A Day in the Life of a First-Year Teacher

Monday, October 22, 2012

Election 2012: The 13-Year-Old Version

My kids are very involved in the election. They are showing (relatively early for their age) signs of maturity, decision-making and voter education that is unprecedented for most middle school students. 

They are pretty educated about the issues going on right now and each candidate's position on the issues. 

Now, maybe it's because I'm strongly liberal and so are they, but I'll bet that conservatives would have a soft spot in their heart for my students and their participation in the election process. 

Was I this educated (or, quite honestly, interested?) about politics in 8th grade? Not at all. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

GO. FIGHT. WIN. - a story of school spirit

I have previously discussed on this blog about my shiny-glory days in high school, culminating in being voted as our high school's Class of 2007 "Most Popular Boy". For a brief time period during junior year, I dated our school's head cheerleader. It was a FUN (let me assure you, very fun... from the perspective of a 16 year old) experience, but didn't last very long. And at the end of the experience, I did learn a lot about relationships, why they usually don't work in high school and about members of the opposite sex. No offense female readers ;)

But one of the big things that I do remember from my experience with "Talia" is that cheerleaders have a ton of school spirit. From going to watch her practices to supporting her at our school's Friday night football games, I picked up a lot about what it really took to be a cheerleader - the head cheerleader - or, in other words, the school's "poster girl". This was high school.

My school right now, a middle school in the South Bronx, currently is in a friendly rivalry with a neighboring middle school. I would think it has something to do with gangs between the different neighborhoods, but that's not what the administration wants us to think. Our school administrators are also at it -from competing about basketball scores to NYS scores to which school has the best teachers -the rivalry between adults would seem intense. The students have also picked up on this, and have lately been hard at work brainstorming ways to beat this school (as opposed to, say, doing their homework...). 

Yesterday, I suggested to them: "You know guys, why not beat MS *** by showing them that you guys are better at math?". This was meant to be a joke, more or less, but my 8th graders really took that message to heart: agreeing and working twice as hard as they usually do in an effort to outperform this class. 

When I got home, I made a call to a teacher at this school and laid out the grounds for this "competition", He was thrilled! Clearly, this is a very unexpected occurrence in the school year. Miss Gonzalez and Mr. Gorbett have joined too.

Today, one of the girls in my class made a sign for me to hang up in my room: 


My kids, just like Talia, have a lot of school spirit. Maybe they are more motivated because of gang affiliation (although the vast majority of students from my observation are not affiliated with the neighborhood gang). But most are motivated because they want to show someone they are BETTER. This is an opportunity for them to apply what I have been telling them all along. 

Maybe this should continue for the entire year? I would LOVE to see my kids like this for the rest of the school year. 

May the best middle school win. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Re-Blog: Why Middle School?

This would be how I spend my lunch period on a Wednesday when the other teachers are at their meetings with Ms. Lopez...

The following post comes from John Spencer's blog "The Best Part of Teaching is...". You can find this blog at www.bestpartofteaching.wordpress.com. No copyright infringement intended.

Why Middle School?

For all their awkwardness, they often surprise me with their creatvity
"8th graders are the most understood people on the planet. Perhaps even the universe. Sure, they might talk too loud or tell a sub to fuck off or wear jeans that vacillate between sagging to their knees or skinny jeans that severely limit their movement. True, they have a tendency to be self-centered and to care too deeply about peer approval and to say things that are socially awkward or rude as they try to be ironic or cynical or whatever it is that grownups hold as social capital.

Get past this facade and you’ll see that the act is so opaque that the student becomes transparent. You see the pain and confusion of inhabiting a world of childhood and adulthood. You see the insecurities that they haven’t learned to mask as well as adults. You’ll see that they are misunderstood.

Look even further and you’ll see generosity and kindness. You’ll see an honesty that is rare among adults. You’ll see that they’re just beginning to question the answers after spending so long answering the questions. They haven’t bought into the lie that it must be “practical” to be important. 

You’ll see the dreamers, the existential wanderers, the rule-followers who are now questioning the world of rules that they’ve spent so long serving.

You’ll see documentaries that aren’t professional, but are amazing in their viewpoint. You’ll see murals that aren’t flawless but are beautiful in their flaws. You’ll hear voices passionately pursuing social justice without yet feeling jaded by the system.

And you’ll hear laughter.

You’ll see smiles.

You’ll see why some people have discovered that this age group is the education system’s best kept secret. And you’ll realize why we feel fortunate to have this job."

Friday, October 5, 2012

I always have that one group

This week has been extremely stressful. First, the amount of work (lesson planning, grading, dealing with students, teaching, conferences, etc.) has almost tripled from last week. No, it's not an exaggeration. I find myself running on only about 6-7 hours of sleep this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and not really engaging in my social life. This is much worse than my first year of teaching and the challenges posed this year are definitely greater.

Day in and day out, the challenges of my first period class this year are showing and growing. I quite possibly believe that this year's first period may be able to beat last year's second period as my WORST class. Not only do I have eleven (a student in 1st period was tested, diagnosed and placed on an IEP on Monday) students with special-ed requirements and IEP's, but I have a group of loud, obnoxious students - both guys and girls - added to my list of troublesome students. Put together, this comes to a total of 16. Out of 32 students. The other 16 students are MARVELOUS, angelic, motivated, diligent and behaved - and I feel really bad that they have to see me in my "not so good" state because of the other difficult half of the class. Don't get me wrong. I have NOTHING against students with IEP's or that are special ed... in fact, some of them are my best students. However, no teacher can contest to the fact that the greater the number of special needs students and IEP's in a class period, the greater the workload and the greater the challenges begin to come out from that class.

In this troublesome group...
  • 3 of the 5 students have F's in the gradebook right now. These F's range from a 17% to a 41%. The other two students have D's, ranging from a 59.6% to a 63%.
  • The students CAN NOT and probably WILL NOT stop talking!! Not when I'm lecturing, teaching, etc. Not in group or partner activities. Not in class activities. Not with the substitute teacher on Tuesday when I had a meeting.
  • Don't even get me started about their ability to stay on task... or how long they have been putting off making up tests, quizzes and homework assignments.
One thing they can be reliable for : showing up in class! They are almost NEVER gone. 1st period is not a pleasant class.

I really want to make this situation better. But for right now, I am so exhausted that I think I might go and take a nap.