Category: post-season

Bonus Day

Today we took a handful of athletes to compete at the State Meet of Champions. It’s a beautiful day, everyone was in high spirits, and it was a really, really good meet. It’s the end of my season (The Head Coach has one more week… more on that in the next paragraph), and I’m happy with it.

My favorite thing is that we had a rookie senior in the competition today. This is a kid who NEVER had being a track athlete on his radar until he got hurt playing football and wasn’t allowed to do any other spring sports; now he gets to say he’s one of the best in the state. My other favorite thing is that another of our boys qualified for New Englands, and the rest of our athletes either matched or set PRs. What more could I want?

What was cool for me, too, was that my middle school, high school, and college coaches were all at this meet with various teams. AND- this is surreal- one of my former athletes, Torin, was there because he’s now a college coach and he was watching one of his commits run. He and I were headed for the bleachers when we ran into my middle school coach, Coach E.

Now, Coach E and I always say hello and make small talk at meets, but it’s been more than twenty years since he was my coach, so I know he only vaguely remembers me. Like, he knows I was one of his athletes a long time ago, but I doubt he’d remember my name if it wasn’t written on my jacket. So usually, I’m the one who goes and says hi, but he actually spotted me first today. We shook hands, I introduced him to Torin, and we chatted about each other’s teams, how the season had gone, what we hoped for today, etc…

I made the remark that so many folks who’d coached me were there. He told me it was funny that I still called him Coach and all because he’d never really thought of himself as a middle school coach; it was just a volunteer thing he’d done while he was student-teaching because he wanted to stay involved in the sport. Later, he moved on to teaching and coaching at the high school level (at the school where he still coaches, not the one I went to), which was what he really wanted to be doing, and that, according to him, is when he really became a coach.

So then I got to tell him a story he hadn’t known:

I joined the track team when I was in seventh grade because a girl at my bus stop was bullying me for having asthma. This girl was a really good runner, and she was always bragging about doing track, and I just wanted to shut her up. I fell in love with sprinting immediately, but making it through the 800m warm-up at the start of every practice wasn’t easy, at first. One day I had a nasty asthma attack, and I wanted to quit. Coach E jogged alongside me, and told me to pick my head up, take my inhaler, and breathe. He would not let me give up. I said, “I bet you don’t remember that, but I do.” 

He gave me a big hug and thanked me for telling him, then joked that he had to go cry in the bleachers for a while (or maybe he actually did cry in the bleachers…) It’s really special that I get to coach at these big meets along with the coaches who trained me, and that I got to tell this one what an impact he’d had. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

This morning, the faculty met our new principal, who made a hilarious first impression by showing up wearing almost exactly the same outfit as our current principal. Khakis and a blue dress shirt are apparently standard issue. Aside from that, though, I had a couple observations:

1) He’s only three years older than I am, and he went from being a classroom teacher to a principal after thirteen years, so I have more years of teaching experience than he does. I don’t know if any of that is good or bad; it’s just very different than what I’m used to. 

2) He’s nervous, which I get, because he’s coming from a school with half as many students- if that- and a faculty that’s a lot smaller, too. I’m sure it was a lot just to see how many of us there are, you know? But he seems nice, and enthusiastic, so that’s good. 

He’ll be the third principal I’ve worked for in fourteen years of teaching at the same high school, and I’m excited to see what he brings to our community. I definitely have to meet with him, at some point, to talk about that powerhouse APUSGOV class of mine. Next year’s an election year, and I want to know how much freedom I’ll have to bring in candidates, staffers, the press, etc… to class (right now, as longtime readers know, I have total freedom, and it’s amazing). 

The rest of the day went smoothly. I helped some of the students in the club I advise finish putting up a bulletin board during my prep, and then- because it’s a B day- I did exactly what I did yesterday: went to Mr. T’s room to do some karate for half the block before returning to my own classes to oversee Multi-Genre awesomeness. The karate was fun; I definitely got more questions today than I did yesterday, and got to demo some fun stuff like chi breaking because Mr. W had some free time. 

I was also wearing a shirt that says “Teacher by day, deadly ninja by night,” so I was getting laughs. 

What else? Final qualifying lists for the Meet of Champions came out today. I’m bummed my 4×4 boys just missed qualifying, but I’m happy for the ones who did make it (best thing was running into an English class to tell one of the distance boys he was in because he didn’t think he’d had a chance). We had a quick practice, went over Saturday’s departure information, and called it a day. No sense in overworking now; everyone’s as ready as they’re going to be.

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-Nine

It’s Senior Skip Day, so it was unusually quiet in the halls today. Of course, since it was 49 degrees and pouring rain, a lot of the seniors’ plans for the day  were undoubtedly ruined, and I will crack jokes about that when I see them next. That’s just how I roll with my seniors.

With my freshmen, it was another day of Multi-Genre drafting. I spent most of it checking work and answering questions. I even did a few full writing conferences with students who were ahead of schedule and had all of their pieces drafted. It was really cool to see how their projects fit together, how each piece was a part of a whole. And it’s impressive that they’re so far ahead that they’re already revising; that isn’t on the schedule until the middle of next week!

I do have one student I’m struggling with because, unless I sit beside him and force him to stay on task, he doesn’t get much done. Obviously, I can’t sit beside him for an entire block, and I’ve tried every trick in my book to get him to work independently, but I haven’t had much luck. What he really needs is a private, silent room with no distractions, and I don’t have one of those handy. He is supposed to come after school- without his buddies, though, so that might help.

Here’s hoping…

Practice today was rainy and therefore very short. Plus, most of our athletes are on the bubble for MOCs; we’ve got to wait for the final entry list to see if they make it, and that won’t come out until Thursday. Two are definitely in, but the rest? We’ll see.

Bonus Day

Today we took our young track team to the State Division Championship, which was pretty exciting because it’s the first time for most of them. It’s big meet experience, and it’s so much fun. Us coaches were pretty happy about having all six relay teams qualify because we like relays; then, even better, five out of the six ran PRs. I was THRILLED for my 4×1 teams because the girls’ PR was massive, and the boys did it with an alternate running second. I told them before the race to trust their training and it’d happen, and it did. It’s the best feeling in the world, as a coach, to watch the anchor cross the line and see the time come up when it’s good. 

And it’s exciting that these are freshmen and sophomores. They haven’t done the best they’re going to do yet, you know? They have all this potential. So, sure, the season’s over, but things are still just beginning for them.

For three of our four seniors, this was the last hurrah, and it couldn’t have been a better day for it, really. The sun was shining and they were all competing so well. As for the fourth, he made MOCs by placing in the top three in multiple events, so he’s got at least one more race- maybe two, if he makes New Englands. So that’s awesome.

Oh, and in the middle of the meet, I totally roasted one of the distance runners because he walked into it, and I kind of had to:

Athlete: Coach, I’m going to the concession stand. I just wanted to tell you so that you know where your favorite student is. 
Me: *gesturing at two of my sprinter* But <name> and <name> are right there. Of course I know where they are.
Everyone else: BUUUUUUURN!

That’s coaching teenage boys in a nutshell, by the way. 

So, yeah, we had fun today. I’m tired, sunburned, and unbelievably proud of this team. What a way to go out at a championship.

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 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.

Day One Hundred Sixty-Five

There was caution tape across the entrance to the boys’ bathroom on my floor this morning. Apparently, someone broke a urinal yesterday, which… is the kind of thing that happens in a high school in May, I guess? It always gets squirrely this time of year.

My classes are still going really well, though.

I keep saying how happy I am that the World students have embraced The Multi-Genre Project, so I sound a bit like a broken record if you read this everyday. But if you read this everyday, then you know how much work has gone into increasing our ninth graders’ engagement and academic stamina. At times, it’s been a massive battle, and I’ve always known it’s worth fighting- wouldn’t be much of a teacher otherwise- but it’s been incredible to see how far students have come. 

Sure, some of them are working hard now because they have to hang on to passing grades, but there’s also genuine interest and pride in the work they’re doing. I have serial procrastinators who are ahead of schedule, and students who usually opt to do the bare minimum asking if they can add to the requirements. It’s really cool. 

I’m not doing much besides walking around, reading over stuff, and answering a question or two, so it’s not especially taxing on me. I was wicked tired after Block Four, though, which is probably because the pollen counts are sky high and breathing takes extra effort. So, suffice it to say, I was not energized for the afternoon’s ninth grade house meeting. I don’t think I was the only one who was feeling out of sorts; we all got a little snippy with each other, at first. But then we got to work planning next year’s freshmen orientation, and everyone brightened once the ideas started to flow. Plus, Mr. M went to Starbucks and came back with coffee for everyone, so that was pretty great.

Afterwards, I went out to practice. The Head Coach was at the seeding meeting, so Coach T and I were in charge. We said a few motivational words, did attendance, led warm-ups, and then everyone broke off into their event groups. Mr sprinters did relay passes, block starts, and 100m repeats. We had the whole track to ourselves, too, because Coach K’s throwers were out in the back field and Coach T’s distance runners were off on the trails. So it was unusually quiet, but it was also kind of perfect to be out there without any distractions. 

Day One Hundred Sixty-Four

Today was one of those days that just went well from beginning to end. 

It started with an incredibly cool APUSGOV class. The towns that send students to my school are represented in the state’s house of representatives by seven people, all of whom agreed to come in and talk to the students this morning. We set it up “speed dating” style; students divided into four groups of 5-6, and the reps divided themselves up among the groups. They did 15 minutes (ish) of Q&A, then moved to a different group. So all the students got to talk to all the reps, and it was so cool. They asked questions about campaigning, and the legislative process, and various bills that have come up recently (regarding gun rights, period poverty, school funding, rules for transgender athletes, the repeal of the death penalty, and the legalization of marijuana). They’re sharp as tacks, my students, and the reps were all happy to talk to them. We’ve had lots of really cool classes this year, but this is one of my favorites, for sure.

Our reps weren’t our only guests today. There was an assembly for the whole school with James Orrigo, who was amazing, and powerful, and funny, and SO talented. I loved having him here, and so did every student I talked to. His message is all about making a positive impact on the world, and I got to go back and teach World, and read the amazing writing my students are doing… which is all about telling us something that matters, expressing a point of view, taking a stand… It felt fitting, you know?

Classes were shorter and later than usual in order to accommodate the assembly, so the end of the day seemed like it came really fast. I went out to practice. Ordinarily, The Head Coach would have a long talk with the team about the privilege of making it to this point in the season, but there was a thunderstorm warning in effect, so he cut it kind of short. He did tell them that getting to compete at the division championship is an accomplishment, and that we’re proud of everyone who’s made it, and that it’s something to be excited for even though it’s been a long, tiring season.

One of my 4×1 relay boys did quit because he’s going to a party on Friday instead of going to school- which would make him ineligible to compete on Saturday- and that’s wicked disappointing. Buuuut the alternate is more than happy to race, so now it’s his time. We want to take the athletes who are going to step up to this championship, not the ones who are going to take it for granted, or treat it as anything but a privilege. The girls’ relay will get in, too, if someone scratches; it’s unlikely, but they wanted to come to practice anyhow to continue to stay in shape, which is cool. 

They did their usual plyometric drills to warm up, then ran a ladder (300-200-100-50), stretched, and that was that. We, unlike Coach T and his distance runners, finished practice before the sky opened up!

Bonus Day

The track team left town at 6:15AM. We came home eight hours later with sunburns and a trophy.

It was really anyone’s day today on the boys’ side of the competition; like, there were six or seven teams that were all in title contention. That my boys- who are nearly all freshmen and sophomores- scored enough points to get some hardware is awesome. I am thrilled for them. But, even if we’d finished in dead last, and they’d competed as hard as they did today, I’d have still been thrilled. They gave it absolutely everything they had. We got unexpected points in hurdles and discus, and massive points from the multi-event athletes who had to maintain high levels of performance despite being tired, and exciting points from the 4×100 and 4×400 relays (fifth and second, respectively) because those races were just so tight. 

So yeah, I’m super proud of them. 

And I’m proud of the girls, who are also a young team, for hanging onto a top six finish. We got lots of surprise points from them, as well; like, the 4x100m team running a massive PR and taking fifth place, one of the ninth grade girls throwing a discus five feet further than she’d ever thrown it, making finals, qualifying for the division championship (the next meet in the post-season)… While our upperclassmen were maybe disappointed to give up their championship crown, I don’t think anyone went home disappointed in how they performed in their individual events.

Cool thing: being out on the track with my 4x100m teams to practice hand-offs before the meet started, catching sight of my college coach (whose “retirement job” is coaching another team in the conference)- the man who taught me how to do this- watching me from the finish line. I really hope he could see how much he taught me, you know? Shaking hands with him at the end was cool, too.

Another cool thing: I have a really talented sophomore sprinter who is going to be a phenom (and an amazing captain) by the time he’s a senior. Last year, this was the last meet of his season, and it was really just for experience- he wasn’t seeded to score points in any event- but I told him his time was going to come. This year, he got points in two events, medaled in one, and has at least one more week to race. He’s trusted me, and trusted the process, and it’s awesome that it’s paying off. So at the end of the meet, I said, “How’s it feel now that your time is here?” and got a big grin.

At one point, I also called him an evolving Pokemon because he’s going from dasher to 200m-400m specialist, and everyone laughed at that. I’m equal parts wise, serious, and raging goofball when I coach.

And that’s the best way to be.