Category: PLC

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 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 Sixty-Seven

Today started with PLC. Both of my World counterparts were absent, so I spent the time wrapping up the project I started yesterday (planning for an incoming student with unique needs). Mrs. T is going to look over my work and add some English-y things, and then w should be all set. It’s important to us to work quickly; it reassures this student’s family that we’re on top of things, it helps us get organized and prepared, and it’s good for our professional reputations. We’re given these kinds of challenges because our administrators know we can handle them, and that’s a compliment to us.

We had a great day with our combined World/English classes. Students are drafting pieces, and they’re doing it with so little help from us. Fly free, little birds!

I wandered the room, answering questions and doing quick writing conferences by request. Meantime, Mrs. T took up a stationary position where she could check in finished drafts and monitor the 4-6 students in one corner who can be loud and unruly (but not malicious- they just need a close eye on them). It was good teamwork!

Unrelated note: I had a gift certificate to the restaurant our culinary program runs, so I went down to grab a salad for lunch. Instead I got a steak bomb, and it was amazing. 

I have guest speakers coming to APUSGOV tomorrow, so I shut the wall in the Cavern of Learning and spent Block 5 rearranging my classroom. I had a few minutes to spare, so I was able to change into running clothes and get out to practice a bit earlier than usual. It was a quick day: 4×4 hand-offs and a 3x150m workout. MOCs, here we come!

Day One Hundred Sixty-Three

You know how I talked about emotional whiplash on Monday? Today there was SO MUCH.  

Morning PLC was hilarious. I spent a chunk of it revising my APUSGOV syllabus for the course audit, but also joking with the rest of my department. We’ve been roasting each other for the better part of a decade, but it’s all in good fun.

The lockdown alarm was tripped accidentally during the bell change before Block 3. I’m angry at the seconds it took me to react, grab my keys, lock the doors, and direct my students to get down against the bookshelf (that’s our spot). I’m more angry about how frightened they looked until the principal came on the PA and said it was a false alarm. 

I had to go on and teach after that, which… Ugh. I mean, I did it, but still. It took about half the block to shake that off. And, y’know, I was calling kids over to my desk to ask what they’d chosen to research for multi-genre, and I must’ve had at least a dozen choose school shootings.

Oof.

Research did go exceedingly well today, so I’m happy about that. And I’m happy about how my 4×1 girls passed at practice today. Tomorrow we’re having a pizza party because there’s nothing more to do. Everyone is so ready, and it’s awesome.

Also awesome: the way my community came together for a fundraiser for Mr. B’s family at one of the local restaurants tonight. The restaurant donated a chunk of the proceeds from all of its orders, and there were raffles, and there was a huge auction. It seemed like the whole town was there, too. Like, the event started at 5:30, and I parked in overflow parking at 5:25. This is one of the reasons this community is my home, though: there’s so much compassion here. People show up for each other.

At one point, Mr. B’s wife came to thank me. Now, I don’t think I’ve done all that much, and I am an awkward panda, so I was like, “… why?” D’oh. But she was gracious. I think M. B was pretty overwhelmed; he’s a super quiet, unassuming kind of guy. I doubt that he knew, before all this, just how much this community loves him and his family. 

Day One Hundred Fifty-Three

The students in both of my World classes were writing essays today, which went well in spite of the fact that there were multiple interruptions involving cupcakes.

The first one was unexpected. A girl on one of the other ninth grade teams came in during Block 3 to hand a cupcake to one of my students (yes, she asked my permission first). Then another of my students realized this girl had more cupcakes to give out, and bolted down the hallway. She returned a moment later, looking very proud of herself, with a cupcake in hand. I cracked up at that point.

The disruption to my Block 4 class was my doing, and I’d warned my students it would happen. See, my APUSGOV students took their exam this morning (and my colleagues laughed at how jittery I was during PLC), and I promised them cupcakes after it was over. So they came running up to my classroom en masse, which was fun. We’re not allowed to discuss the test, which is WAY HARDER than I anticipated it being, but they were in good spirits. That’s a good sign. 

I spent Block 5 having a grading party with my cacophonous friends because we wanted to sit and chat about stuff, but we all had work, too. Then I spent practice doing 4×1 passes with the boys. One of our former athletes came by, and he did relay for four years, so he critiqued, too. This one will coach someday, too, I think, so it can’t hurt to practice.

Day One Hundred Forty-Eight

Today was hot, humid, and full of pollen, so my allergies were terrible. They make my eyes all red and itchy, and it’s hard to see, and just… not a good look. This was confirmed when I walked into PLC and Mr. I asked if I’d had a late night. 

He made up for it later by pointing out that I love my job and take it seriously.

It’s… reassuring isn’t quite the right word, but close… to hear someone else say that, you know? Because later on in the morning, as class was starting, I was feeling out of sorts, and stressed for no particular reason, and I reminded myself that he’d said that. It made me feel better. 

And then I was treated to an APUSGOV presentation about domestic policy with parodies of “No Diggity” and “I Want It That Way,” and all was right in the world. Presentations (the other two were more traditional) took up the bulk of the block, so I had just enough time to chat about what’s next (AP exam practice!) 

Then research took up the bulk of World. My students were not as enthusiastic about it as their peers were yesterday, but they still got good work done. It’s interesting to see which topics are popular in different classes. Like, yesterday, a lot of kids were looking into LGBT rights and womens rights in various parts of Asia. Today, lots of kids were looking into the dictatorship in North Korea, child labor and poaching. 

Practice was all about 4×1 hand-offs for me and eight sprinters. I made minor adjustments for the boys, and major ones for the girls- including putting a new girl at third leg, and moving the one who had been there to anchor. It took A LOT of trial and error to get passes down, but I think we did it.

Day One Hundred Five

It was a somber morning at my school, as I’m sure it was at others, too. During our PLC meeting we talked about what we’d say in response to the shooting, and about how all our families- like students’ families- desperately want to hold us close every time this happens. I said (and also wrote on Twitter just a bit ago) that I feel for my mom and dad, who weren’t prepared to worry about their teacher daughter as much as their soldier son. It was good to have a bit of time to talk about that.

And then we went and faced our students. 

I had one boy in class who was really upset, which I was expecting. He expressed it by slamming everything he could (my door, a laptop, his binder, etc…) and calling it trash. I did my best to be totally calm in response, and that seemed to help deescalate him, but he did end up calling his mom to dismiss him. And, hey, if that’s what he needs, that’s what he needs. 

Meantime, class went on, as it must. 

I was trying out a new lesson using ProCon. I had students get in groups of their choosing (4 people max). Each group had to go on the site and take notes about a particular issue in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. After they did that, I regrouped them so each student in a group had notes about a different issue. They shared what they’d learned, and then I took the last five minutes of class to sum it up and link it to the next lesson, which will come after a week of vacation (stay tuned, kids…) 

I think it went well in both my classes, but it went REALLY well in my Block 3 class. They actually had bigger discussions than I’d expected them to have when they were sharing what they’d learned; they started talking about possible solutions to the issues, and voicing their own opinions about the conflict, and I just listened in gleefully. My Block 4 class wasn’t there yet, but that’s okay… Emphasis on the yet.

The best part of my day was Block 5. That’s my prep time, but today I spent it in Mr. I’s Holocaust & Genocide Studies class because he had a guest lecturer: Tom White from Keene State’s Cohen Center. And, longer ago than I care to admit, Mr. White was my AP Euro teacher. More than that, he was the best teacher I ever had.

He’s the reason I became a social studies teacher.

And, man, sitting in class while he taught was incredible. It took me back to all the mornings I spent in AP Euro- first block every other day of my senior year- and it reminded me how GOOD he is. It’s not easy to hold a class’ attention for 80 minutes, but Mr. I’s students were as spellbound and inspired by him as my classmates and I always were.

One of them, who was in World with me two years ago, told me she could tell I’d learned how to teach from him, which is the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. I’m not as good as he is, but I aspire to be that good. And so much of what I do as a teacher is me mimicking him… even more than I’m generally aware, I think.

It was awesome to see him, and to walk him to the doors of MY school- where I am because of him- after the bell. And awesome, too, to end a somber day with joy.

Day Seventy-Four

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I took this shot at the end of the day today: snow on the ground outside, porg on the windowsill, presents from students on my desk… It’s how I roll. And if you think my desk is disgustingly neat, know that literally all of my colleagues agree with you. 

My day started with an interesting meeting with The Principal. He summoned my whole department during what would have been PLC time to discuss making all social studies classes except the APs heterogenous next year. We new this was coming because the English department made that proposal last week, and it makes sense to do it with both departments given that some classes are team taught. I already teach a heterogenous class (World), and have for a decade, so it’s no big deal to me, but I support the move. It makes sense with other moves we’re making (towards competency-based education, a flex time model, etc…) My only input was that I wanted the infrastructure, if you will, in place to support it. The Principal agreed, so… Cool.

I don’t speak often at meetings, so the fact that I said anything at this one might have surprised folks. What surprised me was that I found myself wanting to be in control of the conversation; Mr. B was out, so no one really was, and… yeah. I have never had an inkling of desire to be a department head- and I still wouldn’t want to do it soon- but… Maybe someday.

Anyways. 

It was the last APUSGOV class before vacation, and a day in which we avoided a government shutdown, so I brought in cupcakes (since they brought in cake last time the government managed to stay open). We’re studying the executive branch, so they’ve been begging me to let them watch The West Wing. Since I refuse them nothing (and love that show), I put on “In Excelsis Deo” and had them note all the references to the powers of POTUS, the bureaucracy, and so on. It was good times. 

Mr. F came in to ask me a question at the start of the block, so I told him to hang out with us. Then Mr. L came looking for Mr. F and ended up staying, too. I have the coolest class in existence, so why wouldn’t they? 

I ended, as I do to mark holidays, with a poem. This time it was W.H. Auden’s September 1, 1939. It’s not Christmas-y, but I find that it suits. 

My World lesson was also not Christmas-y. At all. It was about conflict and terrorism. It’s just what was next in my plan book. And I’ve written before that I never stop teaching to throw a holiday party, or whatever. I tell my students I’m the Grinch and get on with it. 

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So today I picked up where I left off last class: four of the ten deadliest conflicts in the world right now are in Africa (Somalia, South Sudan, CAR, and the Lake Chad Basin). We established why, so today I tackled what. We read a summation of the conflicts together, and discussed the ideologies of the terrorist groups operating in the conflict zones. But first we discussed terrorism in general; I had them do an activity in which they read about different places where terrorist groups emerged- different parts of the world, different time periods- and had to look at what they had in common in order to identify the warning signs for terrorism. Because on of the things I say when I talk about this issue is that it always looks the same; it’s not about one religion, one race, one region, whatever. Strip it down to its core, and you’ll find the same things. 

And my students got it. It’s been a challenge to get some of them to speak up in class, but a lot of new hands went up during this lesson. I think doing presentations with Mrs. T has helped them get over some of their fears about putting themselves out there.

Speaking of that, students were crushing presentations today. One of them actually did a lesson; he had activities and everything (to explain clan conflict in Somalia). Mrs. T told me all about it. So cool. 

I’m so glad I have her to work with. 

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.

Day Forty

Today was a long day. 

It’s Thursday, so I had to be in early for morning PLC, and I also stayed after to do some grading and get my classroom ready for tomorrow (Very Cool Thing!!!!). I had some students who came by to make up work, too, and they brought their friends- kids on the other ninth grade teams, who were very nice and happy to have a place to work- so it was a pretty lively room. I didn’t leave until almost five when they all had to go to a preseason basketball clinic. 

But everything is done.

And the school day went well. Mr. B came into APUSGOV in his capacity as a union president- since we’re talking interest groups- and I let my students ask him All THE THINGS about organizing and mobilizing the membership, taking part in contract negotiations, lobbying, local vs national union influence, right to work laws, the intricacies of NH politics, and other things. I had no idea what direction they were going to take the conversation, so it was fun for me to listen. 

I had fun teaching World today, too, despite it being day two of teaching a really serious lesson. It’s also day two of dramatic readings (of Shakespeare) in Mrs. T’s class, and some of my Block 3 students practiced by using their most dramatic voices to say anything in my class. It paid off, according to Mrs. T; a lot of them were incredible. 

And the practicing didn’t disrupt my lesson; if anything, it made the read-aloud we did about Juarez better. 

So that’s good stuff.