Category: high school

Day One Hundred Eighty-Two

So, the other day, Mr. B emailed me to ask me if I’d be willing to be a building rep for the teacher’s union. I didn’t respond with my immediate reaction, which was, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” I took some time to think it over. Mr. B has been my mentor for years, so the fact the he was the one asking was partially why I eventually said yes. There was an election, but I was running unopposed, so it was all but official at that point. Today it’s actually official. 

That’s probably the biggest thing that happened to me today. It was the first day of final exams for the underclassmen, and I had no exams to give, so my day was pretty quiet. Exams are scheduled so that students take two each day with a half hour break in between and lunch after. Today, they took the exams for their Block 1 classes, and I don’t have any (APUSGOV was on A days- and seniors took finals last week- and my prep time was on B days).

I spent most of the morning cleaning out my classroom, except for the hour or so when I was in a team leader meeting with Mrs. C, Mrs. R, and The Vice Principal. I didn’t realize how full my file cabinets had gotten until I decided to go through them and clear the clutter. Now they’re mostly empty because everything is digital. No need for old curriculum binders, or anything like that.

I had lunch with Mr. W, Mr. F, and Mrs. T. We went out of the building for that; I’d gotten a gift certificate to a local restaurant from a student, so we spent it, and talked about the year, and relaxed… When we got back to school, Mrs. T and I graded Multi-Genre Projects with Mrs. T; we each take half of the projects, so the grading is quick, easy, and awesome. I know I keep saying the students’ work is amazing… but it really is. The level of detail on some of these projects is phenomenal.

Oh, and this one fun: one of the boys on the football team had asked for an extension on the project (he needs to pass World and English in order to keep his eligibility for fall sports, so making sure he had time to do well was great and responsible), so he had to print everything out and hand it in today. He showed up with five of his teammates in tow, and they were chanting his name the whole time he was printing pieces, and when he handed me everything they burst into applause.

Gotta love a supportive team, right?

This afternoon, I got invited to a house party by one of the many presidential campaign staffers I keep in touch with (APUSGOV networking). He’s got one of my incoming GOV students- a girl who was in World with me two years ago- interning on the campaign, which is awesome. He couldn’t say enough good things about her. Helping to run a house party is a huge thing, so it was really neat to see one of my students taking that on. I’m super proud of her.

Day One Hundred Eighty-One

Today was the last day of classes, and it was something of a mixed day. 

There was a graduation rehearsal this morning, so a bunch of my seniors stopped by one last time to say thank you, and give me hugs or high-fives, and one even brought me candy (my students know I have a massive sweet tooth). Plus, it’s Pride, so a bunch of students were running around with rainbow-colored flower crowns in their hair, showering people in glitter (with their consent, of course). So there was a lot of joy.

And my first section of World was awesome. I started class by leading a cheer, as I’d done yesterday, and then we got down to business. I think going over how to outline for the final was especially helpful for these students; a bunch of them told me afterwards that they felt much more confident and prepared, and I’m glad. They were super proud to turn in their Multi-Genre Projects, too, and they were cheering each other on the whole block. Like, one student would finish and others would clap for them. 

Block 4 was fun, at first, too, but shortly after class started, two of my students were escorted down to the SRO’s office. I don’t know exactly what happened, but, clearly, there was an Incident. It’s a lousy way to end ninth grade, that’s for sure. 

So… That happened. But the rest of class was all right. I spent part of it in the hall because a handful of my students went out to record audio for their projects, and a handful of Mr. T’s students were out there, too, and everyone was being a bit silly. At one point, they attempted to steal one of my desk chairs, but they stopped when they realized I was just going to let it happen. Heh.

When Block 5 rolled around, Mr. F and Mrs. T converged on my classroom. I was taking down posters when they came in because the tape loses its stickiness in the summer humidity, and I like redecorating in the fall anyhow. I also cleaned out my desk and cabinets, put away some of my supplies, etc… while we were talking. It’s not like I had to get it done in a hurry; it’s just a habit of mine to take my classroom apart as soon as classes end. Mrs. T says it’s the opposite of nesting instinct, which… Pretty much.

But I paused long enough to celebrate the fact that we’d made it through a really tough year. I mean, yeah, there are still finals, but we’re done teaching for the year, and we’re pretty happy about how most of our students learned and grew. It was wicked hard to make it happen sometimes, but we did it.

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-Eight

The whole building smelled like cigarette smoke this morning, but no one knows why. We all opened windows and turned on fans (which we’d have done anyhow because today’s the first hot day we’ve had all spring) to get the smell to dissipate, and then we just went on with our work. I had Block 1 free because APUSGOV is over, so I was just answering emails and stuff… until I got interrupted by a bunch of sophomore boys tromping down the hallway singing “Breaking Free” from High School Musical

No one knows why that happened either. Buuuut it’s the last week of classes, the end of a wacky year, so it’s probably fitting. 

Anyways…

It was another day of Multi-Genre Project conferencing for Mrs. T and I. We each read and discussed six or seven projects during the double block, all of which were pretty excellent. I had a particularly great conversation with one boy about how to add detail to a narrative he was writing about corruption in professional sports; I made one suggestion, and his eyes lit up, and he rattled off a bunch more things he could do to improve a particular scene. It’s great when it clicks like that.

If students weren’t conferencing with us, they were working on their revisions. And if they finished and turned in final drafts, then they started preparing for their final exams. Towards the end of Block 4, a handful of students who were done with everything started talking about training for their various sports, so I jumped in and answered a few questions about what my sprint training had been like in college. The really cool thing, though, was that a student who missed a lot of school this year for health reasons- so he’s really still navigating the social stuff, figuring out where he fits in- dragged his chair over after a few minutes of listening to the rest of us and joined the conversation. That made my day. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Seven

So last night one of the third floor science labs flooded, and the ceiling collapsed in the middle of the Cavern of Learning. The thing is, though, if I hadn’t been told about it, I never would have known. By some miracle, none of the desks, laptop carts, etc…got damaged, and the custodial crew worked all night to clean up the debris, and put in new lights and ceiling tiles. I’m pretty impressed with the work they put in to make sure everything was fine by the time the first bell rang.

I spent the morning checking things off my to-do list: cleaning my desk and cabinets, updating bus lists for Project Grad, sending emails, and so on. Then in World/English, Mrs. T and I both started doing formal Multi-Genre Project conferences, which went pretty well. Over the years, I’ve gotten way better at explaining what I’m doing while I’m editing, in particular, so that students will know how to do better in the future. This year they’ve all been really excited to talk about their work and make it as perfect as possible.

I did have the one kid who just looked the other way the whole time I was reading his work, and I so get that. I was that kid, too. So I made all my edits and revision suggestions in silence, and afterwards we talked about everything.

It’s all about finding what works.

The prep room where we usually eat was occupied at lunch time, and it was a gorgeous day, so Mrs. T, Mrs. R, and I all went and ate outside. That was delightful- as was the end of the year party at Mr. R’s house, which I just came home from! Good food, good people, relief that summer is almost here… 

It’s a good day!

Day One Hundred Seventy-Six

I was a little out of sorts this morning. Like, I just felt a bit stressed and short-tempered, and I don’t know exactly why. But then one of my APUSGOV students, who missed the last day of class, came by to turn in his final project and chat for a bit, and there was no way I could stay in a bad mood then. 

And, after that, the Cavern of Learning came back! Mrs. T and I opened the wall between our classrooms to do conferences with students about their Multi-Genre Projects. Between the two of us, we can conference with every student in two or three days, which leaves us time to do a second conference with anyone who wants one. Also, one or the other of us will always have spare time to answer questions and offer help to students who aren’t conferencing. So it works out super well.

I’ve been checking drafts, so I’ve seen students’ work coming together these past few weeks, but Mrs. T was finishing up Romeo and Juliet, so she’s coming to the party late. She’s loving how lengthy and detailed a lot of these projects are; students are really showing the progress they’ve made in research and writing. And, as I’ve said many times, what’s better than that at the end the year? We’re both super happy.

It’s a gorgeous day, so we went on a “walking meeting” during our prep time: two laps around the building. As we walked, we went over our plans for tomorrow, since she has to leave for part of the day, and discussed the students who’re behind on their work. On the second lap, we saw one of our students on the basketball court with Ms. N- taking a movement break- and when he saw us, he challenged us to play, too.

So did I go shoot hoops in a dress and high heels? Of course, I did.

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 Seventy-Three

There are noticeable bruises on one of my hands from last week’s karate demos (I punched Mr. T’s whiteboard at least once in each class, so this is unsurprising… gotta remember to switch hands in the future). I had to explain those to The Principal when I went to talk to him about APUSGOV stuff this morning. That was almost as fun as explaining them to the priest after mass yesterday. 

Heh.

Some of my World students finished drafting all the pieces in their Multi-Genre Projects, so I spent most of my class time conferencing with them. When I wasn’t doing that, though, I was walking around and answering questions, or helping students figure out what to say if they were stuck. It was an easy day for me, and a productive one for them, and that’s awesome at this point in the year.

I didn’t get down to the office to check my mail until well into Block 5. At that point, I discovered a very sweet thank you card from one of my seniors. 

My last class with them is tomorrow. I may just bawl my eyes out afterwards.

Bonus Day

Today we took a handful of athletes to compete at the State Meet of Champions. It’s a beautiful day, everyone was in high spirits, and it was a really, really good meet. It’s the end of my season (The Head Coach has one more week… more on that in the next paragraph), and I’m happy with it.

My favorite thing is that we had a rookie senior in the competition today. This is a kid who NEVER had being a track athlete on his radar until he got hurt playing football and wasn’t allowed to do any other spring sports; now he gets to say he’s one of the best in the state. My other favorite thing is that another of our boys qualified for New Englands, and the rest of our athletes either matched or set PRs. What more could I want?

What was cool for me, too, was that my middle school, high school, and college coaches were all at this meet with various teams. AND- this is surreal- one of my former athletes, Torin, was there because he’s now a college coach and he was watching one of his commits run. He and I were headed for the bleachers when we ran into my middle school coach, Coach E.

Now, Coach E and I always say hello and make small talk at meets, but it’s been more than twenty years since he was my coach, so I know he only vaguely remembers me. Like, he knows I was one of his athletes a long time ago, but I doubt he’d remember my name if it wasn’t written on my jacket. So usually, I’m the one who goes and says hi, but he actually spotted me first today. We shook hands, I introduced him to Torin, and we chatted about each other’s teams, how the season had gone, what we hoped for today, etc…

I made the remark that so many folks who’d coached me were there. He told me it was funny that I still called him Coach and all because he’d never really thought of himself as a middle school coach; it was just a volunteer thing he’d done while he was student-teaching because he wanted to stay involved in the sport. Later, he moved on to teaching and coaching at the high school level (at the school where he still coaches, not the one I went to), which was what he really wanted to be doing, and that, according to him, is when he really became a coach.

So then I got to tell him a story he hadn’t known:

I joined the track team when I was in seventh grade because a girl at my bus stop was bullying me for having asthma. This girl was a really good runner, and she was always bragging about doing track, and I just wanted to shut her up. I fell in love with sprinting immediately, but making it through the 800m warm-up at the start of every practice wasn’t easy, at first. One day I had a nasty asthma attack, and I wanted to quit. Coach E jogged alongside me, and told me to pick my head up, take my inhaler, and breathe. He would not let me give up. I said, “I bet you don’t remember that, but I do.” 

He gave me a big hug and thanked me for telling him, then joked that he had to go cry in the bleachers for a while (or maybe he actually did cry in the bleachers…) It’s really special that I get to coach at these big meets along with the coaches who trained me, and that I got to tell this one what an impact he’d had. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Two

I told my APUSGOV students that I’d caught their senioritis because I was draaaaagging this morning. It’s a casual Friday, so I was wearing jeans and a top from the Gap, and I didn’t put my make-up on, and my hair was totally just up in a bun. I decided to put on some jewelry to make myself look more presentable. That’s my trick. 

I let my students have the block to finish their final projects, so it was pretty chill. A handful of them came in just for my class, which is funny since it’s over before 9:00AM, and I think I should feel honored? Maybe? 

In World, I checked off students’ final Multi-Genre pieces (graphic pieces) and had them begin editing their work themselves, peer editing, and- if they were ready- conferencing with me. Afterwards, Mrs. T and I had a meeting of the minds to discuss who’s ahead and who’s behind since she’ll be wrapping up Romeo and Juliet next week and we’ll be opening the wall between our classrooms for conferences and revisions. It’ll be so fun to be back together again. 

During Block 5, she and I went to meet with The Vice Principal, who wanted some information about some of our students, but apparently some Incidents happened so we had to wait until the end of the block. We had a good discussion eventually, though, about the things that seem to impede student success the most (poor reading skills, truancy, and/or parents who don’t hold their children accountable for anything). And when I got back to my classroom afterwards, I found cake on my desk, courtesy of Mr. F, who’d gotten it out of the prep room. So that was pretty great!

I puttered in my room for a bit, ate cake, and then walked out into a beautiful afternoon! TGIF!