Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gimme a Break

Confiscated cell phones in my desk drawer yesterday.

Today is the first day of the rest of my...five-day weekend! It's the first time ever that we've been given three days off for Thanksgiving break. Oh, we often get a half-day on Wednesday, but this year they actually gave us Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off. It was, frankly, unbelievably awesome to have only a two-day work week.

Not that those two days were totally pleasant. Students are always so squirrelly right before a holiday break. They can't seem to focus and they're convinced there's some law stating that they shouldn't have to do school work, but instead enjoy free time, or at least a movie, on the last days before a long weekend. The final week before summer break is the worst. Every student insists that the school should just cancel the last week of the school year. They don't quite comprehend that there will always be a last week, no matter when it happens.

So yesterday was a challenge, and I was exhausted by 3:20. I spent a lot of time taking away cell phones and hidden sodas and bags of chips and candies. If I'd decided to issue referrals for every infraction, I'd have done nothing else all day. In the end, though, we all survived it.

The best project of the day! A diorama scene from the novel Code Talkers.

To make the days a little more palatable, we spent two days last week and both days this week working on and presenting projects related to the novels we've been reading: Summer of My German Soldier for freshmen and Code Talkers for sophomores. The students were given a list of more than a dozen possible venues to choose from, everything from writing a song or poem about the story, to creating a diorama or shadow box, to making a poster or collage, to acting out a scene (several performances of which were uproariously hilarious). One of the poems about the Navajo code talkers, written together by two Apache girls, was so deeply moving that I told them they should have it published.

Just this school year, the district office was moved into my building, right down the hall from my classroom. Before we started the presentations, I allowed one group to go into the hall to rehearse their scene, in which Jewish girl Patty is being beaten by her father, and German soldier Anton rushes out to defend her. When I walked out to check on them, Patty's "father" had whipped off his belt and was pretending to beat "Patty" with it. Then I looked back toward the district office and saw that three people, who were waiting to meet with district staff, were staring out the office window at the tableau of domestic violence being enacted before their startled eyes. I can only imagine what they thought!

I mentioned in a Facebook post last month that I'd been battling a group of girls in one class who've been chronically rude ever since school started. After things came to a head, I was finally able to make some headway after having a heart-to-heart with the girls outside of class. They are still a challenge, yet I see some effort on their part I wasn't seeing before. This past Friday, two of the girls (the ringleaders) came into my room and asked if they could hang out until reteach was over. Friday is not a school day at the high school. Only students who are invited for remediation or to do makeup work are required to attend between 7:30 and 11:30. They assured me that they'd done the work they were invited for, so I told them they could stay. They thanked me, and then one said, "You're our favorite teacher." I laughed and rolled my eyes, saying, "Right..." Instantly, they both began to protest with utmost sincerity. "No, really, we're being legit,"one girl said. "Yes," agreed the other. "You're our only teacher who doesn't hate us!" Well, I think I'll call that progress!

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