Category: Mr. F

Day Seventy-One

Instead of going to PLC meetings this morning, the faculty and staff got to go to the annual Christmas breakfast, made by our culinary students and served by the administrative team. My cacophonous friends and I met in my classroom and went down to eat together. It was a fabulous way to start the day. 

Then I went to APUSGOV, and skyped my friend, Ian Hines, who is a Republican digital strategist, fundraiser, and web designer out of Maryland. I love having him talk to my students because he’s wicked smart and good at what he does, he and I are political opposites despite being shaped by the same events, and he doesn’t look a thing like students expect him to look based on his job description (he’s a 32yo lax bro with tattoos and hipster glasses).

So it was fun. 

Afterwards, I had them dig into Fed. 70 to continue our study of the executive branch. We’ll chat about it next class.

World/English went pretty well, too. The bulk of our students really used the time well, and their projects are looking great. They were also oddly excited about the meteor shower tonight; the Google doodle probably fueled that.

We did have to speak to a handful about some really stupid stuff: farting at each other, hiding each other’s things, breaking each other’s pencils… It’s not behavior we’ve had much of in the past; usually they leave it behind when they come to high school. But this year is a different year… 

Mrs. T, Mr. F, and I talked it out during our prep time: what’s working, what’s not, what we can do better… I’m so glad we stick together and have each other’s backs. It always helps.

Day Seventy

I like to tinker with my upcoming lessons if I have time, and this morning I had time, so that’s how I spent most of my prep block. Then Mr. W and Mr. F came by to chat about various things. Mr. F had candy, so he wins. 

Mrs. T and I had the best day in the Cavern that we’ve ever had on a B day. Our students chose their own seats and they stayed on task. They were determined to show us that they could. They did great work, too, and it was fun rather than draining to oversee it. I was even able to take a few minutes help some APUSGOV kids who came in with questions about their papers; no one acted up while my focus was off of them.

It was amazing.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but it looks like we may have finally figured out how to make class work for these students. 

Best story of the day: a boy who’d really struggled to write his book paper and asked for an extension got ahead on the research project and used some class time to finish his revisions. He turned in an awesome final draft, and brought his grade in my class all the way up to an A from a C-. I’m so proud of him. I sent his parents a note to say so.

If you’re not ever contacting parents with good news, make time to start doing it. It’s good for everyone involved.

Day Sixty-Eight

Mr. F and I were supposed to go to an IEP meeting this morning, but it got rescheduled, so we were able to go to the prep room, grab the cinnamon rolls Mrs. T made, and grade papers and stuff. 

World/English started smoothly. It was day two of introducing the research project, giving public speaking pointers, and laying down the law about being able to choose seats, etc… About twenty minutes in, Mrs. T got a call to pick her son up from preschool because he had a fever, so I was left alone in the Cavern. I hate to admit it was frustrating because, obviously, she had to go… But, yeah, it was a little frustrating in the moment. When there are two of us, one can handle the particularly needy and/or disruptive students while the other handles everyone else; it’s exhausting to do it solo. 

But, again, nothing for it. I survived.

I did end up assigning seats, though. The class couldn’t even manage five minutes of quiet work time in the seats they chose (yes, I was timing). When I told them that, and pointed out that I’d warned them repeatedly to stop talking and focus on their work, there was a general acknowledgement that my assigning seats was a reasonable move. 

It was mostly quiet and productive after that.

I saw some cool projects coming together. Topics include the Biafran War, Nelson Mandela, refugee camps in Kenya, the rehabilitation of child soldiers, the hunt for Joseph Kony… It’s all big stuff these students knew little or nothing about prior to ninth grade, and I’m hoping their presentations will be really eye-opening by the time we’re through.

I spent Block Five editing APUSGOV papers, mostly, but I did take a break to talk to Mr. F, Ms. N, Mrs. R, and The Vice Principal about how hard this year is. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling that way. 

At practice, The Head Coach had me take the sprinters to do starting blocks, which was fun, and it’s something I pride myself on doing well. I spent some time after practice finishing those APUSGOV papers, so my car was all alone in the parking lot when I left. 


Day Sixty-Five

My school had a lockdown today. It was a false alarm, thank God, but it was properly terrifying.

I knew right away that it wasn’t a drill. The Principal tells the faculty about drills, for one, and he always comes on the PA to say “Lockdown” before sounding the alarm. Plus, it was during flex time, and he’d never interrupt that. So when the alarm went off I locked my door, shut off my lights, and got my students sitting down against my bookshelves like I’m supposed to, an I was thinking, “What do I say? Do I tell them it’s not a drill?” I was hoping someone would come on the PA and say there was a mistake, everything is okay… 

When that didn’t happen, and the alarm kept ringing, the kids started to look scared. So I said I didn’t know what was going on, but we were all safe where we were, so we should stay calm and stay put. I said, “Hopefully, this is nothing, but I’m going to look after you guys no matter what.” The door in the collapsible wall between my room and Mrs. T’s room has no lock, so one of the boys and I pushed a table against it (her door to the hall was locked, too, of course, but doing that made my students feel safer). Still, there were tears, and prayers. I was listening for gunshots, or any noise, really, and I was praying, too.

It was about an hour before the police came to the door to say we were safe. 

I have never been so happy to see our SRO. 

He explained that they were clearing classrooms one by one, and instructed my students to head to the gym. I thanked him and gave his arm a squeeze on the way out. Then I walked, holding the hands of some of the girls who were sobbing. There was a police officer in the hall, and one at the stairwell, and one at the bottom of the stairs. I mouthed “thank you” to each of them and got my class into the gym. The first thing I did after my students got settled was hug Mr. F, whose room was cleared right before mine. I hugged Mrs. T, too, when she arrived.

We were in the gym for about an hour, maybe longer. But there are bathrooms there, and the nurses had a case full of crackers, and everyone tried to keep it from being so terrible. We were able to go back to class around 1:00, but the day was basically shot. There was a quick lunch- during which I sent messages to my family to say that I was all right- and then class. I let my students do whatever as long as it was quiet. Some wanted to get back to work, some wanted to talk, others just wanted to sit… It was all fine with me.

Now I’m exhausted, and angry, and proud that my students did everything right, and upset that they’re good at lockdowns, and grateful there wasn’t an actual threat, and all the other emotions. It’s understandable, I think.

Day Sixty-One

My APUSGOV students think the franking privilege is baller.

They also think it was very mean that I asked them to read Article I of the US Constitution aloud first thing in the morning, but I responded by dramatically flailing and crying, “BUT IT’S THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL!!!!!!” So they grudgingly laughed at my antics and got on with it. 

We read through the article, and I asked and answered questions about it, and then I explained how Congress is structured, salaries and benefits for members (this is when we got to franking), current public opinion, that sort of thing. I also showed the School House Rock “I’m Just a Bill” because next class we’ll dig deeper into that process.

And I wanted the song stuck in all their heads.


World/English went waaaaay better today than last time. We started by having a heart-to-heart with the students about what wasn’t working, which really helped, as did assigning their seats so that they had fewer distractions around them. We have smaller classes on A days than B days, so we were really able to spread students out and give them quiet spaces to work, and it made a huge, positive difference. A lot of students who were behind got caught up today, and some even ended up getting ahead. 

Having two of my seniors in the room was pretty helpful, too. When I told the freshmen they were there to make up a really hard test, there was almost instant silence because they’re nice kids and they empathize.

Afterwards, Mrs. T jokingly asked the two to come take tests every block.

I spent Block 5 prepping lessons for APUSGOV, and being a guinea pig for one of the geometry lessons Mr. F was planning. I’m happy to report that I can, in fact, still do geometry.


Day Sixty

There are still closed roads and power outages throughout the district, but we did have a full school day. Mrs. T and I spent part of Block 1 revising our plans because of the snow day, and part of it making a seating chart for our ninth grade classes, which was definitely helpful. 

We explained our rationale for assigning seats to the students when they arrived: many are behind, they- by their own admission- work better if it’s quiet and they have fewer distractions, and we want to set them up for success. We also reiterated basics like don’t throw stuff, don’t touch each other, get off Snapchat… It’s not stuff we’re used to having to say this far into the year, but if that’s what it takes… Most of our students nodded or shrugged, and got to work, and really did benefit from the changed atmosphere.

One did cuss me out, though. Twice.

Can’t win ‘em all.

We had a team meeting followed by a 504 meeting during Block 5. Mr. F brought candy, which was such a win. And, I have to say, all of our 504 meetings have been super positive, and this one was no different. It’s not like that every year, so yay for that.

I went to track practice afterwards. We had to do battle with the ski team for space on the stairs and in the halls, but we managed. I really like the team dynamics; there’s a ton of enthusiasm, and I’m starting to see a lot of potential in our rookies. It’s fun.

Day Forty-Eight

 Know what I forgot to say yesterday? Happy NaNoWriMo, Teacher Wrimos!

My day was really good, and waaaay less rushed than yesterday. I got a bunch of grading and prep done during Block 1, then taught two World classes that I’m feeling really good about. It’s my challenging B day classes, but today they finally felt settled. Sure, I still had to redirect some students, but it wasn’t a constant, exhausting thing. 

They took a vocab quiz (and did so well!), read their books, watched videos, did citation practice, and crushed it all. So they were happy, and a bunch remarked on how fast the time had passed (it does that when a lesson is smooth). And, in Block 4, they even had time to do the French homework for Block 5 (a couple girls realized they’d forgotten it), or whatever else they wanted. 

Meantime, Mr. F was next door teaching stuff about angles to his geometry students by playing Dance, Dance, Revolution. It was so cool, and I wanted to play! Alas…

I had an IEP meeting during Block 5. It went well, and only took about an hour. After that, I went to set up my room for Monday. It was raining, so even though it’s Friday, I didn’t hurry out. I just got everything done.

Day Twenty-Nine

I managed to get through last month without catching more than a little sniffle, but this morning I woke up with a headache, stuffy nose, sore throat, and fever. So the September cold got me in October…

I still went to work because it was just a teacher workshop day: meetings, NEASC stuff, PLC & department stuff… I’m doubly bad in meetings when I’m sick, apparently. Like, one of my older colleagues announced- when we were well over our allotted meeting time, I might add- that one way we could save time is by showing each other how to use Powerschool more efficiently. He said there should be a process for that, so I said, “The process is that you find a Millenial and bribe them.”

Thank goodness my colleagues think I’m funny.

We cruised through NEASC. Then I went to lunch with Mr. W, Mr. T, Mr. F, Mrs. T, and Mrs. B. That’s almost the whole Cacophony. Most of them had PLC or Department meetings afterwards, but not Mr. T and I. Social studies is so far ahead of the game. So he went to finish entering grades and comments for progress reports, and I went to touch up my next APUSGOV unit (my grades and comments were done three days ago because I am a wizard). I ended up gutting my unit test and putting a bunch of new stuff in it, so that’s done. I also had time to redecorate the team bulletin board.

Not a bad day’s work.

Day Twenty-Four

So today was awesome. 

It’s Spirit Day, so everyone was decked out in school colors, glitter, and face paint. Classes were short to accommodate a pep rally at the end of the day, so APUSGOV was very chill; I went over the unit test they took last class, then we did current events presentations, and that was that.

Then Mrs. T and I did a tag team lesson in our Cavern of Learning. I started by dividing students into groups of six- three who’d read about drug violence in Mexico, three who’d read about drug violence in Brazil- and had them get laptops and headphones, and watch a 15-minute video to supplement their reading. They shared what they’d learned with their peers, I explained the growth of the violence to Honduras and neighboring countries, and we read an article about San Pedro Sula. So they had enough information to answer the question I posed last class-why are so many undocumented minors have been seeking asylum in the last few years- and I could see when it all clicked. 

Mrs. T tagged in to show them how to do MLA citations for my class materials, and set up a works consulted page, and assigned our first major assessment. She’s been teaching scenes and personal narratives for the past few weeks. What students have to do now is write a fact-based narrative based on anything we’ve studied about Latin America. So they’re plotting out ideas, fleshing them out with additional research (and citing it), and drafting. 

It all went SO well. We were happy about it. 

And then the pep rally was a ball. As we walked to the gym, Mr. T revealed he’d never been to one before, which… Wow. I grinned and told him to embrace the experience. Some teachers don’t, but me? Give me the band, the drumline, the fight song, and all the noise and cheering. Mr. F an I played musical chairs, as always, though I got eliminated early. 

Afterwards, it was parking lot tailgating (amazing chili dogs made by our hall monitors), and football. Half the town was there; it was packed! Our team lost, sadly, but it was still a fun day.

Day Sixteen

Okay, so that meeting that I had last week that went all sideways? The follow-up was today, and it was really good. The SpEd Director and Ms. N loved the work I did, the student using it is succeeding, and my confidence is back. There were apologies all around, too, for misunderstanding each other last time. So all is well in the kingdom.

I did very simple lessons in both APUSGOV and World, but sometimes simplicity works. It definitely did today. It was a lot of fun.

My APUSGOV students had to read the Constitution and identify what powers are given to each branch of the federal government, and what powers are given to the states; and then I charted out their answers on the board. Totally not flashy, but the conversation we had about why powers were delegated the way they were? That was brilliant.

My World class was a unit intro; we’re starting our study of Latin America. So I went over the unit plan, taught the vocab (which led to many hilarious tangents in my Block 4 class), and gave them the remainder of time to work. They had a map to label, and an assignment on daily life (read and respond to an article about a specific country, do additional research on anything about that country and cite it). Anything they didn’t do is homework. So it’s a lesson in time management and decision-making, too, and I liked how I went. 

We also experimented with flex time for the first time today. Yesterday, we all spoke to the students in our advisories about which teachers they wanted to see for extra help, enrichment, whatever. We built their schedules for the advisory block, and today they went where ever they signed up to go. I had 14 students come see me; some wanted to make up work, some wanted to retake their last quiz. I thought it went really well.

It’s Mr. F’s birthday. We did lunch, and then I went to chat about upcoming things with Mrs. T before my aforementioned meeting. I had another meeting at 2:30, and then I went back to finish talking to Mrs. T. 

Now I’m making pie because Open House is tomorrow. It’s a thing.