Category: Mr. F

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 One Hundred Thirty-Two

Athlete A: *says something I can’t hear*
Head Coach: Are you worried about cooties?
Athlete B: Only girls have cooties! *looks at me* I mean, uhhh…

Being a female coach of boys is generally hilarious, in case you were wondering. 

Today, in addition to being hilarious, it was cold and windy. I’m wrapped in blankets, sipping hot chocolate now. I want spring back. 

But that’s New England.

I started my day with an APUSGOV lesson about civil rights policymaking in the 1960s. My goal was to teach them the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but I ended up answering questions about a lot of other things, too (black nationalism, Vietnam, anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism, Reagan Republicans…) That’s the fun of a discussion-based class, though. It goes in several directions. 

I ended up rewriting my next lesson to include more detail about some of the things they asked about. I actually like the lesson better now. 

It was the last day of debate prep in World/English. Mrs. T and I have been a bit worried because this set of students struggles so much more with group work than our other set- for myriad reasons- so we tried to monitor their final preparations closely. I watched rehearsals in the hall while she helped groups polish their writing inside the Cavern of Learning.

I did step out for twenty minutes to do instructional rounds in Mr. F’s geometry class. Got to do some SOHCAHTOA, which I actually do know how to do. Woohoo! And it was neat to see my students in a different setting.

Day One Hundred Thirty

It was very serious in APUSGOV this morning because they had an on-demand essay to write on Letter from a Birmingham Jail. And it was serious, at first, in World/English because Mrs. T and I laid down the law about excessive sign-outs and wandering, like we did yesterday. I thought we’d get more push-back, but it didn’t happen, and we actually had a good, productive class. 

It did have tough moments. In one debate group, one student- who is very smart and focused- deleted another’s contributions because he didn’t think it was “good enough,” then didn’t understand why she wouldn’t keep working. There were tears. Mrs. T and I had to mediate that one. But then all four group members reached an accord and started working really well together.

Later, we stopped debate prep to show Taylor Mali’s “Totally Like Whatever” because Mrs.T was wearing a t-shirt with a quote from one of his poems on it, and we realized that one was good to play before students started rehearsing.

And then I helped a bunch of students with an early April Fool’s Day joke. We snuck up on Mr. F with an air horn. So ninja. Another of them stole his stapler and plans to cover it in jello.

He got me back by sneaking up on me with his coaching whistle, though. 

We think we need a scoreboard. 

At practice, Coach T and I continued our “Fun Friday” tradition by hiding Easter eggs in the (muddy) woods around the track. I’m talking something like a hundred eggs. It was awesome. 

Now I’m going to clean off the mud on my face and hands, make myself presentable, and go to Good Friday service!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Eight

Today was long because I had to do CPR/First Aid certification after practice. All coaches are required to have it, even lowly assistants, and mine just expired. It’s generally good to have anyhow.

The day began with APUSGOV. I have a habit of reading poetry in that class because everyone should have more poetry in life, and there’s a poem for every occasion. Today I read Langston Hughes’ Kids Who Die, which is so very powerful and prophetic. Then we resumed our study of the Civil Rights Movement with a recap of the efforts to desegregate Birmingham, which they’d all read about, and we read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

If you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it in a while, click that link and then come back to me. I’ll wait.

It’s an extraordinary piece of writing, and every time I read it I find some new piece that catches my attention. My class read it aloud- we each took a page- because I think it’s valuable to hear it and discuss it. There was a silence after the last line as they took it in. One boy broke it with, “Now that’s some letter.”

Sure is. 

And imagine what it’s like reading it with these kids who have all become activists- long ago or recently- and have walked out, marched, spoken to crowds, written to the papers. One was called out by name in a letter to the editor this morning. There is a spotlight on their political participation right now- as there is on young people nationwide- and things are big for them right now. Watching them take that letter in… Chills. 

I don’t think many lessons will be as powerful as that one- it’s the timing- and World definitely wasn’t. There are a handful of students who just haven’t been taking debate prep seriously; it’s frustrated their peers, and Mrs. T and I. We’ve been warning those kids, and revoking privileges like sitting in the hall, etc… but some still aren’t putting in the effort they need to, and they’re getting petulant. We’re working on it, though. We’ll get them turned around.

Practice was shortened by team pictures, but I got to show our rookie sprinters how to do starting blocks. I like teaching skills like that, and I think I’m good at it. Hopefully, I am. 

I had just enough time afterwards to grab a coffee and a sandwich before CPR class, so that was good. And class was as fun as it could be. Mr. F was there, and he and I have serious banter, so we amused the rest of the students.

We do what we can.

Day One Hundred Ten

Soooo I decided to rewrite all my upcoming lessons on the Middle East at about 2:00 this afternoon (school day ends at 2:20).

I had to rewrite some of them because the geopolitical situation is so fluid, and then I decided I wanted to deliver the information in a different way than I had in the past, so I ended up rewriting everything. I created some new activities, found some new video clips and articles to use, and just kept going until it was nearly 5:00. 

I think it’s going to be good, though. 

But let me go back to the school day because it was awesome. It started out in a very serious way: with a faculty meeting about school safety. We reviewed our lockdown procedures, our SRO spoke about the training the local PD does, the admins all talked about what we can do to promote the best school environment we can. And- this was gratifying- The Principal gave very clear support to student protests. 

So we heard all that, then went to do work. 

I went up to my APUSGOV class to start Court Madness. I blurred out my students’ names to let you get a load of these brackets (the goal is to argue which case is most significant):

We got through four of the opening round debates today. My students judged each debate they didn’t argue, and Mr. F and Mr. W came in to be guest judges because they knew it would be awesome (and it totally was). Brown v. Board of Education, Obergefell v. Hodges, Citizens United v. FEC, and Schenck v. United States all advanced to the next round.

The debate between NYT company v. United States and Citizens United v. FEC was FASCINATING. Both students did a heck of a job, and that’s just such a cool match-up (drawn randomly out of a hat). Really, they were all great debates, but everyone agreed afterwards that was the best one. 

And there were funny moments, too. The student who had to argue Regents of the University of California v. Bakke over Brown v. Board of Education knew she had a seriously uphill battle, so she baked brownies to bribe the judges. And the debate between Obergefell v. Hodges and Gideon v. Wainwright involved two students brandishing pocket constitutions at each other. 

They were still making dramatic gestures with their pocket constitutions, notes, and whatever else- and yelling about soup, which… I got nothing- as my World students came in. I’d say they were a mix of amused, bewildered, and slightly scared. 

We wrapped our study of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict the same way students did yesterday: on the subject of generational power. And then this unit’s Culture Projects were due- I don’t think I put this in yesterday’s entry- so we were treated to presentations on Middle Eastern sports, tourist destinations, fashion, and food. Students get so excited when their peers actually make food for their projects. I was informed I was the best teacher ever, even though I didn’t really do much.

We had some time after presentations, so we played vocab hangman (point for getting the word, point for defining it). It was uproariously fun. They get so competitive about it!

During my prep time I was mostly on the phone with a campaign staffer, scheduling his candidate as an APUSGOV guest. We’ve talked many times, and I just realized today I’ve been mispronouncing his name (I hear m and n, and b, d, and v poorly). I apologized, but ugh. So awkward.

These campaign staffers are going to get the hot mess version of me a lot.

As long as their candidates keep coming to class…

Day One Hundred Seven

Well. It’s the first day back from break, and a lot of us spent it talking about guns. I figured that’s how it was going to go for me. I teach government and world affairs, and I’m a known political organizer, so I get asked for my opinions about things all the time. And when I’m asked, I answer.

My students wanted to know what I thought about the protests being planned- and then they wanted to talk to each other about that, too, so I let them (carefully… emotions were running high). They also wanted to know what I thought about our school’s existing safety measures. One thing I told them was that, while I don’t like lockdown drills, I know they can be effective. My own high school was locked down during my senior year while a student who’d been planning to attack others was apprehended. There were weapons in the student’s locker, so it was for real. I don’t know how bad it could have been if the police hadn’t been tipped off- I don’t know how many weapons, what kind, etc…- but I remember thinking it would change things. 

I’m so sorry that students today have grown up thinking otherwise. 

I can’t imagine what this is like for them. 

It was interesting to juxtapose all that against my actual lesson, which was showing the documentary Promises (about kids in Israel and Palestine). Young people in different, violent situations… It was striking, to say the least. 

I’m due for a formal observation soon, so I had a pre-observation meeting with the Vice Principal. We ended up talking about guns, too; I went over how my convos had gone in class. She told me what’s going on in her office. And we both aired some thoughts about… everything. I was glad for the talk. 

I got back to my room with a bit of time to do my grading. I thought I had PD this afternoon, but Mrs. T let me know I had my dates wrong, so I found myself with a free afternoon. So I walked out with Mr. F and Mr. W, talking the whole way about- you guessed it- guns.

This is where we’re at. 

Day One Hundred Six

Let me tell you about my friend Jonathan. I know the world is better for having him in it; he’s just one of those people. He’s so unconditionally good.

He’s also one of the few people I’ll admit is way smarter than I am. 

And, since he works for the AG down in Massachusetts, he was my guest speaker in APUSGOV this morning. It was amazing, but it almost didn’t happen. The flu is hitting hard, and it got Mr. W, who has everything I need (projector, camera, fancy admin passwords) to use Skype in our school. So I stole his tech and got him on the phone to tell me how to work it.

But then Skype wouldn’t work.

And, I mean, it’s ten minutes into class at that point, so I was a bit panicky. Sooooo I said “screw it” (not out loud), hung up with Mr. W, logged on Facebook (which I’m not supposed to do at work), and did a FB video call.

Forgiveness and permission, you guys…

And, yeah, it was amazing. I already told you Jonathan’s smart. He’s also thoughtful, and humble, and open, and he spoke to my students like he was speaking to his peers. A lot of them want to study law, and do the sort of things he does professionally, so it was such an important conversation for them to have. 

A couple of my ninth graders came in during that block to ask me questions- they’re in study hall- and I could see them listening in, being curious about what was going on. Maybe they’ll want to take the class as seniors. I certainly hope so!

My World classes went pretty well, too, though my Block 4 students struggled with the final part of the lesson (sharing what they’d learned with the rest of their group). They started out strong, but ended up falling off topic or having side conversations. And I get it; it’s Friday before a vacation (it’s a New England thing), almost lunch time, etc, etc… But I did issue a gentle reprimand and ask them to do better next time. Then I ended class by refocusing on the point: key issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

I spent my prep time grading up a storm- got it all done!- and walked out with Mr. S and Mr. F as soon as it was time.

And now I’m on vacation! Woohoo!

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 One Hundred

It’s Twin Day, so Mrs. T and I wore matching flannel shirts, jeans, boots, and friendship bracelets. Yes, we actually have friendship bracelets with puzzle pieces (hers says “best” and mine says “friends”). We are that awesome. Mr. F, Mr. L, and Mr. W dressed as triplets, which is also fun.

My APUSGOV students, whose “twins” were sadly all in other classes, were supposed to spend their time today working on their Court Madness research. And they did… They also Googled random soccer players, studied physics, quoted Rousseau at me, and rocked out to a “study jams” playlist that was full of 80s and 90s music. As you do. 

So I fielded questions about the law in between trash talking about soccer and bemoaning the fact that most of my students had never heard “Bittersweet Symphony” before. I was like, “You guys. Cruel Intentions. Reese Witherspoon in the convertible. IT’S ICONIC.”

That was one moment of feeling old. The other was when they used the slang “sauce,” as in “sauce me that pencil, dude.” I hear it all the time; today I admitted that I don’t get it.


I talked my way through the history of religious extremism again in World, and defined associated terminology. I collected vocabulary building assignments, too. The top ten words: 

  • Feminism (I suspect that’s a result of this conversation)
  • Diaspora
  • Connotation
  • Secular
  • Innocuous
  • Zionism
  • Opulent
  • Austerity
  • Embargo
  • Decorum

Day Ninety-Seven

Well. Pretty much everyone was having a sad about the Pats today, or they were just grumpy because they went to bed late. 

But! It’s Winter Carnival Spirit Week, and today was Pajama Day, so that was good fun. Mr. F, Mrs. T, and I all showed up in plaid PJ pants and sweatshirts (channeling our collegiate selves). And Ms. H had a Spongebob onesie. Some of our non-Cacophonous colleagues rocked their PJs, too- or, at least, their slippers- but we did it best. We had a fire drill during reading break, and we were all standing together and amusing the students.

The most amusing part of the day for me was when this one substitute teacher- a dignified, older man (like… in his 50s or so) who used to do some fancy corporate job- saw me and was very confused. I’m one of the dressier folks here on a typical day, and he knows it because he’s subbed on the ninth grade floor often enough. So I quickly explained what was going on. 

I taught my World classes about key beliefs and practices in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They did some reading and watched a little film about the hajj, and then I took questions. My goal in the future will be making the stark differentiation between religion and religious extremism. I spent my prep time revising that lesson a bit. 

I started feeling kind of run down, and I’m worried I’m coming down with something, so I left as soon as I could today. Going to drown the germs in orange juice now.