Category: I am a ninja

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

This morning, the faculty met our new principal, who made a hilarious first impression by showing up wearing almost exactly the same outfit as our current principal. Khakis and a blue dress shirt are apparently standard issue. Aside from that, though, I had a couple observations:

1) He’s only three years older than I am, and he went from being a classroom teacher to a principal after thirteen years, so I have more years of teaching experience than he does. I don’t know if any of that is good or bad; it’s just very different than what I’m used to. 

2) He’s nervous, which I get, because he’s coming from a school with half as many students- if that- and a faculty that’s a lot smaller, too. I’m sure it was a lot just to see how many of us there are, you know? But he seems nice, and enthusiastic, so that’s good. 

He’ll be the third principal I’ve worked for in fourteen years of teaching at the same high school, and I’m excited to see what he brings to our community. I definitely have to meet with him, at some point, to talk about that powerhouse APUSGOV class of mine. Next year’s an election year, and I want to know how much freedom I’ll have to bring in candidates, staffers, the press, etc… to class (right now, as longtime readers know, I have total freedom, and it’s amazing). 

The rest of the day went smoothly. I helped some of the students in the club I advise finish putting up a bulletin board during my prep, and then- because it’s a B day- I did exactly what I did yesterday: went to Mr. T’s room to do some karate for half the block before returning to my own classes to oversee Multi-Genre awesomeness. The karate was fun; I definitely got more questions today than I did yesterday, and got to demo some fun stuff like chi breaking because Mr. W had some free time. 

I was also wearing a shirt that says “Teacher by day, deadly ninja by night,” so I was getting laughs. 

What else? Final qualifying lists for the Meet of Champions came out today. I’m bummed my 4×4 boys just missed qualifying, but I’m happy for the ones who did make it (best thing was running into an English class to tell one of the distance boys he was in because he didn’t think he’d had a chance). We had a quick practice, went over Saturday’s departure information, and called it a day. No sense in overworking now; everyone’s as ready as they’re going to be.

Day One Hundred Seventy

Mr. F brought Mrs. T and I coffee this morning. His parents brought it back from some trip they’d taken somewhere (I’m very specific, I know) It was basically French Vanilla jet fuel, and it was amazing.

It was Senior Skip Day #2 today. Since our school does every other day classes, our seniors decided they had to skip them all, so… two skip days. I let them know every year that I think the second day is super lame. But, y’know, I’m still not the type of teacher who plans a test for that day; my whole APUSGOV class was absent, and that’s fine. I read a book. 

Then I want across the hall to Mr. T’s room (while someone else covered my World classes) and did karate! He’s been teaching about Eastern philosophy, so I offered to come in and demonstrate how that relates to martial arts. I did a few tricks and katas, and answered questions. We had an unexpectedly deep chat in his Block 2 class about how people who practice martial arts should use their skills, and how it doesn’t make anything better to be disproportionately violent, and we should be careful about what we put out into the universe. That was pretty awesome.

So, yeah, I spent about half of the block with each of his classes, and then went back to my own for the other half of the block. Multi-genre projects continue to take shape in exciting ways; I saw the most awesome storyboard for a cartoon about new treatments for cancer, and a lot of cool infographics, and other really creative stuff. I did a couple conferences in the time I had, as well. 

During Block 5 I went to have a chat with The Vice Principal about some students, and ended up staying for a longer chat about the year, the new principal (who’s coming to meet us all tomorrow morning, so I should have an interesting entry tomorrow), etc… Then I went out for a short track practice, and that was that!

Day One Hundred Fifty-One

This morning I walked into school with my escrima sticks slung over one shoulder. I was wearing my usual high heels, skirt, and sweater ensemble, so the effect was somewhere between “that’s so badass” and “huh?” 

I got to do this because today was the annual martial arts demo in World. Of course, I promptly turned my sticks over to the SRO for safekeeping, and Mr. W- who, in addition to being my colleague, is the black belt who trains me- turned over all of his weapons, too. Then we shoved all the furniture in the Cavern of Learning up against the walls, changed from our teaching clothes into our karate clothes, and got warmed up.

We started the presentation by sparring. I wanted to grab the kids’ attention, so as soon as they were seated (on top of the tables, bags underneath, so there was tons of space for us to move), I stuck my mouth guard in and threw a punch at Mr. W… and we went from there. The room went completely silent, which is saying something in a room full of 80ish ninth graders). After a few minutes, we stopped, and I went over the rules, which I’d also gone over in the classes prior to this one (no photos/video, no touching each other, no touching the weapons, stop us anytime to ask questions). Then we talked about the history of martial arts, its purpose, the mindset it teaches. We did katas and weapons forms, did some “magic tricks,” and took questions/requests. And that took up all of the time we had!

It was very cool, and I think it was valuable for the students, who think of karate as it’s shown in pop culture, which isn’t always accurate. They learned a lot by getting to see real martial artists practice, and hearing our answers to their questions. I liked getting to talk about what it means to be strong versus what it means to be a bully, using the skill only in self-defense, doing as little harm as possible; that’s important stuff for students to hear. Also, this demo showed them a something different about me, and that’s pretty neat. I’m perceived as being very “girly” because I always wear skirts and dresses, put make-up on, do my nails, that kind of thing… And, sure, that’s me, but this is also me. 

Also, I got to use the line, “A very nice boy went out in to the forest in Maine, cut down a tree, and made me weapons” to explain where I got my escrima sticks. It’s true, and it’s a funny line, so that’s a win.

After the demo, students went to lunch. Then they had about an hour after that, so Mrs. T took the students who hadn’t turned in Central Asia Novel Projects, Mr. F took students who needed to do math stuff (technical term right there).  I took students who were all caught up on everything to help me put the Cavern back in order, and then I let them work on whatever they wanted to.

During Block 5, we had a freshman house meeting, which I was admittedly not looking forward to because the agenda was kind of vague, and I wasn’t sure what direction the conversation was going to take. It ended up being a really productive, positive brainstorming session, though. So, I admit, I was wrong to assume otherwise, and I’m happy to be wrong. We’re meeting again next week, too, to keep the forward momentum going, and now I’m excited for it.

Practice, like the rest of the day, was awesome. My sprinters did a workout- 300m repeates- and then a few of them asked to work on their block starts, so we spent some time fine-tuning those. As we were wrapping up, the captains came up to me with plans for next week. It’s the week of our last home meet, so it’ll be Senior Night, and one of the other teams proposed a post-meet pizza party, which is GENIUS, so we’re all in on that. But the captains want to do a whole week of “spirit week” practices, so they wanted to brainstorm theme days with me. We came up with Muscle Shirt Monday, Green Tuesday (at the meet- green socks, hair ribbons, etc… in honor of Mental Health Awareness, which is a schoolwide thing), Warpaint Wednesday (because there’s a middle school meet, and officiating with our faces painted school colors will be fun), Superhero Thursday, Funky Friday. Clearly, I think this is all awesome, and I haven’t written enough about how great our captains have been all season (and all of indoor because it’s the same two kids). I love their creativity and enthusiasm, and the tone they’re setting.

Day One Hundred Thirty-Nine

It’s the first day of fourth quarter! Aaaaand it looked like this:

I wore a bright blue, floral print dress in protest. Of course, I had leggings and a sweater on, too, but y’know… 

It snowed pretty much all day, and just about every student asked me if I thought we’d get out early (no), or if sports would be canceled (yes). But there was still learning in between. My Block 2 students had a ton of fun researching Indian culture and sharing what they found out, and they’re not always eager to share (changing that has been the work of the whole year), so that lesson is definitely a keeper. My Block 4 students might not have had fun- they didn’t say one way or the other- but they focused on the work, got it done, and got to learn some new information from one another. It gave some of my more challenging students a chance to contribute positively, which was good. 

I’m doing all right with that class right now. I quash disruptive behavior early and harshly, keep the time we spend each task really short, abridge any lecturing I have to do, and generally that works. It’s not great- it’s seriously cramping my style- but it allows me to meet the needs of the different learners in the room and reduce the stress, and that’s what I need to do. So… the work goes on.

I worked through lunch because I had a special ed. meeting during my prep time, and at that point I still thought I had practice afterwards. Of course, when I got out of the meeting, I found out that I didn’t. So I did some grading, got ready for tomorrow, and was still out the door by 3:30. By then the snow had turned to rain, and the parking lot had turned to a giant, slushy puddle, so I did serious ninja moves to get to my car. 

We’ll see if the weather goes back to normal tomorrow!

Day Seventy-Nine

The Vice Principal saw me as I was leaving and asked how my day had been, and I’m nothing if not honest, so I said, “Probably a lot better than yours.”

My school got rocked today, you guys. That’s basically all I can say.

My day, though? Was pretty good. I mean, it was snowing, and nothing was plowed, and there totally should have been a delay, so my seniors and I spent a good ten minutes of APUSGOV recounting how bad the drive in was. Buuuuuut then we talked about the shutdown, the new Congress, SOTU, Syria, and other things. So education did happen.

A few students trickled in as I lectured on the bureaucracy. The last one to arrive dropped a box in my hands and said, “I figured since I was already gonna be late, I should just go get us donuts, too.” He’d gone to the local bakery, which is ten minutes in the wrong direction, and bought a bunch of freshly-made donuts.

I don’t think that’s a choice I’m supposed to approve of, but I totally do. It was awesome. 

World was all about presentations, and things again. I had a couple of my most anxious students presenting today, and they rocked, and I’m so proud of them. I think I said this in a previous entry, but I love how much students prepared; I saw more notecards or scripts than I’ve ever seen, and I know there was a lot of practicing at home, with friends, during flex time, etc… Mrs. T gets a lot of props for really encouraging that, and helping students with it. 

We also had a quick assembly during Block Two, an alumni Q&A panel hosted by school counseling. Graduates who’d gone on to various colleges, prep schools, the military, etc… chatted about what it was like, and offered some advice. That was neat. 

I did a bunch of grading during my prep time, and chatted with Mr. T for a bit when I needed a break. Then Mrs. T and I pulled a ninja stunt and liberated a projector from a supply closet. That’s a win.

Day Twenty-One

Today was Denim Day. I wore a denim jacket because I knew we were going to have a fire drill this morning, but I didn’t look conspicuous with a jacket on when class started.

So ninja.

I spent my World classes, as I did yesterday, reassuring anxious writers. Some of them have so little self-confidence, and give up so easily; it can really take some doing to talk them through it. I want to know what happened to them in previous grades or outside of school to cause that to happen. Building up their confidence and persistence will be the work of the whole year. 

Confidence can be an issue with my high-flying seniors, too, but with them it’s more that they just need a quick confirmation that they’re on the right track because they second guess themselves. About half my APUSGOV students opted to come see me during flex time today because there’s a test tomorrow- again, really just to confirm that they know their stuff. I quizzed them on some key concepts, and suggested some test-taking strategies, and I think they all left feeling good.

I had a team meeting, which was a little silly today. See, we send fancy “caught doing something good” cards home to ninth graders at The Vice Principal’s request. I grabbed ours to take down to the mail room, and offered to check everyone’s mail. Mrs. T said I was being more adult than her, which never happens, so I insisted we bask in the moment. I ran into The Vice Principal in the mail room and gleefully showed off our cards like the goodie goodie I am.

So… Less adult-y, after all. 

The team meeting was followed by a department meeting, so I did my prep and grading well after the school day was over. Mr. W was doing the same, so we had one of our philosophical chats. I got home about an hour ago. That’s the day!

Day Five

The heatwave finally ended, so everything I did today in World was better than it was yesterday, even though it was the exact same thing. I went over course expectations, then had them do a classroom scavenger hunt (finding useful stuff like the Kleenex, the pencil sharpener, etc… and random stuff like my brother’s jump wings, which are pinned to the board by my desk). Then we had a chat about what culture is and why we study it. 

I was worried about my Block 4 class being quiet because it’s only 11 students (the others are 17-20), but nah. It’s the loudest 11 on the team, and they’re hilarious. They’re also already in awe of my ninja skills because I caught this one boy tossing paper at a girl, like, four times. 

He couldn’t believe he kept getting caught. 

So that class is going to be fun but exhausting, heh.

I spent my prep time printing stuff for next week, helping Mrs. T rearrange her desks, and saying hi to various former students who dropped by to say hi to us. I saw even more of them at the football game this evening, as well as some of my current students, who think it’s awesome thar I’m the ticket lady. There were some recent grads, too, who are home for the long weekend or haven’t left yet. All told, almost 600 people were there. Friday night football in a small town, you know?  

Day One Hundred Forty-Three

So I went from being hot mess to teaching ninja in a 24-hour span. Like, yesterday I felt like I could hardly make words come out of my mouth in a coherent order, but today I was on fire. 


What’s hilarious is that I was mostly winging it.

Last class, my World students examined different things (a Powerpoint, a National Geographic documentary, and two readings) in order to learn how decades of destruction have impacted Afghanistan. I knew I wanted them to use that information to talk about the current war, but I didn’t decide exactly what I was going to do until about ten minutes before my first class started. 

First, I had students get in small groups to compare their findings on their assignments. Then, as a class, we discussed the living conditions in Afghanistan at the start of the US invasion, and the US efforts to improve those conditions as part of counterinsurgency. I fielded some great questions about why the results of those efforts have been so mixed. I told Laura’s story, too, as I do every year because it highlights how fragile the situation is. and by the time we finished chatting, students really understood why the country’s instability is prolonging the conflict- and how hard it is to make an unstable place stable again. 

We also discussed ways in which the situation in Afghanistan is a destabilizing force in Pakistan. I showed a quick news report about the Pakistani Taliban, and my sharp-eyed students observed a significant difference in development in the western regions where the Taliban have entrenched themselves and the eastern regions they often target. There are massive and unfortunate inequities, and when my students asked why, I told them that would be our next lesson. 

Stay tuned till after spring break, kids… 

It was a GOOD class both blocks. I’m so pleased.

And I’m pleased that my candidate visit went smoothly during Block 5! Remember I was worried no one would show up because I had to reschedule it after the snow day? Most of my APUSGOV students were able to make it, and they brought friends, so we had a full room. And they had a lot to say, so it was brilliant! One thing I love is that a sophomore who was in World last year was bitten by the political bug this year, so she joins this room full of seniors engaging in complex, political conversations with the candidates, and she gets right in the middle of them, too. It’s so cool to watch. 

Eighty minutes of Q&A later, the afternoon bell rang; they may have kept going if it hadn’t. The candidate was so complimentary of the students- as he should be, they’re amazing- and so glad he’d gotten to talk to them because they give him hope for the future. I said that’s what’s so great about seeing them every day. It’s good for the soul.

Day One Hundred Thirty

It was very serious in APUSGOV this morning because they had an on-demand essay to write on Letter from a Birmingham Jail. And it was serious, at first, in World/English because Mrs. T and I laid down the law about excessive sign-outs and wandering, like we did yesterday. I thought we’d get more push-back, but it didn’t happen, and we actually had a good, productive class. 

It did have tough moments. In one debate group, one student- who is very smart and focused- deleted another’s contributions because he didn’t think it was “good enough,” then didn’t understand why she wouldn’t keep working. There were tears. Mrs. T and I had to mediate that one. But then all four group members reached an accord and started working really well together.

Later, we stopped debate prep to show Taylor Mali’s “Totally Like Whatever” because Mrs.T was wearing a t-shirt with a quote from one of his poems on it, and we realized that one was good to play before students started rehearsing.

And then I helped a bunch of students with an early April Fool’s Day joke. We snuck up on Mr. F with an air horn. So ninja. Another of them stole his stapler and plans to cover it in jello.

He got me back by sneaking up on me with his coaching whistle, though. 

We think we need a scoreboard. 

At practice, Coach T and I continued our “Fun Friday” tradition by hiding Easter eggs in the (muddy) woods around the track. I’m talking something like a hundred eggs. It was awesome. 

Now I’m going to clean off the mud on my face and hands, make myself presentable, and go to Good Friday service!