Category: meetings meetings meetings

Day One Hundred Twenty-Seven

I woke up today and wondered how it was only Tuesday, which seemed to be a common sentiment amongst students and staff. So it’s not surprising that it was a bit of a rocky day. I think there was a fight in the halls, but I totally missed that, and generally tempers seemed short.

Things were fine in the Cavern of Learning, though. Actually, they were super productive, too. Mrs. T and I got our steps in (I don’t actually track them, but you know what I mean) going from group to group to answer questions and look over various things. 

There were moments of silliness, of course, but everyone needs those. And right now our students have 160 minutes (with a five-minute break and a half-hour lunch break) to work on debate prep, which is serious and difficult. Gotta have laughter in there, too, you know? As long as it’s got an on-off switch, it’s all good.

We had a team meeting Block 5, but it was short, so I got to do a bit of grading afterwards. Then I had a club meeting with the student activists who want to continue the post-Parkland, post-March work; I’m the adult who will sign forms and backs of checks, but it’s their show. 

And then I had practice, and- cue the music of triumph- we actually got on the track! 

There’s about 200m clear of snow, which is plenty for a sprint workout. I have all the emotions about being on a track in early spring: how it looks, how it feels under my feet, how it smells like mud and grass… I associate it with so many memories. It made me so happy to be out there. 

We race (away) in two weeks!

Day One Hundred Twenty-One

All my lessons on current issues in the Middle East, including today’s (on Yemen, and how that conflict and the one in Syria have impacted the global refugee crisis), are front-loading for debate. Basically, I spend a month teaching our students what’s going on in the region, and then Mrs. T teaches them how to argue about it. 

Or, y’know, she will when her son isn’t sick. 

She was out today, so I was left all alone in our Cavern of Learning to do it myself. It’s exhausting, but I managed. I wrapped up my lesson, then did all the initial set-up: grouping students, assigning topics (groups chose what focus on, I assigned pro and anti), going over instructions. We’ll have debates on Palestinian Statehood, US military action against Bashar al-Assad, arming Kurdish rebels, US involvement in Yemen, accepting a larger number of refugees… It’s going to be interesting.

Our schedule gets funky this week because of SATs, so I won’t see this set of students again until Friday, but it should be all right. 

I spent most Block 5 in a ninth grade house meeting (I mostly behaved, aside from childish glee about the fact that morning PLC has been canceled this week, so I won’t have to get up early on Thursday for that). I spent the rest of the block setting up my room for APUSGOV; we have another congressional candidate coming to chat!

And then I went to track practice.

It’s cold. It’s windy. There’s still a ton of snow on the ground… But it’s track season, and we’re gonna rock it.

Day One Hundred Eleven

Today I taught one of the World lessons I rewrote yesterday. Ultimately my goal is to explain what’s currently going on in Syria, but to get there I need my students to know a little regional history, and they come in as blank slates.

I set up my tables so there were six groups (trick: if you have more chairs than students in a class, and you want small and even groups, remove the unnecessary chairs and watch like a hawk so no one rearranges the remaining ones… I still had two try). Each group had to learn about a particular event:

  • The Iranian Revolution
  • The Iran-Iraq War
  • The Persian Gulf War
  • The Kurdish Independence Movement
  • The Iraq War
  • The Syrian Civil War

Each group presented what they’d learned, and I drew the connections between each thing. Or, at least, I did it, at first; then they started figuring it out themselves, which is awesome. 

Next class I’ll build on what they learned and tackle the rise of ISIS.

My day ended with an amusing ninth grade house meeting. I was amused, at least. At one point, The Vice Principal was trying to schedule some upcoming stuff, and forgot we had a teacher workshop day, so I said, “We all block those out of our minds, too.” She laughed. Other admins in the room… not so much.

Day One Hundred Three

My department head, Mr. B, is a New Hampshire political stereotype: fiscally conservative, socially moderate, registered independent. He has a file cabinet covered in campaign stickers going back to the 1980s. Mostly, they’re from Republican campaigns, or conservative Democratic ones. I’ve been gradually liberalizing this cabinet- and Mr. B himself- my entire career. 

I went down to his classroom during my prep time Block 1 to give him a new sticker (from the event I was at last night), and ended up having a half-hour conversation about political things, and teaching, and his kids… Those are good to have sometimes.

And then I went to crush my day.

I always say that I am at my most wizardly and badass when I’m teaching ninth graders about modern conflicts in the Middle East. Today I lectured on Israel and Palestine- continuing where their homework left off- to prepare them to do some issue exploration next class. I got awesome questions from multiple students, as well as comments linking other things we’ve studied in with this new information. It feels so good when a lesson clicks.

My Block 4 students even got their homework done in class because they just devoured my lesson. They got it. 

So that’s great.

Right around ten minutes before class ended, though, I started getting a wicked bad headache…. which lasted through my back-to-back meetings (house meeting Block 5, faculty meeting after school). I was not charming, to say the least. I did my best to just not say anything.

Day Eighty

I didn’t get lunch today, so I’m devouring macaroni and cheese as I write this.

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I had a meeting during my lunch time (making a plan with my team’s special ed. case manager to support a student who didn’t read their book for World), and a team leader meeting during my prep block (during which my colleagues noticed I don’t take notes… because I am a wizard… and an auditory learner), and a faculty meeting after school. 

Whew!

But it’s all good. My classes were good, too. 

My APUSGOV students kept working on their “Pizza Bureaucracy” project, which they’ve decided to present as a skit. They storyboarded it today, which was fun for me to watch because they’re such a creative bunch of kids. They are prone to going on tangents, but I don’t mind as long as the work gets done. I probably could have given them a tighter deadline, but one never knows how many snow days there will be this time of year, and setting the due date at the end of the quarter just works.

I also passed along an invitation to a “meet the candidates” event hosted by the local Democrats next week (note: I pass on invitations to Republican events, too). It’s being held at a rather fancy inn (this is a ski town, so there are lots of those), so there was much discussion about how to dress. My students’ thoughts:

  • “Pantsuits!”
  • “Country club casual.”
  • “Like you’re wearing $55 socks.”

I love it. 

It was an open wall day for World/English, but Mrs. T was absent, so I was all by my lonesome in the Cavern of Learning. I told the sub coordinator to use her sub elsewhere because there was need, and a sub on an open wall day is just one more person I have to pay attention to. In a room of forty ninth graders, all my attention has to be on them. 

I got a good workout going from student to student to answer questions and look over outlines or beginnings of drafts. 

I’m going back to replenishing my calories now.

Day Seventy-Nine

A half dozen girls complimented the skirt I wore to work today (a hot pink maxi skirt- with pockets!- I got from Gap years ago), so I’m feeling like a fashionista. 

Mrs. H called me a Disney princess, which also works.

And the teaching was good, too! 

The two sections of World that were behind are all caught up, and I actually really liked how the lesson went. I was showing Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children again, but I had full class blocks this time, so we really got to discuss it. The final point I made was that conflict recovery is possible, and the choices we in the global community make- even seemingly unrelated ones- will determine how long it’ll take and how hard it’ll be.

So endeth the lesson. 

For the rest of the quarter students have my class time and Mrs. T’s to write papers about the nonfiction books they chose to read. They had about six weeks to get the reading done, and I made weekly reading calendars for each book (there were six to choose from) to help them manage it, so most of them are totally ready for this. We’ll have to figure out what to do for the ones who aren’t, of course; we already have one meeting tomorrow that I’m not looking forward to. 

I wasn’t looking forward to chatting with a student about academic honesty this morning either- it’s not fun to watch the severity of the poor decision truly hit a a kid- but it had to be done (the other student was absent, so it’ll have to be done again…) And I was quick to explain how to make amends; I’m a big believer in that. 

I missed most of track practice because I was in a meeting, but I got there just in time to see one of our former athletes who’d come to visit. That was cool.

Day Seventy-Seven

Snow days, early releases, and stuff have put two of my World classes behind the other two, so today was about catch-up. I got through everything with my Block 3 class, but I’m still one activity behind in Block 4. I’ll get them caught up next class, though. I’m not worried. 

It’s anyone’s guess when next class will be, though, because…

Yeah. 

So I could see them on Friday, as scheduled, or it could be next week. Snow Day Calculator says it’s unlikely that we have a full day of school, but whether we have an early release or a full cancellation is debatable. 

Also, can we discuss how I’ve been a teacher for thirteen years and just learned about Snow Day Calculator today? I am so ashamed of my failure…

Anyways. 

Block 5 was team meeting time. We spent half of it meeting with a student’s parents. We called the meeting in hopes of changing a negative pattern of behavior before it becomes a big issue rather than waiting to meet until after it’s become one. So that was good, and balanced out the rest of the team meeting, which was heavy. We had a lot of notes from school counseling to look at.

The cold days tend to be the ones when you find out how bad things are at home, you know?

I took a few minutes to clear my head, then buckled down to grade a set of projects (the ones Mrs. T and I assigned before break… we’re still finishing presentations because of the weather).

Day Seventy-Four

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I took this shot at the end of the day today: snow on the ground outside, porg on the windowsill, presents from students on my desk… It’s how I roll. And if you think my desk is disgustingly neat, know that literally all of my colleagues agree with you. 

My day started with an interesting meeting with The Principal. He summoned my whole department during what would have been PLC time to discuss making all social studies classes except the APs heterogenous next year. We new this was coming because the English department made that proposal last week, and it makes sense to do it with both departments given that some classes are team taught. I already teach a heterogenous class (World), and have for a decade, so it’s no big deal to me, but I support the move. It makes sense with other moves we’re making (towards competency-based education, a flex time model, etc…) My only input was that I wanted the infrastructure, if you will, in place to support it. The Principal agreed, so… Cool.

I don’t speak often at meetings, so the fact that I said anything at this one might have surprised folks. What surprised me was that I found myself wanting to be in control of the conversation; Mr. B was out, so no one really was, and… yeah. I have never had an inkling of desire to be a department head- and I still wouldn’t want to do it soon- but… Maybe someday.

Anyways. 

It was the last APUSGOV class before vacation, and a day in which we avoided a government shutdown, so I brought in cupcakes (since they brought in cake last time the government managed to stay open). We’re studying the executive branch, so they’ve been begging me to let them watch The West Wing. Since I refuse them nothing (and love that show), I put on “In Excelsis Deo” and had them note all the references to the powers of POTUS, the bureaucracy, and so on. It was good times. 

Mr. F came in to ask me a question at the start of the block, so I told him to hang out with us. Then Mr. L came looking for Mr. F and ended up staying, too. I have the coolest class in existence, so why wouldn’t they? 

I ended, as I do to mark holidays, with a poem. This time it was W.H. Auden’s September 1, 1939. It’s not Christmas-y, but I find that it suits. 

My World lesson was also not Christmas-y. At all. It was about conflict and terrorism. It’s just what was next in my plan book. And I’ve written before that I never stop teaching to throw a holiday party, or whatever. I tell my students I’m the Grinch and get on with it. 

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So today I picked up where I left off last class: four of the ten deadliest conflicts in the world right now are in Africa (Somalia, South Sudan, CAR, and the Lake Chad Basin). We established why, so today I tackled what. We read a summation of the conflicts together, and discussed the ideologies of the terrorist groups operating in the conflict zones. But first we discussed terrorism in general; I had them do an activity in which they read about different places where terrorist groups emerged- different parts of the world, different time periods- and had to look at what they had in common in order to identify the warning signs for terrorism. Because on of the things I say when I talk about this issue is that it always looks the same; it’s not about one religion, one race, one region, whatever. Strip it down to its core, and you’ll find the same things. 

And my students got it. It’s been a challenge to get some of them to speak up in class, but a lot of new hands went up during this lesson. I think doing presentations with Mrs. T has helped them get over some of their fears about putting themselves out there.

Speaking of that, students were crushing presentations today. One of them actually did a lesson; he had activities and everything (to explain clan conflict in Somalia). Mrs. T told me all about it. So cool. 

I’m so glad I have her to work with. 

Day Seventy-Three

Today I taught the same awesome dot-connecting lesson that I taught yesterday, and I think it went equally well. My Block 3 class had a decent amount of time after we finished the discussion, so I was able to help some kids get organized while others rehearsed for project presentations in Mrs. T’s class.

My Block 4 class had a bit of spare time, too, but since they’d already presented they mostly just read or did work for other classes. Or played on their phones, which… Okay. Oh, but first they asked me to perform poetry. A couple of the girls remembered that I’d competed in the slam the other night, and they asked how it went, and then the whole class wanted to hear one of my pieces. 

So I indulged them, but it was a little bit nerve-wracking. 

Poetry is personal, for one thing, and I actually hate to speak in public when I’m not teaching. But I ask them to do it, so I’d be setting a poor example if I refused. They gave me a big, gratifying round of applause when I finished because they’re nice kids. So that was cool.

We had a team meeting during Block 5, and a parent meeting, which went super well. And then I dashed off to practice, where four of our former athletes had gathered to say hello. Tis the season now that colleges are on break.

Day Sixty-Three

I taught with a hole in my pants today. It wasn’t a super awkward one- back of the knee- but I have no idea how it happened. I covered it with black electrical tape and no one really noticed. 

What a hot mess I am, though. 

Oops. 

I had an especially good Block 3 class in spite of that. We finished Shake Hands With the Devil, I took questions about it, and then I had my students brainstorm the pros/cons of intervening in a situation like Rwanda’s and the pros/cons of not intervening. I closed by detailing some of the real consequences of that choice, including escalating regional violence… I’m gradually connecting dots that will explain the current state of affairs. I say my Block 3 class was especially good because sometimes they connected dots ahead of me, and they kept linking in other things. So it was a good conversation.

I spent Block 5 in a team meeting, which I think went all right, but I’m worried  that one of my colleagues is annoyed with me. We’re having a completely different experience with a student, and I just don’t have a way of saying so that isn’t being interpreted as me being a jerk. 

After the bell, I had to dash down to the gym for winter sports team pictures. I have a habit of switching which side of the row I’m standing on between the girls’ and boys’ team pictures (Coach T does it, too), but today the picture lady wouldn’t let me. Sad!