Category: so much fun

Bonus Day

The class of 2019 graduated yesterday morning. It was a perfect, breezy, sunny day after a cold, rainy spring. I thought it was cool that our new principal decided to come even though he doesn’t technically start the job until July 1, and that the graduation speakers shouted out The Principal so many times, and wished him well in retirement. Mrs. T and I got a shout out, too, from the senior class president, who’d been on our ninth grade team (and was in my APUSGOV class). That was a first for us. 

Oh, and the student body president compared the class to a mud pie in a hilarious- but also very sweet- speech. That’s memorable.

So, the ceremony was great, and afterwards was a flurry of hugs, handshakes, and photographs. I was really touched by how many of my GOV kids came running to find me, and struck by how fortunate I am to teach that class. 

Mr. W and I went from graduation to lunch, as is our tradition, and then back to my apartment to change clothes and get ready for Project Grad. Longtime readers know that our school’s Project Grad trip is an all-night adventure, via coach bus, to three top secret locations. This year, we headed to Boston to see Blue Man Group first, which was hilarious; the students really loved that. Then, we went to Apex Entertainment, which had bowling, arcade games, laser tag, and indoor go-karts. I’ve ridden go-karts at several Project Grad trips, but these were legit; the course actually took some skill- and arm strength- to drive on. So fun. The last stop was a harbor cruise. Students were treated to breakfast, a comedy hypnotist show (highlight: e made one of our huge football players think he was Beyonce), dancing, and some other fun stuff. 

We docked as the sun was coming up over the city, which was beautiful, and then got back on the buses for the ride home. Pretty much everyone just slept at that point, and woke up to a sunny morning in town. Most of them stopped as they were leaving to say thank you, or say how much fun they’d had. I think it was one of the best Project Grad trips I’ve chaperoned. 

Now I’m going to bed!

Day One Hundred Eighty

One of my seniors slipped a thank you card under my door before I arrived this morning, and I almost bawled my eyes out when I read it. And, like, I do not cry very often. Or, at least, I didn’t cry very often before this year…

I did keep it together while I taught my final A day classes, though. The first thing I did, obviously, was lead a cheer because we all made it to this point. After that, I went over some information about the World final (a reflective essay about second semester), and gave students the bulk of class to either prepare for that, or finish up their Multi-Genre Projects. I was available to help as needed, but mostly I just perched on my desk and observed them with pride. It’s the last day of class, and these students were fully focused, and they were also having fun. The number of them who were talking about how proud they were of their work, how prepared they felt for next year… Ahhh, it was all so great!

I finished class, as I always do on the last day, by showing a video recap of the year and giving one last lesson: if you understand the world, you can change the world.

So class started with a cheer and ended with applause.

But that wasn’t the end of my day! This evening, we had Spring Sports Awards, which was big for the track team because it’s The Head Coach’s 40th year and our captains made him a photobook to commemorate the occasion. They gave us all gift bags, too, after we gave out awards and letters. There was a framed team photo in my bag, as well as a giant box of relay chalk (YES!!!), and a new spike wrench. And- best and most unexpected thing- there were cards from individual sprinters, as well as one from the captains, and I ended up crying again. And again when the two rookie seniors came up to hug me.

What an amazing season we had… 

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?

image

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 Fifty-Five

My day started off with a cupcake delivery from one of my ninth graders- in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week- which was unexpected and awesome. It totally made my morning.

It’s a B day in the schedule, so I introduced the multi-genre project again in World today. I wanted brainstorming topics to go well, so I appealed to my students’ competitiveness by telling them how many topics my classes yesterday had come up with (30-something). That definitely worked; my Block 2 class, which is my class of reluctant speakers, ended up coming up with 41 topics. 

And my Block 4 class- my most challenging class- came up with 57! 

They rocked and rolled on the research, too, and a bunch of kids wanted to tell me about what they’re planning to write. They’re so excited, and I love it. That’s how it should be.

A few of my Block 4 students and I also ended up having a conversation while they were working that went from very funny to very serious. See, during Teacher Appreciation Week our teacher prep students do all kinds of fun things, including teacher superlatives, and I told my students they should vote for me for “most like to win a rap battle” since I’m a slam poetry champ. They were like, “Yeah, but can you rap, though?” and I busted out a bit of “Guns and Ships” from Hamilton because, y’know, have to be Social Studies about it.

One of the girls told me, “Miss M, your superlative should be ‘most surprising’ because you’re, like, this nerdy teacher lady, but then you do karate, and track, and now you rap?!”

She added that her mom had been glad she was in my room during the lockdown– probably because of the karate- and the conversation shifted to that for a while. Students spoke about how scary it was, and whether or not they cried, and how glad they were that it was a false alarm (little did we know there would be another school shooting today…) I think they probably needed to talk about it because, even though it was months ago, it sticks, you know? 

I had a quick meeting with Mrs. J afterwords, followed by a house meeting. Then I had to go coach a track meet. It’s the last home meet of the season, so we honored our seniors beforehand, which was cool… It rained for a bit (of course), but then the sun came out, a rainbow appeared over the track, my sprinters absolutely crushed the 200m… Aaaaand I was probably too candid while talking to some parents about kids doing travel team/AAU/JO/whatever sports during track season because it’s a thing I have a very strong opinion about, but anyways…. Our team and the teams we were competing against all have traditions of doing the wave to cheer for 4×4 runners, so we were all infield at the end of the meet. 

And then we had a pizza party! Can’t go wrong with pizza, a pretty sunset, and the close of a great day.

Day One Hundred Fifty-One

This morning I walked into school with my escrima sticks slung over one shoulder. I was wearing my usual high heels, skirt, and sweater ensemble, so the effect was somewhere between “that’s so badass” and “huh?” 

I got to do this because today was the annual martial arts demo in World. Of course, I promptly turned my sticks over to the SRO for safekeeping, and Mr. W- who, in addition to being my colleague, is the black belt who trains me- turned over all of his weapons, too. Then we shoved all the furniture in the Cavern of Learning up against the walls, changed from our teaching clothes into our karate clothes, and got warmed up.

We started the presentation by sparring. I wanted to grab the kids’ attention, so as soon as they were seated (on top of the tables, bags underneath, so there was tons of space for us to move), I stuck my mouth guard in and threw a punch at Mr. W… and we went from there. The room went completely silent, which is saying something in a room full of 80ish ninth graders). After a few minutes, we stopped, and I went over the rules, which I’d also gone over in the classes prior to this one (no photos/video, no touching each other, no touching the weapons, stop us anytime to ask questions). Then we talked about the history of martial arts, its purpose, the mindset it teaches. We did katas and weapons forms, did some “magic tricks,” and took questions/requests. And that took up all of the time we had!

It was very cool, and I think it was valuable for the students, who think of karate as it’s shown in pop culture, which isn’t always accurate. They learned a lot by getting to see real martial artists practice, and hearing our answers to their questions. I liked getting to talk about what it means to be strong versus what it means to be a bully, using the skill only in self-defense, doing as little harm as possible; that’s important stuff for students to hear. Also, this demo showed them a something different about me, and that’s pretty neat. I’m perceived as being very “girly” because I always wear skirts and dresses, put make-up on, do my nails, that kind of thing… And, sure, that’s me, but this is also me. 

Also, I got to use the line, “A very nice boy went out in to the forest in Maine, cut down a tree, and made me weapons” to explain where I got my escrima sticks. It’s true, and it’s a funny line, so that’s a win.

After the demo, students went to lunch. Then they had about an hour after that, so Mrs. T took the students who hadn’t turned in Central Asia Novel Projects, Mr. F took students who needed to do math stuff (technical term right there).  I took students who were all caught up on everything to help me put the Cavern back in order, and then I let them work on whatever they wanted to.

During Block 5, we had a freshman house meeting, which I was admittedly not looking forward to because the agenda was kind of vague, and I wasn’t sure what direction the conversation was going to take. It ended up being a really productive, positive brainstorming session, though. So, I admit, I was wrong to assume otherwise, and I’m happy to be wrong. We’re meeting again next week, too, to keep the forward momentum going, and now I’m excited for it.

Practice, like the rest of the day, was awesome. My sprinters did a workout- 300m repeates- and then a few of them asked to work on their block starts, so we spent some time fine-tuning those. As we were wrapping up, the captains came up to me with plans for next week. It’s the week of our last home meet, so it’ll be Senior Night, and one of the other teams proposed a post-meet pizza party, which is GENIUS, so we’re all in on that. But the captains want to do a whole week of “spirit week” practices, so they wanted to brainstorm theme days with me. We came up with Muscle Shirt Monday, Green Tuesday (at the meet- green socks, hair ribbons, etc… in honor of Mental Health Awareness, which is a schoolwide thing), Warpaint Wednesday (because there’s a middle school meet, and officiating with our faces painted school colors will be fun), Superhero Thursday, Funky Friday. Clearly, I think this is all awesome, and I haven’t written enough about how great our captains have been all season (and all of indoor because it’s the same two kids). I love their creativity and enthusiasm, and the tone they’re setting.

Day One Hundred Forty-Eight

I’ve neglected to mention that this week was a spirit week. 

The Principal had initially canceled Spring Fling because there were student and parent complaints about Homecoming (vapes at the dance, boys touching girls inappropriately, that kind of thing), but student council convinced him to let them at least do spirit days and a pep rally. Their argument- and I think it’s a good one- was that everyone needed some fun, and that this could be a huge morale boost.

So the days were themed (USA Day, Twin Day, Decades Day, Color Day, Spirit Day), there was a floor hockey tournament, a school-wide game of spoons took place throughout the week, and today we had a pep rally. That meant short classes, which was fine; my World students were writing essays, so I just gave them the whole block, and I did a formal exam review in APUSGOV that was perfect for the time frame. Boom.

At the pep rally, we were treated to a few games (egg toss, musical chairs, etc…), class lip sync videos, performances by our dance team and our drumline (so awesome), a floor hockey final (juniors vs freshmen), aaaand then students got to pie teachers in the face. I volunteered because, of course, I did, and ended up getting a giant pie plate full of whipped cream in my face, courtesy of one of the ginormous seniors on the baseball team. He got me good, but I’d prepared by bringing shampoo, a change of clothes, and stuff. So I wasn’t sticky and gross for the rest of the day. 

I still took a shower when I got home because I had plans to have drinks and eats with a few of my colleagues in the afternoon. That was fun, too, because it was an absolutely gorgeous day. We sat outside on the patio of a local restaurant, talked about our early years working together, and made plans to throw a party at the end of the year. 

Like with spirit week, it’s all about morale.

Day One Hundred Forty-Seven

Today my World students had to come in and put the research they’d done in previous classes to good use by writing me an essay about an issue currently affecting East Asia. Their topics included pollution, overpopulation, the mental health of students in countries with high-stakes tests, the declining birthrate in Japan, the dictatorship in North Korea, unexploded ordinance in Laos, child labor and human trafficking in various countries… Most students were well-prepared and felt confident about their writing, even the ones who usually get anxious about assessments, so the vibe was really positive.

However, five students blew off the class time they’d had to do their research, in spite of constant reminders from me that this essay was coming, so they found themselves in a bit of a pickle. I’m not in the business of causing permanent academic damage, but I do want these kids to learn how to solve their problems rather than having me solve them. So I read them the riot act, focused on helping the students who were prepared, and waited for these five to propose some solutions. Eventually, two of them asked if they could finish their research during class, then come in during lunch and write their essays; when I said yes to that, two others followed with similar plans. Only one student didn’t come up with some way to fix the situation, but that one is going to brainstorm with his case manager after vacation, so he’ll get there eventually, too. 

So there was lots of learning about the world, and about how to succeed as a student. Yes, it’s late in the year for the latter, but I figure it’s better late than never. Plus, I think it’s going to stick at this point.

image

I had a student come in to make up a quiz during Block 5, and ended up being joined by Mr. F and another student (also making up a quiz) because school counseling needed his room for something or other. Mr. F graded geometry tests while I wrote out some APUSGOV review notes, but we also kept cracking jokes at each other. Also, I told the story of Mr. T’s total rookie mistake, which, predictably, did lead to me being asked several times today if I was dating him. 

I think our students were amused by the silliness.

While we were working and silly-ing, a boy who’d been on the college visit that Mr. F chaperoned yesterday came by to apologize because he’d misbehaved during lunch at the college. They shook hands, and Mr. F thanked him for having the character to apologize, and I thought that was pretty cool. Again: lots of learning today.

I went out to practice early so Coach T and I could hide Easter eggs, which is one of our favorite team traditions. I’m talking something like 200 eggs. We hid them on the track, in the bleachers, in snow banks, in the mud, all around the fields, in the woods… Finding them was the team’s warm-up, and it was an absolute ball. One of my sprinter boys came back with, like, 17 eggs stuffed in his hoodie! But, because we coach awesome kids, they mostly ended up splitting the candy, so everyone got a bunch. Pretty great, right?

Day One Hundred Thirty-Six

Today started with The Principal doing his best impression of the Hump Day Camel from the Geico commercials before saying the Pledge over the PA.

If that’s not a good way to start a day, I don’t know what is.

After that, I taught the coolest class I have ever taught. My APUSGOV students did a Socratic discussion (inspired by a presentation Mrs. T and I saw at NHCSS last fall), which is something I’ve never done before. Half of them discussed Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the other half discussed Macolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” and we closed with a whole class discussion of how history has remembered both men and how they’re discussed in schools. It was incredible. There were definite discussion leaders, but everyone contributed something valuable, and they were not shy. They dug into the rhetoric of the two pieces, debated its efficacy, discussed the way in which people judge protests and judge anger. Then they went in on state of race relations around the country and in their own (mostly white) community. They talked about Rodney King, Ferguson, Charlottesville, the debate over Confederate monuments and flags, the differences in what their peers are taught about the history of racism depending on where they go to school… They made some great points about the intersection of religion and racial prejudice/racial justice, too… Overall, it was just a really impressive, insightful 80 minutes. I barely said a word; I just listened. At the end, I thanked the class and told them how proud I was of them.

My World classes were just fun. Students did an exploration into different aspects of Hindu culture, so they read about traditions surrounding birth, marriage, death, dietary customs, etc… And they had to write some reactions, compare/contrasts, that kind of thing. Of course, since it’s an A day, and my A day students have all the questions, they wanted to talk about EVERYTHING. Which was awesome. Also, one of the things they read about was naming customs, and my assignment asked them to find out the meaning of their own names, which caused so much more hilarity than I thought it would.

I went to observe Ms. D’s class at lunch (finally- I’ve been meaning to do it since I was assigned as her mentor!). She came up to my room to chat about it during Block 5. She hadn’t been up to my classroom before, so when she walked in she took a moment to admire the space (which was nice because I am rather proud of it). Then we talked about how her lesson had gone. It was such a cool, reflective lesson. I had a ton of praise for it. We got into the broader, philosophical conversation about teaching, what our styles are, how we were trained, and how there are definite ways to do teaching wrong but no one way to do it right. 

Then I went to practice, which was obviously awesome. And I’d just like to point out that this is how my sprinters keep their water bottles cold: sticking them in the gigantic, dirty snow pile beside the parking lot.

Whatever works!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Four

IT’S TRACK SEASON!

It’s still in the 30s, and the snow banks are piled over my head, but spring track has arrived. About seventy kids came out for the team this year, which is a decent number, and it looks like we’ve got some strong, new talent. I’m excited about it.

But let me talk about the rest of my day. World/English was a repeat of Friday: wrapping up debate, going over course selections  for next year, then doing book talks for The Central Asia Novel Project and having silent reading time. I was pleased to see so many kids make good use of that time because that’s a skill we’ve been trying to build in them. The last book project taught them a few lessons the hard way, I think.

After lunch, I showed a documentary on Afghanistan to teach them a little more about the country we’re going to focus on first in this next unit. Mrs. T had to step out a few times to deal with the sort of crises that department heads have to deal with, so I minded the Cavern. She missed lunch, too, but Mr. W joined me for some food and a nice, little chat.

And I had a nice, big chat during my prep time with one of my former APUSGOV girls. She’s developing a curriculum that she hopes schools can use someday to talk about about race, class, and privilege, and she wanted to pick my brain about that while she’s home on spring break. So that was awesome.

And then, of course, there was track practice.

Afterwards, I went back to my classroom to get it ready for tomorrow. I had to put some new stuff on the boards and move the tables around, and I didn’t want to leave it until the morning since I’m going to get observed. Mr. F was also working late, so he and I walked out together. It was nice not to be the only one!

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.