Category: mr. w

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-One

This morning, the faculty met our new principal, who made a hilarious first impression by showing up wearing almost exactly the same outfit as our current principal. Khakis and a blue dress shirt are apparently standard issue. Aside from that, though, I had a couple observations:

1) He’s only three years older than I am, and he went from being a classroom teacher to a principal after thirteen years, so I have more years of teaching experience than he does. I don’t know if any of that is good or bad; it’s just very different than what I’m used to. 

2) He’s nervous, which I get, because he’s coming from a school with half as many students- if that- and a faculty that’s a lot smaller, too. I’m sure it was a lot just to see how many of us there are, you know? But he seems nice, and enthusiastic, so that’s good. 

He’ll be the third principal I’ve worked for in fourteen years of teaching at the same high school, and I’m excited to see what he brings to our community. I definitely have to meet with him, at some point, to talk about that powerhouse APUSGOV class of mine. Next year’s an election year, and I want to know how much freedom I’ll have to bring in candidates, staffers, the press, etc… to class (right now, as longtime readers know, I have total freedom, and it’s amazing). 

The rest of the day went smoothly. I helped some of the students in the club I advise finish putting up a bulletin board during my prep, and then- because it’s a B day- I did exactly what I did yesterday: went to Mr. T’s room to do some karate for half the block before returning to my own classes to oversee Multi-Genre awesomeness. The karate was fun; I definitely got more questions today than I did yesterday, and got to demo some fun stuff like chi breaking because Mr. W had some free time. 

I was also wearing a shirt that says “Teacher by day, deadly ninja by night,” so I was getting laughs. 

What else? Final qualifying lists for the Meet of Champions came out today. I’m bummed my 4×4 boys just missed qualifying, but I’m happy for the ones who did make it (best thing was running into an English class to tell one of the distance boys he was in because he didn’t think he’d had a chance). We had a quick practice, went over Saturday’s departure information, and called it a day. No sense in overworking now; everyone’s as ready as they’re going to be.

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 Thirty-Seven

This morning I spent my PLC time doing QPA stuff because I didn’t have anything else to do, and Mr. W asked if he could use one of my APUSGOV assessments to show people how to use the QPA evaluation tool. It had already been evaluated by my department, but the scrutiny was still a bit nerve-wracking. And someone discovered a typo on my rubric.

So embarrassing! But, y’know, it happens.

During the bell change, I had to deal with a student who routinely tries to take things from his classmates (and gets in trouble for it just as routinely). I actually had to step in front of him and block his path to stop him from taking another boy’s bag. I’m not a small person- I’m actually fairly tall- but he’s still bigger than me, and he got right in my face when I told him to get out of my classroom, so that was not especially fun. But it was only a moment. 

And the rest of the day was good. My World students really liked the lesson on Hinduism, and appreciated having time to read their books for the Central Asia Novel Project and/or study their vocabulary (quiz next class) after they finished it. They’ve been tackling some complex things at a fairly fast pace, so I figured a day that’s a little easier, quieter, and more leisurely would go well. 

I forgot my lunch, so I went down to the local deli to get a sandwich, and came back with a bag of cookies, too. I shared them with Mr. T and Mr. F because I am a good friend to The Cacophony (and Mrs. T is healthy about what she eats, so no cookies for her). 

Practice was windy, and we’re still doing relay passes on a dirt road because our track has snow on it, but we’re making it happen. I think my 4×1 teams have potential. 

Day One Hundred Twenty-Seven

Today was an early release day for students, so our classes were only fifty minutes long, which meant that by the end of them I felt kind of like I used to feel after sprinting the 100m dash in college. 

I showed an excerpt from a PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders to my APUSGOV class. I knew we’d have a good discussion afterwards because what little my students know about the Civil Rights Movement is very sanitized, and this doc reveals just how much violence and vitriol activists endured. It was definitely a little shocking. So we talked about that, and about other acts of protest besides the Freedom Rides, and the response to those. I sent students home with a one-pager on the desegregation campaign in Birmingham, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which we’ll discuss next class. 

In World, I was just doing a vocab lesson. I’ve said this before, but I’m always amazed how much I get out of something that is so basic and so traditional. I seriously just putting terms and definitions on the board for students to copy down. But I go slow, and I talk my way through the terms, connecting one to the next, and I let students stop me for questions at any time. My Block 4 class, in particular, likes to ask questions, and they had a TON today, especially when I was defining terms that relate to Hinduism because that’s all new to them.

So now they’re excited to dive into this unit and learn more, which is awesome. As long as that keeps being the case, I’m going to keep pre-teaching vocab this way, ‘cause if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

We had a nice, long lunch break after students left, so Mr. W and I went and had sandwiches at the local deli. We grabbed coffee from Starbucks before heading back up to the school because we cut one day off our mandatory 187 days by extending two of our afternoon teacher workshops to 5:30, and this was one of them. We started by having a faculty meeting, during which my NEASC committee presented its work for our reaccreditation process (which the faculty approved, yay!). After that, we had two sessions that were pretty fun; as a team-builder/morale-booster thing, the administration asked teachers to volunteer to facilitate different activities, and those of us who weren’t facilitating could choose what to do. So, like, the art teacher taught painting, the phys. ed. teachers set up a basketball tournament, the woodworking teacher taught everyone to make carved pens in the wood shop. I chose to go see one of the English teachers give a talk about awesome books, and having book discussions in class because I am a lit. nerd. Then I went to the ECE room and made chaos jars, which is something the high school kids in the program do with the daycare kids, and it was so much fun. I’m still covered in glitter.

We had some time to work on our own after that, so I got a bit of prep and grading done (I mentally rewrote my next three World lessons while I was teaching today- in response to the questions I was getting- so then I had to actually rewrite them). Then we had a little snack break, followed by two presentations: one from school counseling about the shifting landscape of college admissions, and one from special ed. about, well, special ed. These are serious subjects, and the presentations were packed with information, but my colleagues are hilarious people, so they kept the mood light. Oh, and at one point The SpEd Director gave Mr. H a shout-out for the accomodations/modifications cheat sheet he has for his students, and he, in turn, shouted out Mrs. T and I for teaching him to do that. Yay for all of us!

I rarely say teacher workshops are energizing, but this one honestly was. I learned a lot, I had fun, and it didn’t seem like a ten-hour workday at all. 

Day One Hundred Twenty-Four

IT’S TRACK SEASON!

It’s still in the 30s, and the snow banks are piled over my head, but spring track has arrived. About seventy kids came out for the team this year, which is a decent number, and it looks like we’ve got some strong, new talent. I’m excited about it.

But let me talk about the rest of my day. World/English was a repeat of Friday: wrapping up debate, going over course selections  for next year, then doing book talks for The Central Asia Novel Project and having silent reading time. I was pleased to see so many kids make good use of that time because that’s a skill we’ve been trying to build in them. The last book project taught them a few lessons the hard way, I think.

After lunch, I showed a documentary on Afghanistan to teach them a little more about the country we’re going to focus on first in this next unit. Mrs. T had to step out a few times to deal with the sort of crises that department heads have to deal with, so I minded the Cavern. She missed lunch, too, but Mr. W joined me for some food and a nice, little chat.

And I had a nice, big chat during my prep time with one of my former APUSGOV girls. She’s developing a curriculum that she hopes schools can use someday to talk about about race, class, and privilege, and she wanted to pick my brain about that while she’s home on spring break. So that was awesome.

And then, of course, there was track practice.

Afterwards, I went back to my classroom to get it ready for tomorrow. I had to put some new stuff on the boards and move the tables around, and I didn’t want to leave it until the morning since I’m going to get observed. Mr. F was also working late, so he and I walked out together. It was nice not to be the only one!

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-Six

Today was significantly less dramatic than yesterday. 

We spent the morning meeting working on the NEASC self-study (and drinking lots of coffee because maaaaybe none of us slept well). I ran into the SRO afterwards and thanked him again for doing a damn good job. 

I had a meeting with Mr. W during Block One; he wanted my help drafting a course proposal for the program of studies, and I was happy to lend my writing skills. After that, I was able to do some lesson prep for APUSGOV, but I didn’t quite finish before the bell. I ended up doing the rest after school.

World/English was really good. It was the last day allotted for work on book papers, so Mrs. T and I were both very busy helping students write conclusions, giving drafts one last edit, answering citation questions, and so on. I broke the block up into work time and break time like I did last class, and it went so well. I did hold two students for lunch detention for being disruptive during work time (they could choose lunch or after school), but hopefully I won’t have to do that in the future. 

Also, I didn’t raise my voice. After last class, I asked myself why I was doing it if I didn’t want to; I realized that I may not be able to change my challenging student’s behavior, but I can change mine. So no more raised voice, I’m done yelling. 

That’s who I want to be.

Most students worked right up to the bell, but they did it. This was a really hard assignment, so it’s awesome that they persevered and succeeded. We were delighted by the big smiles, sighs of relief, and proudly flourished papers. 

One boy asked if he could cheer.

Heck yes.

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-One

Today was Denim Day. I wore a denim jacket because I knew we were going to have a fire drill this morning, but I didn’t look conspicuous with a jacket on when class started.

So ninja.

I spent my World classes, as I did yesterday, reassuring anxious writers. Some of them have so little self-confidence, and give up so easily; it can really take some doing to talk them through it. I want to know what happened to them in previous grades or outside of school to cause that to happen. Building up their confidence and persistence will be the work of the whole year. 

Confidence can be an issue with my high-flying seniors, too, but with them it’s more that they just need a quick confirmation that they’re on the right track because they second guess themselves. About half my APUSGOV students opted to come see me during flex time today because there’s a test tomorrow- again, really just to confirm that they know their stuff. I quizzed them on some key concepts, and suggested some test-taking strategies, and I think they all left feeling good.

I had a team meeting, which was a little silly today. See, we send fancy “caught doing something good” cards home to ninth graders at The Vice Principal’s request. I grabbed ours to take down to the mail room, and offered to check everyone’s mail. Mrs. T said I was being more adult than her, which never happens, so I insisted we bask in the moment. I ran into The Vice Principal in the mail room and gleefully showed off our cards like the goodie goodie I am.

So… Less adult-y, after all. 

The team meeting was followed by a department meeting, so I did my prep and grading well after the school day was over. Mr. W was doing the same, so we had one of our philosophical chats. I got home about an hour ago. That’s the day!