My first bulletin board and other random thoughts…

27 09 2009

I’m taking a “vacation” of some sorts to see Kira in Catskill again, but with my time recouping and planning for next week, I want to show my first bulletin board. This was put up outside our classroom before Curriculum Day for the parents last Wednesday.

The Telling Time portfolio piece deals with both ELA and Math Standards.

Telling Time Standards

It was mostly a creative thought-out assessment by myself and my co-teacher. It looks great and some of my students took the time to be more creative in their coloring.

Cloudy clock

Names are blurred out for protection.

The set-up looks great outside the door. I was actually geeking out about making it stand out. Most of the students fully followed my directions and it was one of my few major highlights thus far this year. The glass case makes it hard for people standing straight across it from seeing the first names on the top, but otherwise, it was a good first attempt.

Bulletin Board

Other thoughts:

  • Being able to have this extra day to recoup will prove dividends for the next two weeks. I felt like I collapsed emotionally when I got to see Kira late Friday night. It’s not that my mind is tired… in fact, that’s the problem. My body is definitely feeling the tiredness, but my mind has not been able to turn off. I haven’t had a good night of sleep since last week (until this Friday night). My mind feels sharp, but at the same time, it needs to just relax.
  • Before going over to see Kira, I got to stop by the Peace Games training at my alma mater. As tired as I felt that day, it was just fantastic to see old friends and see new volunteers taking the plunge into the work I did that inspired me to become a teacher. Brielle and Caitlin, if you’re reading this and if you’re interested in taking the teaching plunge, I have full confidence you two will make amazing first-year (and second-year… third-year… etc) teachers once you graduate. About the Fellows in particular? You’ll hear more about that later.
  • I have my first full professional development (PD) day on Tuesday. Surprisingly, my first reaction was “get me out of the PD!” Sure, my students can get on my nerves. Some of them try and push me, especially with immature and ridiculous remarks. However, I am starting to finally get on my two feet and feel more established. I actually like my class.

    I feel more confident with the math curriculum and I feel like I’m starting to get to know my students better. Most importantly though, I feel there is a foundation of trust between me and my co-teacher. However small that foundation can be at the end of September, it is still there. I really enjoy working with her and I feel we’re building a stronger rapport in the classroom. Though I am going to take my co-teacher’s advice and just enjoy “being a professional” for one day at PD, I’ll miss my sweet, immature, sometimes annoying, sometimes bratty, but mostly eager to learn (even though that may not reflect on their test scores at times) students. Wow.

  • I need to stay nervous. The last few lessons I’ve given, I felt ridiculously nervous beforehand, like I was giving a lesson for my first time. However, those nerves force me to be extra careful and alert. I can’t get too comfortable. That doesn’t just go for giving lessons but for the classroom in general.
  • Lastly, I just need to understand how to adjust and move on. I’m not a fan of distractions during the school day, though it seems like every day brings an endless string of them. Sometimes, I can focus on the silly things that I have absolutely no control over. From a haphazardly-planned assembly to cluster teachers not covering their period, I just need to relax, adjust, and move on each day. That, among many other things, is something I’ll keep working on throughout the year.

Blessings.





The first call.

19 09 2009

I made my first parent phone call home yesterday.

Some may think that I should have already made phone calls out, but due to the demographics of my school, this was my first because the parent actually spoke English.

I was nervous as all heck when my co-teacher suggested I should make this call. All day Friday, the student stole property from the other students, hit a student during 7th period, and left immediate after we dropped him off after we explicitly told him to stay a minute or two after school so we could talk to his brother (who takes him home).

When my co-teacher saw me clam up and my voice get scratchy, she pushed me to do it and even talked me through it before I called.

Why so nervous? Mostly the unknown mixed with the inexperience. A 21-year-old teacher telling a parent more than twice my age that her son or daughter was terrible? Not knowing that parent’s reaction? Not knowing how I’d respond to an objection?

However, after a 3-minute preparation talk from my co-teacher, I took out my cell phone and made the call. *ringgggggg…. ringggg…. ringggggggggg….* The phone rang 6 times and an answering machine with a 30-second all-Spanish ramble came on. I left a message, telling the student’s mother to call me back as soon as you can. I relaxed and went on with my after-school plans.

Only problem is my after-school plans after a long school week involves drinking with an indeterminable amount of people. This Friday, it was with a group of teachers at my school and, later, with a group of my college friends. If I was about to get called back, my biggest concern was that I would be too… inebriated to detail my accounts of her son’s behavior.

A few hours pass. It was around 7 pm and I was downtown near West 4th St. at a bar called Down the Hatch with my college friends. After an amazingly chill first time out with some of my school’s teachers, I was feeling good when I took the train down to Down the Hatch. I wasn’t drunk or even buzzed at this point, but my hand was hovering around my cell phone throughout. At around 7 pm, the return call started to vibrate my cell phone.

I rushed outside with my cell phone in hand, trying to keep composure and not get nervous. Maybe the two beers and the Vodka and Tonic helped ease my nerves, but I was able to pick up the phone and give my student’s mother a 45-second explanation on her son’s behavior. I was slightly breathless in my tone of voice, but I was able to explain everything outside a bar surrounded by four smokers and countless passerbyers with my mind slightly focused on the near-end of Happy Hour at 8 pm.

She thanked me and told me her son was right next to her. I told her to talk to him to make sure he’s on better behavior for Monday. She said she would and we said our goodbyes.

My first phone call with a parent lasted almost a minute.

Normally, this would be the part of the post where I start talking about how silly I was for being nervous, but I think I will always be nervous. When I make my next phone call though, I hope I ease up on the nerves somewhat and take my co-teacher’s key piece of advice when dealing with parents…

Parents normally don’t want to be on the phone longer than you want to be.

Blessings.





Precious.

17 09 2009

Sometimes, you get a day where some things just don’t matter. The almost-constant distractions from administrators. The whining and tattling from my students. The getting up early and staying after school late routine. The frustration you feel when your students act out or just don’t listen hard enough or focus long enough to get a lesson. All of that melts away when…

  1. You tend to two crying kids: one who was so upset that he forgot his homework folder and another one who cried about a “I’m gonna tell on the teacher who you like” situation. The fact that I operate in a classroom where over 95% of the kids not only do their homework, but want to do their homework so bad that they would cry about it is a blessing. I also enjoy dealing with silly crying situations… my patience and compassion works well there.

  2. When the first time you ever had to raise your voice higher than normal and you notice two things:
    • Your voice actually sounds and feels serious and stern. I’ve been trying to find that for weeks!
    • Your voice carries extremely well in an almost-empty stairway while bringing your students back from lunch. If only I can carry Math lessons in the stairway…
  3. Your lesson goes well and your students actually get it. I have been struggling with trying to teach my students on how to use the number 100 grid to solve problems since yesterday. I taught the lesson, but even with my co-teacher’s help, my kids could. not. focus. She suggested I try again, which required me to jump ahead of the curriculum by one day.

    I started today reviewing the same lesson as the day before. The kids seem to slightly get it more, but not as much. I was pushing but I was getting nothing back. I looked up at my co-teacher wishing she would give me a figurative life-preserver. That came in the form of period 7 gym. However, as some of you should know, add period 8 (my last period) with a mix of kids coming straight from gym. That should have been a recipe for disaster… except today.

    The kids were respectful. Scary respectful. My co-teacher was pushing our point system for each group, so all the kids were on their best behavior. However, I felt there was something else. Maybe they got all their antsy-ness out in gym. Maybe they pieced together all the numbers at gym. Maybe it was divine intervention. No matter what it was, it was amazing to see most of the class actually get what I’m talking about. I was rejuvenated for the rest of the day. Frankly? It was awesome. Indeed.

  4. When you read two of your students’ reading assignments on their heroes and you see yours and your co-teacher’s names on them… as their heroes.

I live for those moments.

I’ll leave you with my co-teacher’s Donor’s Choose proposal. If you have any type of funds, it would be amazing to have these puzzles for our students to work with. Just like Sudoku and Tetris helps our minds, ESL puzzles can do the same for our kids. If you have a dollar or two, why not help us out? http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/proposal.html?id=287660

Blessings.





The first day.

9 09 2009

Since I am in the process of “comforting fooding” myself while watching Joba Chamberlain struggle in the first inning, I won’t be too long with my post.

I had probably as good of a day as I could have with the class. I have a great modeling teacher who has one of the strongest work ethics I know. The kids were mostly on the good side with some fidgeting throughout. There’s a mix of kids who need ESL mixed with kids with IEPs. I spent most of my day observing, practicing what my co-teacher was putting into place, and demonstrating some behavior management skills (be it as minimal as they are) throughout the day.

I’m a bit tired so I won’t go into crazy detail. I’ll bullet-point a few things though:

  1. If anyone wants to get me a great birthday gift, I would love the Rosetta Stone Spanish set. More than half the parents who brought their children today only spoke Spanish. My co-teacher can speak a good amount of Spanish, but it’s still frustrating.
  2. McDonalds breakfast = $5 for a sausage egg McMuffin, medium hash brown and medium orange juice. Great to have, but too expensive to do every day. Back to bagels!
  3. Some of my kids have trouble reading, some may not be able to read at all, and one child speaks fluent French, but very little after that. My class mix can become explosive if my co-teacher and I aren’t on top of our behavior management. However, the exact opposite also can occur. We just need to be on top of our game… while I’m learning about the game.Let’s just say I feel like a Dellin Betances or an Andrew Brackman. Basically, they are both what baseball scouts would consider “raw prospects”: a young player who have amazing talent but needs to learn the skills and control in order to harness that talent and become great. I know I have the capabilities to become a great teacher. I’m just nowhere near there yet, but I will be eventually.
  4. My former Peace Games experience can serve me well. Period.
  5. My exhaustion comes from our time after school. We prepped for the next two days, worked on the class website, and organized what we wanted to get done for the class. It just took us until almost 6 pm to get the class set-up almost all figured out.
  6. Man, my feet hurt. Does Donorschoose.org do projects for comfortable teacher’s shoes?
  7. I felt giddy by lunchtime. My co-teacher felt really excited for the first day since the kids were finally coming. Now, I understand that feeling, though it will probably come and go due to my class’s behavior.
  8. I felt more comfortable than I’ve felt at all today. Not just with the kids, but with the staff, I felt more adapt to opening up and just shooting from the hip. I only hope this stays natural, but I also hope I know when to talk and when not to talk.
  9. Lastly, sleep is precious. I feel that as I’m typing this.

To end this post, as a small treat, I will post the (almost) final pictures of our classroom by the end of last Friday. We ended up making up a job chart, a rules chart, and an assortment of other charts for the kids to see. I won’t take pictures of most of that due to those charts having many of the kids’ names on them.

We shall see how Thursday/Friday will work out and then… the weekend and the second week.

Blessings.





“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”

4 09 2009

I will address this blog post by saying this will be an intensely multimedia-based post, so if the pictures are too big, I apologize ahead of time.

I’m sitting here at Kira’s mom’s apartment, eyes slightly drooping due to an exhausting week mixed with a slightly uncomfortable ride on the Metro North to Poughkeepsie. She’s at work for a few hours so in an attempt to be useful, I’m working on both this blog post and my first-ever lesson plan as a NYC DOE certified teacher (with the help of my co-teacher, of course).

Maybe this is my brain starting to mold into first-day-of-school mode, but I’ll post my three objectives for this post before I begin.

  1. Policy regarding names, situations, and the like addressed on this blog.
  2. Pictures taken of our classroom on Thursday at 3:30 pm
  3. A closing that ties the title of this post together with my current favorite track out there right now.

Name Policy

When it comes to a public blog, as some of my closest high school friends can assist, I’ve had a rather interesting history starting from my freshman year at Paramus Catholic. Before high school, I had a couple of websites made from free website makers. Some of them demonstrated my adolescent feelings against some of my classmates. One particular website got me a day in detention (which was a huge deal for a sweet, nice “brain” like me) because I used my classmates’ names negatively. That tread continued through high school when, for the first three semesters, my blogs still had a ridiculously personal feel with real names used and friendships either built up or torn down due to the words I wrote.

Now, seven years removed from my “terribly personal” LiveJournal/DeadJournal period and my third venture into blogging after an LJ period and MVN: The Bronx Block, I’ve seen the damage using real people’s names in addressing negative situations associated with them. In other words, I don’t want to use most real people’s name on this blog just to cover my own ass. That would include my co-teacher’s name, any of my colleagues’ names, and especially the kids, if I choose to talk about anyone specific. I will most likely change all their names or just address the person by their title (i.e. “my co-teacher” or “one of my students”), but if a specific person or student is mentioned more than a few times in the blog, he or she will have a made-up name. I take any and all suggestions!

This blog’s intent is to verbally illustrate a first-year’s teacher’s attempt to remain sane while working for one of the biggest bureaucracies this country can host while speaking about my love for baseball at times. This blog is more for my friends and loved ones who are even thinking about teaching as well as any outsiders to read yet another NYC teacher’s blog. Because of that, I will write down the real names of some of the most important people in my life including my girlfriend Kira and my best friend Sarah, among others.

It’s good to know that I may have grown up and matured a little bit over the last seven years, right? ;-)

Classroom Pictures

I’d like to start this section of the post by thanking my co-teacher who may or may not be reading my blog. She has been an incredible help this last week and I’ve learned a lot already. At least I now know how to set up a classroom, though I hope these pictures can help me in the future if I ever have an entire class for myself. She’s both strict and organized, which are two attributes that I need work on. She allowed me to take on some of the decorations and labels since one of my better skills is working with technology.

These pictures are from Thursday at 3:30 pm. The room has changed a bit and will change even more by the end of Tuesday (which I’ll try to put most pictures up then). What needs to be added are our morning routine chart, our discipline chart, and an assortment of other charts.

Closing

After this post is published, I will be working on a quick outline/script for my first lesson plan. I’m battling feelings of equal halves: half excited, half nervous. I am anticipating immersing myself into the culture of my school while trying to plan my lessons and plan time to de-stress. When it comes to the training I got from the Fellows, the most significant thing I remember taking away from it was that effective special education educators are supposed to differentiate instruction. However, that’s what most good teachers do anyway.

The title comes from the last lyric from Semisonic’s only hit “Closing Time”. This new beginning comes from the end of my first few months of Fellows training. The last three months, I have been tipping my toes into the deep waters of NYC public education, where the unprepared and unsupported can be up a creek without a paddle. On September 9, I’m being pushed into the waters… and I can’t swim. I have to learn how to. Unfortunately, to me, 7 weeks is nowhere near enough time to be prepared for about 180 days of teaching, but I have to learn along the way.

I’ll leave you with what I’m considering my “back-to-school” anthem, a tradition I’ve kept up since my freshman year of high school. It’s off The Blueprint 3 and yes, I did download the leak. I’m definitely buying the album when it comes out though. I remember first hearing “Empire State of Mind” twice on Tuesday while my co-teacher and I were setting up the classroom and immediately loving it. After downloading Jay-Z’s new album, I found the song and have listened to it almost 40 times since Tuesday.

Alicia Keys’ chorus rings true in my heart as well as many of my friends who are pushing to make their dreams come true whether coming out of Fordham or elsewhere.

“New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
Theres nothing you can’t do,
Now you’re in New York,
these streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
let’s here it for New York, New York, New York…”

Enjoy!

My philosophy for this year: Work hard, play hard and pray hard.

Blessings.





Amazing.

2 09 2009

It’s amazing how much outside-classroom situations can have a heavy impact on you, both emotionally and mentally, while you try and adjust/prepare for the upcoming school year. I can only hope my apartment issues are coming to a sudden end.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was all kinds of hell. Let’s just say, electricity issues floating in and out of the day mixed with the super being on vacation mixed with extremely unclear and unresponsive people mixed with 5-day old rotten food in the fridge equals a man with his nerves somewhat shot. I do want to thank my grandfather, my co-teacher, and my roommate for being incredibly understanding and helpful throughout this whole ordeal. I also want to thank my girlfriend Kira for listening…

*WARNING: Shameless blog plug!*

My girlfriend has actually started a blog about her life experiences starting back in an American school after her year in Japan. I can’t write out the title of the blog, since it’s somewhat written in Japanese, but she actually is a good writer (which I haven’t told her before… until now).

Aside from my personal reasons on why I’m pushing the blog, Kira is an extremely interesting and genuine person and, as her blog continues, I believe those two sides of her personality will pour out onto those non-tangible pages we call “posts”. Check it out and let her know you stopped by because of her thoughtful, sweet, awe-inspiring, fantastic, good-looking, sexy and sharp-dressed boyfriend… if you so wish, of course.

Blessings.





Welcome to becoming an adult…

29 08 2009

That was the response I got from my uncle after I told him about my latest apartment fiasco: my electricity being cut off yesterday. Apparently, crazy unexpected things are a clear sign of becoming an adult and not having electricity until Monday (hopefully) apparently is one of those things. Due to all the craziness that surrounded yesterday in order for me to get my electricity back up for Monday, I’ll just say there was crying, freaking out and some praying and calling the girlfriend for crash clean-up. Amazingly though, I was able to calm down and got great support from family, friends, and a little help from God, I’d say.

Just a warning: NEVER look up fill my mouth without Google SafeSearch on. Trust me.

  • I feel slightly lame as of right now because, though I have a lot to report, I don’t feel overwhelmingly compelled to share it all in my Brent-ish detail. Therefore, I’ll provide a quick bullet-point that updates things from my last post on.

1. Found a roommate, who is a fellow first-year Fellow and a great guy all-around, even though he’s from Boston.

2. Through the help of my former roommate and her former roommate and good friend, Con-Ed is (hopefully) pulling their best God-impression on me by turning the lights back on for Monday.

3. I met my co-teacher on Thursday at a coffee shop right after my 5-day visit to see Kira. I thought we’d talk for an hour and be on our separate ways. Instead, she and I talked for over two and a half hours on pretty much everything under the sun. Even when I rambled on and on about things, she seemed to be entirely respectful. If there was ever a way to start off on the right foot in this CTT-forced-marriage, I believe we took the best step.

4. I’m quite the mix of excitement and nerves for Monday. Monday’s the first day teachers can report to my school and I will be there with my co-teacher as we set up the classroom, rules and the like. She’s also helping to introduce me to everyone around the building, which is a huge help. Nerves for the usual: not doing what the heck I’m doing every day until June 2010. Excitement also for the usual: having an incredible opportunity while being paired up with seemingly a great co-teacher and wondering who the heck I will be teaching.

In most demographics, I am the embodiment of the inexperienced, young, idealist, bright, world-changer some people dislike, or in certain schools, attack/abuse due to those characteristics. On September 9th, I will be a 21-year-old Puerto Rican male, entering a classroom with a strong veteran teacher. I will have been less than four months removed from my undergraduate studies at Fordham University. I will be coming in inundated with countless stories of past Fellows that I know and have met as well as service trip experiences working with all kinds of people through Fordham-sponsored organizations like Global Outreach. Lastly, I will be coming in with a complete lack of world experience compared to my colleagues, but with a 7-week intense boot-camp-like experience through the NYC Teaching Fellows to help me. We’ll see if the training helped in the next few months.

The only thing I can do is to pour myself into the job, while making sure I keep my head up, “hang in there”, and make time to relax, which I have set up by having a XBox 360 and a Wii, joining a Zogsports Fall 2009 Sunday kickball league, planning to visit my friends at Fordham and seeing friends who are here, visiting my family as much as I responsibly can, and of course, visiting and seeing my girlfriend Kira. Though I know that my race and gender are abnormalities in a career dominated by white women, being a possible male role model with kids who share the same skin color (and maybe, some of the same stories) as me won’t mean a damn thing if I don’t plan well, have a strong working relationship with my colleagues, and manage our classroom well together.

The journey begins Monday. Oh. boy.

I end this post with a story and a thank you to one of my closest friends, Andrea. Two weeks ago, I participated as a station leader for my church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS). Working on VBS gives me the chance to see some of my closest friends that I grew up in the church with. Andrea is one of them, who I have practically known for 15 years. I was talking to her about my roommate situation on Wednesday during the VBS week. Andrea referred to a Scripture verse in Psalms, which ended up showing its colors through amazing ways:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. – Psalms 81:10

The verses continue stating what happened to the Israelites when they didn’t open wide their mouths, allowing the Lord to fill it, but I digress. She told me to pray on it and to “open my mouth wide”, keeping all my options open. I told her that I’ve been doing that and she told me that God will deliver.

Boy did he ever.

After almost giving up on roommates in general, I randomly looked at Craigslist again. Long story short, I found the person who is now my roommate, a Fellow who was part of my elementary special education group with me. It seemed all this month that when I let more people know about my situation or when I kept pushing all my options open, God was able to deliver and I survive the next test.

Thank you Andrea, and yes, I must visit you at Roberts this year!

I’ll leave you with the Sunday VBS presentation. In experimenting with her brush with new technology, my mom recorded this video on her first brand-new digital camera from the back of the church, capturing the two songs that I helped lead and the talking I did in between. It may be shaky because it was my mom who recorded it, but I hope you enjoy!

Blessings.








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