Category: Mrs. T

Day One Hundred Forty-One

Today there was a letter in the local paper accusing all teachers and students of leading a violent communist insurrection, which… cmon. I’m not that ambitious before my morning coffee. 

Anyways…

The snow day left me- and most other people- a bit discombobulated. I spent most of my Block 1 prep time rewriting lesson plans, bugging Mrs. T with questions, and apologetically asking congressional candidates who were scheduled to visit APUSGOV to reschedule (the downside of A/B Block). They were all very nice, but I had one candidate scheduled for Thursday, so it’s too late to change the date. They did change times to Block 5 when a lot of my seniors have study hall, but I’m still low-key freaking out that no one will attend. 

I had my World lesson all set and ready to go, so I didn’t have to prep a ton for that. It’s an “at your own pace” lesson on modern history in Afghanistan. Students had to examine a Powerpoint full of images from 1960-2001, a National Geographic documentary on the civil war and rise of the Taliban (which they watched on laptops with headphones), and two readings on the US war. Students could work alone or with others, and anything they didn’t finish in class is homework to finish. The goal is understanding the impact of decades of war on Afghan culture, which is what we’ll discuss next class. 

I was supposed to have a track meet this afternoon, but it’s still icy and rainy, so that got canceled. That meant I could run our team meeting Block 5. It was quick: reminders to finish grades (quarter three is over!!!), submit PD hours, etc… That was it. Afterwards, Mr. L and I finished the final paper we had to do for our CBE course. We finished right at the bell, and we feel accomplished. Woohoo!

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. 

Bonus Day

Mrs. T and I spent the day at ECET2NH/VT over in Hanover. It’s an awesome, empowering, and free!!! conference led by some phenomenal teachers. We were definitely both glad we went.

I think the most helpful session we went to was about transitioning to CBE- we got lots of good resources- but the whole day was helpful. There was a “political panel” that included educators, admins, students, and people in politics. One of them was NH’s commissioner of education, a man about whom I have Definite Opinions (caps intentional). Today he surprised me a few times, though. 

Mrs. T made a few new friends, too, over the course of the day, and I demonstrated my utter inability to sit in a room full of people without at least trying to make them laugh. I mean, I say ridiculous things on the regular, so giving me an audience just makes it worse. 

… Or is it better? 

We also got to tell stories about teaching moments, and that’s a great thing to get to do. We all have so many!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Five

Mrs. T asked if she could do anything for me since I had to preside over debates by myself yesterday, so I said she could fetch me a unicorn. I came in to work today, and…

That’s fun. 

We wrapped up debates with an amazing one about Palestinian Statehood, and I gave my closing remarks about how proud I was, and how important it is to be able to speak articulately about current issues, and how their opinions matter. I saw some smiles and head nods… I hope they took it to heart…

After that, students used the remainder of our time to do quarter reflections because the quarter is almost over. I was happy to see how many kids wrote about how developing argument writing and debate skills would transfer to other classes and to real life. That’s something we want them to understand.

I spent my prep time nagging Mr. B to buy me books because I always do that in the spring. Then Mrs. T and I got prepped for next week, and then we left town (in a SNOWSTORM). We’re in Hanover for a conference (ECET2 NH/VT). More on that tomorrow!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Four

So I’ve been teaching my APUSGOV students about the Civil Rights Movement, which is a fantastic thing to get to do. My lessons are protests, politics, and policymaking- nice and alliterative, right?- and I’ve been using a lot of primary sources. Today, for a change of tone, I invited a professional storyteller to tell stories of the era (and beyond), which was awesome. The handy thing is that his daughter is in the class and I’ve been close to their family for years. 

That was a great way to start the day.

And then there were debates!

I was nervous, at first, because I was all by my lonesome (Mrs. T had to stay home because her son has a fever), and- as I’ve written- this set of students didn’t use the prep time nearly as well as the set we had yesterday. Some arguments were brief, and one group reeeeeally struggled with rebuttal, so the lack of prep did show. But mostly? They pulled it off. And the final two debates  of the day were really fine: evenly matched, highly informative, spirited, engaging… It’s telling that the bell rang during closing statements and not a single kid moved; they waited until the debate was done, applauded, and then got up to go.

I graded everything during my prep time- while it was fresh- and then went to practice. It was a cold, windy day, so Head Coach and I just had the sprinters and jumpers do 300m repeats. We need to do more technical stuff, but it’s a good workout, and it warmed up their muscles, so it’ll do.

Day One Hundred Thirty-Three

Mrs. T and I moderated debates today, and it was awesome. Our ninth graders debated arms sales to Saudi Arabia, military and humanitarian involvement in Syria, and arming of Kurdish rebels fighting ISIS. A lot of them were nervous, at first, but they were prepared, and articulate, and able to reference SO MUCH research. Yes, it’s complicated stuff- it’s stuff that gets debated in UN meetings and congressional sessions!- but, yes, they’re capable of understanding it. 

I am super proud of them, and said as much in class. 

There were so many highlights… Rapid-fire rebuttal rounds, an ordinarily quiet girl refusing to let me call time because she was on a roll and had more questions to ask, two boys giving each other pep talks before their debates… We had one girl freeze up, sadly, but her group was very patient with her- and we appreciated their kindness. 

Also, at least three kids showed up despite being sick so that they wouldn’t miss their debates, which we don’t actually want to encourage… but, uhh, yay, dedication? 

It started pouring halfway through Block 4, so basically all sports stuff was canceled for this afternoon. Ordinarily, I’d be bummed about not having track practice, but it was actually good because Mr. L and I have a project to do for our PD class and were able to spend the afternoon working on it. 

So I’m feeling accomplished today. 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-One

Some days, I am 100% on top of all my non-instructional duties. Today was not one of those days. I took attendance for all of my classes at, like, 2:00; I never checked my mailbox; I did the homework for the PD class I’m in five minutes before class started… 

Oof.

I was late to class, too, because one of my sprinters came to talk to me about an injury he picked up playing basketball, and then another came to ask me about relay drills… Mrs. T just laughed and said she’d save me a seat. She’s used to seeing me surrounded by a flock of tall, tough boys and ponytailed girls- and knows I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I was sad to miss practice, but class was good. There was a discussion about being teacher-leaders, and I admitted something I seldom do: I’m not always comfortable being leader. I know that I take on leadership roles: I’m a team leader, I was a mentor teacher last year, etc… But, at the same time, I’m a massive goofball, I’m awful in meetings, I routinely get mistaken for being 6-10 years younger than I am, people still call me “kid…” Most of them don’t think of me as an authority on anything but my content, and I’m all right with that. Administrators consistently critique me for being too all right with that.

So I’m in this class to challenge myself- to learn how to lead as my school transitions to CBE- and it is hard. I have ideas for my own classes, but that doesn’t require me to convince anyone else, you know?

Anyways, speaking of my own classes, they were fine. Mrs. T and I were just helping kids wrap up their debate prep. I watched one group rehearse because they asked me to, and it was awesome too see just how much thought they’d put into their work- and how well they came together as a group! Beyond the complexity of the that’s one of the big challenges of this project.

I also got to step out and do instructional rounds, which was neat because I got to see one of my World counterparts teaching debates in her class for the first time. She structured it all very differently than I do, and we had a good conversation afterwards about our thought processes, our intent… I enjoyed that a lot.

So I didn’t take my attendance- or do anything but teach- in a timely manner today, and I will have to do better tomorrow, but I did get a lot out of today. 

Bonus Day

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I spent much of today at the Write Now Conference, which is the best teacher conference ever. I always learn SO MUCH from the presenters, and get so much energy from them and the other attendees. It gives me a chance to nurture my professional growth and CELEBRATE my profession. 

And it gives me a chance to write!

This year’s presenter was Kelly Gallagher (pinch hitting for Kylene Beers), so I knew I was going to write a lot. I’ve attended his presentations before (and, once, Mrs. T and I handed out photocopies for him and Penny Kittle at NCTE). I generally love his writing prompts, so I was super excited to write some crummy first drafts (his words- because all first drafts are crummy) for him today. 

This one was in response to a political cartoon depicting a teacher holding a gun like a pointer in a math class:

My brother and I piss off our parents by arguing over who should hold the bake sale: his army or my school.

My brother and I hurt our parents by arguing over which is safer: his army or my school.

Parents whose sons grow up to be soldiers know it’s more than dress blues and polished shoes, but parents whose daughters grow up to be teachers think it’s going to be about blackboards and books, not learning the geometry of safe spaces in the classroom. Not thinking about the angles at which kids can bend their bodies to fit in closets and under desks in case the shooter comes.

If my brother dies from a gunshot wound there will be a funeral at West Point. If I die from a gunshot wound there will be a debate about whether or not it was the fault of the gun. If he dies from a gunshot wound, my mother will get a folded flag and the thanks of a grateful nation. If I die from a gunshot wound she’ll get thoughts and prayers, and be told not to politicize it.

If I die from a gunshot wound, hug my mother- not a gun.

I’ll be tinkering with that in the future, for sure. 

I also wrote a 34-word story about a Red Sox fan learning his girlfriend liked the Yankees. That was in response to a photo of an upset-looking man and woman. Kelly had been making baseball jokes, so I went in that direction. I volunteered to read it and got a laugh, so I’m feeling successful. 

I do like to entertain the masses. 

I learned a lot about different things I could incorporate to get kids writing. I loved that Kelly put a whole unit plan up on argument writing because I could see how he built up his students’ skills and compare it to things I’ve done and, consider what I can and should alter. I also got a lot of ideas for doing more reading in World. I do a lot already, but I can improve how I do it and what students get out of it. As Kelly said, it’s about more than just making compliant readers and writers, and that is something I worry about happening.

So I have a whole list of things to try in my classroom, and another whole list of books to beg Mr. B to buy for me. I’d say I got a lot out of the conference.

And it was fun!

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!