Category: interdisciplinary fabulousness

Bonus Day

Mrs. T and I finished mapping out our curriculum over lunch today. We’re not entirely satisfied with the timing of things in May, but we rarely are this far out- something aways changes- so what we have will do for now. It’s a functional rough draft. Next week when we meet we’ll put the materials together for the first two units, add new rubrics to our assessment instructions, all that stuff. The goal is to have it all ready to go before in-service starts because those three days just fly.

We also caught each other up on district gossip (between us, we know everything, whether we ought to or not). Mostly, it was about new hires because there’s been a lot of turnover this year; most of it is in the lower grades, not at the high school, but we’re going to have a few new people on our staff. Two of the newbies will be in the ninth grade house, which will be very interesting for me since they’ll both be right across the hall from my rowdy friends and I. Hopefully, they enjoy our cacophonous antics!

The school year approaches…!

Bonus Day

Mrs. T and I resumed our planning today. We spent the bulk of our time figuring out how to invert The Epic Research Project and Book Paper. See, this is the way that worked: I taught about colonialism in Africa, then students did research projects about what happened following independence in a particular country (ie- the civil wars in Sudan), read a book set during those events (ie- They Poured Fire On Us from the Sky), and wrote a paper about its themes. And that was good, but we can do better. We asked the research questions, we told them the themes to look for, and that should be on them.

I already wrote that we added more books. We’re going to start with reading, and book talking in class, and have students identify themes in their books (and ones their classmates’ books share). Then they’ll write papers. Then they’ll propose something to research further, and create presentations to share, and I’ll schedule them around my own teaching about post-colonialism. So, my lessons and their projects will compliment each other. 

Or so I hope! We’ll see how it goes.

The later units were easier to get down because we aren’t changing much. We’ve got the basics through April, and will finish next time we meet, most likely!

Bonus Day

AP scores came out this morning. Since this past year was the first time I taught an AP class, it was my first experience with the wait for scores, the dramatic reveal, etc, etc… Here’s my reaction:

image

Basically. 

In other news, Mrs. T and I started on some summer work (which we are paid to do, for the record). We met for a few hours while my car was being inspected, and started to plan our interdisciplinary curriculum for next year. We’re going to move some units around, and try out some new assessments (more choice, more inquiry…), and we’re excited about it.

We have what I think is a solid plan for teaching narrative writing. It’ll culminate with our students writing some fact-based fictional narratives based on what I’ll have been teaching them about current events. That’ll mean incorporating lessons on solid research, authenticity, cultural literacy… And these are all good and necessary lessons for a student population that often has limited exposure to the world beyond NH prior to my class. If we do it well, we should be able to make some powerful points about empathy, and the care with which we should treat other people’s stories. 

We sketched out a day-by-day calendar for that unit, then moved on to the next, which involves a novel read, a paper, and a research project. We added eight new novel options, both fiction and nonfiction, to the six we already had. I’ve been reading them one by one since they arrived, and now Mrs. T needs to, as well, so we went up to the school to grab copies. The Principal saw us as we were leaving, so we stopped for a chat. He’s always been supportive of what we do, which is awesome; not every administrator out there would have let two young teachers continually experiment with their curriculum and methods- or provided them the means- but he’s had our backs for more than a decade. 

Day One Hundred Eighty

Underclassmen started taking finals today. There are two each day with a half hour break in between; today they were for first block classes. This block was my prep time on A days and APUSGOV on B days, so I spent the day grading multi-genre projects. 

Given that the project instructions are basically “Write about something that matters right now,” here’s a telling photograph: 

And, remember, I only have half of the projects in my possession; Mrs. T has the other half. 

I didn’t just put grades in all day today. I had a meeting with next year’s APUSGOV students to go over their summer work; it’s a big class, so it’ll be a whole new set of challenges. I also had a chat with The Principal, who complimented me on the work I did with my APUSGOV students this year. That was really gratifying.

After finals, there was a little party for retiring teachers at a local restaurant. I went with Mr. W because we’re both introverted souls who hate arriving alone to events like that. This is why we’re friends, haha. And it was a fun party! Lots of good food and funny stories… Also, a bunch these teachers’ former students made a goodbye video, which was sweet.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Nine

Today was the last day of regular classes for our underclassmen, which means it was the day multi-genre projects were due. This is my half to grade:

Each project has four different pieces of work (expressive, informational, opinion, graphic) and full MLA citations. Each piece was drafted and revised at least once, sometimes two or three times. Most students cite a half dozen sources or more; some have over twenty sources. 

Don’t ever let anyone tell you June is a throwaway month and you can’t keep students motivated to learn.

Mrs. T and I know better. 

And we are wizards.

We both gave students time to work and/or review for finals before delivering our last lessons today, and that was that. We’re proud of how proud our students were to hand those projects in! Like, we had three boys stay a couple minutes late to get their work printed, and they were grinning and high-fiving as they left. Stuff like that makes my day.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Seven

It’s a late entry because I just got home from a political event. I got to see the candidates and staffers I’ve met through APUSGOV, and make some new connections- which is the point of going. I’m not a big networker, really, but I’ve been learning… 

Anyways. My school day was good. Mrs. T and I wrapped up writing conferences with the set of students we had today, and helped kids prepare for our finals. I know I’ve sounded a bit like a broken record these past few entries, but it’s all going so smoothly (here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx it). Our last days of classes are tomorrow and Monday- followed by four days of finals- and it’s still kind of hard to believe. 

Graduation rehearsal happened this afternoon, and some of my APUSGOV kids came by to say thanks. I got a gift card to a local restaurant from one, which is so nice! I will seriously miss that awesome little crew…

But! I will see them at graduation and on Project Grad, so that’s good. 

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 Seventy-Five

Today was long, but it was a good day. 

The merry band of activists that meets in my classroom made cake and started designing a website to spread their message. So that’s awesome. One of the kids’ moms does site design for a living, so she came in to help, except I totally forgot no one can log onto our wifi networks without our tech folks okaying it. D’oh. But they managed to get some work done anyhow.

Then, in World/English, Mrs. T and I conducted more multi-genre project writing conferences- another nine each- and we’re really feeling good about our students’ work. I think everything I read was quality work; even if pieces needed to be improved, it wasn’t hard to explain to students how to go about it. And I did read two projects that were just straight-up AWESOME. One was about mass shootings and the other was about mental illness, and both packed in some powerful writing.

It’s all very serious, and so was what I did with my prep time. Tom White was back in Mr. I’s Genocide Studies class, so I went down to see him lecture. Those of you following along will remember that he was one of my high school teachers, so it’s always amazing to be his student again- even as an interloper!

We had to say a quick goodbye because I had a faculty meeting. That was, well, a faculty meeting in June. There were cookies, though, so that’s something.

Afterwards, I had about an hour to go home and chill before going back to the school for Spring Sports Awards. And that was amazing, as it always is. It’s  recognizing a season of tremendous work, goodbyes and hugs from the seniors, flowers and other coaches’ gifts… We had five amazing captains this year, but one of them stood out because this sport changed him SO MUCH for the better. And I got to tell him how proud I was of him. 

That’s what it’s all about.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Four

So here I was, ready to write this blog entry and go out for the evening, aaaaaand I made the mistake of checking my work email first. 

Here’s a tip for new teachers: if a parent emails you and asks you to call them to discuss a particular grade, write back, tell them you’ll call during school hours (personal choice: I don’t make calls from home because I don’t want to do them on my cell phone), and ask what, specifically, they want to discuss. They’ll either say it’s resolved (usually because they’ve talked to their kid) or they’ll provide details, which will make calling quicker and easier.

Anyways…

Today was fun! I spent my prep time tinkering with some APUSGOV stuff for next year, and finishing one of the new books Mrs. T and I got for World/English. Then one of my seniors came by to return old books to us (from when she was in ninth grade and devouring both our classroom libraries). That was a bit of nostalgia and amusement.

I did nine writing conferences during the double block of World/English, and Mrs. T did ten. One of the best things about team teaching is that we can have in-depth conferences with all of our students in just two or three days because we have twice the time and half the work (because I conference with half our students, and she conferences with the other half). Students can even have us check their work again before final drafts are due because we aren’t pressed for time. It’s really ideal.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Three

Today I spent my prep time chipping away at the stack of shiny new books we have for next year; I’ve got to read them before I assign them. I also got brand new speakers because my old ones were kind of trash, and, like, these are intense speakers.

I didn’t need them today because I was doing writing conferences. Multi-genre projects are coming together! Mrs. T and I love how proud of the work the students are. We overheard several sharing pieces with others, or discussing how much research they’d done, that sort of thing. We also love how much collaboration has been happening; in past years, we’d have maybe one or two kids team up- write personal letters to each other, write connected narratives, film a joint newscast- but this year there’s a ton of that. It’s so creative, too. Like, today one girl enlisted two of her friends to film a PSA about mental illness; they all had messages on their arms in washable marker, which flipped from negative to positive, black and white to color. So clever. 

The ninth grade house met for a year-end review/planning session/party (The Vice Principal brought us snacks!) and that was really positive. We’ll have a handful of newbies next year, but most of us will be back for more adventures with freshmen, and we’re exciting to keep getting better at what we do.