Tuesday, December 8, 2009

omg respect

i teach in the main hallway in my school and lately there has been at least one fight a week outside my doors during class. usually when this happens, you can observe classroom doors swinging open throughout the entire hall as students rush out to see what's going on.

today there was a fight near the end of the day as i was 45 minutes into a math class and trying to get the class's attention to start to wrap up.

there was yelling outside and students swarmed into the hallway to get involved.

my kids actually ASKED me if they could leave their seats to see what was going on! i told them they could crowd around and watch but they had to keep my doors closed. and they listened.


and within 3 minutes i was able to resume, give out some reminders, and a wrap up problem.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

the lull before christmas break

i feel like both mine and my students' motivation is sinking. it's that time of year again!!

before thanksgiving the classes were getting out of control so i kicked off this week with a return to rules. good strategy. i called 3 parents today alone and got one student suspended. maybe things will get better...

i really really miss last year's students. but i'm starting to like this year's kids more, too. not all of them, but a few of them are growing on me.

bad habit of the month: i am coming into school with no lesson plans and just a general idea of where i'm going. i make up my lessons in between periods, or take 10 minutes during my preps. but i'm encouraged to keep doing this because it's working.

like today, in 15 minutes i came up with a full lesson that divided my room into 4 stations, with activities and a competition where each team got 10 minutes per station to complete the tasks then had to rotate. then they got 5 minutes to fix up their work and hand in a portfolio for immediate grading and a reward for the top team. i got lucky and found 2 activities online immediately, and then made up 2 of my own. and it went over amazingly! the kids loved it soooo much, i'm totally repeating this lesson for all my other classes.

shit like this tempts me to come in empty handed again.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


pretty decent.

eight students were asked to go speak to the reviewer regarding the school environment, academics, etc. one student came to tell me she talked about how great i was. i thanked her for the flattery.

then in the presence of some school staff but no other teachers, my principal said that while she would never say this in front of the teaching staff, it was clear when discussing the teachers that the students overwhelmingly favored my class.

pretty awesome although i sometimes question my principal's motives and wonder if she's being 100% truthful. either way, it's a pretty effective strategy to help teacher feel confident in their practice.

oh also i found out the final regent's passing rate for last year including summer school: 78%. kind of overwhelming because i think it will be highly impossible for me to attain that again this year.


note to self: i know that right now, i can't make my lessons interesting to the students every day. sometimes i even go day after day of difficult skills and practice. i found that right now, for me, the best way to engage the students is to alternate fun topics and projects with rigorous skill development. maybe one day i'll be masterful enough to teach every topic in an interesting, innovative manner. but for now, i'll stick with infusing the curriculum with chart paper, markers, projects, and games every 2-3 weeks. i stick out the tough stuff as much as possible, and push them to their limits of pure mathematical skill. then we take a breather and enjoy an easy, project based unit.

i know some teachers teach everything inquiry and project based but i haven't gotten to that point. in some ways what i do is a cop out, but OTOH it works for my students and i think the change of pace every few weeks invigorates them.

i'm interested in what my take on this method of teaching will be a few years down the line.

Monday, November 16, 2009

quality review

the inquiry meeting wasn't bad. i hope we got a proficient, but either way i found it to be a nice experience to talk with someone from the doe and get a feel for what kind of questions they ask, as well as what direction they want the school to go in. the woman gave us a lot of advice in terms of one issue we were having with part of the inquiry process.

so they were only able to visit two classrooms today out of 12. of course my principal brought them to mine. i know i should be proud, but it's so stressful!! my principal caught wind that the students were presenting projects they worked on and i guess she wanted to show them off. my kids actually did extraordinary well, except for the one group that burst out laughing in the middle and cursed each other :)

they're gonna be back again tomorrow. not sure exactly why they need two days, but i should be in the clear. i've already been observed by them and met with them about inquiry and about general school environment questions.

now i have to prepare for my observation on thursday. my professor is observing me in my CTT class, as usual. and i'm going to be out the day before so i might walk into pure chaos.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

quality review

the quality review team is coming to my school in just a few short hours. as one of the inquiry team coordinators, i'm going to have to meet with them. i've been told just to listen to the other members BS and jump in when i feel comfortable. ugh, so not me.

i'm also giving the final assessment of the team based unit to the CTT class tomorrow. trying to get them above a 48% pass rate. i already have one special ed kid move to the passing side since this unit started. i have a few more who are getting much higher grades, but their homework is still holding them back. i have to figure out an action plan to get more work out of them or they still won't pass since they're test grades are borderline as it is.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


i met with my principal this past week and scored 2 more per session hours a month (and a new responsibility-- i now have someone reporting to me!) so now i'm up to 14 steady hours, plus whatever random jobs i pick up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

such a headache

there is so much drama in my school and i just feel drained.

i'm trying to figure out whether last year there was drama and i was just oblivious to it, or this year there happens to be a lot more issues, or if it's a little of both.

i am not taking sides and i try not to get involved in any of the nonsense but it's still hard to constantly listen to what everyone is saying about each other. and, at the same time, wondering if they're talking about me, too.

i seriously hear complaints and gossip about people at my school on a daily basis. what really got me was yesterday, the assistant principal took me aside with the dean had the audacity to complain about a who i thought was a highly respected teacher, and then accused her of a conspiracy theory. who am *i* to be privy to this information? why do i even have to hear it? sometimes i wish i was still a clueless first year.

i know that the administration likes and respects me (for now) and i've been giving an increasing number of responsibilities (and per session money-- yay.) but with this responsibility has come the enormous burden of hearing all the bullshit that goes on in my school and it's wearing on me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

80%-- not really happening

one of my goals was for 80% of my kids to pass the Regent's this year. while i can already see that i have a higher percentage of high performing kids this year who i know will pass the Regent's with no problem, i have a much higher percent of special ed kids and no shows. and also kids that just can't do anything. literally.

some of the sped kids will pass. i'm working with them. but there are just a ton that don't have a shot in hell. i think if even the borderline kids pass, at most i will get a 75% pass rate. and i'm thinking it will be closer to 70%. it's a shame to fall so short of my goal, but there are some things i can't control, like the crack baby (teenager) who comes to school, fights, and then gets suspended or walks out every day, or the split personality boy who attempted to rape another student outside school and is on suspension indefinitely. then there's a girl who has potential; she shows some skills in math. but she is severely emotionally disturbed and acts as if the classroom is a jungle. her IEP calls for a para, but we still didn't get one for her yet. so she runs around the class like a chicken with no head while we're waiting for proper educational support services.

and there are more, so many more. i can only do so much. last year my students were overall at a lower level than this year, but at least they were almost all "workable." so we'll see what this year brings, but a lofty goal by august would probably look more like 75% passing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


i've got this inattentive kid in one of my classes. he has decent skills, but he doesn't do well because he tunes me out the entire period. then he copies off his groupmates in the last 5 minutes to get work done.

he's not passing. i told him this method will not work in my class. he suggested i do what is 8th grade teacher did. he didn't do his classwork, so for a make up, she gave him extra homework problems to count. then he got classwork credit for the day. he said this is the only way he was able to pass.

i told him he wasn't in baby school anymore and i would do no such thing. i can't believe a teacher would let a student show up every day, refuse to work, and then make it up each nice with a couple of textbook examples. talk about enabling laziness and poor work habits...

he came up with an idea that might help him do work in class. but i have a feeling it's going to take a long time before he's a productive student.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

i have a class that really cares about their grades. they are enormously competitive but at the same time they help each other out left and right. it's amazing to see. today i gave a test and they begged me to grade them on the spot. most of the class charged my desk when time was up to see how they did. they watched as i graded each and every paper waiting for them to be handed back out. there were two girls who were so anxious they were shaking.

so i graded the tests and gave them back out. after nearly everyone compared scores, something else happened. they grouped together on their own and not just compared answers but helped each other work through the examples they got wrong. in one group, a student even came up with some practice problems to give the other kids. they all took care to make sure their fellow classmates understood everything.

after this beautiful moment, a bunch of them wanted to know their averages now that a new test score was inputted. they wanted specifics. GPAs down to the nearest tenth. ranking in the class. the works. the top four students in the class are girls, and boy can they get catty. the class ended with the 97.6 average student telling the 97.8 that she wished the girl had failed so she could be #1 instead of #2. then #3 in the class, with only a 95.7 ripped up her test paper. the 92 she scored wasn't enough for her to keep the #2 spot and she was pissed. #4 in the class at least finally came to terms with her 93 average but she's still determined to be at least #3.

the competition is unbelievable. i tend to make the kids in my classes really competitive, but with just a little fuel from me, these kids have gone beyond what i've ever seen before. i can't say it's necessarily healthy because it bothered me to see the girl rip up her 92. it reminded me of my days in a specialized high school. i was a complete slacker with a 90 average.

however, i love to see the kids care so much. and by competing with each other, they're studying more, doing all their homework, complete angels in class, and constantly help out their classmates. the competition between the top four has also inspired others to compete with each other at various levels, and nearly each student is steadily raising their GPA. i'm not really sure how this happened; i guess i got lucky with a great mix of kids, but it's absolutely brilliant what's going on in that class.

Monday, October 19, 2009

i guess they do learn eventually (well some of them at least)

my worst offender from last year (who happens to be the same kid i kicked out of summer school on day one) is doing fabulous. he defied me in front of the whole class and the next day we gave him a suspension and had his parent come up. finally something clicked and he's on the right path in my class.

i failed the kid every single marking period last year and he was already failing one month into this school year. the day after his father came up he completely turned around. two weeks ago he got an 88 on the first class test. last week he proved to be the most helpful and useful member in his group day after day. he continued today and handed me in a stack of missing homework he completed over the weekend.

he's actually passing with a 78 now. there are four A students in his class, all girls. i have challenged him to represent the gentlemen in his class and show the girls where it's at. i don't know that he'll get there, but if he keeps this work up he'll come darn close. and boy do i hope he does because he can be a terror when he doesn't want to work!

Friday, October 16, 2009

fridays rule.

i tell my students on friday's that i'm even happier that the week is over than they are, and if i can control myself, then there's no reason they shouldn't be able to!

i love fridays so much. and many thanks to the scheduling gods that gave me the last period on friday as a prep. so i finish at 1pm.

first marking period is almost over. last time this year i had around a 50% passing rate. i have one class now with an 83% pass rate.

the ctt class is the only one under a 50% pass rate and sadly all the special ed kids in the class are failing. the sped teacher and i both believe that it's more of a behavioral and focus issue rather than difficult work or problems with differentiation.

so i started teams this week. i let them work in small, focused groups for the entire period. i teach a skill for maybe five minutes total and then they explore it and practice with their teammates. halfway through the hour i stop them and teach for another five minutes after which i expand their assignment. their team is graded on a 3 point rubric each day with one delegate responsible for making sure they earn their points. this focus, ownership, and lack of me actually trying to address the group as a whole has really helped. i've noticed a number of changes with the special ed students in the class and i suppose next week's test will help me see if this structure has been as effective as i think!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

great success! errr maybe not...

I gave a test last week and many students failed. I am very against giving extra credit work and I won't let the kids take the test home and fix it for credit either, because I know most of them will just copy answers. But I did tell them I would give another test this week on the same material with different questions. I gave them one week to relearn the material on their own and give it another shot.

Last year I offered a makeup test only once. Out of 40 failing students, two came and both failed again. I expected similar results this time. Yet today, out of about 30 students, nine came. And even better, out of the nine students that failed originally, five now passed. And better yet, of those that passed, one got an 80 and the other four got high 90s! These kids increased their averages by at least 20 points! I'm really proud of them and am glad that I have five more kids on board with me in class. And of course, success breeds success so I look forward to an upward trend with these kids.

I will consider giving make up tests more often because I don't care if it takes the students a second chance to get it right, nor if they come to rely on the make up as a crutch. The bottom line is that they have to learn the material and pass the Regent's and if this is an incentive for them to study on their own, so be it.

Now for the non-success... four of my former students, now 10th graders, stopped by my classroom after school. They were bored and when they saw I was giving a test, they wanted in on it. They claimed they would ace the exam. So I gave them one test and let the four of them group together outside the classroom and take it together.

I heard them murmuring... "slope.... i think you have to subtract something..." and "product... what's that?" Guess I didn't teach them well enough last year for them to retain the information!!! After 20 minutes the four boys handed me the exam and asked me to grade it. Even with all their collaboration, they scored a............ drumroll............ 63%!!!!! I totally reamed them for getting their butts kicked by more than half the 9th graders in the room. They told me they're going to come back and take more of my tests because they need to prove to me they know what they're doing! whatever floats their boat... but i personally love to see students who actually take an interest in academics. it's so refreshing!

Monday, October 5, 2009


even though i only slept two hours and taught a full load plus a per session class today, it turned out to be better than expected. some highlights:

- i took off a day last week and one girl asked me if i got her classes work that they completed while i was out. she was proud that they did an amazing job. well i checked and i was astounded. everyone completed the assignment with such precision and neatness which is uncharacteristic of my students. they all neatly stapled their graphs to their papers and labeled everything without being instructed to do so. i was so proud of them!

- a boy who complained about me being so boring that he can't learn ( 2 weeks ago) was so happy to be in my class today. i teased him and prodded him but with a ton of pushing he did his work successfully. i had him in three different classes today and by last period he tried to hug me multiple times but of course i left him hanging:) then he dutifully did his homework and copied down all the assignments he missed and started on them too. i guess he decided he likes me and will now work for me! i love when that happens.

-another student who can be somewhat problematic decided he's striving for a B so he buckled down today and did a ton of make up work. we'll see if this lasts!

- i scored another per session position. now i'm up to about 13 hours a month. i so need the money.

so this second year has been way better. and it's only looking up with a three day weekend coming up!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

it's been three weeks

since school started. and i'm very happy with how things are going. this new crop of ninth graders seems really eager to please. it might be due, in part, to how i'm presenting myself, but i actually think they're worlds better than last year's freshman.

i spent the first week on rules and procedures, with a little math here and there. in the past two weeks, my kids have learned how to handle fractions, write algebraic expressions, fill out function tables, plot points, graph simple lines using tables, and graph scatterplots with the line of best fit and recognize correlations. i'm going to take the rest of the week slow, practice, review with regent's questions, and give my first full test next week. i'm toying with the idea of introducing slope already. i know it's something most of my students found difficult in middle school so i might wait.

one student completely defied me today in front of the entire class and then a hallway full of kids. luckily i have enough of a paper trail on him to get him suspended. i didn't think of logging every little thing last year, but i see now how it gives me leverage to really reign down on these kids. now i'll use him as an example so that the other student don't think they can get one over on me like that.

i guess i'm really lucky to have a super supportive dean and administration. i simply said i need this kid suspended, told them what i had on him, and they got right to it. it really scares me to think about what some of my colleagues go through in a less supportive environment. i don't think i'd ever last.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

this year is already starting off better, for one reason only: i know what i want.

i know exactly what type of classroom I want to run and how to shape things to get there. last year i had some vague ideas but i just went with the flow and took it all in.

last year was successful. but in order to reach my goals for this year, i need more instructional time. i can imagine that all the times i had to call out a kid for a behavior issue, plus all the times the entire class dragged because they weren't doing what they were told, added up to a couple of weeks worth of time.

i'm hoping the systems i put in place this year work to eliminate a lot of these problems so we can have more time for Regent's review at the end of the year. I'm actually aiming to add 2.5 weeks onto what I did last year.

so far kids are actually asking permission to leave their seats for EVERYTHING... throwing out garbage, and even for spitting out gum!! the school counselor told me one of her students already complained that he got in trouble in my class. i walked down the aisle past a different student and she literally jumped. today when i wanted their silence for the first time and certain students were still talking, the rest of the class stared at them in shock. another student told them "silence!" they were afraid. I'M NOT TRYING TO SCARE THEM!!! but apparently i am instilling fear which is a good thing. i'll definitely loosen up once they're in the routine of doing what they should.

i have also called home for one student already and sent a letter home for a parental conference. i foresee having to call at least 2 other homes tomorrow. i seriously would have never done this last year because these misbehaviors didn't bother me. but i'm all about putting my foot down in the beginning and i hope all these parents don't hate me!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

school starts in the morning!

i want to be in work within 6 hours.

what in the world am i still doing up then???

i was super prepared this year. had my opening letter, quiz, and powerpoint done a week ago. i have the first week entirely planned. i even reorganized the curriculum a bit and mapped out a year long plan attacking the different units, with timelines.

i look forward to being super strict this year. i posted rules and consequences in my room today, more as a reminder to myself to be consistent and follow through with my actions.

it was suggested to me to become a dean at my school. i never thought that would be me, but apparently the current dean sees it in me. anything to get rid of my damned advisory class... so i will practice being no nonsense this semester, both in my class and in the hallways.

final topic: i need a new blog name. "first year experiment" worked well last year but it no longer holds true for me. i know i don't have a large readership, but if anyone has any suggestions i'd like to hear them.

happy teaching to all!

Monday, August 24, 2009

summer school recap

it wasn't bad at all. teaching 2 hour long classes was a bit trying, but i loved being done with my day by 10am. i kicked the worst kid out of my class on day one, and i had virtually no problem with any other students.

i needed the money and it was definitely worth it. even as the summer is ending and i'm gearing up to start a new school year, i would say i will definitely teach summer school again next year as long as the opportunity is there.

almost half of the kids that sat for the summer regent's passed. this brings my passing percentage up to somewhere in the 75-80% range. thank goodness for low standards.

i'm starting to get a little nervous about the upcoming school year though. i'm teaching the same subject as last year, but i want to revamp it in a sense. i want to change the order of the curriculum and change a lot of my lessons. i've been putting it off but i need to start. i would like to have at least my first unit written out by Monday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

summer school

how am i supposed to take a class filled with both the most disruptive kids in the school and the kids that need the most extra help, manage them for a two hour block each day, and in 8 days flat teach them enough to pass the regents???

remind me why i'm doing this again? i feel like i'm setting myself and the students up for failure.

Monday, June 22, 2009

math regents

about 70% of my students passed.

not too bad. 72% of the students that sat were level 1s and 2s.

i'm aiming for at least 75% next year though. there's so much i plan on doing differently.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

attention all first year NYCTFers!

I have been privy to a number of resumes received by my school from first year hopefuls trying to find a job. I have also sat in on some demo lessons as well. What I've seen makes me embarrassed for some of these would be teachers, as well as embarrassed for the fellows as a whole. No wonder people find it difficult to find a job... use your common sense, people!

A couple of pointers based on what I've seen in the past month:

#1: If you are sending a resume via email, do not make your cover letter a separate attachment. The body of your email should be the cover letter itself! If you write a boring, generic, or casual email and expect anyone to actually download a cover letter or resume after that, you're wrong. You may have only 8 seconds to make a great impression. Please utilize your emails wisely!

#2: Get the name of your school right! There is no "Brooklyn University." If you sound clueless, certainly we have no reason to believe you're not!

#3: Having a world travel section on your resume makes you seem downright pretentious. And actually, I'll just laugh behind your back from this.

#4: If you are invited to an interview, come on time! In fact, come ten minutes early. Bring extra copies of your resume and dress professionally! Capri pants are not the ideal interview attire.

#5: If you are invited to do a demo lesson, have a lesson plan with you!!! I understand you're not teachers yet, but there are plenty of resources online. There is no excuse to show up empty handed. In addition, a lesson where you present an interesting topic and the students ask questions for 45 minutes is not acceptable! There should be clear parts to your lesson, including some sort of group work component and sharing if you want a chance at landing the job.

#6: If you are asked to give a demo lesson in earth science, it is not acceptable to teach a lesson in astrology!!!!

That's all I have so far. I'm sure the readers of this blog (are there more than 2???) have more sense than to make one of the above blunders, but you never know. I do hope that those teachers who were not called back, or did not get the job, reflect on what they can improve for subsequent interviews. After all, even I went on 4 interviews before I landed my job!

Monday, June 15, 2009

i'm done.

pretty much. tomorrow begins regents week. no more lessons, no more teaching. this is getting way exciting.

it just remains to be seen how my kids do on the exam. apparently last week there was a rumor floating amongst the students that the math was the most important exam to pass. i'm not sure how this came to be, but hey why not? even the school secretary told me that lots of kids came into her office talking about how they really wanted to pass the math exam.

somehow i don't think my results will be all that great, but supposedly my administration isn't expecting greatness. how much can you do with a school basically filled with level 1s and 2s??

Thursday, June 4, 2009

musical histograms and other news

interdisciplinary connections in action:

upon reviewing histograms, i overheard one student ask another about the difference between a histogram and a bar graph. the response: in a bar graph, the bars are staggered, but in a histogram, they're legato."

most excellent.


the end is near and i'm getting excited. i am no longer nostalgic; rather i'm quite sick of the students. they have been poorly behaved this week and they're getting on my last nerve. but i understand it, really. they all know that what they do this week doesn't matter; if they pass the Regent's next week, that's all they need.

at 8am my homeroom students come in and work dilligently. they want to pass and they take full advantage of having an extra hour with the math teacher. every single student in that class who completed a practice regent's this week passed to my surprise. but once 9am hits and the students *have* to be in math class, they get antsy. overall i'm hoping for at least a 50% pass rate. the dean tells me i should get around 75%. it's difficult considering nearly the entire school came in as level 1 or 2. but yes, half of them should pass which i hope means that i raised some of those level 2s to a level 3.

in other news, i decided to teach algebra next year. i was truly leaning towards continuing with my current students into geometry, but really I'm sick of them! also, i completed 2 courses in geometry this semester in grad school and i hated them. i could barely do the work. i'm looking forward to getting another shot at teaching algebra and perfecting my lessons. then maybe once i have a handle on teaching in general, i'll expand to do geometry.

so, one more day of teaching left for me this year! monday will not be a regular class day in my school, and tuesday starts regent's week. it's been fun, but i'm so done!

Monday, May 4, 2009

fortunately for me, my behind is unscathed.

in my per session remedial math class this afternoon (read: a bunch of kids who hate math, hate me, but were forced into coming,) one girl asked me if they were going to have to hire a new math teacher for next year since we're going to have another grade come in. when i told her yes, she asked me which grade i was going to teach.

now this is a girl who has talked back to me, called me boring, and basically dissed me out numerous times this year. but i sometimes get through to her.

i was certain she was about to get excited at the prospect of having a new teacher. i told her that i didn't yet know if i was going to teach 9th or 10th grade. she said to me "noooo you have to teach us next year. if we get someone new, we're gonna abuse them. we're going to glue their ass to their chair."

charming, really. and here i thought this group was tough on me.

the closer i get to the end, the warmer they're becoming with me. and i keep liking them more and more each day. they're really helping me make up my mind.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


last summer when i was student teaching, i only got to teach one lesson of my own creation. i stayed up all night long creating color coded manipulatives. i worked my butt off to come up with something engaging and informative and much to my satisfaction, it worked wonders with the students.

i saved everything so carefully in separate envelopes and baggies (the manipulatives were divided amongst 8 groups) and looked forward to the day that i could reuse that lesson. finally, that time has come. way behind on the pacing, i have finally hit factoring. excitedly, i printed out the lesson that has been waiting on my hard drive since july 2008. about to pack up my bag for the night, i look into the closet where my teaching materials are, and lo and behold the contents of my lesson is missing.

i guess i have a bit of a search mission to execute before bedtime.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

they want me.

last period on friday i told an obnoxious student that i couldn't wait until next year so i can teach the new 9th graders instead of them, and he said "noooooooooooooooo ms. Adelaide.... you HAVE TO teach us!!!"

my gosh as annoying as these kids can be i really do like them, and most of them like me. still mulling over next year's options, but i think i can handle these kids. i just have to be stricter and more consistent from day one.


of worthy mention, i got my last observation of the year on friday. it was #6, and the AP gave me a huge thumbs up as he left the class 20 minutes into the period. two more years left until tenure...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

decisions to make

if there are any teachery folk out there reading my blog, i'm curious as to your opinion on the following matter:

for a first year fellow, i think i've done a pretty good job. i have a decent passing rate, pretty motivated students, and a good relationship with a lot of them. my lessons usually go well, too. however, my biggest problem is that the students don't listen to me as much as i'd like them too. they see the AP coming down the hallway and they run inside class. they see me walk down and they continue misbehaving. they're doing something they shouldn't be and one person will say "you better stop or [the english teacher] will get mad." you never hear that about me. i'll tell a student to get back in their seat and maybe on the 5th time he'll listen.

so... next week i'm going to chose which grade i want to teach next year. i have 3 options:

a) move up with my current students
b) teach the new class of 9th graders
c) teach a mixed program of 9th and 10th grade

all of these options have definite pros and cons and i'm having a very hard time deciding.

With option a:
-i already know the students and know what works for them, how to differentiate, their skill levels, have solid relationships with many of them, etc
-i have an awesome textbook that i custom ordered geared towards my teaching style
-i like most of the students
-we won't constantly have new students added every week like there is in 9th grade
-they will hopefully be slightly more mature as sophomores
-i will be teaching geometry which i really don't like
-i want to run a tighter ship in my classroom and it might be hard reinventing myself with the same students that are too friendly/not respectful to me.

With option b:
- i get to teach algebra again, a subject that i love
- i can reuse a lot of my current lessons and powerpoints, just with some tweaking.
- i already know how i would go about teaching the course differently, and think i could do an awesome job
-i can reinvent myself as a stricter, no-nonsense teacher with students that don't know me at all
- 9th graders are horribly immature
- the class sizes will be bigger (possibly 30 per class as opposed to 20.) this is a biggie
- with 9th grade, there is constantly an influx of new students for the first few months and it makes teaching the class difficult when so many people are behind.

with option c:
- i can chose the classes i want to teach from the 10th grade list (ie take the students i want!)
- i can still reinvent myself with the 9th graders
- i can gain experience teaching a new subject while still perfecting my algebra lessons
- i will have to prepare for two different math classes and one advisory every single day.
- half the time i write up my lessons in the morning and i can see myself getting into big trouble if i can't get everything done in time.

my principal is pushing for everyone to stay with the same students but it's ultimately my choice. my AP did tell me that i can chose to teach 9th grade for next year and then move to 11th grade the following year when my boundaries and routines are more defined (so i can get my old kids back and teach trig/algebra 2 which i happen to love.) he also said that if i change my mind in august i can let them know and they'll change the programs. (i'm the senior math teacher in my school; i can do that!)

i think i know what option i'm leaning towards at this point. but i'm second guessing myself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

quality review

they came, they saw, *we* conquered.

apparently we exceed expectations, and got the highest grade on the preliminary review. boy, i'd hate to see what a school that merely meets expectations looks like...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

back to life, back to re-al-i-ty

my life ends yet again. tomorrow. ugh.

maybe tonight though, as i don't have a lesson yet for tomorrow's classes.

i truly understand why so many teachers just never come back after school vacations. the freedom is amazing and upon realizing i was going back tomorrow, i blurted aloud that "my job sucks..." which is partially true, but once i'm back in the groove, what other job can make me feel more gloriously bipolar than teaching?

sure, i don't want to go back tomorrow. and right now i feel like a tiny little part of me is dying. but, i can honestly say that i've never had a job like this before, where nearly every day i'm motivated to come in and do things differently than the day before. plus i'm a big time experimenter in the classroom, and i really appreciate the freedom my career offers me, even if they are yoking me back in, in less than 14 hours.

Monday, April 6, 2009

asking questions to the clueless

This morning when I walked into the main office I was informed that they were ordering Geometry textbooks for next year's course... today. The secretary told me there was no core curriculum and she needed to know what book to order within a few hours.

Potential problems:
#1: I have never taught geometry and have no idea what books are out there.
#2: I don't know anyone who is currently teaching Integrated Geometry to ask for advice.
#3: A novice myself, I don't even know what makes a textbook good!
#4: I'm the only math teacher in the department with no AP to consult.

At the advise of the secretary, I visited the math AP from another school on our campus. He suggested a particular book (Amsco), however he didn't seem too thrilled. I previewed that book online and it seemed very cut and dry.

I ruled out the textbook by Prentice Hall, because I currently use their algebra book and my students are routinely confused by the language the text uses. Plus it complicates virtually everything.

I ruled out yet another book that we have a sample copy of. It also seemed to complicate everything.

I went back to the NYS website and see that they recommend one of three books, each of which have published their own pacing calendar aligned to NYS standards. One of them I had never heard of: Discovering Geometry.

I looked up the book and found that it was an inquiry based approach textbook that encouraged hands on learning. I registered for an online review copy, and I was absolutely amazed by the chapters I looked through. The language was thoroughly readable and understandable. There were amazing pictures and interesting facts on every other page. And they weren't just thrown in for a few "real life connections" either; they were actually integrated into the learning thread itself.

I think I was completely sold when I opened up a random section and on the first page of the chapter it said "in your groups, have one member do..." The book is freaking geared towards group learning with actual projects in activities in each section!

So completely clueless and just basing my choice on a few random chapters, color photos, and instinct, I went ahead and told the secretary to order a school wide set of the textbook.

I figured I can't do any worse than I did this year. And if I really need to, I can supplement their text with photocopied problems from one of the crappy geometry books we have laying around, or with pages from the Barron's review book.

I'm really excited to get the text in hand and start planning for next year. I've been kind of torn about whether or not I want to move up to the 10th grade next year, but if this textbook is really as awesome as it seemed, it might make things much more bearable.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Today I had a random observation from my principal. Not cool. She stayed for the entire hour.

My lesson went over very well with the kids and I happened to be super prepared today, but I didn't have a cooperative learning component. I opted not to do it with this class because 1) they're CTT and generally don't do so well with day to day group work and 2) it was the day after a 3 day weekend and I really wanted them to focus.

It happens to be that almost all of them understood the concept very well and considering their usual behavior, I'm very happy with them. Just not so sure what my principal thought of the lesson.

On a side note I think a student of mine has a girl crush on me. I heard her talking about how pretty I was with some other students. Then she complemented my eyes twice. Later in the day she told me how cute my hair was. And at the end of the day she said "I love you, Ms. Adelaide." I just ignored her, and I hope she's over this by tomorrow (she's flaky like that.)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

i've been putting in the grades for my students' first school wide progress reports this evening. i'm passing more than ever, and giving more A's than I have ever given. i know this won't last til June, but i'm glad to see worlds of progress from my kids.

on wednesday my principal said i was as good as a veteran teacher. i'm thinking ok maybe not a *good* veteran. but i can definitely see how in 5 years or so i have the potential to be pretty awesome if i don't get burned out before then!

in other news this week, i let a group of three students teach my class for one period. i had them learn a topic ahead of everyone else and teach in exchange for extra credit, participation points, and homework exemption. it was really something. they couldn't control the class for the first 25 minutes, but eventually they got most of them to quiet down. and the majority learned something. i did have to do a 20 minute recap and review with the the next day but by then everyone understood the topic.

at first these students said they would never teach the class again. but the next day we discussed it as a class. the feedback was mixed. half the class said they liked having their friends up there, that it made them feel more comfortable. the other half said they were horrible teachers and begged me to reteach the topic! the "teachers" said that the class was rude and disrespectful and they didn't know how I dealt with it every day. but by the end of the discussion, the entire class agreed that this was something they'd like to try again. about 10 people said they would like to try teaching, and even the original "teachers" said they would like to try it again. so we're going to attempt this twice a month as long as we're on track and they're being well behaved.

i find that the more i experiment with my classes, the more fun we all have and the easier it is on me!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

nyctf mantra: no excuses

the nyctf guidebook, as well as our adviser, touted the no excuses classroom environment. your class should be set up so the students have no excuse not to do their work. always have extra supplies available and all the resources they need to succeed.

using my own common sense (having forgotten about the no excuses mantra) i set up a homework chart in my room. all the assignments with final due dates are posted, as well as a folder with any make up work and handouts. i was sick of students telling me "i was absent, i didn't know i had to do the work!" of course i penalized them anyway, but i didn't want them using that as a crutch anymore.

i just instituted it this week and i've gotten at least 30% more homework than usual. the makeup sheets are going like hotcakes. anyhow, one student came into my room after school today asking about an assignment that he was absent for. i directed him to the HW chart and folder, the first he'd ever seen of them. he stared at it for a minute, took what he needed and then said "no excuses!"

i flashed back to my summer training and knew that i had unintentionally acheived what they drilled into our heads. not only did i know my students had no excuses, but they're starting to realize it too. this job is really tough, but i'm starting to see good things happening.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

teaching these kids is such a struggle. i'm constantly battling for control of my classroom. all they want to do is TALK. even when they're so into what we're learning, they just talk and talk. the group work can be pretty dysfunctional too. i have them agree upon and sign up for roles before they begin every project. but they just can't figure out how to work together! i supposed they'll get better with time, but my god, every group complains about each other.

i do have to say though that when it came down to presentation time, all the groups pulled it together nicely and did a great job. almost everyone had an understanding of the work. so i guess it's not too bad.

what is a problem though is that i'm way behind on my pacing. i anticipate skipping an entire chapter, plus i skipped half of our current chapter. i'd rather not bore and confuse the kids with stuff that they might see one question on. but we are about a month behind my colleagues teaching the same course. i do way too many projects and fun activities that take up a lot of time. but somehow i'm thinking that i will have just as many, if not more kids passing the regents.

honestly, i have maybe 5 level 3s's and the rest of my kids came in as level 1's and 2's. if other teachers have a similar demographic, i can't possibly see how they could go through the material so fast and leave the kids with a good understanding of it. if they can, power to them. but i know we will cover about 90% of the material and most of my students will know it well.

in other news i picked up another hour of per session per week. so now i'm up to an extra $120/week. sweeeeeet.

Friday, February 6, 2009

a day of opposites.

tough kid was great today, good class was bad today. bizzarro world here we come.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

i made the tough kid cry!

my students drove me up the wall yesterday. today i spent an entire hour with one class giving a pop quiz to piss them off, then discussing their behavior and grading policy.

i explained that behavior was now worth 45% of their final grade, test and quizzes 45%, and hw 10%. they were really shocked. their jaws dropped when i told them that if they routinely misbehave in my class, the best they could hope for is a 55. I told them i'll give them a bunch of 20s and 30s if i have to. They were in disbelief.

One student said he isn't a good test taker so how can he pass my class. We went through the math and saw that even if you average a 50 on my test, if you give 100% of everything else, it's still possible to get around an 80. The kids loved that and decided they could live with my grading policy.

Then we did the math and saw that even if you get a 90 average in my class, if you can't control your behavior, and miss homework, you will get a 55 from me. They were shocked yet again.

After this, they wanted to know what their averages were so far. I went through the entire class list out loud (they all love to share their grades except for one girl!) Everyone was passing since the semester started on Tuesday except for the biggest bully/tough guy/obnoxious kid in the school. He was averaging about a 40. He was very mad and nearly walked out of the room.


The second class I decided to discuss grades with were much more receptive. They accepted it as is and in addition, they asked for weekly progress reports with their daily behavior grades and notes for improvement. This is a lot of work for me, but if it can help keep a few kids on track, it's worth it. We decided that every friday we'll spend 10-15 minutes discussing their progress. If it works with this class, I might try it with my other classes. I'm actually very proud that they came up with the idea on their own. This class happens to be very motivated, but they can easily get out of control, so I think this might work.

Fast forward to after school, and the guidance councelor came in to talk to me about the failing kid. The boy was very upset and didn't understand how he could be failing after only 2 days and asked me to speak with him about his options. Well we couldn't find him and when we finally did, he was hiding out in the classroom next door to mine. He came to talk to me and his eyes were damp with tears! I told him what I needed from him tomorrow and what he needs to do from now on. I ran a couple of computer simulations for him to show him that since it's so early, he could be passing by tomorrow already. and by next week he could be in the 80s. but he was choking back tears the entire time. i couldn't believe it. i didn't feel bad for him at all; call me an insensitive bitch, but the kid has been doing the same thing since september. but this time i think it really hit home for once. and i'm glad it did. we'll see if he makes any changes now.

Monday, February 2, 2009

new semester

I actually have 2 lesson plans done in advance! And I stocked up for the new semester with new markers and mini whiteboards for the kids. I'm smarter this time though, and only bought mini markers. The kids leave the caps off the markers, or just plain steal them, so they would not last long anyhow. Might as well save half the cost...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

i'm excellent.

at least that's what my principal thinks! she nominated me for the nyctf award in classroom excellence. anyone can apply and you don't have to be nominated to even be considered for the award, but i'm very excited that my principal went out of the way to recommend me for one. i asked around my class on monday night and no one else has been nominated yet.

the thing is, i probably won't win the award since nyctf is very big on touting the prestigious universities the program member attended prior to teaching, as well as the careers many of us came from, such as lawyer, hedge fund manager, etc. if you win this award, there is a tell-all press release, along with promotional material on their website, plus you have to give a speech to the incoming cohort in the summer.

i was just a stay at home mother who worked for an internet business for many years while attending a city university part time until i finally graduated and applied to the fellows. there's nothing prestigious or even remotely interesting about my path to teaching, so i doubt i would even come close to winning the award if i apply. now the $2000 award money would be nice, but that's not what really matters. as much as i bitch on here and write about the crappy lessons i do, i really have done some great stuff this year. and as much as my principal and our educational partners tell me this, it is really meaningful to know that they went out of their way to suggest to someone else that i was an exceptional first year educator. it kinda reaffirms what i do, award or not.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

i actually like my kids

it was amazing watching them during the inauguration today. they were so excited and proud, and hung on to obama's every word. i've never seen them so excited about something so "real" before. seriously, i was almost in tears!

the other thing today that made me realize how adorable the students are is that the toughest, nastiest boy in the school (who has been softening a bit lately) bought some candy that he was eating during the inauguration. he thought it smelled a bit funky and was afraid to eat it so he asked me in a really nervous voice if i thought it smelled ok. He actually needed my help with something because he was scared! I have never seen him that vulnerable before, and over candy no less. Well I thought it smelled fine, and so did his girlfriend, but he was still nervous. So I told him to make his girlfriend try it first. He thought I was funny, and she got mad at me:)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

worksheet aftermath + differentiated instruction

I finally graded the tests that I gave on the worksheet unit. The grades were about the same across the board, maybe a little bit higher. I guess it all comes down to retention though. I don't know how much they're going to remember come June.

So I completely differentiated my instruction today. A few days ago, I had the students choose the topics they wanted to review the most. I then grouped them according to their learning needs, but also balancing the strengths and weaknesses within each group. Each group got a folder with personalized work (they loved that their names were on their instructions!) They each had an instructional plan to follow over three days and a different role in their group. I also had them fill out forms in which they committed to their specific group roles. Most of them took it quite seriously! I also differentiated their homework! Each was given an assignment specifically relating to their classwork.

I had to prepare 20 individualized packets for all my classes. It was a ton of work. I spent every minute of my preps for the past two days getting their assignments ready. I photocopied hundreds of pages and even hand wrote some assignments. And when it came time to work in class, it was amazing. They did really well with their groups and learned a ton. During their presentations, I asked some kids questions on the spot and they were able to answer without relying on their notes. They made some good progress today. It's a lot of work, but I'm thinking of doing spiraled review like this every 2-3 weeks to keep them fresh on old work.

This was the first time that they were actually helping each other. I enforced the rule that they can't ask me any questions until they discuss it with their groupmates first. I should have been doing this all year but better late than ever. They were so productive; my preparation really paid off!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

worksheet: day 2 and 3: the best week ever.

a huge success! this time i wrote up my own scaffolded worksheet. day 2 was awesome. the kids practiced at the board, then practiced on the worksheet. they were competing to get right answers and helping each other out. and those that were done quickly tried to tackle the next group of problems on the page. only 2 kids in the whole school were able to figure out the advanced problems before we got to them as a class, but most of them were on the right track.

by day 3, the advanced problems threw my most advanced class off. so i will have to readdress them tomorrow, but they will have officially finished a unit in 4 days. i realized with 5 minutes to go that my teaching was way too complicated. i was being too conceptual and nearly all of them lost me. but i did figure out how to take it down a notch and i'm sure they'll get it tomorrow.

i am finishing the unit with all of the classes tomorrow. this has been my fastest unit ever. we beat algebra equations to death for a month and it paid off big time. absolute value inequalities and equations have been a breeze. next week we will do one day of review for the test, have a test day, and then have two review days for the final (more worksheets, but in groups where they can pick their topics.)

this week started off terribly, but since tuesday, it has been the best week of my teaching career to date. my classroom management has been much more effective. i put the students in rows and haven't even allowed pair work. i know that student collaboration is important, but i felt my classes were out of control for the past 2 months. they need to relearn how to behave properly before we move on. i have been a lot more authoritative, too. i have revoked board privelages from 3 students this week. i realized i was putting up with way too much. now if a student does something stupid at the board, they're out for 2 days-1week, depending on the offense. i still allow them to share from their seats to keep them involved, but no more board till monday.

also, today i stopped the entire lesson because 3 students walked in late and started rearranging my desks. i made an example of them, and no one else thought to move a desk for the entire period. i have stopped putting up with their bullshit, and it's so much better! and that's part of the reason we raced through the unit. i have had to spend far less time trying to get the class to quiet down.

tomorrow might be challenging because it's the last day of the week, we're all sick and tired of school, and i have the largest class load. but i'm very happy with what's been going on. the groupwork will resume with the finals review. and then we'll start off next semester back in rows with worksheets until i know they can behave appropriately. (which i hope is soon because i have some great groupwork ideas that i want to implement for the next unit.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

operation worksheet: day one

it was a success. i was able to teach my good class normally, and just use a few worksheet problems with to do as a class together.

but for my other 3 classes, it worked pretty well. i have a really smart but usually rowdy class, and they loved having problems in front of them to work from. i ended up doing close to 2 lessons in one with them, since they were so well behaved and into the work. on one particularly challenging problem, you could hear a pin drop in the room; they were all so intensely calculating!

my moderately bad class also did ok with the the worksheets. the worst offender was asleep today, so i didn't have the behavioral problems as usual. the rest of them really understood the work confidently. they did so well, some of them surmised that the regent's was going to be a piece of cake and they could take it in january already.

and the ctt class was still loud, but man do they love worksheets. they were their usual rude and obnoxious selves, but toned down. about 2/3 of the class was working and i'd say at least half of them understand it well. the rest just need more practice.

so it seems that the less effort i put in, the better they perform. or maybe it's just a correlation; the less effort i put in, the less stressed i get, and therefore i handle my classroom better? who knows. but i will be making up another worksheet for tomorrow!

Monday, January 5, 2009


first i wanted to say that while i was completely lazy in terms of accomplishing anything this winter break, i did happen to get completely well dressed and put together every day. nice hair, makeup, clothes, and shoes. i think the routine of getting made up every morning for work since september, coupled with the fact that i actually had more time for myself while on break, made for a hotter adelaide.

but today, oh god, i hated it. my kids were unruly as usual, and i had an utter lack of authority. things on the home front are not going well... a year after one parent passed away from cancer, i found out this weekend that my remaining parent has a brain tumor. so i'm not in a good state mentally. my students were the last things on my mind, and i came in unprepared. i really don't feel like teaching, and as of today i do not like the career. but whatevs... maybe i'm just in a depressed mood.

i have two more weeks of teaching until finals, so i think i'll just do bare bones lessons and worksheets. next semester, i'm making classwork 50% of the grade, tests and quizzes 40%, and homework 10%. i'll fail all those little fuckers that can't keep their behavior in check.