Category: interdisciplinary fabulousness

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.


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.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Two

Today was incredible.

It was the final day of APUSGOV. We ate donuts and watched The West Wing (”The Stackhouse Filibuster” because I love a filibuster, and the episode’s ending fit the occasion: “Tonight I’ve seen a man with no legs stay standing, and a guy with no voice keep shouting. And if politics brings out the worst in people, maybe people bring out the best.”). And then I delivered my last lesson. I told them this was their time, I thanked them for the amazing journey they took me on this year, and then I gave them the farewell letter I wrote.

I won’t share its full contents, but I will share a bit. I’m fond of quoting poetry, and this class was fond of hearing it, so I left them with a snippet from Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?“

I didn’t cry, but it was a near thing. 

I got to see most of my students again during Block 5 because we had one last congressional candidate in as guest speaker. This one’s the democratic frontrunner, and I’d bugged his campaign SO MUCH about scheduling a visit that I was actually super nervous. Like, if it didn’t go well after I was a total pain in the neck? Oh man… 

My World students made fun of me for my nerves in between drafting and conferencing, which… Okay. 

I didn’t need to be nervous, of course. It went so well. It may have actually been the best meeting with a candidate we had. I know I sound like a broken record at this point when I say my students asked such good questions, but they did. One of the underclassmen who’s been joining us even came with prepared notes. I am so proud of her! 

The Vice Principal caught up with me after the bell to ask how it had gone, and to congratulate me on getting so many guests in. I still can’t believe that we did! The lesson is that it never hurts to ask. I have engaged, inspirational students; folks in politics should want to meet them.

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

Today I got to eat some wicked good cake. 

Mrs. T baked cake because it’s her seniors’ last day in Reading Break, and that calls for celebration. My Reading Break got in on it because the wall between our classrooms is open, and it would’ve been mean not to share with us. So yay.

World/English went… mostly smoothly. I had to chase down a few kids who went hallway wandering after lunch, but that’s all. Mrs. T and I both spent much of our time editing drafts for students, and their work is so good. We’ve got ninth graders writing and revising two, three times to perfect a piece; there’s such high engagement- and it’s June!!! 

This is our biggest triumph. 

One of my seniors came in during our team meeting to say goodbye because he won’t be in APUSGOV tomorrow. That was sweet. My colleagues ribbed me a little for being a pile of sentimental goo afterwards, but I can’t help it. I love that class.

Tomorrow’s going to be a lot.

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.

Day One Hundred Sixty-Eight

There’s a group of young activists who have been using my classroom as their organizing HQ since Parkland; they planned the March 14 walkout, spoke at community demonstrations, met with elected officials, wrote letters to the paper, organized a voter registration drive… and, off of about ten minutes of social media organizing last night, they came in today with orange ribbons to wear and distribute for Gun Violence Awareness Day. 


Also, at today’s meeting, the freshmen gave the graduating seniors pins decorated with the group’s logo. It was a way to thank them for building up this thing they’re leaving behind. It was a terrific gesture, and some of them definitely got a bit teary-eyed. 

A lot of those seniors are also in my APUSGOV class, so I saw them repeatedly today because- in addition to that meeting- we had not one, but two congressional candidates as guest speakers! At this point, the fact that we have candidates as guests is so well-known that other students get permission to miss their classes to join us, which is fine by me because I like a full room.

The first guest, a Democrat, came in during our actual class time, Block 1. He’s a young guy: ex-military, city attorney, very smart. He was totally frank, too, and my students- who have no time for vague, wishy-washy answers- approved of that even when they disagreed with what he was saying. As one girl put it, “He just went for it, Miss M.” And he got asked about EVERYTHING: gun control, Israel-Palestine, global warming, North Korea, legalization of marijuana, prison system reforms, infrastructure, national defense… Afterwards, I asked him about his military service, and discovered he’d been in Iraq at the same time as my older brother- and, for a few months, on the same base outside Baghdad. Wild, right? It’s a small world.

And, yes, it’s strange when you find out the thing you have in common with someone is a war.

Our other guest, a Republican, came in during Block 5, which is when most of my students have a free block, He’s also ex-military, and an ex-police officer, which was fascinating to hear him speak about. My students asked him similar questions to what they’d asked our first guest, and his answers were equally smart, but- as you’d expect- rather different. He’s a real limited government conservative, and I know I have students who don’t hear things articulated from that perspective often. So it gave them some food for thought, which is a good thing. 

Both guests told me how impressive these kids are (which is true), and how glad they were to have gotten to talk with them. Both said it made them hopeful for the future.

Me, too.

In between guest speakers, I was teaching World, which is also inspiring, especially during multi-genre. Because my room was set up for guests, and because it was pushing 90 degrees and muggy, Mrs. T and I made the brilliant decision to move our combined classes to the air conditioned computer lab at the end of the hall. I had the idea; she actually went and signed us up on the lab schedule so no other teacher could claim it. Now, the lab has computers and chairs for one class, and we had two, so there were kids with laptops sprawled on the floors, or in chairs they carried over from our rooms. It was a bit ridiculous, but it wasn’t hot, so our students were happy. 

So, all in all, today was awesome. Definitely one of my favorite days of teaching.