Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Career Shopping" -- Creative Fiction about Choosing to be a Teacher

Tonight I came across a creative writing piece that I wrote two years ago for my Teaching English to Adolescent course. Once again, I was reminded of why I had really enjoyed this piece. Feel free to read it below in its entirety. My favorite lines (bias nonewithstanding) are:

In those eyes—25 desperate hopes, 25 whimsical dreams, 25 inquiring minds, 25 windows—some clear, some dim—to 25 fledgling souls, 25 rare chances for 25 daily successes, beginning with a single line interpreted 25 many ways by 25 unique beings.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today we’re going to learn…

* * *

Costume Career Shopping
By: Fatuma Hydara

In the middle of Ricky’s Costume Superstore, I stand, arms tender and shaking from the weight of numerous costume choices. With limited vision, I slowly make my way to the dressing room, mumbling “5” to the clerk in answer to her barely audible question of ‘how many items?’ Walking into dressing room 13, my lucky number, I throw my burden onto the seat, before turning to shut and lock the door. Click.

Taking a deep breath, and a quick look at my watch—crap, only have 20 minutes—I quickly grab the first costume and put it on. 

Twisting one way, then the other, the four mirror-covered walls capture the khaki shorts, polo tee, shades and imitation camera around my neck. I stop, lean closer, scrunch up my nose, make a decision. Nature photographer for National Geographic? No.

Costume Number Two: A white coat, stethoscope, smiley face sticker and lollipops as props. Single shake of head. Pediatrician? Nuh-uh.

Costume Number Three:  Business wear, microphone, notebook and pen. …Still not quite right. Journalist? Not happening.

Costume Number Four: Business wear again, more old-fashioned. Silver wire rimmed glasses attached to a sterling silver chain. Pile of books in arm. Closer look in mirror. Nearly, not quite. Love the books, not the rest. Librarian? No way. 

Costume Number Five: Business wear once again. Sigh…but wait? Another look—more casual, comfortable. Grade book and novels in one hand. Apple in the other. Staring intensely, straighten up. Turn this way, turn that way. A smile. It’s perfect. Almost. 

If only I was in—wind, gust, momentarily blindness, ending—in a classroom.
A blink. Another. Gaze clears. One pair of brown eyes meets 25 other pairs in varying shades. 

In those eyes—25 desperate hopes, 25 whimsical dreams, 25 inquiring minds, 25 windows—some clear, some dim—to 25 fledgling souls, 25 rare chances for 25 daily successes, beginning with a single line interpreted 25 many ways by 25 unique beings.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today we’re going to learn…

How to read, to write, to explore, to live.
How to scream, yell, give voice to pain.
How to survive, to be, to succeed.
How to care, to love, to share.
How to rearrange the letters in D-R-E-A-M and make them R-E-A-L-I-T-Y.
How to fly, to run, to jump.
How to smile, to laugh, to grin, to smirk.
How to…

Sudden wind, gust, momentarily blindness. A blink. Another. Gaze clears. One pair of brown eyes looking at their twin. In those eyes—a single burning flame of passion, a single determination, a single goal to be the greatest English teacher to ever live. 

Another look at my wrist, “Time to go.” Frantic undressing, messy repackaging. One last guilty look at the mess left behind, I unlock the door and hurry to the register. ‘Will that be all?’ ‘Yes, found the perfect one’. Proud Smile. “That’s be $200,000, please’. Cringe, wince. Reluctant handing over of credit card. Deep breath. In six years, it’ll be worth it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

[Unit/Lessons] Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare  

Romeo and Juliet Unit Plan
Performance Tasks Packet for Unit (Four Major Unit Assignments Included)

Lesson 1: Introduction to Romeo and Juliet (Day 3 of Unit Plan)

Students will be asked to listen to clips from the 1996 Romeo and Juliet movie soundtrack, read the prologue, and make predictions about the play.

Lesson Plan
Prologue Text
Soundtrack Lyrics
Student Handout

Lesson 2: Characterization (Act I) (Day 5 of Unit Plan)

Students will characterize major characters using bubble maps.

Lesson Plan
Student Notes Handout
Idea Map Model Handout
Student Task Instructions
Student Exit Ticket

Lesson 3: Psychological Theories of Love  (Day 21 of Unit Plan)

Students will be introduced to well-known psychological theories of love and begin applying them to Romeo and Juliet.

Lesson Plan
Teacher Lecture Notes
Psychological Theories of Love Assignment (Task #1 in Unit Packet)
Rubin Scales of Liking and Loving Questionnaire
Student Notes Handout

Lesson 4: Debate (Day 18 of Unit Plan)

Students are introduced to the art of debate as they argue the question of "Who is most to blame for Romeo and Juliet's untimely deaths?"

Lesson Plan
Introduction to Debate Handout
Student Debate Notes Handout

Lesson 5: Culminating Assignment (Day 25-26 of Unit Plan)

Students are introduced to the unit's culminating assignment, a comparing and contrasting essay.

Lesson Plan
Comparing and Contrasting Essay Rubric
Organizing Comparing and Contrasting Essays Handout
Student Outline Handout

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alternative to Detentions

This week I've been substitute teaching for a Math Special Education teacher. It's always nice being at the same school for a few days in a row. I'm even starting to feel like a member of the team.

Anyway, one thing I've seen one of the other teachers doing that I love is that instead of giving students detention for chewing gum, coming late or whatever, she puts them to work! She's had a stream of students coming in during lunch to help her file papers for 20 minutes each. I think that's genius. Not only is her paper pile shrinking by the day, but the students are being productive.

Detention is pretty useless as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't deter students from repeating the same behaviors. However, putting them to work may be more effective. I mean how much paper filing or board cleaning or pencil sharpening can one student handle before deciding to straighten up. I think system of community service in relation to the violated rule would be a whole lot more effective than detention.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Becoming a Teach for America 2014 Corp Member

Before last December, my knowledge of Teach for America consisted of the following: a non-profit organization that trained college students for five weeks and then threw them into the neediest urban schools. (Not the most positive of viewpoints, I know.) As a student of a traditional teacher preparation program, I was immediately put off by the thought of placing "teachers" with just five weeks of training into the most challenging classrooms. What could they possibly do in that short time that could ensure that these first year students don't crash and burn? Also, I didn't believe that I qualified for TFA as I was already on track to becoming a teacher. I didn't give the organization much thought until I received a random email from a TFA recruiter asking to speak with me about an employment opportunity.

I probably would have ignored the email as spam if not for three things:
1) It was December and I was graduating in three weeks.
2) I hadn't started the job search, didn't know where to even begin and was seriously freaking ou.
3) I LinkedIn stalked the recruiter and he seemed nice (and legit).

And so I scheduled the phone interview. (Personal tidbit: Phone interviews give me hives. I'm not sure why they bother me so much, but I'd take on an in-person interview any day of the week.)

The (Dreaded) Phone Interview:

During the interview, the recruiter gave me some information about TFA and their mission. He painted a picture of the startlingly educational inequality in our country. 50% of American students live in this poverty and only 16% of them graduate high school.

TFA's Mission: 

Teach For America’s mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by developing such leaders.
After the conversation, I was still unsure about joining TFA. TFA doesn't have the best repution amongst educators who critique their methods of placing recent college grads in schools for two years. " They" accuse TFA of adding to the problem of high teacher turn over rates and the instability, due to constant change, of NYC's education system, amongst other things.

However, at the core I agree with TFA vision of ensuring that all children in America, despite socioeconomic background, receive a quality education.

With the job market the way that it is, I figured that having an entire organization working towards getting me hired couldn't be such a bad thing. Add the other benefits of being a TFA corp member, such as additional support and mentoring, grants for grad school, and more training to supplement what I've already received from Pace, I decided to join. 

The Application Process:

The TFA application is intensive. There's a two hour online application requiring your basic information, course list, transcripts, recommendations, and written responses.There's a phone interview and then a full day final interview (which I skipped straight to). The final interview is 9-5, with the morning dedicated to sample lesson plans and information. For the afternoon, everyone scheduled a 40 minute 1:1 interview. I went first, so I could get it over with. It was also intense and very in-depth. I must have done fine, since I was given an offer.


TFA's biggest concern is the kids, so when assigning corp members subjects and placements, they consider the schools' needs before members' preferences. As I was applying, I knew that despite TFA's stance and due religious and familial obligations, I wouldn't accept an offer that didn't place me in New York City, teaching English 7-12. I was sure that such inflexibility would ruin my chances of being accepted. Imagine my surprise when I'm not only accepting into the NYC corps, but also assigned to English 7-12, General Education K-6, and Special Education K-9.

Wait. General Education K-6? Special Education K-9? Before I could even think about accepting the offer, I had to verify how likely I would be placed in an elementary school or a different content areas. I wasn't willing to work towards a different degree and license. Phone conversations with members of the TFA New York team alleviated those concerns as I was assured that the organization would try their utmost to find an English placement. I could also go to grad school for whatever I wanted (Iona's dual Literacy/Special Education program, here I come!). Apparently, my initial certification was a key component of my application because specific content assignments are supposedly rare. Guess it seemed glaringly obvious to TFA that I am only capable of teaching English.

And so I clicked JOIN on March 23rd, 2014. Since then, I've been hard at work learning about the TFA hiring process (they kind of take over), creating a new TFA-specific resume (as if creating the first one wasn't hard enough), and completing a hiring survey.

The next step is going on intereviews and waiting for offers. Wish me luck!

Until next time,