Category: mr. w

Day One Hundred Eighty-Six

IT’S SUMMER!!!!

Two evening teacher workshops counted as a day for us, so today was it. We had our final faculty meeting, which was done before 9:30, and then we all went to finish up whatever we had left to do. 

I didn’t have much. I revised my APUSGOV syllabus because college board said it needs more detail. Then I finished organizing Mr. F’s shelves. 

Aaaand then we watched a movie in Mr. W’s room.

And then we left to celebrate. I really did have an incredible year, so it was a celebration for me. 

On to the next…

Day One Hundred Eighty-Five

Teacher workshop day two was a day full of meetings: a meeting about new grading protocols, a meeting about CBE, a meeting about how adding flex time next year will work, a PLC meeting… Thankfully, there were breaks in between each one. 

The flex time meeting was the rowdiest. The faculty I work with has no chill, so new initiatives are always met with a barrage of questions. New initiatives that expose gaps in technological savvy are even more fun. But I think there’s a lot of excitement to try this out. I certainly think it’s got potential. 

Stay tuned, I guess.

Afterwards, I grabbed lunch with Mr. F, Mr. W, and- when she got out of her additional meetings (because she’s a department head)- Mrs. T. Then I had to head own to Mrs. Z’s room for a department meeting because she’s filling in for Mr. B temporarily (It’s weird, but I’m still very okay with it not being me).

I didn’t have anything to do after that because it was time for wrapping up grades and verifying them, and- BOOM!- I’m a wizard, so my grades were done last Friday. My room’s also in order, so I gave myself the job of helping Mr. F organize his nasty, cluttered book shelves. I’m halfway done, so I’ll finish tomorrow!

Day One Hundred Eighty

Underclassmen started taking finals today. There are two each day with a half hour break in between; today they were for first block classes. This block was my prep time on A days and APUSGOV on B days, so I spent the day grading multi-genre projects. 

Given that the project instructions are basically “Write about something that matters right now,” here’s a telling photograph: 

And, remember, I only have half of the projects in my possession; Mrs. T has the other half. 

I didn’t just put grades in all day today. I had a meeting with next year’s APUSGOV students to go over their summer work; it’s a big class, so it’ll be a whole new set of challenges. I also had a chat with The Principal, who complimented me on the work I did with my APUSGOV students this year. That was really gratifying.

After finals, there was a little party for retiring teachers at a local restaurant. I went with Mr. W because we’re both introverted souls who hate arriving alone to events like that. This is why we’re friends, haha. And it was a fun party! Lots of good food and funny stories… Also, a bunch these teachers’ former students made a goodbye video, which was sweet.

Day One Hundred Fifty-Nine

You know, today was glorious, at first. It’s a perfect spring day, it’s payday Friday, and Mr. W and I did a karate demo for my ninth graders during World (and it was so much fun). Katas, tricks with body mechanics, sparring… Mr. W did the “one inch punch” to me (on my shoulder so I could twist and dissipate some of the force, and Mr. F still had to catch me).

And then there as an incident in the hall.

And then our SRO hurried of for… something.

And then there was a shooting. 

Again.

I’ve said before that nothing is as wrenching as listening to kids in public schools after mass shootings. The resignation is terrible. But there’s a defiant joy, afterwards, and a desire to affirm life. 

And so I found myself here with my athletes this afternoon:

That’s the public beach a few towns over, where we gathered for a team spag. Conference championships are tomorrow. 

Day One Hundred Twenty-Two

Today we had one of the Republican congressional candidates visit APUSGOV, which was interesting. He spoke quite candidly, and his beliefs surprised my students at least a few times- and they aren’t easy to surprise- which was a good learning experience for them. On the whole, it was a really smart, wide-ranging conversation. And I love that candidates are willing to come and talk to these kids. I say so a lot, but it’s such a big deal for them to get that access. 

Mrs. T was out again today, so I did yesterday’s World/English lesson on my own again. I think it was better today- second time around tends to be- and I’m less wiped than I was yesterday. Ooh, and the conversation about the war in Yemen was really sharp; I have these two boys who ask amazing questions, and today the sparked more questions from their other peers.

I spent my prep time helping various students, and grading so I could get to track practice on time. Hill repeats today… So painful, so good. It’s a smaller team than in past years (may the sports gods curse AAU, JO, travel teams, etc…), but there’s potential. We’ll see what happens as the snow melts. 

The language honor societies had a dinner (feauturing Spanish, French, and German foods) tonight. It’s a fundraiser for their various endeavors, and Mr. W asked me to go so he’d have a buddy there. Since it was right after practice, and dinner I didn’t have to make is always awesome.

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

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.

Anyways.

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

Midterms roll on…

My World midterm is a reflective essay that asks students to think about their learning, and their overall ninth grade experience. It’s a way for my counterparts and I to check whether or not they can articulate their progress towards our course and grade level goals. The students in my Block 3 sections of the course wrote theirs today, and the students in my Block 4 sections will write theirs tomorrow.

I haven’t read any of them in detail yet- I still have a set of book papers to mark first- but I gave each one a quick glance when it was turned in. There’s at least one “everything is dumb, and I don’t see why I have to learn any of it” (which is really “I’m struggling to write this essay and lashing out because of it”), and also at least one masterpiece. Gotta have balance in life, I guess. 

I spent the afternoon working with students, grading, prepping lessons, and a dozen other things. Then I crashed Mr. W’s new semester karate class, which was good fun, but maaaaaan, I was rusty. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to train. I can still throw solid kicks and punches, but my katas have suffered. 

Time to train back up. 

I had to leave class early to join some my other colleagues at one of the local breweries for trivia night. It was a fundraiser for the organization that’s trying to get a new rec trail built (near the school, so it’d be great for us). We got second place!