Category: so much joy

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

Today was the last day of classes, and it was something of a mixed day. 

There was a graduation rehearsal this morning, so a bunch of my seniors stopped by one last time to say thank you, and give me hugs or high-fives, and one even brought me candy (my students know I have a massive sweet tooth). Plus, it’s Pride, so a bunch of students were running around with rainbow-colored flower crowns in their hair, showering people in glitter (with their consent, of course). So there was a lot of joy.

And my first section of World was awesome. I started class by leading a cheer, as I’d done yesterday, and then we got down to business. I think going over how to outline for the final was especially helpful for these students; a bunch of them told me afterwards that they felt much more confident and prepared, and I’m glad. They were super proud to turn in their Multi-Genre Projects, too, and they were cheering each other on the whole block. Like, one student would finish and others would clap for them. 

Block 4 was fun, at first, too, but shortly after class started, two of my students were escorted down to the SRO’s office. I don’t know exactly what happened, but, clearly, there was an Incident. It’s a lousy way to end ninth grade, that’s for sure. 

So… That happened. But the rest of class was all right. I spent part of it in the hall because a handful of my students went out to record audio for their projects, and a handful of Mr. T’s students were out there, too, and everyone was being a bit silly. At one point, they attempted to steal one of my desk chairs, but they stopped when they realized I was just going to let it happen. Heh.

When Block 5 rolled around, Mr. F and Mrs. T converged on my classroom. I was taking down posters when they came in because the tape loses its stickiness in the summer humidity, and I like redecorating in the fall anyhow. I also cleaned out my desk and cabinets, put away some of my supplies, etc… while we were talking. It’s not like I had to get it done in a hurry; it’s just a habit of mine to take my classroom apart as soon as classes end. Mrs. T says it’s the opposite of nesting instinct, which… Pretty much.

But I paused long enough to celebrate the fact that we’d made it through a really tough year. I mean, yeah, there are still finals, but we’re done teaching for the year, and we’re pretty happy about how most of our students learned and grew. It was wicked hard to make it happen sometimes, but we did it.

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… 

Bonus Day

Today we took a handful of athletes to compete at the State Meet of Champions. It’s a beautiful day, everyone was in high spirits, and it was a really, really good meet. It’s the end of my season (The Head Coach has one more week… more on that in the next paragraph), and I’m happy with it.

My favorite thing is that we had a rookie senior in the competition today. This is a kid who NEVER had being a track athlete on his radar until he got hurt playing football and wasn’t allowed to do any other spring sports; now he gets to say he’s one of the best in the state. My other favorite thing is that another of our boys qualified for New Englands, and the rest of our athletes either matched or set PRs. What more could I want?

What was cool for me, too, was that my middle school, high school, and college coaches were all at this meet with various teams. AND- this is surreal- one of my former athletes, Torin, was there because he’s now a college coach and he was watching one of his commits run. He and I were headed for the bleachers when we ran into my middle school coach, Coach E.

Now, Coach E and I always say hello and make small talk at meets, but it’s been more than twenty years since he was my coach, so I know he only vaguely remembers me. Like, he knows I was one of his athletes a long time ago, but I doubt he’d remember my name if it wasn’t written on my jacket. So usually, I’m the one who goes and says hi, but he actually spotted me first today. We shook hands, I introduced him to Torin, and we chatted about each other’s teams, how the season had gone, what we hoped for today, etc…

I made the remark that so many folks who’d coached me were there. He told me it was funny that I still called him Coach and all because he’d never really thought of himself as a middle school coach; it was just a volunteer thing he’d done while he was student-teaching because he wanted to stay involved in the sport. Later, he moved on to teaching and coaching at the high school level (at the school where he still coaches, not the one I went to), which was what he really wanted to be doing, and that, according to him, is when he really became a coach.

So then I got to tell him a story he hadn’t known:

I joined the track team when I was in seventh grade because a girl at my bus stop was bullying me for having asthma. This girl was a really good runner, and she was always bragging about doing track, and I just wanted to shut her up. I fell in love with sprinting immediately, but making it through the 800m warm-up at the start of every practice wasn’t easy, at first. One day I had a nasty asthma attack, and I wanted to quit. Coach E jogged alongside me, and told me to pick my head up, take my inhaler, and breathe. He would not let me give up. I said, “I bet you don’t remember that, but I do.” 

He gave me a big hug and thanked me for telling him, then joked that he had to go cry in the bleachers for a while (or maybe he actually did cry in the bleachers…) It’s really special that I get to coach at these big meets along with the coaches who trained me, and that I got to tell this one what an impact he’d had. 

Day One Hundred Sixty-Four

Today was one of those days that just went well from beginning to end. 

It started with an incredibly cool APUSGOV class. The towns that send students to my school are represented in the state’s house of representatives by seven people, all of whom agreed to come in and talk to the students this morning. We set it up “speed dating” style; students divided into four groups of 5-6, and the reps divided themselves up among the groups. They did 15 minutes (ish) of Q&A, then moved to a different group. So all the students got to talk to all the reps, and it was so cool. They asked questions about campaigning, and the legislative process, and various bills that have come up recently (regarding gun rights, period poverty, school funding, rules for transgender athletes, the repeal of the death penalty, and the legalization of marijuana). They’re sharp as tacks, my students, and the reps were all happy to talk to them. We’ve had lots of really cool classes this year, but this is one of my favorites, for sure.

Our reps weren’t our only guests today. There was an assembly for the whole school with James Orrigo, who was amazing, and powerful, and funny, and SO talented. I loved having him here, and so did every student I talked to. His message is all about making a positive impact on the world, and I got to go back and teach World, and read the amazing writing my students are doing… which is all about telling us something that matters, expressing a point of view, taking a stand… It felt fitting, you know?

Classes were shorter and later than usual in order to accommodate the assembly, so the end of the day seemed like it came really fast. I went out to practice. Ordinarily, The Head Coach would have a long talk with the team about the privilege of making it to this point in the season, but there was a thunderstorm warning in effect, so he cut it kind of short. He did tell them that getting to compete at the division championship is an accomplishment, and that we’re proud of everyone who’s made it, and that it’s something to be excited for even though it’s been a long, tiring season.

One of my 4×1 relay boys did quit because he’s going to a party on Friday instead of going to school- which would make him ineligible to compete on Saturday- and that’s wicked disappointing. Buuuut the alternate is more than happy to race, so now it’s his time. We want to take the athletes who are going to step up to this championship, not the ones who are going to take it for granted, or treat it as anything but a privilege. The girls’ relay will get in, too, if someone scratches; it’s unlikely, but they wanted to come to practice anyhow to continue to stay in shape, which is cool. 

They did their usual plyometric drills to warm up, then ran a ladder (300-200-100-50), stretched, and that was that. We, unlike Coach T and his distance runners, finished practice before the sky opened up!

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-Four

My APUSGOV students took their exam this morning. I waved to them as they passed by my room en route to the library, answered a few last minute questions, and then I just had to wait. They all came running upstairs when the exam was over because I’d promised high-fives and cupcakes. I was in the middle of World, but I’d warned my freshmen that we were going to get interrupted, so when the seniors came in they offered their congratulations, too. That was fun. 

And, yeah, high-fives and cupcakes were had by all. We can’t discuss the test because that’s a no-no, but my students were smiling, so that’s a good sign! I’ve said this already, but I’m super proud of them. This is the GIF we’re going with for today, btw:

And there was also World! Specifically, there was Multi-Genre! It’s that time! We brainstormed answers to the following question: what is happening in the world right now that you think is important?

I’ll post the full topics list after my B day classes, but so far it’s really cool- as it always is- and students really dug into the research on their chosen topics. Choice generates enthusiasm and engagement, and Mrs. T and I both gave them a stern talking-to about using class time better than they’d used it during the Central Asia Novel Project, so both those things probably contributed to their diligence.

It’s finally sunny and warm, so practice was glorious. My sprinters did their usual meet prep workout- tomorrow is our last home meet- and we were visited by a graduate who is now an assistant track coach on the collegiate level. It was very cool seeing him.

So, basically, everything about today was good. 

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-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.

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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 Twenty-Three

“Oh my God, Miss M, there’s actually a person who talks faster and knows more than you do!” -one of my APUSGOV students 

That person is Tom White from the Cohen Center at Keene State College. He’s been a guest in my colleagues’ classes in past years, but this morning he was a guest in mine, which was really special because- as longtime readers know- he was one of my high school teachers. Basically, all the things I do well as a teacher are things I learned because I was his student. I get all my style from him. 

It means the world to me that he said he was proud of me today.

His presentation was for my APUSGOV class. He spoke about systemic racism in the U.S. and the connection between Jim Crow and Nazi race laws, which had my students captivated. It’s history no one’s taught them before- or, at least, not in such depth. And he connected dots between historical events, ideological movements, pop culture, and policy in a way that was really eye-opening. Students had A LOT to say afterwards (besides the comment above, heh), and stayed after the bell to thank him for coming, shake his hand, and stuff.

His presentation ended at WWII, which is where I’ll pick up next class on the way to teaching about the Civil Rights Movement. I’m super excited to do it because now I have so much to reference, and link back to, and ahhhhhh! It’s just going to be awesome.

Learning is awesome.

It was awesome in World/English today, too, as we did our final A day debates (on U.S. involvement in Yemen and Syria). The debate on Yemen was probably the best debate we had; both sides were so prepared for it, and their rebuttal rounds were AMAZING. I’m really proud of all of our students, though, and I think this was just what we all needed; a big success on a difficult thing. 

Debates wrapped up just before the end of Block 2. All the freshmen spent flex time in the auditorium to get information from the school counselors about how to select their courses for next year. Meantime, I spent it with some of my upperclassmen, going over the last APUSGOV unit test; one of the girls actually retook it during Block 5 and aced it, which I’m thrilled about (and so is she). In her case- and in many others- it’s just a matter of slowing down a bit, and reading the questions with a bit more care. That’s tough, of course, when a student is nervous about the time frame, but it can make a huge difference. I reminded this student that she’d finished well before the bell, so she had the time to slow down; hopefully, she remembers it for next time!

The freshmen returned for Block 4, and we moved on to some prep for the next unit. We moved the tables to that we had three stations. Students sitting at the first one did vocab games with me, students sitting at the second one worked independently on their homework, and students at the third one got information from Mrs. T about book choices for the Central Asia Novel Project. We switched stations ever fifteen minutes, and used the remaining time to sign off on course selection sheets. It worked out really well.

Like I said, I had a student in during Block 5. While she crushed her test retake, Mrs. T and I entered debate grades and did a bit of planning. At one point, Mr. F came in to open our windows because it was an unseasonable 60 degrees outside, which was absolutely delightful to experience once the day ended. It’s a good way to go into the weekend.