Category: faculty meeting

Day One Hundred Eighty-Six

We had two evening teacher workshops this year, which actually count as one of our required 187 days (I don’t question contract math), which means…. TODAY WAS THE LAST DAY! IT’S SUMMER!!!!!!

I had very little to do today because I’m obnoxiously quick, and I had all day yesterday to do stuff, so I helped Mr. F clean up his room. Then Mrs. T and I helped Mr. E move stuff from his current classroom down to a classroom on our floor because he’s going to be the science teacher on our ninth grade team next year. We’re definitely excited to have him.

There was a brief faculty meeting that was really just a send off for The Principal, who is retiring. He commended us all for getting through what was a really tough year and staying positive, and acknowledged it wasn’t always easy. Those of you who read regularly know that we had the toughest, most in-crisis freshmen class I’ve ever had, and then there were all these crazy, unexpected things that the whole school community had to deal with: Incidents the police were involved in, major catastrophes in the local area, the lockdown, the pipes bursting, and everything else… I tend to sum it up with a quote from C.S. Lewis: “Experience, that most brutal of teachers. But you learn. My God, you learn.”

I did learn, and it will make me better, but I am also so, so relieved that this year is done.

I shook The Principal’s hand after the meeting, and thanked him for his support over the years. He really did champion young teachers, and encouraged us to be bold and creative, and I benefited hugely from that. 

And that… was that. 

Until next year!

Day One Hundred Sixty

It snowed in some of the towns in the district this morning, but, thankfully, it was just raining in the town where the high school is located. Still, it’s cold and gross outside, which is why I’m home at this hour to write a blog entry: no sports practices this afternoon. 

I’d have been home earlier, but I did have a faculty meeting to attend.

Half my APUSGOV class was absent today because they were taking the AP Calc exam, and about that many will be absent Thursday for AP Stats, so my lesson plans this week are minimal. There’s an article students have to read about the NH state government, but other than that they’re able to use my class time to study the unit vocab, work on their final project (on political participation), catch up on other course work, whatever. The class will settle back into a more structured rhythm next week when exams are over.

Meantime, World is VERY structured right now because Multi-Genre is a big capstone project, and my ninth graders really need a step-by-step breakdown in order to to be successful (moreso than in past years, it should be noted). So there are daily goals and lots of check-ins. But, aside from checking in and answering a question here or there, I’m mostly just observing. This is cool because everything is going well. I mean, some of the students are a week ahead of deadlines because they’re so into what they’re doing. So, while I had to write a few “your child is in danger of failing” emails today, I also got to write a bunch of “your child is doing amazing work right now!” emails, and that’s always great to be able to do.

I love ending the year with this project. It’s awesome.

Day One Hundred Twenty-Seven

Today was an early release day for students, so our classes were only fifty minutes long, which meant that by the end of them I felt kind of like I used to feel after sprinting the 100m dash in college. 

I showed an excerpt from a PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders to my APUSGOV class. I knew we’d have a good discussion afterwards because what little my students know about the Civil Rights Movement is very sanitized, and this doc reveals just how much violence and vitriol activists endured. It was definitely a little shocking. So we talked about that, and about other acts of protest besides the Freedom Rides, and the response to those. I sent students home with a one-pager on the desegregation campaign in Birmingham, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which we’ll discuss next class. 

In World, I was just doing a vocab lesson. I’ve said this before, but I’m always amazed how much I get out of something that is so basic and so traditional. I seriously just putting terms and definitions on the board for students to copy down. But I go slow, and I talk my way through the terms, connecting one to the next, and I let students stop me for questions at any time. My Block 4 class, in particular, likes to ask questions, and they had a TON today, especially when I was defining terms that relate to Hinduism because that’s all new to them.

So now they’re excited to dive into this unit and learn more, which is awesome. As long as that keeps being the case, I’m going to keep pre-teaching vocab this way, ‘cause if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

We had a nice, long lunch break after students left, so Mr. W and I went and had sandwiches at the local deli. We grabbed coffee from Starbucks before heading back up to the school because we cut one day off our mandatory 187 days by extending two of our afternoon teacher workshops to 5:30, and this was one of them. We started by having a faculty meeting, during which my NEASC committee presented its work for our reaccreditation process (which the faculty approved, yay!). After that, we had two sessions that were pretty fun; as a team-builder/morale-booster thing, the administration asked teachers to volunteer to facilitate different activities, and those of us who weren’t facilitating could choose what to do. So, like, the art teacher taught painting, the phys. ed. teachers set up a basketball tournament, the woodworking teacher taught everyone to make carved pens in the wood shop. I chose to go see one of the English teachers give a talk about awesome books, and having book discussions in class because I am a lit. nerd. Then I went to the ECE room and made chaos jars, which is something the high school kids in the program do with the daycare kids, and it was so much fun. I’m still covered in glitter.

We had some time to work on our own after that, so I got a bit of prep and grading done (I mentally rewrote my next three World lessons while I was teaching today- in response to the questions I was getting- so then I had to actually rewrite them). Then we had a little snack break, followed by two presentations: one from school counseling about the shifting landscape of college admissions, and one from special ed. about, well, special ed. These are serious subjects, and the presentations were packed with information, but my colleagues are hilarious people, so they kept the mood light. Oh, and at one point The SpEd Director gave Mr. H a shout-out for the accomodations/modifications cheat sheet he has for his students, and he, in turn, shouted out Mrs. T and I for teaching him to do that. Yay for all of us!

I rarely say teacher workshops are energizing, but this one honestly was. I learned a lot, I had fun, and it didn’t seem like a ten-hour workday at all. 

Day One Hundred Twenty

So today could have been a disaster: Mrs. T was out sick, I had to change some questions on my APUSGOV test about ten minutes before the test review was supposed to take place, and I had meetings all afternoon… Everything went pretty well, though, so yay! Disaster avoided!

I was worried about World/English because B days are rowdy, and the debate prep has been challenging for many of the groups, and it’s not easy for one person to manage. Mrs. T did request a sub, though, and luckily it was one of the good ones; he was actually able to answer some questions and redirect off-task students, so it wasn’t all on me to do it. And students’ behavior was unusually good. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the last day of debate prep and students knew they had to buckle down, or because the lighter evenings have them energized, or who knows what, but I was happy about it. 

Both of my most challenging students had really awesome days because I kept suggesting small tasks they could do to help their groups. We always tell students to break their work into small tasks, focus on one thing at a time, and take breaks in between tasks as needed, but not all students know how to do that for themselves. They will have to learn how in the future, but for now? I’m totally willing to help. Yeah, I still had to keep telling one of them to go back to his seat and finish the task he’d been given, but he didn’t shout at me when I did it, and he did get back to work, so it’s progress.

During flex time, one debate group met in my room to practice giving their arguments out loud. I was holding an APUSGOV test review session (after hastily revising the test because I decided it should have more questions about checks and balances) at the same time, and made an exception to allow the ninth graders in. So they were there along with fifteen wicked smart seniors, which I think was both slightly intimidating and slightly inspiring. I caught them pausing every so often to listen to us discuss different concepts that will be on the test. 

Also, my phone rang when I was mid-review because another presidential campaign staffer saw my invite and wants to bring their candidate to class. Lesson, as always: it can’t hurt to ask. 

What else? Meetings! The team had a meeting with a parent during Block 5. I was worried it was going to be rough because basically everyone- the parent, the student, all of us teachers- has been feeling frustrated. But it was really positive and helpful, and I think it’s going to make a huge difference for the student. One funny/awkward moment: I was taking minutes, and my computer froze while Mr. F was talking, so I asked him to stop. I should have said “wait” instead of “stop” because he thought I was asking him to stop talking entirely! I clarified quickly, but I felt SO bad!

After that meeting, we had a faculty meeting, which started with a most excellent surprise: free tacos!

The Principal figured he’d interject something unexpected and awesome because, as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s been a rough year. He went on to say that there will be some trauma counselors here next week to talk to staff, and there will be (and have been) some to talk to students, too. Plus, the admins are planning a school spirit/morale-building fun day for sometime this spring (The Principal did add a dry, “Yes, there will be a spring” because there still are several feet of snow on the ground). They took suggestions for fun day activities during the meeting. These were mine:

  • ultimate frisbee
  • laser tag 
  • lip sync competition
  • t-shirt decorating

My cacophonous friends, who were sitting with me, echoed my suggestions and added a few more. After the meeting ended, we walked out into warm and sunny weather, and were reminded that, as The Principal said, there will, in fact, be a spring. 

Day Sixty-Nine

Well. Today there was an Incident. It was the kind that involved the SRO, The Principal, and a bunch of paperwork. Sooooo that was not fun. 

I am okay, though, and lots of my friends came by to make sure of it.

And, other than that, the day was actually really good. APUSGOV was nice and easy. We had to take five to talk about how frigid it was outside. Then we watched an episode of The West Wing (”The Short List”) and talked about it. After that, we read Article II of the Constitution, and had a little chat about what’s coming up between now and vacation. I also handed back drafts of research papers, so a few students came in during flex time to edit and revise. Gotta love that initiative! Final drafts are due next class.

The aforementioned Incident happened during World/English. If not for that, it would have been a completely awesome class. Our students did SUCH good work. The little things Mrs. T and I have been doing- dividing the double block into work/break time, doing daily goal-setting, etc…- have been helping a lot. The classroom environment and the work completion are so much better. A few of the girls actually came up to me just to let me know how much they appreciated it.

I also got a bunch of compliments on my hair (it was fancy and braided, and usually it’s just in a bun or a ponytail), my dress and boots, and my shiny unicorn nail polish

Ninth grade girls are the best.

I observed Ms. J’s American Lit. class during Block Five. They’re preparing for a debate, and I love debates, so I enjoyed that a lot. Plus, it was a really well-planned lesson. She’s doing super well.

There was a faculty meeting that ran long in the afternoon. I spent most of it cracking jokes to make Mr. T and Mr. I laugh. I had to go back to my room to finish up some grading, but I was done before five, so I wasn’t the last person to leave today! Woohoo!

Day Fifty-Four

There really should have been a two-hour delay this morning because there was a lot of snow. Every district north of us (and I mean all the way to Canada) and most of the ones south of us delayed or closed, and the roads were absolutely awful, but for some reason The Superintendent didn’t call it. Sooooo we had a half dozen students (that I know of) and two buses get into accidents- none really serious, thankfully- and basically all of us were late to school. 

I arrived about fifteen minutes after the first bell. I was a bit discombobulated, of course, but I settled in and still had plenty of time to mark up current events for revision. And that’s what students did during the World/English double block: they revised and submitted a polished portfolio. If they finished early, they could use the time to read, or begin outlining their book papers with Mrs. T. 

While she was going over outlines, I was watching the room, fielding questions, and doing my best to rein in some bad behavior (the health classes are doing the unit on sex ed. now, and some of the boys were flicking the condoms they’d gotten at each other). We switched roles about half an hour in so I could work one-on-one with a student who was refusing to do anything, and then with one who needed lots of help and was getting anxious about it. If we didn’t team teach, that couldn’t have happened, so- as ever- I’m glad that we do!

I had a headache by the time it was over, which could’ve been from the stress of keeping those challenging students I was working with calm and on task, or could’ve been from the amount of Axe the boys were wearing today. It seemed more than usual, and I’m wicked allergic to it.

The headache made it so the two meetings- team, then faculty- in my afternoon seemed oddly long. But I made it through both of them. I had grading to do afterwards, but no Tylenol in my desk, so took papers home, which I rarely do. 

Now it’s time to grade them…

Day Forty-Seven

Today our usual Thursday morning PLC meeting was turned into a faculty meeting. We gathered in the auditorium to hear a presentation from the heads of one of the state universities; they’re transitioning to learning clusters, interdisciplinary work, hands on experiences, and so on. It’s all cool stuff, and mirrors what we’re doing in a lot of ways, buuuut… The presentation ran long, and I had a Block 1 class, and I still had to set up because I was out yesterday (that’s my own fault), so I did not care as much as I should have. I just wanted to get ready to teach.

I bolted as soon as possible, and ran up to my classroom for APUSGOV. I told my students to give me five minutes to set up, apologized, and then got on with it. My lesson was about the presidential election process; I used Powerpoint notes, a couple videos, and stories from my own experience as a staffer to teach it. I got a ton of questions as I spoke, which is what I wanted because that’s what really enriches the learning. Their homework is on the electoral college, so I anticipate more questions and a good discussion next time, too.

Because we were all so rushed this morning, Mrs. T and I opted not to reopen our wall- no time to set up the Cavern- and taught separately. She kept up with reading and book talks in English. I gave a vocab quiz, and had students watch a 20-30 minute video on the broader historical setting of the book they’re reading because it adds context. After that, we did some more citation practice. It wasn’t the original plan, but it worked, and I finished teaching with just a minute to spare, so hey. 

I did my grading during Block 5, and received a visit from a half dozen sophomores hoping I had candy (sadly, I did not). Tomorrow will feel less rushed and scattered.

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 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.

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…