I am a member of the Committee on Culture and Character at Brooklyn Collaborative. We are a group of grade team leaders, counselors, administrators, and restorative justice coordinators that meet regularly to discuss the needs of character in our building. A lot of that has to do with the work we do in Crew so yesterday we spent an entire day away from class in order to discuss the major aspects of character that we want to support and improve at our school. It was a full day of conversations of identify, culture, the needs of our school and students, and some tasty sandwiches and cupcakes. I really appreciate my administration giving us the time to spend on this stuff so we can make our school even better than it already is.
As always happens after a student's first test, I was sent this request. It's so interesting to me that students always wonder what they can do to their grade after the assessment as taken place. I try to emphasize so frequently that they need to make sure they are prepared because this will impact their grade quite a lot, often to no avail. Well, I'm not changing a students grade after-the-fact - they have to show me some mastery in order for that to happen. I hope this student (and my others) take that seriously.
Today was the big day for my Crew: their first college applications went through. We had designated a special day while the 11th graders were completing the PSAT so it would be just us on one wing of the building, all supporting each other to make sure we get the CUNY application done. We had a number of roadblocks today (including the CUNY server being incredibly slow) but we got through it. While not all students completed their applications, they are in a much better position to understand what they need to do now.
It doesn't happen every day but yesterday I had a flawless example of student collaboration taking place within one team of my Geometry class. One student was asking another some questions and the second student was responding with thoughts, guesses, and just generally engaging in the material. Granted, these students are not at the bottom of the ability level but it still has been a struggle to get them to have mathematical dialogue. This made me really happy to see.
The last thing you want to do after a long day at school is attend a 3 hour workshop. But, since it is required by the Dignity for All Students Act, it is something we educators do willingly. I was expecting something a bit boring and mildly sleepy, and instead got had some wonderful conversations and discussions with colleagues. Yes, there were some videos that were a bit too contrived and a lecture that wasn't so helpful, but the overall view was quite good. I'm glad I went and look forward to the return on Wednesday.
Not only do we get to go on these amazing Expeditions as mentioned yesterday, but we also hear about them from our principal to get an idea of what is going on across the school. The fact that some students went to the Met, some went to Massachusetts, and elsewhere is an amazing feat. I am so glad that my principal celebrates this learning as it should be!
Four times per semester our students go out and visit fieldwork sites across the NYC area (and sometimes further!) or we bring in experts to answer questions and present on their knowledge. As part of the US government class that we have we visited the New York Historical Society and toured through their exhibit on presidential campaigning. While it was short trip and we had some logistical bumps along the way, some students really got some interesting information out of it.
Tuesday was the first test of the year for my Geometry students. They sat and persisted quite profoundly. There were a few questions here and there that were of a technical nature and one student joking with me to tell her an answer. All students completed the test and turned it in. I really look forward to grading it and seeing how they did!
Armed with that information, my colleague and I will go back over misunderstood material and give them some kind of opportunity to demonstrate mastery again.
StayIt was two years ago on October 6, 2014 that the School Reform Commission (SRC) unilaterally cancelled the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' (PFT) contract. Since then teachers' salaries have been frozen, without any wage increase for inflation or any step increase for added years of service. An employee who made $54,000 back then is making the same wage now, despite inflation of 1.5% since that time. Luckily, in August of 2016 the State Supreme Court of PA ruled in favor of the PFT in stating that the SRC was not allowed to cancel their contract. The outcome of that decision is still pending.
But what exactly is the effect on the school system as a whole? There are a lot of folks who say that schools will be better if unions are busted and removed from their positions of power. Unfortunately, teacher vacancies are still extremely high and it has had a severe impact on the student population. So much so that the SRC is offering a bridge program for incoming 9th graders who didn't get the support they needed from 8th grade teachers since they weren't certified!
Additionally, there is the enormous problem of substitute teachers. Last year there was an ongoing battle with the company Source4Teachers who was contracted by the SRC to provide replacements when certified teachers were sick (or if there was no certified teacher). While they claimed they would have very high fill rates (80%+) in the end they never breached more than half. Now the SRC has contracted with another company, Kelly Services, to do the same job while paying the same rate as when the District ran substitutes themselves.
There is obviously too much tumult in Philadelphia right now to be a high quality teacher. As much as it pains me to say it, if you are reading this and considering working in Philadelphia schools, you probably shouldn't. Not only is your salary going to go nowhere fast but the SRC is also going to be reconstituted with two new members, adding to the turmoil. Stay away for now.
Sometimes our students like to get really artistic and represent us with drawings. This is a drawing of my co-worker Adam, posted with his permission. I'd say they got the basics correct (beard, glasses) but maybe not so good with the colors. In case you are wondering, he often uses the protocol "Waterfall" to get students quiet (they are supposed to respond with a round of shhhhhh.... get it?).
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!