Category: karate

Day One Hundred Seventy-Three

There are noticeable bruises on one of my hands from last week’s karate demos (I punched Mr. T’s whiteboard at least once in each class, so this is unsurprising… gotta remember to switch hands in the future). I had to explain those to The Principal when I went to talk to him about APUSGOV stuff this morning. That was almost as fun as explaining them to the priest after mass yesterday. 


Some of my World students finished drafting all the pieces in their Multi-Genre Projects, so I spent most of my class time conferencing with them. When I wasn’t doing that, though, I was walking around and answering questions, or helping students figure out what to say if they were stuck. It was an easy day for me, and a productive one for them, and that’s awesome at this point in the year.

I didn’t get down to the office to check my mail until well into Block 5. At that point, I discovered a very sweet thank you card from one of my seniors. 

My last class with them is tomorrow. I may just bawl my eyes out afterwards.

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

This morning, the faculty met our new principal, who made a hilarious first impression by showing up wearing almost exactly the same outfit as our current principal. Khakis and a blue dress shirt are apparently standard issue. Aside from that, though, I had a couple observations:

1) He’s only three years older than I am, and he went from being a classroom teacher to a principal after thirteen years, so I have more years of teaching experience than he does. I don’t know if any of that is good or bad; it’s just very different than what I’m used to. 

2) He’s nervous, which I get, because he’s coming from a school with half as many students- if that- and a faculty that’s a lot smaller, too. I’m sure it was a lot just to see how many of us there are, you know? But he seems nice, and enthusiastic, so that’s good. 

He’ll be the third principal I’ve worked for in fourteen years of teaching at the same high school, and I’m excited to see what he brings to our community. I definitely have to meet with him, at some point, to talk about that powerhouse APUSGOV class of mine. Next year’s an election year, and I want to know how much freedom I’ll have to bring in candidates, staffers, the press, etc… to class (right now, as longtime readers know, I have total freedom, and it’s amazing). 

The rest of the day went smoothly. I helped some of the students in the club I advise finish putting up a bulletin board during my prep, and then- because it’s a B day- I did exactly what I did yesterday: went to Mr. T’s room to do some karate for half the block before returning to my own classes to oversee Multi-Genre awesomeness. The karate was fun; I definitely got more questions today than I did yesterday, and got to demo some fun stuff like chi breaking because Mr. W had some free time. 

I was also wearing a shirt that says “Teacher by day, deadly ninja by night,” so I was getting laughs. 

What else? Final qualifying lists for the Meet of Champions came out today. I’m bummed my 4×4 boys just missed qualifying, but I’m happy for the ones who did make it (best thing was running into an English class to tell one of the distance boys he was in because he didn’t think he’d had a chance). We had a quick practice, went over Saturday’s departure information, and called it a day. No sense in overworking now; everyone’s as ready as they’re going to be.

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 Fifty-One

This morning I walked into school with my escrima sticks slung over one shoulder. I was wearing my usual high heels, skirt, and sweater ensemble, so the effect was somewhere between “that’s so badass” and “huh?” 

I got to do this because today was the annual martial arts demo in World. Of course, I promptly turned my sticks over to the SRO for safekeeping, and Mr. W- who, in addition to being my colleague, is the black belt who trains me- turned over all of his weapons, too. Then we shoved all the furniture in the Cavern of Learning up against the walls, changed from our teaching clothes into our karate clothes, and got warmed up.

We started the presentation by sparring. I wanted to grab the kids’ attention, so as soon as they were seated (on top of the tables, bags underneath, so there was tons of space for us to move), I stuck my mouth guard in and threw a punch at Mr. W… and we went from there. The room went completely silent, which is saying something in a room full of 80ish ninth graders). After a few minutes, we stopped, and I went over the rules, which I’d also gone over in the classes prior to this one (no photos/video, no touching each other, no touching the weapons, stop us anytime to ask questions). Then we talked about the history of martial arts, its purpose, the mindset it teaches. We did katas and weapons forms, did some “magic tricks,” and took questions/requests. And that took up all of the time we had!

It was very cool, and I think it was valuable for the students, who think of karate as it’s shown in pop culture, which isn’t always accurate. They learned a lot by getting to see real martial artists practice, and hearing our answers to their questions. I liked getting to talk about what it means to be strong versus what it means to be a bully, using the skill only in self-defense, doing as little harm as possible; that’s important stuff for students to hear. Also, this demo showed them a something different about me, and that’s pretty neat. I’m perceived as being very “girly” because I always wear skirts and dresses, put make-up on, do my nails, that kind of thing… And, sure, that’s me, but this is also me. 

Also, I got to use the line, “A very nice boy went out in to the forest in Maine, cut down a tree, and made me weapons” to explain where I got my escrima sticks. It’s true, and it’s a funny line, so that’s a win.

After the demo, students went to lunch. Then they had about an hour after that, so Mrs. T took the students who hadn’t turned in Central Asia Novel Projects, Mr. F took students who needed to do math stuff (technical term right there).  I took students who were all caught up on everything to help me put the Cavern back in order, and then I let them work on whatever they wanted to.

During Block 5, we had a freshman house meeting, which I was admittedly not looking forward to because the agenda was kind of vague, and I wasn’t sure what direction the conversation was going to take. It ended up being a really productive, positive brainstorming session, though. So, I admit, I was wrong to assume otherwise, and I’m happy to be wrong. We’re meeting again next week, too, to keep the forward momentum going, and now I’m excited for it.

Practice, like the rest of the day, was awesome. My sprinters did a workout- 300m repeates- and then a few of them asked to work on their block starts, so we spent some time fine-tuning those. As we were wrapping up, the captains came up to me with plans for next week. It’s the week of our last home meet, so it’ll be Senior Night, and one of the other teams proposed a post-meet pizza party, which is GENIUS, so we’re all in on that. But the captains want to do a whole week of “spirit week” practices, so they wanted to brainstorm theme days with me. We came up with Muscle Shirt Monday, Green Tuesday (at the meet- green socks, hair ribbons, etc… in honor of Mental Health Awareness, which is a schoolwide thing), Warpaint Wednesday (because there’s a middle school meet, and officiating with our faces painted school colors will be fun), Superhero Thursday, Funky Friday. Clearly, I think this is all awesome, and I haven’t written enough about how great our captains have been all season (and all of indoor because it’s the same two kids). I love their creativity and enthusiasm, and the tone they’re setting.

Day One Hundred Forty-One

It’s been a really good week so far, but today’s automatically the best day out of the three because it didn’t snow.

Also, my karate tricks were an even bigger hit today than they were yesterday, and my Block 4 students actually had fun. I’d said I’d gotten the class to the point where it was manageable, tolerable, okay… but not fun. And I want it to be fun because it is for the other three sections of World that I teach, and we’re all better for it, so I was so glad something finally worked.

If only I’d known all I had to do was punch my whiteboard… 

Actually, the trick that really got my students’ attention was the “unbendable” arm trick I did to illustrate the concept of chi. One of the biggest, strongest kids in the ninth grade is in my Block 4 class, and he’s the one who volunteered to try to bend my arm, so everyone lost their minds when he couldn’t do it. 

I do have to admit that the look of disbelief on his face was priceless. 

After his third unsuccessful attempt, he ended up laughing and telling me, “I need a moment, Miss M!” and sitting outside my door. When he came back in, he asked if I could teach him the trick, and it’s not like it’s some super karate secret- it just takes a bit of mental focus- so I did. 

And then, of course, everyone had to try it. And then they had to show their friends at lunch. And, basically, I now have an army of young padawans. 

Which is excellent.

I was supposed to be at a department meeting during lunch, but a student came in to do something I thought would take five minutes and took twenty-five, which happens sometimes, so I went down afterwards to apologize to Mrs. Z for that. She gave me the cliff notes version of the meeting, and it was all good. Then I had a team meeting, which we spent looking at grades to see who’s in danger of failing for the year, and figuring out interventions. 

I was a few minutes late to practice, but The Head Coach was going over meet procedures since our first meet is tomorrow (it would have been yesterday, but it was postponed because of the weather), so I only missed some of that. It was a light day, and spent indoors since it’s still cold. We did starting blocks, relay passes, and a bit of sprinting technique work as best we could. It’ll have to do!

Day One Hundred Forty

I thought APUSGOV was going to be pretty lowkey today; students had to take a vocab quiz, then work on a group project which is due next class, so I planned to grade, check work, and answer questions as needed. I didn’t plan on a sudden outbreak of senioritis, but I probably should have since it’s fourth quarter, first block, and it was snowing. That’s a recipe for wackiness to ensue. It started with a series of absent-minded comments (like “what am I even looking up?” from a boy who’d already typed his topic into the Google search bar). Then half of one group declared war on the other half, there was a lot of yelling about chickens, and one boy got up and started running around with three pairs of glasses stacked on his face, and I just… kind of let it happen. It’s good to be goofy sometimes, and I wasn’t really worried about anyone falling behind on their work, so I was happy to laugh with them.

My students inform me I’m the chillest AP teacher ever. 


They also say that because I adjust on the fly constantly, which is a skill I think is essential (in all classes, but especially that one). I mess up, I fix it; they mess up, we fix it… A bunch of kids tell me they have to miss class for college visits, I tell them to schedule time to make up what they’re missing, and to have fun at college… If I know a lot of people will be gone on a certain day- like when the band travels for a concert- I try not to schedule big things that day in the first place… Stuff like that just makes sense to me. If it makes me a chill teacher, and being chill makes the class more fun and keeps the senioritis bearable, it’s all good.

My ninth graders do not think I’m chill; they think I’m wicked extra. And, I mean, I did spend today proclaiming myself to be a Jedi Master, so… We started a new unit on East Asia by discussing what they already knew and/or wanted to know about that part of the world. That touched off some interesting conversations about pop culture, cultural diffusion, and cultural appropriation, so that was neat. Afterwards, I defined key unit vocab, much of which has to do with Buddhism, Confucianism, or Taoism. I did some karate tricks to explain concepts like mindfulness and chi, and that went over really well. I made my right arm “unbendable” for my Block 4 class (Jedi move right there), and one of the boys said, “This was probably the most interesting, least expected class today!”

I will take that. 

Day One Hundred Fifty-Nine

You know, today was glorious, at first. It’s a perfect spring day, it’s payday Friday, and Mr. W and I did a karate demo for my ninth graders during World (and it was so much fun). Katas, tricks with body mechanics, sparring… Mr. W did the “one inch punch” to me (on my shoulder so I could twist and dissipate some of the force, and Mr. F still had to catch me).

And then there as an incident in the hall.

And then our SRO hurried of for… something.

And then there was a shooting. 


I’ve said before that nothing is as wrenching as listening to kids in public schools after mass shootings. The resignation is terrible. But there’s a defiant joy, afterwards, and a desire to affirm life. 

And so I found myself here with my athletes this afternoon:

That’s the public beach a few towns over, where we gathered for a team spag. Conference championships are tomorrow. 

Day One Hundred Fifty-Five

Our student council decided to do a spring Spirit Week this week to lead up to prom. There’s no pep rally, but there are fun after school activities (today there was a trivia tournament), and dress-up themes (with prizes!) each day. Today’s theme was holidays, and I… had nothing. So I threw on a floral dress and called myself Earth Day. 

I will up my game tomorrow. 

Anyways, I spent a chunk of my prep time helping students and redecorating my room (new posters!), so did not get nearly as much grading done as I’d wanted to. But it’s all good. I won’t have any of my APUSGOV students tomorrow- AP Calculus exam- so I’ll have a bit of extra time.

World was fun today. Some students had culture projects due, so they shared those to start. Then I pre-taught some vocab on Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism- with some karate tricks thrown in (and me insisting I was a Jedi, of course)- because that’s what their homework is about. They had time to start it in class, which was good. 

Practice was ups and downs. Ups: it’s post-season and we have a solid week of training ahead of us. Downs: we had to remove a couple athletes from our roster (and it’s going to cost us a relay team), and two of my sprinters dinged their hamstrings… But we’ll rally. 

Day One Hundred Thirty-Seven

“We’re not talking about Hiroshima! We’re talking about track!” -one of my athletes

Let us note, I have no context for that quote. I have a team that discusses everything from ridiculous memes to building mercenary armies, so I just don’t question it. We had our first meet today- I’m just now getting home- and it was snowy (and also sunny), cold, and awesome. All of us coaches are super happy about how our athletes competed. We have a ton of rookies, so mostly today was about laying down some baselines, but a handful of veterans threw down some championship qualifying stuff already. We came away with two third place finishes overall, which is fine. It’s all about improving from here. 

While I was at the meet there was a faculty meeting, and I apparently won Teacher of the Month. I’m a bit embarrassed I wasn’t there, but Mrs. T assures me everyone knew I was coaching. 

What else? Ooh! It’s local voting day, so Mr. F and I ran out and voted during our prep time (he was coaching an away game this afternoon, too). I had a wicked headache, but it was gone by the time we got back to the school. I think it was the stress of needing to get so much done in a short amount of time. We barely made it back before the bell change!

I scrambled a bit to get stuff on my whiteboards, but it was okay. I introduced a new unit (Central/East Asia) in World with the usual pre-teach of vocabulary and some quick activities on the region’s geography and culture. My Block 4 class also had me do a karate trick because they’re especially excited about that. 

All in all, it was a good day. 

Day Ninety

Midterms roll on…

My World midterm is a reflective essay that asks students to think about their learning, and their overall ninth grade experience. It’s a way for my counterparts and I to check whether or not they can articulate their progress towards our course and grade level goals. The students in my Block 3 sections of the course wrote theirs today, and the students in my Block 4 sections will write theirs tomorrow.

I haven’t read any of them in detail yet- I still have a set of book papers to mark first- but I gave each one a quick glance when it was turned in. There’s at least one “everything is dumb, and I don’t see why I have to learn any of it” (which is really “I’m struggling to write this essay and lashing out because of it”), and also at least one masterpiece. Gotta have balance in life, I guess. 

I spent the afternoon working with students, grading, prepping lessons, and a dozen other things. Then I crashed Mr. W’s new semester karate class, which was good fun, but maaaaaan, I was rusty. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to train. I can still throw solid kicks and punches, but my katas have suffered. 

Time to train back up. 

I had to leave class early to join some my other colleagues at one of the local breweries for trivia night. It was a fundraiser for the organization that’s trying to get a new rec trail built (near the school, so it’d be great for us). We got second place!