Category: Mrs. T

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 Eighty-One

Today was the last day of classes, and it was something of a mixed day. 

There was a graduation rehearsal this morning, so a bunch of my seniors stopped by one last time to say thank you, and give me hugs or high-fives, and one even brought me candy (my students know I have a massive sweet tooth). Plus, it’s Pride, so a bunch of students were running around with rainbow-colored flower crowns in their hair, showering people in glitter (with their consent, of course). So there was a lot of joy.

And my first section of World was awesome. I started class by leading a cheer, as I’d done yesterday, and then we got down to business. I think going over how to outline for the final was especially helpful for these students; a bunch of them told me afterwards that they felt much more confident and prepared, and I’m glad. They were super proud to turn in their Multi-Genre Projects, too, and they were cheering each other on the whole block. Like, one student would finish and others would clap for them. 

Block 4 was fun, at first, too, but shortly after class started, two of my students were escorted down to the SRO’s office. I don’t know exactly what happened, but, clearly, there was an Incident. It’s a lousy way to end ninth grade, that’s for sure. 

So… That happened. But the rest of class was all right. I spent part of it in the hall because a handful of my students went out to record audio for their projects, and a handful of Mr. T’s students were out there, too, and everyone was being a bit silly. At one point, they attempted to steal one of my desk chairs, but they stopped when they realized I was just going to let it happen. Heh.

When Block 5 rolled around, Mr. F and Mrs. T converged on my classroom. I was taking down posters when they came in because the tape loses its stickiness in the summer humidity, and I like redecorating in the fall anyhow. I also cleaned out my desk and cabinets, put away some of my supplies, etc… while we were talking. It’s not like I had to get it done in a hurry; it’s just a habit of mine to take my classroom apart as soon as classes end. Mrs. T says it’s the opposite of nesting instinct, which… Pretty much.

But I paused long enough to celebrate the fact that we’d made it through a really tough year. I mean, yeah, there are still finals, but we’re done teaching for the year, and we’re pretty happy about how most of our students learned and grew. It was wicked hard to make it happen sometimes, but we did it.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Nine

Longtime followers will know that this was one heck of a year. Discipline issues from day one, a challenging ninth grade population, a number of students dealing with serious medical issues, students in crisis, vaping, the lockdown, the flooding, various Incidents that I can’t detail any further… We just got rocked.

So it was probably fitting that, midway through Block 2, as Mrs. T and I were conferencing with students and everything was going well, the fire alarm suddenly went off. I shrieked and jumped about a foot into the air, so… not my coolest moment. But then I pulled myself together and led my class out to the baseball field, which is our usual gathering spot. 

It was a rainy day, and my students marveled at my ability to walk across a muddy field in high heels, which I thought was funny. I was worried we’d be out there for a while, and that the weather would get worse, but the fire department gave the all-clear pretty quickly. I think it took them fifteen minutes, tops, to figure out what had triggered the alarm (some overloaded sensor or something).

We went to flex block, then to Block 4, which is when my day got really awesome. One of my special needs students came running up to me at the start of the block to hand in his final project- like, running so fast down the hall that his aide couldn’t keep up- and he was absolutely beaming. And his work is beautiful. He loves art, so he drew a picture of the ending of N.H. Senzai’s Shooting Kabul, which he absolutely loved reading. The other piece of the project was a comparative essay about Shooting Kabul and a book he’d read earlier in the year about Nelson Mandela. I loved reading about the parallels he’d found in the two stories; he noticed things I hadn’t noticed, which was so cool. 

The other cool thing was the culmination of a lot of work. We have a student who really struggles with reading and writing, and his self-confidence is so low sometimes that it makes me sad, and life is just rough, you know? Most of this semester, he’d been avoiding work- no matter what we did- so he was in danger of failing, and was ready to give up. But, instead, he did something that was really hard: he gave Mrs. T and I a chance to try and help him. For the past two weeks he’s come in after school, during study hall, during flex block to work with one or the other of us- or both of us- to make up work, and to have additional time on the current stuff. Today- two days ahead of schedule- he finished his Multi-Genre Project. 

I had to sit beside him for the better part of an hour to keep him on track instead of on his phone or talking to his friends… and I had to prompt him to keep going, and reassure him the his work was good so he wouldn’t just delete it all… and I also had to be unobtrusive enough that my presence wouldn’t make shut down out of anger… And, boy, did it pay off. He finished a project that he’d been convinced he wasn’t capable of finishing. He smiled. He’s going to make it.

Block 5 was a blur of the music of triumph, and then I had to go to the last faculty meeting of the year. Fittingly, one of the topics for discussion was what we thought our successes were. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Eight

The whole building smelled like cigarette smoke this morning, but no one knows why. We all opened windows and turned on fans (which we’d have done anyhow because today’s the first hot day we’ve had all spring) to get the smell to dissipate, and then we just went on with our work. I had Block 1 free because APUSGOV is over, so I was just answering emails and stuff… until I got interrupted by a bunch of sophomore boys tromping down the hallway singing “Breaking Free” from High School Musical

No one knows why that happened either. Buuuut it’s the last week of classes, the end of a wacky year, so it’s probably fitting. 

Anyways…

It was another day of Multi-Genre Project conferencing for Mrs. T and I. We each read and discussed six or seven projects during the double block, all of which were pretty excellent. I had a particularly great conversation with one boy about how to add detail to a narrative he was writing about corruption in professional sports; I made one suggestion, and his eyes lit up, and he rattled off a bunch more things he could do to improve a particular scene. It’s great when it clicks like that.

If students weren’t conferencing with us, they were working on their revisions. And if they finished and turned in final drafts, then they started preparing for their final exams. Towards the end of Block 4, a handful of students who were done with everything started talking about training for their various sports, so I jumped in and answered a few questions about what my sprint training had been like in college. The really cool thing, though, was that a student who missed a lot of school this year for health reasons- so he’s really still navigating the social stuff, figuring out where he fits in- dragged his chair over after a few minutes of listening to the rest of us and joined the conversation. That made my day. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Seven

So last night one of the third floor science labs flooded, and the ceiling collapsed in the middle of the Cavern of Learning. The thing is, though, if I hadn’t been told about it, I never would have known. By some miracle, none of the desks, laptop carts, etc…got damaged, and the custodial crew worked all night to clean up the debris, and put in new lights and ceiling tiles. I’m pretty impressed with the work they put in to make sure everything was fine by the time the first bell rang.

I spent the morning checking things off my to-do list: cleaning my desk and cabinets, updating bus lists for Project Grad, sending emails, and so on. Then in World/English, Mrs. T and I both started doing formal Multi-Genre Project conferences, which went pretty well. Over the years, I’ve gotten way better at explaining what I’m doing while I’m editing, in particular, so that students will know how to do better in the future. This year they’ve all been really excited to talk about their work and make it as perfect as possible.

I did have the one kid who just looked the other way the whole time I was reading his work, and I so get that. I was that kid, too. So I made all my edits and revision suggestions in silence, and afterwards we talked about everything.

It’s all about finding what works.

The prep room where we usually eat was occupied at lunch time, and it was a gorgeous day, so Mrs. T, Mrs. R, and I all went and ate outside. That was delightful- as was the end of the year party at Mr. R’s house, which I just came home from! Good food, good people, relief that summer is almost here… 

It’s a good day!

Day One Hundred Seventy-Six

I was a little out of sorts this morning. Like, I just felt a bit stressed and short-tempered, and I don’t know exactly why. But then one of my APUSGOV students, who missed the last day of class, came by to turn in his final project and chat for a bit, and there was no way I could stay in a bad mood then. 

And, after that, the Cavern of Learning came back! Mrs. T and I opened the wall between our classrooms to do conferences with students about their Multi-Genre Projects. Between the two of us, we can conference with every student in two or three days, which leaves us time to do a second conference with anyone who wants one. Also, one or the other of us will always have spare time to answer questions and offer help to students who aren’t conferencing. So it works out super well.

I’ve been checking drafts, so I’ve seen students’ work coming together these past few weeks, but Mrs. T was finishing up Romeo and Juliet, so she’s coming to the party late. She’s loving how lengthy and detailed a lot of these projects are; students are really showing the progress they’ve made in research and writing. And, as I’ve said many times, what’s better than that at the end the year? We’re both super happy.

It’s a gorgeous day, so we went on a “walking meeting” during our prep time: two laps around the building. As we walked, we went over our plans for tomorrow, since she has to leave for part of the day, and discussed the students who’re behind on their work. On the second lap, we saw one of our students on the basketball court with Ms. N- taking a movement break- and when he saw us, he challenged us to play, too.

So did I go shoot hoops in a dress and high heels? Of course, I did.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Four

I made it until the very end of APUSGOV before it made me cry. Students presented projects about various act of political participation they took part in this past year (voting, working on campaigns, going to campaign events, attending town meetings, petitioning local boards, observing a session of the state senate, etc…), and reflected on the importance of participation. A lot of them stressed how much it mattered that they were young- because, often, it made them stand out- and how powerful their voices were, as a result. Afterwards, as is my tradition, I gave them each a letter I’d written full of parting words and advice. I told them that I was so proud of all them, and thanked them for an amazing year, and I WAS FINE… but then they clapped for me.

So, yeah, there were tears. That class is so special, and it’s an extraordinary privilege to get to teach it, and… Wow. I am so lucky that this is what I do, you guys.

My freshmen saw me wiping my eyes when they came in for Block 2, and they were like, “Dawww!” Teaching them is pretty awesome, as well, for different reasons. Today I started doing writing conferences, so I got to read entire Multi-Genre Projects and express all my delight about the work put into them. Seriously, they’re amazing, and I’m learning about all kinds of things (like treatments for lymphoblastic leukemia, and developments in artificial intelligence, and plans to clean up the Pacific Ocean). I say it all the time, but the greatest thing about this project is that we can use it to end the year on a high note; it’s June, but nearly everyone’s engaged, and it’s fantastic.

(It helps that it hasn’t gotten hot outside yet… like, I wore leggings and a cardigan with my dress today).

During Block 5 I had to do IEP quarterlies, which didn’t take very long. After that, Mrs. T and I met with The Vice Principal to talk about the handful of students who are in danger of failing our classes. She wanted to know what we’re doing to try to help them, and if it’s working. Mostly, the answer is yes, but there are two students that we’ve been completely unable to reach. And even though no one else has either, it’s still frustrating and makes me feel like I’ve failed. I remind myself that we were able to reach so many others, and they’ve grown tremendously since the start of the year, buuut… Yeah. The feeling of failure is hard to shake off.

We keep trying tomorrow…

Day One Hundred Seventy-Two

I told my APUSGOV students that I’d caught their senioritis because I was draaaaagging this morning. It’s a casual Friday, so I was wearing jeans and a top from the Gap, and I didn’t put my make-up on, and my hair was totally just up in a bun. I decided to put on some jewelry to make myself look more presentable. That’s my trick. 

I let my students have the block to finish their final projects, so it was pretty chill. A handful of them came in just for my class, which is funny since it’s over before 9:00AM, and I think I should feel honored? Maybe? 

In World, I checked off students’ final Multi-Genre pieces (graphic pieces) and had them begin editing their work themselves, peer editing, and- if they were ready- conferencing with me. Afterwards, Mrs. T and I had a meeting of the minds to discuss who’s ahead and who’s behind since she’ll be wrapping up Romeo and Juliet next week and we’ll be opening the wall between our classrooms for conferences and revisions. It’ll be so fun to be back together again. 

During Block 5, she and I went to meet with The Vice Principal, who wanted some information about some of our students, but apparently some Incidents happened so we had to wait until the end of the block. We had a good discussion eventually, though, about the things that seem to impede student success the most (poor reading skills, truancy, and/or parents who don’t hold their children accountable for anything). And when I got back to my classroom afterwards, I found cake on my desk, courtesy of Mr. F, who’d gotten it out of the prep room. So that was pretty great!

I puttered in my room for a bit, ate cake, and then walked out into a beautiful afternoon! TGIF!

Day One Hundred Seventy

Mr. F brought Mrs. T and I coffee this morning. His parents brought it back from some trip they’d taken somewhere (I’m very specific, I know) It was basically French Vanilla jet fuel, and it was amazing.

It was Senior Skip Day #2 today. Since our school does every other day classes, our seniors decided they had to skip them all, so… two skip days. I let them know every year that I think the second day is super lame. But, y’know, I’m still not the type of teacher who plans a test for that day; my whole APUSGOV class was absent, and that’s fine. I read a book. 

Then I want across the hall to Mr. T’s room (while someone else covered my World classes) and did karate! He’s been teaching about Eastern philosophy, so I offered to come in and demonstrate how that relates to martial arts. I did a few tricks and katas, and answered questions. We had an unexpectedly deep chat in his Block 2 class about how people who practice martial arts should use their skills, and how it doesn’t make anything better to be disproportionately violent, and we should be careful about what we put out into the universe. That was pretty awesome.

So, yeah, I spent about half of the block with each of his classes, and then went back to my own for the other half of the block. Multi-genre projects continue to take shape in exciting ways; I saw the most awesome storyboard for a cartoon about new treatments for cancer, and a lot of cool infographics, and other really creative stuff. I did a couple conferences in the time I had, as well. 

During Block 5 I went to have a chat with The Vice Principal about some students, and ended up staying for a longer chat about the year, the new principal (who’s coming to meet us all tomorrow morning, so I should have an interesting entry tomorrow), etc… Then I went out for a short track practice, and that was that!

Day One Hundred Sixty-Six

My seniors realized this morning just how close they are to the end. I started APUSGOV by going over the plan for the rest of the unit: test next class, time to work on final projects during both classes (which will really be one class because of Senior Skip Day) next week, final projects due the following Tuesday. Someone asked, “That’s it?” and I nodded, and it hit a bunch of them that, yeah, there are really only four more days of APUSGOV. That is it.

One boy blurted out, “Oh man, I wasn’t ready for these emotions!” and got a chorus of “Same!” in response. 

So we took a moment, then got on with today’s class (a vocab quiz, a lecture on local government and town meetings, test review). I’m benevolent and all, so when I gave students the remaining time to work on their projects, I also let a bunch go upstairs to finish some crazy Physics assignment involving a bridge. I don’t really know what’s up with that, but it sounded stressful. They know when my project’s due; as long as they get it done, they get it done.

In World, students started drafting opinion pieces for their Multi-Genre Projects (if they hadn’t started already- a bunch of the A day students are ahead of schedule), and I checked in drafts of informational pieces. I was introduced to a site called Canva, which a handful of students are using to make their projects look like magazines (which is SO COOL). I love technology when it’s used like this; I love the tools students find. 

Another cool thing: last night was academic awards night, but I couldn’t go because I had a family thing to go to. So the ninth grader who’d received the award for excellence in World Cultures came up to me after class to thank me for it, and to tell me he loved this class. It was so nice, you guys. My teacher heart grew three sizes. 

Mrs. T had a meeting at the district office, so I watched her Block Four class for her during my lunch break. They’re working on Act III of Romeo and Juliet, so I got to come in and do stuff like rattle off lines from memory (I am a MASSIVE academic show-off), and point out that the play is anti-Catholic, and otherwise geek out about Shakespeare. So that was fun. And, afterwards, I went and ate cookies with Mr. F because why wouldn’t I?

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I did have actual lunch food, too, honest.

Practice was exciting because some of the athletes who’d been on the bubble to make the division meet found out that they were in, including my 4×100 girls! So now I’ve got two young relays headed to the big meet, and I couldn’t be happier for them. They’re nervous, of course, but they’re excited.