Saturday, August 27, 2005

The first day just keeps getting closer and closer . . .

Today was our last training day for TFA. We are finally free to go into our classrooms and teach. In some ways I feel so prepared and in other ways I feel totally lost.

The things that I am feeling good about are all the things that TFA has been drilling into us for the entire summer: classroom management, investing students, high expectations. What I'm really at a loss for is what it is that I'm actually going to be teaching my students. I know that I am responsible for the English language acquisition of my students but I don't know how I'm supposed to go about teaching it. Should I do it in the context of English Language Arts, or should it be in the context of the content areas. And then there is the whole thing about significant academic gains. I know that I can track and take responsibility for their mastery of English (speaking, reading, writing and listening) but what about content areas. Today we had an ESL break out group and we were repeatedly told to not forget about the content areas. In many cases we (the ESL teachers) may be the only educator providing any comprehensible content to our students. We can't forget about the content areas. But how am I supposed to plan lessons around several content areas for nine different grade levels? Especially when I may have some students for just 180 minutes a week.

Another question that comes up is how do I plan my rules and procedures for such a wide grade span? It's hard (if not impossible) to come up with procedures that would be the same for Kindergarteners as well as 8th graders. Should I break the grades up into K-3, 4-8 when planning rules and procedures, or even into three groups? I think that I may have around 18 total students (if I can trust the school's web site). It's hard for me to envision how my classroom will look and sound when I don't know what the groupings will be like and how many students there will be in each group. I feel like a lot of management strategies that we have learned are geared to a classroom of 25+ students. How do I adapt that to a smaller group of four students who are stepping into a classroom for the first time in this country?

All summer I've been thinking that there would be this magical day when I would suddenly know what my situation would be like and then I could start planning. I'm starting to realize that that day isn't coming.

I was given some advice (and I know that a lot of other corps members are doing this too) to just plan for teaching procedures and classroom culture lessons in the first two weeks. Like I explained before, I'm feeling like I can't do even that. I'm scared that the first day is going to come and I'm just going to show up at school knowing nothing.

So, having worked through all these anxieties by putting them down on paper (or the computer screen) I do have some next steps. First, I hear that principals should be back at schools on Monday so I'm going to try and contact mine and finally speak to him for the first time since my interview. Second, today I was given the number for the ESL coordinator in my region. That could possible be a good person to get some information. Or at least ideas on what ESL teachers do in other schools.

... and, to add to all of the stress, I STILL haven't found a place to live. It's starting to get to the point of desperation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New Teacher Training

The Department of Education New Teacher Training just ended today. I can't say that it was really that useful. Basically we just had a two day overview of all of the things that we've been learning all summer. It really made me appreciate how well we were prepared during Induction, Institute and Orientation. Everything that was covered in the two day training was information that we had already discussed extensively during sessions at Institute and then put into practice in our classrooms. It was nice to know that at least they are trying to help new teachers out. I do wonder about people that don't already know the basics that they were presenting though. Really I feel like all of my questions and concerns are school specific at this point. I'm told that all of the principals report to school on Monday, so I'm thinking that I'll take a trip to my school and see what I can figure out. I really want to be as prepared as possible but at this point there are just so many variables that I don't know what to prepare for.

I just have to say, in praise for Teach For America . . . Orientation just ended on Thursday and today we got an email saying that they went over our feedback from the four day orientation. They told us the sessions that we said we found most/least useful and then the changes that they will be implementing for not only next year's orientation, but for our Professional Development Day this Saturday. This organization never ceases to amaze me with their responsiveness and efficiency.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Still So Many Questions

The first day of school keeps getting closer and closer and I still don't have a clue as to what I will be doing the first day/weeks of school. The only thing I know about my job is that I am teaching K-8 ESL. The principal didn't tell me anything about the position (other than I'd be doing push-in/pull-out--and he only told me that much because I asked). I looked on the school's web site and saw that there are only 18 ELLs in the whole school (though I'm not sure how accurate that is) and I am responsible for all of them. That's not so many kids but I'm not sure how that works when they span 9 grade levels. I have sooo many questions to ask the principal. Basic questions that need to be answered before I can start any planning. I wrote him an email the other day only asking the three most pressing questions and still haven't gotten word back. He's probably on vacation now or something but I talked to another new teacher at my school and she emailed him 2 weeks ago and still hasn't gotten a response. I definitely don't feel like it's time to start panicking just yet. There's still time to get organized. But I'm wondering what's going to happen if I don't ever get my questions answered and I show up to the first day not knowing anything! I know that a lot of my colleagues are in the same position of not having a lot of information to go on but I feel like it's harder being an ESL teacher. If you know you are teaching 3rd grade, you can look up the standards for third grade and at least start to come up with a long term plan. In my position, I don't know how I am going to have my days structured, how I will work with the general education teachers, what I will be expected to teach the kids, how long I will have them. It's really a lot to think about. I'm not panicking yet though.

Oh, and as for the housing search--I still haven't found anything!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Classroom Library

I'm going to submit a proposal on for a classroom library. I'm trying to compile a list of books to include. Anyone have any essential books (K-8) that shouldn't be left off the list? I'm especially interested in books that portray characters from a variety of backgrounds and recent immigrant stories.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Homeless in NY

It's not easy finding a place to live in New York. I'm currently staying with some other corps members in Brooklyn while I look for an apartment. Yesterday I saw one place and I have a few appointments for tomorrow. I hope something comes up soon. It's very unsettling being in a new city and not even having a place to call home. There is so much to do (get ready for school, organize my finances, buy furniture, etc.) but I can't really do anything until I have a place to live. Not to metion I want to start enjoying my first summer in New York! I have my fingers crossed for tomorrow.