Category: meetings meetings meetings

Day One Hundred Eighty-Two

So, the other day, Mr. B emailed me to ask me if I’d be willing to be a building rep for the teacher’s union. I didn’t respond with my immediate reaction, which was, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” I took some time to think it over. Mr. B has been my mentor for years, so the fact the he was the one asking was partially why I eventually said yes. There was an election, but I was running unopposed, so it was all but official at that point. Today it’s actually official. 

That’s probably the biggest thing that happened to me today. It was the first day of final exams for the underclassmen, and I had no exams to give, so my day was pretty quiet. Exams are scheduled so that students take two each day with a half hour break in between and lunch after. Today, they took the exams for their Block 1 classes, and I don’t have any (APUSGOV was on A days- and seniors took finals last week- and my prep time was on B days).

I spent most of the morning cleaning out my classroom, except for the hour or so when I was in a team leader meeting with Mrs. C, Mrs. R, and The Vice Principal. I didn’t realize how full my file cabinets had gotten until I decided to go through them and clear the clutter. Now they’re mostly empty because everything is digital. No need for old curriculum binders, or anything like that.

I had lunch with Mr. W, Mr. F, and Mrs. T. We went out of the building for that; I’d gotten a gift certificate to a local restaurant from a student, so we spent it, and talked about the year, and relaxed… When we got back to school, Mrs. T and I graded Multi-Genre Projects with Mrs. T; we each take half of the projects, so the grading is quick, easy, and awesome. I know I keep saying the students’ work is amazing… but it really is. The level of detail on some of these projects is phenomenal.

Oh, and this one fun: one of the boys on the football team had asked for an extension on the project (he needs to pass World and English in order to keep his eligibility for fall sports, so making sure he had time to do well was great and responsible), so he had to print everything out and hand it in today. He showed up with five of his teammates in tow, and they were chanting his name the whole time he was printing pieces, and when he handed me everything they burst into applause.

Gotta love a supportive team, right?

This afternoon, I got invited to a house party by one of the many presidential campaign staffers I keep in touch with (APUSGOV networking). He’s got one of my incoming GOV students- a girl who was in World with me two years ago- interning on the campaign, which is awesome. He couldn’t say enough good things about her. Helping to run a house party is a huge thing, so it was really neat to see one of my students taking that on. I’m super proud of her.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Five

Today was the last day of senior classes, so the culinary class threw a celebratory cookout at lunch, which was DELICIOUS. I had awesome pulled pork, pasta salad, hotdogs, etc… And all day long there were seniors popping by to say goodbye and thank you, which was adorable, even when I was mid-teach.

I did writing conferences for nearly all of Block 2, but during Block 4 there weren’t a lot of students ready to conference, so I just walked around and helped out as needed, and tried to keep everyone on task. I may have promised to freestyle rap in exchange for two students finishing the pieces they were working on.

Also, this conversation happened:

Student A: I have a golf tournament this weekend.
Student B: Gotta go all Tiger Woods, man.
Student C: Tiger is so good. Like, I bet he’s so good at everything, not just golf.
Me: I mean, he was pretty bad at marriage…
*chorus of “Ohhhh!”*
Student C: Drag him, Miss M! Just for that, I’m going to write another paragraph.

Whatever it takes, right?

And during flex block, I met with all my incoming APUSGOV students, went over course information with them, and assigned the summer work. I know about 2/3 of the students already, and am excited to get to know the rest. It’s going to be fun.

During Block 5 there was a house meeting, which was fine, initially. Then one of my coworkers said something pretty cutting. I’ve written before that there’s one who just doesn’t like me, and I stopped trying to change her opinion a long time ago, but her comment today still stung a little. So I was more than happy to leave when a student came to see me. He’s behind on his Multi-Genre Project, so he came to get some help, and ended up almost back on track by 3:30. I think he’ll get there by the end of next class, which is awesome.

As he was leaving, he thanked me and smiled. I don’t think I’d seen this kid genuinely smile before, and that erased how I was feeling coming out of my meeting. Let folks say or think whatever they want about me, you know?

I know who I am, and what I can do. 

Day One Hundred Sixty-Five

There was caution tape across the entrance to the boys’ bathroom on my floor this morning. Apparently, someone broke a urinal yesterday, which… is the kind of thing that happens in a high school in May, I guess? It always gets squirrely this time of year.

My classes are still going really well, though.

I keep saying how happy I am that the World students have embraced The Multi-Genre Project, so I sound a bit like a broken record if you read this everyday. But if you read this everyday, then you know how much work has gone into increasing our ninth graders’ engagement and academic stamina. At times, it’s been a massive battle, and I’ve always known it’s worth fighting- wouldn’t be much of a teacher otherwise- but it’s been incredible to see how far students have come. 

Sure, some of them are working hard now because they have to hang on to passing grades, but there’s also genuine interest and pride in the work they’re doing. I have serial procrastinators who are ahead of schedule, and students who usually opt to do the bare minimum asking if they can add to the requirements. It’s really cool. 

I’m not doing much besides walking around, reading over stuff, and answering a question or two, so it’s not especially taxing on me. I was wicked tired after Block Four, though, which is probably because the pollen counts are sky high and breathing takes extra effort. So, suffice it to say, I was not energized for the afternoon’s ninth grade house meeting. I don’t think I was the only one who was feeling out of sorts; we all got a little snippy with each other, at first. But then we got to work planning next year’s freshmen orientation, and everyone brightened once the ideas started to flow. Plus, Mr. M went to Starbucks and came back with coffee for everyone, so that was pretty great.

Afterwards, I went out to practice. The Head Coach was at the seeding meeting, so Coach T and I were in charge. We said a few motivational words, did attendance, led warm-ups, and then everyone broke off into their event groups. Mr sprinters did relay passes, block starts, and 100m repeats. We had the whole track to ourselves, too, because Coach K’s throwers were out in the back field and Coach T’s distance runners were off on the trails. So it was unusually quiet, but it was also kind of perfect to be out there without any distractions. 

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 Fifty-Five

My day started off with a cupcake delivery from one of my ninth graders- in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week- which was unexpected and awesome. It totally made my morning.

It’s a B day in the schedule, so I introduced the multi-genre project again in World today. I wanted brainstorming topics to go well, so I appealed to my students’ competitiveness by telling them how many topics my classes yesterday had come up with (30-something). That definitely worked; my Block 2 class, which is my class of reluctant speakers, ended up coming up with 41 topics. 

And my Block 4 class- my most challenging class- came up with 57! 

They rocked and rolled on the research, too, and a bunch of kids wanted to tell me about what they’re planning to write. They’re so excited, and I love it. That’s how it should be.

A few of my Block 4 students and I also ended up having a conversation while they were working that went from very funny to very serious. See, during Teacher Appreciation Week our teacher prep students do all kinds of fun things, including teacher superlatives, and I told my students they should vote for me for “most like to win a rap battle” since I’m a slam poetry champ. They were like, “Yeah, but can you rap, though?” and I busted out a bit of “Guns and Ships” from Hamilton because, y’know, have to be Social Studies about it.

One of the girls told me, “Miss M, your superlative should be ‘most surprising’ because you’re, like, this nerdy teacher lady, but then you do karate, and track, and now you rap?!”

She added that her mom had been glad she was in my room during the lockdown– probably because of the karate- and the conversation shifted to that for a while. Students spoke about how scary it was, and whether or not they cried, and how glad they were that it was a false alarm (little did we know there would be another school shooting today…) I think they probably needed to talk about it because, even though it was months ago, it sticks, you know? 

I had a quick meeting with Mrs. J afterwords, followed by a house meeting. Then I had to go coach a track meet. It’s the last home meet of the season, so we honored our seniors beforehand, which was cool… It rained for a bit (of course), but then the sun came out, a rainbow appeared over the track, my sprinters absolutely crushed the 200m… Aaaaand I was probably too candid while talking to some parents about kids doing travel team/AAU/JO/whatever sports during track season because it’s a thing I have a very strong opinion about, but anyways…. Our team and the teams we were competing against all have traditions of doing the wave to cheer for 4×4 runners, so we were all infield at the end of the meet. 

And then we had a pizza party! Can’t go wrong with pizza, a pretty sunset, and the close of a great day.

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 Thirty-Nine

It’s the first day of fourth quarter! Aaaaand it looked like this:

I wore a bright blue, floral print dress in protest. Of course, I had leggings and a sweater on, too, but y’know… 

It snowed pretty much all day, and just about every student asked me if I thought we’d get out early (no), or if sports would be canceled (yes). But there was still learning in between. My Block 2 students had a ton of fun researching Indian culture and sharing what they found out, and they’re not always eager to share (changing that has been the work of the whole year), so that lesson is definitely a keeper. My Block 4 students might not have had fun- they didn’t say one way or the other- but they focused on the work, got it done, and got to learn some new information from one another. It gave some of my more challenging students a chance to contribute positively, which was good. 

I’m doing all right with that class right now. I quash disruptive behavior early and harshly, keep the time we spend each task really short, abridge any lecturing I have to do, and generally that works. It’s not great- it’s seriously cramping my style- but it allows me to meet the needs of the different learners in the room and reduce the stress, and that’s what I need to do. So… the work goes on.

I worked through lunch because I had a special ed. meeting during my prep time, and at that point I still thought I had practice afterwards. Of course, when I got out of the meeting, I found out that I didn’t. So I did some grading, got ready for tomorrow, and was still out the door by 3:30. By then the snow had turned to rain, and the parking lot had turned to a giant, slushy puddle, so I did serious ninja moves to get to my car. 

We’ll see if the weather goes back to normal tomorrow!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Five

You know how sometimes there are those days that are super chill until all of a sudden there are two dozen things that need your attention? My day was like that today. 

My World classes were both pretty good. A bunch of students are out sick right now- like, our whole band took a weekend trip to Montreal and came back with a nasty stomach bug- so it was a bit quiet, but that’s okay. It just meant we didn’t discuss as much as we did yesterday. I taught my lesson on Pakistan, and gave students the remaining class time to do their homework or reading their books for The Central Asia Book Project. 

So, like I said, it was chill. Flex time was chill, too; the quarter’s ending on Friday, so a bunch of kids came in to make up assignments, retake quizzes, etc… and they pretty much all buckled down and did their work. A few stayed after with Mrs. T (since I had practice) to get even more done this afternoon. I proofread a few essays, and fielded questions as needed, and graded everything that was turned in to me. 

There was a team meeting during Block 5, and that’s when things started to get less chill. We’re taking the freshmen on college visits in a couple of weeks, so we started the meeting by doing some planning for that, and I realized someone had the sports schedule wrong (track team dismissal on the wrong day), so I had to make sure that got fixed. Then, in the course of discussing a student we decided to do a SpEd. referral, so I had to do that paperwork. And as I was doing that, a bunch of people needed me for one thing or another.

Soooo I was about ten minutes late to practice, but it’s all good. I got everything done, I made it, I attempted to teach relay passes without a track because the track is still covered in snow…

Day One Hundred Twenty-One

Mrs. T wasn’t in her room when I arrived this morning, and usually she gets there before me, so I was mildly panicking that she was still out sick. We were starting debates today, and I did NOT want to have to moderate on my own because she’s way better at it than I am, but I got the Cavern all set up and resolved to make the best of it. Mrs. T came in just before the first bell, and I burst out with, “Oh, thank God you’re here!” 

My APUSGOV students, who were arriving for class, thought that was funny. They took a test this morning, and as I was grading it I realized I messed up during test review. See, because tests are cumulative, I went over the things from previous units and assumed students would review the key concepts from the current unit, too; I should have been clearer about that, though, because students definitely devoted all their study time to the things I explicitly went over. So that’s on me, and I’m going to apologize and curve the test scores because I figure that’s only fair. Plus, retakes are always allowed, so anyone who wants to do that can.

I do try to teach in a way that prevents damage from being permanent.

As for the debates, they were awesome. We only did one in each block because we took time before starting to allow groups to converse and rehearse, and to reiterate rules, instructions, etc…  There was a terrific match-up in the debate over Palestinian Statehood during Block Two. The members of both teams were nervous, so they got off to a rough start, but then they settled in. One team definitely pulled ahead in the rebuttal round with a great line of questioning about Israeli settlements, but both turned in solid efforts. I was pleased with the amount of research they’d done.

The debate during Block Four was about whether or not the U.S. should increase the number of refugees it admits per year, and one team came in ready to absolutely crush. They had pages of research notes, well-written and rehearsed speeches, tons of rebuttal questions… The opposing team hadn’t ever gelled, and they kind of panicked when they saw how prepared their opponents were. They realized they had to rally, so they worked through lunch with Mrs. T (we didn’t start Block 4 debates before lunch because that’s only twenty minutes, and we didn’t want to pause a debate midway through to go eat). They managed a respectable performance, so I was proud of them. Hopefully, they learned a few lessons about responsibility and communication, too. 

Nifty thing: my evaluator, Ms. C, came in to observe during that debate. She was just in during APUSGOV the other day, but she happened to be walking by while the “ready to crush” team was practicing in the hall, so she asked if she could come in today, too. Obviously, I said yes. I want people to see what these ninth graders can do with topics that are complex and challenging, and know just how high we can set the bar. They will clear it if we support them and give them a chance.

I spent the first part of Block 5 in a meeting with my NEASC group, finalizing our report for the reaccreditation process. Then I spent the second part of the block in a parent meeting of the awesome variety. Mrs. T and I got some really lovely compliments for the work we did for a particular student. It’s our job, of course, but it’s awesome when parents tell us we’re doing it well.

The meeting ended shortly after the afternoon bell. I had to be back this evening for winter sports awards, so I left at the end of the meeting to go home, relax, have a coffee… The awards ceremony was good fun. The Head Coach and I gave out major awards, varsity letters, certificates, etc… Then our athletes surprised us with gifts. Look at what I got!

The card cracked me up. I’m totally hanging it on the cork board by my desk. And, yes, that water bottle is full of candy. My athletes know me so well…

Lots of learning and lots of joy today.