“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.


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…”


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




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.


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!


“It’s never as good as you think it is and it’s never as bad as you think it is…”

22 08 2009

So says the constant mantra Dan Brown (not related to the “Angels and Demons” writer) faced in his first year at PS 88. I started the book “The Great Expectations School” last week after my girlfriend Kira and I decided to buy a book that we both will read fully and discuss. The book details Dan Brown’s first year as a fourth-grade teacher at PS 88 near 187th and Webster in the Bronx. Brown was a first-year Teaching Fellow coming in and, as I approach and past the half-way

mark on the book, I notice two things: 1) Brown is a gifted writer, making his story flow from his last months at NYU (Tisch) and his acceptance to each month of his experiences with the children, the administration, and the structure of the school in general.

2) The book offers a little more than just a continuous mantra on reflections related to teaching experiences. I’m seeing this as I’m going through one of the most frustrating months of my 21 years of life. The funny thing is… I haven’t even started to teach yet!

It all starts and ends with a small room. In the midst of having fantastic hang-outs with my best friends, heart-melting experiences with Kira, a soul-inspiring week with Vacation Bible School, and, of course, the end of Fellows summer training, I have spent an entire month trying to find a new roommate. My past roommate is doing an amazing teaching fellowship through the Fulbright in Hong Kong.

Aside from the money I will be losing if I don’t find a roommate, the most frustrating aspect of finding a roommate is that it’s no one’s fault. When something goes wrong, I do my best to find something or someone to blame the situation on. Usually, I blame things on myself since I can control only myself. However, there’s no one at fault here. I’ve exhausted all my friend options with each of them giving me legitimate reasons why they had to reject the offer. Craigslist has only yielded sketchy results, including this response smothered with signs of “DO NOT WANT“:

Roomster and other websites have come up empty. Even now, I’m still squeezing out every option I can think of. The stress of trying to find a roommate before my lease runs out at the end of August got to be so much that I suddenly transitioned my relationship with Kira out of the “honeymoon” stage by breaking down and crying on the phone with her about the situation. I cried and prayed after the situation afterwards, not having a semblance of a clue what to do. A few minutes later, however, I got invited by a friend who I could have potentially roomed with at her place to dinner in order to talk about her apartment and to help snap me out of my temporary despair.

Despite the friend’s apartment situation not working out, that dinner was exactly what I needed in order to continue to be flexible. Afterwards, I walked to the 86th Street stop on the 1 train and started to brainstorm a couple of plans in order to try and get to my goal in any which way I can think of. I decided to go back on Craigslist, rapid posted on other websites, word of mouth, and a plan to hold on to the place for one more month, while paying off the entire rent and subletting if need be, giving me an extra month to find a new roommate.

Reflecting back on my roommate-less situation, I feel I’m getting prepped on how to teach in the first place. If something doesn’t work out, instead of trying to continue to force the same methods, I should decided to try something different in order to achieve the same goal. For example, if I want a kid to understand bar graphs, I can show him or her the information on the board. If he or she isn’t getting it, I have to change my method and have him or her draw one alongside me, using bodily-kinesthetic methods rather than a plain visual. Constantly differentiating the information effectively will get me to my goal. It’s just that point of differentiating effectively…

To end this post about how different aspects of my life seemingly connect to a first-year teaching experience I haven’t had yet, let me link you to a video of a Vacation Bible School (VBS) in Kansas. If you wondered what was my involvement in VBS this year, this was it. Reprising my role two years ago, I helped lead all the kids in worship as well as opened every Crocodile Dock session this week. I was the “Sing and Play Swamp Stomp Leader”. During all the songs, I had a team of volunteer crew leaders (all teenagers) help show all the motions of the song while I stood with the kids, showing them what they needed to do. Needless to say, the teens at Crossroads Free Methodist Church are definitely special and clear role models to the kids we had come this week.

This song is “This Little Light of Mine”. However, at Crossroads, my hand-motions to the kids were a LOT more involved and more interactive for the kids. Maybe, I’m biased, but the kids were moving, singing and loving it without being so stiff.

If you’re the praying type, please lift one or many for the roommate situation and for the kids and their families who will be at church this Sunday. We’re doing a wonderful VBS presentation throughout the service, lead by our worship team, myself, and the crew leaders/members. Hopefully things go well on all fronts…