Category: stop gun violence

Day One Hundred Eighty

Underclassmen started taking finals today. There are two each day with a half hour break in between; today they were for first block classes. This block was my prep time on A days and APUSGOV on B days, so I spent the day grading multi-genre projects. 

Given that the project instructions are basically “Write about something that matters right now,” here’s a telling photograph: 

And, remember, I only have half of the projects in my possession; Mrs. T has the other half. 

I didn’t just put grades in all day today. I had a meeting with next year’s APUSGOV students to go over their summer work; it’s a big class, so it’ll be a whole new set of challenges. I also had a chat with The Principal, who complimented me on the work I did with my APUSGOV students this year. That was really gratifying.

After finals, there was a little party for retiring teachers at a local restaurant. I went with Mr. W because we’re both introverted souls who hate arriving alone to events like that. This is why we’re friends, haha. And it was a fun party! Lots of good food and funny stories… Also, a bunch these teachers’ former students made a goodbye video, which was sweet.

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.

Day One Hundred Sixty-Five

It was back to school after the long weekend, into the home stretch, etc, etc…

Mrs. T and I opened the wall between our classrooms to begin multi-genre drafting. We like to team teach this part because it gives our students a solid 160 minutes to work (yes, there are breaks, including lunch), and one of us can supervise the whole Cavern of Learning while the other works one-on-one with particular students. Both of us walk around with clipboards, too, so we can do on-the-fly editing. 

The first thing we have them draft is the works consulted page. Once they do that, they can start an expressive piece: narrative, poetry, personal letter, etc… One of the students whose project is about school shootings asked if she could write in text messages- as if texting from an active shooter situation- and I okayed it. I thought she’d just type it out like a script, but she actually took her script and got her friends to text her the different lines while her phone was on screen record. She played it back for Mrs. T and I, and we both almost cried. It’s such a powerful piece of work. 

I hope she shows it to everyone. 

I hate how much school shootings are on my students’ minds these days, but they are and we can’t ignore them. So I want my students to express whatever they’re thinking. Their voices should be heard.

I find myself speaking more candidly, too, when asked about what I think. I have a few colleagues who are ready to leave teaching, who have recurring shooting nightmares. And, no matter how rare school shootings are- and they are rare, even now- I know my family can’t help worrying about me. Even the local priest worries about me.

I wish they wouldn’t, but that isn’t really up to me.

Anyways. 

Class went well, and so did our team meeting afterwards. We spoke to two sets of parents- one incoming, one outgoing- about some challenging stuff, but it was positive and productive. It ran long, so I was a bit late to practice, but it was all right. Only a few athletes qualified for MOCs, and The Head Coach had procedural stuff to go over with them, so I didn’t miss any of the actual workout. And, after, I stuck around to help the middle school coach, Coach B, with her sprinters. They’ll be mine in the future, so it’s good to build some connections.

Day One Hundred Fifty-Nine

You know, today was glorious, at first. It’s a perfect spring day, it’s payday Friday, and Mr. W and I did a karate demo for my ninth graders during World (and it was so much fun). Katas, tricks with body mechanics, sparring… Mr. W did the “one inch punch” to me (on my shoulder so I could twist and dissipate some of the force, and Mr. F still had to catch me).

And then there as an incident in the hall.

And then our SRO hurried of for… something.

And then there was a shooting. 

Again.

I’ve said before that nothing is as wrenching as listening to kids in public schools after mass shootings. The resignation is terrible. But there’s a defiant joy, afterwards, and a desire to affirm life. 

And so I found myself here with my athletes this afternoon:

That’s the public beach a few towns over, where we gathered for a team spag. Conference championships are tomorrow. 

Day One Hundred Forty-Four

Today started with APUSGOV. I collected papers on civil rights policy-making (I asked them to argue for a policy change that would advance the cause of civil rights, so I got papers about prison reform, mandatory minimums, paid maternity leave, additional protections for transgendered people, etc… all very well written), went over the FRQ quiz they’d done last class, gave out some AP exam study materials, and let them have the rest of class to work on Policy Projects.

I admit that not a ton of work got done. Students were absent (it’s a group project), it’s the day before spring break, the looming exams are making us all a bit silly… But it’s all right. They did enough, and they’ll pick it up after break. 

I taught the same lesson in World as I did yesterday (the one good thing about the snow day on Monday is that it allowed us to end this week on the second day of our schedule rotation), and it went well. I didn’t have as many questions as yesterday, so the discussion wasn’t as rich initially- and I figured that would happen because these are my quieter two classes, and, again, it’s the day before break. In my Block 3, at least, though, the questions all came in the last ten minutes of class; I wrapped up the lesson, and hands went up, so… awesome. 

I spent my lunch supervising Mrs. T’s class so she could go to a meeting. A bunch of my activist students spent their lunches writing letters to Congress about gun violence- and encouraging others to do so- because it’s the anniversary of Columbine. They opted for that instead of another walk out, and I support their efforts.

Kids are gonna change the world. 

And now? Spring break!

Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH

Day One Hundred Eighteen

Whenever anyone asked me what I was going to do if students walked out of my class today, I said, “I’ll hold the door, then walk out with them." 

Doing so was one of the proudest moments of my career.

I thought it’d happen in the middle of World, so Mrs. T was going to supervise any students who didn’t walk since we’ve got the Cavern of Learning open, but school started on a two-hour delay because of the snow, so I was actually with my APUSGOV class. They all walked. 

Most of them had actually been part of planning the walk-out. They and other students worked with the administration to plan a 17-minute march, student speeches, a petition drive, and info session on registering to vote and writing their representatives. They also called for a “Walk Up,” as in walk up to 17 people and be kind. 

I can’t even tell you how incredible it was to listen to them speak. I know I’m not the only one of my colleagues who got emotional because they were so impassioned, honest, brilliant… A few of them went to Concord to meet to the governor this afternoon, others spoke to NHPR or other outlets. They want it to be clear that walking out wasn’t the end of the action; it’s the start. 

And change is coming.

I taught my classes, gave the same exhortation that I gave yesterday and so many other days- decide where you stand- and then I got ready to teach more about the world tomorrow. I spent the evening at winter sports awards, and got what is becoming a traditional (and awesome) coach’s gift: Thin Mints and flowers. So the ordinary things went on, and that might make some people think everyone will move on and forget about school shootings until the next one- it’s happened before, after all- but I don’t think so. 

Day One Hundred Thirteen

Today I explained the origins of ISIS to ninth graders because I’m a wizard and that’s what I do.

I had my students get into groups, and then I gave each group a series of cause and effect statements about ISIS’ genesis in Iraq. These statements had been cut up and shuffled, so each group had to figure out how to piece them together- matching cause to effect- and how to sort them chronologically.

It’s definitely a challenging task, so it was awesome to watch them tackle it. Students were on their feet, laying out the cause and effect statements all over the tables, talking to each other about what they were seeing. Last year, I lectured this lesson, but doing it this way worked way better for the students I have now. It was engaging and collaborative, and I’m feeling good about it.

I ended class by showing them the map of ISIS territory in 2014 so they could see what happened after ISIS came into being. There’s an editorial from that year that I’m having them read (because Mrs. T is teaching them how to write those at the moment) for homework; it’s about potential global responses to ISIS, so then we can get into what the actual global responses have been since it was written.

The Principal called an assembly during Block 3, which cut into my badass lesson, but it was about school safety, so it was very important. I wish we didn’t have to talk about what we do to prevent mass shootings, or what we do if our preventative measures fail, but we do. 

Day One Hundred Seven

Well. It’s the first day back from break, and a lot of us spent it talking about guns. I figured that’s how it was going to go for me. I teach government and world affairs, and I’m a known political organizer, so I get asked for my opinions about things all the time. And when I’m asked, I answer.

My students wanted to know what I thought about the protests being planned- and then they wanted to talk to each other about that, too, so I let them (carefully… emotions were running high). They also wanted to know what I thought about our school’s existing safety measures. One thing I told them was that, while I don’t like lockdown drills, I know they can be effective. My own high school was locked down during my senior year while a student who’d been planning to attack others was apprehended. There were weapons in the student’s locker, so it was for real. I don’t know how bad it could have been if the police hadn’t been tipped off- I don’t know how many weapons, what kind, etc…- but I remember thinking it would change things. 

I’m so sorry that students today have grown up thinking otherwise. 

I can’t imagine what this is like for them. 

It was interesting to juxtapose all that against my actual lesson, which was showing the documentary Promises (about kids in Israel and Palestine). Young people in different, violent situations… It was striking, to say the least. 

I’m due for a formal observation soon, so I had a pre-observation meeting with the Vice Principal. We ended up talking about guns, too; I went over how my convos had gone in class. She told me what’s going on in her office. And we both aired some thoughts about… everything. I was glad for the talk. 

I got back to my room with a bit of time to do my grading. I thought I had PD this afternoon, but Mrs. T let me know I had my dates wrong, so I found myself with a free afternoon. So I walked out with Mr. F and Mr. W, talking the whole way about- you guessed it- guns.

This is where we’re at. 

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