Ok, so my goal is to actually get this post out. I’ve tried to write this two times before this and I just ended up trailing off in a blur.
Life is so different for me now than it was for two full years ago. You see, I’ve realized that the time I spent in Boston is a memory now for me. For so long Boston was my life, it’s finally dawned on me that I’ve been in NYC long enough to have created new memories. And in order to do so I often pull back to my time and experiences in Boston. The Bean really was a starter city to prep me for East coast living. Now, being a near two year resident. I can even begin to pull on early experiences living in the city to help push me through to bigger and better with my future. I know that sounds weird – but I want to create history. I’ll say it, even though I feel like its one of those things they don’t like to hear black people say. Of course, my boy Kanye agrees.
We read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in my Sophomore English class this cycle. I love reading about Black/African history. It enriches my soul. Imagine that we’re all sitting around making our own history, stories that people will read and learn from and engage with and write about…etc… LoL. I mean, I definitely want this blog to be a part of that history. Y’all can think I’m crazy. I don’t even care anymore. #Kanyeshrug
I read it (The Narrative) for a second time this summer during my reading marathon. That was really dope by the way, and I can’t wait to do it again this summer. One of the books I’m really excited to get into is Introduction to African Civilizations by John G. Jackson. I got to steal some time and read the first two chapters a few weeks ago during winter break. I was a HUGE Discovery/History Channel/Documentary person growing up. I’ve heard stories about the evolution of humans, but conveniently I’ve never heard much about how this evolution took place on the African Continent. The early chapters of the book discuss this evolution and actually use really engaging language that is easy to understand and follow. In a nutshell it talked about how pre-humans evolved into barbaric humans. Then how barbaric humans turned into civilized humans living in ever growing groups that turned into actual civilizations. It also talks about how humankind went from being a matriarchal society to patriarchal society.
Speaking of making history…. I mean making historically wise decisions for myself. I’m facing a tough situation at work – again (see Schoolhouse Blues). Long story short I feel like admin has taken aim on me over some bullshit. She wasn’t happy with my peroformance, and as a result gave me some very low marks on my evaluation. The difference between this time and last time is I was actually prepared to talk about it and call her evidence into question. Our last few meetings have looked like this –
I feel like I’ve stepped into a battlefield over the past two weeks, and most folks are recklessly aiming somewhere in my vicinity. Work is a mess man. Classes are ending, Classes are starting, teams are changing to frame a bit of it. The amazing difference is that I actually know my value now and have been far less hesitant giving my opinion on why things that affect my work are the way they are.
I made a conscious effort to wake up and have an amazing and jam-packed Friday. And I was pretty successful. Outside of all of the other trimester ending activities listed about, I had an early morning IEP meeting that almost didn’t happen do to scheduling and communication challenges. IEP’s were one of the most daunting things to figure out 2 years ago. The paperwork behind the scenes is still a nightmare – and to be honest one of the few areas where the powers that be try to act as though I’m incompetent. None the less, the meeting went very well and was probably one of my strongest to date. I made a quick smartboard presentation that helped the fluency of the meeting. I may try to upload the pres once I wipe all the personal information.
Most importantly… and the only thing I’ve really been trying to share over the past few weeks is that I’ve FINALLY made my first curriculum. My post graduate prep course has finally finished its first iteration. I remember back in Boston there used to be all this talk about making a curriculum or finding curriculums that spoke specifically to the students were dealing with back then. Talk about being lost! I’ve finally made my first real curriculum and it feels great. The curriculum as is is far from perfect and there’s plenty of room for growth. But having the skeleton feels amazing! Some of the things I’m looking forward to incorporating this time around is more creative writing, more critical thinking, more activities, more take home resources, more technology skill development, and… better resources in general. If you know any 😉 def send them my way.
I cant think of much more to say. And of course, this was sooo much better in my head. But oh well. Just like the gym sometimes you just gotta get in there to get the kinks out so that next time things turn out even better.
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.
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.
We laughed… and to this day they have continued to be lovely difficult students to manage in the class.
Of course, I wouldn’t be taking my own advice if I focused on the deficit. I’m excited to be back, I’m inspired by the new year, and all of the new experiences I’m about to encounter. My focus this year now that I feel more comfortable engaging students is to focus on solutions to the problems I encounter in the classroom. What I’ve found is that they’re available if I want to make the impact in the way(s) that I know are necessary and possible. But, I must research them! There’s business in poverty, ignorance, and arrogance. If we don’t search and strive toward creating our own solutions then someone will always be ready to use us to further the depression that is going on.
My personal suggestions would be for people to –
Seek out mentors (in AND outside the classroom/home and community/ and programs)
Always express compassion in our actions with our youth
Research and reading books from multiple perspectives, or at least some that will purposely challenge your thinking
Positive thinking/living/and being. I’m certain that what we do undoubtedly rubs off on those that watch us
In realizing that there is a large problem with the current mechanism(s) that maintain American society. I’ve also realized that I as an individual have immense power to impact that mechanism and alter it and make it work to develop my community. As I stated above, the changes I make will undoubtedly rub off on the people I know. The changes they make will undoubtedly rub off on the people they know.
Money is nice and we all need it to cover certain expenses. However, there comes a time when the want for materialism outpaces the needs of our communities. That drive to secure our own needs at the rick of others pushes people away from their service, mentorship, and fellowship that helps us build up our communities. Make sure there is balance. When you let money (selfishness) rule it will always derail your plans. Nonprofits fall for this all the time. Young professionals entering Corporate America fall for this all the time. Politicians fall for this all the time. Don’t let the money blind you to the one on one/in human contact that is the service we all relied on.
I recently fell into a conversation with a young Black professional and HBCU graduate who was the……… Account Executive for Commercial Relations for BET. Basically he worked in advertising. When he found out I was a teacher the conversation exploded from silence to a full blown debate about how our kids don’t want to do anything with themselves and they want to be lazy, etc… Of course I always respond, to the tune of how are Black students aren’t really taught to preservere through their challenges especially academic, and to ask them to do it on their own is unimaginable. People always put the onus of student’s failure on the student and perhaps his parents. It’s like people miraculously forget that these are minors. I wouldnt’ be fair to say that they don’t know what they want, but at 16 I only knew what my parents, peers, and community knew about the world. Luckily those three groups were comprised of people that only supported my development. I hadn’t experienced enough of the world to truly know what I wanted for myself. why do we continue to argue that children who do not have the most positive support system must navigate this world on their own.
The debate carried on for a solid 15/20 minutes with the BET guy talking about how people don’t take advantage of their chances, and I continued to talk about how all of us at the table as college graduates did in fact take advantage of the chances we were given. But again we are viewing this from the top end of the spectrum. Why is it always acceptable to view this debate from the “successful” person’s point of view? Why aren’t we ever called to give and do more for our communities in an effort to help those that weren’t able to make it through to “success”. I began suggesting that he, and his channel needed to take responsibility and show more positive examples to our young black people to follow. He said that didn’t matter, and that he did mentor young boys. I told him it did matter, just today I had to completely switch my Speech lesson in the middle of class because my students weren’t engaged. I did that by cueing in on their favorite musicians. Drake and Meek Millz. I had told them that I had heard of Drake, but hadn’t heard any of Meek Millz songs. If they were going to write a persuasive speech using one of the two what were some of the points they would use. Some students talked about how Drake was versatile, some talked about Meek using grittier lyrics, some talked about Drake being their boyfriend, some talked about they would persuade me to listen to their own music instead.
He then went on to say that BET wasn’t even owned by Black people anymore, so it wasn’t their responsibility to support their community, they were supposed to make money. I countered that regardless of who owned the station, they positioned themselves as a station that developed content geared for black people, in some ways they had a responsibility to provide a diversity in their programming. And he as a professional had a responsibility to work to develop his community and not just himself. He began to talk about how busy he was and that what he was doing was enough, he had to make sure he was set before he could give anymore. This was the sentiments of everyone at the table. They all, college graduates, and all from prestigious HBCU’s by the way (Hampton and Morehouse) felt that their stability superseeded the stability of the community they were coming from. At this point in my I was definitely feeling my happy hour buzz, and realized it was time to step back and just continue to challenge my table participants to find ways to give back and support those younger than them. Regardless of how stable they felt, they could always find someone who needed their wisdom, knowledge, and guidance.
I don’t remember exactly what said, but at this point he continued to shift the blame back onto students not wanting to be successful. To which I continually asked him why he thought it was OK to require a 14 year old to 1) create an awareness of his place on the globe, and 2) maneuver all things in his life to make sure that he grow up to reach his success, when 3) Black youth, especially boys, in reality control almost no parts of their lives outside of what their parents and mentors see them to. There have been numerous stories in the news as of late of young Black boys whose lives were taken from them because of what someone else thought about them.
Anywhom this post isn’t about that. Its about personal responsibility to make a difference in our community. Too often we push the blame on to someone else, or don’t believe we ourselves can make a change.
Thinking for ourselves/Group think (stereotypes, misinformation, doubts, )
Talents into service. For me, my talents are best used teaching, writing, learning to better help myself, my family, and my students.
A few closing notes I’ll leave you with:
We all have talents, and can turn those talents into services for other people. For me, my talents are being used to teach, write, and continue to learn ways to help myself, my family, and my students.
Group think is a horrible disease that affects 95% of the population. Are you a knowing victim, even worse are you a silent carrier who doesn’t even know they’re a host? Group think has been used to push stereotypes, misinformation, self doubts… Reflect to see where you stand on this.
Do something different for yourself!
Purposely lift someone up everyday.
Read a book, it opens your consciousness.
Save the hate and push for your purpose!
Work to actively build a community wherever you are (work, school, home, groups, etc…)
The media works to make money, not show you positive images of black people. I recently attended a community event where Dr. Imani Perry said that watching television makes Black people feel bad. Think about all of the negative that can be consumed through media images. Whether we believe what we see or not, the constant consumption of negative media images affects our subconscious. White males on average are the only ones who feel better about their personal image after watching tv. Additional Source – Black pathology is big business
Educators, stop thinking that the world is in irreversible downward sprial. WIth that mentality of course its not going to change. It takes blind faith in our devotion to our craft to help make those incremental differences that lead to larger scale change.
Get off your ass, and make a difference NOW in your family and community. It’s as simple as giving a banana to the hype that you make fun of everyday.
Deflecting the blame onto others, ensures that the “problem” will continue to happen. Find a solution, keep expanding that solutoin, and share it with others.
Stop helping people for a paycheck, OR relying on the people that do help people for a paycheck. You can be the one to bring change to the world. Don’t be the haystack, be the needle that everybody is looking for.
Tell Flex to drop a bomb on this shit/So many bombs, ring the alarm like Vietnam in this shit
So many bombs, make Farrakhan think Saddam in this bitch/One at a time, I line ’em up and bomb on they mom while she watchin’ the kids
I’m in a destruction mode if the gold exists/
I’m important like the pope/I’m a muslim on pork/I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the king of New York King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle them both/The juggernaut’s all in your jugular, you take me for jokes
Live in the basement, church pews and funeral faces/Cartier bracelets/for my women friends I’m in Vegas
Who the fuck y’all thought it’s supposed to be?/If Phil Jackson came back, still no coachin’ me
I’m uncoachable, I’m unsociable/Fuck y’all clubs, fuck y’all pictures, your Instagram can gobble these nuts
Gobble dick up ’til you hiccup, my big homie Kurupt/This the same flow that put the rap game on a crutch
I’ve seen niggas transform like villain Decepticons/Mollies’ll prolly turn these niggas to fuckin’ Lindsay Lohan
A bunch of rich-ass white girls lookin’ for parties/Playin with Barbies/wreck the Porsche before you give ’em the car key
Judgement to the monarchy/blessings to Paul McCartney/You called me a black Beatle, I’m either that or a Marley
I don’t smoke crack motherfucker I sell it/I’m dressed in all black, this is not for the fan of Elvis
I’m aiming straight for your pelvis, you can’t stomach me/You plan on stumpin’ me?/Bitch, I’ve been jumped before you put a gun on me
Bitch, I put one on yours, I’m Sean Connery/James Bonding with none of you niggas, climbing 100 mil in front of me
And I’m gonna get it even if you’re in the way/And if you’re in it, better run for Pete’s sake
I heard the barbershops spittin’ great debates all the time/Bout who‘s the best MC? Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y’all/New niggas just new niggas, don’t get involved
And I ain’t rockin no more designer shit/White T’s and Nike Cortez, this is red Corvettes anonymous I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhyming wit’/But this is hip-hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale/Pusha T, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller/I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas/They dont wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas
What is competition? I’m trying to raise the bar high/Who tryin’ to jump and get it? You better off tryin’ to skydive
Out the exit window of five G5’s with five grand/With your granddad as the pilot he drunk as fuck tryin’ to land
With the hand full of arthritis and popping prosthetic leg/Bumpin Pac in the cockpit so the shit that pops in his head
Is an option of violence, someone heard the stewardess said/That your parachute is a latex condom hooked to a thread
I got my ass handed to me yesterday, by none other than my principal… Go figure. I’m shitty beyond belief at her critique of my performance thus far. As you can see it’s 4:08am, I need to be up by 6:30am to have a decent start to my day. Overall she was dissappointed that my instruction had pretty much completely dropped off the map. Or at least it is far far far from the normal scripted curriculum we had been using in Just Words. She also feels I’ve neglected my IEP/Special Education duties.
My pushback was that, yes, my instruction has suffered, and perhaps is not the strongest now. However, I’m a new teacher, and have been entrusted with a hell of a workload. A workload you have decided to give me. At what point was I going to receive some type of mentorship/leadership from those more knowledgable and experienced about things so that I can do to make my curriculum and IEP’s better? In my opinion, I’ve been left to figure it all out on my own. Speaking solely on the special education side of my job I have shown very little comfortability with the process, and have always shown that I will do it wrong if someone isn’t available to help me. (competence is a better word, but thats not something I want to say in an official meeting) Quite frankly it should be no surprise to anyone that I’m continuing to struggle with my IEP’s, I have been struggling with them since day 1! Why am I getting in trouble for this when from my point of view I’ve clearly expressed my need for more support on multiple occasions to multiple people… Perhaps I’ll go into more details later.
At what point is it the student’s job to make sure they’re on top of everything, and at what point must the mentor(s) take that step to ensure their students are learning and growing in the areas they do and do not show competence!? It was a really really really difficult day, I was probably the most upset and bothered I’ve been all school year, even more so than the roommate fiasco. Luckily I stumbled on a few inspirational articles and videos that will hopefully keep me going strong through the end of the school year.
In the mean time check out Rita Pierson’s TED Talk – Every kid needs a champion
As a grad student we’re often asked to reflect on our teaching philosophy, and how we see ourselves decreasing the achievement gap. Over the past 11 months my philosophy hasn’t changed much. However, my understanding of the challenges faced by students growing up in an urban jungle like New York City has definitely become more clear. Here’s my first stab at my teaching philosophy from back in July 2012.
What does it mean to be a teacher of urban adolescents with disabilities?
Since beginning the application process for the New York City Teaching Fellows, I have consistently refined my understanding of what it means to be a teacher of students with disabilities in the twenty first century. I believe that I will need to seamlessly understand and care for the sensitivity of my students’ disabilities, all while still striving to push my students toward a positive well-being and holistic development, even if they don’t initially see the reason(s) behind my methods. Many times students may feel as though they know what the best direction is for themselves, but as a teacher, I must be sure to always steer my class in the direction that will enlighten them, and best prepare them for the end goal: graduation and being positive contributors to their communities.
I believe teachers need to have enough awareness in themselves to know what purpose(s) they stand for in life. It will be hard to direct students as they begin their expectations through academia and life if I, as a teacher, don’t know what life has taught me. Students want to feel like they know their teachers. How will they get to know me if you don’t know myself?
Students need an advocate that can fight for them behind the scenes in IEP meetings, meetings with administrators and meetings with parents. Being a strong advocate on my students’ behalf is important, but it must also take a backseat to advocating and fighting for my students in front of the classroom. They will need me to fight daily for their attention, support, and learning to ensure their growth.
Throughout my time as a Long Island University graduate student, I have been able to consume and digest many different articles and media clips showcasing the diversity and depth of the special education epidemic in America. These resources have been immensely informative and have strongly helped me cultivate the image I have for myself as a teacher in the New York City public school system.
“… [The] disproportionate referral and placement of African American students in special education has become a discursive tool for exercising White Privilege and racism… African American students are disproportionately referred to and placed in high-incidence special education categories of mental retardation, emotional or behavioral disorders, and learning disabilities… These realities suggest that “race matters,” both in educators’ initial decisions to refer students for special education and in their subsequent placement decisions for students identified and labeled as having disabilities” (Blanchett, 2006).
As a future special education teacher, I was disturbed to read about the history of special education, and how race, class, and culture have been used to determine potential learning gaps in a student. This was a red flag indicating that minority students were assumed to be at a disadvantage, and therefore more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability, due to the cultural trends of their households. This mentality was prevalent in special education’s infancy as a way to sustain the systematic framework of white privilege through our children’s public education. However, my fear comes from the understanding that today, many practitioners still view students with non-mainstream cultural beliefs and upbringings as disadvantaged compared to their assimilated counterparts based solely on their race, class, and culture. This has helped to perpetuate White Privilege and minority disadvantage.
Using race, class, and culture as a barometer for student disability is detrimental to our development as effective and agile teachers and more importantly the development of our students. The New York City Teaching Fellows program, in context, is comprised of hundreds of individuals looking to recast the mold that has thus far predetermined our students suppressed life opportunities, on top of the social, systematic, and economic challenges that their living situations may present. Our goal is to help close the achievement gap between urban schoolchildren and their private/suburban counterparts. I believe that there is a danger to framing inner-city education this way. This frame subtly supports the notion that race, class, and culture may in fact be one of the reasons why students have additional barriers to get an equal education. Whether these barriers are self-imposed or imposed by one of America’s many systems of oppression is less important than the knowledge that students from low-income backgrounds are academically behind their peers. The piece that gets lost in this argument is that the inner-city students still have the tools to become successful learners and productive citizens inside of them. Our students have been labeled to their own detriment, what they need are caring individuals in their lives who can see past their cultural differences to help show the children different ways to access the same academic knowledge as their suburban and private school peers.
As a new educator, I am concerned with helping my students increase their academic and personal development regardless of the level they come to me, and identifying new students that may need special education services to fully benefit from their education. My main challenge will be doing this without falling into the same cycle of elevated minority student identification and placement into special education. One of the techniques I believe will be important for me to use is the idea of personal narrative and personal agency.
“…research with those labeled as “others” – with the specific desire to use their own words to represent themselves – enables the co-construction of knowledge. Such knowledge, therefore, attempts to address widespread misrepresentation, as well as imbalances of power” (Connor, 2006).
As an educator, I need to assume that my students come with a level of competence and understanding of the world and their roles in it that I may not be aware of, or perhaps may want to overlook due to my status as the classroom leader. I want to infuse the concept of personal narrative into my instruction and classroom management to show students that I respect and accept them for who they are, knowledgeable beings. I come from a community-based organization that honored students’ agency in the programmatic decision making process. This agency gave us a better sense of what our young adults believed worked for them, and what helped them create a more solid view of themselves as young leaders.
I want my students to have the same agency in my classroom. Many people probably envision that teaching urban students with disabilities is a restrictive classroom environment. However, I think actively seeking out and using my students input will help transform my class into a more lively and enriching atmosphere for all of my classroom’s stakeholders. My students will feel empowered to be active participants in the creation and sustainability of my classroom culture. I will also bring empowerment into the classroom by helping my special education students grasp the steps involved in creating and implementing their individual education plans.
“Through our research on student-led IEPs, we found that students andteachers alike reported that students using this process knew more about their disabilities, legal rights, and appropriate accommodations than other students and the students gained increased self-confidence and the ability to advocate for themselves” (Mason, C. Y., MaGahee-Kovac, M., & Johnson, L., 2004).
The techniques will also help my students feel more independent, and capable of confronting challenges and working through problems with assistance from a supportive staff member.
In conclusion, the articles, videos, and the class discussions have helped increase my knowledge and understanding of the special education field in general, my own classroom practice, and personal philosophy as a teacher. I’m interested in seeing how my views and opinions about education shift through my years of interacting with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and government systems. My plan is to revisit this paper in my times of strength and struggle in a continued push for clarity.
Blanchett, W. (2006). Disproportionate representation of african american students in special education: acknowledging the role of white privilege and racism. Educational Researcher, 35(6), 25.
Connor, D. (2006). Michael’s story: “i get into so much trouble just by walking”. Equity & Excellence in Education, 39, 163.
Mason, C., MaGahee-Kovac, & M., Johnson, L. (2004). How to help students lead their iep meetings. Council for Exceptional Children, 18.
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:
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.
Somehow its been almost a year since the fellowship officially began. Here is a much needed Update Soup for you guys.
Spring Break was March 23 – April 2. Of course the break didn’t seem long enough, but it gave me the much needed rest I needed to help me get through the rest of the school year. Each day is still a struggle. Getting through the day is cool – I mean once you walk through the front doors you have to drop whatever barriers/doubts you have in your head because its countdown to first period. And trust me there are plenty of those days.
My biggest battle right now is with sleep. I’ve mentioned a few times here that my body has been training me for over 15 years to go through life with as little sleep as possible. Well its finally caught up with me. Its been really tough waking up each morning. Not because I don’t want to face the day – its more like my body has just been passing out and resists any urge to wake up. I feel like I dont even know what my alarm clock sounds like anymore. I never hear it in the morning. In the past two weeks I’ve been late to school (which is a huge no-no.) School starts at 8:20. I woke up at like…. 8:15, and hopped on the train at 8:30. I snuck into the school around 9, and of course it was the day when there were some major behavior issues that my co-teacher had to address alone. Just Thursday I woke up at 8:05, luckily I put a shirt on, jumped in a cab, and made it to school by 8:18. I paid $40 to go to a Brooklyn Nets game with my co-workers the other day. I think it was the last game of the regular season. I went home to take a quick cat-nap, and woke up in the 3rd quarter. SHITTY! Most recently some of my friends from YouthBuild came through my school to run a College workshop. They did an AMAZING job, and my students have been talking about them ever since. Afterwards we were supposed to meet up in Time Square at Dallas BBQ’s. Again, I went home for a quick nap – and I eventually woke up 2 hours after we were supposed to meet. Shitty again!
I saw one of the fellows mention in our Facebook group that she was dropping balls left and right, and that’s really the best way to describe how I feel right now. I try, try, try to stay on top of everything, but life right now is just a mess. I’m able to get through most of the teaching, and grad school parts of my life by just making it work. But I’m far behind when it comes to taking care of all of the Special Education and IEP paper work.
We’re in the final trimester, which we call Cycle. This Cycle I’m teaching Math, English, 3 Reading Intervention classes, Math Intensive (which is basically like a Math Intervention). This is my first time teaching math since we had to teach summer school for the fellowship. Initially I was a bit nervous about learning a new content area. I haven’t done serious math since high school – where I went from honors math to general math because I refused to do math homework every night. However, It’s honestly been a beneficial experience. I see many of my Just Words students in my math classes. It’s crazy seeing that students who may have deficient skills in reading/writing/English, can excel and actually enjoy the challenge of math and vice versa. As a teacher its also been interesting witnessing how students behave differently with different teachers, peers, and subject areas. Students who may be wild/uninhibited in one situation can be relaxed and focused in another. I’ve tried to use this to my advantage. Basically channeling their focus and restraint from one content area over to the next. Again, its all about challenging them on their leadership.
Here’s a quick glance at my teaching schedule this cycle
I’ve started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone in my Just Words class. The Just Words curriculum is beyond dry right now, and the students needed a different challenge. We do A LOT more one-on-one reading check ins now than we’ve ever done before. Pretty much everyday I’m grabbing about 2-4 students to read with me individually. It’s proved useful to get a sense of where my students’ reading confidence and abilities are. I use the time to build deeper relationships with my students, highlight their strengths/growth areas with their reading, and encourage them to read at home. I’ve also used the Harry Potter text as a read-a-loud text for the entire classroom. Many of the students are shy/nervous/self conscious about reading out loud. Right now my Just Words classes have 12 – 15 students. When we’re reading out loud generally only 3-4 of them volunteer to read. I’m working on getting more of them to jump in. One strategy I’ll try to use is pre-selecting paragraphs I want the less comfortable students to read. I’ll let them know as they walk through the door about their section. This way they can practice/review their sections a few times before they’re called. Hopefully this works, but I’m sure it will take more prodding than just this.
I feel like I’m developing into a stronger teacher. The art of teaching is a lot more natural now. I mean pretty much I come with a plan, tell the students the plan, initiate the plan, deal with inevitable student pushback, then push them to comply – or trick them into complying. It sounds robotic, but I call it calculated. Teaching, is really a game to get students to do what they didn’t want to do ten seconds prior. This looks different in the classroom everyday, and actually student-to-student. But the end goal is to get them to try something new/challenging so that they can learn. Some respond to a simple look into their eyes and a raised eyebrow, some respond to positive reinforcement, some respond to a reminder of classroom expectations, others respond to deeper private conversations – with a quick reminder of those conversations in class.
I haven’t met with my mentor all Cycle. You guys have heard about the lack of contact for a while… I’ve gotten used to it now. Not just with my teaching mentor, but I guess I’m just used to having to figure out situations for myself in general. It still sucks that I feel like I have to push myself with this work though. It’s partly why I “overachieve” or at least try to. LoL, like I said earlier though I’m dropping balls everywhere so I’m not quite the overachiever people think I am.
I still have no idea what I’m going to do about the LGBT group my students asked me to lead. Perhaps I should start with the Principal/Administrative team and see what they think. Actually that’s what I’ll do. When stuck, always ask/alert the powers that be. That’s what non profit life taught me. They should be able to help us figure something out what a next step should be.
I took about 3 weeks off from working out. March 31 was the last time I was in the gym before this week. If history has taught me anything life falls apart when I’m not in the gym. I’ve just found my way back this week. My goal is to go 3 times a week. Saturday and Sunday are pretty much a given. My schedule has been to go to LIU’s Library from noon – 6 when it closes on weekends. From there I head to Planet Fitness, followed by Barnes and Nobles or Starbucks. Around 10 o’clock I head off to catch a movie at the theater next to Barnes and Nobles. It’s usually my weekend treat to myself. I’ve seen Evil Dead (thumbs up) and Oblivion (so-so) in the past couple of weeks. Today on my agenda is 42.
Even with all of this I’m still enjoying my time here in NYC. Every day is still a new opportunity to grow. And unfortunately growth isn’t easy. One of these days I need to take some time to evaluate my goals and how I’m moving in correlation to them. Moving to NYC quickly put many of my goals within reach. I don’t think my vision for myself has kept up with the progress I’ve made. Anywho, I’m not sure how to end today. I just wanted to give a quick update about some of the things that take up space in my brain. Stay tuned and stay positive, and don’t forget to share Skool Haze with a friend.