Wednesday, June 17, 2009

7 days...

In seven days my first year of teaching will be over. In seven teaching days I will have spent one year in the real world. 

I made a to do list for my week long break before I start my summer school course for my masters...and my to do list is very long. 

Any tips on how to spend my slightly more free time? I know that I want to spend a lot of time working, but people keep telling me to that a word in the vocabulary of NYC DOE teachers? 

Summer, summer, summer...what do you have in store...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

To which I initially want to respond "duh", but then I remember that most people don't really think about this unless they are in one of these schools or working with the neediest kids. 

McGuire Writes,"According to the research, teacher experience is at least a partial predictor of success in the classroom and, at present, one of the only approximations for teacher quality widely available. Experienced teachers tend to have better classroom management skills and a stronger command of curricular materials. Novice teachers on the other hand struggle during their initial years in any classroom."

She is right. Through out my first year of teaching this year I have found myself looking up to those teachers who have been there the longest. I have found myself admiring their management skills, their understanding of material, and being amazed at the growth their students make. It is important to have quality teachers in school with the neediest students, and experience is certainly part of that. Special pay to work in urban schools might help, but I think there are a lot of other factors. 

Schools in urban communities with consistently low performing students are under certain pressures that are not wholly felt at other schools. When I went to public school testing was there, and it was important, but I never spent a single class preparing for tests. The culture is very different in consistently high performing schools. There is no dark gray cloud that somehow, the school will fail. School culture is am important factor I believe in keeping teachers at a school, and I am not sure that the neediest schools provide the culture that keeps teachers. A happy teacher is much more likely to stay at a school with needy students. 

I think another important factor is the general retention rate of teachers. I don't know any statistics, but I know it is hard to keep teachers in general. Teachers come and they go, but keeping them in the profession itself is important. Does this go back to culture? I think so, it also goes to creating links between community, school, and politics. 

I'm just a newbie, I have very few answers. What I do know as I round out my first year in a public school is that I'm coming back. I feel more prepared for my second year of teaching that I thought I could. I am still learning, and still progressing myself as a teacher and it will take time. 

Note: McGuire did NOT mention Teach For America in this article which I find strange considering that TFA only places core members in "needy" or lower socioeconomic schools. Considering I believe the true goal of TFA is to create people who work towards educational change towards policy and administration (less than creating life long teachers) I do see a difference, but it still must be said that teachers with less than existent student teaching are placed in the classroom yearly across the country, why, because often no one else wants to do it. We have to have SOMEONE in the classroom, why not put someone there who at least wants to be there. 

Thanks to "This Week In Education" for helping me find this article. 

Million Dollar Grant

There are a lot of things I want for my classroom. An unlimited supply of quality crayons, new books, and even pillows for a reading corner. There are some things I want that I think of as less typical, more special finds. So I bring to you for your reading please a new feature...Things I would buy if I had a million dollar grant... 

C.L.A.W Pencil Grip: order of 500

I'm having trouble finding a picture, so stay will me through this description. Most pencil grips are pieces of rubber or plastic padding, children can still revert to holding the pencil incorrectly the moment you leave. Not with the C.L.A.W grip. The C.L.A.W has three finger slots, kind of like a thimble, where the fingers must stay. The grip has a hole that is slipped through the pencil and then you slide your fingers into the three holes. No movement, and more importantly no awkward grip. I have found kids feel at ease with this grip, and after only conferencing with them one time on how to use it they can adjust the length on their own and fix the grip after they erase. Most of all, they don't have to think about where their fingers go, there are three perfect spots. 

I'm in love, but more importantly it has really helped my students handwriting. It has built hand strength and stamina, and most importantly the students who use them can also hold a pencil correctly without the grip now, and isn't that the point? 

So, please order me up enough for all of my students in the fall and for crayons, markers, colored pencils, and paint brushes. Just send the bill to my million dollar grant. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Uniting Kids Through Common Standards

I can list of the New York City kindergarten standards as fast as I can list off my mom's birthday and my address. In one year these standards have become ingrained in my head.

Students come and students go, but in my class the standards are constant. Unfortunately they are not constant through out the country. Even the level of rigor is unclear through out the city. Students move between boroughs and I find myself wondering, "what have you been learning this year?" 

Jim Rex, South Carolina's superintendent of education, discusses the possibility of national common standards in today's Huffington Post. There are a lot of concerns: the government taking too much control and making standardized tests, lowering standards, and my biggest fear is who these "best minds" would be that create the standards?

I think high, yet, achievable standards that are developmentally appropriate are needed. I think standards that are specific, citing exemplar work, are necessary. I think there are a lot of important things, and while I think common standards are a great idea in theory, I fear about who would be in charge of creating these standards. Standards does not equate to standardized tests, but to a higher level of national achievement. Standardize goals, but not the path to get there, because all kids are different. Ready for a buzz word, differentiate. 

Also, can I help write the standards?  

Nacho Day

 The Chicago Tribune released a horrifying piece of information. The second most common entree in Chicago public schools is nachos...does that even qualify as an entree? 

I think one of the best parts of my private school education was the quality of food. As I grew up in Chicago I was always a hop skip and a jump away from a nacho lunch. When I think "nacho" I think of side dish, appetizer, and snack, not main meal. Today I ate lunch with my students and I was a little scared of their food, I almost felt mean trying to convince them to eat more of the least it wasn't nachos. 

P.S. I tried really hard to make a pun about this and failed. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I am obviously not very good at updating this. 

But, I have epic, yes, epic, plans for the summer. One of which includes returning to the blogging world.