Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beginning of my NYC teaching career

My first week and a half of teaching in New York City has been possibly the most amazing ten days of my life. The energy of my students, their chaotic passion for learning, their promise to be scholars now and collegiate scholars later, have all been very inspiring for me as teacher, an advocate, and a person.

Let me back it up a few weeks….

August 24th at 9 AM.
It’s the last day of professional development week at my school. In about a week, the hallways will be filled not with empty boxes that once carried brand new text books, staples, paper, and chairs, but will be capacitated with bouncing and rambunctious middle school students- eager to show off their new fits, talk about their summers, and grow into their slightly larger frames than the school-year before.

So there I am- standing and about to speak to the entire staff- my hands wet with nervousness, my documents neatly in piles waiting for distribution. On the program for the day, the first section was listed as “Special Education Workshop.” Special Education is new to this school, being that it has only been open for two years. Whoa. I have barely finished my first set of graduate level classes and I just completed a crazy summer of student teaching, and all of a sudden I was leading a content workshop to my staff on Special Education and Collaborative Team Teaching. Since when did I become a special education specialist?! I was up late the previous nights preparing for this workshop.

Just three days prior, I had been emailing my professors from the summer to try to figure out what I can possibly say to my colleagues, some of whom had been teaching for over ten years. I was also nervous about my abilities to teach about disability for other reasons. Over the summer in my formal introduction to education through university coursework, differentiation was presented as an educational strategy to be implemented within the realm of special education. Interestingly enough, our entire week of professional development had an emphasis on differentiation. It became very clear that differentiation was not just a crucial teaching method for special ed students, but really just means “good teaching” in a general sense.

Based on the already solidified emphasis on differentiation at my school, I asked one of my professors how can I possibly be in a position to teach my colleagues what good teaching should look like? I was given encouragement. He said, “you know more than you think you do- your experiences both inside and outside of the classroom will be extremely helpful to your colleagues.” And it was. We did powerful simulation exercises on dysgraphia and dyslexia, I described and modeled the different methods of collaborative team teaching. I also discussed some of the realities and strategies of some of my students’ needs, as well as going through the information on some of my students IEPS. The workshop was about an hour and a half, and almost all of the teachers commended me on the quality of the workshop.

Fast-forward- September 4, 2007: The first day of school.
A day I will always remember. I had my fresh cut ‘Fro-Hawk,” I sported my Dashiki that I got in South Africa, and I had the confidence of a seasoned teacher. I kept thinking about why I’m doing this: I’m here because my heart said so… my heart told me so. I’m here because if it’s not the streets it’s the prisons that are getting our youth. And if it’s not the prisons, it’s the army. I am here because I don’t just want to encourage my students to go to college, but I want to prepare them- academically, mentally, and crucially for LIFE. This year, my 6th graders will be preparing for the rest of their lives- so of their lives, they can THRIVE, not just SURVIVE.

These past two weeks have been very very busy- so busy that I have not played much basketball or written much poetry- two great passions of mine. Needless to say, I have definitely not been able to write on this blog- lol. But, I am getting into a routine, and I am looking forward to continuing my passion of playing sports and writing, and I am also looking forward to re-joining this blog community.

Big respect,
eh Mista! (as they call me- lol)


subtext said...

A dashiki! Wow cool! I want to be in that class. I'm glad your blogging again. I kept checking, but was afraid you had become overwhelmed.

I am glad you did well in the in service. One of the wierdnesses (among many) of teaching is that we expect a first year teacher to instantly be as experienced and to do the same job as some one who has been at it for 20 years. Is there any other profession that does that? Certainly not doctors or lawyers.

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

tru indeed subtext! yep, an african dashiki!!.. im having fun with it (teaching). my students bring happyness to me. i am enjoying their company! i look at teaching like i have an opportunity to share what i know- which is constantly changing and growing. so they are growing with me. they have such great and unique personalities. some characters! some difficult ones too no doubt!

at the end of the day, it just feels right..

Lorraine said...

thanks for visiting my blog. I'm sure you are quite right that if I had been there, I would not be wishing I was . . .

I will be following your blog and will keep you posted on my status. My current employer knows nothing about me being interested in this (well, I hope they don't, but it depends on how adept my one supervisor is at internet stuff. the other one I have no fear of whatsoever, as she barely could even FIND my blog if her life depended on it!)
I will be excited to follow your journey.

Nancy said...

Looking forward to hearing more dispatches from the front!

Jose said...

He's alive. Ha. No seriously, good to see you did so well that first day. Good luck with the rest of the year, too ...

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

Jose- yea man- im backkkkkkk!!! lol..

HappyChyck said...

What a wonderful post! Your enthusiasm and success just pours from your words. That is so awesome that your in-service was well-taken. Newer teacher have an interesting position where their training is fresh and up-to-date, yet they lack some practical experience. Hmmm...come to think of it, many professional trainers also lack practical experience! That's why many of us detest in-services! Anyway, I am glad to hear you were so well received!

Looking forward to hearing more of your year!

Repairman said...

Congrats on your first week, your passion for serving the kids, and special congrats for the professional development presentation.

When a presenter models what they're teaching about rather than just lecturing, I'm excited. Hope your principal encourages faculty to practice what you showed them!

Thanks for stopping by RepairKit. Glad you're finding time to get it all in balance.I'll look forward to reading about more of your adventures.

Athena-Liana Smith said...

I wish your enthusiasm stay alive for years to come.
Take it from me... the students respect you more than they are willing to admit...
And in the end of the day, it feels right.

bygpowis said...

what district you in? i went back home to brooklyn in 2000. got placed through communities in school. was 24 yrs old. taught 5th grade in brownsville. can't remember the school. the actor omar epps' --love and basketball, juice, house-- mom was the principal. unfortunately, i became another one of those first year stats. didn't make it to thanksgiving. on weekends i'd be in my apt in the fetal position for hrs. couldn't do it. the reality tore at me. the kids needed more than what i could ever give from 8:30-3:00 PM. found another job at a private anglican school with mostly first and second generation caribbean kids. total different vibe. my first day there was sept. 11, 2001. remember going up to the roof and watching the towers fall. thankfully, my year there wasn't as disastrous. still want to teach. teachers have been too important in my development as a human being not to honor them with my life. don't know if i want to be in a classroom though. i have to be around young people who find value in what is being offered. they have to want to be there for some reason. i wanted to be in school for many reasons. getting away from my house, safety and love being the more prominent. i applaud what you are doing. keep sharing your thoughts this first year.

by the way, i grew up in east ny off utica avenue. went to IS 210 middle school near st. johns and rochester and then brooklyn tech. if your students ever need to hear how to get from there to a full scholarship, college athletics, grad school, married and raising a four year old, i can be a pen/email pal.

i actually began writing about my experiences growing up and learning life in brooklyn. you will not have time to read it. i know what the next 10 months will be like for you. but maybe your students can find some of themselves and their lives in the pages. i've been sitting on the manuscript for years now. time for it to do some good for the people it's meant to help. you can keep it in the classroom and have them read it whenever they want.

let me know. bygpowis.blogspot.com

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

HappyChyck- thanks for your support- always welcome here!

Repairman- yes, i think i have landed in a great spot. my principal really values people in education. she values ideas and is happy for everyone to bring what they got to the table. thanks for your support.

Athena-Liana Smith- very well said- 'at the end of the day, it just feels right.' i hope that (this) feeling continues..

bygpowis said...- yea man, thanks for your words.. teaching is a battle, a challenge. and i am thankful for this amazing opportunity

Anonymous said...

Great to see you're back! I'm looking forward to following your journey!