A Day in the Life of a First-Year Teacher

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Always that ONE CLASS. Ugh.

I'm writing this right before I leave my classroom for a quick meal somewhere uptown and a grad school class at Columbia. 

As you probably noticed from my title, I am quite flustered right now because my 7th period is ALREADY DRIVING ME BONKERS. And don't get me wrong - I have 25 amazing, dedicated, funny, bright students in that room - but this group of 4 students (2 BOYS AND 2 GIRLS this time)... 

1. never stop talking
2. never participate in class
3. don't focus when I ask them to
4. don't listen to any of my warnings
5. don't do their assigned homework
6. make fun of me and other students in class
7. disrespected the assistant principal when he came in to give me some papers I missed because I couldn't attend an after-school meeting (you could only imagine how EMBARASSED and ANGRY I was)

All that and just soooo much more in the little over a week school has been in session. I thought I had my discipline skills down pat after I tamed and even grew to like my difficult group of students last year but I don't even know where to begin with this group. And it's distracting from my teaching - 7th period is so far behind the other 8th grade math classes that I teach. We don't get much done because I'm ALWAYS redirecting their behavior. I feel so bad for the other students because they have to deal with this. Also, 7th period is my second last class of the day, meaning I'm physically and mentally DRAINED after the bell rings for the end of that class. 

I've really had it with this group and I feel like a first-year teacher --no wait, my first year students were PHENOMENAL  (the vast, vast majority of them) -- when I say that I'm stumped on this group of students. Have I not connected with them? I feel like everything is going swimmingly with all the other classes and the other students in 7th period.. 

and i just really dont want to do an office referral on the second week of school

and detentions don't work well this semester because of grad school classes Tuesdays and Thursdays... 

Friday, September 13, 2013

so far, so good

First week of school: check! Everything went well. 
No major problems yet.
Loving my students, their personalities, their intellect, their humor and their potential. every second I get. 
Having a great time with my co-teachers. 
Lesson plans were all successful this year - even the new one I wrote for Pre-Algebra 8 and the two new ones I wrote for Integrated Algebra. 
Baseline Diagnostic Test scores - for MC at least - better than I thought. 

Two cons: 
1) HAVING TO WAKE UP EARLY. I hate mornings and everything about them. I'm not talking about 8 am wake-ups here. I'm talking 6:15 wake-ups, 6:45 out the door to the subway station, 7:30 arrival at school and 8 am ADVISORY. Ugh. 

2) THE HEAT. Please go away now! 

More updates to come soon. Stay tuned! 

I wonder where my roomies and I are going for dinner tonight. It's my turn to pay...

Poll Everywhere... Why I Wish All My Students Had Smartphones

This week in one of my grad school courses at TC, Columbia University, we were talking about using Poll Everywhere in the classroom. Poll Everywhere is a tech-savvy and innovative app that students can install on their phones that will allow them to respond to questions on my PowerPoints in real-time. Responses can be multiple choice and extended response - and will immediately pop up on the  PP screen. All students need is their own phone, tablet, laptop, etc. with the Poll Everywhere app. Poll Everywhere is free for teachers because each class has less than 40 students and we can make as many classes as we want :) 

If I was teaching on Long Island or in Yonkers or in Jersey, I would have my students download Poll Everywhere in a heartbeat. 

Poll Everywhere could serve INVALUABLE to my classroom because I can see if students are learning things as soon as we are finished discussing a concept- rather than relying on traditional exit slips, quizzes, etc. This is an opportunity for me to integrate technology into my classroom, the big 21st-century-we-must-do-this topic in education. 

Additionally, with the new Common Core currently in its second year in NY, my students can get real-time practice with Common Core like multiple choice and extended response questions, and allow me to critique their responses and modify lesson plans if needed to spend more time on a concept or area they are struggling in by Common Core definition. 

However, teaching in the South Bronx means that every kid having a phone is not a guarantee. I DEFINITELY don't want to alienate those who don't have the technology to participate in this endeavor, so I guess this is an opportunity I have to pass up. Maybe in the future.

Learn more about Poll Everywhere: http://www.polleverywhere.com
Maybe if you teach in the suburbs, you learned a new way to spice up learning and your classroom environment :) 

Sunday, September 8, 2013


At 6:30 am tomorrow morning, I will be beginning my 19th first day of school and my third as a full-time teacher in the NYC schools. Thankfully, that's not when school starts (though my school is starting at 8am this year which is definitely an unwelcome change!... I thought we talked about starting later??? What happened to 13/14 year-olds needing more sleep?) but that is the time when I need to slip out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, pack up and head out of Queens and take the subway into the Bronx. 

At this time, all systems are go for the first day of school. It's after labor day and I'm well rested. I've studied up on the Common Core and learned new teaching methods/techniques from TC, Columbia University, where I'm completing my master's degree. (I will be done by summer!!) I recently racked up $180 on school supplies, teaching supplies, lesson plans/activities, etc. for my classroom - all of which I will be reimbursed by the district. (However, inevitable additional spending will not be reimbursed for the remainder of the school year.) I have new outfits picked out from all my favorite NYC stores (Century 21! Gap! American Eagle! Nordstrom! Nordstrom Rack! Banana Republic! Old Navy! Kohl's! Aeropostale!...) as well as old outfits from student teaching and my first two years of teaching. My syllabi are typed up and printed out. My class calendars are typed up and printed out. Lesson plans, activities, objectives, tests, quizzes, etc. are written for the first three units (subject to change, however). All necessary information and logistics have been coordinated with my push-in teacher. Common lesson planning time has been planned with my co-teachers. 

I've never felt more prepared for the first day of school. However, there's still that bug in me right now. What will my students be like? What will my classes be like? Are we going to get along this year like in the past two years? How much are we going to learn? How long will the honeymoon phase last? Are we going to have hurdles in the beginning of the year? All of that is uncertain. Tomorrow, I will most likely begin my first year of teaching/first day of school in which I'm not visibly/outwardly nervous. Nevertheless, deep down inside, there's always the uncertainty, the hope, the what-ifs. 

The first day of school draws me back to why I became a teacher in the first place: to touch the lives of children, especially those from low-income backgrounds in neighborhoods ridden by crime and low educational attainment where the status quo is "you can't". My crusade over my four undergraduate years, two years of full-time teaching, student teaching and my long-term sub experience is changing the status quo to "YOU CAN". My parents, family members, EVEN FRIENDS  still ask me when I'm going to "get a real job". This is my "real job". I've had the chance to touch the lives of so many young people and really change their life trajectories. This is an opportunity - a privilege- offered to me by no other profession. Three years entering, I'm still as wide-eyed and idealistic as I was the day before my first year of teaching. The dream is still there, the passion is still evident. I'm being offered 180 days to make another set of 180-degree turn-arounds in my students. To inspire Jose and Juan to study hard and work towards their dreams. To impart to Maria and Daniela that their life doesn't have to be like their mother's - teen pregnancy, dropping out of high school, working two jobs in order to make $40-45k/year to support a family of five. To do everything in my power to keep De'Shaun off the streets. I'm not only imparting math knowledge and closing the achievement gap, but I'm inspiring my students and building lifelong connections with them. 

Yep, tomorrow's my 19th first day of school. Tonight, my roomies and I will do what we have for the past two years before the first day of school: they are leaving work early (in fact, arriving about 10 minutes from now!) so the four of us can go for a bike ride in Central Park, go to a nice restaurant in Manhattan and watch a movie/play/show together. It's a celebration. It's a new beginning.

Wish me luck tomorrow :)