Category: professional development

Day Eight

Other Teacher: I can’t say what I’m thinking in polite company.
Me: So what’s stopping you from saying it here?

Assistant Superintendent: Tell everyone what you teach.
Me: I teach government. In 2018. Shenanigans frequently ensue.

If you’re thinking my APUSGOV students spent the first ten minutes of class trying to guess the author of that New York Times op-ed, and the next ten minutes discussing the Kavanaugh hearings, you’re right! That is exactly what happened. 

After that, we commandeered the computer lab for its air conditioning because it was hot yet again, and I do not mind taking the time to move and set up my lesson if it means my students will be in better shape to take it in. I lectured briefly on the failures of the Articles of Confederation- reviewing where we left off last class- and the drafting of the Constitution. Then gave them two foundational documents to dig into: Brutus 1 and Federalist10. We’re going to have a little Anti-Federalist/Federalist debate next class. 

Fed. 10 is AMAZING to read in 2018, if you were wondering.

For World, I had to leave the air conditioning and go back to my classroom, but a thunderstorm rolled through when I was mid-teach and started cooling everything down. I was happy with how my lesson went, too. I started teaching the skill of annotation with an article about globalization, which we read and annotated together. Then we talked about the positive and negative impacts of globalization- and the fact that very little happens in isolation- and I gave them an article I got off Google News to annotate on their own; it’s about Yemen, a country very few of them had heard of, and a war that none of them had known about (a war that is definitely impacted by globalization). Their homework is to find their own news article, annotate and cite it, and come in next class ready to discuss it through that lens of globalization, interconnectedness, etc… 

I was happy about the lesson because I got good participation. I started by encouraging it, and asking them not to be afraid to speak up, or to ask questions; I emphasized questions because there’s a particular fear of those. They’re risky. I was glad so many of my students took the risk.

I had lunch with Mr. T, and we talked about our classes and other stuff. He was a marine, and he knows I grew up in an army family, so he made a comment about me being able to understand a lot of his jargon. I immediately responded, “I can speak Army. I haven’t eaten enough crayons to speak Marine.” So there’s the proof inter-service banter was part of my upbringing.



I spent my prep time having a walking meeting with Mrs. T (we did three laps of the building as we discussed upcoming lessons), and marking work. Then I went to the district’s professional development center to go through mentor training. My district has a formal (and very effective) program that pairs new teachers with experienced ones, and I’m going to be paired with one of the new teachers in the English department. The Assistant Superintendent ran the training; lucky for me, she was a good sport about my occasional attempts to make the room laugh. She knows it’s inevitable.

Thank goodness people find me funny, right?

Day One Hundred Eighty-Four

Oh, hi, it’s a teacher workshop day in June! This year, I have three of them. For real. Sometime around the sixth or seventh snow day, the district started making the workshop days school days so the kids wouldn’t get out later, but those workshop days still have to happen, so here we are.

Today wasn’t bad. It’s not hot, and that helps a ton. And we’re going through reaccreditation next year, so we really did need time to go over some of the details about that. I’ve done it before- it’s every ten years- but a lot of my colleagues haven’t. So, anyways, that took up most of the morning, and then I went to putter around my room a bit, and get a few things done. 

Aaaand then I went to my book group! So, funny story here: there were all these faculty-wide emails from The Principal an Vice Principal about doing summer reading as professional development, and I… basically ignored all of them.

 It’s not that I mind reading or PD; it’s just that I already do a ton of both. I mean, you all know what I teach. You know I have to study constantly if I want to do it well (and I do). So I devour my content, and I do enough pedagogical stuff that I have more than enough PD hours to maintain my certification. So I was like, “Cool, a PD opportunity! Nice of The Powers That Be to offer that, but don’t need it myself…” and went about my merry business.

I missed the fact that it’s mandatory.

So today I was volun-told to read Empower by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer. And, y’know, that’s fine. Everyone else in that reading group is getting a kick out of the fact that I didn’t choose it because I’m usually on top of my shit, but whatever. I did set up a discussion file in Google Drive and start commenting on the first two chapters before 3:00 this afternoon. So there.

When I’m at a professional development session…


Day One Hundred Forty-One

Today there was a letter in the local paper accusing all teachers and students of leading a violent communist insurrection, which… cmon. I’m not that ambitious before my morning coffee. 


The snow day left me- and most other people- a bit discombobulated. I spent most of my Block 1 prep time rewriting lesson plans, bugging Mrs. T with questions, and apologetically asking congressional candidates who were scheduled to visit APUSGOV to reschedule (the downside of A/B Block). They were all very nice, but I had one candidate scheduled for Thursday, so it’s too late to change the date. They did change times to Block 5 when a lot of my seniors have study hall, but I’m still low-key freaking out that no one will attend. 

I had my World lesson all set and ready to go, so I didn’t have to prep a ton for that. It’s an “at your own pace” lesson on modern history in Afghanistan. Students had to examine a Powerpoint full of images from 1960-2001, a National Geographic documentary on the civil war and rise of the Taliban (which they watched on laptops with headphones), and two readings on the US war. Students could work alone or with others, and anything they didn’t finish in class is homework to finish. The goal is understanding the impact of decades of war on Afghan culture, which is what we’ll discuss next class. 

I was supposed to have a track meet this afternoon, but it’s still icy and rainy, so that got canceled. That meant I could run our team meeting Block 5. It was quick: reminders to finish grades (quarter three is over!!!), submit PD hours, etc… That was it. Afterwards, Mr. L and I finished the final paper we had to do for our CBE course. We finished right at the bell, and we feel accomplished. Woohoo!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Six

Today was long. 

I don’t feel like I did a ton of teaching, though. My APUSGOV students did current events presentations, and my World students wrote quarter reflections. I basically just supervised. Some days are like that. 

I spent my prep time grading all that stuff, and doing battle with the photocopier. Then, instead of going to practice, I had to go to PD class. We had presentations due today. 

Mr. L and I crushed ours. 

I ran into The Tennis Coach at the grocery store afterwards, and he assured me it was a good day to miss a practice because it was freezing outside. 

Bonus Day

Mrs. T and I spent the day at ECET2NH/VT over in Hanover. It’s an awesome, empowering, and free!!! conference led by some phenomenal teachers. We were definitely both glad we went.

I think the most helpful session we went to was about transitioning to CBE- we got lots of good resources- but the whole day was helpful. There was a “political panel” that included educators, admins, students, and people in politics. One of them was NH’s commissioner of education, a man about whom I have Definite Opinions (caps intentional). Today he surprised me a few times, though. 

Mrs. T made a few new friends, too, over the course of the day, and I demonstrated my utter inability to sit in a room full of people without at least trying to make them laugh. I mean, I say ridiculous things on the regular, so giving me an audience just makes it worse. 

… Or is it better? 

We also got to tell stories about teaching moments, and that’s a great thing to get to do. We all have so many!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Five

Mrs. T asked if she could do anything for me since I had to preside over debates by myself yesterday, so I said she could fetch me a unicorn. I came in to work today, and…

That’s fun. 

We wrapped up debates with an amazing one about Palestinian Statehood, and I gave my closing remarks about how proud I was, and how important it is to be able to speak articulately about current issues, and how their opinions matter. I saw some smiles and head nods… I hope they took it to heart…

After that, students used the remainder of our time to do quarter reflections because the quarter is almost over. I was happy to see how many kids wrote about how developing argument writing and debate skills would transfer to other classes and to real life. That’s something we want them to understand.

I spent my prep time nagging Mr. B to buy me books because I always do that in the spring. Then Mrs. T and I got prepped for next week, and then we left town (in a SNOWSTORM). We’re in Hanover for a conference (ECET2 NH/VT). More on that tomorrow!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Three

Mrs. T and I moderated debates today, and it was awesome. Our ninth graders debated arms sales to Saudi Arabia, military and humanitarian involvement in Syria, and arming of Kurdish rebels fighting ISIS. A lot of them were nervous, at first, but they were prepared, and articulate, and able to reference SO MUCH research. Yes, it’s complicated stuff- it’s stuff that gets debated in UN meetings and congressional sessions!- but, yes, they’re capable of understanding it. 

I am super proud of them, and said as much in class. 

There were so many highlights… Rapid-fire rebuttal rounds, an ordinarily quiet girl refusing to let me call time because she was on a roll and had more questions to ask, two boys giving each other pep talks before their debates… We had one girl freeze up, sadly, but her group was very patient with her- and we appreciated their kindness. 

Also, at least three kids showed up despite being sick so that they wouldn’t miss their debates, which we don’t actually want to encourage… but, uhh, yay, dedication? 

It started pouring halfway through Block 4, so basically all sports stuff was canceled for this afternoon. Ordinarily, I’d be bummed about not having track practice, but it was actually good because Mr. L and I have a project to do for our PD class and were able to spend the afternoon working on it. 

So I’m feeling accomplished today. It was a good day.

Day One Hundred Thirty-One

Some days, I am 100% on top of all my non-instructional duties. Today was not one of those days. I took attendance for all of my classes at, like, 2:00; I never checked my mailbox; I did the homework for the PD class I’m in five minutes before class started… 


I was late to class, too, because one of my sprinters came to talk to me about an injury he picked up playing basketball, and then another came to ask me about relay drills… Mrs. T just laughed and said she’d save me a seat. She’s used to seeing me surrounded by a flock of tall, tough boys and ponytailed girls- and knows I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I was sad to miss practice, but class was good. There was a discussion about being teacher-leaders, and I admitted something I seldom do: I’m not always comfortable being leader. I know that I take on leadership roles: I’m a team leader, I was a mentor teacher last year, etc… But, at the same time, I’m a massive goofball, I’m awful in meetings, I routinely get mistaken for being 6-10 years younger than I am, people still call me “kid…” Most of them don’t think of me as an authority on anything but my content, and I’m all right with that. Administrators consistently critique me for being too all right with that.

So I’m in this class to challenge myself- to learn how to lead as my school transitions to CBE- and it is hard. I have ideas for my own classes, but that doesn’t require me to convince anyone else, you know?

Anyways, speaking of my own classes, they were fine. Mrs. T and I were just helping kids wrap up their debate prep. I watched one group rehearse because they asked me to, and it was awesome too see just how much thought they’d put into their work- and how well they came together as a group! Beyond the complexity of the that’s one of the big challenges of this project.

I also got to step out and do instructional rounds, which was neat because I got to see one of my World counterparts teaching debates in her class for the first time. She structured it all very differently than I do, and we had a good conversation afterwards about our thought processes, our intent… I enjoyed that a lot.

So I didn’t take my attendance- or do anything but teach- in a timely manner today, and I will have to do better tomorrow, but I did get a lot out of today. 

Day One Hundred Twenty-Six

You all know that my APUSGOV class has eaten cake every time the government has shut down or passed a CR. Today, in response to the budget passing, they ate carrot cake. I’ll let you figure out the logic. It’s fun.

We also had a guest speaker today. One of our substitute teachers was a freedom rider, so the kids asked if he would come tell his story. That was extremely cool. And we had a few minutes afterwards to chat about the AP exam. I got a request for more FRQ practice, so I spent all my prep time planning for that. I’ll make it happen. 

I spent World, admittedly, thinking about those APUSGOV plans. Luckily, Mrs. T was running the lesson- explaining how to construct debate pieces- so my distraction didn’t really show. I supervised the room while she worked with particular groups, and I fielded various content-related questions as needed. 

After school, I had a couple students come in to ask me about course selection for next year, so I was late to my PD class. The professor was, thankfully, understanding. Three hours of school leadership, CBE, and a challenge to quote Aristotle in my next assignment (CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!) later, I headed home. 

Best thing? It was still light outside!