Category: Ms. N

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 Forty-Three

I was tired and I had a headache all day today, but it wasn’t a bad day. I graded APUSGOV projects during my prep time, then taught the same World lesson that I taught yesterday. The kids had lots of reactions to what they were learning (especially when they read about school schedules in China and Japan, which are so different from ours), and they asked great questions, so I’m happy with how it went. They worked noticeably slower than my A day students, though; some of them only got one or two segments of the assignment done, whereas yesterday most students finished or nearly finished before the end of class I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these students being slower- they’re just different learners- but it’s interesting to observe. 

During Block 5, Mrs. T, Ms. N, and I had a meeting with the district’s behavior specialist regarding a particular student. We’re trying to come up with a plan that’s going to help him be successful at the high school, but so far we’ve been striking out. It’s a real test of our creativity, but we’ve got a few more things we can try. Here’s hoping at least one of them is effective. It’s frustrating for everyone involved when it’s not.

After the meeting, I went to track practice. Our team has a great tradition of doing “pizza practices,” and the captains figured that since it’s the day between two meets, this was a good day for one. So all the kids brought in a few bucks, and they ordered as much pizza as they could afford, and it was delivered right as we wrapped up the workout. So it was perfect.

Day One Hundred Seventeen

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We’ve got a Court Madness final! As you can see, there was a bit of an upset- the defeat of last year’s winning case, Citizens United v. FEC– but both semifinals were argued really well. We had a lot of fun.

After the debates, I used class time to get set up for the next unit, which starts with civil liberties and civil rights. I was kind of off my game, I must admit; I wanted students to get into four groups, but I’d mistakenly set the tables up for three instead. I didn’t want to break up any of the groups once students sat down, so I just went with it. These groups are for a long term project, but I also used them for doing today’s classwork. I had them brainstorm and list the things they knew about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Movement. I’ll be teaching about that stuff shortly, so I wanted to find out how familiar it was in order to better plan my upcoming lessons. 

In World/English, students continued getting ready for The Big Middle East Debate: writing constructive arguments and rebuttal questions. There are ten groups, and nine of them are crushing it. I was wicked impressed with the work they did. Mrs. T, Ms. N, and I all tried to help the tenth group, but they’re not really collaborating well. These are students who have relied on others to carry them in group work; since they’re all like that, no one’s carrying anything. So we’ve been trying to help them divide up the work, giving them real concrete steps, etc, etc… 

We didn’t have a scheduled team meeting today, but Mrs. T, Mr. F, and I decided to have a “walking meeting” during Block 5 because we all felt the need to get out of our classrooms, and then Mrs. T and I ended up in Mrs. F’s office to ask about a particular student. We wound up talking about a lot more, though, because that’s the kind of year we’re having. 

Afterwards, I went back up to my room to do a few little things, and ended up revising an entire APUSGOV test and writing out all the instructions for a new assessment- a Socratic discussion- because I just got into a groove. But, hey, now I have all that ready to go. I am a wizard.

Day Ninety-Six

Almost a foot of snow fell overnight, so we had a two-hour delay this morning. By the time I left my apartment, everything had been plowed and the sun was out. It was actually wicked pretty. 

I had a student come in to make up his midterm during Block 1, and I did some planning while he worked. Then I taught the same lesson in World that I taught yesterday. My Block 2 class did boys versus girls for the group work, which was pretty fun (girls found all the answers about ten seconds before the boys). Only nine of my Block 4 students were present, so they just did the group work as a whole class, and it worked pretty well.

Afterwards, we went over to Mrs. T’s room and joined her class in wishing her an early happy birthday (she was surprised and delighted). One of our aides brought in cupcakes, too, which everyone loved. 

Mrs. T, Ms. N, and I were the only team members around Block 5, but we had our team meeting and discussed some of our students who are struggling. We’re trying to figure out how to help, but it isn’t easy…

Day Sixty-Eight

Mr. F and I were supposed to go to an IEP meeting this morning, but it got rescheduled, so we were able to go to the prep room, grab the cinnamon rolls Mrs. T made, and grade papers and stuff. 

World/English started smoothly. It was day two of introducing the research project, giving public speaking pointers, and laying down the law about being able to choose seats, etc… About twenty minutes in, Mrs. T got a call to pick her son up from preschool because he had a fever, so I was left alone in the Cavern. I hate to admit it was frustrating because, obviously, she had to go… But, yeah, it was a little frustrating in the moment. When there are two of us, one can handle the particularly needy and/or disruptive students while the other handles everyone else; it’s exhausting to do it solo. 

But, again, nothing for it. I survived.

I did end up assigning seats, though. The class couldn’t even manage five minutes of quiet work time in the seats they chose (yes, I was timing). When I told them that, and pointed out that I’d warned them repeatedly to stop talking and focus on their work, there was a general acknowledgement that my assigning seats was a reasonable move. 

It was mostly quiet and productive after that.

I saw some cool projects coming together. Topics include the Biafran War, Nelson Mandela, refugee camps in Kenya, the rehabilitation of child soldiers, the hunt for Joseph Kony… It’s all big stuff these students knew little or nothing about prior to ninth grade, and I’m hoping their presentations will be really eye-opening by the time we’re through.

I spent Block Five editing APUSGOV papers, mostly, but I did take a break to talk to Mr. F, Ms. N, Mrs. R, and The Vice Principal about how hard this year is. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling that way. 

At practice, The Head Coach had me take the sprinters to do starting blocks, which was fun, and it’s something I pride myself on doing well. I spent some time after practice finishing those APUSGOV papers, so my car was all alone in the parking lot when I left. 

Onward…

Day Sixty-Four

So. For the last two B days in my schedule, a student has sworn at me, but it didn’t happen today. Yay for breaking that trend!

I still ended up raising my voice, though, and I hate that I did (especially after so many years of not having to do it, of being “the teacher who doesn’t yell”). I hate what it does to the classroom environment. 

But, for this one student, nothing else has been effective… It suuuuucks…

I did have successes with other students, though. 

One who finds asking teachers for help very challenging came up and asked me for an extension on her paper (which I totally granted). She rehearsed with Ms. N beforehand, and I saw them high five afterwards, which was sweet. Self-advocacy is one of the big, key skills we want students to develop, so whatever we can do to support them, we’ll do.

Another big success: Mrs. T and I found a way to help students who were losing steam towards the end of the double block, and being really disruptive and defiant as a result. I got out my stopwatch after the vocab quiz today, and she told the class we were going to split up the time into silent work time and break time, and gradually increase the intervals of each: so, like, work for ten minutes and break for two, work for fifteen and break for four, etc… There’s flex time and lunch, too, so there’s some big breaks already built in. It’s a bit juvenile, but it did work, so we’re going to keep doing it. 

And I’ll figure out how to stop raising my voice. I will. 

I had a very full Block Five because I had a meeting, and then a few students came by to ask various questions, and then I got caught up in The Federalist Papers. 

As you do.

See, I’m going to use my flex time on Friday to hold a review of Fed. 10 and 51 because my last APUSGOV test revealed that some of my students don’t quite grasp them fully. So the review is open to anyone who feels like they’ll benefit from it. I have nine students signed up so far. 

So I was prepping for that, and got sucked in, and didn’t leave until 4:00, but I got some good work done. 

Day Sixteen

Okay, so that meeting that I had last week that went all sideways? The follow-up was today, and it was really good. The SpEd Director and Ms. N loved the work I did, the student using it is succeeding, and my confidence is back. There were apologies all around, too, for misunderstanding each other last time. So all is well in the kingdom.

I did very simple lessons in both APUSGOV and World, but sometimes simplicity works. It definitely did today. It was a lot of fun.

My APUSGOV students had to read the Constitution and identify what powers are given to each branch of the federal government, and what powers are given to the states; and then I charted out their answers on the board. Totally not flashy, but the conversation we had about why powers were delegated the way they were? That was brilliant.

My World class was a unit intro; we’re starting our study of Latin America. So I went over the unit plan, taught the vocab (which led to many hilarious tangents in my Block 4 class), and gave them the remainder of time to work. They had a map to label, and an assignment on daily life (read and respond to an article about a specific country, do additional research on anything about that country and cite it). Anything they didn’t do is homework. So it’s a lesson in time management and decision-making, too, and I liked how I went. 

We also experimented with flex time for the first time today. Yesterday, we all spoke to the students in our advisories about which teachers they wanted to see for extra help, enrichment, whatever. We built their schedules for the advisory block, and today they went where ever they signed up to go. I had 14 students come see me; some wanted to make up work, some wanted to retake their last quiz. I thought it went really well.

It’s Mr. F’s birthday. We did lunch, and then I went to chat about upcoming things with Mrs. T before my aforementioned meeting. I had another meeting at 2:30, and then I went back to finish talking to Mrs. T. 

Now I’m making pie because Open House is tomorrow. It’s a thing.

Day Fourteen

So I had a meeting with Mrs. T, Ms. N, and The SpEd Director during last block today. It devolved into a philosophical conversation about having classes labeled as being “college prep,” but having students whose work is modified so significantly that it isn’t college prepatory work anymore. Somehow, The SpEd Director got the idea that I didn’t want to make those modifications, which… Noooooo. No, no, no, no. Definitely not my thinking on that. I want kids to learn, so I want to meet them where they are. That’s my job.

I just don’t know what to do about that “college prep” label sometimes. 

Mrs. T cleared up that misunderstanding, and then everything was all good. But, I have to say, it stung that The SpEd Director misunderstood- that she thought it was at all possible I’d ever think that way. It stung a lot, really. I’m not having a great week outside of work, so I’m probably a little overwrought, but yeah… I went back to my desk, modified my next unit, and sent my work to Ms. N and Mrs. T for feedback. 

Because I’m good at this, damnit, and I want to do it. 

Anyways. 

The rest of the day was great. My APUSGOV class crushed a vocab quiz and then tackled the Constitution. I split the class into three groups. One had to find evidence that it’s a visionary document, one find evidence that it’s an elitist document, and one had to find evidence that it’s a pragmatic document full of compromises (spoilers: it’s all three). The ensuing discussion was good fun. 

Then there was a lockdown drill…

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That wasn’t fun, but it had to be done.

Afterwards, my World students crushed a vocab quiz, too, which was delightful since it’s their first one. Then we had an epic discussion about radicalization and extremism (carrying over from last class), the teaching of prejudice, biases and stereotypes, and how our sources of information shape our perceptions. It was good in my Block 2 class. It was AMAZING in my Block 4 class; so many students had so much to say. 

Oh, and it was picture day, and I looked good. That’s a win.

I ended the day at the stadium this evening, watching the football team pick up a huuuuge victory. It was a blast.

Day Thirteen

Today started with a PLC meeting, as all Thursdays do. Mr. T and I discussed World Cultures-y things, and talked about open house- which is next week- since he’s new. We had some time before the first bell, so I went and found Ms. N, the case manager for all my ninth graders with IEPs (sidenote: having one case manager attached to a team is a big benefit of teaming). I wanted to talk to her about a student, but we decided we need a bigger meeting with Mrs. T and The SpEd Director, so that’s going to happen tomorrow.

I spent Block 1 editing current events essays so I could give them back to my World students for revision. And, cue the music of triumph, everything went as well today as it did yesterday, even in Block 4. I still had to redirect kids, but they responded so much more quickly, and without any back talk. The one boy I was having trouble with? Was all good. 

I have no idea what I did.

Maybe it was our chat after last class, maybe it was that I replied to a Remind text he sent to ask about an assignment. Maybe it wasn’t me at all. 

But I’ll take it.

I forgot my lunch, so I dashed down to the awesome bagel shop and deli about a mile from the school so I could get a sandwich. They had fresh chocolate chip cookies, so I grabbed three. I ate one, gave one to Mr. F because we’re buddies, and gave the other to Mr. T because he hadn’t had one of this place’s cookies yet. So good.

I spent Block 5 prepping all my stuff for next class, so I stayed after for a bit to do my grading. It was about 4 when I left, and I decided I needed an afternoon coffee. The baristas call me “Coach” or “Teach.’ 

Yes, I am!

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.

Anyways.

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.