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.
eh Mista! (as they call me- lol)