Sunday, March 30, 2014

Project: Personal Common Core ELA Standards Document

I know that my next post was supposed to be about my decision to join Teach for America, but as we educators are acutely aware of--plans change. =)

Instead, let's chitchat a bit about the common core.

As someone who recently graduated, I was introduced to the common core standards before entering the classroom. (Thank God.) While I've studied them to a certain extent, I recently made a new discovery that I hadn't noticed before.

In the past whenever I looked at the common core standards, I looked at it from a grade-specific viewpoint. Choosing the grade I needed and looking at all (or some) of the standards for that grade. However, a few months ago I thought to myself: If the purpose of the common core is to prepare students from K-12 for college, how do the standards become increasingly more difficult as students progress through the grades? So, I sat down, chose a single standard and looked at it from K-12. I was stunned by how much sense the progressive made. The common core standards do clearly show how students should increasingly develop particular skills. I got to thinking some more. How can this new discovery help me and other teachers?

By understanding what is new in terms of skills for each grade level, it makes it easier to discern students' grade levels (in terms of the common core) and how to get them to grade level. It also makes clearer for teachers what skills from the previous year they will be building on in the current school year. This inspired me to create a new document that would present this progression of the skills more easily. While it's still a work in progress, here's a glimpse of the first reading standard for grades 6-12.

As you can see, it's the same anchor skill, but students are expected to utilize the skill in a more sophisticated way each year (see italics). Students progress from simply stating evidence, to evaluating evidence, and evaluating text.

Some questions still remain for me in regards to the supposedly increasing difficulty of what's expected of students.
  • In what way(s) does textual evidence that "most strongly" supports an analysis (Grade 8) differ from simply citing "strong and thorough" textual evidence (Grades 9-12)? While in grade 8, the student is evaluating which piece of evidence is the strongest, who is deciding that a piece of evidence is "strong and thorough" in the high school grades? The student or the teacher?
  • Why are grades 9-10 and 11-12 lumped up together? I've always wondered at this. Do they expect it to take two years to master these particular skills? 
I just wanted to quickly share some of my thoughts and I started working on this document tonight. I'll post the full document when I finish.

Laters Gators,

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sub Adventure #18: 9th and 10th Grade Art in the Bronx

Thursday's adventure was one of the best that I've had yet. It was the first day of a four-day assignment as I'm covering for a teacher who is attending an art education conference in California (lucky her!).

There was a bit of a hiccup when I arrived because apparently the school put in the order for a sub twice and School Professionals sent two subs. Fortunately, I was the one who got to stay and he other guy went home.

I met the teacher who was leaving later in the day. She left excellent plans and made sure I was prepared before she left at 2:30. The last two periods I had after were great. The students were mostly on task and cooperative, except for a few. I put on some Adele and joined the students by beginning the same art project. (Not only was it fun, but it helped me to better help students who were having trouble because I understood it myself.)

After the school ended I faced a dilemma. I had an open house at a charter school that I'm very interested in and I had two options.
A. I could go straight there and arrive an hour and a half early.
B. I could run home, chill for 30 minutes, and arrive on time.

I chose option two. Big Mistake. It took longer than expected to arrive home and I only had enough time to toss my shoes (I had changed shoes because my wimpy feet were paining me) and uneaten lunch onto the table. "Hi Mommy, bye Mommy," and I was back out the door and running for the next scheduled train.

By the time, I came home at 9pm, I was exhausted. I think it was worth it as I was able to leave my name and inform them that I was a 2014 TFA corp member and requested that my resume be sent to their school. The recruitment person assured me she would discuss with her boss whether a particular TFA member could be requested for interview. Score!

Have I told you guys about my joining Teach for America? No? Well, look out for the next post. I'll be sure to tell you the story.

Til then,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sub Adventure #17: 7th Grade Math & 11th Grade English in the Bronx

As you can possibly deduce from the title of this post, today's adventure was a crazy one, putting me in both a middle school and high school.

Everything started perfectly enough with a shorter day schedule at a school where I had previous subbed. The first period, I was free. Things took a turn for the worst during second period. Apparently, the 7th graders were scheduled to go on a movie trip. However, the HS principal decided that they should go later in the day so as not to miss important classes. Unfortunately, none of the teachers (including the teacher I was subbing for) had plans. Add in the fact that I was subbing for a sub who didn't have a set curriculum in place, the students didn't have a math textbook, and many of them left their books at home thinking that they wouldn't need them, I was a little lost as to what to do. I did have a game planned (SNAKE), but I was unable to get the students' cooperation as they were already in the "triptriptrip" mind frame and there was no going back. I had to call for reinforcement who helped straighten everything out. This meant switching me with another sub in the high school. So, off I went to cover a high school English class. Thankfully, this teacher left very clear plans and there were no other issues.

Tomorrow, I'm off to start a four day assignment substituting for high school art at the same school from Sub Adventure #4.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sub Adventure #16 - 11th and 12th grade History in the Bronx

This was one of my easiest, most laid back adventures. 1) I've been to this school before so the usual anxiety wasn't present. 2) The teacher left clear plans. 3) 90% of the juniors were gone on a college trip. I had about 25 students altogether in five periods. 4) Students simply worked independently on a project as I supervised and wrote blog post drafts.

Other items of note:
- I should have eaten more than yogurt for breakfast. The teacher I was covering (poor guy) teaches four periods straight after a 1st period prep. I was starving by 6th period lunch.
- The seniors were a hoot. They were reliving/retelling some while night they had. The bits and pieces I heard worried me and I told them so. (A man with a pitbull, a random building, a person trapped, a life saved, a bag of Cheetos eaten, jelly beans eaten, and an arrest.)
- I dunno how I feel about one of the female seniors saying that I'm so "cute" after Chatting with them a bit about my Nerd status and non-participation in Pace party life.

Well that's that. Don't know where I'll be tomorrow. No assignment as of yet.

Til the next adventure,

TCRWP 86th Saturday Reunion Part 1: Ideas and Quotes Worth Mulling Over

The TCRWP's Saturday Reunion began with education historian, Diane Ravitch, as the featured speaker. Titled, Rescuing Education, her presentation focused on the issues in education from teacher ratings to the constant reforms.

While Ravitch shared insightful information about the abysmal state of education in the United States, her speech came across as sometimes harsh and unyielding. She made strong comments about Teach for America and first year students that instinctively put my back up. Though her conclusions were based on research, she didn't follow up with the positive sides, leaving both populations potentially offended.

#ThatAwkwardMoment when you're listening to a speaker denounce TFA and you're considering accepting their offer.

#ThatSecondAwkwardMoment when the speaker claims that (according to research), first year teachers are so poorly trained that they actually harm students and you've only been certified for 45 days.

Nuggets of Enlightenment from Ravitch:
  • The common core violates the requirements for writing standards as laid down by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Read more about Ravitch's ideas on this here.
  • Reformers are trying to create a universal outlet for learning, but "students are not appliances to be plugged in and teaching cannot be standardized. Just let us teach!"
  • Standardized tests have no diagnostic value as they only measure the achievement gap, instead of actually close it.
Ravitch suggests that:
  1. Teacher-made exams replace standardized tests to increase diagnostic value.
  2. Standards be made more user/student/teacher friendly and are constantly reviewed and revised as necessary.
  3. Teachers should teach what they love. The choice should lie with the teachers, not "them."
  4. Create authentic assessments that test real-world skills.
After the opening presentation, hundreds of teachers made a mad dash for the Session I workshop of their choice. A full workshop meant another dash to your next choice. It was both exhilarating and terrifying.

I strategically chose Mary Ehrenworth's workshop, The Project's Latest Thinking on Essay Writing, as it was in the same room as Ravitch's. Ehrenworth began with defining the illustrious essay. Back in the day, the essay was a space for writers to come to new understanding about a topic. As such, the thesis was often towards the end or even only implied. However, our concept of the essay has changed. Now, essays are meant to inform express opinion, persuade, or present an argument.

It's clear that there is a need for strengthening student writing, especially when it comes to essay writing. In her workshop, Ehrenworth shares a few strategies for raising the level of essay writing in schools.

See the Strategies part of this TCRWP series here.

For Session II, I found myself in another writing workshop with Ms. Ehrenworth. In Increasing Cohesion or Transference, the focus was ensuring the skills/knowledge from previous grades are enforced and strengthened in the next. Click the link above to see the strategies for this workshop as well.

Espana, Center.
I was especially excited for session III, as I looked forward to Carla Espana's Ten Culturally Relevant Read Alouds. This workshop was mostly a list of resources and suggestions for how to use them in the classroom. See the Resources part of this TCRWP series for a list of books here.

However, Espana began with presenting the positives of using culturally relevant texts in the classroom:
  • increase reading proficiency
  • increase engagement
  • connection to students' cultural background knowledge/schemas
  • actively moving beyond tolerance to affirmation, solidarity, and critique of diverse cultures
I burned more calories trying to get to Gerrit Jones-Rooy's workshop on Engaging the Disengaged than to the previous three workshops combined. I was able to easily find the right building, but I could not find the stairway that would take me up to the second floor! When I did eventually find it, it was purely accidental and I thanked my lucky stars.

So, this workshop presented some great strategies for getting students engaged with reading. Nothing breaks a Book Nerd's heart into tiny pieces faster than a child saying, "I hate reading." *clenches chest* Just. typing. those. words. . . . so painful.

According to Jones-Rooy, the issues that need to be tacked are:
  1. Readers' understanding of what reading actually is and the distinction between dormant and resistant readers.
  2. Fostering a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset.
In addition, what we must believe and understand are that:
  • "Reading is boring" actually means "I need help with this."
  • Engaging students in lessons, read alouds, and fluency should be the #1 priority.
  • Middle school students (and high school as well) care more about what their friends think than what their teachers think. (Use to your advantage, baby!)
  • Textual lineages allow students to be hooked into reading by their interests. As Ehrenworth mentioned in her Increasing Cohesion and Transference workshop, "all children are secret geeks about something."
See strategies for how to present reading and books in a positive light from Day 1 here.

 The closing for the TCRWP Saturday Reunion was presented by the hilarious Kathy Collins, who Some Musings About What Matters Most When Most Everything is High Priority.

The Musings:
  • Refer to students as the children (or teenagers) that they are. This keeps teaching personal as "we may do things to students that we wouldn't do to children."
  • The DOE broke up with us. What do you do when someone breaks up with you? You cry, scream, or eat ice cream, but then you start working past it, remembering what's important. Teachers need to move pass each reform/change and remember what's important--the children.
  • It's "easy to feel bad and inferior," but focus on the simplicities of teaching.
  • Simple Dreams for Children:
    • Children will be strong readers who love to, choose to, and share reading.
    • Children will have wide-ranging reading appetites and highly functional reading habits.
    • Children will believe that when they give something to a text, they get something back. "Let the text inspire you to say, think, feel something you never said, thought, felt before."
The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project's 86th Saturday Reunion was an amazing experiencing and I learned so much. I'm looking forward to the 87th reunion next Fall.

Read Part 2 and Part 3 of this series for strategies and resources.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Unit: Introduction to Writing Process

The first unit I taught to the Freshman Writing Seminar was regarding the Writing Process. I wanted to give students a chance to practice different strategies and to experience the writing process from beginning to end. This unit consisted of several lessons with students learning about and practicing pre-writing, thesis statements, drafting, revising, and editing. Lastly, students experienced the writing process in its entirety with the Beatles Essay Project.

Click the links to access unit documents.

Lesson 1: Pre-writing (Selecting Strategies)

EQ: Why do we pre-write? What are some pre-writing strategies?

Lesson Plan
Essentials of Life Worksheet

Lesson 2: Pre-writing (Collecting Strategies)

EQ: How can I best collect information for a specific topic in preparation for beginning a draft?

Lesson Plan
Graphic Organizers

Lesson 3: Thesis Statements

EQ: What is a thesis statement? Why do we need one? How do we write effective thesis statements.

Lesson Plan
Thesis Statement Practice

Lesson 4: Drafting

EQ: What are the parts of an essay? What are some important tips to keep in mind when drafting?

Lesson Plan

Lesson 5: Revising

EQ: How do we revise our writing to improve our ideas, organization, and voice?

Lesson Plan

Lesson 6: Peer Revisions

EQ: How do we revise our writing with the help of our peers?

Lesson Plan

Lesson 6: Editing/Proofreading

EQ: How do we edit/proofread our writing to improve our writing? How is editing different from revising?

Lesson Plan
"Proofreading Pro" Handout

Unit Project: Beatles Essay

Beatles Assignment Handout
Beatles Essay Hand-in Checklist
Beatles Essay Rubric

Note: Some handouts referred to in lesson plans are missing as I no longer have access to the original Writer's INC resource.

While students worked on their Beatles drafts, I thought it quite appropriate to play of their hits in the background. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Attending the 86th TCWRP Saturday Reunion

I first heard of the Columbia Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunions from a fellow teacher-in-training's Facebook status. As she had posted from the Teachers College at the time, it'd been too late for me to have attended the Fall reunion, but that same day, I added the date of the Spring reunion into my calendar. In October/ November.

So, you could say I was really looking forward to today's event and all of the possible workshops. Yet, I contemplated not going because I was so exhausted from a full week of substitute teaching and the thought of waking up early on a Saturday made me question my sanity. However, I knew I would regret not going, so I got my butt up bright and early and off I went.

It was as amazing, actually even more so, than I had expected. I learned so much. More importantly, I came away with clear strategies and resources that I could use in a classroom as early as Monday (if I, you know, had my own classroom). #SmallDetails #Don'tSweatTheSmallStuff

I'm planning a three part blog post regarding the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunion.

Part 2: New Strategies to Implement in Any Classroom
Part 3: Recommended Resources

Look for the above posts very soon. Any readers who were at the Reunion, please feel free to connect via commenting or email! 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sub Adventures #15: High School Health in Washington Heights (Days 2 & 3)

Yesterday, there wasn't much to write about. I arrived on-time, most students were rowdy and didn't complete assigned work, and I became incredibly frustrated.

Today, I reset the tone and mood for the problematic classes. The first two periods were nearly empty as the juniors had left for their three-day college trip. In period one, there were only two students. In period two, there were none! So, I enjoyed an additional impromptu prep period. Period 3, 5, and 6 were my problematic classes (9th and 10th graders). For the past two days, they've been getting away with yelling, throwing paper balls and pens, touching one another, wandering the classroom, and not completing the assigned work. Not today.

I made sure to stand at the front of class, urging students to come in quickly and take a seat. When it was time to begin class, I shut the door and considered those students loitering outside late. I told them to find a seat where they would okay for the next three days because I'm doing a seating chart. Once everyone settled down, I went around and had students write their first and last names down. Knowing someone's name gives you a certain level of power over them. In the case of students, I could now hold students accountable for their behavior. After completing seating chart, I reviewed expected behaviors:

"The way you've been acting for the past two days? Not happening anymore. You guys know exactly what kind of behavior is expected in the classroom and I'm not going to accept anything else. So, no yelling. Cell phones? You know you shouldn't have them out. I don't want to see them or hear them. Keep your hands to yourselves. Stay seated unless you have a purpose for being up. And I don't want to see anything flying across the room. If I see any of this, you won't get a warning, I'll simply write you up and send you to the dean. Now, our task for today . . . "

Sure, there were still students who didn't complete the work, but their behavior was a lot more appropriate. I could now call certain students by name to bring attention to their behavior. And the fact that I knew their names made the students reluctant to misbehave.

By reestablishing my authority in the class and gaining control, I was able to get to know the students a little more and enjoy my time there. I expect the rest of the week to continue just as smoothly as long as I remember that consistency is key.

Monday, March 17, 2014

William Glasser's Control Theory and the Interactive Classroom

I'm currently reading a collection of articles, Managing the Interactive Classroom by Kay Burke, of which the first is "The Key to Improving Schools: An Interview with William Glasser" by Pauline B. Gough.

In this interview with Gough, Glasser explains that the core of disciplinary problems in schools is due to students disbelief in the usefulness of school. Students do not see school as a means to satisfying their needs. This disbelief in schools leads to students being unwilling to work, or misbehavior as students try other means to satisfy needs.

What are those needs? According to Glasser, they're more than the need to survive (most students have their basic needs for survival already met, think Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs). Instead, students have a need for love, power, freedom, and fun.

Glasser's Control Theory holds that people are "internally motivated and driven . . . to try to survive and try to find some love, some power, some fun, and some freedom" (7-8).

Glasser believed that those needs are more naturally met in group environments and in collaborative activities. By encouraging students to work in "learning teams," they feel like important members of a group and are thus more willing to work hard towards a common goal for the success of the group.

What does this mean for teachers?

Our roles change to that of a facilitator. It becomes our job to set up a workspace that makes students want to learn, that cultivates collaboration, and holds students accountable.

Teachers can't make students learn, but they can certainly set things up so that students want to learn.  - Glasser, p. 16
However, simply putting students into groups isn't enough, Glasser warns (18). "What is needed instead is a team assignment, one that can't be completed unless the team works together[,] . . . causes students to want to work together, because they perceive that together they can do a great job, but independently they can do very little" (18).

What are my thoughts on Glasser and the Control Theory?

I believe that there is definite merit in his ideas that students must feel important in order to have vested interest in something. The most eye-opening lesson from this article is that group work alone isn't enough. Teachers need to create group tasks with the goal of eliciting true collaboration between students, in which each member of the group is vital for successful completion of the task. Otherwise, you'll see the usual pitfalls of group work.

Off to think up some true team assignments for an English classroom. Ta-ta!

Sub Adventures #14: High School Health in Washington Heights (Day 1)

Day one of the week-long physical education/health assignment was pretty run-of-the-mill. Nothing too exciting happened. An article about "The Skeletal System" was left for students to read and summarize.

During the first period, the students were mostly concerned with an upcoming three-day college trip for the Juniors, but most of them still completed their work.

Second period had only eight students who started an intense game of "Keep Away" with one student's snackage. I confiscated the snacks in the name of "safe keeping" and returned them to the student at the end of the period.

For third period, there wasn't a lesson left, so I found something in the Health textbook that I felt the students would find interesting and be willing to do: Write a dialogue between two teens in which one wants to get a tattoo and the other explains the health and social risks.

I also had to reallyreallyreallyreally use the potty during third period. The pressure on my bladder was maybe a six on the pain scale. It was the longest 52 minutes of my life.

Things Not Mentioned in Teacher School Disclaimer:

Strategic bathroom breaks are a necessary skill for the effective teacher. Have three morning classes in a row? You may want to hold off on finishing that 16oz coffee. 

The teacher left her computer turned on and logged in. Score! I was able to check my email and begin a draft of this post during my prep.

Public Announcement:

There is a new phenomenon in high schools of students writing their Instagram/Twitter handles on classroom whiteboards.

Until tomorrow's adventure,

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sub Adventures #13: 7th Grade Math in Washington Heights

I returned to the same school from Sub Adventures #2. Having spoken to a teacher from the school at Wednesday's charter school career fair, it was a great opportunity to continue to learn more about the school and to network.

Friday's adventure was for 7th grade math. The teacher left math packets for the students to complete. The students mostly behaved and were on-task, except for a couple of knuckleheads.

A normal day of subbing, so there's not much to say, but here are some gems I found near the teacher's desk.

Here's a great quote I found hanging on the wall near the teacher's desk. I was struck by the pure truth in the statement.

Here's a Quiet bell that I can see being very handy in the classroom. The teacher even had it personalized with her name on the top of the handle.
(For anyone looking to buy me a present: HINT HINT.)

I found this gem after a bit of bookshelf snooping. Tales from Shakespeare by Tina Parker, ten of Shakespeare's most popular plays re-told as stories for a middle school audience. Excellent resource for introducing students to Shakespeare. Get them hooked on the amazing stories, before they struggle with the language and depth of the plays.

For Sub Adventures #14 - 18, I'll be returning to the same school, but this time for a week-long high school physical education assignment. It'll be nice to go to the same school each day for a change. Being able to wear sweats and sneakers for a week is just the cherry on top. (I'll be sure to enjoy it while I can.)

Sub Adventures #12: 5th Grade History in the Bronx

On Thursday (3/13/2014), I substituted for 5th grade history at a private school in the Bronx. I normally stay far away from elementary school assignments (the thought of being in a room alone with 25 knee-high children sends shivers down my spine), but I decided to accept for two reasons:

1) I had plans to go to dinner with friends. The assignment was close by and ended early enough to give me time to run home and get prettified.
2) Having attended, student taught, and substituted at only public schools, I was curious about private schools and how different they really are from public schools.

I experienced a bit of a culture shock that I quickly got over, when I first arrived. There were some differences in the atmosphere of the private school that surprised me.
- the teachers seemed less frazzled than their public school counterparts
- sprawling beautiful campus with a maze of halls
- catered lunch for the teachers--everyday (I had beef stew and steamed potatoes. Yum!)
- books galore! Each classroom was overflowing with a varied library of brand new books

On to the kiddies: they were so cute and oh-so energetic.  Like energizer bunnies after three cups of coffee.

For the first time, I wasn't left with a written lesson plan from the teacher or admin. I was given copies of Scholastic News. I chose an article about Jerrie Mock being the first woman to fly around the world and quickly planned a lesson.

"Who was the first female to fly around the world?" I began the lesson with this question. The students responded with "Amelia Earhart" as expected. We read the article aloud. Then I had the students write and discuss their responses to the following prompt: Why is Amelia Earhart more well-known for being the first woman to fly around the world? Is this fair? Why or why not? Lastly, the student wrote creative pieces about their own trip around the world and volunteers shared their stories with the class.

The creativity of the 5th graders was astounding. I had one student read aloud in an Australian accent, which was doubly impressive and amusing. Two students wrote poems, instead of stories. Students in another class decided to work in groups and wrote/performed skits.

Overall, it was a great day, but my goodness are 5th graders energetic. I was absolutely exhausted. As I was walking to the bus stop, I posted the following Facebook status in apology of my previous teasing scorn of childhood education majors. They just play all day, I laughed. Oh, how ignorant t'was I?

In my next adventure, I return to the same school of Sub Adventures #2.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sub Adventures #11: 8-11th Grade Theatre in the Bronx

I got a call at 5am this morning for an assignment in the Bronx, covering for Theatre/Drama classes! The shortened day (ending at 2pm) was perfect as I am attending the NYC Charter School Career Fair tonight from 7pm-9pm, allowing for an afternoon nap. *fist pump*

First thing I noticed was how friendly and helpful the staff is. I've begun judging whether or not I can work at a school by how friendly and welcoming the staff is. My student teaching experience at Valhalla has ruined me for life. I want to be in a working environment where your co-workers are also your friends. Where when there is parent-teacher conferences, you and your co-workers sneak out for a special lunch to help you get through it. Where co-worker/friends ask how you're feeling and if they can help with anything.

As I've been planning to attend the Career Fair for a few weeks, I've been paying attention at my assignments and making a list of schools that I wouldn't mind working for (seeing as they'll most likely be at the fair and all). Well, today's school is one I can definitely find myself working at. Though, I am seeking middle school positions and this school is mostly high school, the school seems well-run and the students respectful.

About the day: there wasn't anything too exciting. The absent teacher left perfectly clear plans. The students were either working independently to revise a quiz (Theatre) or watching a film (Musical Theatre)--both activities where I merely needed to supervise and avoid casualties. Here's the result of me having nothing to do and the students being mostly behaved:
To deal with the pain of having to sit behind the desk . . . I doodled. Oh, the shame!
For the Musical Theatre classes, I was asked to show episodes two and three of Broadway: The American Musical, a PBS documentary. While I found it quite interesting, the students not so much. In the first class, where there were only three students because the 11th graders went for SAT prep, all three fell asleep!

Until Friday! (Taking a day off tomorrow to visit with childhood friends from out of town.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sub Adventures #10: 6th Grade Social Studies in Manhattan

Sub Adventure #10 marks my first Social Studies assignment!

This was an interesting assignment in a few ways. To begin with, I accepted the assignment before researching the school. After finding that the school has had 4 principals in two years, mistakenly hired a drug dealer (former or current, remained unclear) as a teacher, and a lot of complaints on the net, I felt quite nervous! I mean, if the admin is that screwed up, imagine the kids. However, I gritted my teeth and went with it. I reassured myself that it may not be so bad and told myself that I shouldn't be so presumptuous.

After spending the day, I realized the my imaginings were mostly unfounded. The school is on the third floor and with giant windows, the classrooms receive incredible lighting. The staff was incredibly friendly. The kids were a bit of a challenge, but nothing that I couldn't handle. 

Sub Adventures #9: 7th Grade Health in the Bronx

Monday morning found me once again covering for a 7th grade Health teacher in the Bronx. Unfortunately, the regular teacher didn't send over any lesson plans. ("Ooooh, she's in trouble," sang my inner 5-year-old as I involuntarily eavesdropped.) The principal pulled together some ELA test prep when I mentioned that my strength was in English. However, the students complained that they had already did the assigned pages. Even though the principal told them they would just have to do it again, the students were resistant to what they felt was a waste of their time.

In all honesty, I didn't blame them. If I were in their position, I would have resented having to do ELA when I should have been doing Health and doing a repeat assignment on top of that. However, I would have been too polite and respectful to refuse to do the work. Middle schoolers these days I'm finding are lacking a bit (okay, a lot) in the whole respect department. 

The teacher I was covering for had only two health classes, so I helped cover some of the classes of a another teacher who was absent. I was also asked to experience the joy that is lunch duty--where I got to watch 12-14-year-old channel their inner animal and shovel food into their mouths in 45 seconds, after which the next 44 minutes and 14 seconds are spent fighting for territory, protecting young, and doing elaborate mating rituals. It's like watching The Discovery Channel: Middle School Edition.


Some interesting things about the school:
  • Morning homeroom ritual consists of students asking/answering one another a series of questions: How are you feeling today? What is your goal for today? Who can help you with that?
  • There is a 5min "Please begin preparing for transition" announcements.
  • Music is played, instead of traditional bells, to signal end of period.
Other happenings of note:
  • I was asked some questions by the principal and another admin in what felt like an impromptu interview. 
  • I found some great resources that I'll like to purchase. After ten minutes of contemplating "should I/shouldn't I," I asked the head of curriculum if she didn't mind me looking at her bookshelf. She was more than happy to let me look and even recommended particular titles for me.

Sub Adventures #8: 7th Grade Health in the Bronx

Sorry for the late post! This Sub Adventure happened on Friday. After subbing, I was forced to take the baby sis to her school's Family Movie Night. (After much begging, pleading, and cajoling, I caved, despite my extreme exhaustion.)

On Friday, I received a call at 7am for an assignment at 8am. After quickly looking up the address, I decided to accept even though it meant only having 30 minutes to get ready. For a girl who usual takes an hour and a half, it was an incredibly stressful way to begin the day. Especially as the agency repeatedly called me to make sure I could make it on time. I could if you'd stop calling and let me brush my teeth! In the end , I managed to brush my teeth, face my wash, get dressed, pack my lunch, and leave my apartment in 30 minutes! Certainly an accomplishment, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, this assignment had me returning to the middle school from Sub Adventures #6. This time covering for a health teacher. I was faced with my first obstacle when the health teacher's lesson plans involved technology--technology that I as a sub could not have access to. I utilized the part of the lesson that didn't need technology and made it fill the period by increasing the level of discussion. It all worked out.

In between classes, I spent several hours putting stamps on the envelopes that I had helped label, stuff, and seal the last time I visited the school. I also met other School Professional employees. They were friendly and made stamping less tortuous. Though, I hope to not have to see another stamp any time soon.

On to Sub Adventure #9, 7th Grade Health at another middle school in the Bronx.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

[Video] President Obama on Improving Chances of Young African American Men


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sub Adventures #7: 9th Grade ELA in the Bronx

Today's adventure started with taking two buses and walking around an entire block unnecessarily because Google Maps steered me wrong--again. (Refer to Sub Adventure, 6th/7th grade science in Brooklyn.)

Walk northwest on H Street towards G Place, it said. Turn right onto G Street, it said. Turn right onto H Street, it sai--Wait. Wasn't I just on H Street? And this is actually F Street! As I could use the exercise, I decided to continue around the block to get back onto H Street, just to realize that the school had been directly across the street from the bus stop. If only I had looked up from my screen.

Entering the building, I was impressed by the new, sleek look of the school. It was extremely clean with great lighting. The principal greeted students with a handshake as they entered the building. I got a handshake as well before explaining that I was a substitute.

For the first period, I "babysat" for an art class whose teacher was running late. The students had a project and they spent the period working on that. The rest of the day, I covered two Rhetoric and Composition classes and three English I classes. The students were chatty as to be expected, but no major issues.

The school had a very comfortable atmosphere. Teachers had a shared office where all of their desks were held. Students had a hangout nook with couches and vending machines for when they have free periods or in between classes. On the door of each classroom was a sign showing what each teacher was currently reading with book covers. I love that!

This was a great assignment. I couldn't help thinking that I wouldn't mind working there as I could feel the strong sense of community between students, between teachers, and between students and teachers.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sub Adventures #6: 6th Grade Math in the Bronx

Today, I substituted for two 6th grade math classes in the Bronx

There weren't any major issues with either class, except that for the first period, I thought I was teaching from 9:20 to 10:05 so I sped through the packet they were supposed to be working on. However, the receptionist made an error and I was actually teaching until 10:55. So, the students finished early and I didn't have anything for them. I let them chat amongst themselves; Big Mistake. They became too loud and an administrator had to come in and tell them to stay quiet.

I finished teaching at 12:00pm, since the teacher returned. This meant, that I spent the next FOUR hours folding fliers, and labeling, stuffing, and sealing envelopes. Lots and lots and lots of envelopes. I wanted to die of the tediousness of it all! Alas, I survived, barely.

That's all folks. Today's assignment wasn't too eventful.

Until next time!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sub Adventures #5: 9th and 10th grade History in the Bronx

Today was . . . interesting.

It started off normally enough. Actually . . .  no it didn't. From the second I set eyes on the building, I thought uh-oh. For one thing, the building was absolutely ginormous. And as is typical of many Bronx public schools, it housed 5-6 other schools. Upon first entering the building, I was subjected to walking through detectors. Then, I had to be hand-wanded for some reason. Next, I had to find the main office of the particular school where I was subbing. To avoid getting lost in the maze-like halls, I went against my natural tendencies and immediately asked for directions.

From there, things were pretty normal for the first 4 periods. I think I was covering for a co-special education teacher, so there wasn't a need for me to lead the class. I was kind of bored since I wasn't doing much. One student even took it upon himself to call me out on it: "I would love your job. Getting paid to do nothing." Brat!

Then during period 5, there was a fire drill. I repeat: A fire drill. At a school with thousands of students. In the freezing cold. It was not fun and it was not effective. I could barely find my way out of the building and I lost my students. #FAIL

Period 6 was lunch. Period 7 was a disaster. The teacher I was covering for doesn't have classes after 5th period, so I was sent to help another sub for 7th period. The students had a project to work on, but needed laptops to do so. Laptops they could not use because there was no official teacher in the room. The students then took that to mean that they could sit there and do nothing.

At that point, neither I or the other sub wanted to confront them. However, the level of blatant disrespect towards adults was appalling. I felt invisible trying to tell them to stop yelling at one another. And the potty mouths on these young people. I thought I had a potty mouth, but I ain't got nothing on these kiddies. Every curse word in the book was said. It didn't end there though: they slapped one another; they yelled at the top of their lungs; they even pulled out condoms that one of the boys had and one girl started puncturing them with a pen. Yeah, that was my reaction as well--utter shock.

What upsets me the most is that I'm discovering that these Bronx schools all have the same disciplinary issues and there seems to be a lack of authority. Students get away with too much. They are roaming the halls, yelling and fighting one another in the halls and no teacher, dean, or administrator ever scolds them for the inappropriate behavior. When, how, and why have adults in school buildings started to avoid confronting children?

On another note, I saw a student from my student teaching experience in a Bronx middle school two years ago. That was pretty cool.

Well that's my adventure for today. Tomorrow, we're still in the Bronx. A few blocks away from today's assignment actually, at a middle school.