Category: the multi-genre project

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 Eighty-One

Today was the last day of classes, and it was something of a mixed day. 

There was a graduation rehearsal this morning, so a bunch of my seniors stopped by one last time to say thank you, and give me hugs or high-fives, and one even brought me candy (my students know I have a massive sweet tooth). Plus, it’s Pride, so a bunch of students were running around with rainbow-colored flower crowns in their hair, showering people in glitter (with their consent, of course). So there was a lot of joy.

And my first section of World was awesome. I started class by leading a cheer, as I’d done yesterday, and then we got down to business. I think going over how to outline for the final was especially helpful for these students; a bunch of them told me afterwards that they felt much more confident and prepared, and I’m glad. They were super proud to turn in their Multi-Genre Projects, too, and they were cheering each other on the whole block. Like, one student would finish and others would clap for them. 

Block 4 was fun, at first, too, but shortly after class started, two of my students were escorted down to the SRO’s office. I don’t know exactly what happened, but, clearly, there was an Incident. It’s a lousy way to end ninth grade, that’s for sure. 

So… That happened. But the rest of class was all right. I spent part of it in the hall because a handful of my students went out to record audio for their projects, and a handful of Mr. T’s students were out there, too, and everyone was being a bit silly. At one point, they attempted to steal one of my desk chairs, but they stopped when they realized I was just going to let it happen. Heh.

When Block 5 rolled around, Mr. F and Mrs. T converged on my classroom. I was taking down posters when they came in because the tape loses its stickiness in the summer humidity, and I like redecorating in the fall anyhow. I also cleaned out my desk and cabinets, put away some of my supplies, etc… while we were talking. It’s not like I had to get it done in a hurry; it’s just a habit of mine to take my classroom apart as soon as classes end. Mrs. T says it’s the opposite of nesting instinct, which… Pretty much.

But I paused long enough to celebrate the fact that we’d made it through a really tough year. I mean, yeah, there are still finals, but we’re done teaching for the year, and we’re pretty happy about how most of our students learned and grew. It was wicked hard to make it happen sometimes, but we did it.

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… 

Day One Hundred Seventy-Nine

Longtime followers will know that this was one heck of a year. Discipline issues from day one, a challenging ninth grade population, a number of students dealing with serious medical issues, students in crisis, vaping, the lockdown, the flooding, various Incidents that I can’t detail any further… We just got rocked.

So it was probably fitting that, midway through Block 2, as Mrs. T and I were conferencing with students and everything was going well, the fire alarm suddenly went off. I shrieked and jumped about a foot into the air, so… not my coolest moment. But then I pulled myself together and led my class out to the baseball field, which is our usual gathering spot. 

It was a rainy day, and my students marveled at my ability to walk across a muddy field in high heels, which I thought was funny. I was worried we’d be out there for a while, and that the weather would get worse, but the fire department gave the all-clear pretty quickly. I think it took them fifteen minutes, tops, to figure out what had triggered the alarm (some overloaded sensor or something).

We went to flex block, then to Block 4, which is when my day got really awesome. One of my special needs students came running up to me at the start of the block to hand in his final project- like, running so fast down the hall that his aide couldn’t keep up- and he was absolutely beaming. And his work is beautiful. He loves art, so he drew a picture of the ending of N.H. Senzai’s Shooting Kabul, which he absolutely loved reading. The other piece of the project was a comparative essay about Shooting Kabul and a book he’d read earlier in the year about Nelson Mandela. I loved reading about the parallels he’d found in the two stories; he noticed things I hadn’t noticed, which was so cool. 

The other cool thing was the culmination of a lot of work. We have a student who really struggles with reading and writing, and his self-confidence is so low sometimes that it makes me sad, and life is just rough, you know? Most of this semester, he’d been avoiding work- no matter what we did- so he was in danger of failing, and was ready to give up. But, instead, he did something that was really hard: he gave Mrs. T and I a chance to try and help him. For the past two weeks he’s come in after school, during study hall, during flex block to work with one or the other of us- or both of us- to make up work, and to have additional time on the current stuff. Today- two days ahead of schedule- he finished his Multi-Genre Project. 

I had to sit beside him for the better part of an hour to keep him on track instead of on his phone or talking to his friends… and I had to prompt him to keep going, and reassure him the his work was good so he wouldn’t just delete it all… and I also had to be unobtrusive enough that my presence wouldn’t make shut down out of anger… And, boy, did it pay off. He finished a project that he’d been convinced he wasn’t capable of finishing. He smiled. He’s going to make it.

Block 5 was a blur of the music of triumph, and then I had to go to the last faculty meeting of the year. Fittingly, one of the topics for discussion was what we thought our successes were. 

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.