Since we share our building with the Brooklyn New School our librarians cater to all ages grades K-12 and they do an amazing job. Our library is packed with amazing books, magazines, and computers for use. They bring in authors and experts to talk to our students about everything and educate them on how to research and learn about the world. This week is their Book Fair Week so they have great items out for sale and I know they will do well for themselves and our school.
One of the important skills teachers have is the ability to do work anywhere, including on the subway. As I was traveling to visit my mom and sister for dinner I was reading up on some classroom management techniques in a book written by a non-profit called EL Education. They support the work that my school does on restorative practices, using nature and the city as a classroom, and just general progressive education methods. I've read a lot of the book before but it is always good to refresh ones own knowledge, which is exactly what I was doing while riding the 4 train to Grand Central Terminal.
To all teachers out there who are reading, grading, or lesson planning on public transit, I salute you.
We have a firm commitment at my school to use something called Restorative Practices in order to make our students feel more at home and engaged in our school life. We strongly believe that making them feel more of a sense of ownership will translate to them performing better in class, gaining more poise in the outside world, and becoming leaders in their own communities down the line.
Today was the first meeting our or Committee for Culture and Character, a group I have been on since I started working at Brooklyn Collaborative four years ago. We started with some snacks and a brief initiative (educational game) and then got into the nitty-gritty of talking about how our grade teams were doing and reading about culture and character for the future of our school. It was a great first meeting and I can't wait to dig in!
I am having a great time teaching the geometry course that we have at Brooklyn Collaborative. The last time I taught Geometry was in 2011 at the High School of the Future in Philadelphia and it was very different. The textbooks were uninteresting and we relied on too much of a method of proofs that is boring and difficult to use.
At our school we use the College Prep Math version of Geometry that involves hinged mirrors and protractors to learn about different shapes and how they relate to each other. Today was the first day of using them and I was surprised how high level the conversations got. I even had three conversations about the idea that circles have an infinite number of sides and no sides at all. It was great. And, as you can see, there was a lot of collaboration. It was a good class.
Last year I had the opportunity to apply for tenure, a status that is very different from what academics know under the same name. Those in the university world might think of it as guaranteeing a "job for life" when in fact it is just a verification that I am doing my job well and I will have a few more protections according to my union. That being said, it is a relatively grueling task of putting together documentation to prove what I have done over the past four years is of high quality. I think it will go through fine, it will just require a lot of work.
Last year the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, responded to criticism from gender rights advocates by finally requiring public schools (amongst other places) to have gender-neutral bathrooms. As you may know this battle has been fought all across the country (with North Carolina taking a lot of the media attention for most ridiculous). The outcome for our school was overall positive with some unfortunate losses for teachers, mainly because this mandate comes with no extra funding.
On on each of the fourth and fifth floor of our building there were three bathrooms: "boys", "girls", and "staff". The staff bathroom was easily locked to allow one or two staff members in.
With this change the "boys" bathroom on our fourth floor has become officially the "staff gender-neutral" and the former "staff" bathroom is now "gender-neutral for students." What this means in practice is that there are fewer toilets for students identifying as male and a bit less privacy for staff.
Once we do get funding, however, the plan is to reconstruct the bathrooms so they all become gender neutral with stalls with walls that go all the way to the ceiling and are more sound proof. Until that day comes, this is where we are.
As a teacher in New York City I am happy to be a part of the largest teacher's union in the country: The United Federation of Teachers. Last year I become one of the building representatives of my school (a role we officially call Chapter Leader) and started organizing for my staff. Today we hosted our first meeting of the year focusing on the new certification registration guidelines from the NY State Department of Education. The meeting had a variety of people in it - from teachers to paraprofessionals - who all wanted to know about new policies and procedures to make sure you are up-to-date with certification. I even learned that there is a workshop I need to take to get my professional certificate.
While I don't always agree with some things the UFT does I am certain that I support the right and need for its existence. I'm proud to be a teacher and proud to be a Union leader. I hope to share that pride with others through my new role and learn more about it in the near future.
Each year I teach new students I try to make sure their thoughts are incorporated in the workings of daily class life. This year that meant a circle-based conversation in which we had students check in with each other, write down how they thought class should run, and then decide together on five norms that overlapped in such a way that they could all agree on them. While there were some concerns here and there overall students in my 8th period class said they would adhere or strive towards the norms written below.
I think norms are a powerful thing to discuss with students at the beginning of the year. If the conversation to craft them is truly open-minded and they feel their voice is heard then they can be powerful tools. While there are situations where teacher-crafted norms are received positively, I believe the process in crafting these is actually more useful in the long run. I'm glad to have crafted these with my students and will continue to refer to them as much as possible.
Today was the first day of regular classes at Brooklyn Collaborative. At the beginning of my fourth year at the school and eighth year teaching overall I was still a bit nervous for the day to take shape. It was, perhaps, a good omen that at 9:50am no students were in the hallway - all having found out where their classes were supposed to be and getting there as soon as possible.
Of course, my eighth period class was more difficult - there are always jokesters in a class (I used to be one) and the last period of the day is when they are at their peak. But, I am confident we will be able to move past the issues and get down to work together well.
On Friday we had our second All Crew Day to begin the year. Our students our seniors so a lot of the focus of Crew time will be college: researching, applying, questioning, and more. We spent a couple of hours making sure they all had lists of CUNY schools they will be applying to and putting them into a system called Naviance to coordinate their efforts with our college counselor and teachers providing recommendations. Additionally, we had a guest come in to talk about her experience with college applications and share more stories than we have told them already. It was a somewhat grueling day but very focused in the end and almost all students seem ready to really dig in!
I am a math teacher in the New York Department of Education. I infuse technology and real-world problems into my curriculum in order to prepare my students for the future. I would love for people across the country to recognize we teachers can't do it alone. If you don't believe me, come visit my classroom!