Category: teaching

Day Sixty-Eight

Mr. F and I were supposed to go to an IEP meeting this morning, but it got rescheduled, so we were able to go to the prep room, grab the cinnamon rolls Mrs. T made, and grade papers and stuff. 

World/English started smoothly. It was day two of introducing the research project, giving public speaking pointers, and laying down the law about being able to choose seats, etc… About twenty minutes in, Mrs. T got a call to pick her son up from preschool because he had a fever, so I was left alone in the Cavern. I hate to admit it was frustrating because, obviously, she had to go… But, yeah, it was a little frustrating in the moment. When there are two of us, one can handle the particularly needy and/or disruptive students while the other handles everyone else; it’s exhausting to do it solo. 

But, again, nothing for it. I survived.

I did end up assigning seats, though. The class couldn’t even manage five minutes of quiet work time in the seats they chose (yes, I was timing). When I told them that, and pointed out that I’d warned them repeatedly to stop talking and focus on their work, there was a general acknowledgement that my assigning seats was a reasonable move. 

It was mostly quiet and productive after that.

I saw some cool projects coming together. Topics include the Biafran War, Nelson Mandela, refugee camps in Kenya, the rehabilitation of child soldiers, the hunt for Joseph Kony… It’s all big stuff these students knew little or nothing about prior to ninth grade, and I’m hoping their presentations will be really eye-opening by the time we’re through.

I spent Block Five editing APUSGOV papers, mostly, but I did take a break to talk to Mr. F, Ms. N, Mrs. R, and The Vice Principal about how hard this year is. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling that way. 

At practice, The Head Coach had me take the sprinters to do starting blocks, which was fun, and it’s something I pride myself on doing well. I spent some time after practice finishing those APUSGOV papers, so my car was all alone in the parking lot when I left. 

Onward…

When I try to leave the school immediately aft…

When I try to convince students to get down to…

They’re like:

When students try to make it seem like they’re…

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Day Sixty-Seven

Most of my APUSGOV students came in tired. It’s the end of a tough week: lots of homework (research papers for me), grueling winter sports practices, and everything that happened Wednesday. I was tired, too. 

Luckily, it was a light class. I wrapped up some info about impeachment (spillover from last class), then lectured on “advice and consent of the senate.” It’s easy enough to grasp. 

Also, we had cupcakes. 

Last year, my brilliant little class decided that when the government shuts down, we should eat cake (because if you can’t have a government, you should at least have a cake). That tradition evolved to include eating almost cake (cupcakes) when the government almost shuts down. Congress managed to kick the budget battle down a few weeks, so. Cupcakes. 

In World/English, Mrs. T and I introduced the second part of The Epic Africa Book Paper and Research Project: choosing a topic the book they just read (ie- apartheid, if the student read Born a Crime or Invictus), researching it further, and putting together a multi-media presentation. 

We let students pick their own seats with the warning that we would assign them again if it got rowdy. I got my stopwatch out for work time, break time; and I specified how much research should be done by the end of the double block (notes and citations for at least two sources). Needing to provide that much structure is an adjustment, but our students are benefitting from it it, so we’re okay with that.

I spent my prep time going over the upcoming classes with Mrs. T, modifying assignments for a particular student, and grading some book papers. Then I went and inflicted my evil interval workout (the one that earned me the nickname “Satan”) on my sprinters. 

After that, I made myself presentable for a holiday dinner party. I find myself talking about teaching a lot at parties, and this one was no exception. People just have lots of questions about the profession- and, since I teach government and politics, there are even more questions! I certainly don’t mind, though. I love what I do, so I’m happy to talk about it.

what do you think a good gift for a teacher is…

what do you think a good gift for a teacher is?

Coffee and chocolate, if that teacher is me… I think it’s sweet to get any gift, though.

When students walk into class and see there is…

Day Sixty-Six

Today was significantly less dramatic than yesterday. 

We spent the morning meeting working on the NEASC self-study (and drinking lots of coffee because maaaaybe none of us slept well). I ran into the SRO afterwards and thanked him again for doing a damn good job. 

I had a meeting with Mr. W during Block One; he wanted my help drafting a course proposal for the program of studies, and I was happy to lend my writing skills. After that, I was able to do some lesson prep for APUSGOV, but I didn’t quite finish before the bell. I ended up doing the rest after school.

World/English was really good. It was the last day allotted for work on book papers, so Mrs. T and I were both very busy helping students write conclusions, giving drafts one last edit, answering citation questions, and so on. I broke the block up into work time and break time like I did last class, and it went so well. I did hold two students for lunch detention for being disruptive during work time (they could choose lunch or after school), but hopefully I won’t have to do that in the future. 

Also, I didn’t raise my voice. After last class, I asked myself why I was doing it if I didn’t want to; I realized that I may not be able to change my challenging student’s behavior, but I can change mine. So no more raised voice, I’m done yelling. 

That’s who I want to be.

Most students worked right up to the bell, but they did it. This was a really hard assignment, so it’s awesome that they persevered and succeeded. We were delighted by the big smiles, sighs of relief, and proudly flourished papers. 

One boy asked if he could cheer.

Heck yes.

When I ask students what they’re doing when th…

Day Sixty-Five

My school had a lockdown today. It was a false alarm, thank God, but it was properly terrifying.

I knew right away that it wasn’t a drill. The Principal tells the faculty about drills, for one, and he always comes on the PA to say “Lockdown” before sounding the alarm. Plus, it was during flex time, and he’d never interrupt that. So when the alarm went off I locked my door, shut off my lights, and got my students sitting down against my bookshelves like I’m supposed to, an I was thinking, “What do I say? Do I tell them it’s not a drill?” I was hoping someone would come on the PA and say there was a mistake, everything is okay… 

When that didn’t happen, and the alarm kept ringing, the kids started to look scared. So I said I didn’t know what was going on, but we were all safe where we were, so we should stay calm and stay put. I said, “Hopefully, this is nothing, but I’m going to look after you guys no matter what.” The door in the collapsible wall between my room and Mrs. T’s room has no lock, so one of the boys and I pushed a table against it (her door to the hall was locked, too, of course, but doing that made my students feel safer). Still, there were tears, and prayers. I was listening for gunshots, or any noise, really, and I was praying, too.

It was about an hour before the police came to the door to say we were safe. 

I have never been so happy to see our SRO. 

He explained that they were clearing classrooms one by one, and instructed my students to head to the gym. I thanked him and gave his arm a squeeze on the way out. Then I walked, holding the hands of some of the girls who were sobbing. There was a police officer in the hall, and one at the stairwell, and one at the bottom of the stairs. I mouthed “thank you” to each of them and got my class into the gym. The first thing I did after my students got settled was hug Mr. F, whose room was cleared right before mine. I hugged Mrs. T, too, when she arrived.

We were in the gym for about an hour, maybe longer. But there are bathrooms there, and the nurses had a case full of crackers, and everyone tried to keep it from being so terrible. We were able to go back to class around 1:00, but the day was basically shot. There was a quick lunch- during which I sent messages to my family to say that I was all right- and then class. I let my students do whatever as long as it was quiet. Some wanted to get back to work, some wanted to talk, others just wanted to sit… It was all fine with me.

Now I’m exhausted, and angry, and proud that my students did everything right, and upset that they’re good at lockdowns, and grateful there wasn’t an actual threat, and all the other emotions. It’s understandable, I think.