Category: the head coach

Day One Hundred Eighty

One of my seniors slipped a thank you card under my door before I arrived this morning, and I almost bawled my eyes out when I read it. And, like, I do not cry very often. Or, at least, I didn’t cry very often before this year…

I did keep it together while I taught my final A day classes, though. The first thing I did, obviously, was lead a cheer because we all made it to this point. After that, I went over some information about the World final (a reflective essay about second semester), and gave students the bulk of class to either prepare for that, or finish up their Multi-Genre Projects. I was available to help as needed, but mostly I just perched on my desk and observed them with pride. It’s the last day of class, and these students were fully focused, and they were also having fun. The number of them who were talking about how proud they were of their work, how prepared they felt for next year… Ahhh, it was all so great!

I finished class, as I always do on the last day, by showing a video recap of the year and giving one last lesson: if you understand the world, you can change the world.

So class started with a cheer and ended with applause.

But that wasn’t the end of my day! This evening, we had Spring Sports Awards, which was big for the track team because it’s The Head Coach’s 40th year and our captains made him a photobook to commemorate the occasion. They gave us all gift bags, too, after we gave out awards and letters. There was a framed team photo in my bag, as well as a giant box of relay chalk (YES!!!), and a new spike wrench. And- best and most unexpected thing- there were cards from individual sprinters, as well as one from the captains, and I ended up crying again. And again when the two rookie seniors came up to hug me.

What an amazing season we had… 

Bonus Day

Today we took a handful of athletes to compete at the State Meet of Champions. It’s a beautiful day, everyone was in high spirits, and it was a really, really good meet. It’s the end of my season (The Head Coach has one more week… more on that in the next paragraph), and I’m happy with it.

My favorite thing is that we had a rookie senior in the competition today. This is a kid who NEVER had being a track athlete on his radar until he got hurt playing football and wasn’t allowed to do any other spring sports; now he gets to say he’s one of the best in the state. My other favorite thing is that another of our boys qualified for New Englands, and the rest of our athletes either matched or set PRs. What more could I want?

What was cool for me, too, was that my middle school, high school, and college coaches were all at this meet with various teams. AND- this is surreal- one of my former athletes, Torin, was there because he’s now a college coach and he was watching one of his commits run. He and I were headed for the bleachers when we ran into my middle school coach, Coach E.

Now, Coach E and I always say hello and make small talk at meets, but it’s been more than twenty years since he was my coach, so I know he only vaguely remembers me. Like, he knows I was one of his athletes a long time ago, but I doubt he’d remember my name if it wasn’t written on my jacket. So usually, I’m the one who goes and says hi, but he actually spotted me first today. We shook hands, I introduced him to Torin, and we chatted about each other’s teams, how the season had gone, what we hoped for today, etc…

I made the remark that so many folks who’d coached me were there. He told me it was funny that I still called him Coach and all because he’d never really thought of himself as a middle school coach; it was just a volunteer thing he’d done while he was student-teaching because he wanted to stay involved in the sport. Later, he moved on to teaching and coaching at the high school level (at the school where he still coaches, not the one I went to), which was what he really wanted to be doing, and that, according to him, is when he really became a coach.

So then I got to tell him a story he hadn’t known:

I joined the track team when I was in seventh grade because a girl at my bus stop was bullying me for having asthma. This girl was a really good runner, and she was always bragging about doing track, and I just wanted to shut her up. I fell in love with sprinting immediately, but making it through the 800m warm-up at the start of every practice wasn’t easy, at first. One day I had a nasty asthma attack, and I wanted to quit. Coach E jogged alongside me, and told me to pick my head up, take my inhaler, and breathe. He would not let me give up. I said, “I bet you don’t remember that, but I do.” 

He gave me a big hug and thanked me for telling him, then joked that he had to go cry in the bleachers for a while (or maybe he actually did cry in the bleachers…) It’s really special that I get to coach at these big meets along with the coaches who trained me, and that I got to tell this one what an impact he’d had. 

Day One Hundred Sixty-Seven

I went to work without any make-up on today because my eyes were super itchy- allergies and all- and I wanted to be able to rub them without making myself look like a raccoon. I figured that it’d just be my eyes, but then my arms started turning new and different colors during my PLC meeting. Thankfully, once my allergy pills kicked in, all of that settled down.

After PLC, I went to talk to Mr. W because he’s having a super hectic week and needed to vent. He had to dash out to grab a Starbucks gift card for some reason, and brought me back a mocha, too, which was so nice. I also ended up talking to Mr. T about philosophy for half of the block. I am so going to miss him next year.

Sigh.

World went pretty well. There are a few students who are falling behind on Multi-Genre pieces, so I’m scheduling them into my room during flex block next week to get caught back up, but everyone worked hard in class today. I had a long talk with one student, too, who’s been struggling all year, and seems to be turning a corner. Yeah, it’s a late turn, but I will take it. He and I talked about what he needs to do in the coming weeks in order to pass World, and came up with a plan for when he’d come see me to do certain things, and he was smiling when we ended the conversation. A month ago, this same student wouldn’t even talk to me when I asked how I could help him, so this is big progress.

Another thing that happened in World: I learned that a bunch of my ninth graders don’t know how to address a letter. At first, I was really surprised by that, but then I realized that they wouldn’t have had to address letters; everything is done electronically, or else their parents probably did it for them. It’s still kind of wild, though, right?

At practice, The Head Coach and I had a rare disagreement- about attendance policies- and I think I was a little too frank once or twice during our conversation. There were times when his wife looked less than impressed with me. But, y’know, we moved on and had a solid practice. My 4×1 teams’ hand-offs look good, and we’re as ready as we can be for Saturday!

Day One Hundred Sixty-Four

Today was one of those days that just went well from beginning to end. 

It started with an incredibly cool APUSGOV class. The towns that send students to my school are represented in the state’s house of representatives by seven people, all of whom agreed to come in and talk to the students this morning. We set it up “speed dating” style; students divided into four groups of 5-6, and the reps divided themselves up among the groups. They did 15 minutes (ish) of Q&A, then moved to a different group. So all the students got to talk to all the reps, and it was so cool. They asked questions about campaigning, and the legislative process, and various bills that have come up recently (regarding gun rights, period poverty, school funding, rules for transgender athletes, the repeal of the death penalty, and the legalization of marijuana). They’re sharp as tacks, my students, and the reps were all happy to talk to them. We’ve had lots of really cool classes this year, but this is one of my favorites, for sure.

Our reps weren’t our only guests today. There was an assembly for the whole school with James Orrigo, who was amazing, and powerful, and funny, and SO talented. I loved having him here, and so did every student I talked to. His message is all about making a positive impact on the world, and I got to go back and teach World, and read the amazing writing my students are doing… which is all about telling us something that matters, expressing a point of view, taking a stand… It felt fitting, you know?

Classes were shorter and later than usual in order to accommodate the assembly, so the end of the day seemed like it came really fast. I went out to practice. Ordinarily, The Head Coach would have a long talk with the team about the privilege of making it to this point in the season, but there was a thunderstorm warning in effect, so he cut it kind of short. He did tell them that getting to compete at the division championship is an accomplishment, and that we’re proud of everyone who’s made it, and that it’s something to be excited for even though it’s been a long, tiring season.

One of my 4×1 relay boys did quit because he’s going to a party on Friday instead of going to school- which would make him ineligible to compete on Saturday- and that’s wicked disappointing. Buuuut the alternate is more than happy to race, so now it’s his time. We want to take the athletes who are going to step up to this championship, not the ones who are going to take it for granted, or treat it as anything but a privilege. The girls’ relay will get in, too, if someone scratches; it’s unlikely, but they wanted to come to practice anyhow to continue to stay in shape, which is cool. 

They did their usual plyometric drills to warm up, then ran a ladder (300-200-100-50), stretched, and that was that. We, unlike Coach T and his distance runners, finished practice before the sky opened up!

Day One Hundred Fifty-Seven

This morning we all arrived for our morning PLC meetings and were treated to free breakfast from some local businesses: coffee, donuts, bagels, muffins… So that was delightful. 

And it’s good because there were parts of my day that were not delightful. Like, I had to contact the parents/guardians of students currently failing my class, had to write up a student for skipping my class, had to deal with an Incident… And, then, at practice, I didn’t have to kick a sprinter off the team, but the Head Coach did. 

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Practice was otherwise a blast, though, because it was obstacle course day. Coach K set up a truly excellent course this year, too: students ran, jumped, threw, climbed, etc… their way through it and were treated to Gatorade and goodies afterwards. Coach T was on the mic the whole time, and everyone was cheering one another on. So that was great.

And teaching went well today, too (aside from the one student cutting class, that is). It was another day of Multi-Genre Project research. What really made me happy was that so many kids, in addition to wanting me to check their notes, just wanted to talk to me about what they’d learned. They had so much to share. At first, I was in rush mode, just trying to check in with everyone, but I made myself slow down and enjoy the conversations I was having because they’re full of excitement about learning, and that’s awesome.

The day still feels like it was a bad one, but I’m trying to focus on the good parts of it because they deserve space in my brain. 

Bonus Day

Another Saturday, another track meet! Here are some awesome things:

  1. It was actually sunny! And warm enough for me to take my jacket off!
  2. My 4×1 relays sprinted their way to huuuuuge PRs! 
  3. We won the meet!

Less awesome: we were missing a bunch of people for not great reasons, and The Head Coach had to speak to a few of the boys about their behavior, which is a rarity on this team. Hopefully, lesson’s learned and that won’t happen again. It’s way too fine a day for nonsense like that.

There were some seriously amazing performances in all the events. Coach T’s distance runners crushed the 4×800 and the open 800m. And, like, my best dasher ran four events today- 100m, 200m, and both relays- to see how his body would hold up to that because he could pick up points in all four at our conference championship. If we’re going to contend, we may need him to do that. I already told you that the 4×1 PRed; he also ran a 200m PR and came back and ran his leg of the 4×4 at his usual pace. I am so proud of him for that. 

And, oh man, my 4×1 girls smashed their previous PR! Their time today was over a second faster than it was last time they raced! It’s because their passes were perfect, and I love that they’re getting to experience that practice paying off. They just might make the cut-off for States if they continue to improve, and that was not in the cards for them initially, so this is exciting. 

Bonus Day

Today there was a middle school home meet, so we had a short practice and then we all helped out at that. The high school kids were our hurdle crew, our field event officials, and our results runners. The Head Coach and Coach T handled timing, I did the clerking, and we put on a great little meet.

It’s an aspect of track and field that I really like, even though it cuts into our training time, because it builds positive connections when older athletes help officiate meets for the younger ones. I did it in high school and college, too, and I remember how meaningful it was to talk to the younger athletes, who looked up to my teammates and I and wanted to be just like us. It’s the same for the kids I coach now; it gives them a chance to be positive role models, and it’s for them good to give something back to the community. 

Bonus Day

I got on the bus at 7:15AM, and I got off the bus at 7:25PM. 

It was a long, rainy day at one of the big invitational track meets down south. Our team wasn’t at full strength because we got hit with the flu, and now it’s spring break, but the athletes we did bring did well. We came home with a few medals and ribbons, and a few PRs in spite of the weather conditions.

And we had fun! The team was out cheering throughout all the events, even when the rain was the heaviest, and athletes were encouraging each other to do their best no matter what the weather did. At one point an official actually came up to The Head Coach to compliment their behavior, which was really great.

I also got to see the athletic trainer who’d been attached to my team in college. He’s a doctor now, and has a fourteen-year-old daughter who was sprinting at the meet today. I remember when she was born, so that made me feel kind of old.Meanwhile, the AT looks like he hasn’t aged a day, and he said the same thing about me. We hadn’t seen each other since I was 22, so it was pretty cool to catch up with him.

My favorite thing was the last race, though: the boys 4×4. We have an amazing team, but our anchor has the flu, and our alternate is a rookie freshman. We knew he was going up against guys who are way faster than he is; Coach T and I told him the other three guys were going hard, and he just had to hang on to a point-scoring position. Which he did. He also improved his PR by four seconds. I think he expected us to be disappointed that he couldn’t hold onto the other boys’ lead, but we all just said how proud we were of him.

Steve Prefontaine said racing was about seeing who has the most guts. This kid ran a gutsy race.

Day One Hundred Forty-One

It’s been a really good week so far, but today’s automatically the best day out of the three because it didn’t snow.

Also, my karate tricks were an even bigger hit today than they were yesterday, and my Block 4 students actually had fun. I’d said I’d gotten the class to the point where it was manageable, tolerable, okay… but not fun. And I want it to be fun because it is for the other three sections of World that I teach, and we’re all better for it, so I was so glad something finally worked.

If only I’d known all I had to do was punch my whiteboard… 

Actually, the trick that really got my students’ attention was the “unbendable” arm trick I did to illustrate the concept of chi. One of the biggest, strongest kids in the ninth grade is in my Block 4 class, and he’s the one who volunteered to try to bend my arm, so everyone lost their minds when he couldn’t do it. 

I do have to admit that the look of disbelief on his face was priceless. 

After his third unsuccessful attempt, he ended up laughing and telling me, “I need a moment, Miss M!” and sitting outside my door. When he came back in, he asked if I could teach him the trick, and it’s not like it’s some super karate secret- it just takes a bit of mental focus- so I did. 

And then, of course, everyone had to try it. And then they had to show their friends at lunch. And, basically, I now have an army of young padawans. 

Which is excellent.

I was supposed to be at a department meeting during lunch, but a student came in to do something I thought would take five minutes and took twenty-five, which happens sometimes, so I went down afterwards to apologize to Mrs. Z for that. She gave me the cliff notes version of the meeting, and it was all good. Then I had a team meeting, which we spent looking at grades to see who’s in danger of failing for the year, and figuring out interventions. 

I was a few minutes late to practice, but The Head Coach was going over meet procedures since our first meet is tomorrow (it would have been yesterday, but it was postponed because of the weather), so I only missed some of that. It was a light day, and spent indoors since it’s still cold. We did starting blocks, relay passes, and a bit of sprinting technique work as best we could. It’ll have to do!

Day One Hundred Twenty-One

Mrs. T wasn’t in her room when I arrived this morning, and usually she gets there before me, so I was mildly panicking that she was still out sick. We were starting debates today, and I did NOT want to have to moderate on my own because she’s way better at it than I am, but I got the Cavern all set up and resolved to make the best of it. Mrs. T came in just before the first bell, and I burst out with, “Oh, thank God you’re here!” 

My APUSGOV students, who were arriving for class, thought that was funny. They took a test this morning, and as I was grading it I realized I messed up during test review. See, because tests are cumulative, I went over the things from previous units and assumed students would review the key concepts from the current unit, too; I should have been clearer about that, though, because students definitely devoted all their study time to the things I explicitly went over. So that’s on me, and I’m going to apologize and curve the test scores because I figure that’s only fair. Plus, retakes are always allowed, so anyone who wants to do that can.

I do try to teach in a way that prevents damage from being permanent.

As for the debates, they were awesome. We only did one in each block because we took time before starting to allow groups to converse and rehearse, and to reiterate rules, instructions, etc…  There was a terrific match-up in the debate over Palestinian Statehood during Block Two. The members of both teams were nervous, so they got off to a rough start, but then they settled in. One team definitely pulled ahead in the rebuttal round with a great line of questioning about Israeli settlements, but both turned in solid efforts. I was pleased with the amount of research they’d done.

The debate during Block Four was about whether or not the U.S. should increase the number of refugees it admits per year, and one team came in ready to absolutely crush. They had pages of research notes, well-written and rehearsed speeches, tons of rebuttal questions… The opposing team hadn’t ever gelled, and they kind of panicked when they saw how prepared their opponents were. They realized they had to rally, so they worked through lunch with Mrs. T (we didn’t start Block 4 debates before lunch because that’s only twenty minutes, and we didn’t want to pause a debate midway through to go eat). They managed a respectable performance, so I was proud of them. Hopefully, they learned a few lessons about responsibility and communication, too. 

Nifty thing: my evaluator, Ms. C, came in to observe during that debate. She was just in during APUSGOV the other day, but she happened to be walking by while the “ready to crush” team was practicing in the hall, so she asked if she could come in today, too. Obviously, I said yes. I want people to see what these ninth graders can do with topics that are complex and challenging, and know just how high we can set the bar. They will clear it if we support them and give them a chance.

I spent the first part of Block 5 in a meeting with my NEASC group, finalizing our report for the reaccreditation process. Then I spent the second part of the block in a parent meeting of the awesome variety. Mrs. T and I got some really lovely compliments for the work we did for a particular student. It’s our job, of course, but it’s awesome when parents tell us we’re doing it well.

The meeting ended shortly after the afternoon bell. I had to be back this evening for winter sports awards, so I left at the end of the meeting to go home, relax, have a coffee… The awards ceremony was good fun. The Head Coach and I gave out major awards, varsity letters, certificates, etc… Then our athletes surprised us with gifts. Look at what I got!

The card cracked me up. I’m totally hanging it on the cork board by my desk. And, yes, that water bottle is full of candy. My athletes know me so well…

Lots of learning and lots of joy today.