Thursday, December 30, 2010

Teacher Quote of the Day

I saw this on and found it inspiring:

"As a general rule, teachers teach more by what they are than by what they say."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I survived the semester. I also received the greatest Christmas presents: two As and a B. Yes, I know I worked for those, but I was still happy to receive them. This semester was a very trying one. I could have never completed it while working full time, so I guess it was a gift to be laid off from a very demanding job. I have a month off before starting my student teaching on January 24, 2011.

Aside from my bad experience with the professor from hell for two classes, I had an amazing experience with a wonderful professor who taught a graduate human rights seminar. He is a retired English teacher and just an amazing human being in general. For my capstone I created a "Walk in my Shoes" project that focused on life as a GLBT teenager. I am a big supporter of equal rights to begin with and the GLBT community is going through a lot right now. So many kids are bullied and committing suicide simply because they are gay. This breaks my heart and as a teacher I want to be able to support GLBT kids anyway that I can. President Obama was finally able to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" which allows GBLT individuals serve openly in our military. Now we just need to get on the ball with getting marriage allowed for ALL couples.

For now I will spend my time keeping up with current events surrounding teaching as well as reading all the books I can about classroom management and teaching methods. I am so looking forward to becoming a teacher. I really can't wait to get into the classroom and start!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What NOT to do as a teacher

Time is flying. The fall semester is almost over. I have been very busy with school work and classroom observations. I am truly enjoying my time watching teachers in action in their classrooms. Practical experience and advice is always appreciated in my book. One of the teachers I observe actually had to throw a student out of class. It was totally justified. He had it coming, but I felt bad for both of them. The student protested about leaving and cursed at the teacher. The teacher was absolutely fed up with his behavior and inability to keep his mouth shut. The student refused to leave and the teacher had to call security. It was hard to watch, but it was a valuable lesson for me.

Another valuable lesson was learned during one of my college classes. Last Monday during my methods class, my professor took the liberty of copying my latest lesson plan and distributing it to my classmates so they could critique it. She did this without my knowledge and I was quite angry with her. Her comments were not constructive although my classmates ideas were. I did not show any anger. I was calm and collected. Thanked everyone for their feedback and was anxious to move on. Clearly the professor did not have anything planned to teach us because she then handed out a copy of another student's lesson plan and the process started all over. I figured I was living in a glass house right then and there so I would not be offering any feedback. When she began to railroad this other student he became very defensive. The professor in turn said, "Don't get pissy with me. I am only trying to help you." I was mortified, as was the rest of the class. I don't particularly like the guy she was critiquing, but the personal attack was not justified.

After class I approached her to get my original copy of my assignment so I could revise it. It was clear she was afraid I might confront her about her behavior. She continued talking to another student basically ignoring me while handing me my paper. I have never seen anything so rude from a professor. I was completely taken back. By the time I got home I was enraged. I vented to my husband and sat down to write her a letter. I wrote the letter but never emailed it. To be honest I was afraid of retribution. She is my advisor and I do not want any drama from her. I walked away learning a very valuable lesson. I will never embarrass a student in front of a class, regardless of grade level. My comments will be reserved for her evaluation when the semester is over. Thankfully my university requires all students to rate their professors electronically when classes are completed. This comments are supposedly anonymous. Even if they weren't, I am being honest in my feedback.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Field Placements

I am quite excited about my field placement assignments. Tomorrow I will begin observing in a high school in Queens for this semester. In the Spring I have been selected to student teach in the suburbs not far from where I live. I can't wait to be in the classroom. I'll admit I am learning all kinds of interesting, thought provoking ideas and subjects in college but the real education begins when I get out there. I am so looking forward to this!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Human Rights Education

Human Rights Education
On Friday and Saturday I attended a Human Rights seminar/workshop hosted by the university I attend. It was two full days of eye opening, jaw dropping education that I will probably never forget. Various representatives from such organizations as the American Red Cross and Human Rights Educational Resources Associates participated. As an American, I live a pretty good life: I have a nice house, a car, food, clean water, and freedom. I am free to do or be whatever it is I want- in my case a teacher. Sometimes that bubble I live in is very comfortable and I don't look outside it as often as I should. This workshop helped me learn not just about myself, but how I will teach my future students.

When I was growing up, I don't recall getting much of a human rights education. We touched on the holocaust in social studies and discussed civil rights in English. Today with the help of technology we have access to all kinds of resources to educate our kids. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to matter. Here in the states we can't even cover the basics properly let alone human rights education. Regardless, I promised myself to work hard to incorporate this important subject into my curriculum. Learning to be a decent human being is just as (if not more)important as learning read and write effectively.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cafe Bustelo

I finally spoke to the field work coordinator. She gets two thumbs up for calling me on a Saturday. Seven grad students have been assigned to her to set up for observations at a Queens High School. So far three (me included) have contacted her and she is trying to set up a day for us to meet. In all likelihood it will not be this week but the week after which is fine with me. She already has several other students already at the school observing and student teaching. They meet every Wednesday. Apparently it's only 1 full day per week which is awesome. I was worried about not being able to get to my classes at 4:30 Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The coordinator told me she was an English teacher for many years. She was happy to hear my major was English Ed. She said she would have lots of ideas and practices to share. I found her enthusiasm delightful. Finally, someone who is positive and happy about school like I am! On my coffee scale she rates a Cafe Bustelo :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Regular or Decaf ?

So the person I contacted seems to be a coordinator for the school, not the teacher I will be working with. So far I am the only student who has reached out to her. Apparently there are several grad students in her 'group' and she wants to meet with all of us at one time. Makes sense I suppose, but why should I have to wait if other people don't contact her promptly? I should be used to this by now. The pace of the education world is decaffeinated. I am still a double espresso.

Tonight we had a guest speaker in my Human Rights class. Her name is Cheryl Baldwin. She founded a non-profit group called Camp Hope for Girls. The group mentors impoverished teenage girls currently in Rwanda and Mississippi. Ms. Baldwin is currently looking to expand into New York City and Canada. It was refreshing to hear from someone who works in education and is clearly not decaffeinated. She is making a difference in the world and it's inspiring. Imagine if all educators had that kind of passion?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Field Work Placement

I finally received my field work placement packet. I will be observing in a high school in Queens. I am so excited! I can't wait to start. I have contacted my teacher/mentor via email and I hope she gets back to me today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Responsibility in the Classroom

As the semester progresses I am learning some very valuable lessons. First off, life in academia is a lot different than the world of business. When I was employed and working on my MBA things were much different. Many of my professors were successful business people. They were organized and transparent-in a good way-They posted all of their course work (syllabus, power point presentations, notes, ideas etc) online before the semester even started. You knew exactly what to expect and could plan accordingly. They read their emails promptly and answered. They not only gave you their office phone number but their cell phone in case of emergency (i.e. you would not be making tonight's class). They also took your contact info (home, office cell and personal email because the school's email wasn't always reliable). Education professors are a different breed.

Since I started my Master's in Education a year and a half ago, only ONE professor has posted any course information online. Almost none utilize technology. No smart boards, no timely emails, no over head presentations. Just lecturing and handouts. One professor had jury duty and missed several classes without even notifying the whole class what the heck was going on. We would all show up on time for class and wait around to see if she (or any professor) would show up. After 2 missed classes she managed to email some of us (not me) to let us know what was going on. This made me very angry to say the least.It also gave me food for thought: If education professors are allowed to behave so irresponsibly is it no wonder the teachers they educate go out into the workplace and behave in the same manner?

A few days ago, a new movie "Waiting for Superman" was released. The movie is about the state of the education system in America. I haven't seen the movie yet but it seems that it's about the plight of charter schools. Parents in poor neighborhoods do not want their kids to attend public schools because of the failure rates so they turn to some successful charter schools such as the Harlem Children's Zone founded by Harvard educated Geoffrey Canada. It paints a very positive light on Charter education: no unions to deal with, longer school days and a longer school year. I know there are some great public schools out there. Unfortunately most of them are in richer neighborhoods where there are high taxes to support school districts. What little I have seen of the movie makes me like charter schools and makes me leery of the teacher's unions. They seem to protect the problem employees. I know this was the case when I was a union employee in another industry. I came to work every day, did my job (and did it well), only called in sick when I was sick and held myself accountable for my work. The union seemed only interested in saving the jobs of the idiots who didn't want to come to work in the first place. It was frustrating and sad. To think that children's lives are being affected by such shenanigans makes my stomach turn.

I have already made up my mind as to what kind of teacher I will be regardless of where I get to work. I will work hard and be honest. I will do everything in my power to understand my students and how they learn. I will then determine the best way to teach them so they understand. I know it won't be easy. Some parents will not be on board. I may have little or no support from my administration or peers. Somehow I will make it through because my students will be depending on me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fall Semester

I am so grateful school has started. Since I was laid off in July I have been kind of miserable. I miss the routine of work and for the first time in my adult life being unemployed has been a challenge. My first class was last Thursday. I have class again today and on Mondays. I am hoping these three classes plus classroom observations will keep me occupied and fully engaged until Christmas break. Sadly I did not pass my last certification test. I am scheduled to retake it on October 30th.

I truly love this time of year: the beginning of school and the fall weather starting to creep in. The stores are filled with back to school supplies and Halloween decorations. Later this week I will unpack my own fall decorations and start the fall cleaning and organizing at home. The cooler weather makes working around the house enjoyable. I love opening up all the windows and breathing in the cool crisp air.

I few months ago I read an online newsletter from the school district I attended as a child. My sixth grade teacher passed away last May. She was a wonderful woman and I contacted her over 10 years ago via email. I asked her advice about switching careers and she told me to go for it. To be honest I was surprised she even remembered me. She said she had moved from teaching sixth grade to reading. There was (and still is) a big push for reading specialists and she felt like it was time to try something different. She said she loved teaching and enjoyed hearing from former students. I told her she made a difference in my life and I thanked her. Sixth grade was a rough year for me. My parents were in the middle of a nasty divorce and life at home was chaotic. She was so supportive and really helped me come out of my shell. Her classroom was a safe haven from the drama of home. I can only hope and pray my classroom will provide such solace.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pink Slip

I received bad news at work last week. My job is being eliminated as of July 23. I am feeling a plethora of emotion. I have been planning to get away from Corporate America for years but I was hoping it would be on my terms. It's a bit sooner than I wanted but it will be all right. I have three courses this fall and student teaching in the spring. I am excited for the opportunity to be a full time grad student and not have to worry about work. I want to give my undivided attention to the last year of my teaching degree. Thankfully my severance package and unemployment benefits will help with the bills during this time period. God willing I will get a job by next fall.

I found a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt today: "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for the newer and richer experience." I think this will be my new mantra.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The hardest to learn is the least complicated

I successfully completed the ATS this morning. I was feeling a bit crappy but made it through. I am still trying hard to understand the meaning of these certification tests. Some of the questions are just bizarre. I know that there has to be some sort of centralized testing for teacher knowledge and basic understanding, I am just not sure what. The two tests I have taken so far really don't do anything to prove that I am worthy of teaching adolescents. I personally think extensive on the job training would be more helpful. I worry about the young people - 20 somethings- who have grown accustomed to not having to interact socially. Think about it: how are they going to communicate effectively with students? I see so much texting that I often wonder if people even talk any more. Colleges should offer a social interaction course for teachers. You know, how to talk to students, parents, administrators etc. Nobody teaches you that. Just a thought. My next certification exam is July 17. This one will be on content. I hope it has something of substance or at leats makes me think.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Moving right along...

Tomorrow I will be taking the second of three exams I need for my teaching certification in New York. It is the secondary ATS-Assessment of Teaching Skills. Thankfully it is a morning appointment. I am a morning person and hate sitting around waiting. Honestly, I am just looking forward to finishing already. I know these tests are important but they are stressful. Not the content, just the whole "formalized test" thing" sitting in a big auditorium, the clock ticking, proctors watching. I always seem to finish early and the content isn't too difficult. It's just the atmosphere. It brings back horrible memories of high school regents exams. I promis as a teacher I will do everything in my power to help students to not be afraid of that type of testing process. I know all the steps: get plenty of sleep, eat breakfast, get to the exam site early, etc. It's still not a pleasant experience.

My 17 year old cousin is graduating high school next week. Today was her last official day of school. She just called me to tell me how sad she was and how she cried as she said goodbye to her favorite teachers. I can honestly say I had not thought about that as I work towards becoming an educator. How would I handle saying goodbye to my students as they graduate? I am a big mush and would hate to have them see me cry but I think it's almost a given. I saw many of her teachers tear up during an award ceremony last week honoring seniors with their end of year awards and scholarships. Educators have so much responsibility. To actually complete your instruction and help a student graduate must be the biggest thrill. It's bittersweet, but it must also give a teacher such a sense of accomplishment knowing they did something that truly mattered.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Goodbye Spring Semester

Wow, I really am a horrible blogger. I wonder how people who blog keep up with this stuff. Between working full time, grad school and "life" I find it practically impossible. Yet, here I am. The spring semester is almost over. The Shakespeare class with no chairs was interesting. I have a final presentation due a week from this Tuesday. The presentation is my attempt as an imaginary director to pitch a new version Romeo and Juliet to a fictitious pair of directors (my professors). With my business experience I feel more comfortable with this project. My last project I had to act out a scene with two students who were 20 years my junior. I felt awkward acting in front of the class. I know teaching is part theater, but acting while reciting Shakespeare is an extreme challenge for me. I flubbed my lines throughout worrying about my facial expressions and various physical movements. I have a whole new respect for actors. It's not easy work.

My second class was a different kind of challenge- primarily learning the discipline of writing lesson plans. I like my professor- she's a trip. Very funny and very devoted to teaching. She is really putting us through hell however-it's one of those classes you will be grateful for later on. Right now it's just painful and hard. I have taken two days off next week to devote myself to all things educational (i.e. I have to finish my homework!). I won't be taking any classes this summer, but I have 3 this fall. Lord help me. It's my last semester of classes at school. In the spring of 2011 I am scheduled to student teach the entire semester. I still have no idea how I am going to pull that off. I thought for sure I would have been laid off from my current job by now but I am still hanging on. Given the current state of the economy I know this is an extreme blessing. If I still happen to be working next spring I will delay my student teaching. It's not what I want, but I have a mortgage and student loans to deal with. Not an easy choice but it is what it is. I am sure many teachers work second jobs just to make ends meet, especially in the beginning. I hope I don't have to do that. Only time will tell.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Welcome Spring Semester

Ok, so I am a horrible blogger. I have had a month off from school and haven't written a thing. But I have been working full time and reading: blogs, journals, newspapers and books. Once school starts I won't have too much free time for lesuire reading. After the harsh cold snap we have been having in NY in the past month, the words "spring semester" warm my heart. I am looking forward to getting back in the classroom. This go around I will be taking three classes: a required adolescent health course, a Shakespeare course and English Writing for Adolsence. The health course is an accelrated weekend class. I will go for three Sundays in a row for 4.5 hours. The other two are traditional 2 hours classes that meet 2 days a week. The Shakespeare class will focus on Romeo and Juliet. It is co-taught by two professors. I am eager to see how they do. The class is meeting in a dance studio. Apparently we students will be engaged in some sort of workshop activities instead of just sitting at a desk. I am all for nontraditinal learning but if I am going to pay three thousand dollars for a graduate level class I like to have a chair to sit on. Maybe my age is showing?