Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Musings on Another School Year in the Books

Each year I teach seems to end faster than the one before. Tomorrow will be the last day for the students, which is effectively the last day of school even though I have one teacher work day and staff development ahead of me. 2010-2011 was a crazy year. 

Two weeks after my wrist surgery.
I began the school year by missing the first two days of in service training because Stacey had to have emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder. The following month we had three of our ten cluster teachers (including me) have to undergo some form of wrist surgery. Mine was due to "Mommy thumb" from picking up Hobbes. We've lived with the threat of budget cuts, pay cuts and layoffs all year. This dominoed into losing experienced teachers who took incentives to retire. After seeing budgets 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 we still don't know for sure what will happen next year. One thing we do know -- we will have a new superintendent.  Dr. Hinojosa has taken another job in Georgia.

Opal broke her wrist in a fall at school.
The debate season started in earnest the first week of school. The debaters showed up ready to work (well most of them) and we enjoyed early and consistent success throughout the year. 

This year marked a major transition for the team in more than one. First, everyone on the circuit including me expected this to be a rebuilding year.  We had lost several outstanding seniors to graduation, including two that had qualified to the TOC: The Tournament of Champions. 

Ivan Garcia & Rolando Velasquez with last minute preparation.
One other area in which we were transitioning was the use of tubs. Below students are preparing for an early tournament with their debate tubs. Within a few weeks we went paperless and the policy debater began debating by retrieving their evidence from laptops. This helped in saving the cost of printing and the room on vans.

Katia Ramirez with her plate from UNT.
While we were rebuilding we had a solid crop of freshmen novices join the team this year. We had eight novice LD Debaters and four novice CX debaters. We students from each group earn trophies early on. While I try not to emphasize winning with the beginners, I can't help but be proud of the "baby debaters" when they get their first trophies. It's probably one of the most enjoyable parts of being a debate coach.

Last year, I got thrown back into teaching our Sophomore Law class. I was against it at first. In the end, I had a blast working with them on their independent research and it helped me get know several of the non-debate students. One of the groups stood out for their creative projects and just plain being fun to work with. This year as juniors all of them were assigned shadowships at the County Courthouse so I rarely got to see them.  This did not keep them from surprising me on my birthday with a homemade cake.

The debate season can be long and tedious. The long weekends are becoming more difficult for me to recover from and the tournament food is one of the reasons I am doing Weight Watchers now. 

Nevertheless, the season was a good one. Our students were in elimination rounds in every local tournament we attended. I lost count of the number of trophies they won. We had more students earn TFA state qualification points than in any other year.  This group included three freshmen.

Finally, in a year when we were supposed to be rebuilding, the CX team of Garcia-Velasquez (pictured at top) made it to the elimination rounds at TFA State. We had never had a team or debater do that before. In fact, no one from our district had ever done it. 
The War Room: getting ready for TFA State.

Sadly, we had to conclude the year on a bit of a downer. Steve Goodall, who has been a teacher at our school since I was senior, retired. He waited to make the announcement until the last week of regular classes. Goodall and I have never agreed on anything political, but I have always enjoyed the bantering back and forth. Often in the first few years I taught, he and I would engage in a mini debate about a current event and draw in the freshmen. Goodall grew from being my former teacher, to a colleague and eventually a friend.  He will be missed.

I am looking forward to the two weeks I will have off before I head to the Mean Green Debate Workshops. I have a lot of reading planned along with some writing (like tightening of this blog).

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