Somehow its been almost a year since the fellowship officially began. Here is a much needed Update Soup for you guys.
Spring Break was March 23 – April 2. Of course the break didn’t seem long enough, but it gave me the much needed rest I needed to help me get through the rest of the school year. Each day is still a struggle. Getting through the day is cool – I mean once you walk through the front doors you have to drop whatever barriers/doubts you have in your head because its countdown to first period. And trust me there are plenty of those days.
My biggest battle right now is with sleep. I’ve mentioned a few times here that my body has been training me for over 15 years to go through life with as little sleep as possible. Well its finally caught up with me. Its been really tough waking up each morning. Not because I don’t want to face the day – its more like my body has just been passing out and resists any urge to wake up. I feel like I dont even know what my alarm clock sounds like anymore. I never hear it in the morning. In the past two weeks I’ve been late to school (which is a huge no-no.) School starts at 8:20. I woke up at like…. 8:15, and hopped on the train at 8:30. I snuck into the school around 9, and of course it was the day when there were some major behavior issues that my co-teacher had to address alone. Just Thursday I woke up at 8:05, luckily I put a shirt on, jumped in a cab, and made it to school by 8:18. I paid $40 to go to a Brooklyn Nets game with my co-workers the other day. I think it was the last game of the regular season. I went home to take a quick cat-nap, and woke up in the 3rd quarter. SHITTY! Most recently some of my friends from YouthBuild came through my school to run a College workshop. They did an AMAZING job, and my students have been talking about them ever since. Afterwards we were supposed to meet up in Time Square at Dallas BBQ’s. Again, I went home for a quick nap – and I eventually woke up 2 hours after we were supposed to meet. Shitty again!
I saw one of the fellows mention in our Facebook group that she was dropping balls left and right, and that’s really the best way to describe how I feel right now. I try, try, try to stay on top of everything, but life right now is just a mess. I’m able to get through most of the teaching, and grad school parts of my life by just making it work. But I’m far behind when it comes to taking care of all of the Special Education and IEP paper work.
We’re in the final trimester, which we call Cycle. This Cycle I’m teaching Math, English, 3 Reading Intervention classes, Math Intensive (which is basically like a Math Intervention). This is my first time teaching math since we had to teach summer school for the fellowship. Initially I was a bit nervous about learning a new content area. I haven’t done serious math since high school – where I went from honors math to general math because I refused to do math homework every night. However, It’s honestly been a beneficial experience. I see many of my Just Words students in my math classes. It’s crazy seeing that students who may have deficient skills in reading/writing/English, can excel and actually enjoy the challenge of math and vice versa. As a teacher its also been interesting witnessing how students behave differently with different teachers, peers, and subject areas. Students who may be wild/uninhibited in one situation can be relaxed and focused in another. I’ve tried to use this to my advantage. Basically channeling their focus and restraint from one content area over to the next. Again, its all about challenging them on their leadership.
Here’s a quick glance at my teaching schedule this cycle
I’ve started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone in my Just Words class. The Just Words curriculum is beyond dry right now, and the students needed a different challenge. We do A LOT more one-on-one reading check ins now than we’ve ever done before. Pretty much everyday I’m grabbing about 2-4 students to read with me individually. It’s proved useful to get a sense of where my students’ reading confidence and abilities are. I use the time to build deeper relationships with my students, highlight their strengths/growth areas with their reading, and encourage them to read at home. I’ve also used the Harry Potter text as a read-a-loud text for the entire classroom. Many of the students are shy/nervous/self conscious about reading out loud. Right now my Just Words classes have 12 – 15 students. When we’re reading out loud generally only 3-4 of them volunteer to read. I’m working on getting more of them to jump in. One strategy I’ll try to use is pre-selecting paragraphs I want the less comfortable students to read. I’ll let them know as they walk through the door about their section. This way they can practice/review their sections a few times before they’re called. Hopefully this works, but I’m sure it will take more prodding than just this.
I feel like I’m developing into a stronger teacher. The art of teaching is a lot more natural now. I mean pretty much I come with a plan, tell the students the plan, initiate the plan, deal with inevitable student pushback, then push them to comply – or trick them into complying. It sounds robotic, but I call it calculated. Teaching, is really a game to get students to do what they didn’t want to do ten seconds prior. This looks different in the classroom everyday, and actually student-to-student. But the end goal is to get them to try something new/challenging so that they can learn. Some respond to a simple look into their eyes and a raised eyebrow, some respond to positive reinforcement, some respond to a reminder of classroom expectations, others respond to deeper private conversations – with a quick reminder of those conversations in class.
I haven’t met with my mentor all Cycle. You guys have heard about the lack of contact for a while… I’ve gotten used to it now. Not just with my teaching mentor, but I guess I’m just used to having to figure out situations for myself in general. It still sucks that I feel like I have to push myself with this work though. It’s partly why I “overachieve” or at least try to. LoL, like I said earlier though I’m dropping balls everywhere so I’m not quite the overachiever people think I am.
I still have no idea what I’m going to do about the LGBT group my students asked me to lead. Perhaps I should start with the Principal/Administrative team and see what they think. Actually that’s what I’ll do. When stuck, always ask/alert the powers that be. That’s what non profit life taught me. They should be able to help us figure something out what a next step should be.
I took about 3 weeks off from working out. March 31 was the last time I was in the gym before this week. If history has taught me anything life falls apart when I’m not in the gym. I’ve just found my way back this week. My goal is to go 3 times a week. Saturday and Sunday are pretty much a given. My schedule has been to go to LIU’s Library from noon – 6 when it closes on weekends. From there I head to Planet Fitness, followed by Barnes and Nobles or Starbucks. Around 10 o’clock I head off to catch a movie at the theater next to Barnes and Nobles. It’s usually my weekend treat to myself. I’ve seen Evil Dead (thumbs up) and Oblivion (so-so) in the past couple of weeks. Today on my agenda is 42.
Even with all of this I’m still enjoying my time here in NYC. Every day is still a new opportunity to grow. And unfortunately growth isn’t easy. One of these days I need to take some time to evaluate my goals and how I’m moving in correlation to them. Moving to NYC quickly put many of my goals within reach. I don’t think my vision for myself has kept up with the progress I’ve made. Anywho, I’m not sure how to end today. I just wanted to give a quick update about some of the things that take up space in my brain. Stay tuned and stay positive, and don’t forget to share Skool Haze with a friend.