Category: the principal

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.

Day Forty-Five

Greetings from Manchester! Mrs. T and I are in New Hampshire’s largest city because we’re presenting at NHCSS tomorrow, which is going to be awesome. 

The Cavern of Learning is too much for two subs, so we planned closed wall classes. For consistency’s sake, we did it today, too. In World, there was silent reading, vocab practice, and a really basic lesson on in-text citations. A bunch of kids were absent for various reasons, so it was quiet.

APUSGOV was not quiet, but that’s good because group projects on interest groups were due for presentation. That went very well, and afterwards I looped the discussion back to Fed. 10 and factions. I also spent some time discussing the Pittsburg shooting, of course, because how could I not? 

My post-Parkland activists talked about it all through flex time, even as they made GOTV posters to hang in the halls. The Principal actually called me into his office at lunch to talk about it, too, and get my thoughts on combatting prejudice and extremism

So… Bit of a day.

Day Thirty-Five

I started my day with a lecture on interest groups and lobbying (with a tangent on PACs and stuff because someone asked about that), then assigned a group project on interest groups and iron triangles. I had lots of little discussions while students did research: communism, chambers of commerce, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the establishment clause, gun control, Reagan… 

It’s good stuff. 

Fed. 10 will come back to haunt them shortly. Mwahahaha.

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Ahem.

Life in the Cavern of Learning was good, too. Mrs. T worked with anyone whose narrative wasn’t done. I moved everyone else on to the new unit- Africa- and to labeling maps, doing some cultural research, and reading books. There was a medical emergency in the building (I have no idea what happened, but the kids had tons of rumors), and a resulting lockdown right before Block 2 ended. That caused minor chaos- lots of questions, kids trying to look out the window at the ambulance, etc…- and basically ate up flex time.

In spite of that, it was a super productive double block, and a great example of the “move when ready” approach to learning that The Principal wants more of. We also got observed by an elementary school teacher after lunch, and she thought it was neat. Go us.

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Now, the other day, a bottle of Axe exploded in boy’s backpack, which was wicked bad for me because I have a fragrance allergy. We figured he’d wash the backpack, but nope. I did my best to stay away, but it wasn’t enough. By Block 5 my nose was stuffy and my eyes were itchy. I had an APUSGOV student in to retake a test, so I just had to sit and resist the urge to sniffle and CLAW MY EYES OUT OMG. 

I managed, though!

Day Twenty-Seven

So. I teach high school. Imagine how many phones went off at the same time this afternoon when that Presidential Alert thingy got tested.

Today was unexpectedly busy. 

I spent my prep time playing phone tag with campaign staffers, trying to nail down dates for APUSGOV visits, and trying to keep The Principal informed. Meantime, he was dealing with local businesses who won’t let our students park in their lots during the day anymore (students who couldn’t get parking on campus had been doing that and walking up the access road) because some of them are peeling out, drving too fast, etc… This is why we can’t have nice things, kids…

World/English was a blur of monitoring students, reading drafts, and making comments like, “Wakanda would totally have the defenses to handle rampaging hippos” (part of a conversation that happened because of this). Mrs. T overheard that one and burst out laughing. We also had three girls type one-handed so they could do each other’s nails. They finished class with good drafts AND good manicures. 

Ahh, ninth grade…

Day Twenty

Homecoming Spirit Week started today with Seasons Day, so I wore a rose-colored dress and a flower crown, which Mrs. T said made me look like a fairy princess. My seniors in APUSGOV came in dressed like summer: aloha shirts, floral dresses, sunglasses. It was a lot of fun.

School counseling borrowed my class time to go over college app stuff. They were just getting started when the lockdown alarm went off. It’s cause for relief and sadness that everyone reacted quickly. Within seconds, my students had hunkered down by my bookshelves while I locked the door and shut off the lights. The Principal came on the intercom shortly thereafter to announce it was a false alarm. 

I saw Mr. T as I reopened my door. He said I looked like this:

Accurate.

But we got on with it. I did current events writing with my World students, which meant offering a lot of reassurances and occasional spelling/grammar advice because timed writing freaks ninth graders out until they’ve gotten enough practice. I reminded them the stakes are low (it’s only small grade, they can revise, etc…) and said I believed they could do that. 

I ducked out of my Block 4 class to observe Ms. J’s because she wanted some advice on managing that class, in particular. It’s a challenging mix of students, and they’re testing her because she’s new (which always happens to first year teachers). I gave her some suggestions to help, but mostly just encouraged her to hold the line and trust her instincts. It’s super hard, at first, but it gets easier. I know she has what it takes to do this job.

Mr. L covered my class while I did the observation (it was his lunch break). Afterwards, he told me he’d been looking at the pictures on my desk, found the one from my college graduation, and realized I still look like I’m 21. I laughed and said I get told that a lot. It isn’t really true, but I also don’t look like I’m 35, so… 

I did some grading during my prep time, but I thought I was going to meet someone for coffee, so I didn’t stay long after the afternoon bell. He bailed on me at the last minute, though- like, as I was driving- so I just came home instead. Sometimes just chilling out is good.

Day Eighteen

I did not like it when my alarm went off this morning, but at least I got to go to work in my gym clothes because it was Freshman Field Day. I had morning PLC and APUSGOV first, though. In PLC we had a chat about CBE and rubrics, and in APUSGOV I explained the evolution of the federal government’s power. 

This is a kickass lesson, and I love teaching it. I broke students into groups, and had each group look up one of these things, get the facts, and figure out if it expanded or limited federal power:

  • 10th Amendment
  • McCulloch v. Maryland
  • Gibbons v. Ogden
  • 14th Amendment
  • Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US
  • US v. Lopez
  • Obergefell v. Hodges

They put their findings on the board in that order so the chronology was clear, and then I talked my way through it, elaborating on what they’d written as needed. It’s like fitting a puzzle together, and I could see it on their faces when it all clicked.

Freshman Field Day was supposed to start as soon as that block ended, but we had a slight rain delay. Once we were sure the rain had passed, we brought the whole ninth grade out to the fields for some community-building fun. See, my school is a big, regional school that takes incoming ninth graders from five schools (three public, two charter) across eight towns. We do field day to encourage them to mingle and build up unity.

This year we had yard games, capture the flag, softball, kickball, trail walks, crafting, and a high ropes course (yes, my school has one on property… get on our level). I played a wicked fun game of kickball. I can’t boot the ball like some of the kids can, but threw a boy out as he ran for home, which totally upped my reputation amongst the freshman boys. The fact that I have the aim and the willingness to hit someone with a ball always surprises them (because I’m *gasp* a girl!) It’s hilarious.

After kickball, I took a group of kids on a trail walk. Mr. T came with us because he really hasn’t seen the grounds yet. We came back just in time for lunch, which the cafeteria provided for the kids and us teachers. After lunch was the traditional tug-o-war tournament, and then we all went back inside for last block. 

My fellow team teachers and I made ourselves presentable for a team meeting with a parent, which went really well. These meetings and last night’s Open House have really impressed parents, according to Mrs. F; I guess there’s been lots of positive feedback to the school counseling office and The Principal. Yay us! 

Day Ten

I nearly always wear my hair in a ponytail- a habit from my college track days- so my coworkers flipped out about me wearing it down today. I got a bunch of compliments about my dress, too, which was nice.

My APUSGOV class had a cracking debate about Brutus 1 and Federalist 10, and then went off on a tangent about what James Madison would make of our current government. That was good stuff. There’s a primary election tomorrow, so we ended class by chatting about that. I have a bunch of students who will be 18 by November, but only one student who’s 18 now, and he got a round of applause because he gets to cast his first vote.

So cool.

I continued on a debate/politics theme in my advisory, though it was unplanned. I’d promised them breakfast, so we were sitting around, eating muffins and donuts, and a handful of boys tried to convince me to let them put hats on (which is against our dress code). I told them they had to convince the school board, not me, and they started doing research and making plans to talk to The Principal (I emailed him a heads up). I am so okay with this. 

I kind of made up my World lesson as I went. Last class, I taught my students annotation using a news article about Yemen, and asked them to find and annotate a news article of their choice for homework. Today I decided to get an writing sample by having them sum up their news article and consider its global impact. As I was explaining what I wanted, I figured I could get a full essay out of it, so I ended up modeling it paragraph by paragraph on the board (using the Yemen article). And it went well! 

My Block 4 class totally cruised, so we ended up playing a vocab quiz game called Flyswatter for the last 15 minutes. How it works: students divide into two teams, each with a flyswatter; the vocab words are written on the board; when I give a definition, the people with the flyswatters race to swat the word. It was fun, and it got everyone up out of their seats, which is nice after a block of writing. 

Hopefully, it goes well tomorrow, too!

Bonus Day

I have a nightmare about going back to school at the end of every summer. It’s not an indication of how I feel about my job- I love teaching- but it happens. Last night, my nightmare was that an intruder with a gun got into the building, and was chasing me down the hall, but no one else reacted; it was like they couldn’t see or hear me. 

So that was creepy.

I actually went into the building today. Mrs. T and I met in her room rather than at Starbucks because she had other meetings, and we finished our summer curriculum work. The Principal was pleased with what we did, and we’re both feeling good about the upcoming year. 

I resisted the urge to go into my own classroom and start getting organized because it’s still summer, but it was tempting!

Bonus Day

AP scores came out this morning. Since this past year was the first time I taught an AP class, it was my first experience with the wait for scores, the dramatic reveal, etc, etc… Here’s my reaction:

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Basically. 

In other news, Mrs. T and I started on some summer work (which we are paid to do, for the record). We met for a few hours while my car was being inspected, and started to plan our interdisciplinary curriculum for next year. We’re going to move some units around, and try out some new assessments (more choice, more inquiry…), and we’re excited about it.

We have what I think is a solid plan for teaching narrative writing. It’ll culminate with our students writing some fact-based fictional narratives based on what I’ll have been teaching them about current events. That’ll mean incorporating lessons on solid research, authenticity, cultural literacy… And these are all good and necessary lessons for a student population that often has limited exposure to the world beyond NH prior to my class. If we do it well, we should be able to make some powerful points about empathy, and the care with which we should treat other people’s stories. 

We sketched out a day-by-day calendar for that unit, then moved on to the next, which involves a novel read, a paper, and a research project. We added eight new novel options, both fiction and nonfiction, to the six we already had. I’ve been reading them one by one since they arrived, and now Mrs. T needs to, as well, so we went up to the school to grab copies. The Principal saw us as we were leaving, so we stopped for a chat. He’s always been supportive of what we do, which is awesome; not every administrator out there would have let two young teachers continually experiment with their curriculum and methods- or provided them the means- but he’s had our backs for more than a decade. 

Day One Hundred Eighty-Four

Oh, hi, it’s a teacher workshop day in June! This year, I have three of them. For real. Sometime around the sixth or seventh snow day, the district started making the workshop days school days so the kids wouldn’t get out later, but those workshop days still have to happen, so here we are.

Today wasn’t bad. It’s not hot, and that helps a ton. And we’re going through reaccreditation next year, so we really did need time to go over some of the details about that. I’ve done it before- it’s every ten years- but a lot of my colleagues haven’t. So, anyways, that took up most of the morning, and then I went to putter around my room a bit, and get a few things done. 

Aaaand then I went to my book group! So, funny story here: there were all these faculty-wide emails from The Principal an Vice Principal about doing summer reading as professional development, and I… basically ignored all of them.

 It’s not that I mind reading or PD; it’s just that I already do a ton of both. I mean, you all know what I teach. You know I have to study constantly if I want to do it well (and I do). So I devour my content, and I do enough pedagogical stuff that I have more than enough PD hours to maintain my certification. So I was like, “Cool, a PD opportunity! Nice of The Powers That Be to offer that, but don’t need it myself…” and went about my merry business.

I missed the fact that it’s mandatory.

So today I was volun-told to read Empower by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer. And, y’know, that’s fine. Everyone else in that reading group is getting a kick out of the fact that I didn’t choose it because I’m usually on top of my shit, but whatever. I did set up a discussion file in Google Drive and start commenting on the first two chapters before 3:00 this afternoon. So there.