Category: indoor track

Day One Hundred Twenty-One

Mrs. T wasn’t in her room when I arrived this morning, and usually she gets there before me, so I was mildly panicking that she was still out sick. We were starting debates today, and I did NOT want to have to moderate on my own because she’s way better at it than I am, but I got the Cavern all set up and resolved to make the best of it. Mrs. T came in just before the first bell, and I burst out with, “Oh, thank God you’re here!” 

My APUSGOV students, who were arriving for class, thought that was funny. They took a test this morning, and as I was grading it I realized I messed up during test review. See, because tests are cumulative, I went over the things from previous units and assumed students would review the key concepts from the current unit, too; I should have been clearer about that, though, because students definitely devoted all their study time to the things I explicitly went over. So that’s on me, and I’m going to apologize and curve the test scores because I figure that’s only fair. Plus, retakes are always allowed, so anyone who wants to do that can.

I do try to teach in a way that prevents damage from being permanent.

As for the debates, they were awesome. We only did one in each block because we took time before starting to allow groups to converse and rehearse, and to reiterate rules, instructions, etc…  There was a terrific match-up in the debate over Palestinian Statehood during Block Two. The members of both teams were nervous, so they got off to a rough start, but then they settled in. One team definitely pulled ahead in the rebuttal round with a great line of questioning about Israeli settlements, but both turned in solid efforts. I was pleased with the amount of research they’d done.

The debate during Block Four was about whether or not the U.S. should increase the number of refugees it admits per year, and one team came in ready to absolutely crush. They had pages of research notes, well-written and rehearsed speeches, tons of rebuttal questions… The opposing team hadn’t ever gelled, and they kind of panicked when they saw how prepared their opponents were. They realized they had to rally, so they worked through lunch with Mrs. T (we didn’t start Block 4 debates before lunch because that’s only twenty minutes, and we didn’t want to pause a debate midway through to go eat). They managed a respectable performance, so I was proud of them. Hopefully, they learned a few lessons about responsibility and communication, too. 

Nifty thing: my evaluator, Ms. C, came in to observe during that debate. She was just in during APUSGOV the other day, but she happened to be walking by while the “ready to crush” team was practicing in the hall, so she asked if she could come in today, too. Obviously, I said yes. I want people to see what these ninth graders can do with topics that are complex and challenging, and know just how high we can set the bar. They will clear it if we support them and give them a chance.

I spent the first part of Block 5 in a meeting with my NEASC group, finalizing our report for the reaccreditation process. Then I spent the second part of the block in a parent meeting of the awesome variety. Mrs. T and I got some really lovely compliments for the work we did for a particular student. It’s our job, of course, but it’s awesome when parents tell us we’re doing it well.

The meeting ended shortly after the afternoon bell. I had to be back this evening for winter sports awards, so I left at the end of the meeting to go home, relax, have a coffee… The awards ceremony was good fun. The Head Coach and I gave out major awards, varsity letters, certificates, etc… Then our athletes surprised us with gifts. Look at what I got!

The card cracked me up. I’m totally hanging it on the cork board by my desk. And, yes, that water bottle is full of candy. My athletes know me so well…

Lots of learning and lots of joy today. 

Bonus Day

While most people in New England were focused on one sporting event, I was coaching at another: the indoor track state championship. The Head Coach and I took eight boys to the meet (none of our girls qualified): two veterans and six rookies. The rookies are going to come back in a year or two and be in medal contention, so it’s good that they could get some experience now.

As for the two veteran competitors, one’s a state champion (!!!!!!!!!!), and the other managed a sixth place medal despite being seeded dead last AND being tripped in the final lap of his race. The relay teams finished outside the medal spots, but both PRed, so I’m plenty happy about that. I told the rookies I was especially proud of them for making their mark. 

I got home half an hour ago, so tomorrow morning won’t be fun, but it was worth it.

So endeth the season! It was a good one.

Day Ninety-Eight

I have a confession to make to my fellow New Englanders: I don’t own a Patriots jersey. Or any other Patriots gear. 

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Because of this, I wasn’t dressed like the majority of my colleagues today. Instead, I was wearing jeans and a plaid flannel, and one of our new substitute teachers definitely mistook me for a student. So, basically, I knew right off that it was going to be a good day.

I have a big project coming up in APUGOV (Court Madness!!!!), so I spent most of my prep time getting ready for that, but I also did all of my grading. It’s the B day in the schedule, so my World lesson was the same as yesterday’s. I think it went better today, though: better timing, smoother transitions, and more participation. My Block 2 class has been on fire since the day I waited them out, but it was my Block 4 class that really impressed me. They had SO MANY questions during the video about the hajj! Sure, some of them were wacky hypotheticals, but nothing I couldn’t work with. It’s so awesome when they come alive, and I got to teach so much more than I’d planned to.

Also awesome: during flex time, one of my students who’d had a really rough second quarter, and was out sick for the past seven or eight school days, came to see me. He’d printed all the work he’d missed off my website, did it all, and wanted to make up his midterm. Now, this was a kid I couldn’t reach for the life of me- sometimes, that’s how it is- but I’m so glad someone did. 

Another student who was sick during midterms made up her exam this afternoon, so I was one of the last people out of the building, but it’s all good. Now it’s the weekend, and there’s this big sports thing on Sunday… No, not the Superbowl; I’m talking about the indoor track state championship! 

I’ve got sprinters to coach.

Day Ninety-Four

It’s second semester! 

I got a bunch of my World students to cheer when I said they’d made it halfway through freshman year, bur a few of the boys in my Block 2 class were like, “But we still have the other half!” So I grumbled about their pessimism, badly belted out some Streisand, and we all had a good laugh.

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Then I got on with introducing the new unit on the Middle East. We started as we always do: labeling a map of the region (I blew some minds with “Iran to Iraq to get Turkey”), and chatting about what they already knew and/or want to know. I ended up answering a lot of questions about religion in both classes, and in my Block 4 class we ended up talking a bit about religious extremism, too. Someone asked what “Allahu akbar” meant, and after I answered that someone else asked why suicide bombers said it… I pointed out that Christian extremists had similar slogans, and then it was, “Wait. Christians have extremists, too?” That touched off a really thoughtful conversation about bias and awareness.

Typically, that class is my most challenging one, so I was especially happy that the students were so engaged, and willing to have such a mature, complex conversation about their own understanding. It was a good way to start the semester, for sure!

I spent my prep time making my copies for the week, and taking care of some paperwork. Then Mrs. T, Mr. F, and I had a quick meeting about a student. Then I was off to a short track practice (post-season taper). All in all? It was a good day.

Bonus Day

I got on a bus at 6:30AM today. That’s the coaching life!

We took a dozen athletes to their final qualifier meet, and we’ll be taking nine of them to States. I wish everyone had made it, of course, but they all gave it their best shot. 

I can’t ask for more than that as their coach.

The best thing was watching my 4×200 boys smash their PR. I’m always nervous and excited during that race, but especially at this meet. With a trip to States on the line, every team is taking risks in order to get faster times (ie- the blind passes my team is known for), and they have to be perfect in order to actually do it. Otherwise, it’s zone violations, dropped batons, collisions, falls…

My boys were perfect, and I am so, so proud of them.

They rocketed up the rankings, secured their spot at States- and, yes, to those of you who’ve been following all season, they did beat the priest’s alma mater. I told him last night after mass that they were going to do it. 

Day Ninety-Three

We had another two-hour delay today, which I wasn’t expecting because everything was fine where I live. But there was flooding in some of our sending towns, and messy ice in others, so it was definitely a good call. 

I didn’t have any exams to give, so I got to wear my track clothes all day (including a brand new, long-sleeved team shirt I got from the captains), which was awesome. And I actually got to go to practice, so yay! The team heckled me for being in meetings and/or midterms during all the other practices this week because that’s what they do. 

What else did I do today? Finished grading, helped a couple students with work they owed, contacted a few parents, had lunch and did some planning with Mrs. T, got a visit from an alum, updated the bulletin board…

First semester is over. Long live second semester.

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Day Eighty-Four

I didn’t sleep well last night because there was a storm, and I don’t think anyone else did either, so it was kind of a cranky day. Mrs. T did bring in maple bacon brownies, though. That was amazing, and I was glad I had prep Block 1 to have a brownie, get myself sorted, and tinker with next week’s lessons a bit.

Both my World classes got off to rocky starts- randomly hyper students in the first one, unprepared students in the second (which prompted a bit of a lecture)- but they got better. We finished Shake Hands With the Devil, and then I took questions. There were lots, and even some students who don’t typically ask questions put their hands up, which was really cool. 

I have a general rule that signing out during a discussion is a no-no unless it’s an emergency; the discussions are where a lot of learning happens, it’s rude to walk out while someone’s talking, and there will always be time for signing out afterwards when we shift to independent work. I had a student keep trying to buck the rule- like I said earlier, cranky day- and I wasn’t having it. In the past, this would have derailed the whole class, but not today. The other students wanted to engage in conversation about Rwanda, and Dallaire’s soldiers, and the aftermath of the genocide. 

Did some of them do it just to annoy this one who wanted us to stop talking? Probably. 

Did they ask questions that deepened their understanding of the subject? Sure did.

You can judge if the ends justify the means there.

One of our alumns came by during Block 5 to visit me, Mrs. T, and Mr. F, so we sat, ate more brownies, and had a good chat. We all knew she’d do well in college, but it was awesome to hear it from her. She was on the track team, too, so she came with me to practice to say hello to The Head Coach, and we discovered another alumn there, as well! Mini-reunion!

Bonus Day

The track team had another early meet today. We’re coming off of a long week, and a 6:30AM bus ride didn’t do anyone any favors, so my sprinters’ 55m times were a bit slow. But they rallied for the 300m and the relays. The girls 4×400 and boys 4×200 ran massive PRs. I got a nice compliment from another coach on the boys’ passes, which made my day. Longtime readers will know how much pride I take in being able to train sprinters to do blind relay passes. It’s always nice when it’s recognized.

This relay team has a shot at a top six finish at States, which is exciting because it’s a young team. Also fun: the team directly ahead of mine in the rankings is from the school my friend the priest graduated from; there will be some good-natured trash talking after mass for the next couple weeks!

Day Eighty

I heard couple of my athletes saying how upsetting it is to only hear bad news about our school right now because so many good things happen here, and, ugh…

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Morale is taking such a hit, and I don’t know what to do except keep on keeping on. 

So that’s what I’m doing.

It was the last day of project presentations in World, and we’ve arrived in history at the early 1990s. I taught about the wars in Somalia and Rwanda, and I’ll be teaching about the Rwandan Genocide in detail next week. Somalia and Rwanda loom over modern policymaking, and it’s important to explain why, so it’s in their minds when we start discussing current events in the following classes. 

I like these lessons because they tend to be really powerful; they’re hard, given the subject matter, but everything resonates. When seniors tell me what they most remember from ninth grade, these lessons are usually on their lists. 

Working on making all of my teaching that good…

Day Seventy-Eight

And we’re back!

I spent my prep time rewriting my next few APUSGOV lessons so I can spend more time discussing the shutdown and other current events. I didn’t finish before the bell, so that’s also how I spent almost every other spare minute I had, including lunch time. I actually ate lunch around 2:15. That was in between a 504 meeting and track practice.

In World, we picked up right where we left off: project presentations, reading and annotation, chatting about modern African history… I also left some time to discuss midterm exams, which are coming up in a couple weeks. Ninth graders always have lots of questions because it’s a new thing for them, so I wanted to make sure they could get answers.

Unfortunately, I also had to leave time for them to process the fact that a few of our teachers did not come back from the break. There are various reasons why, and obviously I didn’t discuss those; I just let the kids talk about how they were feeling.

At practice, it was baton drills, stairs, and a few visits from alumni who are on break. 

Full speed ahead!