Category: team leader

Day One Hundred Eighty-Two

So, the other day, Mr. B emailed me to ask me if I’d be willing to be a building rep for the teacher’s union. I didn’t respond with my immediate reaction, which was, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” I took some time to think it over. Mr. B has been my mentor for years, so the fact the he was the one asking was partially why I eventually said yes. There was an election, but I was running unopposed, so it was all but official at that point. Today it’s actually official. 

That’s probably the biggest thing that happened to me today. It was the first day of final exams for the underclassmen, and I had no exams to give, so my day was pretty quiet. Exams are scheduled so that students take two each day with a half hour break in between and lunch after. Today, they took the exams for their Block 1 classes, and I don’t have any (APUSGOV was on A days- and seniors took finals last week- and my prep time was on B days).

I spent most of the morning cleaning out my classroom, except for the hour or so when I was in a team leader meeting with Mrs. C, Mrs. R, and The Vice Principal. I didn’t realize how full my file cabinets had gotten until I decided to go through them and clear the clutter. Now they’re mostly empty because everything is digital. No need for old curriculum binders, or anything like that.

I had lunch with Mr. W, Mr. F, and Mrs. T. We went out of the building for that; I’d gotten a gift certificate to a local restaurant from a student, so we spent it, and talked about the year, and relaxed… When we got back to school, Mrs. T and I graded Multi-Genre Projects with Mrs. T; we each take half of the projects, so the grading is quick, easy, and awesome. I know I keep saying the students’ work is amazing… but it really is. The level of detail on some of these projects is phenomenal.

Oh, and this one fun: one of the boys on the football team had asked for an extension on the project (he needs to pass World and English in order to keep his eligibility for fall sports, so making sure he had time to do well was great and responsible), so he had to print everything out and hand it in today. He showed up with five of his teammates in tow, and they were chanting his name the whole time he was printing pieces, and when he handed me everything they burst into applause.

Gotta love a supportive team, right?

This afternoon, I got invited to a house party by one of the many presidential campaign staffers I keep in touch with (APUSGOV networking). He’s got one of my incoming GOV students- a girl who was in World with me two years ago- interning on the campaign, which is awesome. He couldn’t say enough good things about her. Helping to run a house party is a huge thing, so it was really neat to see one of my students taking that on. I’m super proud of her.

Day One Hundred Thirty-Five

You know how sometimes there are those days that are super chill until all of a sudden there are two dozen things that need your attention? My day was like that today. 

My World classes were both pretty good. A bunch of students are out sick right now- like, our whole band took a weekend trip to Montreal and came back with a nasty stomach bug- so it was a bit quiet, but that’s okay. It just meant we didn’t discuss as much as we did yesterday. I taught my lesson on Pakistan, and gave students the remaining class time to do their homework or reading their books for The Central Asia Book Project. 

So, like I said, it was chill. Flex time was chill, too; the quarter’s ending on Friday, so a bunch of kids came in to make up assignments, retake quizzes, etc… and they pretty much all buckled down and did their work. A few stayed after with Mrs. T (since I had practice) to get even more done this afternoon. I proofread a few essays, and fielded questions as needed, and graded everything that was turned in to me. 

There was a team meeting during Block 5, and that’s when things started to get less chill. We’re taking the freshmen on college visits in a couple of weeks, so we started the meeting by doing some planning for that, and I realized someone had the sports schedule wrong (track team dismissal on the wrong day), so I had to make sure that got fixed. Then, in the course of discussing a student we decided to do a SpEd. referral, so I had to do that paperwork. And as I was doing that, a bunch of people needed me for one thing or another.

Soooo I was about ten minutes late to practice, but it’s all good. I got everything done, I made it, I attempted to teach relay passes without a track because the track is still covered in snow…

Day One Hundred Four

My day started with a meeting right at 7:30, which made my morning slightly hectic. I usually use Block 1 on B days to do my grading, make sure my lessons for the day are set, handle any non-instructional tasks I have to handle, etc… If I’d known this meeting was coming, I’d have gotten all that stuff done before I left on Friday, but it got rescheduled at the last-minute (because it’s looking like we’re going to be buried in snow over the next two days). It was an important meeting, though, and I’m super glad we had it because it had an immediate, positive impact on one of our students.

Did I forget to make a whole set of copies because I was rushing to get ready for World afterwards? Sure did. But life and learning went on.

My World students wrote current events essays, and then we resumed our study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t go well initially- which is typical when a snow day is looming- but I got most students’ attention when I started discussing the issues surrounding the water supply. I ended up going on Google to find some stats about water consumption in the U.S. so students could compare it to water consumption in the West Bank. That was eye-opening, and generated a lot of conversation. 

Meantime, my colleagues at the other end of the hall were dealing with students vaping in the bathroom. 

This has been a HUGE issue this year; it’s the reason most suspensions have occurred, all the school dances besides prom (which isn’t held at the school) have been canceled, there have been community-wide meetings about the health risks… It’s so bad, and I’m worried that it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

But let me close this entry on a positive note…

During Block 5, the ninth grade house teachers met to discuss various projects we’ve been working on in small groups (Mrs. T, Mr. F, and I have been developing lessons that add math into our interdisciplinary fabulousness). It was cool to hear what other groups were working on; one’s got some cool ideas to increase student agency that I’m interested to see put into practice. It was a good way to end a day: a bit of professional collaboration and collegiality. 

Day Ninety-Seven

Today was Mrs. T’s birthday, so we had cake for breakfast after our PLC meetings. It was also an APUSGOV student’s birthday, so the rest of the class sang to him when he walked in. So, I’m saying, the start of my day was pretty fun.

In APUSGOV I lectured about the set-up of the federal court system (basically, I talked my way from district courts up to the Supreme Court), the class tackled Article III and Federalist 78, and I explained the facts of Marbury v. Madison: the backstory, the questions the Court had to consider, the stakes of their decision… I finished about a minute before the bell with, “So, how did the Court rule? You’ll find out next class.” 

I got some good-natured grumbling and also some applause for that.

In World I did a lesson on Islam because it’s the one of the “Big 3″ that my students know the least about, and- as they’ve learned in past classes- it influences Middle Eastern culture a lot. In one part of the lesson I showed a National Geographic video about the hajj, and the number of people making the pilgrimage kind of blew my students’ minds. There are maybe three Muslim families in this whole area (which is why they know so little about Islam), so getting a glimpse of what a big, global religion it is was a good learning experience for them. 

It was also good for them to see what Mecca looks like because I doubt any of them had seen it before; probably the only Middle Eastern cities they have seen are the war torn ones that end up on the news. They’ll see more, though, because their homework is about other important cultural sites in the Middle East besides Mecca. Students can either watch video or read an article about them. I’m trying something new with the options, so we’ll see how it goes, but I’m thinking the students will like it.

The ninth grade teams are supposed to bring new interdisciplinary lessons to the house meeting on Monday, and my team hadn’t finished any of ours because one of us was absent basically every time we were supposed to work on them, so we were kind of freaking out today. Then, as I was eating lunch, I realized Mr. F does a project on spirals with his geometry students, and they (and other cool, geometric stuff) appear in lots of Middle Eastern artwork, so we could easily connect our lessons. I called him over to my room at the start of Block 5 so we could work on that. Half an hour later, we had a formal unit plan and  folder full of resources. 

Boom.

I’m feeling like an accomplished team leader.

Day Seventeen

Open House Chocolate Cream Pie:

  • Mix 4oz, of cream cheese and half a tub of Cool Whip 
  • Spread evenly in an Oreo crust 
  • Chill for 30 minutes
  • Mix 12oz instant chocolate pudding mix with 2.5 cups of milk
  • Spread on top of cream cheese and Cool Whip layer

Pie did, in fact, make the day better for my whole floor. That’s a win.

And so was everything else today! I had two awesome World classes. I got some GREAT questions about Latin America, and my students had a big, broad discussion of immigration during Block 4. That was so cool. They devoured the independent work I assigned, too, which rocks. 

I also had a super busy flex block- 17 students came to see me! They were all able to get help, get work done, and improve their grades. It’s such a benefit for them to have that time. I had a feeling I’d like flex, and I definitely do so far.

I spent half my prep time in a team leader meeting and half in a 504 meeting. It was super positive (not all of them are), but it meant I had to stay after to prepare for Open House. It didn’t take too long, though; I washed my desks and boards, printed informational handouts, and then left for a couple hours. Some teachers stay straight through the afternoon, but I always make it a point to go home. I like to get coffee, eat dinner, change clothes, and reapply my make-up. 

At Open House, I always do a couple things: I write my credentials on the board (because I am a professional badass, and people should know), I congratulate parents of seniors and welcome parents of freshmen, and I try to remember to breathe. It’s so much more nerve-wracking than teaching is! But I think it went well.

Day One Hundred Forty-One

Today there was a letter in the local paper accusing all teachers and students of leading a violent communist insurrection, which… cmon. I’m not that ambitious before my morning coffee. 

Anyways…

The snow day left me- and most other people- a bit discombobulated. I spent most of my Block 1 prep time rewriting lesson plans, bugging Mrs. T with questions, and apologetically asking congressional candidates who were scheduled to visit APUSGOV to reschedule (the downside of A/B Block). They were all very nice, but I had one candidate scheduled for Thursday, so it’s too late to change the date. They did change times to Block 5 when a lot of my seniors have study hall, but I’m still low-key freaking out that no one will attend. 

I had my World lesson all set and ready to go, so I didn’t have to prep a ton for that. It’s an “at your own pace” lesson on modern history in Afghanistan. Students had to examine a Powerpoint full of images from 1960-2001, a National Geographic documentary on the civil war and rise of the Taliban (which they watched on laptops with headphones), and two readings on the US war. Students could work alone or with others, and anything they didn’t finish in class is homework to finish. The goal is understanding the impact of decades of war on Afghan culture, which is what we’ll discuss next class. 

I was supposed to have a track meet this afternoon, but it’s still icy and rainy, so that got canceled. That meant I could run our team meeting Block 5. It was quick: reminders to finish grades (quarter three is over!!!), submit PD hours, etc… That was it. Afterwards, Mr. L and I finished the final paper we had to do for our CBE course. We finished right at the bell, and we feel accomplished. Woohoo!

Day One Hundred Thirty-One

Some days, I am 100% on top of all my non-instructional duties. Today was not one of those days. I took attendance for all of my classes at, like, 2:00; I never checked my mailbox; I did the homework for the PD class I’m in five minutes before class started… 

Oof.

I was late to class, too, because one of my sprinters came to talk to me about an injury he picked up playing basketball, and then another came to ask me about relay drills… Mrs. T just laughed and said she’d save me a seat. She’s used to seeing me surrounded by a flock of tall, tough boys and ponytailed girls- and knows I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I was sad to miss practice, but class was good. There was a discussion about being teacher-leaders, and I admitted something I seldom do: I’m not always comfortable being leader. I know that I take on leadership roles: I’m a team leader, I was a mentor teacher last year, etc… But, at the same time, I’m a massive goofball, I’m awful in meetings, I routinely get mistaken for being 6-10 years younger than I am, people still call me “kid…” Most of them don’t think of me as an authority on anything but my content, and I’m all right with that. Administrators consistently critique me for being too all right with that.

So I’m in this class to challenge myself- to learn how to lead as my school transitions to CBE- and it is hard. I have ideas for my own classes, but that doesn’t require me to convince anyone else, you know?

Anyways, speaking of my own classes, they were fine. Mrs. T and I were just helping kids wrap up their debate prep. I watched one group rehearse because they asked me to, and it was awesome too see just how much thought they’d put into their work- and how well they came together as a group! Beyond the complexity of the that’s one of the big challenges of this project.

I also got to step out and do instructional rounds, which was neat because I got to see one of my World counterparts teaching debates in her class for the first time. She structured it all very differently than I do, and we had a good conversation afterwards about our thought processes, our intent… I enjoyed that a lot.

So I didn’t take my attendance- or do anything but teach- in a timely manner today, and I will have to do better tomorrow, but I did get a lot out of today. 

Day Eighty

I didn’t get lunch today, so I’m devouring macaroni and cheese as I write this.

image

I had a meeting during my lunch time (making a plan with my team’s special ed. case manager to support a student who didn’t read their book for World), and a team leader meeting during my prep block (during which my colleagues noticed I don’t take notes… because I am a wizard… and an auditory learner), and a faculty meeting after school. 

Whew!

But it’s all good. My classes were good, too. 

My APUSGOV students kept working on their “Pizza Bureaucracy” project, which they’ve decided to present as a skit. They storyboarded it today, which was fun for me to watch because they’re such a creative bunch of kids. They are prone to going on tangents, but I don’t mind as long as the work gets done. I probably could have given them a tighter deadline, but one never knows how many snow days there will be this time of year, and setting the due date at the end of the quarter just works.

I also passed along an invitation to a “meet the candidates” event hosted by the local Democrats next week (note: I pass on invitations to Republican events, too). It’s being held at a rather fancy inn (this is a ski town, so there are lots of those), so there was much discussion about how to dress. My students’ thoughts:

  • “Pantsuits!”
  • “Country club casual.”
  • “Like you’re wearing $55 socks.”

I love it. 

It was an open wall day for World/English, but Mrs. T was absent, so I was all by my lonesome in the Cavern of Learning. I told the sub coordinator to use her sub elsewhere because there was need, and a sub on an open wall day is just one more person I have to pay attention to. In a room of forty ninth graders, all my attention has to be on them. 

I got a good workout going from student to student to answer questions and look over outlines or beginnings of drafts. 

I’m going back to replenishing my calories now.

Day Seventy-Seven

Snow days, early releases, and stuff have put two of my World classes behind the other two, so today was about catch-up. I got through everything with my Block 3 class, but I’m still one activity behind in Block 4. I’ll get them caught up next class, though. I’m not worried. 

It’s anyone’s guess when next class will be, though, because…

Yeah. 

So I could see them on Friday, as scheduled, or it could be next week. Snow Day Calculator says it’s unlikely that we have a full day of school, but whether we have an early release or a full cancellation is debatable. 

Also, can we discuss how I’ve been a teacher for thirteen years and just learned about Snow Day Calculator today? I am so ashamed of my failure…

Anyways. 

Block 5 was team meeting time. We spent half of it meeting with a student’s parents. We called the meeting in hopes of changing a negative pattern of behavior before it becomes a big issue rather than waiting to meet until after it’s become one. So that was good, and balanced out the rest of the team meeting, which was heavy. We had a lot of notes from school counseling to look at.

The cold days tend to be the ones when you find out how bad things are at home, you know?

I took a few minutes to clear my head, then buckled down to grade a set of projects (the ones Mrs. T and I assigned before break… we’re still finishing presentations because of the weather).

Day Sixty-Three

I taught with a hole in my pants today. It wasn’t a super awkward one- back of the knee- but I have no idea how it happened. I covered it with black electrical tape and no one really noticed. 

What a hot mess I am, though. 

Oops. 

I had an especially good Block 3 class in spite of that. We finished Shake Hands With the Devil, I took questions about it, and then I had my students brainstorm the pros/cons of intervening in a situation like Rwanda’s and the pros/cons of not intervening. I closed by detailing some of the real consequences of that choice, including escalating regional violence… I’m gradually connecting dots that will explain the current state of affairs. I say my Block 3 class was especially good because sometimes they connected dots ahead of me, and they kept linking in other things. So it was a good conversation.

I spent Block 5 in a team meeting, which I think went all right, but I’m worried  that one of my colleagues is annoyed with me. We’re having a completely different experience with a student, and I just don’t have a way of saying so that isn’t being interpreted as me being a jerk. 

After the bell, I had to dash down to the gym for winter sports team pictures. I have a habit of switching which side of the row I’m standing on between the girls’ and boys’ team pictures (Coach T does it, too), but today the picture lady wouldn’t let me. Sad!