Category: mr. w

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. 


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.


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!

Day Eighty-Two

I don’t know what happened, but this morning when I went to teach APUSGOV, my brain basically stopped knowing words. 


It was a bad day for that to happen because, rather than giving my students all of class to work on the pizza project, I took about 45 minutes to give a quiz and lead a discussion about some things that have been in the news (POTUS’ physical, section 4 of the 25th Amendment, Cliven Bundy, the DOJ and states that legalized marijuana). 

I mixed up “appropriation bill” and “authorization bill” before the quiz, which… ugh. I corrected myself, but still. I’m annoyed by my mistake. And afterwards, as we chatted about the current state of affairs, I kept saying “judiciary” when I meant DOJ, and having to correct myself… and yet I managed a tongue-twisting “no precedent for the President’s decision” just fine. 


I also had to say “I don’t know” a lot because they kept asking hypotheticals that put us in uncharted constitutional territory. So there’s no way I could know (I did put some guesses out there when I could, but one of the boys posed a question I just had nothing for), but I still hate not knowing. Mr. F and Mr. S gave me crap about it when I told them how class had gone- like, “YOU didn’t know something?!” And that’s the thing: I have such a reputation for being a know-it-all, and being flashy about it. I show off constantly. 

It’s such a different situation in this class, though. I like the challenge, but I’m also a little rueful. Grr. 

In other news, Mrs. T was back, so life in the Cavern of Learning was much smoother and less exhausting. Thankfully, my brain had rediscovered words by Block 3, too. Our students got a lot of good work done; we even had some who were ready to conference, so they’re about a class and a half ahead of schedule. 

I went on instructional rounds during Block 5, and observed the beginning of Mr. W’s Spanish I class. Then I went to do some prep for midterms. This is when Mr. F and Mr. S were teasing me about not knowing stuff- we all ended up in the staff room together- and they also agreed that my APUSGOV midterm is beast.

As it should be.

Day Eighty-One

One of my former students, who’s now in tenth grade, asked me to proofread a short story he’s writing for his English class. This is how he repaid me:

The stickies say “Go Red Devils.” So I responded by writing “Manchester is BLUE” in huge block letters across the top of his story.

It’s a soccer thing.


The special ed. department set aside today for teachers to meet with case managers and discuss students’ progress toward their IEP goals. They offered us food and coffee, too, which was so nice. Mr. F, Mr. W, and I went down first thing since we all had Block 1 prep, and all had to see the same case manager, Ms. N, so it became a nice little breakfast meeting.

Mrs. T was out again, so she couldn’t join us, and I was left alone again in our Cavern of Learning. Actually, I wasn’t totally alone; her sub was one of our former students, now a senior in college, to whom my initial reaction was, “Ugh, I’m old.” 

But it was cool having him help out. He wants to teach, so subbing is good experience, and this bunch of students is fun to work with. I was super happy with their work, too. Even my most chatty, distracting little group buckled down when I separated them, and acknowledged that was what needed doing.

The team and I had a working lunch because we had a parent request a meeting during our typical team meeting time Block 5. I thought that the parent meeting would take an hour or so, but it actually took nearly two. Shows how well I estimate… But it was a meeting with many layers, so it was hard to guess how it would go. I think it was productive, though. 

I was late to practice because of it, of course. When I arrived, I discovered one of my relay boys from last year had come back to visit, and Head Coach had asked him to do baton practice with this year’s relay teams. Since he’d already started, I just sat and let him finish. It was fun. 

Then the kids asked us for relay stories, which was totally to delay running stairs, but we obliged them (I told the story of my final collegiate race). And then they ran stairs. And then I went back to my classroom to write quizzes for APUSGOV. I only got home about an hour ago.

So it was a busy day, and I’m tired now, but it’s all good.

Day Sixty-Five

Mr. B called the department together during PLC time this morning to talk about those budget cuts that hit the paper yesterday. We were worried- or, at least, i was- that our most recent hire, Mr. I, would be losing his job, but it turns out another teacher is leaving (to stay at home with the kids), so we just won’t rehire his position. So that will work out the best way it could. 

But we had to look at our course offerings for next year since being one teacher down means cutting things. We spent the rest of the meeting discussing what exactly to do. Mr. B’s considering various options.

We’ll see what happens. 

Self-designed projects were due in World today for the students who drew this unit when we set the schedule. Those were a lot of fun. We learned about African music and dance, got some overviews of various countries, ate delicious foods… My Block 4 class went wild for this Nigerian snack called a puff-puff. So good. 

After the project were shared, I went back to dot connecting through history, pausing in the early 2000s to introduce the research project they’ll all be doing with me and Mrs. T. This is the project that supplements the nonfiction book reading they’ve already started. Their homework for next class is to come in with complete research notes on at least one project requirement. Then Mrs. T and I will open the wall between our rooms and devote our combined class time to project work. 

It’s going to be fun. 

I spent Block 5 helping one of my former students with a paper, and spent the afternoon helping Mr. W with his karate class. They were doing punch-block-counter drills, and I got to teach his students a few new tricks. That was a great way to end the day.