Planning on the Fly… 1

I was bummed out the entire day today because I didnt get a chance to finish a project due today for my Curriculum Class. The weird thing is I actually had a pretty solid day. I got to finish some IEP’s with our IEP trainer. (Those things are a dumb amount of work so please get ready for that). I put together a dope ass model invitation for my technology class. And, I held down my Technology class today on my own, my co-teacher was out sick. They came ready to be sloppy, and I came ready to not have it today! LoL. I stayed after to help students fix their grades before we close out the first Trimester on Friday. Then had a pretty nice spontaneous Dinner at BBQ’s with another Fellow in my cohort who got hired today. I finally arrived at my grad class around 630, talked to my professor, and she basically said, “Chill the fuck out, and get me my work when you can.” I would love to write more, but I have some Just Words ppt slides to make.

Anywho, I made this flier, along with a lesson and feedback graphic organizer during my 2nd and 3rd planning periods. My homegirl Erika really is coming into town this weekend to celebrate my frat brother’s birthday, and I think she’s going to be able to sit in on my Just Words class this Friday. I’m excited to finally bring a friend into one of my classrooms. I told my students on Monday that she was coming. She happens to be a School Counselor in suburban Indianapolis, close to where I went to college. We’ve talked about collabing (sp) on projects a while ago. This will be our first chance to see what each other has. Since she was on my brain… I featured her in today’s assignment.

Let me get this work done so I can get my 4 hours of sleep 😉

Peace Y’all,

– SkoolHaze –

Presentation lessons learned from Super Tuesday news coverage

My roommate and I sat down on November 6 like everyone else and watched the coverage of the election results on CNN. Halfway through I jokingly told him to turn it to MSNBC so we could see how much better they were covering the results. There was a drastic difference between the way the two stations utilized graphics and visuals to convey the election results. The teacher in me instantly noticed the difference and actually tried to identify why one was more effective than the other.

I was mesmerized at how the CNN graphics caught my attention and got me to understand the information within seconds of seeing it. They used vibrant colors that caught and held my eye. John King was able to expand his images and go into details to help us understand exactly why specific states were voting a certain way (county results). I also noticed that CNN used the bulk of the screen to showcase their results. Their presentation was dynamic. I couldn’t not pay attention even though I tried a couple of times. I’ve included pictures and a video of the results.

MSNBC on the other hand used dull colors. They seemed to use only half of the space available to them to convey information to the viewer. Their images and visuals were unappealing to my eye. I found myself looking at the screen for several seconds, and still not coming away from this with any information about the election.

Teaching is big on Smartboard presentations and powerpoints these days. I’m planning to use CNN to as a model for how I make my presentations in the future. What do you think about the CNN vs. MSNBC graphic usage?

Also – thanks to the amazing and talented Alicia for reading my blog. And yes, I miss and think about my Boston and YouthBuild family everyday.

Struggles of a NYCTF: One trimester into the school year.

Being in the fellowship is incredibly hard. Each day is almost like its own Mission Impossible. Which i tell myself is fun and exciting, I actually think I believe myself most of the time too. Its always been difficult explaining to other people why the fellowship is so taxing and time consuming. Teaching as a profession is incredibly demanding. Each night when I go home I go home knowing that the very next day a class full of students will be depending on me to run a lesson, answer questions, guide through practice problems, demand high academic and behavioral expectations. I’m not a parent, but I imagine this constant feeling of being responsible is what parents feel especially when their kids are young and unable to look after themselves.

The students aren’t the only ones who demand a high level of attention, there is literally always something going on in the school that needs my (your) attention as well. As a special education teacher, we’re required to review and update student’s IEPs, gather info from gen ed teachers about students’ strengths and weaknesses, we also facilitate the IEP meetings with the IEP team, student and parent. Then there’s always the need to give students school-wide assessments, school development meetings, department meetings, covering for absent teachers, as well as managing general student traffic and behavior in and around the school building. This isn’t an exhaustive list, its just what I can think about right now at Starbucks. There’s a million needs constantly rolling around in my mind. The process of juggling and prioritizing these things is a gargantuan task that I wasn’t ready for before the fellowship. Its because of this that I never really feel like I’m getting ahead at my job. If anything I feel good when I feel like I’m only 1 step behind versus the normal 4 steps.

Here are some of the things I’ve struggled with over the past 6 months:

  • —- Staying in communication with people outside of my job. Work is an overwhelming priority that takes up about 90% of my brain capacity at all given times. I have to try to divid the other 10% between grad school, personal health and wellness, rest and relaxation, eating, and fiscal responsibility. Communication is always last on my list of things to focus on, my family has been pretty open about their disdain for my level of contact and visits.
  • —- Teaching is an incredibly rewarding profession. I feel like I’m able to stretch myself and try new things in my classrooms and with my students. However, its demotivating feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing well and what you need to work on. I basically feel like I don’t know what I know, and don’t know what I don’t know. This makes it difficult to replicate my positive teaching traits and change my negative teaching practices.
  • —- My daily schedule is so chaotic that I often miss my meetings with my mentor teacher. We both teach during all of the same periods so it is difficult to observe her and learn from her teaching style. There are also 3 new teachers including me in the building, and we all have the same mentor teacher. Its frustrating hearing that the other mentees get to enjoy more regular meetings with our mentor, and seem to truly benefit from the weekly checkins. I don’t know if I can say I’m experiencing the same luck with my checkins.
  • —- I always feel like I’m on different page than most other people in the school. Translation –  I be lost as fuck in most meetings and classes. This always irks me. Example: On election day we had a staff-wide PD. Part of the ice-breaker was to build a contraption that would prevent an egg from breaking when it hit the ground. Every group made some contraption that packed/padded the egg once it impacted the ground. I suggested and pushed my group to make a parachute with out piece of newspaper to support the padding we had done. At first there was silence, then there was murmors of support, finally I convinced them the parachute would work. When we presented our creation we got a bunch of laughs from the rest of the staff. But low and behold our egg was one of 3 that didnt break. This is a amusing example of me thinking completely differently than everyone else. Most of the time it just leaves me feeling awkwardly different in a room full of people with similar ideas.
  • —- I really care for all of the students in my school. But they drive me BONKERS when they launch a million questions at me (you) without giving me the chance to explain the activity/theory/lesson we’re going through. They also complain all the time. Sometimes I just have to look at them with my You’ve gotta be kidding me -face.
  • —- Anytime I think of a challenge or a struggle I have with this work, I get upset with myself because it feels like I’m making excuses rather than finding solutions.

These are just a few things that I have on my mind right now. I say these not to complain, but to give you a better sense of some of the things I have to think about on top of creating meaningful and engaging lessons for my students. I’m optimistic that I’ll find ways to changes these struggles into growth opportunities to become a more effective and impactful teacher for my classes.

Hurrication – How my schedule got back on track

Hurricane Sandy ran through NYC last week. Schools were shut down for the entire week which is unprecedented, so I hear. Its kind of amazing how many days off these kids get from school. I would guess we’re close to about 12-15 days off this year for various holidays, meetings, events.

However, I’m hoping that this time off from school has re-eergized me for this work. Its incredibly draining. Before the break I felt like I was barely holding on. I had started arriving considerably late to school the entire week. We start each day at 8:20am. Anyday I can walk into the building before 7:40am, I feel set and ready to make things happen. I’m able to use the 40 minutes to prepare for the days classes and challenges. This week, I had been arriving anywhere between 7:50 and 8:10, and probably later, the point is I was getting there way to late for even me to feel comfortable.

My schedule for the fellowship is pretty hardcore, it looks a little something like this.

Monday – Friday:

  • 6:00am – Wake Up, shower, get dressed, and pack my bag.
  • 6:40am – Leave for the train (about 3/4 block walk)
  • 6:50 – 7:05am – Hop on the train
  • 7:40 – Arrive at school
  • 8:20am – 3:10pm School Session
  • 3:10pm – 5:00pm After School Tutoring/On-Site Planning/Meetings
  • 5:00pm – 8:00pm Grad Classes (Monday/Tuesday)
  • 8:00pm – 9:00pm Commute Home
  • 9:00pm – 9:30pm – Quick Grocery/Food Grab
  • 9:30pm – 11:00pm Eating or Laying down exhausted somewhere
  • 11:00pm – 2:00am Barely Focused Lesson prep, Unfocused Grad School Shuffle, Numerous Distractions form Productivity.

Saturday/Sunday: My weekends have varied drastically since I’ve moved here. Generally my weekends are spent doing what must be done — Moving, Grading, Planning, Laundry, Writing IEP’s, Lying comatose somewhere comfortable, etc… I’ll try to provide a more structured weekend schedule in the next couple of weeks now that I feel settled.

Basically, my weekends haven’t been spent doing fun stuff, or much personal stuff like going to the gym, movies, haircut, chillin, partying, relaxing, etc. This is why Hurricane Sandy came along at such a perfect time. Its almost horrible to say because she caused so much damage and havoc around the city. None the less, having the unexpected week off allowed me to slowly recharge my batteries and reset my schedule which was beginning to slide way off track. I could tell I was struggling. It literally took me the entire six-day break to complete everything that was on my weekend to do list.

Having the storm wipe out a week of instruction for our kids is helping me put things back into perspective. These kids need to learn, and they need focused, active, aggressive teachers to help them gain the knowledge they need to control this world.

Oh and shouts out to Tim for the term Hurrication

Financial Crisis Averted

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on here. Somewhere along the line I started making it too hard on myself to create posts. I would come up with all these great ideas, and tools, and pics and stuff to share which felt dope. But, that made me feel like each time I came I had to have something tangible to bring or else it wasn’t worth anyone’s time. I can’t think like that anymore. It was only stopping me from being able to share my experience which is the reason why I started this to begin with. I’ve actually had a few conversations with friends and family about self-created barriers this week. So, I decided to just place those aside and get back to what I was doing. Sharing…

I’ve been in NYC for 5 months now.I’m in my second semester of grad school at LIU – Brooklyn, and have been teaching at my high school for 2 months as a Special Education Teacher for our freshman and sophomore class. I co-teach 2 English classes, and a Technology class. I also teach an intervention-Level Reading course by myself for a group of 11 students. The grading period is about half way through and there’s been talk of giving me a lot more of the intervention level courses. An intervention course is basically a class designed for students who have extremely low levels in the subject area. Think remedial. There’s intervention courses in Reading, Writing, Spelling, and Math. I like working with the Intervention classes, because it gives me a chance to try out a lot of my own ideas and make my own decisions without having to compromise with another educator. Its kind of like my own science lab.

Looking back over the past 5 months. I’m not exactly sure how I’ve made it through. I say this because it is just now that I’m starting to feel settled into the city. Check it, I finally moved my stuff out of storage in Boston and brought it to the city 2 weeks ago. Until then I had still been pretty much living out of 3 briefcases and little funds. I also am just now feeling like I’m getting steady income, but even that is a little shaky. Which actually leads me to a tip! MAKE SURE YOU UPDATE YOU MAILING ADDRESS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!

Unbeknownst to me, teacher salary is broken up into 3 different payment classifications. I won’t bore you with the details on how its broken up. Just know that in NYC we receive, at minimum, two different types of checks. Your normal salary (8:20am – 3:10pm, M – F) and additional teaching or training you do after school (tutoring after school, pd opportunities, etc…) It wasn’t until the first week in October that I was informed that I had only been receiving about half of my checks. The address on file for my normal teaching salary was correct, but my training checks were being sent to my Boston address. Imagine my surprise when I found out there was $1600 out there with my name on it! Since then its taking me a while to get the situation fully rectified, but I have started receiving all new checks at my current address and have received $500 of the $1600 out there and its completely changed how comfortable I’ve felt in the past week or so.

STAY ON TOP OF YOUR PERSONAL THINGS. I also had to go through a bit of checking and pushing to make sure my insurance documentation went through at the beginning of the school year. Also call to make sure something is correct if you haven’t heard back. Also, I know I mentioned how important it is to set up an online bank account in a previous post. However, it kind of came to bite me in the butt. I’ve overdraft my account twice in the past month because I forgot I set up bi-weekly $25.77 withdrawals for my ING account. Its actually the first time I think I’ve over drafted in over 5 years or so. Anywho, everything is all set with that now that I’m feeling more liquid with my assets. Just note to self, when funds get bottom of the barrel low be sure to keep track of all automatic withdrawals.

A few people have told me they follow the blog. Hadas, Peter, Vince, Eric, Tiffany, and Justin, thanks for the support!