Category: professional development

Day One Hundred Fifty-Eight

I asked my ninth graders to tell me what they think is important right now. These are their Multi-Genre Project topics:

Today they were supposed to come in with their research notes complete so that they could draft a works consulted page and complete a project outline. If they did that before class ended, they could start drafting their first pieces (expressive pieces). Classes were short today since it was a half day (teacher workshops in the afternoon), so that was a pretty perfect amount of work. One or two students are behind, but I’ll have them come see me next week during flex time; that ought to be enough to catch them back up. Generally, everyone is enthusiastic about their work,

In APUSGOV I lectured on state and local government, which is actually pretty unique in New Hampshire (citizen legislature, two-year terms for governors, an executive council and no lt. governor, town meetings, weak county governments….) And I got about half a dozen questions, which is awesome because it means my post-exam seniors are still curious. I like that. 

Also, I got interrupted mid-teach by our Teacher Education students, who have been doing fun things all week, came by to award “Teacher Superlatives,” as voted by the student body. I won “Most likely to win Jeopardy” because I am nerdy and encyclopedic (and a wizard).

I didn’t win “Most likely to win a rap battle,” though. Meh.

After students left the building, our administrators treated us to a fabulous lunch in the cafeteria to close out Teacher Appreciation Week. Then we had some PD on personalized learning, followed by some group work on QPAs. Mr. I was leading the PD, and at one point he was talking about how to teach students to curb their impulsiveness. I may or may not have smacked Mr. F in the arm to demonstrate an impulsive behavior. I’m helpful like that.

I work with serious, dedicated professionals. But, mostly, they’re also ridiculous like me. And that’s the best. 

Day One Hundred Twenty-Eight

Greetings from Hanover! Mrs. T and I are here for the night because we’re presenting at a conference tomorrow. 

And it’s snowing.

It’s been either snowing or raining all day long, which has been totally gross, but it was a decent day in spite of that. 

It was a teacher workshop day, so it started at 8:00AM with breakfast and coffee, followed by a faculty meeting to go over the agenda. After that, we had two hours to do curriculum work. I didn’t have much to do- just updating some of my APUSGOV stuff- and I’d been meaning to talk to Ms. C about the observations she’d done, so I asked if I could meet with her. We ended up talking for an hour and change about my classes, the school culture, the broader community culture, etc… She’s new this year, so I think it was beneficial for both of us; I gave her my perspective, and she got to learn more about who I am as a teacher. She’s my evaluator now, so that’s important.

I had about half an hour to do some grading and lesson planning, and then it was time for lunch. The Vice Principal spent the last two weeks organizing a potluck, which was awesome. Not everyone participated, but obviously my cacophonous friends and I did. We ate sooooo much good food, including some amazing mac and cheese, which was just the thing for a cold, wintery day. 

We went from lunch to a meeting facilitated by a group of teachers who’ve been researching grading practices. They announced earlier in the year that, based on their work, we would be moving to semester grading next year, so today was about figuring out how to make the process as smooth as possible. It was a shorter meeting than anticipated- I think it’s a change that has broad support- so we had about two hours to write reflections on our instructional practices and get work done. 

I wanted to write my reflection and then do the grading and planning I needed to do, but I ended up doing it backwards. That’s fine, though; it all got done!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Seven

Today was an early release day for students, so our classes were only fifty minutes long, which meant that by the end of them I felt kind of like I used to feel after sprinting the 100m dash in college. 

I showed an excerpt from a PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders to my APUSGOV class. I knew we’d have a good discussion afterwards because what little my students know about the Civil Rights Movement is very sanitized, and this doc reveals just how much violence and vitriol activists endured. It was definitely a little shocking. So we talked about that, and about other acts of protest besides the Freedom Rides, and the response to those. I sent students home with a one-pager on the desegregation campaign in Birmingham, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which we’ll discuss next class. 

In World, I was just doing a vocab lesson. I’ve said this before, but I’m always amazed how much I get out of something that is so basic and so traditional. I seriously just putting terms and definitions on the board for students to copy down. But I go slow, and I talk my way through the terms, connecting one to the next, and I let students stop me for questions at any time. My Block 4 class, in particular, likes to ask questions, and they had a TON today, especially when I was defining terms that relate to Hinduism because that’s all new to them.

So now they’re excited to dive into this unit and learn more, which is awesome. As long as that keeps being the case, I’m going to keep pre-teaching vocab this way, ‘cause if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

We had a nice, long lunch break after students left, so Mr. W and I went and had sandwiches at the local deli. We grabbed coffee from Starbucks before heading back up to the school because we cut one day off our mandatory 187 days by extending two of our afternoon teacher workshops to 5:30, and this was one of them. We started by having a faculty meeting, during which my NEASC committee presented its work for our reaccreditation process (which the faculty approved, yay!). After that, we had two sessions that were pretty fun; as a team-builder/morale-booster thing, the administration asked teachers to volunteer to facilitate different activities, and those of us who weren’t facilitating could choose what to do. So, like, the art teacher taught painting, the phys. ed. teachers set up a basketball tournament, the woodworking teacher taught everyone to make carved pens in the wood shop. I chose to go see one of the English teachers give a talk about awesome books, and having book discussions in class because I am a lit. nerd. Then I went to the ECE room and made chaos jars, which is something the high school kids in the program do with the daycare kids, and it was so much fun. I’m still covered in glitter.

We had some time to work on our own after that, so I got a bit of prep and grading done (I mentally rewrote my next three World lessons while I was teaching today- in response to the questions I was getting- so then I had to actually rewrite them). Then we had a little snack break, followed by two presentations: one from school counseling about the shifting landscape of college admissions, and one from special ed. about, well, special ed. These are serious subjects, and the presentations were packed with information, but my colleagues are hilarious people, so they kept the mood light. Oh, and at one point The SpEd Director gave Mr. H a shout-out for the accomodations/modifications cheat sheet he has for his students, and he, in turn, shouted out Mrs. T and I for teaching him to do that. Yay for all of us!

I rarely say teacher workshops are energizing, but this one honestly was. I learned a lot, I had fun, and it didn’t seem like a ten-hour workday at all. 

When I’m doing PD in the school, and walk by m…



Day One Hundred Twelve

One of the students in the night school program apparently got mad at a teacher, stormed out of class, and tore stuff off of all the bulletin boards in the hallway. The teacher and the director of night school did their best to fix the damage, which was nice of them, but I took it as a sign that I should update my bulletin board with some new stuff. And, what do you know, right after I finished the Vice Principal sent out an email asking all the ninth grade teams to update their boards ahead of 8th grade transition night, which is happening in a couple weeks.

Sometimes, things just work out…

What else did I do today? Mrs. T and I spent PLC time working on some upcoming interdisciplinary fabulousness. During our prep time we met with a few of our former students because we want to film them talking about multi-genre for a presentation we’re going to be giving. We also had a meeting with a parent, so we were super productive. 

And my classes went pretty well. I tweaked the lesson a little bit from yesterday so that I had more time to discuss the Vice News piece because it is so engaging. It went super well in my first class, and decent-ish in my second, but I will take that. I also had lots of students expressing excitement about debate (that’s the upcoming interdisciplinary fabulousness), which was very cool. It’s a challenging thing, so we want them to go into it feeling excited.

After school, I went to the district’s professional development center to do some PD on individualized learning with Ms. J. This is part of the mentor program, so I was there in that capacity, but I still learned things I can use in my own teaching. The facilitator was the Assistant Superintendent, who is really good at running PD and appreciates my ridiculousness (like when she says, “So, if you had a bunch of students like Miss M-” and I cut in with “There is no one else like me”). 

I would be in such a state if people didn’t think I was funny!

What students assume teachers do on profession…

Day Forty-Six

Mrs. T and I spent the day at NHCSS, so she was joking that she was being a social studies teacher for Halloween. Our peers in the profession seemed delighted to have an English teacher in their midst, and our presentation went really well. We were presenting on Multi-Genre, which we’ve done before, so we’re comfortable doing it. Admittedly, it was a bit nerve-wracking that the presenter in the session before ours ran long, but we still ended up with plenty of time to set up, and everything was smooth after that. We got some nice feedback. 

I really enjoyed the keynote, which was about civics education, and the other sessions were good, too. I went to one on socratic seminars and one on teaching controversial political things because I do both, and it’s good to add more tools to the toolbox. At lunch- which was delicious- I got to talk more about political things because it came up that it’s my APUSGOV class that’s had all the candidate visits these past two years. 

So that was cool. 

And I got home just in time to see a bunch of my students trick-or-treating!

Day Thirty-Seven

It snowed this morning- the first snow!- so everyone was a bit giddy. Mr. T and I were looking out the windows and grinning like little kids before the first bell, and I was texting pics to my teacher friends in southern states.

My APUSGOV students were working on projects for all of Block 1, so that was chill. But then I was all alone for a double block in the Cavern of Learning because Mrs. T was at a conference. Students started class with end-of-unit reflections. After that, I had them get into groups, and do some stations on African Culture (watching a video clip about traditional art, answering some geography questions, reading folk tales), plus two on grammar and vocab for Mrs. T. It’s a lot of moving parts, and I was exhausted by the end of it, but it went SO well. I’m wicked happy about it. 

I spent Block 5 grading reflections, and then Ms. J and I went to a PD workshop because mentors and mentees are supposed to go to two together. I had to go in a dress and heels, with a full face of make-up, because I had to dash to a thing right afterwards. 

I’m not saying I did my nails while stopped at a red light (fast-dry clear polish)… but I’m not saying I didn’t.

So what was the thing? 

It was a fancy Democratic Party dinner, which I got to attend with four of my APUSGOV students. (the Republicans will give us tickets to their fancy dinner, too, but it’s later in the year). We had such a ball. Joe Kennedy III was the keynote speaker, and a bunch of candidates and elected officials were in attendance. They all love talking to young people, so it was such a cool opportunity for these girls. One of our state reps actually walked Joe Kennedy right up to them, which was SO nice. 

I know a lot of the staffers working on the various campaigns because I staffed the presidential when I was in college. A lot of my campaign colleagues couldn’t believe I gave it up- and easily, too- because they couldn’t imagine not being “in the room” forever… But I still got to be in the room tonight, and being there with my students was the way I was meant to do it. 

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.