Category: the vice principal

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 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-Two

I told my APUSGOV students that I’d caught their senioritis because I was draaaaagging this morning. It’s a casual Friday, so I was wearing jeans and a top from the Gap, and I didn’t put my make-up on, and my hair was totally just up in a bun. I decided to put on some jewelry to make myself look more presentable. That’s my trick. 

I let my students have the block to finish their final projects, so it was pretty chill. A handful of them came in just for my class, which is funny since it’s over before 9:00AM, and I think I should feel honored? Maybe? 

In World, I checked off students’ final Multi-Genre pieces (graphic pieces) and had them begin editing their work themselves, peer editing, and- if they were ready- conferencing with me. Afterwards, Mrs. T and I had a meeting of the minds to discuss who’s ahead and who’s behind since she’ll be wrapping up Romeo and Juliet next week and we’ll be opening the wall between our classrooms for conferences and revisions. It’ll be so fun to be back together again. 

During Block 5, she and I went to meet with The Vice Principal, who wanted some information about some of our students, but apparently some Incidents happened so we had to wait until the end of the block. We had a good discussion eventually, though, about the things that seem to impede student success the most (poor reading skills, truancy, and/or parents who don’t hold their children accountable for anything). And when I got back to my classroom afterwards, I found cake on my desk, courtesy of Mr. F, who’d gotten it out of the prep room. So that was pretty great!

I puttered in my room for a bit, ate cake, and then walked out into a beautiful afternoon! TGIF!

Day One Hundred Seventy

Mr. F brought Mrs. T and I coffee this morning. His parents brought it back from some trip they’d taken somewhere (I’m very specific, I know) It was basically French Vanilla jet fuel, and it was amazing.

It was Senior Skip Day #2 today. Since our school does every other day classes, our seniors decided they had to skip them all, so… two skip days. I let them know every year that I think the second day is super lame. But, y’know, I’m still not the type of teacher who plans a test for that day; my whole APUSGOV class was absent, and that’s fine. I read a book. 

Then I want across the hall to Mr. T’s room (while someone else covered my World classes) and did karate! He’s been teaching about Eastern philosophy, so I offered to come in and demonstrate how that relates to martial arts. I did a few tricks and katas, and answered questions. We had an unexpectedly deep chat in his Block 2 class about how people who practice martial arts should use their skills, and how it doesn’t make anything better to be disproportionately violent, and we should be careful about what we put out into the universe. That was pretty awesome.

So, yeah, I spent about half of the block with each of his classes, and then went back to my own for the other half of the block. Multi-genre projects continue to take shape in exciting ways; I saw the most awesome storyboard for a cartoon about new treatments for cancer, and a lot of cool infographics, and other really creative stuff. I did a couple conferences in the time I had, as well. 

During Block 5 I went to have a chat with The Vice Principal about some students, and ended up staying for a longer chat about the year, the new principal (who’s coming to meet us all tomorrow morning, so I should have an interesting entry tomorrow), etc… Then I went out for a short track practice, and that was that!

Day One Hundred Forty-Six

There’s a collective acknowledgement at my school- among staff and students alike- that things have been abnormally difficult this year. Today was one of those days that underscored that because it was a day full of Incidents. So it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the Vice Principal, the hall monitors, various teachers, and our new SRO. 

(Side note: the new SRO is one of my former students, and I CAN’T EVEN, YOU GUYS). 

Meantime, I was out on a field trip, so my day was awesome. I left my APUSGOV students with a practice test and a sub, and went to chaperon a ninth grade college visit. 

The way the college visits work is that students can choose one of three schools to visit; the three vary from year to year, but we always have a big state school, a small college, and a community college as options. Half the freshmen class goes one day, the other half goes the next day, so we end up with four teachers and about twenty to twenty-five kids on each visit It’s a great thing because it gets kids thinking about their futures early on, and many of our upperclassmen have said it made the college search process a lot easier. Plus, for a lot of kids, it’s their first time on a campus, so it’s an experience.

Mrs. S, Mr. J, Mr. T and I chaperoned the visit to Saint Joseph’s, which is a small, Catholic college over in Maine that several of our grads have gone to. It’s pretty campus, it was a gorgeous day to tour it, and I was with a bunch of my track athletes (and our tour guide was on the college’s track team), so it was fun. Also, their cafeteria is great, and I had some seriously bomb quesadillas. 

Funny thing: while we were waiting for the bus, Mr. T grabbed my hands to show me how cold his were, and I pointed out that holding hands in front of a bunch of freshmen was bound to cause gossip. The look on his face when he realized I was right was so priceless. 

I just laughed and joked- in my best southern accent- that he’d brought scandal on my reputation, so I was the one who should be upset about it.

He couldn’t believe he’d made such a rookie move, though, heh.

Day One Hundred Forty-Five

I woke up today with a splitting headache. If I hadn’t been the only ninth grade teacher on my team in the building today, I definitely would have taken a sick day. But I was holding down the fort while Mr. F and Mrs. T chaperoned freshmen college visits (half the freshmen and half the teachers went today, the other half will go tomorrow), so I swallowed a few Tylenol and hoped for the best. 

I felt pretty terrible all morning, but I got through it. The students who weren’t on college visits went to their Block 1, 3, and 5 classes like normal, but during team time- Blocks 2 and 4- they were all in the Cavern of Learning with me. They continued current events research for my class, studied for upcoming math tests, and worked on The Central Asia Novel Project for Mrs. T. I was able to redirect students who got off task (with one exception- sent to the Vice Principal’s office), and had a few interesting conversations about the purpose of research and learning about what’s going on in the world. 

I finally started feeling better after lunch, which was a relief. By the time Block 5 rolled around, I was tired, but my headache had mostly gone. It’s a good thing, too, since I had to get on the bus to a track meet. 

It was cold, and windy, and a good third of the team is sick or injured- and we’re coming off two other meets in the past five days- so it definitely wasn’t a day of stellar performances. A few of Coach T’s distance kids and one of my sprinter boys did manage PRs, which is awesome, but mostly today was just about getting that competition experience that is so vital early in the season. 

Today also put my medical savvy to the test. I was KT-taping knees before the meet started, and explaining how to treat injuries like shin splits and muscle strains pretty much all afternoon, and one of my girls fell in the dash so I actually had to get the medkit out to disinfect and bandage the scrapes on her arms and knees. It’s times like that when I find myself channeling my mom (an unflappable, no-nonsense woman who worked as an ER nurse for most of my childhood), which isn’t a bad thing, but it is funny when I realize I’m doing it. 

It happens to most of us, though, I suppose. 

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 Thirty-Two

Readers of this blog and/or my Twitter feed have probably noticed that this is a truly ridiculous year that my school district is enduring. Today made it even more ridiculous.

It started out all right. I was relieved to find my classroom in good shape when I arrived, and to see that most of my students had worked diligently on their assignments in my absence. I took a few minutes to get my life in order, then went to meet with my department and look at job applications (because Mr. T is leaving, which is a huge bummer). Here’s the thing about my department, though: we’re all young, clever, and unbelievably salty. Any time we’re all in one room, it’s hilarious. Any time we’re all in one room attempting to do something serious, it’s even more hilarious. But we will get it done because that’s the other thing about us: we pride ourselves on having our act together. 

I went from that meeting right to APUSGOV, so I went from having fun to doing some serious teaching (but also having fun because I love that class). Today’s lesson was all about the Mississippi Summer Project, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act. I showed an excerpt from PBS’ Freedom Summer, which really got my students talking because none of them had learned about that part of history before. None of them knew about the murders, or any of the other crimes that rocked the country that summer, so they had lots of questions and comments. We talked for a while, and I closed class by reading Langston Hughes’ Kids Who Die. My students don’t have nearly enough poetry in their lives, and I thought that particular poem was fitting for the lesson. 

One of my students stayed after the bell to give me a pennant from the college she’s going to attend (I hang my seniors’ college pennants in my classroom, which is a custom I stole from Tom White), which was so cool.. She also gave me a really sweet thank you card and a gift certificate to my favorite coffee shop because I’d written her a recommendation. I wasn’t expecting it, and it totally made my day. 

World was also awesome because my A day classes have developed incredible class cultures, and the students are so eager to ask and/or answer questions, and that makes it fun for all of us. We discussed the current war in Afghanistan, watched some video footage of counterinsurgency efforts in different provinces (because I wanted to show that progress is uneven, and see if they could get at why that is), theorized about the future if the US withdraws its troops… In both my classes, a student pointed out that would probably impact neighboring countries, which gave me a perfect segue into the next thing I planned on teaching: the impact on the war on Pakistan. Their homework is to do some research on Pakistani culture, and next class we’ll examine what’s happened since the war in Afghanistan began, and what may happen in the future. 

My Block 4 class goes the latest lunch in the schedule (12:30), and I didn’t bring a snack today, so I was wicked hungry. Thankfully, the culinary class always has an amazing soup and salad bar (in addition to a sit-down restaurant that’s open to the public… they know us teachers don’t have time to sit down), so I went and got myself some food. I’d just gotten back to my classroom when The Vice Principal came on the loudspeakers and announced that a water pipe had burst, and everyone had to evacuate to the gym. 

I took my lunch with me and ate it in the bleachers.

Everything was all right, at first; the admins explained to the kids what was going on, and told everyone to sit tight until they had some more information. Of course, some kids immediately texted their parents to come pick them up, so a wave of dismissals started. Then, when it became obvious that things weren’t going to be fixed before the end of the day, The Superintendent made the decision to dismiss school entirely as soon as possible. As soon as that was announced, there was chaos; kids immediately got up and tried to leave, and it took several minutes to get everyone settled so The Vice Principal could explain how dismissal would work. 

She told everyone that it was not possible to get back to the classrooms at that time because the fire department was still determining if it was safe (water in the ceilings + electrical wires + gas lines = you get the idea), so they either had to wait or leave their stuff behind. Of course, not everyone listened. I was in the hall outside the gym (because some of our students have service dogs, and I’m allergic, and being in the gym with them was making my eyes itch), and I and several of my colleagues ended up having to stand shoulder to shoulder to physically block the hallway while The CTC Director and The SpEd Director reiterated to students that it wasn’t safe to go back to the classrooms. I’m louder than either of them, so I shouted the info when it was apparent not all students were hearing it. 

Gotta love having Teacher Voice.

The students were frustrated, of course, but most of them understood that we weren’t keeping them from getting their stuff just for the heck of it. Some students, though, really couldn’t cope (for lots of reasons, I’m sure, because stress affects us all differently). They shouted, and swore at us, and a couple even started crying, which I felt terribly about. I wish I could’ve told them that it was only going to be about twenty minutes of waiting, but we didn’t know that at the time. Thankfully, the nurses were there to escort criers to their office- which was in the clear zone- and give them a quiet space to calm down. 

Anyways… It was only about twenty minutes, and then everyone was able to grab their things, head out to their cars or to the buses, and go. My classroom is fine- no water!- but about half the ceiling panels are out and my tables are everywhere, so… I guess I’ll deal with that in the morning if we have school.

The SRO caught me as I was leaving to thank me for “holding the line,” and we both had a laugh about how scary and intimidating I obviously was (The SRO is a good half a foot taller than I am- and a heck of a lot stronger- and so are most of our students). I joked with him, too, about the year he’s having because it’s been ridiculous for all of us, but it’s been wicked ridiculous for him. He agreed that he’s basically a disaster magnet. 

So… That was my day. Definitely did not predict the ending!

Day One Hundred Twenty-Eight

Greetings from Hanover! Mrs. T and I are here for the night because we’re presenting at a conference tomorrow. 

And it’s snowing.

It’s been either snowing or raining all day long, which has been totally gross, but it was a decent day in spite of that. 

It was a teacher workshop day, so it started at 8:00AM with breakfast and coffee, followed by a faculty meeting to go over the agenda. After that, we had two hours to do curriculum work. I didn’t have much to do- just updating some of my APUSGOV stuff- and I’d been meaning to talk to Ms. C about the observations she’d done, so I asked if I could meet with her. We ended up talking for an hour and change about my classes, the school culture, the broader community culture, etc… She’s new this year, so I think it was beneficial for both of us; I gave her my perspective, and she got to learn more about who I am as a teacher. She’s my evaluator now, so that’s important.

I had about half an hour to do some grading and lesson planning, and then it was time for lunch. The Vice Principal spent the last two weeks organizing a potluck, which was awesome. Not everyone participated, but obviously my cacophonous friends and I did. We ate sooooo much good food, including some amazing mac and cheese, which was just the thing for a cold, wintery day. 

We went from lunch to a meeting facilitated by a group of teachers who’ve been researching grading practices. They announced earlier in the year that, based on their work, we would be moving to semester grading next year, so today was about figuring out how to make the process as smooth as possible. It was a shorter meeting than anticipated- I think it’s a change that has broad support- so we had about two hours to write reflections on our instructional practices and get work done. 

I wanted to write my reflection and then do the grading and planning I needed to do, but I ended up doing it backwards. That’s fine, though; it all got done!

Day One Hundred Fourteen

There was a two-hour delay this morning because it was wintery mixing. My floor buddies and I got cake for breakfast because Mrs. T brought cake in for Mr. V’s birthday, which was yesterday. Classes were shortened to an hour, so I had juuuust enough time in World for my lesson (students wrote current events essays and watched 4.1 Miles). I spent less time discussing everything with the students, but these are my quieter classes anyhow, so that worked out just fine. 

During Block 5, the teachers in the ninth grade house had a quick meeting to plan for Eighth Grade Open House. Mr. F was clicking his pen against his laptop during the meeting, so I threatened to throw my shoes at him (this after I teased him in front of his geometry class for writing down the wrong month on a spreadsheet… “But it’s numbers, Mr. F! You’re supposed to know those!”). My whole table started giggling about it.

The Vice Principal just rolled her eyes.

Adminstrators who tolerate my antics are awesome. We’re going to get a new principal next year, and my biggest fear is he or she won’t think I’m funny. That would be so upsetting!