Tag Archives: observations

Personal Inquiry – Interests and Preferences

Personal Inquiry – Interests and Preferences


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.


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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.

Face Forward: Kevin Ladaris

  Face Forward: Young African American Men in a Critical Age


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:




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.


Cirque du Classroom: Official Grad School Observation #2


Re-reading these observation notes is a bit misleading. This was by far one of the 3 worst class sessions I’ve had this school year. Made exponentially worse by the fact that I had an official observation with my Grad school coach. I remember a few times thinking about either blowing up, or shutting everything down and having the class sit there on “punishment” while we all calmed down enough to continue. BUT, since my coach was there I had to keep powering through and trying to just let the minutes on the clock tick away as I tried to get us to learn the material. Anywho, here are the notes. This observation happened on March 6, 2013. 

Description of Class

When our students entered your classroom, you asked one of the boys to distribute the folders.  A girl asked what you were doing today and you said you were doing “Just Words,” and you had a jam-packed lesson. You asked your students to take out their journals.

You said, “Hello, Everyone.  Welcome to Wednesday.”  You told them that you had projected a picture of a golden retriever and began reading the text, but Natasha asked why you didn’t do the one about the man who fell into the hole and died.  She began explaining what had happened to the man in Florida and you asked her to explain what a sinkhole was.  She did and you added to her explanation.  The class was very interested in what Natasha had said and wanted to know more about sinkholes.

You projected a picture of a sinkhole on the SMARTboard.  One of the girls said she was scared and wanted to know if it could happen in New York.  Janae tried to explain how sinkholes happen by talking about volcanoes.  You said that she was partially correct and explained tectonic plates and how the earth is constantly moving and that what more than likely happened is that one of the open spaces below the ground shifted and the earth got weak and it opened up.

Marsha said if you stare into the sky you could see movement.  The phone rang and you answered it.  You then said that they had their geography and science lesson for the day and that you would try to find something like this for Friday.  You then projected the Launch and said that they had two different prompts. You asked them to either:

1) Write about your last trip.  Where did you go?  What made this trip memorable for you?  If you haven’t gone on a trip recently describe your dream trip.  Where would you go?  What would you do?  Who would you see?

2) Draw your own skyscraper.  What will it look like on the outside?  How many floors are there?  What types of businesses are there?  What types of people live there?  What outrageous features make your skyscraper better then others?

You read the prompts and said that you were setting the timer for five minutes.

At 10:37, Juan came in.  He asked you for a piece of paper and said he is staying but he is not doing this work.

While students were working, you went over to one of the boys and talked to him about how he has been a little drowsy for the last few classes and you were not going to accept it.  You wanted his head up and you wanted him to do work.  He sat up in his seat.

Natasha was talking and not working and you asked her to work.  She asked why she should work since it was Wednesday.  You thanked her for voicing her opinion and asked her to begin working.  Natasha then asked why you weren’t writing.  You said that you had to walk around and make sure everyone was working.  The phone rang and you answered it but it was the wrong number.

The alarm went off and you asked if someone wanted to share.  Marsha said that she went to the Dominican Republic.   She went to different hotels and three different water parks.  And she had to hear her family talk “a whole lot of shit”.  You paraphrased and said she heard her family talk crazy. You asked her questions about her trip and she replied.

Cassie shared next.  She said she went to Holiday Hills and it was a lot of fun.  There were some “big-assed” pools and she went canoeing.  You asked her when she went and she said in June.  You responded by saying that there were a lot of summer trips.

Cassie added that she also went camping in Connecticut and you asked if it was this summer.

Katrina shared next.  Her last trip was to Bush Gardens in Virginia.  She explained that it was like a water park and had lots of buffets.

Janae shared next.  Two weeks ago she went to Atlantic City.  She went shopping and she went on the boardwalk and in the pool. And they went out to eat every morning and they also had dinner out. She added that what she liked best was the shopping.

After Janae shared, you thanked your students for sharing.  You said that you really couldn’t remember the last trip you went on.  Natasha asked you where you wanted to go and you said Tokyo, Japan.

Next you flashed a slide on the SMARTboard with four words.  You quickly took the slide away, but Marcus said the words he had seen:  could, would, should, and been.  You asked the class how to spell those words.  You said that on the last progress check, some of the class got these words incorrect, so you wanted them to write would, could should and been in their journals.  Most of the students began writing.  You went over to a girl on the side, asked her to open her book and write the words.  You told the class that in their mind, they should be thinking about sentences that they could write with those words.

You projected the four words again and told them that they should check to see that they wrote the words correctly in their journals.  You projected, ”plant,” and asked Cassie what the word was.  Then you projected, “plant er” and asked what the base word was.  Your students said plant.  Marcus said –er was a suffix and you asked if it was a vowel suffix or a consonant suffix.  He said vowel.  You asked Cassie how you know if it is a vowel suffix or a consonant suffix and she said “e” is a vowel.  You showed them how you wanted them to mark the base and the suffix and wrote the word “planter,” on the dry erase board. You said they should underline the base word and circle the suffix.

You said that today the class was gong to be learning a lot of new suffixes – six new vowel and consonant suffixes.  You asked what suffixes they have learned so far and Janae said, “est, er, ed, ing, es, s.   Marsha called out ld and ost, but you explained that they were not suffixes.

Marsha kept calling out letters.  Janae asked what you call sh or st but it was difficult to hear because of Marsha.

You projected the word thankful and said that there was a base word and a suffix and asked Janae what the base word was. She said thank.  You asked what the suffix was and she said ful.  You said you wanted them to turn to a new page in their journals and Natasha asked why you were wasting paper.

The next slide was “thankless.”  You asked what the base was and what the suffix was.

The next slide was shipment.  You asked Kareem what the base word was.  He said ship.  You said suffix was ment.  You added that they should write ment in their journals – and they should have full, less, and ment.

You asked Juan if he could cooperate and he said.no.  You made a phone call (but I could not hear what you said.)

The next slide was kindness.  You asked what the base word and suffix were and said to write ness in journal.

The slide after that was childish.  After students told you the base word and the suffix, you told them to write ish in their journals.

The final slide was freshen.  A woman came to the door.  Juan said something under his breath and you said that was not necessary.   He got up to leave the class and you went outside the room and spoke to the woman and Juan.

You came back and asked if they got freshen.  They said yes.  You then told them what you wanted to do.  You wanted them to pair up and asked if Natasha and Cynthia could be a pair.  You asked Trevor to come up to sit with Katrina.  Natasha didn’t want to move.  Trevor didn’t want to move.  Someone asked you to start the lesson, but you asked how you could start the lesson if two people didn’t want to move and two people had their heads down.  You asked them what they think you should be doing and said, ‘you guys are really frustrating me today.”  You went over to Kareem and Phillip and said you needed them up.  Phillip got up and left.  At 11:04, you went to the phone and made another phone call.

You said that for each suffix, you were going to give them 60 seconds to come up with as many words as they can with that suffix.  When you started the timer you said you wanted to see how many words they can come up with.

Marsha called you over and said she wanted to ask you a serious question.  She began giggling and asked you if you know the muffin man.  You ignored her question and went over to another student.  You asked who had written down 3 words?  5 words??  Students began sharing words.  Sometimes they said a word that was not a word – like chestful – and you corrected them.

You then gave them 60 seconds for “less” and then asked them to share.  You then moved on to “ment” and started the time.   You asked who had three words and several hands went up.  You asked who had more than three and Cassie raised her hand and said she had four. Janae had basement and punishment.  When Cassie said comment you wrote it on the board and explained why it wasn’t.  You asked what was the base word?  Com wasn’t a base word. You then said you were going to give them three minutes to do the rest of the words – ness, ish and en.

The door opened at 11:14 and Phillip came back into the room.  You asked him to step outside and went outside the door to talk to him.  Natasha got up and went over to Kareem’s desk and threw his book and paper on the floor.  She went back to her seat and he went over to her and threw her pen on the floor.  A woman with a radio and a man came in to the room.  The man looked through the folders in the bookshelf on the side.

When you came back into the room, Natasha said that Kareem threw her pen to the floor and you asked them to go outside to talk to you.  Before you went out, you said that you wanted the class to add as many suffixes as they could to the words on the sheet that you would collect it at the end of the period.  They would receive credit for doing it.

When you came back into the room, you gave Natasha something to write with because she said she no longer had a pen. The bell rang and you reminded your students to put their names on their papers because you were collecting them.

Strengths/ For Further Understanding

Even though the Just Words class is scripted, you began your class with a picture you thought your students would find interesting and a Launch that invited them to write about themselves and share their thoughts, ideas, etc.  You projected a picture of a golden retriever, but when Natasha began talking about sinkholes and the class expressed an interest in hearing about what happened in Florida, you allowed that discussion to take place and googled a picture of a sinkhole to show your class.  By doing this, you showed your students that you value what they are interested in and also took the opportunity to clarify some of their misconceptions about sinkholes.  The launch also showed an interest in them and their lives, and gave them an opportunity to communicate with each other before settling down to business.

It is wonderful that you give your students an opportunity to write about and share their experiences.  I am not sure that all of your students wrote in their journals before sharing.  Since the Just Words class is not a place where they do self-generated writing, it is a good idea to ask them to write in their journals at the start of each class.  Continue to encourage them to write first and talk afterwards, instead of just talking about the prompt.  The more they have the opportunity to write informally about themselves, the more comfortable they will feel about writing in general.

Throughout the period, you gave your students directions for breaking down words into the base and suffix, and then generating lists of words which include suffixes.  Your students all had a handout and you also showed them a series of slides.  I want to suggest that when you switch to a new activity, you always model what you want the to do.  For example, towards the end of the lesson, you gave them a list of words and wanted them to add all of the suffixes that work with those words and some of your students were not sure of what to do.  By writing the word “rest” on the marker board and thinking aloud as you add all of the suffixes that work, your students would clearly see how they should proceed.

I want to commend you on the professional and caring demeanor which which you conduct your class.  During our debrief, we talked about how you were frustrated with your class this period. When you wanted them to work in groups and Trevor and Natasha didn’t want to change their seats, you told the class that they were frustrating you today.  I want you to know that I think you handled all of their frustrating behavior (Juan who did not want to cooperate today, Phillip who left the room when you asked him to pick up his head and work and then came back later on in the period, Marsha asking you if you knew the muffin man, and Natasha complaining that Kareem took her pen) in a very calm manner.  You did not let your students get a rise out of you and you dealt with each situation appropriately.  When necessary, you took the student out of the room to talk to him/her.  You let your students know when their behavior was not appropriate, told them what you expected and continued the lesson.

Your students are very fortunate to have you for their teacher.  You clearly take an interest in who they are and what they need in order to be successful in school.


Read more of my observations here: Observation Notes

66% – Percent


Monday 3/11/2013: –  It’s 7:59am, and I’m in another classic make it work moment. I’m working with about 3 hours of disconnected sleep today. My goal was to wake up an hour early so I could get to school with an hour to spar. This would give me time to accomplish some of the things still on my to do list. Reality – I woke up about an hour late. With just enough time to get to school before the opening bell at 8:20….maybe.

Major things in today’s to do list:

Create a draft IEP for student’s mother in preparation for our IEP meeting

Prepping for my Just Words lesson even though I left my lesson materials at school over the weekend

Prepping for sDIG/IT student technology presentations for their free laptops

Graduate class tonight (even though the university is closed for spring break.

Reflection: I just registered for summer classes and it looks like we only have to take one class per summer session, and we don’t have to teach summer school this summer. Part of me doesn’t know what I’m going to do with all this extra free time. The other part of me wants to capitalize by getting a part time job to get some extra $$$. I’ve been trying to prepare my students all semester for their digit presentations. Personally I’m not happy with the quality of the presentations or my time management leading up to the presentations. Students are supposed to invite a friend/parent to witness their presentations. None of my students had any, so I made them buddy up and present their presentations to each other. It was weird seeing even some of my strongest students in the class get nervous about presenting infront of a crowd. I had to work with students multiple times to contain their frustrations. Students let their nerves get the best of them. They literally started saying they weren’t going to participate 5 minutes before we were set to go on. I wanted to pull my hair out a million times last period, but finally we got through the day and the students. Grad class was decent. We’re working in groups to help create our own unit plans. Initially I think most people hated this idea, or were confused. Group work always seems like overkill when everyone is working with their own schedules and challenges. I like my group and I like being able to bounce our ideas off of each other. I’ve decided to create an english unit for my Race/Class/Culture course this trimester. My group members are creating units on Math – probability and Science – the building blocks of life. Today was a productive day.

Tuesday 3/12/13: Again I didn’t sleep much last night. I think I finally went to bed around 2:30 am. Only because Sesis (the internet program we create, and edit IEP’s with) shuts down at 2am. So… I couldn’t make additional edits to Student A’s IEP in preparation for my phone call with their mom today. It was a STRUGGLE to get out of bed today. I finally rolled out of bed around 6:35. I powered through my morning ritual. Sans brushing my teeth. I’ve just realized its easier to do that at school… On the train I listened to Kelly Rowland’s Kisses on repeat, I had about 3 swigs of coffee left over from last night. So I gulped them down before I left the house. Sitting on the train, I powered away reviewing and making notes for Student A’s IEP. I got to school. Normally there are things I need to prep for my first period english class. But today is the last day before of the trimester so luckily I didn’t have anything to print out or prepare. I was pleased with myself in class today because I feel like I was having quality check ins with my students as they worked to complete as much of their missing assignments as possible. 2nd period was a sluggish prep for my IEP meeting, followed by a micro planning session for my Rewards (reading intervention) class. Rewards is a fucking mess. I hate teaching this class. The students hate the class even more than I do… I have to figure out something to reinvigorate everyone in our final trimesters. I grabbed Student A, for the IEP meeting. Unfortunately their mother wasn’t available when I called. So I took the time to do the student’s vocational assessment. This was actually a great backup idea because I got some very usable data. 5th period was our department meeting. I don’t quite remember what I did.

Reflection: I’ve been coming home dead tired. I’ve also been putting off the work I know I need to do until late at night. I don’t know what bothers me more… The fact that I’m always getting more things to do. OR the fact that I never seem to get any of it done.

Wednesday 3/13/2013: Woke up 20 minutes b4 I needed to leave the house to get to school on time. Jumped in and out of the shower. Today was a Laid back day. We have early dismissals on Wednesdays. I tried to create a plan for my JW classes today. I got as far as knowing that I wanted them to use chart paper in groups to showcase their learning. But… when it came down to it just played a movie and made it a free period. I hate that I’m starting to rely so much on movies to kill time. I’ve been letting the students know that time is running out for these movies. Its been my go to after I finish the day’s lesson. I’m hoping that I’ll have more energy and time I create longer lasting lessons come 3rd cycle (trimester). Last night I made assignment templates for my Digit classes make up work called Amelioration. Amelioration is usually two days we save after the grading period ends to give our students a chance to make up any missing assignments (competencies/outcomes) in order to legitimately earn credit for their class.  Today I was given (or reminded of, depending on who you ask) a ton of IEP work to do. Its ridiculously frustrating feeling like I never know everything due for my IEP students, nor knowing everything that is expected of me in regards to my role as a special education teacher. It always makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough/ keeping track of my responsibilities.

Thursday 3/14/2013: I woke up dumb fucking late 7:30…. again. I need Spring Break to get here NOW. Its imperative that I reset and recharge my body and mind with a significant rest period. I don’t know how I’ve made t so far. I’ve woken up late for school 3 times in the passed 2 weeks. This is crazy when I’ve been late twice the whole year before that. That is one positive to having a co teacher for my first period class. But it’s a horrible way to start the day. Today we’re doing credit amelioration as mentioned before.

Reflection – Today was a super long day. Amelioration went well. My and co teacher and I were ripping and running around the classroom all day frantically helping students. One of the difficult things about teaching young adults is they don’t realize when they’re being given a second, third, fourth chance. Their normal attitudes or resistance to authority/leadership can really be stressful to a teacher when trying you’re trying to create/manage/or repair relationships with a struggling student who doesn’t understand that you want them to learn and pass, and not suffer the consequences of failure. After school I went to a planning meeting for fundraising event me and some friends are putting together. Stay tuned for more details about Art of War, our inaugural fundraiser help on May 2, 2013 at Hotel Indigo. More details coming soon.

Friday 3/15/2013: I’m so happy today is here!!! I woke up at. 640. Which is still 40 minutes after I used to get up at the beginning of the school year. But, early enough to brush my teeth and hop on the train. Brushing my teeth, showering, or just running out of the house have been my only options lately. Today is another Credit Amelioration day. Yesterday I helped two of our digit students complete the class so they could get the free laptop they had earned. Even still there were two students who didn’t show up to amelioration. One came to school late and still didn’t come to my class to finish her work. Another got injured last weekend and has and excused medical absence. I’m looking forward to tonight. I’m planning out my weekend so I can get as much accomplished as possible. Here’s a short list  of the tasks I can think of:

Workout  2X

TAL 857 Class – Read Chapters 5 & 6 in  Differentiating Instruction : Thousand, Villa, Nevin

TAL 857 Class – Assistive Technology Project Research

TAL 885D Class – English Unit Plan Review

TAL 856 Class – Performance Based Assessment (incomplete class – 2 hours)

Scholarship email to fraternity brothers

Unit plan reviews

Organizing Computer files, Google drive files, and Grad School Files

Blog Posting

Organize and Trash school files in room

Pack in preparation for the move

Complete the NYC DOE part of my taxes

Student A IEP: Complete Present Level of Performance (PLOP) and draft Goals

Student B IEP: Draft Plop

Uh oh… I just got a seat on the train. Lemme take a quick nap. Happy Friday everyone! 🙂 7:37 am.

Lesson Plans: Usain Bolt Invention Project

Interestingly enough I think today was one of my better lessons. It was very free. Extremely free even. I knew what we were going to do – I would opened with some quick videos of Usain Bolt!

Wednesday I showed the kids this –


And they had the nerve to not understand why lil homie in the back was so excited for that moment in his life right there. Imagine if Usain Bolt gave you dap before he won the 200m Olympic Gold medal in London. That’s a once in a lifetime experience right there. They needed to be schooled!

So, For today’s lesson I opened with a few video clips I found during 1st period’s English class on Vimeo. I had of course forgotten to find clips on youtube these movie links:

Usain running the 200 Final in London Olympics – http://vimeo.com/47280401

Usain doing a quick documentary of his 100 meter gold medal run – http://vimeo.com/46634479

I also reviewed this picture and compared Usain’s speed to the animals shown here.


Interesting Media clip of the day: After watching the videos the kids were in awe of Usain and seeing him in action against some of the world’s best athletes. I walked us through the previous 5 world record holders and through all of the animals. By this time I had honestly forgotten that I was supposed to tie this into the first slide. Luckily, when I shifted back to the powerpoint we returned to the slide with the gif file. Then, the kids were able to see why the young man was so excited to share that moment. Usain Bolt gave him dap before one of his big races infront of thousands of people. That’s really freaking dope!! LoL.

Launch: Finally after realizing and admitting I had wasted far more time than I thought I moved on to our launch:

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 1.23.49 PMJW Invention Launch

What goals do you want to accomplish before you graduate high school? What do you think will be the first step you need to take to make this happen?

After what was scheduled for 5 minutes drifted into 6/7 minutes of writing or so I asked them to share out. 2 of the 6 students volunteered which was cool. I never forced them to share if they didn’t want to. But I always created the space for those who did want to share for the day.

Project: At this point I directed the students back into their Invention Projects. They complain constantly about not wanting to do the boring work in the class. So, I decided to let them create an invention that they could use to do their classwork for them. The invention could be anything they wanted as long as they tied its features to the tips and strategies we’ve learned in the class. For example: closed syllables, open syllables, tapping, marking, ect… In reflection, I was wayyyy to lax on pushing them on linking their invention to an actual skill we’ve learned. And next time I plan to use an example to show them the kind of features/evidence I expect them to create. But overall they were really engaged and I was able to individually check in with each of them to set them on a path to decent projects.

The students were responsible for creating an (a) illustration of their invention along with a description of the inventions features (b) a narrative/commercial explaining and introducing their invention to an audience and justifying why we should purchase it. (c) a student on self/teacher on student grading rubric for the project (d) a marking/syllable worksheet that they would use to show their invention worked. Which was really just a ways of me saying….Yup. I’m still making you do worksheets, too. LoL

Intro Invention Slide Illustration Slide Narrative SlideGrading Rubric

This entire assignment is inspired by a project from last semester’s TAL 855 class that I currently have an incomplete in… Yes I’m that far behind, and no I’m not really sure why that’s my current crisis I’m trying to figure the fuck out right now. I got chewed out by one of my professors on Monday. It was deserved… but it still felt like crap. She letting me turn in my reflection assignment that I had no idea I was so late on until 2 weeks ago go figure. As I’ve stated many times grad school is a wreck right now. And I’m still probably under-exaggerating how bad it really is.

Halfway through my lesson my principal comes in with two guests. I can’t remember if they walk in and walk out. Or if they walk in and sit down unexpectedly. But at some point I realize they had probably listened to me ramble for 90 seconds and had actually sat down to stay for a bit… and had no idea what the hell I was talking about. So instinctively I grab a set of worksheets for the two visitors and my mentor to explain what the lesson was about. I didn’t realize it until later on, but I literally jumped in and treated these people like students in my classroom. I gave them the quick 30 second explanation and directions, asked them if they understood, got an affirmative and even gave them both 2 starbursts each, like I had given all of my students without missing a single beat.

(Quick Sidenote – I actually normally only give my students healthy snacks. Earlier in the year a student laughed that I was giving them starbursts/candy in class because I was essentially treating them like babies and fattening them up on candy every single day for giving simple answers and participation. From that point on, lets call it October/November, I’ve been only giving fruits, almonds, and granola bars to students every few now and then when I decide to bring them snacks. I’ve even brought cups for them to go get water before. This was the frist time I decided to go with candy, and it was because the students really had been participating a lot recently and truly deserved a treat for once. Students love dry almonds from Trader Joes in the individual packs and Spanish crackers from the bodega across the street. Food can really calm a brooding classroom of children.)

Anyways I dont know what message that sent… But here I am a young black guy. Teaching this class in an aloofly-organized way. So caught up in the act of teaching my brown and black students and mentor in my classroom that I automatically engaged other visitors into the learning that’s trying to take place. We acknowledged these two white professional visitors as guests, we wanted them to be a part of our experience as well. They eventually left after probably 3 minutes max. One of the students alerted me that they didn’t even take their starbursts. I looked over, first noticing their absence, then realizing that they hadn’t taken the handouts I had given them either. I halfway hated seeing that… I mean you stepped into my classroom to see something… you should really take the worksheet I give you with you so you can continue to process even after you’ve left. Especially if I take my time to pull you into what we’re doing also! Anyways… the students swiftly asked to get the starbursts they left behind and I obliged… LoL



Somewhere within the last 20 minutes I did a few marking examples on the board for the students who needed a little practice while doing their projects. Interestingly enough my two female students who almost went to serious blows 2 weeks ago in class were the only two interested in my mini lesson. It was so crazy how well they communicated about the work with each other in a friendly way just weeks after I literally had to pick one of the girls up and carry her down the stairs in order to diffuse what was almost a sure fire nasty fight in the 2nd floor stairwell. I ended up carrying one of the girls away from the fight to diffuse the situation. And now these girls are best buddies in class… That’s the craziness teacher deal with every minute of everyday.

I got them to come up to the board and construct their own marked up examples from memory and with no pushback. One of the girls even gave detailed explanation about vowel marking as the other young lady openly listened and processed.

I supplied the class with colored pencils, markers, gel ink pens, construction paper, glue, scissors, and story cubes to help them express their creativity in whatever way they could. At the end of the day I went to my mentor’s room to debrief. She expressed that she enjoyed the class, and almost felt sad to leave. She especially liked how I had one of the girls so involved in the lesson. She noted that the same young girl was very insecure about her English abilities during the first marking period. She plans to spruce up her notes and send them my way within the next few days. perhaps I’ll post them for you guys too.

Lesson powerpoint – JW Invention Lesson Ppt

There was an additional worksheet that I copied out of the students Just Words Workbooks.

Connect the Dots: Black History Edition

Whats going on world!?

Snow White Haters

(Courtesy of http://teacherthoughtbubble.tumblr.com. 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. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0316188/

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.


Observation Notes

JW 5.2 Blog Screen Shot

Today I was observed by one of my university professors. Here is the transcript along with the electronic and print materials I used for today’s lesson.

FILES: JW 5.2 Ppt Link      JW 5.2 Pdf Link     JW 5.2 Worksheet


Description of Class:

I arrived to your class as you and your students were entering.  You asked Martin to give out the notebooks which were stored in the classroom.  You projected a slide on the SMARTboard and said hello to your class. One of the girls said she missed you very much and you said you missed her to.

You then said that you had projected a picture of Right brain, Left Brain, and you also had copies for them to keep.  You wanted them to have this.  One of the boys asked you if you were encouraging them to drink and you said, no, you were just showing them the right brain/left brain and they could interpret it on their own.

You called Marsha and Renee to attention because they were chatting.  You projected the Agenda (Unit 5 Day 2) on the screen and said that this was a short lesson and if they did everything, they might have free time at the end.  You then told them about their launch:  Describe a time when you helped out someone in need.  What did you do?  Why did you decide to help this person?  How did helping this person make you feel about yourself?

Students started working.  You asked Jaleel to take out his book.  He said something about never helping people.  I asked him if he might have helped someone without even realizing it, and he thought for a second and said, “Probably.”  He began writing.

You told your students when there were three minutes left. You added if they like, they could share out, but they do not have to.  You told them when there was a minute and a half remaining and said that you were very excited about hearing their stories.  You told Kenny that you saw he had written a nice amount but wanted him to write for another minute.

You asked if there was anyone who wanted to share out.  Marsha said she did and you said that everyone was going to listen to Marsha.  She read about seeing a bum on the train when she was going to 42nd Street.  She said she noticed that no one else had given him something and wondered why they were so selfish.  You asked her how it made her feel, and she said it made her feel like she wanted to keep her ass in school, because she didn’t want to see herself doing that.  A discussion ensued about how some people who beg actually have money.  You asked how they know and one student said you could tell by the clothes – like wearing Jordans.

Janae read next about walking down the block, seeing a woman and her daughter coming out of the liquor store, and being asked by the woman for money for food for her daughter.  The daughter said that she wanted a doll and one of Janae’s sisters gave her a doll.  Janae found out a week later that ACS took the little girl. You asked her how she felt and she said she felt bad about that.  You said something about her giving the girl a little positivity before this happened.

Another girl told a story about her mother giving someone who needed clothes some new clothes and the person returned the clothes to the store and got the money.  You told her that her mother sounded very nice – like a very giving person.

Next, you told your students the purpose of this activity.  You connected it to the launch theydid on Monday, writing about something they were thankful for.  You thought that the more they surrounded themselves by positivity, the more positivity will affect them.

At 10:45, you started the Syllable Review.  You asked what they know about syllables and the boy near me said they come in all shapes and sizes.  You said that people have different tricks for being able to break the syllables down.  You asked how do they know when a word has more than one syllable.  Marsha said it takes more time to say it.  It sounds like more than one word.  You agreed with what Marsha said and said that every time you have to take a separate breath, it is another syllable.  You said any time your jaw drops, it signifies a new syllable.

You projected cabin onto the SMARTboard and asked how to separate.  Marsha said ca- bin.   Janae said cab –in.  You asked how they know which one is the correct way to break down the syllables.  You asked them to raise their hands if they think cab – in is the correct way.  Nine students said it was.  You asked about ca-bin and three students raised their hands.  You told the class that the first one was the correct one – cab – in.  You asked them if they remembered what a closed syllable was – any time they had one vowel closed in, followed by one or more consonants.  That is a closed syllable.  You said that whenever they are breaking a long word down into syllables, the first has to be a closed syllable.

Next you projected “locket,” and asked how to separate it.  One boy said loc –ket.  Three agreed. You asked Cassie and she said lock –et.  You asked Mounique if she had something to add.  Seven agreed.  You asked Phillip what ck was and he said it was a diagraph.  You asked what they know about diagraphs and someone said they stay together.  We can never separate diagraphs.  That is why the one on the right is correct.  You projected five diagraphs:  wh, ch, sh, th, ck.

Next you projected “public,” and asked who can break it up.  A student said pub-lic.  You said that whenever they have a multisyllabic word, and asked if anyone knew what it means.  You said it means more than one syllable.  You also explained that in a multisyllabic word, if it ends in the sound “ick” it is spelled “ic.”  Phillip gave maverick as an example – and found a word that broke the rule.

You projected three words:  upset; pocket; and tonic: and asked them to divide the words into syllables.  You asked for someone to come up to the board and asked them to break the word up into syllables.  Phillip did the first one—upset.  He wrote up/set and you said he did it correctly.  You asked if up was a closed syllable and your students said yes, it was.  Phillip “scooped,” each syllable and marked them as closed.  He also put short vowels sounds on top of the vowels.  You said that this is how they should mark their syllables from now on, so they should take this in.

Marsha did pocket.  She wrote pock/et.  She marked the diagraph.  You asked her to mark both the first and second syllables as closed.  You also asked her to write in the short vowel sound above her vowels.

You asked who wants to do tonic and Whitney said yes.  She wrote ton/ic.  You said it was correct and asked her what was her next step.  You asked if ‘ton” is closed and she said yes.  You asked how she knows it is closed and she explained about the vowel in between two consonants.  You asked if “ton” was a long or short vowel sound and she said short, so she wrote in the sign.  You turned to the class and told Kareem to pick up his head because his head was down.  Whitney then wrote in the closed syllable and short vowel signs for “ic.”

You said that they were almost done with the lesson today, but you needed them to pep the energy back up for you.  You gave them a handout.  When you gave the handout to Phillip, you said you liked his participation but he needed to get it together.  He agreed.  You asked Marsha to take her feet down.  You said you would give her ten seconds, but she needed to take her feet down.  When ten seconds passed, Marsha did not take her feet down.  She sat there and looked at you.  You continued the lesson.  In a few minutes, she took them down.

You gave then directions.  You would say twelve words.  They would spell it correctly and break it into syllables.  Then they would scoop and mark the short vowel sounds.  You said you would do the first word as an example for the.  The first word was mascot.  You wrote:  mas/cot.  You showed how you broke it up and added that you wanted them to mark it as well.

2.  nutmeg   3. misfit   4. whiplash 5. frantic  6. public  7. Chipmunk    8.  Frolic

You said that you understand that they may not know how to spell these words, but the way that they learn if by sounding them out and try.  You want to see something in every box on their paper.

9.  disrupt        10.  nutshell    11. exit    12.  Index

You said that you will quickly go through the numbers again and catch them up.  You read the twelve words over again.  You projected the correct spelling on the board so they could correct their spelling (if they had gotten it wrong).  You added that you wanted them to mark them correctly.  Show the closed syllables and whether or not the vowels are long or short.

Throughout the lesson, students asked to go to the bathroom.  You asked them to be back in three minutes and they complied.  When it was Phillip’s turn to go, you asked him to finish his work first and he did.

As students were working, you walked around the room to see how they were doing.  AT 11:22, you said there was five minutes left and if they were completely done, they should close up their folders.

Students brought up their folders and chatted with their classmates until the bell rang.

Strengths/ For Further Consideration


I like how you are using your launch to help your students focus on what is positive in their lives.  You chose a prompt that everyone in the class could write about, and that was thought provoking for most of your students.  I also like the way you told them that you were excited about hearing their stories.  You made them feel like what they had experienced and were writing about was valuable.   When students read, you asked them how the experience made them feel which opened up a discussion in the class.  You obviously do a lot of sharing out in your class and have put in place good procedures for sharing because your students were very respectful when their classmates were reading.

During our debrief, we talked about the value of the Just Words class.  We both agreed that the skills your students are learning (spelling, sounding out words, breaking words into syllables) are important skills.  I wondered, though, if your students are becoming better readers as a result of this.  You told me that next year, when they are sophomores, there is more of a reading component to the class, which makes more sense to me.  We also talked about how the content of this class allows your students to feel successful.

I think you have a wonderful way of interacting with your students.  In a calm tone, you clearly let your students know what you expect of them and why.  You are positive, supportive and caring.  When Marsha had her feet up on the desk, you told her she needed to take them down and told her to do so in ten seconds.  When she didn’t, you didn’t confront her, but gave her additional time, and she did take them down.  When Phillip was attracting attention, you went over to him and in a quiet but firm manner, told him how you wanted him to act.  You also spoke to Kareem at the end of class in a caring, concerned way, telling him that he needs to come to school every day.

Your students are very fortunate to have you for their teacher.  It is obvious to met hat they enjoy being in your class and are focused and engaged on their work.

It was a pleasure observing this class.  I look forward to observing you again in the near future.