Category: the principal

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.

Day One Hundred Seventy-One

This morning, the faculty met our new principal, who made a hilarious first impression by showing up wearing almost exactly the same outfit as our current principal. Khakis and a blue dress shirt are apparently standard issue. Aside from that, though, I had a couple observations:

1) He’s only three years older than I am, and he went from being a classroom teacher to a principal after thirteen years, so I have more years of teaching experience than he does. I don’t know if any of that is good or bad; it’s just very different than what I’m used to. 

2) He’s nervous, which I get, because he’s coming from a school with half as many students- if that- and a faculty that’s a lot smaller, too. I’m sure it was a lot just to see how many of us there are, you know? But he seems nice, and enthusiastic, so that’s good. 

He’ll be the third principal I’ve worked for in fourteen years of teaching at the same high school, and I’m excited to see what he brings to our community. I definitely have to meet with him, at some point, to talk about that powerhouse APUSGOV class of mine. Next year’s an election year, and I want to know how much freedom I’ll have to bring in candidates, staffers, the press, etc… to class (right now, as longtime readers know, I have total freedom, and it’s amazing). 

The rest of the day went smoothly. I helped some of the students in the club I advise finish putting up a bulletin board during my prep, and then- because it’s a B day- I did exactly what I did yesterday: went to Mr. T’s room to do some karate for half the block before returning to my own classes to oversee Multi-Genre awesomeness. The karate was fun; I definitely got more questions today than I did yesterday, and got to demo some fun stuff like chi breaking because Mr. W had some free time. 

I was also wearing a shirt that says “Teacher by day, deadly ninja by night,” so I was getting laughs. 

What else? Final qualifying lists for the Meet of Champions came out today. I’m bummed my 4×4 boys just missed qualifying, but I’m happy for the ones who did make it (best thing was running into an English class to tell one of the distance boys he was in because he didn’t think he’d had a chance). We had a quick practice, went over Saturday’s departure information, and called it a day. No sense in overworking now; everyone’s as ready as they’re going to be.

Day One Hundred Thirty-Six

Today started with The Principal doing his best impression of the Hump Day Camel from the Geico commercials before saying the Pledge over the PA.

If that’s not a good way to start a day, I don’t know what is.

After that, I taught the coolest class I have ever taught. My APUSGOV students did a Socratic discussion (inspired by a presentation Mrs. T and I saw at NHCSS last fall), which is something I’ve never done before. Half of them discussed Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the other half discussed Macolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet,” and we closed with a whole class discussion of how history has remembered both men and how they’re discussed in schools. It was incredible. There were definite discussion leaders, but everyone contributed something valuable, and they were not shy. They dug into the rhetoric of the two pieces, debated its efficacy, discussed the way in which people judge protests and judge anger. Then they went in on state of race relations around the country and in their own (mostly white) community. They talked about Rodney King, Ferguson, Charlottesville, the debate over Confederate monuments and flags, the differences in what their peers are taught about the history of racism depending on where they go to school… They made some great points about the intersection of religion and racial prejudice/racial justice, too… Overall, it was just a really impressive, insightful 80 minutes. I barely said a word; I just listened. At the end, I thanked the class and told them how proud I was of them.

My World classes were just fun. Students did an exploration into different aspects of Hindu culture, so they read about traditions surrounding birth, marriage, death, dietary customs, etc… And they had to write some reactions, compare/contrasts, that kind of thing. Of course, since it’s an A day, and my A day students have all the questions, they wanted to talk about EVERYTHING. Which was awesome. Also, one of the things they read about was naming customs, and my assignment asked them to find out the meaning of their own names, which caused so much more hilarity than I thought it would.

I went to observe Ms. D’s class at lunch (finally- I’ve been meaning to do it since I was assigned as her mentor!). She came up to my room to chat about it during Block 5. She hadn’t been up to my classroom before, so when she walked in she took a moment to admire the space (which was nice because I am rather proud of it). Then we talked about how her lesson had gone. It was such a cool, reflective lesson. I had a ton of praise for it. We got into the broader, philosophical conversation about teaching, what our styles are, how we were trained, and how there are definite ways to do teaching wrong but no one way to do it right. 

Then I went to practice, which was obviously awesome. And I’d just like to point out that this is how my sprinters keep their water bottles cold: sticking them in the gigantic, dirty snow pile beside the parking lot.

Whatever works!

Day One Hundred Thirty-Three

So, the one classroom that got flooded when the pipe burst yesterday is still unusable, but everything else is all good. We had quick class meetings this morning so The Vice Principal could go over some new protocols for evacuation situations (everything is a learning experience, folks!) and take questions from students, and then we went on with the day. 

Have I mentioned that the reason The Vice Principal and the other admins have been handling things lately is because The Principal is on vacation? He’s retiring this year, so he took his remaining personal days and went somewhere (Good for him, I say). The new principal was just been announced, and I’ve already Googled him, and gotten news from some of the upperclassmen who know him (because he’s local and has kids of varying ages). I just hope he thinks I’m funny.

Anyways…

I spent Block 1 grading all the papers I didn’t grade yesterday, and finished just in time to hand them back in World. It was another day of teaching about Afghanistan. I got great questions about the Taliban in my Block 2 class, so I fielded those (and the follow-ups), and then we talked about the US invasion and the current situation. A few students did a really good compare and contrast of the rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan and rebuilding efforts in Japan and Germany after WWII. I love that they were able to bring in the content from previous social studies classes and apply it to what they’re learning now. That was so great.

And my Block 4 class was decent. I wish I could say something better than that, but it’s still such a hard class. The misbehavior was kept to a minimum, I was able to teach my lesson without interruption, I had time at the end of class to help a couple kids make up work that they owed, and… that’s as good as it gets, at the moment. I haven’t figured out what I can do differently to make it better, and that’s both saddening and frustrating, but I’m still going to keep trying.

I went back to grading papers Block 5, rewrote my next set of APUSGOV notes to condense them a little bit, and washed my whiteboards because they were getting a little bit gross. While I was doing that, a couple girls from my Block 2 class stopped by just to wish me a happy weekend, which definitely made me smile. 

After that, I went to practice, which was fun because we were doing 30m time trials. On the boys team, we have some rookies with serious speed, which I’m delighted about. Now, if only the snow would melt…

Day One Hundred Twenty

So today could have been a disaster: Mrs. T was out sick, I had to change some questions on my APUSGOV test about ten minutes before the test review was supposed to take place, and I had meetings all afternoon… Everything went pretty well, though, so yay! Disaster avoided!

I was worried about World/English because B days are rowdy, and the debate prep has been challenging for many of the groups, and it’s not easy for one person to manage. Mrs. T did request a sub, though, and luckily it was one of the good ones; he was actually able to answer some questions and redirect off-task students, so it wasn’t all on me to do it. And students’ behavior was unusually good. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the last day of debate prep and students knew they had to buckle down, or because the lighter evenings have them energized, or who knows what, but I was happy about it. 

Both of my most challenging students had really awesome days because I kept suggesting small tasks they could do to help their groups. We always tell students to break their work into small tasks, focus on one thing at a time, and take breaks in between tasks as needed, but not all students know how to do that for themselves. They will have to learn how in the future, but for now? I’m totally willing to help. Yeah, I still had to keep telling one of them to go back to his seat and finish the task he’d been given, but he didn’t shout at me when I did it, and he did get back to work, so it’s progress.

During flex time, one debate group met in my room to practice giving their arguments out loud. I was holding an APUSGOV test review session (after hastily revising the test because I decided it should have more questions about checks and balances) at the same time, and made an exception to allow the ninth graders in. So they were there along with fifteen wicked smart seniors, which I think was both slightly intimidating and slightly inspiring. I caught them pausing every so often to listen to us discuss different concepts that will be on the test. 

Also, my phone rang when I was mid-review because another presidential campaign staffer saw my invite and wants to bring their candidate to class. Lesson, as always: it can’t hurt to ask. 

What else? Meetings! The team had a meeting with a parent during Block 5. I was worried it was going to be rough because basically everyone- the parent, the student, all of us teachers- has been feeling frustrated. But it was really positive and helpful, and I think it’s going to make a huge difference for the student. One funny/awkward moment: I was taking minutes, and my computer froze while Mr. F was talking, so I asked him to stop. I should have said “wait” instead of “stop” because he thought I was asking him to stop talking entirely! I clarified quickly, but I felt SO bad!

After that meeting, we had a faculty meeting, which started with a most excellent surprise: free tacos!

The Principal figured he’d interject something unexpected and awesome because, as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s been a rough year. He went on to say that there will be some trauma counselors here next week to talk to staff, and there will be (and have been) some to talk to students, too. Plus, the admins are planning a school spirit/morale-building fun day for sometime this spring (The Principal did add a dry, “Yes, there will be a spring” because there still are several feet of snow on the ground). They took suggestions for fun day activities during the meeting. These were mine:

  • ultimate frisbee
  • laser tag 
  • lip sync competition
  • t-shirt decorating

My cacophonous friends, who were sitting with me, echoed my suggestions and added a few more. After the meeting ended, we walked out into warm and sunny weather, and were reminded that, as The Principal said, there will, in fact, be a spring. 

Day One Hundred Eighteen

I was super productive this morning. I got to work a bit earlier than usual, ate my breakfast, and used my prep time to make all the photocopies for the next APUSGOV unit. I put two new readings in, too. So… I did kind of kill a forest. But now it’s all done! And it’s going to be so cool to teach!

World/English started out well enough. Mrs. T gave the instructions for writing constructive arguments and rebuttal questions, then made herself available to answer questions while I wandered the Cavern and kept groups on task.

So many students are excited about the debates, and feeling confident in their preparation, which is incredible- especially if they’re students who tend to be underconfident, or risk-averse. They’re realizing how much they actually understand, and it’s awesome. Also, one group keeps naming their documents ridiculous things like “the almost cool debate group debate notes” (which got changed to “the actually cool debate group” after I complimented the music they were listening to), and that’s hilarious.

Oh! And I got a student who doesn’t ever visibly react to anything I do (because he would like to go unnoticed) to burst out laughing! See, one boy asked another what they’d done in Mr. F’s class yesterday, and I interrupted with, “I bet it was math!” like I was saying something really profound and helpful. It was totally ridiculous… BUT THIS STUDENT LAUGHED! 

I WIN.

Buuuuut I also had to write up two students for cutting class, and then Mrs. T and I both had to continually address their behaviors after they did arrive. They’re students we’ve struggled with all year long, unfortunately. Sometimes, there will be a week or so that will go well, and we’ll think we’re getting somewhere with them, but then a new week will arrive and we’ll be right back to square one. 

We do know that a lot of that is due to stuff that’s going on outside of our classrooms, but it’s still frustrating (for all of us involved, I’m sure).

Today was definitely a square one day. These two would not stop behaving badly- distracting their peers, grabbing other people’s stuff, trying to sign out over and over, etc- no matter what I tried. They were also grumbling the whole time about what a “controlling b*tch” I am for writing them up, which… Meh. Usually, by this point in the year, students who feel that way have figured out that saying so doesn’t hurt my feelings and isn’t going to change the situation.

A while back, I said something about how I was simultaneously succeeding and failing so much this year. I definitely felt that today.

It did end well, though. The Principal was feeling like everyone needed a morale boost, and we have a bunch of winter sports teams in the post-season, so twenty minutes before the end of the day, the band had a “traveling pep rally,” marching through the building and playing our fight song and drumline cadences. 

That was pretty great.

Day One Hundred Eleven

Check out the brackets, people. It was a very fun block of debates in APUSGOV this morning.

After the debates were over, I gave students time to work independently. The students who will be debating cases in the next round worked on their arguments; others started studying the awesome, multimedia set of slides I put together on civil liberties and civil rights (and how these cases relate); others did exam practice questions; others finished the Stats homework that was due at the start of the next block. It’s all good with me. 

Right at the bell I realized I hadn’t made any of my photocopies for World, so I hastily got that done, and managed to start class as if I’d been fully prepared the whole time. I began with a discussion about the war in Yemen- they’d read an overview of what’s happening and why for homework- in order to make sure everyone was clear about the basics. After that, I pulled some things off the news like I’d done with Syria. This Vice News piece, in particular, caught a lot of students’ attention. 

My plan was to close the lesson by explaining the proxy war aspect of the conflict. In my Block 4 class one of my students made an observation about that before I said anything, and I love it when that happens; I love when they spot something before being asked to look for it. So then we had a really big discussion about the different countries and non-state actors involved, and how they’re interacting in this war and other situations. We talked right up to the bell, which is rare in a class right before lunch.

So I was feeling good about the day. It figures, given the kind of year we’re having, that, of course, something went wrong after that.

Mr. T and I had lunch in the prep room (we often have lunch together and have deep talks about teaching and life). As we were leaving, the lockdown alarm went off. We stared blankly at each other for a minute, then bolted into our classrooms. Because of the Very Bad Thing that happened recently, I thought this one might be real. I thought it was possible. Thankfully, The Principal came over the loudspeakers a moment later to say that it was a false alarm; something funky happened with the electrical system, that’s all. He apologized because he knew most people were thinking what I was thinking, and that’s wicked traumatic for the kids, and… Yeah.

Day One Hundred Ten

This morning I saw one of my former students decked out in Marine dress blues. He was waiting in the main office to see The Principal when I went down to my mailbox. My immediate reaction was, “DUDE, LOOK AT YOU!” because he’d undergone such a huge and awesome transformation since graduation. It was really cool to catch up with him for a few minutes.

That started the day off on a positive note. 

And my first class was awesome. We got into a big discussion about the impact of warfare on young people after reading about Syrian teenagers trying to get an education during and after ISIS’ occupation of Raqqa. That was one of the news stories I pulled up to show students what’s currently happening in the region, and it really hooked them. I felt like it was a really meaningful class.

They had about twenty minutes to do their homework, too, so most were able to get it all done. Three of the boys decided that, while they were working, they should eat Jello cups with their fingers. 

I offered them spoons, which was apparently an affront because they reacted with (fake) outrage. Like, how dare I imply that they couldn’t manage to eat Jello without the aid of utensils?

I’ve embraced the fact that ninth grade boys are not meant to be fully understood.

Flex time was good because a bunch of students came in to make up work, retake quizzes, have me edit papers, and so on- and, yay, for wanting to improve! Also, one student came in solely so that he could show me a video message from Senator Cory Booker to me, thanking me for teaching about current events and politics. The senator did a campaign stop while I was over during February break, and this student went with his dad, and went right up to the senator and asked him to give me a shout out. How cool is it that one of my students did that for me?

My Block 4 class was… not awful, but it was frustrating after everything else had gone so well. There’s a group of students I just haven’t been able to reach. They come in unprepared, disrupt class, try to use their phones when they shouldn’t, that kind of thing… I thought I’d gotten one student out of that group- he was opting to associate with other students, focus on his work, engage in class, etc…- but today he was back in it. I addressed all the problem behaviors and got on with the lesson; it just didn’t have the same impact it had earlier in the day.

I’m going to keep working to make that class better, though.

We had a team meeting during Block 5, which was interrupted by The Vice Principal. She had some things to share with us about the Very Bad Thing I alluded to yesterday. It’s really hurting a lot of our students- and a lot of adults, too- and I don’t know how long the recovery is going to be, but it’s definitely going to be a while…

Day One Hundred Nine

I’ve said a few times now that this is a hard year. In addition to any trials and tribulations in my classroom, there have been several Incidents- capital I for emphasis- that I can’t elaborate on, a handful of mid-year changes in the faculty, the lockdown… Our school community has just been rocked over and over.

It got rocked again during vacation, so today started with a 6:45AM staff meeting. Don’t ask me for details- I obviously can’t give them- but know that a Very Bad Thing happened, and everyone is shaken. During Block 1, the Principal made an announcement about counselors being available for students, etc, etc… and I just looked at my APUSGOV class and admitted I had no good way to transition from that to teaching. I just took the metaphorical sharp turn and did it.

A good third of my class was absent- the weather yesterday was bad, so lots of folks are stuck at airports- so we only had enough students to do a bit of Court Madness. I jumped to a lesson on the Bill of Rights, which I’d have done next anyhow, and we did that for the rest of class. Which was fine. You’d think I’d worry about the timing of my lessons being thrown off since it’s an AP course and the test date is always looming, but- weirdly- it doesn’t faze me. I find it easy to adjust, and my students are so adaptable. 

And there’s no timing World, really, because current events fluctuate. Today we picked up where we left off last class: with the destruction of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. I pulled up the most recent news articles and videos I could for students to check out, and we discussed what may happen to the region in the future, what the U.S. role may be, that kind of thing. We’ll shift focus to Yemen for the next few classes, and then “zoom out” so they can see all the players in these two conflicts and how they interact. 

I had to leave early to get to a doctor’s appointment, so I left my lesson planning half-done. I’ll pick it up again tomorrow.

Day One Hundred Eight

Mr. F came in with donuts today, which was absolutely awesome because I hadn’t eaten breakfast (I ran out of granola bars and didn’t realize it, thought I had one more). He, Mrs. T, and I had an impromptu morning meeting as we ate, and at one point The Principal dropped by and complimented us on our teamwork.

Go us.

It was Friday before break and it was snowing, so a bunch of my ninth graders were absent, which… is what it is. I know a lot of parents excused their kids because they’re used to thinking that nothing gets done on days before vacations. But in high school? 

It was a B day in the schedule, so my students did the same thing my other students did yesterday: took a quiz and learned about the fight against ISIS. I thought it went quite well overall; students could work at their own pace, and it was chill and quiet since they were all watching videos with headphones in for part of the block, and reading for the rest of it. A couple of the boys did decide to start making Google Translate say insulting things in Arabic, but I put a stop to that quickly by offering to teach them a handful of polite things, then redirecting them.

The quiz grades were a bit low, so we’ll be revisiting study skills in the not so distant future. I’ll figure out how I want to do that later. For now? It’s vacation! 

And, no, it’s not just a long weekend for President’s Day; I have an entire week off. February break is unique to New England, and done entirely for the benefit of the ski industry, but I’m not complaining about it!