Category: edublr

Day Nineteen

I realized about halfway through my prep time this morning that my arm is super sore because Mr. M hit me with a ball during kickball yesterday. I hadn’t thought it was that bad, initially, but it bruised up good… Whoops. Luckily, it’s a Friday and I have a weekend that won’t involve me reaching up to write stuff on a white board. 

I rocked and rolled through my two World classes despite the sore arm. I had my students examine aspects of Latin American culture: art, poetry, music, holidays, etc… with some readings and some Powerpoint slides. I showed a video of capoeira, and one on styles of dance. In my Block 4 class, a bunch of the boys decided to get up and try to do the dances, too, which was HILARIOUS. 

I got asked if I could do any of the dances, and I confirmed that I could, (I did ballroom dance when I was in school). When they asked me to show them, I told them what I tell students every year when I get asked this: only if they can find one of the four male teachers who can dance since I need a partner. 

They never manage to do it.

I had a former student visit during Block 5. We talked about how tenth grade is going while I made photocopies for next week. Then my bunch of post-Parkland activists came in after school to hold the first organizing meeting of the year, which was great. I stayed an additional twenty minutes or so to wrap up my grading. I figured I would be the last person to leave- on Fridays everyone tends to go as soon as contract hours are over- but Mrs. T had stayed for meetings, so we walked out together. 

Homecoming is next week, so stay tuned for all the spirit week fun!

Day Eighteen

I did not like it when my alarm went off this morning, but at least I got to go to work in my gym clothes because it was Freshman Field Day. I had morning PLC and APUSGOV first, though. In PLC we had a chat about CBE and rubrics, and in APUSGOV I explained the evolution of the federal government’s power. 

This is a kickass lesson, and I love teaching it. I broke students into groups, and had each group look up one of these things, get the facts, and figure out if it expanded or limited federal power:

  • 10th Amendment
  • McCulloch v. Maryland
  • Gibbons v. Ogden
  • 14th Amendment
  • Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US
  • US v. Lopez
  • Obergefell v. Hodges

They put their findings on the board in that order so the chronology was clear, and then I talked my way through it, elaborating on what they’d written as needed. It’s like fitting a puzzle together, and I could see it on their faces when it all clicked.

Freshman Field Day was supposed to start as soon as that block ended, but we had a slight rain delay. Once we were sure the rain had passed, we brought the whole ninth grade out to the fields for some community-building fun. See, my school is a big, regional school that takes incoming ninth graders from five schools (three public, two charter) across eight towns. We do field day to encourage them to mingle and build up unity.

This year we had yard games, capture the flag, softball, kickball, trail walks, crafting, and a high ropes course (yes, my school has one on property… get on our level). I played a wicked fun game of kickball. I can’t boot the ball like some of the kids can, but threw a boy out as he ran for home, which totally upped my reputation amongst the freshman boys. The fact that I have the aim and the willingness to hit someone with a ball always surprises them (because I’m *gasp* a girl!) It’s hilarious.

After kickball, I took a group of kids on a trail walk. Mr. T came with us because he really hasn’t seen the grounds yet. We came back just in time for lunch, which the cafeteria provided for the kids and us teachers. After lunch was the traditional tug-o-war tournament, and then we all went back inside for last block. 

My fellow team teachers and I made ourselves presentable for a team meeting with a parent, which went really well. These meetings and last night’s Open House have really impressed parents, according to Mrs. F; I guess there’s been lots of positive feedback to the school counseling office and The Principal. Yay us! 

Day Seventeen

Open House Chocolate Cream Pie:

  • Mix 4oz, of cream cheese and half a tub of Cool Whip 
  • Spread evenly in an Oreo crust 
  • Chill for 30 minutes
  • Mix 12oz instant chocolate pudding mix with 2.5 cups of milk
  • Spread on top of cream cheese and Cool Whip layer

Pie did, in fact, make the day better for my whole floor. That’s a win.

And so was everything else today! I had two awesome World classes. I got some GREAT questions about Latin America, and my students had a big, broad discussion of immigration during Block 4. That was so cool. They devoured the independent work I assigned, too, which rocks. 

I also had a super busy flex block- 17 students came to see me! They were all able to get help, get work done, and improve their grades. It’s such a benefit for them to have that time. I had a feeling I’d like flex, and I definitely do so far.

I spent half my prep time in a team leader meeting and half in a 504 meeting. It was super positive (not all of them are), but it meant I had to stay after to prepare for Open House. It didn’t take too long, though; I washed my desks and boards, printed informational handouts, and then left for a couple hours. Some teachers stay straight through the afternoon, but I always make it a point to go home. I like to get coffee, eat dinner, change clothes, and reapply my make-up. 

At Open House, I always do a couple things: I write my credentials on the board (because I am a professional badass, and people should know), I congratulate parents of seniors and welcome parents of freshmen, and I try to remember to breathe. It’s so much more nerve-wracking than teaching is! But I think it went well.

Day Sixteen

Okay, so that meeting that I had last week that went all sideways? The follow-up was today, and it was really good. The SpEd Director and Ms. N loved the work I did, the student using it is succeeding, and my confidence is back. There were apologies all around, too, for misunderstanding each other last time. So all is well in the kingdom.

I did very simple lessons in both APUSGOV and World, but sometimes simplicity works. It definitely did today. It was a lot of fun.

My APUSGOV students had to read the Constitution and identify what powers are given to each branch of the federal government, and what powers are given to the states; and then I charted out their answers on the board. Totally not flashy, but the conversation we had about why powers were delegated the way they were? That was brilliant.

My World class was a unit intro; we’re starting our study of Latin America. So I went over the unit plan, taught the vocab (which led to many hilarious tangents in my Block 4 class), and gave them the remainder of time to work. They had a map to label, and an assignment on daily life (read and respond to an article about a specific country, do additional research on anything about that country and cite it). Anything they didn’t do is homework. So it’s a lesson in time management and decision-making, too, and I liked how I went. 

We also experimented with flex time for the first time today. Yesterday, we all spoke to the students in our advisories about which teachers they wanted to see for extra help, enrichment, whatever. We built their schedules for the advisory block, and today they went where ever they signed up to go. I had 14 students come see me; some wanted to make up work, some wanted to retake their last quiz. I thought it went really well.

It’s Mr. F’s birthday. We did lunch, and then I went to chat about upcoming things with Mrs. T before my aforementioned meeting. I had another meeting at 2:30, and then I went back to finish talking to Mrs. T. 

Now I’m making pie because Open House is tomorrow. It’s a thing.

Day Fifteen

This past Friday I modified the curriculum for my next World unit, sent it out for feedback, and got… nothing. 

And, sure, I get that people are busy, but I’m an anxious soul. And the meeting that resulted in me doing the work sucked, so maybe I need a little confidence boost. I don’t know.

My classes were all right today: vocab quizzes, data analysis, conversations about big ideas… They were a bit reluctant to chat, at first, in my Block 2 class, but I kept encouraging them to take a risk and speak up. Eventually, the floodgates opened. Also, I graded and returned the quizzes within the block (I grade wicked quickly), and some students realized they should to study more in the future. We’ll work on that. 

Here’s a funny thing: I thought I saw a boy texting instead of doing his class work, so I asked him to stop. He said he wasn’t actually texting, just using the autocorrect feature to figure out how to spell a word. He showed the screen to me so I could see it.

That’s a new one for me, but, y’know… Way to use your resources, kiddo.

I also had a random side conversation about students’ 4th Amendment rights because there was a rumor that the K9s were going to be brought in today (not a thing that actually happened). That’s cool; everyone ought to know their rights. 

I spent the start of my prep time getting my stuff for tomorrow’s classes ready. Then I had a meeting with Ms. J because she had some questions, and I wanted to plan another observation. Some of her questions stemmed from the recent lockdown drill; I could answer a few, and told her to ask the SRO others… And, ultimately, I had to say we don’t have answers for everything. We try to anticipate all the ways something bad could happen, but… 

That’s teaching in modern America. But.

Day Fourteen

So I had a meeting with Mrs. T, Ms. N, and The SpEd Director during last block today. It devolved into a philosophical conversation about having classes labeled as being “college prep,” but having students whose work is modified so significantly that it isn’t college prepatory work anymore. Somehow, The SpEd Director got the idea that I didn’t want to make those modifications, which… Noooooo. No, no, no, no. Definitely not my thinking on that. I want kids to learn, so I want to meet them where they are. That’s my job.

I just don’t know what to do about that “college prep” label sometimes. 

Mrs. T cleared up that misunderstanding, and then everything was all good. But, I have to say, it stung that The SpEd Director misunderstood- that she thought it was at all possible I’d ever think that way. It stung a lot, really. I’m not having a great week outside of work, so I’m probably a little overwrought, but yeah… I went back to my desk, modified my next unit, and sent my work to Ms. N and Mrs. T for feedback. 

Because I’m good at this, damnit, and I want to do it. 

Anyways. 

The rest of the day was great. My APUSGOV class crushed a vocab quiz and then tackled the Constitution. I split the class into three groups. One had to find evidence that it’s a visionary document, one find evidence that it’s an elitist document, and one had to find evidence that it’s a pragmatic document full of compromises (spoilers: it’s all three). The ensuing discussion was good fun. 

Then there was a lockdown drill…

image

That wasn’t fun, but it had to be done.

Afterwards, my World students crushed a vocab quiz, too, which was delightful since it’s their first one. Then we had an epic discussion about radicalization and extremism (carrying over from last class), the teaching of prejudice, biases and stereotypes, and how our sources of information shape our perceptions. It was good in my Block 2 class. It was AMAZING in my Block 4 class; so many students had so much to say. 

Oh, and it was picture day, and I looked good. That’s a win.

I ended the day at the stadium this evening, watching the football team pick up a huuuuge victory. It was a blast.

Day Thirteen

Today started with a PLC meeting, as all Thursdays do. Mr. T and I discussed World Cultures-y things, and talked about open house- which is next week- since he’s new. We had some time before the first bell, so I went and found Ms. N, the case manager for all my ninth graders with IEPs (sidenote: having one case manager attached to a team is a big benefit of teaming). I wanted to talk to her about a student, but we decided we need a bigger meeting with Mrs. T and The SpEd Director, so that’s going to happen tomorrow.

I spent Block 1 editing current events essays so I could give them back to my World students for revision. And, cue the music of triumph, everything went as well today as it did yesterday, even in Block 4. I still had to redirect kids, but they responded so much more quickly, and without any back talk. The one boy I was having trouble with? Was all good. 

I have no idea what I did.

Maybe it was our chat after last class, maybe it was that I replied to a Remind text he sent to ask about an assignment. Maybe it wasn’t me at all. 

But I’ll take it.

I forgot my lunch, so I dashed down to the awesome bagel shop and deli about a mile from the school so I could get a sandwich. They had fresh chocolate chip cookies, so I grabbed three. I ate one, gave one to Mr. F because we’re buddies, and gave the other to Mr. T because he hadn’t had one of this place’s cookies yet. So good.

I spent Block 5 prepping all my stuff for next class, so I stayed after for a bit to do my grading. It was about 4 when I left, and I decided I needed an afternoon coffee. The baristas call me “Coach” or “Teach.’ 

Yes, I am!

Day Twelve

The bell schedule is just different enough this year that I occasionally forget when classes end (let us note, I had an unchanged schedule for twelve years). This morning I had my APUSGOV class do some practice FRQs, and I was marking the time remaining incorrectly for about ten minutes. Buuuut I caught myself and apologized, and we got on with it. I just wanted to give them a taste of what the exam is like, so it’s low stakes work.

While they were writing, I redid my entire World lesson because I abruptly decided to adjust the sequence of the next few classes. So my students started by revising the current events essays they drafted last class, which I had initially planned to do next class. Then I added a bit of vocabulary practice (there’s a quiz next class). Then, since we’re on the topic of current events, I got on the topic of extremism because it’s come up in conversation a few times this week, and I have a great activity on the things that make countries vulnerable to extremist influences. Students have to examine the emergence of five different extremist groups and figure out what they have in common. So they did that today, some took it home to finish. We’ll chat next class about how extremist groups target individuals. 

I’ve always done that lesson later in the year, but I figured why not do it now. As I said, the topic has come up. And I do tell people that extremism looks the same all over the world, so it’s a point I can keep coming back to as we study its manifestations this year. We’ll see how that works out.

I spent my prep time planning, grading…. and emailing the staffers for three winning candidates and one incumbent to get them to come to my APUSGOV class. Because last year’s biggest lesson was that it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Two already said yes. Just gotta work out dates.

Day Eleven

Only one of my students was born before 9/11. There can’t be more than a handful in the whole school, and next year there will be none. It made observing a moment of silence a bit surreal, and I found myself wondering how long after other major tragedies did that tradition last.

Anyways.

I did a walk through observation of Ms. J’s American Lit. class, which was fun because she has a ton of my former students. It did make it impossible to be subtle and non-disruptive, though. I apologized for that on a post-it note. 

Then I went and taught my own classes. My World lesson did go as well as it went yesterday. More kids needed help today, which is no biggie, and I still have one in that challenging Block 4 class who is really struggling to get out of his own way. I actually held him after class to talk one-on-one about his behavior. I haven’t had to do that in ages.

I will figure out how to work with him, though. I’m determined.

I could hear Mr. T teaching a lesson on racism across the hall all morning. so when we ate lunch together I asked if I could steal it. Afterwards, I had a team meeting followed by a faculty meeting, which wasn’t fun because I had a headache and there wasn’t any coffee. 

I survived, though.

And then I went to vote, and I saw a former student as I was walking in. He beamed at me and shouted, “I’m voting because your class taught me it matters!” So nothing else about today actually matters. That makes it.

Day Ten

I nearly always wear my hair in a ponytail- a habit from my college track days- so my coworkers flipped out about me wearing it down today. I got a bunch of compliments about my dress, too, which was nice.

My APUSGOV class had a cracking debate about Brutus 1 and Federalist 10, and then went off on a tangent about what James Madison would make of our current government. That was good stuff. There’s a primary election tomorrow, so we ended class by chatting about that. I have a bunch of students who will be 18 by November, but only one student who’s 18 now, and he got a round of applause because he gets to cast his first vote.

So cool.

I continued on a debate/politics theme in my advisory, though it was unplanned. I’d promised them breakfast, so we were sitting around, eating muffins and donuts, and a handful of boys tried to convince me to let them put hats on (which is against our dress code). I told them they had to convince the school board, not me, and they started doing research and making plans to talk to The Principal (I emailed him a heads up). I am so okay with this. 

I kind of made up my World lesson as I went. Last class, I taught my students annotation using a news article about Yemen, and asked them to find and annotate a news article of their choice for homework. Today I decided to get an writing sample by having them sum up their news article and consider its global impact. As I was explaining what I wanted, I figured I could get a full essay out of it, so I ended up modeling it paragraph by paragraph on the board (using the Yemen article). And it went well! 

My Block 4 class totally cruised, so we ended up playing a vocab quiz game called Flyswatter for the last 15 minutes. How it works: students divide into two teams, each with a flyswatter; the vocab words are written on the board; when I give a definition, the people with the flyswatters race to swat the word. It was fun, and it got everyone up out of their seats, which is nice after a block of writing. 

Hopefully, it goes well tomorrow, too!