Category: life in a northern town

Day One Hundred Sixty-Three

You know how I talked about emotional whiplash on Monday? Today there was SO MUCH.  

Morning PLC was hilarious. I spent a chunk of it revising my APUSGOV syllabus for the course audit, but also joking with the rest of my department. We’ve been roasting each other for the better part of a decade, but it’s all in good fun.

The lockdown alarm was tripped accidentally during the bell change before Block 3. I’m angry at the seconds it took me to react, grab my keys, lock the doors, and direct my students to get down against the bookshelf (that’s our spot). I’m more angry about how frightened they looked until the principal came on the PA and said it was a false alarm. 

I had to go on and teach after that, which… Ugh. I mean, I did it, but still. It took about half the block to shake that off. And, y’know, I was calling kids over to my desk to ask what they’d chosen to research for multi-genre, and I must’ve had at least a dozen choose school shootings.

Oof.

Research did go exceedingly well today, so I’m happy about that. And I’m happy about how my 4×1 girls passed at practice today. Tomorrow we’re having a pizza party because there’s nothing more to do. Everyone is so ready, and it’s awesome.

Also awesome: the way my community came together for a fundraiser for Mr. B’s family at one of the local restaurants tonight. The restaurant donated a chunk of the proceeds from all of its orders, and there were raffles, and there was a huge auction. It seemed like the whole town was there, too. Like, the event started at 5:30, and I parked in overflow parking at 5:25. This is one of the reasons this community is my home, though: there’s so much compassion here. People show up for each other.

At one point, Mr. B’s wife came to thank me. Now, I don’t think I’ve done all that much, and I am an awkward panda, so I was like, “… why?” D’oh. But she was gracious. I think M. B was pretty overwhelmed; he’s a super quiet, unassuming kind of guy. I doubt that he knew, before all this, just how much this community loves him and his family. 

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. 

Again.

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-One

Today was fun. 

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and there was candy in the main office (in punny jars… like swedish fish in a jar labeled “o-FISH-ially awesome teachers!”), so I totally had candy for breakfast. And I got iced coffee from one of my former students! See, his dad0 who happens to be our school board chair- makes the best coffee, and I’d jokingly said he should bring me some, and he really did. That’s such a win. 

There were poster presentations in my World classes, which went super well. I’ll definitely keep this assessment for the future. The best thing that happened was totally unrelated, though: one of the boys told me that ever since we studied the war in Syria, he’s been paying attention, and he didn’t used to care, but he cares now. 

CUE THE MUSIC OF TRIUMPH!!!

We had a team meeting in the afternoon, followed by a faculty meeting, which I ducked out of early to go coach track. It was our last regular season home meet today, and it was the best. I mentioned over spring break that Mr. B’s son was diagnosed with cancer, and my team went to an ice cream fundraiser after a rainy practice because they have huge hearts. Today they all put on yellow ribbons to show support. It was a classy thing to do.

And it was our senior night! The underclassmen had made signs for each senior and hung them on the bleachers, and we had a little ceremony before the meet started… Then the meet itself was awesome: sunshine, PRs, good sportsmanship, and me getting to watch both my 4×1 teams finally PR. At the end of the meet, in what has become tradition, the seniors took the school flag around the track for one final lap with The Head Coach, and then we all went to eat cake.

It’s emotional, for sure, but the primary emotion? Joy.

Bonus Day

Yesterday was beautiful. Today was rainy. Did we still have track practice?

My sprinters did 400m repeats at 8-min mile pace or better because that’s a good way shake the legs out after a meet. We couldn’t go in the building afterwards- the floors are being waxed- so they did cool down stretches under the bleachers. The distance runners used the equipment shed. 

We’re resourceful. 

And then we went and got ice cream. 

See, a few weeks ago, Mr. B’s son was diagnosed with cancer, and since then the community has been doing whatever it can to help their family. The local ice cream shop announced it was going to do a fundraiser today- donating a portion of all proceeds- and these big-hearted kids went, wet running clothes and all. They joined a line that stretched around the building.

How great is that?

Day One Hundred Forty

Since I’m the Teacher of the Month right now, I get a super sweet parking spot by the front door, which cuts the time it takes to walk to my classroom in half. It’s so awesome. Today, though, some random person took my spot! There’s a pretty big sign, so it’s not like it’s unclear who the spot is for. But that was the only little snag in my day (despite it being Friday the 13th) so I can’t complain. 

That doesn’t mean the day went according to plan. Mr. L came in on rounds to observe my APUSGOV class, and ended up observing a fascinating discussion about foreign policy (specifically as it relates to Syria)… which was completely not what I was actually supposed to be teaching. I don’t even remember how we got on that topic, but you all know I won’t stop a good discussion even if it is unplanned. And it’s not like it was irrelevant!

I also got observed during World-by Mrs. M, my counterpart on one of the other ninth grade teams, this time- and later we had a good chat about what I’d done in class, and about our team dynamics. It was the start of a unit (Central and East Asia), so it was- as I jokingly say- “The Me Show.” I’ll say soooooo much less on Monday when the start digging into the modern history of Afghanistan. Today I was pre-teaching vocabulary and framing the work we’ll do next week. It went well, though. Actually, it went the best in my Block 4 class- lots of questions- which was the one that didn’t get observed, but it’s all good.

Today was the only spring day New England is getting (we’re doing winter again starting tomorrow, and in like two weeks it’ll be summer), so practice was delightful. We had a light day because we have a meet tomorrow- baton passes, starts, strides- but because it’s Friday, and Coach T and I are committed to “Fun Friday” this season, we finished with a game called dragon’s treasure, which is sort of a miniaturized version of capture the flag. It was pretty fun, and it ended with Coach T diving to tag one of his runners and eating dirt.

That’s pretty typical.

Day One Hundred One

Today our schedule was a little wacky because our Winter Carnival Week ended with a pep rally, which was AWESOME. I had just enough time to do vocab with my World students, and then I gave them the remainder of class to write current events essays. We hadn’t done those in a while because they were doing projects and book papers with Mrs. T and I. They’re an easy assignment now, after all that more challenging work, and it’s fun when students realize that.

So, anyways, the pep rally: so much fun. There are all kinds of class versus class (winners versus faculty) games, and each class makes a music video that gets played, and we hype various sports and clubs. I gave up my traditional spot in musical chairs, but Mr. F still played. At one point, he was clinging to a chair while a girl tried to flip him over. It was hilarious.

I did play an epic game of tug-o-war versus the freshmen, who were surprise student winners. The kids all cheered our SRO into playing, and mobbed him when we (finally) won. It was wildly fun. 

And, you know, there was one point when the drumline was playing and everyone was clapping or dancing that I was struck by how right it felt. Some teachers don’t like pep rallies- uncomfortable bleachers, crowd control, whatever- and there were a few years when ours weren’t great, but we built new traditions, and I love it. I thought, “Yes. This is ours. This is good.”

I always want to be a part of this camaraderie and spirit.

Day Ninety-Nine

A funky thing happened today because I teach at a big regional high school that takes students from five sending schools, one of which is actually in a different school district (that only has a K-8 school). That district canceled school today, but mine only had an early release. That meant the high school kids from three towns- and anyone else who decided to just stay home- were absent. 

But the early release was the right call; the snow was barely falling when we dismissed at 11:20, and everyone got home safely (I even stopped to grab lunch at the awesome bagel and sandwich shop near the school), and we don’t have to make up the day. 

Aaaaaand now it’s snowing like mad. I think we’re supposed to get over a foot. 

What’s funny was that today, of all days, was the tropical-themed spirit day. 

But, anyways, despite having small, short classes, I taught a pretty beast lesson. It was a simple lecture on a complex topic: the origins of religious extremism in the Middle East. The aide in one of my classes was absent, and her sub told me after class that he wanted to stay in class for the rest of the unit. It was a nice compliment. I actually get observed a lot during this unit because folks either want to learn the content, or want to learn how I make the content accessible to ninth graders.

Kidding… It’s wicked hard, takes a ton of care, and is- as a result- me doing my most badass and wizard-like teaching. 

Day Ninety-Eight

Today was Woodsman Day because that’s how we do spirit in the north country. There’s lots of flannel and camo on a normal day; today there was just… more. 

I taught my APUSGOV students about Marbury v. Madison, which was fun because I’d left them in suspense at the end of last class, and it’s a brilliant Court opinion. Most students know (from APUSH) that it established judicial review, but they don’t know the particulars, so they don’t know why it’s brilliant. When it clicks, it’s awesome.

I taught my “three religions” lesson in World, and I got super fun questions. These are the two sections of the class that generally ask less than the other two, so I’m pleased. In Block 3 we discussed a bit of history (Roman occupation of Palestine), the difference between a religion and a cult, and Pastafarianism (which, of course, led to a discussion of the First Amendment). I told one of our hall monitors that if kids started showing up with colanders on their heads, it was probably my fault. 

I should probably apologize to the local clergy, too, heh. 

In my Block 4 class we ended up discussing the formation of Israel, Holocaust denial, the Reformation, Northern Ireland, and the Vietnam War (can you follow the tangents and leaps?) in addition to the actual lesson. In both cases, it was cool. 

The Principal asked to see Mrs. T and I during our prep time to talk about a student he’s concerned about, and we ended up having a really broad conversation about the school environment, privilege, combatting misinformation, and teaching respect. I appreciate him asking for our thoughts, and I suspect it won’t be the last conversation we have.

Day Eighty-Nine

Look how pretty my drive to work was today, you guys (Yes, I pulled over to take the photo because safety matters):

Today was the first day of midterms. The way that works at my school is that students take two exams per day with a half hour break in between, and then they can go home (though lots of kids stay until the normal dismissal time for extra help, club meetings, practices, etc…) Since we have the block schedule in which classes meet every other day, students took midterms for their “A” day Block 1 classes, followed by their “B” day Block 1 classes today.

I have prep on “A” Block 1, so I spent that time grading book papers. A ton of students- including some who aren’t even mine- came by during the break because I had bagels and donuts. And then my APUSGOV class came in to take my beastly exam. 

(Insert supervillain cackle here). 

I started grading after a break for lunch (Mr. F made venison stew, and Mrs. F made snickerdoodles… Amazing), but I kept having to do other things, so didn’t finish before 2:30. I didn’t want to keep sitting at my desk, so I took the remaining exams to the local coffee shop and graded them there where I could get some good caffeination. Then I emailed praises to the kids who crushed it, and reassurances to the ones who didn’t. 

World exams start tomorrow!

Day Seventy-Eight

It was bitterly cold this morning, and crews were still cleaning up snow in the outlying towns, so my district had a delayed opening. We got the call last night, which was nice because I got to sleep in, but it tooootally threw off my lessons. Y’all know how out of sorts that makes me…

I mean, APUSGOV was fine because they’re just working on a project, but it took some serious teacher magic to show my World students a 51-minute excerpt of Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children in what had become a 60-minute class. I know I could have just done something else, but I showed this film last year, and it went super well, so I wanted to keep it in my lessons. It’s about getting child soldiers out of armed groups (focusing on Africa, but- of course- it’s a global issue), and it’s important for my students to know how that’s being done- or not- and why. It’s one of the biggest human rights crises facing their generation.

I wanted more time for a class discussion about it, buuuut this is winter. It forces us to adjust.  

I’ll revisit the topic next week.

I’m going to have to have an unpleasant conversation with two of my students next week, too, about academic honesty. Sigh.

But it’s better for them to have a convo with me now and change their behavior than continue to do things they shouldn’t and suffer greater consequences. I always say my class is low stakes; no one mistake will cause irreparable damage. Later on, it’s different.