Category: social studies

Day One Hundred Seventy-Nine

Today was the last day of regular classes for our underclassmen, which means it was the day multi-genre projects were due. This is my half to grade:

Each project has four different pieces of work (expressive, informational, opinion, graphic) and full MLA citations. Each piece was drafted and revised at least once, sometimes two or three times. Most students cite a half dozen sources or more; some have over twenty sources. 

Don’t ever let anyone tell you June is a throwaway month and you can’t keep students motivated to learn.

Mrs. T and I know better. 

And we are wizards.

We both gave students time to work and/or review for finals before delivering our last lessons today, and that was that. We’re proud of how proud our students were to hand those projects in! Like, we had three boys stay a couple minutes late to get their work printed, and they were grinning and high-fiving as they left. Stuff like that makes my day.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Eight

Today was the last day of class for half of my students. Monday will be the last day for the other half. Then it’s just finals. 

I gave students the option to work on their multi-genre projects or prep for the final, and made myself available to edit pieces or offer help. Then, in the last five minutes, I showed them a “year in review” sort of video I had made, which ended with my last lesson. 

What was that lesson?

“You are the next world-changers.”

That, more than anything, is what I want them to know. I thanked them for the year, said goodbyes, gave a few hugs, and that was that.

I ran to the grocery store after work to grab something to bring to a graduation party. I ran into one of the graduating seniors, a girl who’d been in my class as a ninth grader. She told me she’s studying social studies/secondary ed. in college because of World. 

The party I went to was hosted by a group of girls I absolutely loved getting to know over the years. They were all in at least one of my classes and/or on the track team. All of my APUSGOV girls were there, and you all know how amazing they are. They’re smart, and kind, and determined to do good things, and, man, they just shine so brightly.

I am SO glad that they’re part of my life, and the wide world is going to be so lucky to get to know them next.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Seven

It’s a late entry because I just got home from a political event. I got to see the candidates and staffers I’ve met through APUSGOV, and make some new connections- which is the point of going. I’m not a big networker, really, but I’ve been learning… 

Anyways. My school day was good. Mrs. T and I wrapped up writing conferences with the set of students we had today, and helped kids prepare for our finals. I know I’ve sounded a bit like a broken record these past few entries, but it’s all going so smoothly (here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx it). Our last days of classes are tomorrow and Monday- followed by four days of finals- and it’s still kind of hard to believe. 

Graduation rehearsal happened this afternoon, and some of my APUSGOV kids came by to say thanks. I got a gift card to a local restaurant from one, which is so nice! I will seriously miss that awesome little crew…

But! I will see them at graduation and on Project Grad, so that’s good. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Five

Today was long, but it was a good day. 

The merry band of activists that meets in my classroom made cake and started designing a website to spread their message. So that’s awesome. One of the kids’ moms does site design for a living, so she came in to help, except I totally forgot no one can log onto our wifi networks without our tech folks okaying it. D’oh. But they managed to get some work done anyhow.

Then, in World/English, Mrs. T and I conducted more multi-genre project writing conferences- another nine each- and we’re really feeling good about our students’ work. I think everything I read was quality work; even if pieces needed to be improved, it wasn’t hard to explain to students how to go about it. And I did read two projects that were just straight-up AWESOME. One was about mass shootings and the other was about mental illness, and both packed in some powerful writing.

It’s all very serious, and so was what I did with my prep time. Tom White was back in Mr. I’s Genocide Studies class, so I went down to see him lecture. Those of you following along will remember that he was one of my high school teachers, so it’s always amazing to be his student again- even as an interloper!

We had to say a quick goodbye because I had a faculty meeting. That was, well, a faculty meeting in June. There were cookies, though, so that’s something.

Afterwards, I had about an hour to go home and chill before going back to the school for Spring Sports Awards. And that was amazing, as it always is. It’s  recognizing a season of tremendous work, goodbyes and hugs from the seniors, flowers and other coaches’ gifts… We had five amazing captains this year, but one of them stood out because this sport changed him SO MUCH for the better. And I got to tell him how proud I was of him. 

That’s what it’s all about.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Four

So here I was, ready to write this blog entry and go out for the evening, aaaaaand I made the mistake of checking my work email first. 

Here’s a tip for new teachers: if a parent emails you and asks you to call them to discuss a particular grade, write back, tell them you’ll call during school hours (personal choice: I don’t make calls from home because I don’t want to do them on my cell phone), and ask what, specifically, they want to discuss. They’ll either say it’s resolved (usually because they’ve talked to their kid) or they’ll provide details, which will make calling quicker and easier.

Anyways…

Today was fun! I spent my prep time tinkering with some APUSGOV stuff for next year, and finishing one of the new books Mrs. T and I got for World/English. Then one of my seniors came by to return old books to us (from when she was in ninth grade and devouring both our classroom libraries). That was a bit of nostalgia and amusement.

I did nine writing conferences during the double block of World/English, and Mrs. T did ten. One of the best things about team teaching is that we can have in-depth conferences with all of our students in just two or three days because we have twice the time and half the work (because I conference with half our students, and she conferences with the other half). Students can even have us check their work again before final drafts are due because we aren’t pressed for time. It’s really ideal.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Three

Today I spent my prep time chipping away at the stack of shiny new books we have for next year; I’ve got to read them before I assign them. I also got brand new speakers because my old ones were kind of trash, and, like, these are intense speakers.

I didn’t need them today because I was doing writing conferences. Multi-genre projects are coming together! Mrs. T and I love how proud of the work the students are. We overheard several sharing pieces with others, or discussing how much research they’d done, that sort of thing. We also love how much collaboration has been happening; in past years, we’d have maybe one or two kids team up- write personal letters to each other, write connected narratives, film a joint newscast- but this year there’s a ton of that. It’s so creative, too. Like, today one girl enlisted two of her friends to film a PSA about mental illness; they all had messages on their arms in washable marker, which flipped from negative to positive, black and white to color. So clever. 

The ninth grade house met for a year-end review/planning session/party (The Vice Principal brought us snacks!) and that was really positive. We’ll have a handful of newbies next year, but most of us will be back for more adventures with freshmen, and we’re exciting to keep getting better at what we do.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Two

Today was incredible.

It was the final day of APUSGOV. We ate donuts and watched The West Wing (”The Stackhouse Filibuster” because I love a filibuster, and the episode’s ending fit the occasion: “Tonight I’ve seen a man with no legs stay standing, and a guy with no voice keep shouting. And if politics brings out the worst in people, maybe people bring out the best.”). And then I delivered my last lesson. I told them this was their time, I thanked them for the amazing journey they took me on this year, and then I gave them the farewell letter I wrote.

I won’t share its full contents, but I will share a bit. I’m fond of quoting poetry, and this class was fond of hearing it, so I left them with a snippet from Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?“

I didn’t cry, but it was a near thing. 

I got to see most of my students again during Block 5 because we had one last congressional candidate in as guest speaker. This one’s the democratic frontrunner, and I’d bugged his campaign SO MUCH about scheduling a visit that I was actually super nervous. Like, if it didn’t go well after I was a total pain in the neck? Oh man… 

My World students made fun of me for my nerves in between drafting and conferencing, which… Okay. 

I didn’t need to be nervous, of course. It went so well. It may have actually been the best meeting with a candidate we had. I know I sound like a broken record at this point when I say my students asked such good questions, but they did. One of the underclassmen who’s been joining us even came with prepared notes. I am so proud of her! 

The Vice Principal caught up with me after the bell to ask how it had gone, and to congratulate me on getting so many guests in. I still can’t believe that we did! The lesson is that it never hurts to ask. I have engaged, inspirational students; folks in politics should want to meet them.

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

Today I got to eat some wicked good cake. 

Mrs. T baked cake because it’s her seniors’ last day in Reading Break, and that calls for celebration. My Reading Break got in on it because the wall between our classrooms is open, and it would’ve been mean not to share with us. So yay.

World/English went… mostly smoothly. I had to chase down a few kids who went hallway wandering after lunch, but that’s all. Mrs. T and I both spent much of our time editing drafts for students, and their work is so good. We’ve got ninth graders writing and revising two, three times to perfect a piece; there’s such high engagement- and it’s June!!! 

This is our biggest triumph. 

One of my seniors came in during our team meeting to say goodbye because he won’t be in APUSGOV tomorrow. That was sweet. My colleagues ribbed me a little for being a pile of sentimental goo afterwards, but I can’t help it. I love that class.

Tomorrow’s going to be a lot.

Day One Hundred Seventy

Sometimes parents tell me that their kids are watching the news, and starting discussions about current affairs, and so on. They’re usually incredulous, and grateful, and I’m just delighted. I feel like I’ve done something right. 

Buuuut sometimes parents tell me that their kids are using what I’ve taught them to make mischief, and I just have to own it. Someone asks a priest about The Flying Spaghetti Monster during CCD? My fault. Someone’s quoting nihilist philosophy at a family dinner? That’s on me, too. 

But the kid who decided gravity is fake? I DIDN’T DO IT.

I did preside over a fairly silly APUSGOV class: second to last day, finishing up projects with The West Wing on in the background (at least half my students were trying to figure out their undone physics homework, too). 

My day got busy after that because Mrs. T was absent. Managing our combined classes alone is a challenge, especially given the number of kids whose new thing is breaking minor rules just to be contrary (I shut it down by saying it’s boring). I managed, though, and was able to check in drafts and help kids edit. They were very patient with the fact that my attention had to be divided.

Now I want to go to bed. Heh. 

Day One Hundred Sixty-Nine

Mrs. T bought a dress online that turned out to be too big for her, so I- being half a foot taller and in possession of curves- bought it from her. I wore it today, and the handful of students who care about our fashion had many complimentary things to say. That’s a win. 

It was a fairly easy day for both of us. We spent Block 1 chatting with some former students who came by to ask us to edit papers (there was a sub in their class, so their actual teacher couldn’t do it). During World/English, I edited works in progress while Mrs. T checked in completed drafts. There are some seriously cool projects taking shape. It’s awesome. 

I spent my prep time writing a letter to my APUSGOV class. It’s been a tradition of mine to write something to my senior classes for several years now. This one is truly special, so it took a while to decide what I wanted to say.

I think I got it.