midterms made up her exam this afternoon, so I was one of the last people out of the building, but it’s all good. Now it’s the weekend, and there’s this big sports thing on Sunday… No, not the Superbowl; I’m talking about the indoor track state championship! 

I’ve got sprinters to coach.