A Day in the Life of a First-Year Teacher

Monday, December 17, 2012

When middle schoolers go wild

There's a boy on our team who's... well, let's just say that he's quite overweight. In fact, the other teachers on the team and I refer to him as "the big one" (kind-heartedly of course!). Anyhow, "the big one" is not very well respected by his peers, probably due to his weight. However, in the Bronx, it's not uncommon to see students 10-20 pounds heavier than they should be due to the sparse access to farmer's markets/healthier food options and high presence of bodega food (ex: chips, candy, gum, soda, etc.).

We all knew he was.. ahem.. *big*, but today he broke a new record even for himself. HE BROKE A DESK. IN MY CLASS. IN THE MIDDLE OF A LESSON. All the teachers this morning were a little stressed out because the discipline AP announced that he will be doing a special evaluation on our classroom management strategy/style/technique this week and will have a follow up meeting about classroom & behavior management soon. This is especially stressful for non-tenured teachers because this evaluation is one of many that will go in our tenure portfolios. (I'm up for tenure next year, and so far I've been exceeding expectations, but with the difficulty level of this year's students, I'm a little bit nervous about this upcoming evaluation.) Because this incident was so unexpected, I had no idea whatsoever about how I was going to begin to deal with this situation.

First off, my thoughts ran a little like this:
  1. How can someone as big as him even fit in one of those desks? (We were considering getting him a special desk to avoid an incident like this, but felt that doing so would isolate him and make his "situation" more obvious.)
  2. How in the world do you BREAK a desk?
  3. I wonder if he will ever live this down...
  4. Am I supposed to go and get help? From who? The custodian? Mrs. Brown (our team's science teacher next door)? Mr. O'Klay? (the discipline AP)
  5. This is definitely not one of the things they teach you at NYU Steinhardt School of Education. And Steinhardt has one of the top undergraduate teaching programs.
  6. Okay, the kids are laughing/taking pictures/whispering/taunting right now. Time to take action.
I ended up taking control of my class - silencing them, asking for all pictures/messages on their phones regarding this matter to be deleted, sent "big kid" to my desk for the rest of the period and mandated a "what happened in room 203 today stays in room 203" policy.

But all in all, it was a crazy day. The students never fully got back on task, and when I gave them their groupwork for the period and left the room to report the incident to the custodial office, Mrs. Brown had to come into my room and discipline the students for their (not excactly uncalled for) rowdiness: they RECREATED THE SCENE, continued taunting "big kid" for his accident, mocked his weight and well, did not do any of their groupwork.

Saved by the bell. Not long after I returned, the bell rang. Not too much learning happened the second half of seventh period. However, all teachers have those crazy days... just not many have crazy days like my South Bronx crazy days.

Teachers, any stories about your wild days? :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

First Quarter vs. Second Quarter

Undeniably, second quarter is SIGNIFICANTLY busier than first quarter! (As if you couldn't tell with the significant decrease in blog posts. Hopefully it will get better in the new year? I didn't have my blog running in the beginning of the year last year either...)

This year, being the first teacher in our school's history to teach accelerated 8th grade Integrated Algebra, I have been relegated to creating a school-wide curriculum for Integrated Algebra. It's time consuming, but I know it will save time in future years when (I better!) teach Integrated Algebra again. Also, changes in the 8th grade curriculum and the way our department chair/AP/principal wants to run the curriculum means additional planning for all 5 of my classes.

I find second quarter to be more difficult for the majority of my students, especially in 8th grade. We start hitting some more difficult concepts and sometimes it's challenging for students to keep up with the material. I always offer morning and after school tutoring sessions, but I find that fewer & fewer students are coming. The students that need these sessions the most are the ones that do not come.

Second quarter is also when a lot of families decide to capitalize on lower fares and send their children away to Mexico/Guatemala/Dominican Republic/Costa Rica/El Salvador, etc. to visit family -- for two, three, four weeks at a time - increasing their gap of knowledge during this extended vacation. This was not very prevalent last year, however, this year, I am finding a considerable number (about 3-4) in each class period. In math, it's hard to make up lost learning, which is why I highly discourage these extended trips.

However, on the bright side, teacher collaboration is up from first quarter and up from last year. The newest teacher to the math team, Mr. Gorbett, is AMAZING and highly innovative. Both Miss Gonzalez and I have used at least four of his lesson plans throughout this year. We are sharing more with each other and doing more collaborative work, and the results for our students speak for themselves :)

I am also very proud of Andres, a student in my 7th period Pre-Algebra class. During first quarter, Andres barely pulled a B -- an 80.1% --, goofed off in class and was occassionally disruptive and rarely completed his homework. He is a bright student, however, and the reason why his grade was so borderline that quarter was because, like I said, he ALMOST NEVER completed any homework assignments! I conferenced with him at the beginning of this quarter and we set a goal for classroom behavior and homework completion. Two weeks ago, Andres and I reached our first checkpoint of the quarter. He made it & we celebrated with New York cheesecake and pizza! Hopefully the goal setting and positive reinforcement for performing the correct behavior will influence him to continue this positive habit for the remainder of the year, into high school, and into college.

How's that for an update, guys? Thanks for reading and staying patient with me!!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Oh where oh were have I been?

Where have I been? This blog has been empty for over a month! :(

To all my lovely, loyal readers, I am so sorry that I haven't been updating this blog. I would like to take this space to let you know that:

1) I am still alive! I have not been eaten alive by my kiddos yet!

2) I am still teaching in the DOE and loving it.

3) My students have gotten better and I am actually starting to like my first period again... slowly, but steadily they are improving :)

4) I've already been observed and evaluated this year. My principal, Ms. Lopez came in on a Wednesday in November in my second Integrated Algebra class and observed a lesson on solving & graphing inequalities. In my post-observation conference, she went up to me, took my hand and said: "That was one of the best lessons I have seen in over ten years as principal of this school. Thank you so much for everything you do for your students."

Teaching in NYC is time consuming and I have had work PAST MY HEAD every week. However, that's not an excuse to stop blogging. I created my blog so that I could have space to reflect on my teaching, and unfortunately, with all the paperwork, lesson planning, etc. that I have had these past few weeks, not too much reflecting has happened.

I promise (!!!) that I will be better about updating you guys on my teaching adventures! My goal is at least 1 post a week -- hopefully 2 posts from now till the end of the school year.