Category: life in a northern town

Day One Hundred Sixty-Three

I was almost late for work this morning because I could not find my keys (they’d fallen under the couch in my living room). It was apparently that kind of morning, though, because Mrs. T, Mr. F, and Mr. L all arrived at the same time I did. Luckily, we made it to our rooms just before the first bell. 

In World, students started drafting the second (informational) pieces for their Multi-Genre Projects. It didn’t go quite as well today as it did yesterday; there are a few students in each class who are behind, and there were a bunch who had a hard time focusing today. It’s a Friday, the prom is tomorrow (ninth graders rarely get invited, but they still like to gossip about it incessantly), progress reports just came out, etc, etc… I did my best to keep them on task. They have next class to work on this piece, too, so hopefully it’ll go a bit better when some of these distractions aren’t present.

And in between my World classes, I had a very cool guest in to talk to my APUSGOV students (and any other politically-minded student who asked to be added): Denny Ruprecht, NH’s youngest state legislator (a few days past his twentieth birthday, just through his finals at PSU, and not yet out of braces). He was really nice, and students had a great conversation with them. There are a few who can be counted on to ask questions, and once they got rolling, more and more put their hands up. They covered all kinds of topics. And another cool thing: a few students I didn’t even know came at the start of the block to ask if they could stay to hear him speak. Maybe they came to be with their friends, maybe they came for the politics, doesn’t matter. I said yes, of course.

I also dashed out of a ninth grade house meeting during Block 5 to meet a campaign staffer for Cory Booker, who wanted to talk about potential internship opportunities for students. I’ve said this before, but I take meetings with everyone who contacts me, and pass on every internship application because it’s such a great thing to get involved with a campaign. There’s nothing like the NH primary; it’s a singular experience to work it.

Day One Hundred Sixty

It snowed in some of the towns in the district this morning, but, thankfully, it was just raining in the town where the high school is located. Still, it’s cold and gross outside, which is why I’m home at this hour to write a blog entry: no sports practices this afternoon. 

I’d have been home earlier, but I did have a faculty meeting to attend.

Half my APUSGOV class was absent today because they were taking the AP Calc exam, and about that many will be absent Thursday for AP Stats, so my lesson plans this week are minimal. There’s an article students have to read about the NH state government, but other than that they’re able to use my class time to study the unit vocab, work on their final project (on political participation), catch up on other course work, whatever. The class will settle back into a more structured rhythm next week when exams are over.

Meantime, World is VERY structured right now because Multi-Genre is a big capstone project, and my ninth graders really need a step-by-step breakdown in order to to be successful (moreso than in past years, it should be noted). So there are daily goals and lots of check-ins. But, aside from checking in and answering a question here or there, I’m mostly just observing. This is cool because everything is going well. I mean, some of the students are a week ahead of deadlines because they’re so into what they’re doing. So, while I had to write a few “your child is in danger of failing” emails today, I also got to write a bunch of “your child is doing amazing work right now!” emails, and that’s always great to be able to do.

I love ending the year with this project. It’s awesome.

Day One Hundred Forty-Eight

I’ve neglected to mention that this week was a spirit week. 

The Principal had initially canceled Spring Fling because there were student and parent complaints about Homecoming (vapes at the dance, boys touching girls inappropriately, that kind of thing), but student council convinced him to let them at least do spirit days and a pep rally. Their argument- and I think it’s a good one- was that everyone needed some fun, and that this could be a huge morale boost.

So the days were themed (USA Day, Twin Day, Decades Day, Color Day, Spirit Day), there was a floor hockey tournament, a school-wide game of spoons took place throughout the week, and today we had a pep rally. That meant short classes, which was fine; my World students were writing essays, so I just gave them the whole block, and I did a formal exam review in APUSGOV that was perfect for the time frame. Boom.

At the pep rally, we were treated to a few games (egg toss, musical chairs, etc…), class lip sync videos, performances by our dance team and our drumline (so awesome), a floor hockey final (juniors vs freshmen), aaaand then students got to pie teachers in the face. I volunteered because, of course, I did, and ended up getting a giant pie plate full of whipped cream in my face, courtesy of one of the ginormous seniors on the baseball team. He got me good, but I’d prepared by bringing shampoo, a change of clothes, and stuff. So I wasn’t sticky and gross for the rest of the day. 

I still took a shower when I got home because I had plans to have drinks and eats with a few of my colleagues in the afternoon. That was fun, too, because it was an absolutely gorgeous day. We sat outside on the patio of a local restaurant, talked about our early years working together, and made plans to throw a party at the end of the year. 

Like with spirit week, it’s all about morale.

Day One Hundred Thirty-Six

Today started with The Principal doing his best impression of the Hump Day Camel from the Geico commercials before saying the Pledge over the PA.

If that’s not a good way to start a day, I don’t know what is.

After that, I taught the coolest class I have ever taught. My APUSGOV students did a Socratic discussion (inspired by a presentation Mrs. T and I saw at NHCSS last fall), which is something I’ve never done before. Half of them discussed Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the other half discussed Macolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” and we closed with a whole class discussion of how history has remembered both men and how they’re discussed in schools. It was incredible. There were definite discussion leaders, but everyone contributed something valuable, and they were not shy. They dug into the rhetoric of the two pieces, debated its efficacy, discussed the way in which people judge protests and judge anger. Then they went in on state of race relations around the country and in their own (mostly white) community. They talked about Rodney King, Ferguson, Charlottesville, the debate over Confederate monuments and flags, the differences in what their peers are taught about the history of racism depending on where they go to school… They made some great points about the intersection of religion and racial prejudice/racial justice, too… Overall, it was just a really impressive, insightful 80 minutes. I barely said a word; I just listened. At the end, I thanked the class and told them how proud I was of them.

My World classes were just fun. Students did an exploration into different aspects of Hindu culture, so they read about traditions surrounding birth, marriage, death, dietary customs, etc… And they had to write some reactions, compare/contrasts, that kind of thing. Of course, since it’s an A day, and my A day students have all the questions, they wanted to talk about EVERYTHING. Which was awesome. Also, one of the things they read about was naming customs, and my assignment asked them to find out the meaning of their own names, which caused so much more hilarity than I thought it would.

I went to observe Ms. D’s class at lunch (finally- I’ve been meaning to do it since I was assigned as her mentor!). She came up to my room to chat about it during Block 5. She hadn’t been up to my classroom before, so when she walked in she took a moment to admire the space (which was nice because I am rather proud of it). Then we talked about how her lesson had gone. It was such a cool, reflective lesson. I had a ton of praise for it. We got into the broader, philosophical conversation about teaching, what our styles are, how we were trained, and how there are definite ways to do teaching wrong but no one way to do it right. 

Then I went to practice, which was obviously awesome. And I’d just like to point out that this is how my sprinters keep their water bottles cold: sticking them in the gigantic, dirty snow pile beside the parking lot.

Whatever works!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Nine

Over the weekend, Mrs. T and I presented at ECET2NH/VT, which was awesome. One of the things I love about that conference is it makes me feel so good about being a teacher, and the organizers leave gifts for people to take to spread the teacher love. They’re silly, punny things like highlighters labeled with “you’re the highlight of the day” or play-do containers with notes that say “thank you for molding young minds.” I spent a bit of time this morning dropping them in my friends’ mailboxes or on their desks.

After that, I graded a final set of quarter reflections from last week so I could hand them back in class today. I was really happy with my Block 2 class because we had a great discussion while I defined the unit vocabulary. Afterwards, when students were working independently, I got to chat with a few of the boys who’ve had a tough quarter. I just wanted to touch base, acknowledge their frustrations, etc… And I did get to solve one problem right away; one boy wanted to switch books for The Central Asia Novel Project, but I didn’t have anymore copies of the book he wanted, so he was angry. I told him that I would find him a copy before the end of the block. I sent out an all-faculty email, and got a response five minutes later. As I handed him the book, I thanked him for giving me the chance to help him, and he gave me a smile and a nod.

That’s my big message right now if kids are struggling: give me the chance to help, let me at least try… And I know that’s a huge ask. It’s not easy to trust adults, especially the ones you’re frustrated with, especially during a bad year… But I have to keep asking.

This is admittedly harder in my Block 4 class. I’m having less success, and I’ve written about that before. So I’m focusing on the successes I am having: the boy who came in during my prep time to ask for help on an assignment (and prefaced it by offering me hundred of fake dollars, which cracked me up), the girl who used to end class by saying she was so glad to leave and now ends with “Thank you, have a nice day.” Those are the things that keep me going. 

After class, I ate chocolate chip cookies with Mr. F, checked the classwork I’d assigned today, and made sure everything was ready for tomorrow. Then I went to practice, which also keeps me going because there’s nothing like cheering sprinters through 150m repeats on a cold, early season, omg-I’m-getting-windburn! kind of a day. 

Day One Hundred Sixteen

So, the heating system broke this morning, which meant we had an unexpected two-hour delay. It’s inconvenient for the folks with kids and stuff, but it was all right with me. I was just getting up when we got the call, so I had a leisurely morning coffee, watched the news, etc, etc… 

It’s a B day in our schedule, so Mrs. T and I introduced debates for the second day in a row. It was a bit rough, at first, because a few of our students were reeeeeally hyper when they came in. Getting into groups was dramatic, too, because three boys opted not to work with one of their friends and asked someone else to join them instead. Academically, it’s a good decision for them, but said friend was pretty angry for the rest of class (swore at me a few times, went to the office to cool off, swore at me some more). I tried to help him contribute to the group he did end up with, but I wasn’t all that successful, so Mrs. T’s going to try next time. The tag team has its benefits.

I also had a long talk with one of the girls in class who’s not always thrilled about high school. She’s fairly mature, and often frustrated by her peers who aren’t, and I get that. So I lent a sympathetic ear, and suggested some things I could do to help her out, and she seemed appreciative. So, y’know, at least I had one success!

We had two back-to-back meetings during Block 5, and then I had to hurriedly verify my progress report grades because I had to go meet with some of my cousins right at 3:00 (we’re making plans for our grandmother’s birthday). This is my one free moment between that, church, and the local deliberative session. 

If you don’t know what a deliberative session is, Google it. It’s a uniquely NH political thing that is probably going to be long and fairly stressful. Wish me luck!

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?