Tag Archives: high school

Challenging Students or Challenging Environment

Challenging Students or Challenging Environment

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Even in my own head my most recent post(s) come off as a misrepresentation of what I’m really experiencing this year as a 2nd year teacher and graduate student. By no means have things been easy and just fallen into place properly. If anything I’ve felt as though I have to deal with a lot more chaos than I did at the beginning of last year. However, I’ve been managing it with more laughter and matter of factness, at least in my own head.

This year, I’m working with a lot more freshman students, which is great because its helping me build relationships with the new members of the student body. The freshman class is more independent than previous classes we’ve brought into the school. They seem to be able to work better on their own, and to date haven’t given much pushback when we give them homework or require them to step up to the plate with their work. This has been surprising, but also pretty frustrating when trying to figure out how to bring the same sense of responsibility to our sophomore and junior classes at the school. I’m not quite sure what we can do to bridge the gap for them, but, that will be part of my job next marking period as I work with some of our junior students in the new Post Graduate Prep Elective.

This year’s freshman have been a great social experiment for me. I’ve really been able to push myself and them beyond what I thought I was able to do last year, and with a lot more natural appeal. Had you asked me last year if I was myself in the classroom or some character I presented, I would have answered that I was definitely my genuine self. However, the freshman this year seem to have brought a more relaxed and authentic version of myself into the classrooms as a teacher and my graduate classes as a student. They’ve also helped me realize that no single experience in the classroom starts and ends in that classroom. We live in a world that is constantly pulling and growing on things that have happened previously in all of our lives.

Some of the challenging situations I’ve had to maneuver this year have oddly enough all come from the same classroom. In one class of approximately 20 students on the roster my co-teacher and I have –

  • A) a student who functionally can’t read (well)
  • B) a student who for lack of a better term has extreme mood swings within one period
  • C) a student that has the energy and attitude of a tazmanian devil
  • D) a student that just so happens to be the son of my barber – which has made subsequent management very difficult do to the inherent conflict of interest.

Dealing with these students in the same classroom has been… interesting. Interesting by the way is my new buzzword for, a fucking mess. I will say though that although these students have kept me on my toes I do feel a genuine love and responsibility to look out for their security, growth, and comfort inside and outside of my classrooms.

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A few weeks ago, students B and C, who by themselves have the power to completely derail a productive classroom environment came into class and performed the Dragon Ball Z Fusion Dance. For those of you that don’t know it’s a dance performed by particular characters in the popular anime series that allows them to combine forces, strength, and minds to fight stronger enemies. So far this is probably the single most hilarious memory I’ve had as a teacher. I’ve included a quick video showing the fusion process below, and yes the students literally did this in the middle of class, in unison, together. I died a little inside from shear amazement that they even knew of the fusion dance, and second that they were essentially saying in code that they were combining to wreck havoc together.

Ironically, I actually think both students were able to focus and get a decent amount of work done this day. However, I was taken aback by their seemingly freudian slip. I think subconsciously their act was an admission that they both understood that they had the power to derail the class if they chose to. The whole class period I moved in a semi-state of shock, like what the hell have we gotten ourselves into.

Of course, fate decided that I would be in charge of both student’s IEP meetings. Both meetings brought surprises and challenges never experienced before. One student’s IEP is still yet to be drafted… yet another thing I have to complete this weekend… supposedly. One thing I love about my position as a teacher is being able to connect with my students on a simpler level than their educator. In both meetings with the students, I mentioned the fusion process that I saw in class, and how I was shocked that they even knew what that was. It served as a door opener to students who can be particularly difficult to connect with when not in the mood. Even weeks later I still can’t quite get over having two Super Saiyan students who understand their power to support and disrupt a classes progress singularly and even more-so together.

To tie this back to my initial statement, clearly these students both saw the fusion process years ago at home, and brought the idea into the classroom to really just have a good time and share laughs together. I know I haven’t watched Dragon Ball Z in probably over 5 years, and its been a lot longer since I heard of fusion. In the end, I let both students know that their fusion was hilarious, and I respect them for comedically bringing it into the class. I actually think the three of us are the only ones who caught it in the moment and haven’t forgotten it. However, I’ve already put my co-teacher on game, and let the students know that any further fusion activities will be met with equal force from my co-teacher and I.

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We laughed… and to this day they have continued to be lovely difficult students to manage in the class.

Personal Inquiry – Interests and Preferences

Personal Inquiry – Interests and Preferences

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Much of our work this semester in grad school has been focused around the idea of inquiry. Observing a student for who they are. One class has been focused on identifying potential behaviors that are limiting the child’s academic success, another is focused on identifying who that child is as is. In essence, once you can identify the child, you can better figure out what you can do as their teacher to support them in the academic environment, if they need your support. I’ve decided to observe Student A described here: Challenging students or challenging environment

Over the past two months I’ve really been fortunate to be able to observe him in almost all of his classroom settings. Part of the observation process is to try to describe your child as is, without assigning values to what the child does. A few of my peers in the program have found that relatively difficult, which to me speaks to a perhaps a larger issue with teachers being unable to see their students as young people without trying to describe why they engage in the behaviors they do. When you think about it, its pretty dangerous to try to describe why a student or any person engages in a particular behavior when you in fact have no idea how true or false your opinion is. Especially given that often times the way these behaviors are being described is from a negative/deficit perspective. It speaks to the often overlooked power dynamics that come into play as a teacher who is entrusted to protect and develop the young people you serve.

Anywho, I wanted to share a piece I wrote up about myself regarding my own interests and preferences. The assignment is attached below. The goal was to deeply review one of our own interests and think about how deeply it influenced our own identity as a person. We’re being asked to do the same thing for our students we’re observing later in the semester.

Assignment                                                              

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Response                                                                       

Track and Field

Describe the different ways this interest has shown itself as you grew up or the different forms this interest/preference has taken at different times in your life. In this description, describe:
  • how you came to know you had this interest or preference
  • what you did with this interest as a child
  • whether you pursued this interest on your own or with others; how others supported or showed interest in what you were doing; how others knew you had this interest

I had the benefit of living on a block where there were long stretches of road and sidewalk that somehow became racing posts for my neighbors and myself. When I was young, I remembered racing was always the activity/sport/game that I enjoyed the most with my friends. There was a solid group of us all within the same 3-4 year age range who would often congregate in our cul-de-sac to play games or just be kids. Fast-forward to the future and many of us became star/active players on many of our high school’s sports teams. My sister – soccer, Tiara – track, Darren – basketball, Ranard basketball and football I think, and myself track.

We had 4 different racecourses that we would use. For quick sprints we could use the 70m of sidewalk around Tiara’s house, or the entire length of the cul-de-sac and back in front of our house. For longer sprints we could use the long hill that all of our houses sat on. Ranards at the very top, passing Tiara’s house, our house, all the way down to Darren’s. I would say the hill had to be about 200 meters long. And then finally the long course of running the Sullivan Lane, Hickok, and Blackhawk Drive which was possibly a half-mile long.

Running had always been my passion from early on. I could play basketball all right, and did a season of soccer my freshman year following my sister’s footsteps. But there was something about the black and white competition of running that I loved more than anything in the world. It was competition that everyone could see and everyone could understand. I loved that I was always one of the fastest kids on the block even though I was a skinny scrawny non-athletic looking kid for most of my life.

As a child I couldn’t do much with this interest but continue to race people on the street. I didn’t know about AAU leagues or the USATF yet. I was probably in middle school when I first started to pay attention to track meets on TV. I couldn’t wait to join track in high school as it was the first thing I’ve ever felt confident I could be good in.

I’m not quite sure how others supported me running.  I have a tendency to live in a world of tunnel vision. Off top I would say my soccer coaches and teammates, cross-country coaches and teammates, and family supported me in varying and actually competing ways. My mother, infamously made me quit the track team early on my freshman year because of a bad grade I was getting in math. Around this time (approximately 2 weeks into conditioning) I was actually really frustrated with the team. I hadn’t imagined how exhausting and difficult training would be. The practices and training were so much harder than I had experienced in soccer. I don’t know what I would have done, but I believe had I not been made to quit I would have fallen off the team to my own accord just given how difficult it was for me.

Luckily, I had to spend an entire year listening to people tell me I sucked at running which is why I quit. It really made me furious because I knew I was fast, and knew that my speed was the last thing I was worried about. Luckily sophomore year came around and I went back out for the team, and became an instant contributor to the varsity team.

  • Describe briefly how this interest/preference lives in your life now.

I don’t run anymore. I actually haven’t watched a full track meet since I left NCAA Nationals as a senior on my college’s track team back in 2007. Track became and still is a bittersweet experience for me. It paid my way through college, and serves still today as the impetus to every opportunity I’ve gotten in life. Any leadership position in college, and in my professional life stems from the experiences and status earned through track and field. Even my closest friends, rivalries, and enemies stem from track and field. At one point I was a college roommate with two of my biggest rivals in the state in high school. My frat brother/big brother was also a member on my track team. My close female friends were members of the team as well. All of whom are still in my life.

Through track I grew into my body. I remember graduating high school around 5’8 weighing 123 pounds. I was extremely skinny and lanky. I graduated college at 5’10 around 145. And now weigh around 159 pounds. 165 around my heaviest. I say this to show that through track I grew into the physical man I am today. Which may sound superficial or unimportant, but as an athlete it plays a huge part into who I am to the outside world, and most importantly to myself. Track made me healthy, it made me look healthy, it taught me how to keep myself healthy and in shape. It is through this lens that I constantly critique my health, fitness, form, mental state, and appearance for others and myself. To translate – because of my 9 years as a semi-professional track athlete, I feel chained to keeping myself healthy and in shape. I don’t run anywhere near as much as I should, but I do maintain a pretty active and consistent space in LIU’s gym and Planet Fitness. (As as I’ve mentioned before on the blog, when I’m not in the gym my entire life seems to spiral out of control.)

  • Describe what you may have learned from pursuing the interest and the satisfactions you may have gained from it.

Track has taught me the art of competition. I was a natural winner that relied totally on natural talent for the entire time I ran. My largest lesson from track is failure. I relied on talent so much that I can see in hindsight how much further I could have gone had I understood what it really meant to push myself. I made it to nationals and was ranked in the country off sheer talent, and wavering interest. Similar to an early Serena Williams, but of course not as great or iconic. Had I been in the weight room, been training at my peak at all times, rehabbed seriously, and worked with my coaches more effectively I could probably still be running right now professionally for a living, as I see some of my college peers doing via Facebook.

I take these lessons and apply them to my everyday life. This is why I try to go so amazingly hard in grad school and teaching. It’s the first opportunity I felt I’ve had since, that I could really push my own boundaries and train for excellence as though I was back on the field.

On the surface, I gained a lot of medals, friends, accolades, records, experiences, travels, money, and headaches, and frustrations from track that I would never return. But this understanding of success and training is the most important take away that I feel I’m able to apply better now than I could 6 years ago as my time as an athlete came to an end.

Second time around is a whole lot easier

Second time around is a whole lot easier

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It seems like its been forever since I’ve even thought I’ve had the time to write something for the site. This school year has been crazy, and yet somehow I’ve managed to be a lot more calm and get more sleep than I did last year. Off the top of my head I’ve managed 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, which is 2 to 3 hours more than I got on average last year. Instead of stressing and staying up into the wee hours in the morning prepping lessons, thinking about IEP’s, and going over grad school work. I’ve been getting sleep first, and then fitting in time for all that other stuff second.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m not stressed, or “on” as much as I was before. In reality I’m on more than last year. I think I’ve just realized how to manage my time better during the school day and afterwards. Funny enough I remember NYC Teaching Fellows staff and coaches mentioning last year that we needed to prioritize sleep. Back then I never imagined that would be possible. But, this year, it’s become an implicit priority of mine. It doesn’t matter how much I’m behind, or have things to do… when I’m tired, I go to bed. Its such a wonderful feeling.

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The school year is just short of being 1/3 of the way done – and I would say that I’ve definitely kept my cool under all of the pressures that have been coming my way. I’ve been taking situations as they happen, as opposed to allowing the randomness of the education system frustrate and confuse me into a panic. My mind is still working overtime, but I would say it’s actually been shutting down a bit too early for my taste. Over the past 2 months I’ve struggled with creating my vision for my teaching and work in education. Last year, as a new teacher I was able to focus on the teacher I wanted to become. Whereas this year I’ve just been acting, with far less thought put into my actions. I’m assuming its due to the fact that I’m not a rookie teacher anymore persay, so my mind is focusing on different and equally important matters.

This actually worries me a bit. Before I came to NYC I promised myself that I would continue to push each step of the way to ensure that I grew into the best possible educator that I could. But here at the beginning of my second year I don’t feel as challenged as I did last year. Things just seem too easy. Or better yet I just seem too instinctual right now. I already know I’m not really conveying the amount of work and thought that goes into each day as a teacher, and we can’t forget a grad student – which is part of why it’s been a awhile since I’ve posted. I mean I feel like I’m working more and trying to produce higher quality everything, both as a teacher and a student. But just like Vegeta up top, the challenges I’m faced with have come and gone and haven’t phased me as much as I feel they should. Maybe its backwards logic, but, it worries me. People may question why that’s an issue… Detectable stress and challenges are what I feel I need to measure my growth by. 

As a result, I’ve decided to upload a recent assignment to help shine some light on why the relative ease at which I’m working has me uneasy with my place right now.

You can find the post here: Personal Inquiry – Interests and Preferences

Face Forward: Kevin Ladaris

  Face Forward: Young African American Men in a Critical Age

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I found this book in the bookstore Friday after work. It was a pretty rough day… filled with fights, disciplinary letters, criminal charges, and disappointing students and adults. After leaving school and heading home I happened to fall into an African American bookstore that I’ve seen, but never had the chance to walk into. The store is pretty small, but I made sure to take every second to look at all of the titles on its shelves. The store was full of erotic fiction, inspirational texts, collections of muslim texts, children’s books, urban fiction, and biographies.  Reading the diversity of the titles relaxed me and really made me feel at peace for the first time in the day.

Kevin Ladaris is the gentleman pictured on the front cover of Face Forward. I imagine he is really rooted into the earth, and is very analytical. His locs tell me that he’s inquisitive and can a calculated agitant  when results are needed. If I were Kevin, I would would write a letter to my principal looking for guidance. I’ve attached it below:

 

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Dear Principal,

I’ve been at this job for about a year. I still can’t tell how I’ve been doing at this teaching thing. It seems like I’m always playing catch up, lesser than, getting in trouble, going against protocol… you name it I feel like I’ve done it. As the principal of this school I seek your feedback to help me get a better understanding of how I’m performing here. I respect your opinion, and would appreciate the constructive feedback.

 

1. How would you rate my performance?

This school is different than most other NYC public schools. Its been nice having my LIU coach come observe my classes. But she hasn’t been able to give me the type of feedback that I can build from. Which she’s mentioned on more than one occasion. What would really help me is knowing what you and the other administrators think of teaching skills and abilities. Do you like how I teach my students in my classes? What about how I handle disciplinary actions with and about students.

2. What classes am I teaching next year? 

There’s been mention of me teaching an internship class next year. Which reminds me, can we sit down and talk about what this class should involve? Also, what else are you anticipating I’ll be teaching next year? WIll I continue to teach Just Words and Rewards reading intervention classes? If so that’s cool. I actually have a few ideas of how I can make the classes more interesting and hopefully fulfilling for me and the students. I’ve taught math and English this year. I’ve learned a lot through both. I’m wondering if I can co-teach a science class next year as well. I’m interested to see what strategies are used that help students play with the information in their heads.

3. Actually, will I be invited back next year to teach?

I mean… you never know. And I feel like I’ve been messing up a lot lately, so let’s be straight up. What are you thinking? How am I the same as the person you’ve hired? How have I grown? Where have I dissappointed?

4. What characteristics were you looking for when you hired me? What did you see in me last year that made you hire me? 

It’s hiring season, so a lot of teachers have come through for interviews and demo lessons. Usually I’m ready to jet out on Fridays, but I’ve attended a few sessions and met a couple of the candidates. Its always interesting to see who the interviews are. Certain characteristics stick out in potentially good candidates. People who speak up and project their voices are given automatic points. There’s never a moment in class where a conversational/mumbling tone has worked with my students. Unless we’re working one on one. I also like to see someone who takes time to think about their answers and works through them even while replying. It reminds me of myself. The students easily pick up on people whose personalities, energy matches with their own. Body language is important too. I like to see someone who is erect for lack of a better term. Your body looks alert and engaged. Slouching, leaning away, disengagement don’t really work. Also, its always interesting to see teacher who ask students to comply with a certain rule/practice during interviews. For instance asking a student during a demo lesson to put their phones away. It shows guts, and a knack for engaging even in unknown situations.

Observing other interviews has helped me see strong characteristics. However, it would really help me to know what you think I’m strong in, and areas where I can still grow.

5. How do you feel about the fight that occurred in my class on Friday?

I was a little shocked when someone walked into my class at the beginning of third period to observe me. Normally this isn’t a big deal. But I’m coming off of pretty bad week instructionally. The combination of my grad school finals and the Art of War Art Battle wiped me out when it came prepping for my classes. Thursday and Friday were supposed to be my great return to the teaching stage. 2nd period Just Words was amazing. We  had a strong day instructionally, the students were engaged, they read aloud, and processed the articles we read. 3rd period Just Words has a completely different pulse and energy. Not only did we not get any work done again, but their was a melee in the class. The first time a student actually got hit in one of my classrooms. I’m NOT happy about this and feel as though I failed in preventing the situation from escalating.

The situation quickly escalated from verbal exchanges between two students to full out blows with me in the middle trying to break them up, but being unsuccessful. Note to self, next time forget the rule of not touching the students, get in between the two students, and back one of them out of the door closing and holding it behind me.  I was slapped many times. I don’t know how many, the blows didn’t hurt and are actually the least of my concerns, what hurt was feeling like I couldn’t stop the situation. To call for help would mean leaving a clear field for the students to attack each other. So that’s not a realistic option.  *Wait a minute where did that other adult go. Surely he will call for help, step in and grab one of you or something* After a few minutes of royal rumble, and quite a few landed blows on me and the other students, someone comes in and helps me separate the students. Apparently the male students landed a pretty hard blow on the female. At the end of the day I was told that the young lady’s family pressed charges against the male student. A complete fucking blow to my already bad day.

I would just like you to know that next time I don’t care who is in my room, or for what purpose, when something happens I’m  going to do whatever it takes to prevent the fight from happening. I couldn’t go manage my class the way I normally do because of the visitor that was randomly placed there. Next time I’m going to act without keeping them in mind.

6. As you know I’ve been struggling with the Special Education/IEP responsibilities. What would you suggest I do to get a better grasp of this?

Its no secret that one of my weakest areas is my command of the knowledge and procedures that make up the Special Education part of my job. From scheduling and managing IEP meetings, to analyzing and incorporating knowledge of student disabilities and how it may or may not be manifested in their behavior, even following through with the endless paperwork that never seems to end. How would you suggest I get better at these things? I’ve made a few suggestions about things I think would help me handle this part of my workload better. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to implement any of those. You’ve seen my performance, you also know better than I do what I face in the preparation for my classes and how my teaching schedule can chaotic at times. What would you suggest I do to help me perform better here?

I’m really interested in your feedback… You can email it to me, or I guess stop me in the hallway when we both have a free second to breathe and catch up.

Regards…

African American Scholarships

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This is something I saw on facebook and I wanted to share it with people. Don’t let the fact that many of these are national scholarship deter you from applying. You never know what you can get when you take the time to put a nice presentation together. 

Please Share: AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS ARE NOT APPLYING !

Even if you do not have a college-aged child at home, please share this with someone who does, pass this scholarship information on to anyone and everyone that comes to mind. Though there are a number of companies and organizations that have donated monies for scholarships use to African Americans, a great deal of the money is being returned because of a lack of interest.
No one is going to knock on our doors and ask if we can use a scholarship. Take the initiative to get your children involved. There is no need for money to be returned to donating companies because we fail to apply for it. Please pass this information on to family members, nieces, nephews, friends with children etc. We must get the word out that money is available. If you are a college student or getting ready to become one , you probably already know how useful additional money can be. Our youth really could use these scholarships. Thanks! (If clicking on the link doesn’t work, copy and paste the URL in your web browser.)Link back to the facebook post here – http://tinyurl.com/cpz55ug

1) BELL LABS FELLOWSHIPS FOR UNDER REPRESENTED MINORITIES
http://www.bell-labs.com/fellowships/CRFP/info.html

3) Student Video Scholarships
http://www.christophers.org/vidcon2k.html
4) Coca-Cola Two Year College Scholarships
http://www.coca-colaschola/rs.org/programs.html
5) Holocaust Remembrance Scholarships
http://holocaust.hklaw.com/
6) Ayn Rand Essay Scholarships
http://www.aynrand.org/contests/
8) Gates Millennium Scholarships (major)
http://www.gmsp.org/nominationmaterials/read.dbm?ID=12
10) Sports Scholarships and Internships
http://www.ncaa.org/about/scholarships.html
11) National Assoc. of Black Journalists Scholarships (NABJ)
http://www.nabj.org/html/studentsvcs.html
12) Saul T. Wilson Scholarships (Veterinary)
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/mb/mrphr/jobs/stw.html
13) Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund
http://www.thurgoodmarshallfund.org/sk_v6.cfm
14) FinAid: The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid Scholarships
http://www.fina/id.org/
15) Presidential Freedom Scholarships
http://www.nationalservice.org/scholarships/
18) Hope Scholarships &Lifetime Credits
http://www.ed.gov/inits/hope/
19) William Randolph Hearst Endowed Scholarship for Minority Students
http://www.apsanet.org/PS/grants/aspen3.cfm
21) Guaranteed Scholarships
http://www.guaranteed-scholarships.com/
22) BOEING scholarships (soma e HBCU connects)
http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/educationrelations/scholarships
23) Easley National Scholarship Program
http://www.naas.org/senior.htm
24) Maryland Artists Scholarships
http://www.maef.org/
26) Jacki Tuckfield Memorial Graduate Business Scholarship (for AA students in South Florida)
http://www.jackituckfield.org/
27) Historically Black College & University Scholarships
http://www.iesabroad.org/info/hbcu.htm
28) Actuarial Scholarships for Minority Students
http://www.beanactuary.org/minority/scholarships.htm
29) International Students Scholarships & Aid Help
http://www.iefa.org/
31) Burger King Scholarship Program
http://www.bkscholars.csfa.org/
32) Siemens Westinghouse Competition
33) GE and LuLac Scholarship Funds
http://www.lulac.org/Programs/Scholar.html
34) CollegeNet ‘ s Scholarship Database
http://mach25.collegenet.com/cgi-bin/M25/index
36) Federal Scholarships & Aid Gateways 25 Scholarship Gateways from Black Excel
http://www.blackexcel.org/25scholarships.htm
37) Scholarship &Financial Aid Help
http://www.blackexcel.org/fin-sch.htm-sch.htm
38) Scholarship Links (Ed Finance Group)
http://www.efg.net/link_scholarship.htm
39) FAFSA On The Web (Your Key Aid Form &Info)
http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
40) Aid &Resources For Re-Entry Students
http://www.back2college.com/
41) Scholarships and Fellowships
http://www.osc.cuny.edu/sep/links.html
42) Scholarships for Study in Paralegal Studies
http://www.paralegals.org/Choice/2000west.htm
43) HBCU Packard Sit Abroad Scholarships (for study around the world)
http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad/packard_nomination.html
44) Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities
http://ccmi.uchicago.edu/schl1.html
45) INROADS internships
http://www.inroads.org/
46) ACT-SO EUR Olympics of the Mind “A Scholarships
http://www.naacp.org/work/actso/act-so.shtml
47) Black Alliance for Educational Options Scholarships
http://www.baeo.org/options/privatelyfinanced.jsp
49) Graduate Fellowships For Minorities Nationwide
http://cuinfo.cornell.edu/Student/GRFN/list.phtml?category=MINORITIESIES
50) RHODES SCHOLARSHIPS AT OXFORD
http://www.rhodesscholar.org/info.html
51) The Roothbert Scholarship Fund
http://www.roothbertfund.com/
52) Creative Dreamers Award
SkoolMoney Tag

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