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.