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…


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.