“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.

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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.





Why the ridiculous title?

17 08 2009

As I am about to sleep and get ready for my first day at my former home church’s Vacation Bible School, where I will be “blessed” with leading this song about 10 times this week and having the song needlessly stuck in my head ten minutes into the first day, I thought it was appropriate to explain why I picked a slightly ridiculous title for the blog.

Want the short explanation? It was the only analogy I could think of that referred to both teaching and baseball.

Ever since I started to do any sort of ministry work at Paramus Catholic, I’ve known there was just something I was meant to do. I’ve done both evangelistic and service work in my last eight years at PC and Fordham. I’ve worked with little kids up to grown adults. I’ve done everything that you can almost conceive of in terms of ministry work… at least within the last eight years while earning both high school and college degrees.

However, one thing that people have constantly pushed me towards was teaching. Not necessarily physically pushing me that route, but mostly verbally. I have also been put in situations where I had to teach, whether it was something small like leading a prayer in front of 50 other teenagers while I was at Camp Timberledge to something slightly bigger like co-teaching Peace Games classes the last two years or serving as a counselor for two years at Timberledge or head male counselor for Star Lake. For some strange reason, I believe I have done mostly well in all those roles, even when I was frustrated, clueless, tired, or downright confused.

Fast-forwarding to my NYC Teaching Fellows summer training experience. I felt the last eight years have prepared me for that moment when I am standing in front of my classroom (be it, CTT or self-contained), about to give my introductory speech on my first-day ever, and inside my mind, I continuously recite the same question, “what am I supposed to do with these kids?” I have been told from my classmates at PC to my fellow Cohort 18 members that I am a “natural teacher” and I “will be a great teacher someday”. At this present moment, I still don’t see what they see.

I know I present information well and I do my best to be excited about the material given and/or prepared by me while giving each kid the respect they deserve. I know I love to be in front of kids and I view teaching like acting, only with a smaller and more intimate stage where you are on from 8 am to 3 pm every weekday. I also know that specification and clarification of material are both weak points of my teaching. Organization of material can also be a weak point as well.

I’ve been told about how hard and challenging the first year of teaching can be to a rookie coming in. I have read books about first-year Teaching Fellows’ experiences from Ms. Moffet’s First Year to The Great Expectations School (which I am in the middle of now). I have talked with many former Fellows and taken many notes. I did my best with everything that was handled to me from coursework to summer school teaching. From working on lesson plans to differentiating the material to the students in my summer school placement, I believe I pushed myself as much as I could within the exhausting 7 weeks of training and I did seem some results in forms of great grades and small steps taken by the students in my summer placement class.

However, after my training finished, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of not knowing at all what to do and what to expect when September 9th comes along. I came into the Fellows program thinking that no time in coursework or abbreviated teaching time would give me even more than a semblance of a clue of what to do as a NYC special educator. The 7 weeks did nothing to change that mindset. I will address this issue in a future blog post, though I don’t believe my thoughts after training are solitary.

I am left here on August 17th with many informative lessons, terms, and anagrams still stuck in my head with a meeting planned with my CTT teacher within two weeks and feeling like a complete rookie. Despite those thoughts of being confused and non-prepared, I do believe there is a strong teacher within this 21-year-old mind and heart. I just need to hammer out what kind of teacher I will be with my students among many other questions I can’t even fathom right now throughout the next few years. I consider myself to be a (wait for it… wait for it…) “diamond in the rough” type.

This leads me to the baseball aspect of the title. Unfortunately, I have no amazing, mind-blowing explanation behind the “diamond” except it reminds me of a baseball diamond and I refused to have my blog title be of a catch-phrase that has been around for centuries. I do enjoy going to minor and major league baseball games, especially considering my New York Yankees, as this self-created last-game-at-Yankee-Stadium photo album will attest to. Maybe the title alludes to a “rough teacher” being on a “baseball diamond”? I have no idea, but to me, it sounds and reads good and that’s all that matters at this point.

Tomorrow, or in a few hours, I will be a part of my church’s sixth Vacation Bible School venture. I myself was a part of the last five ventures, serving as the song leader and the first face the kids see every day two years ago and this year. Being able to get kids excited about the One who got me to this point in the first place is an amazing thing to be a part of. Will my second attempt at being a kids’ worship leader for five days help aid my future over-180-days first year experience? Only time will tell, stay tune.

Blessings.