Category: PLC

Day One Hundred Sixty-Seven

I went to work without any make-up on today because my eyes were super itchy- allergies and all- and I wanted to be able to rub them without making myself look like a raccoon. I figured that it’d just be my eyes, but then my arms started turning new and different colors during my PLC meeting. Thankfully, once my allergy pills kicked in, all of that settled down.

After PLC, I went to talk to Mr. W because he’s having a super hectic week and needed to vent. He had to dash out to grab a Starbucks gift card for some reason, and brought me back a mocha, too, which was so nice. I also ended up talking to Mr. T about philosophy for half of the block. I am so going to miss him next year.

Sigh.

World went pretty well. There are a few students who are falling behind on Multi-Genre pieces, so I’m scheduling them into my room during flex block next week to get caught back up, but everyone worked hard in class today. I had a long talk with one student, too, who’s been struggling all year, and seems to be turning a corner. Yeah, it’s a late turn, but I will take it. He and I talked about what he needs to do in the coming weeks in order to pass World, and came up with a plan for when he’d come see me to do certain things, and he was smiling when we ended the conversation. A month ago, this same student wouldn’t even talk to me when I asked how I could help him, so this is big progress.

Another thing that happened in World: I learned that a bunch of my ninth graders don’t know how to address a letter. At first, I was really surprised by that, but then I realized that they wouldn’t have had to address letters; everything is done electronically, or else their parents probably did it for them. It’s still kind of wild, though, right?

At practice, The Head Coach and I had a rare disagreement- about attendance policies- and I think I was a little too frank once or twice during our conversation. There were times when his wife looked less than impressed with me. But, y’know, we moved on and had a solid practice. My 4×1 teams’ hand-offs look good, and we’re as ready as we can be for Saturday!

Day One Hundred Fifty-Two

Literally everyone in my PLC was out sick today except for me because some kind of viral plague is going around the school yet again. Mrs. H was in the same situation with her fellow math teachers, so she came by my room and we had a chat about ninth grade and yesterday’s house meeting during the morning meeting time. She was worried that I’d interpreted a comment she’d made in a negative way, I assured her that wasn’t the case, and then we just talked a bit about how the year has been going. It’s the time of year when our ninth graders are supposed to be taking the reins, flying free, insert metaphor about independence here… And it isn’t happening, and we’re trying to figure out what to do about that. 

Like, Mrs. T collected Central Asia Novel Projects this week, and the turn in rate is abysmal. We’ve never experienced something like this before- and this is  after we made so many adjustments and adaptations to try to make sure our students, many of whom do lack reading stamina, would be successful. We tried so hard, and it didn’t work.

And it feels terrible. 

We’re going to keep trying, of course. We’re both going to work with students during flex time, study halls, etc… to help them with whatever is preventing them from succeeding. And in class today, I let students use my class time to work on their projects if they weren’t finished; the ones who were finished  worked on revisions of their last essay they wrote for me, studied vocab, did other assignments, etc… and, in my Block 2 class, we also had a random and super deep discussion about the ethics of artificial intelligence. That was actually pretty cool.

And APUSGOV was pretty cool, too. It’s the last class before the exam. I addressed common mistakes in the practice FRQs that they did last class, reviewed foundational documents and required court cases, and took questions AMA-style. I thought it was interesting that there were so many different students took in the information during; some recorded me (with my permission, audio only), some took pictures of my board notes, some copied my notes by hand, some grabbed laptops and worked on a shared Google doc… I find the Google doc especially fascinating because that kind of collaborative studying was not part of my own academic experience. 

There was a lot happening this afternoon (science fair, a French test, etc…) that my students were stressing about, so I promised I’d do my best to wrap up review with time to spare so they could get a handle on that stuff and/or study for the exam on their own (chillest AP teacher ever). I ended up being able to give them about twenty minutes, and, y’know, every bit counts. Then, right before class ended, I reminded them to breathe, assured them they were ready, told them how proud I was of them, and wished them good luck. 

I’ve done the best I can to prepare them for the exam. And, come Monday, these little birds are definitely going to fly free.

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Day One Hundred Thirty-Seven

This morning I spent my PLC time doing QPA stuff because I didn’t have anything else to do, and Mr. W asked if he could use one of my APUSGOV assessments to show people how to use the QPA evaluation tool. It had already been evaluated by my department, but the scrutiny was still a bit nerve-wracking. And someone discovered a typo on my rubric.

So embarrassing! But, y’know, it happens.

During the bell change, I had to deal with a student who routinely tries to take things from his classmates (and gets in trouble for it just as routinely). I actually had to step in front of him and block his path to stop him from taking another boy’s bag. I’m not a small person- I’m actually fairly tall- but he’s still bigger than me, and he got right in my face when I told him to get out of my classroom, so that was not especially fun. But it was only a moment. 

And the rest of the day was good. My World students really liked the lesson on Hinduism, and appreciated having time to read their books for the Central Asia Novel Project and/or study their vocabulary (quiz next class) after they finished it. They’ve been tackling some complex things at a fairly fast pace, so I figured a day that’s a little easier, quieter, and more leisurely would go well. 

I forgot my lunch, so I went down to the local deli to get a sandwich, and came back with a bag of cookies, too. I shared them with Mr. T and Mr. F because I am a good friend to The Cacophony (and Mrs. T is healthy about what she eats, so no cookies for her). 

Practice was windy, and we’re still doing relay passes on a dirt road because our track has snow on it, but we’re making it happen. I think my 4×1 teams have potential. 

Day One Hundred Twenty-Two

This morning I was late to work because there was a skunk in the yard. One of my downstairs neighbors got sprayed while trying to shoo it away, and all kinds of chaos ensued, so I just stayed in my apartment and avoided it. That meant leaving five minutes after I was supposed to be in a PLC meeting, but my colleagues got a kick out of my explanation when I did arrive.

Mrs. T and I spent Block 1 preparing for our B day debates, which were all pretty good. Palestinian statehood, the proposed withdrawal of US troops from Syria, and US involvement in the war in Yemen were all on the table today. I think the debate about Yemen was my favorite because both sides had done such good research, and afterwards I got to discuss the resolution the Senate voted on yesterday. When ninth graders realize they’re debating the same things as Congress? It’s a powerful confidence boost.

They also asked if we could keep following the resolution through the legislative process, and, obviously, the answer to that was yes. 

I love that they asked. 

During Block 5, Mr. F, Mrs. T, and I had a quick meeting to discuss some news we’d been emailed regarding one of our students. Then we went to check our mail, and found that there was a therapy dog (and its human) in the hallway to surprise students. It was a basset hound, you guys; its ears touched the floor, and it was adorable! Basically everyone reacted like it was the worst thing in the world when I said I can’t pet dogs because I’m allergic to them. 

It is, in fact, THE WORST.

But I’m glad the dog was there for everyone else. It has been, as I’ve said before, a very hard year. I do think it’s looking up, though…

Day Ninety-Seven

Today was Mrs. T’s birthday, so we had cake for breakfast after our PLC meetings. It was also an APUSGOV student’s birthday, so the rest of the class sang to him when he walked in. So, I’m saying, the start of my day was pretty fun.

In APUSGOV I lectured about the set-up of the federal court system (basically, I talked my way from district courts up to the Supreme Court), the class tackled Article III and Federalist 78, and I explained the facts of Marbury v. Madison: the backstory, the questions the Court had to consider, the stakes of their decision… I finished about a minute before the bell with, “So, how did the Court rule? You’ll find out next class.” 

I got some good-natured grumbling and also some applause for that.

In World I did a lesson on Islam because it’s the one of the “Big 3″ that my students know the least about, and- as they’ve learned in past classes- it influences Middle Eastern culture a lot. In one part of the lesson I showed a National Geographic video about the hajj, and the number of people making the pilgrimage kind of blew my students’ minds. There are maybe three Muslim families in this whole area (which is why they know so little about Islam), so getting a glimpse of what a big, global religion it is was a good learning experience for them. 

It was also good for them to see what Mecca looks like because I doubt any of them had seen it before; probably the only Middle Eastern cities they have seen are the war torn ones that end up on the news. They’ll see more, though, because their homework is about other important cultural sites in the Middle East besides Mecca. Students can either watch video or read an article about them. I’m trying something new with the options, so we’ll see how it goes, but I’m thinking the students will like it.

The ninth grade teams are supposed to bring new interdisciplinary lessons to the house meeting on Monday, and my team hadn’t finished any of ours because one of us was absent basically every time we were supposed to work on them, so we were kind of freaking out today. Then, as I was eating lunch, I realized Mr. F does a project on spirals with his geometry students, and they (and other cool, geometric stuff) appear in lots of Middle Eastern artwork, so we could easily connect our lessons. I called him over to my room at the start of Block 5 so we could work on that. Half an hour later, we had a formal unit plan and  folder full of resources. 

Boom.

I’m feeling like an accomplished team leader.

Day Eighty-Three

I was on time for my PLC meeting this morning. Really, I was. The thing is, I was actually supposed to be with my reaccreditation committee, not my PLC, so I was late to the meeting I was supposed to be at…

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I did get it together eventually.

My plan in APUSGOV was to do some board notes, prep my students for the essay they’re writing next class, then take questions about the shutdown, but that’s not what happened. I was a third of the way through my notes (there’s debate over whether or not there are sufficient checks on the power of the bureaucracy, and I was outlining the arguments for both sides- and intending have them choose a side, research it further, and prepare to write about it next class) when one of the girls put her hand up and asked, “Can we talk about the shutdown now?” A few of her classmates echoed her, so I said sure. 

In a different class I might have stuck to my agenda so no one lost the thread, but with APUSGOV I tend to go where they take me. So I took questions, refereed a bit of a debate that cropped up over the ethics of the TSA sick-out, and- in my best seizure of the teachable moment- I had students get on Google to research national emergency declarations for a bit. When I got asked how I thought this would all end, I admitted that I didn’t know- and joked about how much I hate admitting that in any context- but I did recommend paying attention to Mitch McConnell and the Senate.

Then I looked at my partially finished board notes, and said, “I really have no smooth transition back to this, so, uh, we’re just going to make a sharp turn here.” 

Cue the laughter, and then we got on with it. 

After I wrapped up my notes, most of my students went to do further research immediately, but I have a half dozen or so who always want to have a tangental conversation after I give a lecture, and today was no exception. We did twenty minutes of Q&A on the influence of Christianity on American politics, Protestant-Catholic differences, Catholic social teaching, and National Migration Week… If anyone says religion doesn’t get discussed in public school, they ought to come to class. I have to study up on some stuff in anticipation of our next chat!

There were big discussions in World, too, after we finished Shake Hands With the Devil. My Block 4 class had a particularly good one about foreign policy and international law. And, of course, all the kids wanted to know what happened to Romeo Dallaire (since the film is from his POV), and what happened to Rwanda after 1994. The homework tonight will take them through all of that, and the war in DR Congo, and some other late 1990s/early 2000s conflicts… I’ll teach up to the present day next week, ending with conflict resolution and recovery efforts. Too often, students learn about bad things and think that’s the whole narrative, so I like talking about change-making and progress, too.

I had two meetings during Block 5, and was pretty wiped by the end of them (they were fine, just fast-paced), so I went straight home. Will pick up my grading and planning in the morning!

Whew!

Day Fifty-Six

My hair was wet when I dashed out of my house at 6:52 this morning, and it was so cold outside that my hair froze before I got to my car. I did make it to my 7:00 PLC meeting on time, though. So there’s that. 

Mrs. T ran the show in World/English today. She explained how to do the Africa Book Paper outlines while I supervised the students who were either behind or ahead of schedule. I think it went pretty well. One highlight for me was a conversation with a student who’d previously said he hated to read, and didn’t want to do it, and wasn’t going to learn anything; he told me that he’d finally sat down last night and read enough of his book to get to something he found interesting, and then kept reading, and then finished the book. He identified its major themes and told me what he’d learned, and it made my day.

The other highlight wasn’t anything inspirational. It was the moment when I told two boys to turn around and they immediately busted out “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” 

I cracked up and told them they were perfect. 

Day Thirty-Two

Mrs. Z brought coffee and donuts in for PLC this morning, which was amazing. She said it was because so many people’s progress report grades glitched in our grading program, and it caused a ton of stress. I mean, my grades were fine, but yay donuts.

I spent my prep time writing college recommendations for a couple of my APUSGOV students. It takes effort to craft good recs, but it’s also such a positive thing to do, especially for kids I’ve known all four years. I’m totally happy to sing their praises. 

World/English was… squirrely. 

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Mrs. T and I have a really challenging mix of students on the B days of the A/B schedule. A third need constant reassurance, a third need constant redirection, and a third want to escape our notice entirely. Since we’re conferencing, it’s hard to devote our attention to the whole room, which means the attempts to misbehave increase. We usually do a good job of anticipating that, but today we hit a few rough patches, and both had to raise our voices waaaay more than usual. It was kind of exhausting, and afterwards we discussed things we’ll do differently next time.

I did read some cool narrative drafts, though. They were about everything from cartel violence to the Argentinian soccer team to the Cuban Revolution. One of the boys who’d been having a hard time figuring out what to write heard me mention the Avianca bombing to someone else, did a bunch of research, and cranked out about half of a story already. It’s a tragic story, of course, but it’s gripping.

Oh, and here’s an adorable thing: one of my APUSGOV students came in during lunch to make up a test, and she was still there when the ninth graders came back to class, so I stood at the door to let them know. They were SO quiet so they wouldn’t disrupt her.

So they may be a pack of squirrels, but they are quite kind.

Day Twenty-Nine

I managed to get through last month without catching more than a little sniffle, but this morning I woke up with a headache, stuffy nose, sore throat, and fever. So the September cold got me in October…

I still went to work because it was just a teacher workshop day: meetings, NEASC stuff, PLC & department stuff… I’m doubly bad in meetings when I’m sick, apparently. Like, one of my older colleagues announced- when we were well over our allotted meeting time, I might add- that one way we could save time is by showing each other how to use Powerschool more efficiently. He said there should be a process for that, so I said, “The process is that you find a Millenial and bribe them.”

Thank goodness my colleagues think I’m funny.

We cruised through NEASC. Then I went to lunch with Mr. W, Mr. T, Mr. F, Mrs. T, and Mrs. B. That’s almost the whole Cacophony. Most of them had PLC or Department meetings afterwards, but not Mr. T and I. Social studies is so far ahead of the game. So he went to finish entering grades and comments for progress reports, and I went to touch up my next APUSGOV unit (my grades and comments were done three days ago because I am a wizard). I ended up gutting my unit test and putting a bunch of new stuff in it, so that’s done. I also had time to redecorate the team bulletin board.

Not a bad day’s work.

Day Eighteen

I did not like it when my alarm went off this morning, but at least I got to go to work in my gym clothes because it was Freshman Field Day. I had morning PLC and APUSGOV first, though. In PLC we had a chat about CBE and rubrics, and in APUSGOV I explained the evolution of the federal government’s power. 

This is a kickass lesson, and I love teaching it. I broke students into groups, and had each group look up one of these things, get the facts, and figure out if it expanded or limited federal power:

  • 10th Amendment
  • McCulloch v. Maryland
  • Gibbons v. Ogden
  • 14th Amendment
  • Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US
  • US v. Lopez
  • Obergefell v. Hodges

They put their findings on the board in that order so the chronology was clear, and then I talked my way through it, elaborating on what they’d written as needed. It’s like fitting a puzzle together, and I could see it on their faces when it all clicked.

Freshman Field Day was supposed to start as soon as that block ended, but we had a slight rain delay. Once we were sure the rain had passed, we brought the whole ninth grade out to the fields for some community-building fun. See, my school is a big, regional school that takes incoming ninth graders from five schools (three public, two charter) across eight towns. We do field day to encourage them to mingle and build up unity.

This year we had yard games, capture the flag, softball, kickball, trail walks, crafting, and a high ropes course (yes, my school has one on property… get on our level). I played a wicked fun game of kickball. I can’t boot the ball like some of the kids can, but threw a boy out as he ran for home, which totally upped my reputation amongst the freshman boys. The fact that I have the aim and the willingness to hit someone with a ball always surprises them (because I’m *gasp* a girl!) It’s hilarious.

After kickball, I took a group of kids on a trail walk. Mr. T came with us because he really hasn’t seen the grounds yet. We came back just in time for lunch, which the cafeteria provided for the kids and us teachers. After lunch was the traditional tug-o-war tournament, and then we all went back inside for last block. 

My fellow team teachers and I made ourselves presentable for a team meeting with a parent, which went really well. These meetings and last night’s Open House have really impressed parents, according to Mrs. F; I guess there’s been lots of positive feedback to the school counseling office and The Principal. Yay us!