Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Random Tidbits

It's been a little while since my last post. Lately I either haven't had anything to say or I've just been too tired to sit down and write. So, here's a little update from the last week.

My supervisor from the region (I can't remember her acronym) came to see me for the third time this year. This was the first time that she stopped by when I didn't have a class. She stayed and talked to me for two and a half hours! I'd like to say that it was really great and she helped me a lot, but actually, I felt like she was talking to herself most of the time. I'm not sure exactly what her role is. Is she there to make sure I'm doing what I'm supposed to? (She said she wasn't.) Or is she there to help me with instruction? (She didn't do that at all.)

Anyway, there were actually two good things that came out of the conversation. The first was when I asked about observing some other ESL teachers. I told her that I wanted to visit some other K-8 Pull-out teachers so that I can see what they are doing, how they have their rooms set up, what they are teaching, etc. She gave me some names and has since introduced me to some teachers. Hopefully I can get those observations set up soon.

The other good thing was that we got to discuss the ridiculous room situation that I have. (On her previous visits she hadn't realized that I was sharing my room with two other people. As if I would divide my already small classroom in half by choice.) I told her about all of the disruptions that I have been having in my room and she was appalled. When I was at the regional office last week we both spoke to the head of the ELL department and they are planning a visit to my school next week. (I have my fingers crossed but I'm not expecting any miracles).

* * *

In other news, I am now a co-adviser to the 8th grade yearbook at my school. One of the 8th grade teachers (and fellow TFAer/friend) got a yearbook in her box with a post-it on it saying in effect that she was the new yearbook advisor. (The post-it did ask her to "accept" the position, but clearly this task was being handed to her since she was a new teacher who wouldn't rebel and say no.)

I offered to help her out. Actually, I'm REALLY excited about this. I worked on both my junior high and high school yearbooks. I have a lot of great memories of yearbook camp, photo shoots, and rushing to get pages in before a deadline. And now I have a book to show for all that work. I can't wait to get started leading these eight graders to produce a book of their own.

My co-adviser and I haven't had a chance to meet and start planning yet but we have some time since we're not allowed to start with the kids until after the ELA test. I am slightly concerned about how we're supposed to produce an entire book in just two to three months but I have to remind myself that this isn't going to be an award winning high school book. Still, I have seen the books from the past years and I know that anything we do will greatly surpass what they have done in the past. The books left a lot to be desired with some pages completely lacking pictures and several pages completely devoted to teachers and administrators. I want the kids to know that this is *their* book about *their* 8th grade year. It's not about teachers' inspirational quotes or 8th graders' thank yous to the administrators.

Producing this book is going to be a ton of extra work for both of us (advisers) but it will be worth it. And, as a bonus, we get to use the 37 1/2 minutes after school which means I won't have to plan for "small group instruction" (which by the way would be more students than I usually teach).

* * *

Today I went to the monthly ESL professional development. The topic of the meeting was the new "Science Initiative" in the region. Basically the science people got together with the ELL people and decided that we should try to teach language in the context of science for the benefit of all. Last year was all about the "Math Initiative" and we were told that we shouldn't forget about that. The presentation consisted of a quick run down of what the science initiative is followed by what's hard/easy for ELLs in science. Then we did a *40 minute* jigsaw activity to model what we could do with our kids. Then the meeting promptly ended.

There was no discussion of how we are suppose to teach science in ESL. I understand teaching language through content areas but where in my schedule do I do this? Do I devote a period a week to science, half of the periods, all the periods, or maybe simply use science books for a read aloud? All of these questions were running through my head as they were bringing the meeting to a close without time for Q&A. I asked after the meeting and, after giving me a look as if this were obvious, they told me that this was just a suggestion. If we want we can try it out and see how it works for us but if not that's ok too. They are not mandating anything.

The meeting actually got me thinking that I might be able to try this out with my fourth grade group. Right now I see them for four 90 minute blocks a week. I just started do reading groups (or centers) with them this week (for two periods a week). For the other two periods I could use science as my content area to teach vocabulary, language and writing skills. I think this would be fun for the kids, give me a focus on what I can do for unit themes, and hopefully help the 4th graders on their science exam in the spring.

During the first part of the meeting we had a presentation from a sales rep who showed us some really great materials to use in our classroom. Coincidentally (or not) they introduced a new science kit with Fountas and Pinnell leveled readers in them as well. I'm going to talk to my principal about ordering the science stuff. She did recently tell me that I had some money to spend for ESL (actually, I asked) and I'm sure that they will be all about efforts to raise test scores.

What do you think about that Ms. Frizzle?

* * *

I am really looking forward to going home for Christmas. I haven't been home since TFA induction in June so I haven't seen most of my family since then. And, as a bonus, the weather will be 20 to 40 degrees warmer there. That said, I'm not in a total pre-Christmas funk. Actually, I'm feeling pretty good. I've read/seen the graphs showing the slump that first year teachers usually go through leading up to Christmas before then starting to rise again after the New Year. Maybe I already hit that low, or maybe it will come late for me and in January I will be hating life. For now though, I feel like I am finally getting organized and on track. My schedule is now set, I'm planning on a weekly instead of daily basis and I have some idea of what I want to teach until June.

* * *

Lastly, I went to an information session at the TFA office last night about working at the summer institute. It's going to be in NYC this year and for NYC corps members only. As a first year corps member, I'm only qualified to apply for operations director positions (as opposed to instructional positions). There are only six positions available at each institute so it might be pretty competitive. And, institute starts just 5 days after school gets out (staff will get there the day school ends). I'm still thinking about whether or not I will apply. It sounds like an interesting opportunity though.

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