Category: so much fun

Day Forty-Three

So, last time I had APUSGOV, the incumbent state senator came to class, and today his opponent came in. He sat at a student desk (horseshoe set-up, if you were wondering), had coffee and donuts with us, and was generally low-key, so his visit felt the most like a casual morning chat. Things my students asked about: health care, affordable housing, jobs, the opioid crisis, the environment, gun laws, campaign finance reform, school vouchers, voting rights, and law school (b/c both the candidate and his campaign manager went, and I have students considering it). It was good, and I think we all enjoyed it.

I saw a bunch of my APUSGOV students in flex, too, because they have group projects due next week. A few groups used the time to rehearse, and have me look over their work. We also just talked about current events: the midterms, the pipe bombs, the general mood in the country…

In World/English, Mrs. T mostly ran the show. We put students in book groups, and she gave them a list of discussion prompts (like…. what would happen if a character in your book came to high school with you for a day, what decision did a character make that you would have made differently, etc…). They had to choose three to answer, then share their answers with the class. I loved listening in on their conversations as they worked. We had an observer- a student who is considering a teaching career- listening in, too, which was neat. She got to see how we drew out responses when kids got stuck, that kind of thing. 

She missed the epic game of Flyswatter that we played after all the groups had shared, though. 

Flyswatter is a vocab game that does, in fact, involve using flyswatters. All the vocab words are written on the board. I give a definition, and two students race from the back of the room to hit the correct word with the flyswatter. The first one who does gets the point. It was loud, and competitive, and amazing.

Day Forty

So. Today was a bit of a day.

Mrs. T and I started our freshmen on the same lesson we taught yesterday: colonialism, and post-colonialism, and modern conflict, oh my! I had a bunch of boys interrupt me mid-teach by yelling, “What about Wakanda?!” They did it for a laugh, of course, but I decided to take it seriously. I explained the sociopolitical significance of creating art about a place that hadn’t been colonized, given the devastating impact colonization had. So that led to more questions, and a super cool discussion. 

Best reaction when it ended? “Miss M is always going to have an answer, you guys.”

Darn right. 

At flex time I closed the wall between my room and Mrs. T’s. She took all of our ninth students and acted as both of us while my APUSGOV students- and any other politically inclined kids who asked to come in- had a bit of Q&A with a candidate for Congress. It went SO well. 

The kids asked the candidate what he thinks his weaknesses are, what he’ll do to keep an open mind and be receptive to new information, and how he plans to work with people who disagree with him. Then they asked amazing questions about the environment, mental health, the opioid crisis, gun violence, school vouchers, affordable housing, LGBTQ rights, healthcare, jobs, and more. I was so proud of them, and I think the candidate would have happily talked to them all day.

Alas, he had to go, and I had to reopen the Cavern of Learning. By then, Block 4 was in full swing, and Mrs. T was overseeing everything. I took over so she could go to a meeting, but I think I still owe a bunch of favors.

We had a 504 meeting Block 5, then I had a department meeting after school. I did my grading afterwards, got all of it done by 5:00. Like I said, bit of a day.

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 Thirty-Six

The Vice Principal turned 40 today, so every teacher in the ninth grade house (yay common prep time) snuck into her office while she was in a meeting, decorated with balloons and streamers, and sang “Happy Birthday” when she came back in. We also sent kids down with birthday wishes throughout the day. 

So that was fun. 

Life in the Cavern of Learning was a flurry of activity. Mrs. T corralled the half dozen or so kids who still had to finish narratives and worked with them since it’s due today. I took everyone else and moved on with Africa stuff, so I definitely had the easier job today. I just walked around and fielded questions as needed.

During flex time we closed our dividing wall (we usually just leave it since most kids need us both anyhow) because I had a bunch of kids who wanted retake vocab quizzes, and I wanted it to be nice and quiet. I love that they took advantage of the opportunity. That’s so good.

We re-opened the Cavern for Block 4 and got back to work. A double block, even with breaks like flex and lunch, takes a lot of academic stamina, which many of our students are still developing, but we find ways to motivate them. Today, six boys who were goofing off in the last twenty minutes greed to work silently for fifteen I let them have a “moo-off” for the last five. What’s a moo-off, you ask? It’s when people get down on all fours like they’re cows and moo at each other in silly ways; the person who can keep a straight face the longest wins. 

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OBVIOUSLY, I let that happen. It was hilarious. And the boys all got their work done beforehand.

Such a win.

I explained the moo-off to my colleagues during the team meeting, and to the NHS board (I’m subbing on that while Mr. B is on leave) after school. Then I spent until about 4:30 prepping for tomorrow. Mrs. T is out, so it’s going to be The Me Show! 

Day Twenty-Eight

Today was an early release day, so our classes flew by. I introduced a new unit in APUSGOV with a lesson about political socialization We started by brainstorming the ten people, institutions, media sources, events, etc… that shaped our political views. 

Mine:

  • Parents
  • Catholicism
  • AIDS crisis
  • Columbine shooting
  • My AP Euro teacher
  • The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart
  • 9/11
  • Iraq War
  • Staffing on the Dean campaign
  • Twitter

Theirs: 

  • Parents
  • Other family
  • Parkland shooting
  • Orlando nightclub shooting
  • Terrorism
  • NPR
  • Youtube
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Applying for college
  • World Cultures class
  • Literature and Social Issues class
  • Youth and Government club
  • Protests at Standing Rock
  • 2016 elections
  • Working in small, local businesses
  • Political polarization

It was fascinating to chat about all of that, and that was all we had time to do. 

In World/English, we just had students continue drafting, Mrs. T gave a quick lesson about things like flashback in order to encourage them to play. She and I both read several full drafts, and I love how proud students were to show them to us. That’s so cool.

Once students left, we had an hour for lunch. My cacophonous friends and I went to Starbucks because early release days are late days for us. In order to take a day off our required 187, we have two teacher workshops until 5:30- one fall, one spring- which makes for a loooooong day. 

It started with an informational session about vaping; a lady from Poison Control gave a lecture. Then there was some administrative business. After that, our time was devoted to the NEASC self study (it’s an accreditation thing done every ten years). We’re all in groups, working to compile one part of the study.

I had to leave mine for what I though would be a short 504 meeting (and was actually a long one). While I was gone, one of my group members was online and found out the local brewery was having a cornhole tournament tonight, so a bunch of us went (beer, pizza, cornhole). So fun!

Day Twenty-Four

So today was awesome. 

It’s Spirit Day, so everyone was decked out in school colors, glitter, and face paint. Classes were short to accommodate a pep rally at the end of the day, so APUSGOV was very chill; I went over the unit test they took last class, then we did current events presentations, and that was that.

Then Mrs. T and I did a tag team lesson in our Cavern of Learning. I started by dividing students into groups of six- three who’d read about drug violence in Mexico, three who’d read about drug violence in Brazil- and had them get laptops and headphones, and watch a 15-minute video to supplement their reading. They shared what they’d learned with their peers, I explained the growth of the violence to Honduras and neighboring countries, and we read an article about San Pedro Sula. So they had enough information to answer the question I posed last class-why are so many undocumented minors have been seeking asylum in the last few years- and I could see when it all clicked. 

Mrs. T tagged in to show them how to do MLA citations for my class materials, and set up a works consulted page, and assigned our first major assessment. She’s been teaching scenes and personal narratives for the past few weeks. What students have to do now is write a fact-based narrative based on anything we’ve studied about Latin America. So they’re plotting out ideas, fleshing them out with additional research (and citing it), and drafting. 

It all went SO well. We were happy about it. 

And then the pep rally was a ball. As we walked to the gym, Mr. T revealed he’d never been to one before, which… Wow. I grinned and told him to embrace the experience. Some teachers don’t, but me? Give me the band, the drumline, the fight song, and all the noise and cheering. Mr. F an I played musical chairs, as always, though I got eliminated early. 

Afterwards, it was parking lot tailgating (amazing chili dogs made by our hall monitors), and football. Half the town was there; it was packed! Our team lost, sadly, but it was still a fun day.

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! 

Bonus Day

The Class of 2018 graduated yesterday. It was a gorgeous, breezy, sunny day. The student speakers gave lovely speeches (the last one, made by one of my APUSGOV girls, called on everyone to work to change immoral policies- ie separating families at the border- and got a standing ovation).

A few hours after the ceremony ended, Project Grad began! It was SUCH a fun trip: bowling, laser tag, and bumper cars at Dover Bowl; trampoline fun at Blitz Air; a party cruise in Boston Harbor; an early morning at Storyland. On the bus rides in between, I played DJ and raffled off Amazon gift cards (anywhere from $20 to $100). I have to give props to the parents who did the fundraising and planning for all of that!

It is bittersweet to say goodbye to this big-hearted class, but as I said before, the wide world is going to be so lucky to get to know them next!

Day One Hundred Sixty-Eight

There’s a group of young activists who have been using my classroom as their organizing HQ since Parkland; they planned the March 14 walkout, spoke at community demonstrations, met with elected officials, wrote letters to the paper, organized a voter registration drive… and, off of about ten minutes of social media organizing last night, they came in today with orange ribbons to wear and distribute for Gun Violence Awareness Day. 

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Also, at today’s meeting, the freshmen gave the graduating seniors pins decorated with the group’s logo. It was a way to thank them for building up this thing they’re leaving behind. It was a terrific gesture, and some of them definitely got a bit teary-eyed. 

A lot of those seniors are also in my APUSGOV class, so I saw them repeatedly today because- in addition to that meeting- we had not one, but two congressional candidates as guest speakers! At this point, the fact that we have candidates as guests is so well-known that other students get permission to miss their classes to join us, which is fine by me because I like a full room.

The first guest, a Democrat, came in during our actual class time, Block 1. He’s a young guy: ex-military, city attorney, very smart. He was totally frank, too, and my students- who have no time for vague, wishy-washy answers- approved of that even when they disagreed with what he was saying. As one girl put it, “He just went for it, Miss M.” And he got asked about EVERYTHING: gun control, Israel-Palestine, global warming, North Korea, legalization of marijuana, prison system reforms, infrastructure, national defense… Afterwards, I asked him about his military service, and discovered he’d been in Iraq at the same time as my older brother- and, for a few months, on the same base outside Baghdad. Wild, right? It’s a small world.

And, yes, it’s strange when you find out the thing you have in common with someone is a war.

Our other guest, a Republican, came in during Block 5, which is when most of my students have a free block, He’s also ex-military, and an ex-police officer, which was fascinating to hear him speak about. My students asked him similar questions to what they’d asked our first guest, and his answers were equally smart, but- as you’d expect- rather different. He’s a real limited government conservative, and I know I have students who don’t hear things articulated from that perspective often. So it gave them some food for thought, which is a good thing. 

Both guests told me how impressive these kids are (which is true), and how glad they were to have gotten to talk with them. Both said it made them hopeful for the future.

Me, too.

In between guest speakers, I was teaching World, which is also inspiring, especially during multi-genre. Because my room was set up for guests, and because it was pushing 90 degrees and muggy, Mrs. T and I made the brilliant decision to move our combined classes to the air conditioned computer lab at the end of the hall. I had the idea; she actually went and signed us up on the lab schedule so no other teacher could claim it. Now, the lab has computers and chairs for one class, and we had two, so there were kids with laptops sprawled on the floors, or in chairs they carried over from our rooms. It was a bit ridiculous, but it wasn’t hot, so our students were happy. 

So, all in all, today was awesome. Definitely one of my favorite days of teaching.

Bonus Day

Today was our last regular season track meet. It was a little conference meet- only six schools, and we’re the largest- so it was over before noon. And it was a good one. The best moment was when our boys’ captain qualified to run in the 800m in the conference championship because he was so close all season, and just couldn’t get his time down… and he smashed the mark by five seconds or so. Our whole team was ecstatic.

All our relay teams had monster PRs, as well. There is no more nerve-wracking thing for me as a coach than being on the infield during the 4x100m, and just hoping the passes happen. Having a team of rookies ratchets up the pressure on me, too, because good passes are our thing. That’s what we’re known for, and I’m known for being able to teach them. 

I’m sure I amused other coaches by watching with my hands partially over my eyes.

The boys still have room to improve (comes of having no consistent leg 2 runner), but the girls were perfect. I was jumping up and down after every pass.

It’s the most beautiful thing in track when it’s done right.

And just in time for post-season.