Category: The Epic Book Paper and Research Project

Day Eighty

I heard couple of my athletes saying how upsetting it is to only hear bad news about our school right now because so many good things happen here, and, ugh…


Morale is taking such a hit, and I don’t know what to do except keep on keeping on. 

So that’s what I’m doing.

It was the last day of project presentations in World, and we’ve arrived in history at the early 1990s. I taught about the wars in Somalia and Rwanda, and I’ll be teaching about the Rwandan Genocide in detail next week. Somalia and Rwanda loom over modern policymaking, and it’s important to explain why, so it’s in their minds when we start discussing current events in the following classes. 

I like these lessons because they tend to be really powerful; they’re hard, given the subject matter, but everything resonates. When seniors tell me what they most remember from ninth grade, these lessons are usually on their lists. 

Working on making all of my teaching that good…

Day Seventy-Nine

The Vice Principal saw me as I was leaving and asked how my day had been, and I’m nothing if not honest, so I said, “Probably a lot better than yours.”

My school got rocked today, you guys. That’s basically all I can say.

My day, though? Was pretty good. I mean, it was snowing, and nothing was plowed, and there totally should have been a delay, so my seniors and I spent a good ten minutes of APUSGOV recounting how bad the drive in was. Buuuuuut then we talked about the shutdown, the new Congress, SOTU, Syria, and other things. So education did happen.

A few students trickled in as I lectured on the bureaucracy. The last one to arrive dropped a box in my hands and said, “I figured since I was already gonna be late, I should just go get us donuts, too.” He’d gone to the local bakery, which is ten minutes in the wrong direction, and bought a bunch of freshly-made donuts.

I don’t think that’s a choice I’m supposed to approve of, but I totally do. It was awesome. 

World was all about presentations, and things again. I had a couple of my most anxious students presenting today, and they rocked, and I’m so proud of them. I think I said this in a previous entry, but I love how much students prepared; I saw more notecards or scripts than I’ve ever seen, and I know there was a lot of practicing at home, with friends, during flex time, etc… Mrs. T gets a lot of props for really encouraging that, and helping students with it. 

We also had a quick assembly during Block Two, an alumni Q&A panel hosted by school counseling. Graduates who’d gone on to various colleges, prep schools, the military, etc… chatted about what it was like, and offered some advice. That was neat. 

I did a bunch of grading during my prep time, and chatted with Mr. T for a bit when I needed a break. Then Mrs. T and I pulled a ninja stunt and liberated a projector from a supply closet. That’s a win.

Day Seventy-Eight

And we’re back!

I spent my prep time rewriting my next few APUSGOV lessons so I can spend more time discussing the shutdown and other current events. I didn’t finish before the bell, so that’s also how I spent almost every other spare minute I had, including lunch time. I actually ate lunch around 2:15. That was in between a 504 meeting and track practice.

In World, we picked up right where we left off: project presentations, reading and annotation, chatting about modern African history… I also left some time to discuss midterm exams, which are coming up in a couple weeks. Ninth graders always have lots of questions because it’s a new thing for them, so I wanted to make sure they could get answers.

Unfortunately, I also had to leave time for them to process the fact that a few of our teachers did not come back from the break. There are various reasons why, and obviously I didn’t discuss those; I just let the kids talk about how they were feeling.

At practice, it was baton drills, stairs, and a few visits from alumni who are on break. 

Full speed ahead!

Day Seventy-Seven

We got a bunch of rain and ice overnight, so we had a two-hour delay this morning. Even with that, a few of our sending towns couldn’t run buses, and something like 400 kids were absent. But the ones who were there had ugly sweaters, Santa hats, gifts, and lots of cheer.

I had an ugly fleece and lots of glitter. 

My APUSGOV class ate cake (because of the shutdown) and watched The West Wing (”In Excelsis Deo”). My World classes did project presentations, and watched The Grinch cartoon. So it was a pretty casual day. We did a potluck lunch after our classes, which was fun.

I did do a bunch of paperwork during my prep because a teacher is leaving mid-year, and the students are going to other teachers, so I wanted to make sure they were squared away. 

Then the guys and I went out to celebrate! We’re on vacation!

Day Seventy-Six

One of my students came up to me before World started and begged to be excused from presenting his project. He said there was no way he’d be able to do it. I told him what I tell everyone: that I wanted him to at least try, and I was going to make it as easy as I possibly could. 

I started class by explaining the purpose of the presentations (everyone is sharing a piece of modern African history, and if we put the pieces together we can understand what’s happening today). Then I reminded them that it wasn’t a “best presenter” competition, and it was okay if they were nervous or didn’t like public speaking. I said they could bring a friend up with them to click their slides/hold their posters/be moral support. And I ended with, “I’m not looking to make you miserable and give you bad grades. I want to do whatever is going to help you succeed, and I am going to be so proud of you if you come up here and do your best.” 

And that boy who’d begged not to present? First, he got up and clicked slides for one of his friends. Then he and another student acted out the information a third student presented. And then he presented his own project- with his friends acting out his information, and breaking into a celebratory dance party when he finished. He positively beamed when I told him, “I knew you could do it.” 

And everyone else did it, too. Plus, I had a deal with them: in exchange for presenting, they could make me do something I find scary, so they had me sing for them at the end of class.

We’re all in this together.

One more day.

Day Seventy-Five

This morning I left my APUSGOV class under Mr. F’s supervision for a few minutes (they were taking a quiz), and went across the hall to Mrs. R’s writing class. She’s doing a unit on slam poetry, and I’m the local reigning champion, so she asked if I’d perform my winning poem. It’s wicked nerve-wracking to perform in front of students, but it was also quite fun, and it went well. Then I went back and lectured on the powers of the presidency. I referenced a lot of current events (Mueller, the Yemen vote, the budget talks, etc…) to make it relevant.

In World, it was time for project presentations, and I am SO proud of my students because even the ones who were really nervous went for it. They’d taken all Mrs. T’s advice about preparation to heart, too; they had scripts or notecards, no one looked at the projector screen instead of the audience, they knew their stuff, and they did so well. We learned about the Biafran War, apartheid, Nelson Mandela, the Lost Boys of Sudan, Kakuma Refugee Camp, the LRA, the rehabilitation of child soldiers in Sierra Leone, efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa… These are topics students chose, and my next task will be explaining how the fit together into the current puzzle that is the world. 

Yes, that’ll take a few days. But it’ll be good. 

Mr. F had an Incident in one of his classes, so he and I spent Block Five making sure it got handled. I was actually late to practice, and I didn’t get to change out of my dress clothes because I didn’t want to be any later. But it worked out because my dress was pink and purple, and every girl on the team was wearing pink or purple- unplanned- and they were thrilled I was keeping up the color coordination. 

It’s the little things.

I got my hair cut after practice, so I have to wear it down tomorrow because the ninth grade girls must give their opinions.

Two more days.

Day Seventy-Four

Oh, man, today it definitely felt like the week before Christmas break. 

Our students weren’t being bad (mostly… Mrs. T did send two to the office), but they were wicked loud and hyperactive. The only thing that kept them at all on task was the fact that their projects are due tomorrow.

Funny moment: two boys went out into the hall to rehearse their presentations, and a third asked to join them. I said no, and he got all surly, demanding to know why not. Now, on a not-this-week kind of day, my response would’ve been something like, “Because your project isn’t finished yet.” Instead, it was a desert dry, “Because you can’t practice reciting information you haven’t looked up yet.” 

He stared at me in disbelief for a second, laughed, and said, “Okay, Miss M, that’s fair. Rude, but fair.”

At lunch, I had a meeting with Ms. J to go over her first formal evaluation. Some teachers don’t like to discuss them with their evaluators afterwards, but I recommended she do it; no one gets better without constructive feedback, and even when we’re doing fine- and she is- we should want to get better.

During Block 5 my team met with a parent. We knew it was going to be a long meeting (a good one, though), so Mr. F and I brought candy to share. Then I had a department meeting after school, but that was quick. Mrs. Z needs student work samples from all of us- it’s a reaccreditation thing- and she’s got mine already. I went home as soon as the meeting ended.

Three more days.

Day Seventy-Three

It snowed overnight, so the roads were a bit messy this morning. I started APUSGOV about ten minutes late to make sure all of my students got there before we rocked and rolled. The lesson was all about Fed. 70- which they cruuuuuushed- and the powers of the Presidency. I’ll lecture on their expansion next class. 

It was the last day to work on projects for the A day students in World/English. Mostly, they’re in good shape and ready to go. Mrs. T and edited a few presentations, helped students pronounce some tricky terminology, and that sort of thing.  We’re feeling good about the quality of our students’ work. 

Midway through class, I got called to The Principal’s office. 

Actually, I got emailed. The Principal asked me to mentor another new teacher, in addition to Ms. J. There’s a stipend for it, and if The Principal thinks I’m good at being a mentor, hey, that’s awesome. He had some very nice things to say about my teaching. So I said I would do it.

I brought candy to practice today because I said I would after sledding last week. My sprinters ran stairs and then worked on starting blocks. A bunch of the girls decided that block practice would be the perfect time to sing Backstreet Boys.

Obviously, I supported that.

Day Seventy-Two

Did you go sledding at work today? Because I did. 

The track team trekked into the woods at the end of practice for a sledding relay, which was a ton of fun. There was a dramatic, come from behind win, courtesy of one of my best dashers. He’s a fairly serious kid, but he couldn’t stop smiling as his teammates mobbed him for hugs and high-fives.

The rest of the day was fun, too. 

I went to ask Mr. T a question during Block One, ended up talking to him and Mrs. M about all kinds of stuff, and then playing a round of speed chess. I lost, and I kind of can’t believe it, but it’s all good. 

World/English went well, and I am so happy I’ve been able to say that for multiple days in a row! Mrs. T and I saw some awesome projects coming together. One girl is planning activities for her classmates to teach about apartheid, another has detailed maps- which she made herself- to show the path of Sudanese refugees, a boy found a rap song about child soldiers to incorporate into his work… It’s all fabulously creative. We’ve also had breakthroughs with a few of our less engaged students; Mrs. T’s been working with two or three, and so have I. We’re seeing some real growth and academic successes, and it’s awesome.

We sat and talked Block Five, and agreed that it’s a difficult, tiring year, but the progress we’re going to help our students make is going to be huge. We’re going to look at our plans for next semester to make sure we do what’s best for these kids now that we think we’ve figured them out. It means we’ll have to adjust some of the timing and delivery of lessons, balance “open wall” days with some days in our separate spaces, and so on.

We’ve also realized we have to change up our tag team routine when we do teach together in the Cavern. I’ve been starting classes while she takes attendance because we thought the consistency would be good for students; I say good morning and explain the agenda the same way everyday (and I’m the louder of the two of us). But it’s created the perception that I’m “in charge,” and that isn’t good.

I apologized to Mrs. T for not catching on to this sooner, and she said it didn’t click for her either until today, so now we’ll fix it. Constant communication and willingness to adjust are so key to team teaching.

What else? Mr. T and I observed Mrs. Z’s US history class for instructional rounds… The Cacophony planned a Christmas party… All good things…

Day Seventy-One

Instead of going to PLC meetings this morning, the faculty and staff got to go to the annual Christmas breakfast, made by our culinary students and served by the administrative team. My cacophonous friends and I met in my classroom and went down to eat together. It was a fabulous way to start the day. 

Then I went to APUSGOV, and skyped my friend, Ian Hines, who is a Republican digital strategist, fundraiser, and web designer out of Maryland. I love having him talk to my students because he’s wicked smart and good at what he does, he and I are political opposites despite being shaped by the same events, and he doesn’t look a thing like students expect him to look based on his job description (he’s a 32yo lax bro with tattoos and hipster glasses).

So it was fun. 

Afterwards, I had them dig into Fed. 70 to continue our study of the executive branch. We’ll chat about it next class.

World/English went pretty well, too. The bulk of our students really used the time well, and their projects are looking great. They were also oddly excited about the meteor shower tonight; the Google doodle probably fueled that.

We did have to speak to a handful about some really stupid stuff: farting at each other, hiding each other’s things, breaking each other’s pencils… It’s not behavior we’ve had much of in the past; usually they leave it behind when they come to high school. But this year is a different year… 

Mrs. T, Mr. F, and I talked it out during our prep time: what’s working, what’s not, what we can do better… I’m so glad we stick together and have each other’s backs. It always helps.