Category: professional development

When I’m at a professional development session…

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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. 

Anyways…

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… 

Oof.

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!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Five

Disruptions to the routine tend to make freshmen squirrely, which isn’t an insult; they make me squirrely, too. As this week was full of them, today was like this:

Suuuuuch a Friday.

Mrs. T and I managed to hang onto control in our Cavern of Learning, but only just. There was so much energy, so many random outbursts of laughter, and debate prep petered out about fifteen minutes before it should have. But there was enough learning happening that we’re satisfied. I mean, they’re looking at the same things congresspeople, senators, diplomats, generals, and so on have to look at. It’s all HARD. 

But if they don’t start trying while they’re squirrels, they’ll never learn how to be statesmen, so I’m proud of their efforts.

I spent Block 5 doing my own learning with a few of my colleagues. The consultant who did the teacher workshop yesterday was available for small group sessions today, so we signed up for one. It clarified a lot for me. It made my head hurt, too, but it was good. 

And then I went to track practice. We’re five days in, so I’m really starting to make sprinters out of our rookies. And I realized today that I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve watched so many kids sprint that I can tell a lot about their athletic history from it.  Like, I looked at one boy and said, “You’re a soccer player,” which surprised him enough. Then I said, “You’re a defensive mid,” and he looked at me like I was a wizard. 

Which I am. 

I was also trained by a German ex-footballer (my college track coach), which helps.

After the workout, Coach T and I took everyone trekking into the hills behind our track to go sledding. We divided the kids into two teams, and gave each a sled. One kid would run up the hill, sled down, pass the sled to the next kid in line (or just crash into them… that happened a lot). The lead kept changing hands, so everyone was cheering and hollering. Gotta love a week that ends in high spirits.

Day One Hundred Twenty-Four

Today was an early release day for students, and an extended day for teachers. I would like it noted that I started my day with a super fun FB notification that some random angry man had interrupted a civil political debate I was having with a friend to rant in all caps and tell me I should be fired (all of us should be fired, in fact). 

It wasn’t even 7AM, you guys. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

I had to laugh, honestly. No sense wasting time and energy getting bent out of shape about it. I got dressed (and I looked good today!), got breakfast, and got on with my day. 

Since APUSGOV had been pretty demanding this week, I went easy(ish) on them today. We watched a 44-minute documentary about the Freedom Rides in a 50-minute class, and explained how it would tie into our lessons next week. It’s a powerful film, so it wasn’t like this was a fluff class; I just gave them a less strenuous way to acquire information than others I could have used. And they got a lot out of it. I’m all about using visuals and oral histories to teach this era for that reason. 

I also just texted my students on Remind to send some AP exam study materials along, and to ask what we should do if the government passes a budget before our next class. If you’ve been reading my posts all year, you’ll know that we eat cake any time there’s a CR ora shutdown (because if you can’t have a functional government, you should at least have a cake). So far the response is “chicken wings” (with no explanation of the logic yet). 

I expressed skepticism about whether chicken wings were appropriate for a 7:30AM class and was promptly informed there was no better time. 

All right, then.

There was more debate prep in World, and I’m super impressed by the collaboration I’m seeing. There are some strong arguments shaping up as a result. Ooh, and I gave one group a great lesson in source analysis, checking biases and accuracy. What’s awesome about that is they called me over to teach them; I wasn’t remediating after seeing poor research. We had an amazing conversation about how wording impacts readers’ understanding, and they kept finding examples to show me. So cool.

Students were dismissed at 11:20. After a break for lunch, we started a teacher workshop on CBE. On a regular early release, we’d be done by 3:00, but in order to knock a day of our 187 required days we do an evening session, too, so I worked until 5:30. 

They did serve us awesome nachos halfway through. And I’d gone out at lunch to get cookies for my department because chocolate chip cookies make everything better except my behavior at meetings. I was productive, but also super salty. 

But now it’s done!