Photo Credit: Sharla Rowley Hoff

25 Word Stories from Monsoon Season 2018: The Haboob of the New, and What Follows

Amethyst Hinton Sainz Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom

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Header Photo Credit: Sharla Hoff

I remember that feeling, being in a haboob before we knew the word “haboob.” Wonderment, trepidation, a lungful of whatever was driven loose by wind.

First day of junior high, and families arrive together, parents holding the hands of seventh graders? Something has already shifted in the humid, blasting morning.

The teachers hold cellphones with spreadsheets sending students to their first advisory. Students have printed their schedules, but they’re worthless currency. Each day is different.

Half my advisory is not in front of me. Where are they? Shrug. Mark them absent. The ten of us learn names, facts and fictions.

First day is ding ding ding from Google Hangouts. I discover what all those spreadsheets were for. My students patiently wait for me to mwa-mwa-mwa.

Community circle. “Hi, what’s your name?’ “My name is Araceli” “Hello, Araceli” Toss the inflatable globe to students from all over. Pins on our map.

Lunchtime I follow the class out to make sure they know how to do the cafeteria. My 8th graders all promise to help the newbies.

Can’t take attendance. Take it on these spreadsheets and team leader enters it. Does she sleep? Where do my students go, how do I know?

Photo of haboob from the air

Photo Credit: Clark Wothe

I walk my students to class. I can’t remember the room numbers and it’s all mwa-mwa to them. Most everyone is across the hall, anyway. Team.

Yoga Pretzels. The four-hour ELD block is actually almost four hours… in a row.  I ask my students to lead these yoga poses. Unclear; relaxing.

The faster these kids can name things the better. First the nouns, because there are physical examples. Classroom labels:  chair, books, projector, pencil, paper, balls.

A four hour block is too long for squirrelly boys to sit on a yoga ball. I teach the word “bouncy,” an adjective describing personality.

Community circle whiteboards:

mostly happy emojis

Students try to explain. “I feel happy because…”  It’s going to be okay.

I can be  oblivious to the promising clouds. No windows and a blur of Hangouts, spreadsheets, students and activities. The heat sinks in driving home.

After two weeks, laptop carts are in! We have… drumroll please… Google Translate! We sign into Chrome. We bookmark everything. We Classroom and Canvas it up!

Mindsets, clubs, celebrations, playtime, advisory, sessions, Synergy, embedded electives, teacher of record, Ctrl+F. I sway and scramble in the winds, using cognates whenever possible.

Behind the dusty haboob, hope for the driving pour. The wind snaps weak branches, uproots the comfortable shade. The rain turns everything green, I hope.

Note: This year our 7th and 8th grade junior high school shifted to a team-based system within a flexible, bell-less schedule. Fitting the rigid requirements of ELD into these fluid, teacher-driven and student-centered concepts has been challenging, to say the least. If I can make it through the year, I see the promise.  Knowledge of students and student choice will drive each day, not a bell schedule. But right now I am trying to make it through each day feeling like I can focus on what really matters, the needs of the students. It’s a balancing act, and everything we’ve always relied on has been reinvented. I am truly hoping for the rain after the haboob, and I can feel a few fat drops.

Some links to give you a taste of what we’re up to:

Photo of Monsoon Storm from a distance

Photo Credit: Mamie Zembal



I currently teach English Language Development at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa Public Schools. I love seeing the incredible growth in my students and being an advocate for them. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts. Before this position I taught high school English in Arizona for 20 years. My alma maters are Blue Ridge High School and the University of Arizona. My bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led me toward the College of Education, and I soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel me throughout my career. My love of language, literature and culture led me to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College for my masters in English Literature. I am a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for me. I enjoy teaching students across the spectrum of academic ability, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education, as well as exploring more topics in STEM. In recent years, much of my professional development has focused on teacher leadership, but I feel like I am still searching for exactly what that means for me. I live in Mesa, Arizona with my family. I enjoy them, as well as my vegetable garden, our backyard chickens, our dachshund Roxy, reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), hiking and camping, and travel, among other things.

Comments 5

  1. Jess Ledbetter

    So creative! I absolutely LOVED this! You gave such a deep look into your first few weeks with your carefully selected words. Wishing you a cleansing, refreshing downpour as you all tackle new ground :)

  2. Heather Robinson

    I really enjoyed the way you wrote this! Easy to follow, clever, interesting. I hope things went well with the substitute and this flexible bell less schedule. :-)

    1. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

      Hahahaha! The funny thing is that with ELD, it looks fairly simple on paper for the sub. They don’t have to worry about where to take attendance, where to put grades, whether OELAS will think they are out of compliance, etc! Just 50,000 lesson plans and lots and lots of time with the same group of early teens. I think it would be more complicated for the teachers fully embedded in the teams. Thank you for reading!

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