Category: I get by with a little help from my friends

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 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-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!

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 Forty-Eight

I’ve neglected to mention that this week was a spirit week. 

The Principal had initially canceled Spring Fling because there were student and parent complaints about Homecoming (vapes at the dance, boys touching girls inappropriately, that kind of thing), but student council convinced him to let them at least do spirit days and a pep rally. Their argument- and I think it’s a good one- was that everyone needed some fun, and that this could be a huge morale boost.

So the days were themed (USA Day, Twin Day, Decades Day, Color Day, Spirit Day), there was a floor hockey tournament, a school-wide game of spoons took place throughout the week, and today we had a pep rally. That meant short classes, which was fine; my World students were writing essays, so I just gave them the whole block, and I did a formal exam review in APUSGOV that was perfect for the time frame. Boom.

At the pep rally, we were treated to a few games (egg toss, musical chairs, etc…), class lip sync videos, performances by our dance team and our drumline (so awesome), a floor hockey final (juniors vs freshmen), aaaand then students got to pie teachers in the face. I volunteered because, of course, I did, and ended up getting a giant pie plate full of whipped cream in my face, courtesy of one of the ginormous seniors on the baseball team. He got me good, but I’d prepared by bringing shampoo, a change of clothes, and stuff. So I wasn’t sticky and gross for the rest of the day. 

I still took a shower when I got home because I had plans to have drinks and eats with a few of my colleagues in the afternoon. That was fun, too, because it was an absolutely gorgeous day. We sat outside on the patio of a local restaurant, talked about our early years working together, and made plans to throw a party at the end of the year. 

Like with spirit week, it’s all about morale.

Day One Hundred Eight

Mr. F came in with donuts today, which was absolutely awesome because I hadn’t eaten breakfast (I ran out of granola bars and didn’t realize it, thought I had one more). He, Mrs. T, and I had an impromptu morning meeting as we ate, and at one point The Principal dropped by and complimented us on our teamwork.

Go us.

It was Friday before break and it was snowing, so a bunch of my ninth graders were absent, which… is what it is. I know a lot of parents excused their kids because they’re used to thinking that nothing gets done on days before vacations. But in high school? 

It was a B day in the schedule, so my students did the same thing my other students did yesterday: took a quiz and learned about the fight against ISIS. I thought it went quite well overall; students could work at their own pace, and it was chill and quiet since they were all watching videos with headphones in for part of the block, and reading for the rest of it. A couple of the boys did decide to start making Google Translate say insulting things in Arabic, but I put a stop to that quickly by offering to teach them a handful of polite things, then redirecting them.

The quiz grades were a bit low, so we’ll be revisiting study skills in the not so distant future. I’ll figure out how I want to do that later. For now? It’s vacation! 

And, no, it’s not just a long weekend for President’s Day; I have an entire week off. February break is unique to New England, and done entirely for the benefit of the ski industry, but I’m not complaining about it! 

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 Nine

Know how my lesson was awesome yesterday? It was not as awesome today. 

I mean, it was totally fine during Block 2, but this Block 4 class I have on B days is something else… There are a handful of boys who are just not used to being held to expectations, so they keep acting out, and it is taking all of my effort to respond patiently and calmly- and to hold the line! So we clash, but five minutes later it’s all good and we’re chatting about basketball (ball is life!) as I show them how to do an MLA citation or something. 

It’s going to exhaust me, but I’m going to work it out.

What else? I had a really fun advisory block. We spent it fiddling with the adaptive scheduler program in preparation for us starting to do flex time, and that sparked a conversation about future goals. And why everyone ought to take personal finance. It was good stuff.

I went to see my mentee, Ms. J, during Block 5 to plan some observations and talk about how things are going so far.  Then I convinced Mr. I that he should let me tag along for payday drinks with him and his mentee, Mr. T, which was good fun. I like their company a lot.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Six

Multi-genre projects are due on Monday, so most students spent World/English today making revisions and putting everything together. We have a few who are behind, or need to make significant changes to their work, so Mrs. T and I have been helping them as much as possible. We’ve both done parent contacts, too (another thing we can split in half), so hopefully that’ll produce some results.

I try not to get frustrated about having to do that (which is hard because, at this point, it feels like the year just didn’t stick for some students). Having Mrs. T to talk to is so helpful since we’re in this together. And there is SO MUCH incredible work, and it represents tons of growth, and that’s well worth celebrating. 

I spent my prep time finding excuses to go to the air conditioned parts of the building- like the main office…I checked my mailbox a lot- because it was hot. Thankfully, tomorrow it will be cooler!

Day One Hundred Sixty-Nine

Mrs. T bought a dress online that turned out to be too big for her, so I- being half a foot taller and in possession of curves- bought it from her. I wore it today, and the handful of students who care about our fashion had many complimentary things to say. That’s a win. 

It was a fairly easy day for both of us. We spent Block 1 chatting with some former students who came by to ask us to edit papers (there was a sub in their class, so their actual teacher couldn’t do it). During World/English, I edited works in progress while Mrs. T checked in completed drafts. There are some seriously cool projects taking shape. It’s awesome. 

I spent my prep time writing a letter to my APUSGOV class. It’s been a tradition of mine to write something to my senior classes for several years now. This one is truly special, so it took a while to decide what I wanted to say.

I think I got it.