Category: interdisciplinary fabulousness

Day Thirty-Six

The Vice Principal turned 40 today, so every teacher in the ninth grade house (yay common prep time) snuck into her office while she was in a meeting, decorated with balloons and streamers, and sang “Happy Birthday” when she came back in. We also sent kids down with birthday wishes throughout the day. 

So that was fun. 

Life in the Cavern of Learning was a flurry of activity. Mrs. T corralled the half dozen or so kids who still had to finish narratives and worked with them since it’s due today. I took everyone else and moved on with Africa stuff, so I definitely had the easier job today. I just walked around and fielded questions as needed.

During flex time we closed our dividing wall (we usually just leave it since most kids need us both anyhow) because I had a bunch of kids who wanted retake vocab quizzes, and I wanted it to be nice and quiet. I love that they took advantage of the opportunity. That’s so good.

We re-opened the Cavern for Block 4 and got back to work. A double block, even with breaks like flex and lunch, takes a lot of academic stamina, which many of our students are still developing, but we find ways to motivate them. Today, six boys who were goofing off in the last twenty minutes greed to work silently for fifteen I let them have a “moo-off” for the last five. What’s a moo-off, you ask? It’s when people get down on all fours like they’re cows and moo at each other in silly ways; the person who can keep a straight face the longest wins. 

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OBVIOUSLY, I let that happen. It was hilarious. And the boys all got their work done beforehand.

Such a win.

I explained the moo-off to my colleagues during the team meeting, and to the NHS board (I’m subbing on that while Mr. B is on leave) after school. Then I spent until about 4:30 prepping for tomorrow. Mrs. T is out, so it’s going to be The Me Show! 

Day Thirty-Five

I started my day with a lecture on interest groups and lobbying (with a tangent on PACs and stuff because someone asked about that), then assigned a group project on interest groups and iron triangles. I had lots of little discussions while students did research: communism, chambers of commerce, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the establishment clause, gun control, Reagan… 

It’s good stuff. 

Fed. 10 will come back to haunt them shortly. Mwahahaha.

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Ahem.

Life in the Cavern of Learning was good, too. Mrs. T worked with anyone whose narrative wasn’t done. I moved everyone else on to the new unit- Africa- and to labeling maps, doing some cultural research, and reading books. There was a medical emergency in the building (I have no idea what happened, but the kids had tons of rumors), and a resulting lockdown right before Block 2 ended. That caused minor chaos- lots of questions, kids trying to look out the window at the ambulance, etc…- and basically ate up flex time.

In spite of that, it was a super productive double block, and a great example of the “move when ready” approach to learning that The Principal wants more of. We also got observed by an elementary school teacher after lunch, and she thought it was neat. Go us.

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Now, the other day, a bottle of Axe exploded in boy’s backpack, which was wicked bad for me because I have a fragrance allergy. We figured he’d wash the backpack, but nope. I did my best to stay away, but it wasn’t enough. By Block 5 my nose was stuffy and my eyes were itchy. I had an APUSGOV student in to retake a test, so I just had to sit and resist the urge to sniffle and CLAW MY EYES OUT OMG. 

I managed, though!

Day Thirty-Four

Today was SO much better than the last B day of our A/B schedule. Mrs. T and I assigned seats, which did wonders for the noise level in the Cavern; it did wonders for the productivity level, too, of course. I wish we didn’t have to play it that way, but so far the thing holding several of our students back is worrying how others will perceive them if they choose to separate themselves and focus on doing well rather than socializing. I’ve had a few talks one-on-one about that, and so has Mrs. T.

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I wish I was as good at it as Mr. Feeny.

Anyways. 

Students took a vocab quiz, did pronouns practice, and revised narratives. If they finished all that- and many did, including one or two who surprised themselves- I had them get ahead on stuff for the next unit. Specifically, I had them choose books for The Epic Book Paper and Research Project (redesigned from last year) and start reading.

We had a ninth grade house meeting during Block 5, so I spent about an hour after the bell getting ready for tomorrow. And that was that!

Day Thirty-Three

I just got home from a cold football game. I usually stay the whole time, but my feet were freezing, so I left at halftime when we got done selling tickets. 

My day started with a fun APUSGOV lesson on public opinion and polling data. It involved episodes 33-35 of CrashCourse, this Jimmy Kimmel sketch, and some exploring on PollingReport.com

World/English started with a vocab quiz for me, some pronouns practice on ChompChomp for Mrs. T, and narrative revisions for both of us. We rocked and rolled through the double block- and the flex time in between- and it was super productive. It got a little loud and unruly towards the end of the double block, but we handled that so much better today than yesterday (which is why we reflect after we teach). And, even when it was loud, there was still a lot of really good work happening. Some kids had us checking their narrative drafts 3, 4, 5 times to get them perfect- and team teaching means we have time to do that- which was so awesome. 

Of course, some did just want to be done with class. One boy who was especially determined to act out shouted about having big party plans this weekend. When I told him to quiet down, he yelled, “Didn’t you party, Miss M?” 

I said, “Nah, dude, I was an athlete. I didn’t have time for that.” 

That got a, “Preach, Miss M!” from across the room, and a “Yeah, right” from this boy, so I ended up gathering an audience and talking about collegiate athletics and life choices for the last five minutes of class. The main thing I said was something my coach always told my teammates and I: being an athlete is fleeting; we only going to get to compete for a little while, so we shouldn’t waste any of that time. 

Hopefully they’ll remember that lesson in addition to the content I teach. It’s a good one.

Day Thirty-Two

Mrs. Z brought coffee and donuts in for PLC this morning, which was amazing. She said it was because so many people’s progress report grades glitched in our grading program, and it caused a ton of stress. I mean, my grades were fine, but yay donuts.

I spent my prep time writing college recommendations for a couple of my APUSGOV students. It takes effort to craft good recs, but it’s also such a positive thing to do, especially for kids I’ve known all four years. I’m totally happy to sing their praises. 

World/English was… squirrely. 

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Mrs. T and I have a really challenging mix of students on the B days of the A/B schedule. A third need constant reassurance, a third need constant redirection, and a third want to escape our notice entirely. Since we’re conferencing, it’s hard to devote our attention to the whole room, which means the attempts to misbehave increase. We usually do a good job of anticipating that, but today we hit a few rough patches, and both had to raise our voices waaaay more than usual. It was kind of exhausting, and afterwards we discussed things we’ll do differently next time.

I did read some cool narrative drafts, though. They were about everything from cartel violence to the Argentinian soccer team to the Cuban Revolution. One of the boys who’d been having a hard time figuring out what to write heard me mention the Avianca bombing to someone else, did a bunch of research, and cranked out about half of a story already. It’s a tragic story, of course, but it’s gripping.

Oh, and here’s an adorable thing: one of my APUSGOV students came in during lunch to make up a test, and she was still there when the ninth graders came back to class, so I stood at the door to let them know. They were SO quiet so they wouldn’t disrupt her.

So they may be a pack of squirrels, but they are quite kind.

Day Thirty-One

I felt a bit out of sorts today. 

Our juniors were all taking PSATs, so the bell schedule was off, which meant my timing was off. And I am still getting over a cold, and my allergies were haywire. My allergies made my eyes so watery that I could hardly see during APUSGOV, which, of course, my students thought was funny. But I managed.

I did a lesson on media bias and selective exposure, and fake news. It’s a cool lesson, and it went well enough, but- aside from the moment when my students realized I know what 4chan is- it didn’t pop. I was hoping for a more animated discussion, I think. Must do better next time…

World/English was great. Mrs. T started class with some quick grammar lessons (pronoun usage, formatting dialogue) and then we divided students up to work on their narratives. Everyone without a finished rough draft went to her side of the Cavern, and spread out to keep from getting distracted while writing. Everyone with a finished draft grouped up with 2-3 others on my side for peer conferencing. Mrs. T an I did conferences, too. It was definitely a productive day.

And! During Block 5, a student who’s been behind on his work came by to turn the bulk of it in, which was awesome. I was so proud of him, and said as much.

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 Twenty-Eight

Today was an early release day, so our classes flew by. I introduced a new unit in APUSGOV with a lesson about political socialization We started by brainstorming the ten people, institutions, media sources, events, etc… that shaped our political views. 

Mine:

  • Parents
  • Catholicism
  • AIDS crisis
  • Columbine shooting
  • My AP Euro teacher
  • The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart
  • 9/11
  • Iraq War
  • Staffing on the Dean campaign
  • Twitter

Theirs: 

  • Parents
  • Other family
  • Parkland shooting
  • Orlando nightclub shooting
  • Terrorism
  • NPR
  • Youtube
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Applying for college
  • World Cultures class
  • Literature and Social Issues class
  • Youth and Government club
  • Protests at Standing Rock
  • 2016 elections
  • Working in small, local businesses
  • Political polarization

It was fascinating to chat about all of that, and that was all we had time to do. 

In World/English, we just had students continue drafting, Mrs. T gave a quick lesson about things like flashback in order to encourage them to play. She and I both read several full drafts, and I love how proud students were to show them to us. That’s so cool.

Once students left, we had an hour for lunch. My cacophonous friends and I went to Starbucks because early release days are late days for us. In order to take a day off our required 187, we have two teacher workshops until 5:30- one fall, one spring- which makes for a loooooong day. 

It started with an informational session about vaping; a lady from Poison Control gave a lecture. Then there was some administrative business. After that, our time was devoted to the NEASC self study (it’s an accreditation thing done every ten years). We’re all in groups, working to compile one part of the study.

I had to leave mine for what I though would be a short 504 meeting (and was actually a long one). While I was gone, one of my group members was online and found out the local brewery was having a cornhole tournament tonight, so a bunch of us went (beer, pizza, cornhole). So fun!

Day Twenty-Seven

So. I teach high school. Imagine how many phones went off at the same time this afternoon when that Presidential Alert thingy got tested.

Today was unexpectedly busy. 

I spent my prep time playing phone tag with campaign staffers, trying to nail down dates for APUSGOV visits, and trying to keep The Principal informed. Meantime, he was dealing with local businesses who won’t let our students park in their lots during the day anymore (students who couldn’t get parking on campus had been doing that and walking up the access road) because some of them are peeling out, drving too fast, etc… This is why we can’t have nice things, kids…

World/English was a blur of monitoring students, reading drafts, and making comments like, “Wakanda would totally have the defenses to handle rampaging hippos” (part of a conversation that happened because of this). Mrs. T overheard that one and burst out laughing. We also had three girls type one-handed so they could do each other’s nails. They finished class with good drafts AND good manicures. 

Ahh, ninth grade…

Day Twenty-Six

There’s an election coming up, and I have 18-year-old students in APUSGOV, so I invited the candidates for congress, state senate, and governor to come to class for Q&A. It’s a 7:30AM class, so I make sure to have coffee and donuts for my students and the sleep-deprived staffers who accompany candidates (I’m an ex-staffer, so I know what’s up). I think it’s awesome so many agree to come.

The Republican congressional candidate visited today. He and my students chatted about the current political climate, the environment, school safety, gun rights, Afghanistan, biomass subsidies, law enforcement, the opioid crisis, the federal bureaucracy… And about dogs, Jeeps, and Eddie Murphy. It was a lot of fun, and I think they got a ton out of it.

So I’m feeling good about that. 

I’m feeling good about World/English, too, because there are some really cool narratives being drafted. I think most students were super productive over the two blocks; some even opted to stay with us during flex time. One girl already has a full draft! Mrs. T and I both read her work and were both blown away.

It’s a benefit of team teaching that we can both give feedback on finished drafts. It’s also easier to get to the kids who are struggling; like, I sat with one boy and answered questions about the border until it sparked an idea, and Mrs. T was still available to help others. It’s good stuff.

What else? I was extra dressed up because of my APUSGOV guest. I mean, I always wear skirts and dresses- except on casual Fridays- but this dress was new and wicked nice. I got so many compliments on it. Mrs. T decided to get the same one. She’s going to wear it tomorrow to see if our students notice.

We amuse ourselves.