180 Days: Day 113–One Hour Short of Monday aka Planning Pays Off after Spring Forward

Thank goodness I had the foresight to lay everything out for this morning. I’m so exhausted from the weekend conference and the spring forward that having my day ready to go made my life much easier. Everything from copies to make, to parents to meet, to attendance contracts to sign…I was ready to rock n roll this morning.

My sophomores spent the day completing timed writings/common assessment for argument writing while I circulated, worked on the next two day’s lesson plans, and repeat. My seniors worked in their literature circle groups to present their gothic novels to the remainder of the class. Overall, it was a productive day that left me with two days worth of lessons and substitute teacher plans, copies made, and a new batch of attendance students ready to track down. Planning certainly paid off today; let’s hope it pays off for the next few days as well.

“Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant



180 Days: Day 112–When Friday Lasts Three Days

I felt all organized at the end of the day today. I have all my master copies ready for the copy room on Monday morning. I have three new attendance contracts ready to sign on Monday morning. My students have a plan page in hand to plan what they will write on Monday in our common assessment argument essay–pertaining to whether teachers should be allowed to conceal carry guns in the classroom. I can only hope that my preparations will pay off on Monday morning, as my brain is sure to be fried. I’m heading to downtown LA for a weekend conference, so I can only hope I will walk in Monday morning and can pick up right where I left off today and feel ready to go. Not to mention, we lose an hour springing forward for daylight savings time this weekend. Monday promises to be one of these types of days:


Or one of these types:


So making Friday a little more hectic with hopefully be worthwhile.

What tonight and this weekend promise to be is certainly not a party though. I will be up early and be sitting at a table of other union organizers all weekend. I will be reminded how to reach out and build relationships with my colleagues. That might seem easy to most, but most people do not work in a room with children all day and spend very little time in the company of other adults. It never ceases to amaze me how isolating teaching can be and that it takes an effort to venture outside the classroom and engage with the other adults on campus. So I expect that this conference will help me sharpen my skills on that front–stepping outside my room to talk to my colleagues as they pass in the halls, leaving my room at lunch to seek out a peer, ensuring that I use my conference time to speak with other adults about our practice, our experiences, our shared core beliefs. We are all in this together.

“Last Friday Night (TGIF)” by Katy Perry


180 Days: Day 111–Clean Up Crew, pt. 2

What do I loathe almost as much as being out of class? Bad reports from substitute teachers. And my sophomores just do not seem to care about my stern warnings. So their lackluster attempt at the essay they wrote in class yesterday just earned them more work on the back end. I had to take a few moments to share my pearls of wisdom: do things right the first time and you won’t have to make time to do it over again later. I don’t care if students get the “wrong” answers the first time. Sometimes we need to get it wrong in order to learn how to do it right. But ultimately, we should always give our best, do our best, be our best. It’s about acting with integrity–doing the best job even when no one is looking.

So rather than be angry, I had to take a deep breath. Or two. Okay, maybe three. Then I looked at the work they produced to formulate the first half of today’s lesson–what were they missing from their arguments that they wrote (and I use that term loosely) yesterday. I selected a couple of student samples to use as models for revisions and to use as a guide for our second attempt at writing arguments. Which leads to the second half of class–where we spent the remainder of the period looking up information on gun control vs gun rights. We talked about the importance of knowing about what you are writing about and when you don’t know about it, look it up. Writing about what we know is much easier than making it up as we go. And the best way to become a better writer is to read more and more–and study the craft of the writers that we read.

“Your Life Is Now” by John Mellencamp


180 Days: Day 117–Happy Haka Day

My school’s annual Multi-Cultural Assembly was today. It’s typically the biggest day of the year for our students.  Over 26 languages are spoken at my school, so today is a celebration that highlights so many of the cultures represented at my school. Students dress in their cultural garments and perform traditional dances and music. Whether it’s a Chinese fan dance or a Tahitian hula, my school’s kids have got it going on in this annual celebration of our school’s diversity. They entertain as well as touch the soul.

Two of the most anticipated performances include the Haka and the Filipino stick dance  (as seen on the school paper’s Instagram page).

The best thing about this day isn’t the fun dances and songs though. It’s the sense of school pride. It’s the affirmation of who these kids are at their core. It’s the camaraderie developed by students from differing cultures joining in other groups’ performances.

I have one student who is new to the school this year. He is hard to impress, but even he admitted that he’d never been to a school that actually celebrated their differences and diversity so openly. His prior school was also richly multicultural, but he said that they did not have a similar commemoration. I like to think that this assembly, which ends a weeklong series of events every March, is one of a kind, though I somehow doubt it. But that makes it no less special in what it accomplishes–a week of fun, togetherness, and fellowship.

“Haka War Chant” composed by Kai Hartwig


180 Days: Day 110–Testifying

I spent today out of the classroom testifying before a state arbitrator. Why would I be testifying before a state arbitrator? The California Teachers Association goes before a state arbitrator annually to prove that they indeed follow the law with regards to agency fee payers by doing their duty of fair representation. Our local was one of three chosen at random from all locals across the state. And since I was president the year in question before the arbitrator, I had the privilege of testifying about our local and how we represent members and nonmembers alike. I have to admit that I was a little nervous at first, but luckily it turned out to be a less intimidating task than I expected.

What is so ironic is that this is probably the last time that the arbitration will need to happen–depending on the outcome of the Supreme Court Janus vs. AFSCME case.

I hope that my students did a better job with today’s writing than they did with Monday’s. More than likely I will be cleaning up lots of loose ends again. Par for the course…

“Testify” by Russell Crowe and The Ordinary Fear of God (formerly Thirty Odd Foot of Grunt)


180 Days: Day 109–Clean Up Crew, pt. 1

I had 40 minutes to clean up yesterday’s mess of students’ attempts at developing an argument while getting them ready for yet another substitute teacher for tomorrow. I have grown to loathe Tuesdays for the hectic pace and shorter classes. And when I miss Monday and Wednesday, then Tuesdays are even crazier. I really hate being away from my classroom. Making sure that my students have all they need to engage with the material while I’m not in class is exceptionally important to me. I don’t believe in giving students busy work while I’m gone. I want them to have a version of what I would normally give them.

Today, we discussed the essays they attempted to write yesterday. And I use the word attempted loosely. Most just wrote a short paragraph to turn in rather than the analytical essay they were assigned. I started by dissecting the prompt with the students. Rather than saying that they all just blew off the assignment, I first wanted to know that they understood the prompt. So we dissected it. Most students didn’t understand the prompt fully, but they did know enough to get a solid draft if they had really applied themselves.

Then we dissected a few student samples together–a what to do versus what not to do for tomorrow’s prompt, which should be easier in that it will not be connected to the literature. But it will be harder in that it requires students to develop an argument when they may or may not know information about their subject.

But tomorrow is a clean slate.

“Clean” by Depeche Mode


180 Days: Day 108–When Monday Is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Sick Day

I woke at 4 a.m. throwing up. I can only guess food poisoning as I hugged the bowl and heaved for three hours while trying to write sub plans between heaves. Today is a day I would much rather have been in school for sure.

Needless to say, I ended up talking to the sub via phone as I lay in bed curled in a ball to explain those fragmented sub plans. Thankfully she held down the fort well while I spent most of my day in bed. I’m one of those teachers that go to school even if I don’t feel 100 percent because I’m typically out of the classroom for so many other reasons–and I hate the extra work that preparing for a sub loads on my shoulders, and the time away from my students giving them help and well-designed lessons. But some days it just can’t be helped. Today is one of those days.

“Sick Boy” by Social Distortion


180 Days: Day 107–Finish Line=Crossed!

My sophomores looked at me stunned today–in every single class. We finished Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar today. At the end of the film/play, they all looked up to me and said, “That’s it? That’s the end?” I halfway think they wanted it to go on longer. But only halfway. I think they wanted to see Antony and Octavius have it out, but I told them that was another play for another day.

But I was excited to see that my students enjoyed the film/play enough to want more. There will always be the typical complaints that Shakespeare is hard to understand, but most of the kids at least understood the basic gist of the story. Our next steps will include more close readings of key passages of the play, some analytical writing, then the grand finale–argument writing.

But for today, we will celebrate that we finished the play and that it was the end of the world as the Roman’s knew it. What a great Friday!

“It’s the End of the World” by REM


180 Days: Day 106–You Spin Me Right Round–Tutorial Day 2

Days like today are why teachers always have bladder infections. I didn’t have a single second to myself. Even my lunch period, the 30 minutes I typically horde to myself, was spent with a colleague who needed some union representation. Why was today so much worse than any other day? Two words: Intervention Period aka Tutorial.

As I explained in my post from two days ago, my grade level team is using our two 30 minute intervention periods to reteach students who had difficulty with making inferences from short reading passages with at least 80 percent accuracy. So today’s tutorial session, coupled with my snack period and lunch periods being eaten into only to have my evening filled with more union duties leave me one tired teacher. I guess I wouldn’t feel so disgruntled if I felt my efforts really made that much more of an impact on the lives of these few students who are receiving this extra time. I have yet to feel that the extra workload is nothing more than working harder rather than smarter. When the teachers are the ones doing all the extra work while most kids just sit in study hall, I have to question the efficacy of this program. I can only hope that as the rollout of this program continues that it will eventually allow for more students to engage in the tutorial time and that we teachers can figure out how to better manage the workload being heaped on us.

Even though my head is left spinning after days like today, I still am thankful for the time with my students. Their crazy teenage antics are what keep me sane.

“You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead or Alive


180 Days: Day 105–Catch Me Up If You Can

Progress reports for quarter 3 are due tomorrow. And my students had essays due today. In spectacular quarter 3 fashion, most showed up with very little accomplished on their essays. So today became a review of the essay prompt, going over a couple of strategies to help find proper textual evidence and quotes to integrate with that evidence and a writing/revising session in class. Oh, and a chance for me to input grades onto the computer to have progress reports ready to go.

So I spend today circulating class to answer specific questions one on one, then input a few grades, then repeat. Circulate. Input. Repeat.

But I did finish grades today. And I did feel that I accomplished something. And I received at least some form of writing from almost all of my students. And something is better than nothing when I’m trying to assess just what my students can do in the realm of literary analysis. Most students do not have a lot of confidence in their writing, even the writers who are actually pretty darned good. So today is a day that lets me catch up while letting them explore what they want to say with a guiding hand.

My students are writing about power struggles in Julius Caesar, and we are more than halfway through the text now. Caesar has died. Anthony has turned the Romans against the conspirators. We only have war left. So students should be able to effectively pull from the opening three and a half acts of the play as evidence for their power struggle prompt. Not to mention they’ve had four days to think about how to best answer this question. Sometimes they just need a set of eyes on their thesis or a peer to review what they have written for reasons why their thesis is true. Today was that day. Thankfully.

“Catch and Release” by Silversun Pickups