Connect the Dots: Black History Edition

Whats going on world!?

Snow White Haters

(Courtesy of Me and my students laughed about this for a solid 4 minutes in class)

Today (Friday, 2/1/13) was that day. I’ve just begun to reflect and realized today was one of those days that really speaks to what being a first-year black male teacher in NYC is all about. Now I want to make clear this is my own story. I can not speak from the experience of anyone else except myself.

The day started with me waking up to a little frazzled around 6:25am. A little later than normal, but I had had a guest over the night before and it threw off my schedule a bit. Anyways, I jumped up, got dressed and headed to the train. Because I had company I didn’t spend nearly as much time planning my two Just Words lessons at all coming into the day. In fact all I had done was printed the worksheets that I needed to give them for their Invention Projects the day before.

I walk into school, Burger King in hand, around 7:50. Which is about on schedule for when I’ve been getting in daily, even though I would much prefer to get in around 7:40am or so. I know it seems nit-picky but having that extra 10 minutes really means a world of of difference and helps generate positivity leading into your day. There’s nothing like feeling rushed or unprepared at the beginning of a school day. It can really ruin your momentum and teaching is really a momentum game. Sort of like tennis, volleyball, basketball. Starting a day on fire, with all of your handouts, supplies, and a clear game plan, can result in a lot of confidence heading into the first class and all others throughout the gameplay of the day. But any little thing can set off a chain reaction that can cause the day to go uncontrollably down hill. I teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd period in a row. That leaves no time to make classroom handouts between classes if I forget to make them, no real bathroom breaks, no breaks to eat if necessary, no breaks to grab water if you’re dying of thirst while giving your daily lesson. Some of these seem trivial, but…. they all can really be game changers that open up for you to have an unenjoyable experience.

I’m rambling. But long story short. 10 minutes is really a lifetime to a teacher in the morning. I can make copies, check email, pee, eat my sausage/egg/and cheese, print some handouts on the classroom printer, then run to the office across the hall and start my classroom copies for the entire day, while setting up the projector and readying the daily powerpoint… Today I was a bit lazy but I made all the days necessary events happen in the last 10 minutes of prep before class. Ok, I feel I’ve beat this to death so I’ll move on… I over analyze everything for ways to grow/learn from now, its weird at times now.


1st period– We watch a large chunk of Raising Victor Vargus in my English class. This is a really dope movie about a young boy growing into his manhood pretty much as the head of household with his grandmother, sister, and baby brother. He falls for a pretty girl at a pool and chases her down even though she is really just playing him. I saw it this weekend and its become an instant favorite of mine! The grandmother is comedic genius, the family is really loveable, but they go through some serious problems along the way.

2nd period- I forgot, until late last night, that my mentor was coming to visit me during my second period Just Words class today. Because of my guest, I really didn’t prepare as well for today’s class as I would have liked. But, the movie in first period allowed me to research something meaningful for the class. 2nd period rolled around and I went into class a little nervous, but confident in the fact that I could make my lesson work given what we needed to accomplish today.

Click here to find out more about this lesson —> Lesson Plans: Usain Bolt Invention Project

3rd period – Repeat of 2nd period’s lesson for my larger Just Words class.

4th period – I ran to grab something for lunch. Normally, I have 4, 5, 6 off on Mondays and Fridays. But recently two teacher left our staff. They were dating, and one happened to have some family issues he needed to attend to at home. As a result he decided to return home (out of state) to help out his family, his girlfriend decided to go with him to show her support. None the less that left us with two vacant teacher positions for halfway through the school year. Everyone’s schedule has been affected in one way or another. I say this because now…

5th period – Today is my first day teaching a Regents Prep class with my principal. She approached me about it yesterday after school. The female teacher that left taught science. In her absence we needed to cover one of the classes that preps our students to take the mandatory Science Regent to qualify for their high school diploma. Initially I was kind of bummed that I would be co-teacher during 5th period. I could only focus on the loss of time, and how even if I wanted to say no I really couldn’t given the sheer emergency of the request. I went into today’s lesson not knowing what to expect, literally and figuratively. Initially the pairing was awkward, the students were just coming back from a scheduled break in the school year to take their regents last week. Some passed, most didn’t. The students who passed will be moved out of the classroom. The students who didn’t pass clearly weren’t tryna be in that class with the Principal and the black guy. This was punishment on top of punishment in their eyes.

I sat back and let the principal set the tone of the prep class. She’s a former science teacher so I’m not worried about her command of the subject matter. She had a interesting and simple activity she had the kids do. First she asked the students to identify what they thought they knew well and what they felt they needed to learn more about on the test (a word bank was provided with the different sections of the test). Then she gave each student an old test booklet and had them mark what questions they thought they got right (check mark), wrong (x), and weren’t sure (?). She actually guaranteed that the students would pass the test if they took the proper steps and trusted in the process of the class. About halfway through I found the groove and started circulating and helping address individual students’ needs as well as trying to build relationships with the students in the class. Our school is small, approximately 140 sophomores so far. But, having a student in a classroom setting does so much more to advance relationships than just knowing a student’s name or seeing them in the hallway.

Of course… for me I didn’t really think much about working with the principal in a classroom setting. But tonight, after a bit of reflection, it’s actually a really interesting place to be in. The principal has come to my classes enough now. So much so that now I barely miss a beat when she walks in. normally it’s with visitors. I never usually get to say or do much besides say hi of acknowledge the visitor with a slight nod and smile. I’m assuming this is an opportunity to share practices… and maybe learn from each other or something. It wasn’t a weird situation today in class. I do feel a bit of pressure now. But my principal is a pretty smart woman. I’m hoping there’s a method to her madness and that her plan will soon be revealed. I think there’s a larger reason why she picked me to help her co-teach the class. Either because she wants to learn more about what I do/don’t do well. Or she wants to teach me some of the things she does well. Either way, I’ve got to milk this situation for what its worth.

6th period – Sat down exhausted in the same room as my 1st period english class. After wasting about 20 minutes feeling tired and exhausted I finally conjured up a mini lesson for my technology class. The male teacher that left was also the teacher I co-taught my technology course with.

7th period – This is the first week there haven’t been two teachers in the technology class. The students here are SUPER rowdy. I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily bad. But there’s 14 of them in a full house, and all of them are IEP students. Its stressful trying to run around and help students learn different things about the internet, microsoft, computer ettiqutte, ect… Especially when the students really just want to look at music videos and sneakers all day. Anyways I’m trying to prep them for a college tour next Thursday at my grad school. Most of the students aren’t into the idea of going. Or so they say. I halfway took the opportunity away when I introduced it on Tuesday because all they did was complain and talk about how lame the idea was, and how they only wanted to go if there was going to be hoes on campus.


3:10 – 4:10 pm: I’m on the committee of teachers that are working to build what our school will look like for our Juniors and Seniors in the future. We’re trying to build some great internship and college learning experiences for our student body. The team is about…. 7 staff members deep. Its through something called I-Zone funding. Anywho, after school I met with another staff member to brainstorm about our internship applications we’ll be having the students complete.

As of right now we’ve come up with this:

  • General address info
  • Resume
  • Essay Draft – How has BFHS helped prepare you to be a successful at your internship/college/ or outside of high school
  • Transcripts
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation (1 inside/1 outside of the school)
  • Short answer questions

4:10pm – 4:40pm: Shooting basketballs in the gym by myself.

4:40 – 7:00pm: Drinks with staff at the local bar. Its always great spending time with my coworkers. They’re all really great people. But it got me kind of sad because I was hearing some of the struggles out students go through and it just sucks that I can’t magically take the negativity out of their lives so they can focus on school. It also sucked hearing that many of the staff have closer relationships with the students than I have. So its making me think of ways I can create even stronger bonds with the students when they’re in my presence.


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