Category: teachblr

Day One Hundred Seventy-Eight

The whole building smelled like cigarette smoke this morning, but no one knows why. We all opened windows and turned on fans (which we’d have done anyhow because today’s the first hot day we’ve had all spring) to get the smell to dissipate, and then we just went on with our work. I had Block 1 free because APUSGOV is over, so I was just answering emails and stuff… until I got interrupted by a bunch of sophomore boys tromping down the hallway singing “Breaking Free” from High School Musical

No one knows why that happened either. Buuuut it’s the last week of classes, the end of a wacky year, so it’s probably fitting. 

Anyways…

It was another day of Multi-Genre Project conferencing for Mrs. T and I. We each read and discussed six or seven projects during the double block, all of which were pretty excellent. I had a particularly great conversation with one boy about how to add detail to a narrative he was writing about corruption in professional sports; I made one suggestion, and his eyes lit up, and he rattled off a bunch more things he could do to improve a particular scene. It’s great when it clicks like that.

If students weren’t conferencing with us, they were working on their revisions. And if they finished and turned in final drafts, then they started preparing for their final exams. Towards the end of Block 4, a handful of students who were done with everything started talking about training for their various sports, so I jumped in and answered a few questions about what my sprint training had been like in college. The really cool thing, though, was that a student who missed a lot of school this year for health reasons- so he’s really still navigating the social stuff, figuring out where he fits in- dragged his chair over after a few minutes of listening to the rest of us and joined the conversation. That made my day. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Seven

So last night one of the third floor science labs flooded, and the ceiling collapsed in the middle of the Cavern of Learning. The thing is, though, if I hadn’t been told about it, I never would have known. By some miracle, none of the desks, laptop carts, etc…got damaged, and the custodial crew worked all night to clean up the debris, and put in new lights and ceiling tiles. I’m pretty impressed with the work they put in to make sure everything was fine by the time the first bell rang.

I spent the morning checking things off my to-do list: cleaning my desk and cabinets, updating bus lists for Project Grad, sending emails, and so on. Then in World/English, Mrs. T and I both started doing formal Multi-Genre Project conferences, which went pretty well. Over the years, I’ve gotten way better at explaining what I’m doing while I’m editing, in particular, so that students will know how to do better in the future. This year they’ve all been really excited to talk about their work and make it as perfect as possible.

I did have the one kid who just looked the other way the whole time I was reading his work, and I so get that. I was that kid, too. So I made all my edits and revision suggestions in silence, and afterwards we talked about everything.

It’s all about finding what works.

The prep room where we usually eat was occupied at lunch time, and it was a gorgeous day, so Mrs. T, Mrs. R, and I all went and ate outside. That was delightful- as was the end of the year party at Mr. R’s house, which I just came home from! Good food, good people, relief that summer is almost here… 

It’s a good day!

Day One Hundred Seventy-Six

I was a little out of sorts this morning. Like, I just felt a bit stressed and short-tempered, and I don’t know exactly why. But then one of my APUSGOV students, who missed the last day of class, came by to turn in his final project and chat for a bit, and there was no way I could stay in a bad mood then. 

And, after that, the Cavern of Learning came back! Mrs. T and I opened the wall between our classrooms to do conferences with students about their Multi-Genre Projects. Between the two of us, we can conference with every student in two or three days, which leaves us time to do a second conference with anyone who wants one. Also, one or the other of us will always have spare time to answer questions and offer help to students who aren’t conferencing. So it works out super well.

I’ve been checking drafts, so I’ve seen students’ work coming together these past few weeks, but Mrs. T was finishing up Romeo and Juliet, so she’s coming to the party late. She’s loving how lengthy and detailed a lot of these projects are; students are really showing the progress they’ve made in research and writing. And, as I’ve said many times, what’s better than that at the end the year? We’re both super happy.

It’s a gorgeous day, so we went on a “walking meeting” during our prep time: two laps around the building. As we walked, we went over our plans for tomorrow, since she has to leave for part of the day, and discussed the students who’re behind on their work. On the second lap, we saw one of our students on the basketball court with Ms. N- taking a movement break- and when he saw us, he challenged us to play, too.

So did I go shoot hoops in a dress and high heels? Of course, I did.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Five

Today was the last day of senior classes, so the culinary class threw a celebratory cookout at lunch, which was DELICIOUS. I had awesome pulled pork, pasta salad, hotdogs, etc… And all day long there were seniors popping by to say goodbye and thank you, which was adorable, even when I was mid-teach.

I did writing conferences for nearly all of Block 2, but during Block 4 there weren’t a lot of students ready to conference, so I just walked around and helped out as needed, and tried to keep everyone on task. I may have promised to freestyle rap in exchange for two students finishing the pieces they were working on.

Also, this conversation happened:

Student A: I have a golf tournament this weekend.
Student B: Gotta go all Tiger Woods, man.
Student C: Tiger is so good. Like, I bet he’s so good at everything, not just golf.
Me: I mean, he was pretty bad at marriage…
*chorus of “Ohhhh!”*
Student C: Drag him, Miss M! Just for that, I’m going to write another paragraph.

Whatever it takes, right?

And during flex block, I met with all my incoming APUSGOV students, went over course information with them, and assigned the summer work. I know about 2/3 of the students already, and am excited to get to know the rest. It’s going to be fun.

During Block 5 there was a house meeting, which was fine, initially. Then one of my coworkers said something pretty cutting. I’ve written before that there’s one who just doesn’t like me, and I stopped trying to change her opinion a long time ago, but her comment today still stung a little. So I was more than happy to leave when a student came to see me. He’s behind on his Multi-Genre Project, so he came to get some help, and ended up almost back on track by 3:30. I think he’ll get there by the end of next class, which is awesome.

As he was leaving, he thanked me and smiled. I don’t think I’d seen this kid genuinely smile before, and that erased how I was feeling coming out of my meeting. Let folks say or think whatever they want about me, you know?

I know who I am, and what I can do. 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Four

I made it until the very end of APUSGOV before it made me cry. Students presented projects about various act of political participation they took part in this past year (voting, working on campaigns, going to campaign events, attending town meetings, petitioning local boards, observing a session of the state senate, etc…), and reflected on the importance of participation. A lot of them stressed how much it mattered that they were young- because, often, it made them stand out- and how powerful their voices were, as a result. Afterwards, as is my tradition, I gave them each a letter I’d written full of parting words and advice. I told them that I was so proud of all them, and thanked them for an amazing year, and I WAS FINE… but then they clapped for me.

So, yeah, there were tears. That class is so special, and it’s an extraordinary privilege to get to teach it, and… Wow. I am so lucky that this is what I do, you guys.

My freshmen saw me wiping my eyes when they came in for Block 2, and they were like, “Dawww!” Teaching them is pretty awesome, as well, for different reasons. Today I started doing writing conferences, so I got to read entire Multi-Genre Projects and express all my delight about the work put into them. Seriously, they’re amazing, and I’m learning about all kinds of things (like treatments for lymphoblastic leukemia, and developments in artificial intelligence, and plans to clean up the Pacific Ocean). I say it all the time, but the greatest thing about this project is that we can use it to end the year on a high note; it’s June, but nearly everyone’s engaged, and it’s fantastic.

(It helps that it hasn’t gotten hot outside yet… like, I wore leggings and a cardigan with my dress today).

During Block 5 I had to do IEP quarterlies, which didn’t take very long. After that, Mrs. T and I met with The Vice Principal to talk about the handful of students who are in danger of failing our classes. She wanted to know what we’re doing to try to help them, and if it’s working. Mostly, the answer is yes, but there are two students that we’ve been completely unable to reach. And even though no one else has either, it’s still frustrating and makes me feel like I’ve failed. I remind myself that we were able to reach so many others, and they’ve grown tremendously since the start of the year, buuut… Yeah. The feeling of failure is hard to shake off.

We keep trying tomorrow…

Day One Hundred Seventy-Three

There are noticeable bruises on one of my hands from last week’s karate demos (I punched Mr. T’s whiteboard at least once in each class, so this is unsurprising… gotta remember to switch hands in the future). I had to explain those to The Principal when I went to talk to him about APUSGOV stuff this morning. That was almost as fun as explaining them to the priest after mass yesterday. 

Heh.

Some of my World students finished drafting all the pieces in their Multi-Genre Projects, so I spent most of my class time conferencing with them. When I wasn’t doing that, though, I was walking around and answering questions, or helping students figure out what to say if they were stuck. It was an easy day for me, and a productive one for them, and that’s awesome at this point in the year.

I didn’t get down to the office to check my mail until well into Block 5. At that point, I discovered a very sweet thank you card from one of my seniors. 

My last class with them is tomorrow. I may just bawl my eyes out afterwards.

Day One Hundred Seventy-Two

I told my APUSGOV students that I’d caught their senioritis because I was draaaaagging this morning. It’s a casual Friday, so I was wearing jeans and a top from the Gap, and I didn’t put my make-up on, and my hair was totally just up in a bun. I decided to put on some jewelry to make myself look more presentable. That’s my trick. 

I let my students have the block to finish their final projects, so it was pretty chill. A handful of them came in just for my class, which is funny since it’s over before 9:00AM, and I think I should feel honored? Maybe? 

In World, I checked off students’ final Multi-Genre pieces (graphic pieces) and had them begin editing their work themselves, peer editing, and- if they were ready- conferencing with me. Afterwards, Mrs. T and I had a meeting of the minds to discuss who’s ahead and who’s behind since she’ll be wrapping up Romeo and Juliet next week and we’ll be opening the wall between our classrooms for conferences and revisions. It’ll be so fun to be back together again. 

During Block 5, she and I went to meet with The Vice Principal, who wanted some information about some of our students, but apparently some Incidents happened so we had to wait until the end of the block. We had a good discussion eventually, though, about the things that seem to impede student success the most (poor reading skills, truancy, and/or parents who don’t hold their children accountable for anything). And when I got back to my classroom afterwards, I found cake on my desk, courtesy of Mr. F, who’d gotten it out of the prep room. So that was pretty great!

I puttered in my room for a bit, ate cake, and then walked out into a beautiful afternoon! TGIF!

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

This morning, the faculty met our new principal, who made a hilarious first impression by showing up wearing almost exactly the same outfit as our current principal. Khakis and a blue dress shirt are apparently standard issue. Aside from that, though, I had a couple observations:

1) He’s only three years older than I am, and he went from being a classroom teacher to a principal after thirteen years, so I have more years of teaching experience than he does. I don’t know if any of that is good or bad; it’s just very different than what I’m used to. 

2) He’s nervous, which I get, because he’s coming from a school with half as many students- if that- and a faculty that’s a lot smaller, too. I’m sure it was a lot just to see how many of us there are, you know? But he seems nice, and enthusiastic, so that’s good. 

He’ll be the third principal I’ve worked for in fourteen years of teaching at the same high school, and I’m excited to see what he brings to our community. I definitely have to meet with him, at some point, to talk about that powerhouse APUSGOV class of mine. Next year’s an election year, and I want to know how much freedom I’ll have to bring in candidates, staffers, the press, etc… to class (right now, as longtime readers know, I have total freedom, and it’s amazing). 

The rest of the day went smoothly. I helped some of the students in the club I advise finish putting up a bulletin board during my prep, and then- because it’s a B day- I did exactly what I did yesterday: went to Mr. T’s room to do some karate for half the block before returning to my own classes to oversee Multi-Genre awesomeness. The karate was fun; I definitely got more questions today than I did yesterday, and got to demo some fun stuff like chi breaking because Mr. W had some free time. 

I was also wearing a shirt that says “Teacher by day, deadly ninja by night,” so I was getting laughs. 

What else? Final qualifying lists for the Meet of Champions came out today. I’m bummed my 4×4 boys just missed qualifying, but I’m happy for the ones who did make it (best thing was running into an English class to tell one of the distance boys he was in because he didn’t think he’d had a chance). We had a quick practice, went over Saturday’s departure information, and called it a day. No sense in overworking now; everyone’s as ready as they’re going to be.

Day One Hundred Seventy

Mr. F brought Mrs. T and I coffee this morning. His parents brought it back from some trip they’d taken somewhere (I’m very specific, I know) It was basically French Vanilla jet fuel, and it was amazing.

It was Senior Skip Day #2 today. Since our school does every other day classes, our seniors decided they had to skip them all, so… two skip days. I let them know every year that I think the second day is super lame. But, y’know, I’m still not the type of teacher who plans a test for that day; my whole APUSGOV class was absent, and that’s fine. I read a book. 

Then I want across the hall to Mr. T’s room (while someone else covered my World classes) and did karate! He’s been teaching about Eastern philosophy, so I offered to come in and demonstrate how that relates to martial arts. I did a few tricks and katas, and answered questions. We had an unexpectedly deep chat in his Block 2 class about how people who practice martial arts should use their skills, and how it doesn’t make anything better to be disproportionately violent, and we should be careful about what we put out into the universe. That was pretty awesome.

So, yeah, I spent about half of the block with each of his classes, and then went back to my own for the other half of the block. Multi-genre projects continue to take shape in exciting ways; I saw the most awesome storyboard for a cartoon about new treatments for cancer, and a lot of cool infographics, and other really creative stuff. I did a couple conferences in the time I had, as well. 

During Block 5 I went to have a chat with The Vice Principal about some students, and ended up staying for a longer chat about the year, the new principal (who’s coming to meet us all tomorrow morning, so I should have an interesting entry tomorrow), etc… Then I went out for a short track practice, and that was that!

Day One Hundred Sixty-Nine

It’s Senior Skip Day, so it was unusually quiet in the halls today. Of course, since it was 49 degrees and pouring rain, a lot of the seniors’ plans for the day  were undoubtedly ruined, and I will crack jokes about that when I see them next. That’s just how I roll with my seniors.

With my freshmen, it was another day of Multi-Genre drafting. I spent most of it checking work and answering questions. I even did a few full writing conferences with students who were ahead of schedule and had all of their pieces drafted. It was really cool to see how their projects fit together, how each piece was a part of a whole. And it’s impressive that they’re so far ahead that they’re already revising; that isn’t on the schedule until the middle of next week!

I do have one student I’m struggling with because, unless I sit beside him and force him to stay on task, he doesn’t get much done. Obviously, I can’t sit beside him for an entire block, and I’ve tried every trick in my book to get him to work independently, but I haven’t had much luck. What he really needs is a private, silent room with no distractions, and I don’t have one of those handy. He is supposed to come after school- without his buddies, though, so that might help.

Here’s hoping…

Practice today was rainy and therefore very short. Plus, most of our athletes are on the bubble for MOCs; we’ve got to wait for the final entry list to see if they make it, and that won’t come out until Thursday. Two are definitely in, but the rest? We’ll see.