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McNeil 8th Grade Core

Welcome letter fall 2022



  Welcome to room 27 and the Mr. McNeil Experience®! I am very excited to welcome you! It’s easy to say “aww, shucks, it’s August and we have to go back to school!” But if you can meet me with the energy I have - just think camp counselor - we’ll have a great start. 


   This summer I went on a two-month road trip thru 28 states with my three kids (twins starting kindergarten, my daughter starting 2nd grade). It was amazing and let me do a lot of day-dreaming about this year. I’m beyond excited. 

  Having taught for quite a while, lemme answer some questions I bet you have for that first day of school:


1) For this week you just need to bring your beautiful selves - for next week you’ll need something to write with, binder paper, little post-its, and a spiral notebook for social studies notes. Every day you’ll need to bring your independent or book club reading as well as your writers and readers notebooks (but I’ll give those last two to you)


2) Our social studies textbook is online. Generally, your backpacks are comically heavy so I will try to limit the stuff you need to haul around especially once we get the one-on-one chromebooks re-distributed


3) There is no seating assignment for now - sit where you want and know that I’m taking notes and will create a seating chart partially-based on your decisions/preferences.


4) The rumors about this class and this teacher are true….


5) Schooloop and google classroom are your friends. Generally look at google classroom to see what is due and schooloop to see your "official" grade. Please also make sure your parents/guardians are signed up for schooloop to aid with classroom communications. 


6) You can’t use your phone in class, so you might as well leave it in your locker. 


7) You are perfect just as you are and we are here to learn to think, communicate, and make the world better - grades and proper penmanship are secondary concerns - let’s take chances with a challenge because nobody ever grew muscle weight-lifting a pencil….except for very small babies. Small squirrel babies. You grow by being challenged. You should be curious about the world and skeptical of simple answers. This class will deal with serious matters and embraces discomfort. Get in that mindset. 


8) Self-advocacy is how this class works: your parents aren’t your lawyers and I’m not a mind-reader. Ask for help or clarifications. Even better, suggest things that can make the class work better for you! I’m not that scary - I will walk through fire to help you but you have to be the one to ask


9) I’m going to take a Covid test Wednesday 8/24 morning and Monday 8/29 just to make sure we start the year off grand. I doubt you’ll see me wearing a mask this year, but I will always have one in my back pocket and am very happy when students make choices on how to feel safe - in every way, not just health. If you are worried about getting sick or have a family member who isn’t able to get vaccinated, please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.


10) You’re in the right place -- this is going to be the best and most challenging year of your school life. I decided to be a middle school teacher when I was in middle school because I had AMAZING social studies and English teachers. My goal is to make this Core class a transformational experience for you. 


  Starting the week of the 29th we’ll be on a very fixed schedule. I know the worry about work-life balance vs. homework is a big deal (and they’re only going to get bigger…). I try to assign a minimal amount of homework and am generally forgiving. But please don’t take that as a license to not do it - remember, you should have three times as much homework from me as you do your math or science teacher (!). You never will, but don’t delay. 


  The heart of this class is reading and writing workshop. This approach uses a ton of mentor texts, rubrics, and tools to help you grow while meeting you where you are. It gives you agency and one-on-one attention but also expects you to be a self-starter and self-advocate. That model extends into all the parts of this class. 


  Our year starts off with getting into the right habits: we will focus on tracking and thinking about reading while building stamina. We will make sure all the online platforms are up and running.  And most importantly, we will get to know each other from trivia to traits and personality to dreams. Please invite me to basketball games, bat mitzvahs, and (in a few years) your quinceañeras etc. I’ll show up, cheer, and embarrass/celebrate you - well past this year (please invite me to stuff in high school too)


  I’m so excited! This year we will be writing, reading, and thinking a lot. Our writer's workshop curriculum will cover the standard narrative, informational (writing about reading), and argument writing. But when combined with our reader's workshop units and social studies units, we can do some amazing stuff. By the end of the year you will have dealt with some serious topics but also will be expected to communicate and advocate around serious topics. There are books, films, and subjects that I present in this class that most of us don’t get exposed to till college - this is a “big kid” class and still a chance to celebrate being a little kid even as you transition to high school. That’s what 8th grade is.


  Get ready.




                                                                                                                         Trevor McNeil

Interesting articles

Student resources in the library
Meet Trevor!


  • National Board Certified Teacher
  • 13 years teaching Middle School Social Studies and Language Arts
  • High school History and college Political Science teaching experience as well
  • BA in Political Science from Carleton College
  • Certificate in theological studies from the Pacific School of Religion at Berkley's Graduate Theological Union
  • MA in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University
  • English Credential and Social Studies Credential from San Francisco State University
  • Born and raised in San Francisco where I currently live 
  • Other past professional activities:  international development (training political parties in the West Bank, Lebanon, and Yemen, working at a civics think-tank in Hong Kong, and aiding in Haitian post-earthquake disaster management), working in a bookstore (Paris), archaeology (Belize, Spain), fellowships for research (Iraq, Tibet, Turkey), government/politics/elective office (D.C., L.A., Oakland, San Francisco), and (randomly) agriculture development/agrotourism (Salinas, Kona) 
  • Aside from 8th grade core am obsessed with my kids - daughter Walden starting 2nd grade and our twin boys just started kindergarten 
  • Hobbies: family biking, cooking (watching cooking shows and menu/party planning mostly), local history, planning travel itineraries, and all water sports (surfing, water skiing, sailing, anything...). Prefered pronouns he/him. Giants fan but don't ask me about football - never figured it out. And no, I don't play Call of Duty or Fortnite. 
  • This summer we went on a roadtrip through 27 states for two months. This year I am hoping to sail on the bay and our family is looking for land to put up an off-the-grid cabin somewhere in the Santa Cruz mountains. 


FInd your next book




Destiny Discover (our catalog in Follett) will recommend titles we have in the library


Gnooks is a very simple user interface: enter up to 3 names of authors you like and it will recommend another author you might like


TasteDive will generate a list of similar books or authors you might like from a selected title or author (it also works for movies, music, etc., so you have to select 'book' or 'author' from the drop-down menu first)


WhichBook uses characteristics rather than specific books; you use slider bars to search for books based on mood and emotion or character and plot


Olmenta is fun for random finds if you like surprises; no explanation as to how books end up on the lists


YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has a searchable website for books on their list; you can search for books, author, genre, awards, etc. and selections will also offer recommendations.


Time Magazine created a 100 Best YA Books of All Time book list


There is no silver-bullet for reading or creating readers. But there is also no way to "teach" reading or get better other than reading at-level books alot. That said, here is Mr. McNeil's advice

  1. Distraction free means just that. Device in another room, turn down the music. 
  2. Rituals work - tea? comfy nook? Sweatpants? I can't read without a pencil in my hand - it's weird, but it's my ritual.
  3. We are social creatures - read quietly together as a family. I'll email your parents and order them to read!
  4. Nobody reads the same or fell in love with reading the same. Adults should model and be honest about reading habits. Do your parents not read at 10pm? Ask them why? Do your parents only read at 10pm? Ask them why! If you are having a hard time reading, ask an adult and they will be able to tell you about their journey as a reader. 
  5. Always have a reading plan - your next three books should be stacked prominently.
  6. Go back and forth between genres. Read a sci fi book and then a biography of a famous scientist. Read a novella that takes place in that scientists home country and then read about a war that took place in that country. If you're in love with a series, read it, but always keep other avenues open (see #5)
  7. Set a timer (especially if you are having a panic attack that your device is in another room - see idea #1) and make sure you are doing a minimum of 15-20 minutes per sitting
  8. Remember that you can do this 
  9. Remember that YA books today are so much better and relevant than your parents' generation
  10. Remember that reading is how your build empathy, analysis skills, world views, and is just the best thing we can do anytime always forever. This is the most important thing. You may have read Harry Potter before your peers, but next year you are in high school - the amount of reading is about to get debilitating. Getting into strong reading habits now is the greatest gift I can give you.



All our norms, rules, and procedures will bloom from this value

We always need more books. We are covered with classroom materials. At somepoint we need comfy beanbags for reading. 


Here are two beanbags we could use - we love reading - or


And we always need books - here's my wishlist for our classroom library

Trevor McNeil Locker

Everyday bring:

  • Writers and readers notebook (I'll give you these)
  • Independent reading
  • Lotsa little post-its (1.5 x 2 are the best)
  • Several pencils/pens
  • Loose-leaf binder paper/journal
  • A spiral notebook for social Studies notes 
  • An inquisitive attitude and sense of humor
  • Additional: small stapler, three-ring binder, homework folder, ziplock bag for your SSR book, water bottle, home-baked cookies for Mr. McNeil (-:


I also would encourage students to bring a timepiece that isn't their phone - think watch - phones have to be in their backpacks or lockers at all time, but I still like them to be able to manage their time, set timers, etc.