Friday, December 21, 2007

I really suck at blogging this month. Oh, well. The month is over now (as far as school goes anyway). Winter break if finally here and I am off to visit my family for Christmas!

Have a great holiday everyone!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Snow!

A walk through Prospect Park.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The trains were conspiring against me!

I so wanted to make yoga today before the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I taught Extended Day today which ends at 5:15. Just enough time to rush to my yoga class on St. Marks, change, and have a few minutes to spare. Today I had to make a quick phone call after dismissing my class to pay off my student loan (I'd been missing business hours for so long and the interest has been racking up daily. It had to get done today). The call went quickly but as I left the building I saw that I had somehow lost thirteen minutes in the process.

I raced to the train and just missed the J train. Then I got to the F and as the minutes passed and no train came I realized there was no way I could make it to class.

Dramatic, I know, but I was so looking forward to going.

Speaking of "Where did you learn that?"

Today one of my first graders was writing about her mom in the family books that we are making. She wanted to know how to write that her mom was playing and demonstrated sitting cross-legged with her hands on her knees and thumbs and index fingers pressed together.

"Oh, your mom does yoga?"


It was so funny that she mentioned that because I remember catching her playing around on the rug last year in what looked suspiciously like downward facing dog and side plank. I wasn't sure if I was just imagining that it looked like yoga though because many poses I do in yoga are ones that I did as a kid playing around or in gymnastics class. I tried to ask her where she learned that but she wasn't really able to explain it to me. Now, a year later, she can verbalize that she watches her mom do yoga at home.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How I Spent My Halloween

On October 31st when others were dressed up and gallivanting around the city, I was at a panel discussion about Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York. I wrote about visiting the exhibit at the Municipal Arts Society and this event was related to that exhibit.

Here are eight minutes edited from the two hour panel discussion. You can catch a glimpse of me in the audience (in the red v-neck) right at the beginning of the clip. You'll notice that many people were wearing Harry Potter-esque, round, black-rimmed glasses. They were handing them out for audience members to wear as a sort-of tribute to Jane Jacobs who was known for wearing similar glasses. I did actually wear the glasses for most of the discussion (and was so proud for actually "dressing up" for Halloween after all), but alas, they filmed me at the one moment that I wasn't wearing the glasses.

Three Day Week!

It's Sunday night but we have just a three day week to look forward to so I'm feeling OK about that. On Tuesday I have a PD about preparing ELLs for Day 2 of the EL*A. So really I have the easiest week ever. I'm actually worried that I don't have ENOUGH time to finish everything that I wanted to get done by the break.

Today I went shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm so excited. Thanksgiving at my apartment has become a tradition since I moved to NYC. This year Jules and "Boyfriend" are coming again and I am so excited. My sister is coming on Wednesday. It's going to be a good break. I just have to get in two more yoga classes by Wednesday because I know that I won't be going while my sister is here. (Four whole days without yoga!!)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Year I'm Doing it All . . .

. . . Saturday Academy for three hours each week, Extended Day twice a week for an hour and a half, and a "study group" every Wednesday for two hours (not to mention this week was parent-teacher conferences!). I'm exhausted! But I'm making it through. And after three whole days, I finally made it to yoga so I'm feeling good.

Now that it gets dark so early it's hard to do anything but go straight home after school. As I'm walking out of the building at 5:15 it feels like I should have been home hours ago and already in my sweats and making dinner. It takes everything I have to remember that 5:15 really isn't late at all. If it were May, it would be afternoon and I'd be feeling thankful that I'm a teacher and have a chance to be free and out of work so early. But for now, it's dark and cold for another few months.


Extended Day went sooo much better today than last Thursday (which was our first session). Coming into the class not knowing the kids (they are fourth graders that I don't normally work with), not knowing the materials I'd be working with (the AP gave me the books 15 minutes after the session started), not having any snack provided by the school, and--seemingly insignificant, but--not having working clocks that day, really spelled disaster for the end of a long day.

Today however, I came in prepared: I put the desks in a new seating arrangement (one long table with all the kids), brought pretzels (to be handed out to on-task students), and came armed with some better teaching strategies. It made all the difference and today the class a pleasure. The time flew by and before I knew it we had just 20 minutes to complete our last section and go over it. I don't know if the timing felt better to the kids too but at least with the clocks working they didn't have to ask me the time every two minutes.

There is one girl that is driving me crazy though. She always wants to read, answer the question, or add to what someone else said. If she doesn't get to talk every time she starts getting really frustrated. The first day I finally snapped and yelled at her about there being nine other kids in the room and she can't speak all the time; she has to wait her turn. Today I was a little more patient. I also tried to make the turns predictable by having them read and answer round robin-style so she knew when her turn was. I had wanted to write names on popsicle sticks to draw randomly but I didn't have time to prepare that for today. At one point I was really trying to get the kids to understand that getting the wrong answer isn't something to be embarrassed about; now is the time to talk about our answers so that we can figure out why we got the wrong answer and be able to get it right the next time. Well, she really took that to heart and (I swear) when I asked "did anyone get an answer other than C" (which we had just determined to be the right answer), she said that she first chose D but then changed her mind and put C (and then she went on and on as to why). I was sitting right next to her and she picked C the first time. So she wants to share out so badly that she is willing to lie and say she got the wrong answer because she knew I was only calling on kids with the wrong answer at that point. Seriously, I don't know how to deal with her. Somehow I have to tame her a little bit if I am not going to go batty every week. Ideas?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday Morning Yoga at the Y

I'd been looking forward to this class for a while now (I hadn't been able to make it because I was teaching Saturday school). The pace is much slower than the classes that I usually take at Yoga to the People and perfect for a Saturday morning. The change of pace and the change of routine made all the difference in my practice. Today every pose felt right. Each transition flowed smoothly into the next.

Sometimes slowing down is just what we need.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Where did you hear that?"

Whenever one of my students says something in class that I am surprised that he/she knows, I can't help but ask "Where did you learn that?" or "How do you know that?" Just this week I found myself questioning two students.

*In my kindergarten class we are making family books and on the cover the students drew pictures of their families. J drew her sister. She explained that she is sixteen, lives in Mexico, and has a baby. "Wow. Does she go to school?" I asked. "Yes. My grandma keeps an eye on the baby." Just in case you didn't catch that, my five year old English Language Learner said her grandma "keeps an eye on the baby." I wonder where she could have learned such an idiomatic expression because I know that she speaks Spanish with her family so she didn't overhear it in a conversation about the baby. Did she talk about her baby-sitting grandma to her teacher and then the teacher rephrased it and she just remembered? I did try to ask "Where did you hear that?" But being five she really didn't get what I was asking her and just explained again that her grandma keeps an eye on the baby.

*There was another story that I did get to the bottom of this week. One of my second graders read an independent book about a grandpa who was bored because he didn't work and had nothing to do. Then found a new hobby and was happy again. On the graphic organizer E wrote that the problem in the story was that the "grandpa was fire." I understood that he meant "fired." I asked him to show me where in the book he saw that the grandpa was fired. He showed me the line that said "Grandpa Martin did not work." Smart thinking, I thought. He inferred that the Grandpa was fired because the story said he did not work. But why would he think he was fired? How did he even know that word? Was someone in his family fired? I asked "How do you know that word 'fired.' Where did you hear it?" He explained that in his class they have jobs such as librarian, pencil monitor, etc. and if they don't do a good job the teacher fired them. I praised him for the inference and the connection . . . and then explained what it meant to be retired.

I don't know if it's odd for a teacher to ask "How do you know that?" but if you don't ask you'll never know. I usually find their answers to be quite interesting.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oh, PD, how I do not love you!

School is kind of a quiet, sad place with no kids--especially on a cold rainy day like today. The building was eerily quiet. The two times I had to walk to the other end of the hall to get something from my room, I rushed to get back to the library where the noise and energy of the teachers spilled out into the hall.

The day, as expected, dragged on and on. The topic of the day: DATA. Specifically, the school progress reports that were released today. We took the entire day to "delve into" the report to figure out what it was saying. And it certainly took a lot of explaining: we got a D.

The best part of the day was the hour and a half lunch break and trip to Dumont Burger.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I Don't Know What Got Into Me Today . . .

. . . but for some reason I felt the need to cook all day.

First, I started a French beef stew. It's a three day process so I'm making it to eat on Monday. Here's what it looks like so far marinating in my fridge.

Then I made a Tuscan white bean stew. It took almost four hours to make but at least it was ready for dinner tonight.

Finally, I made this apple pie. I'd been having the urge to make an apple pie for a week now so I figured while the second stew was cooking I may as well bake a pie. The lattice top isn't the most beautiful but it was my first try.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Talking About Halloween

In the spirit of Halloween I let my kids play a game today. It was a speaking game similar to Taboo. Students partnered up; one pretended to be an alien who just arrived to Earth today, and the other had to explain to the alien what Halloween was without using the taboo words: Halloween, candy, costume, scary, pumpkin, witch, ghost, party, or trick-or-treat. If the student made a mistake and said one of the words, he/she had to give the alien one M&M (each student had a handful).

I did the activity with all of my groups from Kindergarten to Fifth grade. It was interesting to see how the different groups did with the activity. I first did it with my second/third grade group. They had a little trouble with it because they didn't really get that they needed to make someone *understand* what Halloween was about. I was prompting one of the second graders by asking, "What do you do on Halloween?" She said, "I play around." They were all so worried about saying the words that they didn't really explain the holiday and not much candy was exchanged in the process. My fourth/fifth grade group on the other hand couldn't stop saying the taboo words. The youngest groups actually did a pretty good job with the activity although it took a lot of modeling to get them to understand what they needed to do. In all of the groups the students that did the best with the speaking activity were the students who spoke the least English. It actually makes sense though; they are used to having to talk around words that they don't know. For example one student was describing trick-or-treating but couldn't say "candy" so he said, " . . . you get chocolates and other sugar things." That is exactly what someone learning English would say if they didn't know the word for candy. My more proficient speakers had more trouble realizing there was another way to get the meaning of "candy" across.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

And That's How You Know It's Been a Really Long Day

When it’s 3:00 and you’re passing out math manipulatives to Kindergartners and say: “J and S you get the green triangles. K and R you get the orange squares. N and V you get the yellow . . . the yellow . . . thingys.”

And N says: “You mean hexagons?”

“Yes. Hexagons.”

“Ms. M, did you forget?”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Newcomer English

Saturday school was not bad at all today.

I got to school with a minute to spare (I forgot to account for weekend train delays). I had just three students. I was hoping for all five but two of the boys have Saturday school at their church--or their mother would have brought them "con mucho gusto," she told me as she dropped off their younger brother who is in Kindergarten. I told the AP that he didn't really need to come. I thought he was doing pretty well in his regular class and was progressing nicely but she said it couldn't hurt. He actually seemed really disoriented during the first part of the morning and probably didn't understand why he was at school on a Saturday without his brothers or classmates. He warmed up though, and so did the other two girls. We had a lot of fun and they were all speaking more than I've ever hear them. (That is repeating after me in English and trying to explain things to me in Spanish, and occasionally attempting to try out some new words or phrases on their own.)

We did my basic first ESL lessons today. A lot of "What is this?" "This is a (insert item you're pointing at)" to get them used to asking and answering about new vocab. We did a lot of TPR (total physical response) to practice things they will often hear their teachers asking them to do in class. We took a tour of the school learning the names of the different rooms (such as library, office, lunch room). You would think that after almost two months of school they would have picked up some of these words but most of the words they didn't know or couldn't produce on their own. Actually the Kindergarten boy knew more then two girls (in second and third grades) did in most cases. He has been in the country about nine months longer than they have and he went to Pre-K at the school for part of last year.

Over all it was a good day and it went by really fast. I was happy with what we were able to accomplish today. It's really unfortunate that my schedule is so full that I don't have a separate time in my schedule for these kids during the regular school day because it is so crucial. I'm glad that I was given the opportunity to teach this Saturday class though.

City Ballet

I really enjoyed the Jane Jacobs exhibition today. It was small but well put together. The first room laid out Jacobs' four principles of urban planning (mixed uses, short city blocks, concentrations of people, and a mix of new and old buildings). A lot of the print and photos on the walls were immediately recognizable from her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Along side that were current examples from New York City (the book was published in 1961). Cleverly, the exhibit made use of one of the windows in the room overlooking the busy street below (I'm not sure exactly which street it was, but in the vicinity of 51st and Madison). On plexi-glass placed in front of the window each of the four principles were printed with lines seemingly pointed at various parts of the street below. It invited the viewer to consider the street below and how well it fit with Jacobs' ideas. In fact, most of the exhibit was centered on inviting the museum goer to consider his or her own neighborhood in relation to the concepts presented.

The second room was all about activism, both by Jane Jacobs and current groups and individuals. One pamphlet available was called "Can One Person Change the City?" and it laid out the eight steps you can take to get involved with your neighborhood.

I especially liked a video that showed two high school students giving a tour of their neighborhoods. One a boy from Williamsburg and another a boy from a housing project in the Bronx. The contrast exemplified perfectly what Jacobs was all about.

I went to college in Arizona and studied Jane Jacobs in my architecture and urban planning classes. Reading her work made me want to live in New York so badly and highlighted everything I hated about Arizona. My parents thought I was quirky when I went on about "sprawling chaos" in Phoenix. Cities just make sense to me. The first real city I lived in was Florence, Italy. Thinking about how Jane Jacobs described the "city ballet" in her neighborhood in Greenwich Village, I wrote about the city ballet that I encountered every day on my walk to school from one side of Florence across the Arno to the other. I still think about it.

I can imagine living somewhere other than here and hearing about this exhibition wishing that I could go. But here I am in NYC. I've been really soaking in the pleasures of urban life lately. I really feel like this is where I am supposed to be.

Cool exhibits to visit on a Saturday . . . just another reason why I love living in New York.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Saturday . . . School

It's my third year teaching and I'm finally going to teach Saturday school. I was so hoping that I would get the position and now that I have it I'm sort of wondering what I've gotten myself into. It won't be so bad. Just 10am-1pm. And there are only two Saturdays in October (well, there were three but for some reason they didn't tell me I was teaching it until after the first day) and then none in November (one is canceled due to Thanksgiving, and another due to the AP and some teachers taking a day trip to Atlantic City, and the others I'm not sure about). In any case, it's really good that I am teaching Saturdays because I will finally get a chance to see all of my newcomers in a separate group, that is beginners in English rather than grade-level groups. I just don't have time for that in my regular school schedule.

Even with Saturday school I'm planning on having an awesome day tomorrow. I'm going to go see the Jane Jacobs exhibition at the Municipal Arts Society and then a yoga class at Yoga to the People. I've finally found a yoga class that I love and now I'm addicted. I've been going four or five times a week for the past few weeks. Another great thing about the studio is that it's donation based so you "pay what you want." Finally yoga is affordable!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Loving My Schedule

I know I sort of mentioned this already, but I just had to elaborate.

Being a pull-out ESL teacher I have the privilege of being able to write my own schedule. The first year my schedule was a mess. Trying to coordinate nine grade levels (that’s Kindergarten through eighth grade) around two lunches, preps, math lessons, etc. was a nightmare. I finally worked something out but I was always forgetting my schedule and picking up the wrong kids, not to mention eating lunch and taking preps at a different time every day. The second year was much better. I only had grades K-5 so just that helped a lot in the organization. Still, not every day was the same so occasionally I was off, and in hindsight, having a prep every day during first period wasn’t the most productive.

This year I have finally figured it out. It sort of happened accidentally because it wasn’t as if I set out to make myself the perfect schedule, it just sort of worked out that way. The main change this year was that I have too many kids that need eight periods a week to actually give it to them (that’s another story in itself) so, in order to make the schedule somewhat fair I decided to give each group five periods a day. This means that I can see each group for one period a day. Every day. The same schedule. And after planning around lunches and preps my schedule is:

First Period: Kindergarten

Second Period: Push-In 4th/5th

Third Period: 4th/5th

Fourth Period: 2nd/3rd

Fifth Period: Lunch

Sixth Period: Prep

Seventh Period: 1st

The obvious bonus is having lunch and prep together everyday. That’s one hour and forty glorious minutes to eat and get soooo much planning and work done. But it gets better. Kindergarten is my favorite (and probably easiest) class, so it’s great to have them first thing in the morning. I actually look forward to picking them up from the cafeteria. Next, my push in class is pretty easy as the teacher already has the students working, I just come in a take my groups aside to work with them. I then go back to my room and the 4th/5th graders meet me at my room (soo great to not have to go “pick them up”). After most of the morning has breezed by it’s the final push for 2nd/3rd grade until lunch. They are by far my most difficult group but I know that soon it will be time for a much needed break so I make it through. And then suddenly it’s 12:15 and the day feels practically over. I just have 50 minutes left of teaching (after my hour and forty minute break) and they are my first graders–my second favorite group. And the day is done! (Well, apart from the 37.5 minutes).

Seriously my days FLY by this year. And, when my prep finally comes, I feel like I have really earned it! I have stuff to take care of from the previous classes and planning for the rest of the week to get done. I am really in love with my schedule. And it only took three years to figure out! I’ll have to remember this for next year.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Finally Time to Teach

Well, it's the first week in October and I just finished teaching my first week with my kids. (Crazy, I know.) And let me tell you, I was exhausted ALL WEEK. After all my weeks of "searching" for students I ended up with 49. That's about thirteen more than last year. More students plus more of them at a lower English proficiency than last year equals I don't have enough time in my schedule to give them the required number of minutes per week. To achieve that I'd have to combine three or more grades and have twenty students in a group which just isn't feasible. So instead, I gave each group five periods a week so that it is even (some groups should get eight periods a week). Even with this compromise there are 12 students in my kindergarten group and 14 in my second/third grade group. I know that may not sound like a lot but when you are pulling kids out of their regular class it's nice to be able to give them more individualized attention.

The good thing about my schedule this year is that it is the same everyday so it is much easier for me, the classroom teachers, and the students to remember and stick to. Also, by sheer luck I was able to put my lunch and prep together in the afternoon so now I have a huge chunk of time to get some real work done during the day so that I don't have to take much home.

As usual, the Kindergarteners are my favorite. I just love the little ones, they are so much fun. My big 2/3 group is the biggest handful seeing as half the class is boys and all but two of them are quite a handful on their own let alone all together.

I'm happy to finally be teaching now. Even though I know I have a ton do do as far as ESL paperwork at the beginning of the year, I start to feel a little guilty like the other teachers in the building are wondering why I STILL am walking around without kids. I tried so hard to get everything done quickly this year but it really takes me a solid three weeks to finish everything. Now I'm free to teach until about November when I'll be taken away for more reports.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

In Search of Students

At this point in the school year as other teachers are writing about how the first week of classes went, what their new students are like, and what they have been doing to get their students ready for the upcoming year, I am still doing administrative work and trying to sort out who my students are. I've written before about the long process of going over reports and test scores and rummaging through cumulative folders of new students to determine ESL eligibility. I swore that this year I was going to get through the process more quickly so that I could see students as soon as possible. So far my plan isn't working. There are always things stopping me from doing what I need to do. First of all, the main report that I need to tell me which kids passed last year's NYSESLAT and what proficiency level the other kids scored won't print (or show up on the computer). I've been trying all week! I finally figured out another way to look up the info but that only tells me if they passed or not (knowing the proficiency level is essential to forming pull-out groups).

Another thing is that the secretary, who is supposed to help me get the reports and student data I need is always too busy to help me. I understand that this is a busy time of year for her too but I feel like she doesn't realize that sometimes I can't do ANYTHING until I get a particular report from her. So when she just tells me that she can't do it now and doesn't tell me when she can, it gets really frustrating.

With all of the information that I've gathered so far, I can tell that I have a minimum of 47 students! That's eight more than I started with last year and I'm still not done finding students. Thirteen of those students are kindergarteners! (I think there will be at least a few more too.) That is sooo many. When I pick them up for ESL they won't really be in a small group setting but a class that is almost as big as their regular class. That's going to be a huge challenge. Also about five or six of the kindergarteners have a low level of English. Previously most of my students have just had low literacy levels but a fairly high level of spoken English. These kids don't know basic words that they need to understand or speak to their teacher. I'm definitely going to have to start rethinking how I teach my kindergarten class.

As for the rest of the administrative process, I still have to finish identifying new ELLs, get proficiency levels from last year's test, send out parent letters to all students who were tested in the spring or fall, and hold an orientation for parents of new ELLs. With the short week coming and who knows what unforeseen obstacles, I'm thinking end of next week before I'm finished. So much for getting done early.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Here We Go

After a month off, it's back to blogging (and back to school).

I didn't go into school this week, unlike last year when I did for two days and was chastised by a few fellow bloggers (the comments are no longer there). It's not that I necessarily agree that we absolutely shouldn't go in before school starts, it's just that I haven't been very motivated to get back to school this year. I haven't bought or planned ANYTHING for the new year yet. I suppose that is partly because I know that I won't have kids in my room for two to three weeks so I have a little extra time to get things sorted out once school gets started.

So . . . instead of spending today in my room cleaning, organizing, and decorating, I took full advantage of my last glorious day of summer. After sleeping in, I went to my first yoga class at Laughing Lotus. Then I met one of my friends who has been out of the city for the summer for lunch in the East Village to catch up and talk about the dread of returning to school. We walked around for a while and after she left to get a pedicure I went to the Sugar Cafe on Allen/Houston for a slice of tiramisu cheesecake and iced coffee while reading my book. A fabulous day and so much better than going into school.

Now I'm trying to do about ten things at once including make dinner, wash my laundry, write this post, and catch up on a few shows I have recorded on my DVR. My body is not at all programed to be going to bed early and getting up at I can't even remember what time. I don't want to think about it yet.

Monday, July 30, 2007

New (International) Teacher Blog!

Today I met some girls at my hotel in Coban. We went on a tour of the local coffee farm and then walked around the city together. We had a lot in common as I found out she is teaching at an international school in Guatemala City. When we went to the internet cafe together I found out she also has a blog about her experiences teaching and traveling in Guatemala. She just got here this summer and will be teaching for two years. I'll definitely be reading her blog and living vicariously though her until I go abroad too. Check her out!

I can't make a link at the moment as the keyboard is American but it works like a Spanish one.

Market Day

Before coming to Guatemala there were two things that I wanted to see--a coffee farm and all of the beautiful textiles and crafts. Thursday I went to the market at Chicicastenango which is known for its twice weekly market. Since I got here I have bought so many things just because I was attracted to the color or pattern (and I'm usually not a big souvenir shopper). Luckily at the big market I was able to abstain from buying too much and just took some pictures instead.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sweet Relief

There´s nothing like the relief of finding a place to stay when traveling. Especially when traveling alone. Just twenty minutes of wandering around alone can make you feel desperate and wonder why you are even in this strange place to being with. You sort of hope that someone would see your lost look and point you in the direction of a place to stay. But then someone does and you are weary and don´t want to seem desperate and take just anything, so you say no and keep walking (all the while wondering if you should have at least taken a look).

And then finally you come across a place and it´s perfect. You set down your heavy pack and emerge from the hotel and suddenly this new town looks much more charming and you can imagine all of the things to do and see and eat and life is good again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bike Trip

Today I took a bike trip through the surrounding area of Antigua. We rode through corn fields and even saw some coffee growing in the shade. The tour guide said that it was an intermediate ride which I didn´t think would be too hard because he also said that people had complained that the "easy" ride was way too easy but this was definitely challenging. We rode though a lot of paths that were very muddy since it is the rainy season. Many of the paths were what he called "single track" meaning they were very narrow and the pedals of the bike barely fit in certain areas. By the end of the ride I was covered in mud. We saw several Guatemalans woking the fields and carring the corn on their backs or with the help of donkeys.

At one point the chain on my bike broke and the guides had to fix it.

The landscape was gorgeous--very green and lush. All week I have been looking up at the mountains and volcanos surrounding Antigua and today I finally got to see it up close.

(I would post more photos but the computer is working very slowly!)

Last Day in Antigua

After a week in Antigua I am getting ready to move on tomorrow morning.

This afternoon I had my last Spanish class. Twenty hours in the last week! My Spanish has definitely improved. We did kind of rush through everything but since it was a refresher it was OK. So now I can speak in the present, past, imperfect and future tenses (well, in theory anyway). I will need to review a lot during my trip but this is a great start and much more than I would have been able to do on my own. I think another really beneficial thing about the class was having one on one time with the teacher. Not only because I was able to practice speaking a lot but because I was able to really study the things that I thought were useful to me.

It almost feels weird to be getting on with my travels now. In just a week I´ve grown really comfortable with the school and living in the guest house (it´s really like a family). I could definitely imagine coming back here to study Spanish for several weeks in Antigua. I am kind of excited to get to the real traveling now. I'll be on the move every few days and hopefully meeting lots of new people.

Next stop . . . Lago di Atitlan.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Since I have been in Guatemala I have seen so many children here. I look at their faces and think that any one of them could be a student in my class. It makes me think about what it must be like to suddenly turn up in Brooklyn and start attending a new school in a strange place. Of course I have considered this before but being here makes it so much more real.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Spanish Classes in Antigua

So I sort of decided on a whim to take a week-long Spanish class at the beginning of my trip to Guatemala. At first I wasn´t sure if it would be a waste of my travel time or if it would be beneficial to helping me communicate for the rest of my trip. I figured that Antigua was a place that I would want to spend a little time anyway so it couldn´t hurt to spend some of my time there learning Spanish. And so far it is proving to be very useful.

I´m what you would call a false beginner in Spanish. I´m not completely starting from scratch (I had three years of high school Spanish) but I do need to start learning it again from the beginning. Because of my knowledge of Italian and the Spanish that I have stored deep in the depths of my brain, I am going fairly quickly through the material. Most of the verbs are similar to Italian so I can recognize the immediately. I just need to study them so that I can retrieve them on my own when I need them. Things like phrasing and sentence structure is either similar to Italian or feels natural from having previously stidied Spanish.

For the last two years I have taught kids who speak Spanish as their first language and I have never spoken to either them or their parents in Spanish. I wouldn´t have known how to form a sentence other than Yo soy la maestra de ESL. Now, for the past three days I have been talking with my Spanish teacher (we have one on one classes) at length about my family, life in Arizona, Italy, etc. By no means is any of this grammatically correct but I am starting to be able to speak. Honestly I doubt I ever spoke this much in my high school Spanish class and that was after having learned all of the verb tenses and conjugations (I´m just now starting to refresh on the past tense in Spanish).

All of this makes me realize that I am not that far off from being conversational in Spanish. And it kind of makes me excited to learn. Spanish was never something that I wanted to study. In high school I had expected to take Italian only to find out that it wasn´t offered. So I spent three years in learning it but never really caring about being able to speak it. Once I started learning Italian it was even further on the back burner because all I cared about was speaking Italian and not ´messing it up.´ Even since then I have taken French and Arabic, wanting to learn those before coming back to Spanish. Now it seems that with a summer living in Latin America and focusing on learning Spanish I could be fairly decent in Spanish. Definitely something to consider although I am still pretty set on the idea of teaching in an international school in Egypt so that I can learn Arabic sometime in the near future.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Count Down to Guatemala

Only nine days until I leave for Guatemala! I've just about got everything I need for my trip now (still lacking the rain gear, but I'll get to that). So in my last week and a half here I want to do all of the fun NYC summer stuff that I'll be missing out on when I'm on my trip. Movies under the Brooklyn Bridge, concerts at the Bandshell in Prospect Park, River to River festival, the floating pool by Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Coney Island (I haven't been yet and it's my last chance). So much to do and only ten days.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I Hate Losing Comments!

I started adding labels to my posts a few weeks ago but they weren't showing up on the actual blog, just on the part where I type. Today I figured out how to get them on the blog but it means losing all of the previous comments from the last two years. That makes me a little sad. Why can't the halo scan comments transfer over? But I guess if I'm going to make the change it's better to do it sooner rather than later.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mi Piace Le Lingue

My last Language Week post a little late. I've wanted to write this week but have been so busy.

Mi piace molto le lingue. Mi piace imparare lingue e ascoltare diverse lingue. Mi piace vedere film in lingue straniere e mi piace viaggiare in paese dove parlono lingue altre che l'Inglese. Sono molto interessata in bilinguismo e i diversi metodi per crescere i bambini a parlare due lingue.

Non direi que imparo le lingue facilmente me mi piace imparare le lingue. Voglio imparare tanto lingue quanto possibile. Ho gia detto che ho studiato un po' di Spagnolo e ovviamente l'Italiano. Ho anche studiato un po' di Francese e un po di Arabo.

Ho studiato il Francese quando ho abitato a Firenze. (Strano, lo so.) Ho frequentato l'Universita' degli Studi di Firenze e hanno un centro linguistico. Corsi di lingue non costava molto e potevo prendere crediti per "related fields" di che avevo bisogno per prendere la laurea a Arizona State. Era molto interesate imparare Francese in Italiano. La maestra ha traducco in Italiano da il Francese e spiegazione grammaticale era sempre in Italiano. Sembrava che era molto piu facile per gli Italiani imparare il Francese (una lingua romanza) che io. Pero era interessante che c'erano certe cose che io ho capito piu facilmente che loro perche era piu simile a Inglese che Italiano. Poi quando ho abitato in Sardegna ho lavorato a una scuola di lingue, Inlingua, e ho frequentato un altro corso di Francese (gratuito). Non parlo bene il Francese ancora. Devo abitare in un paese dove parlono il Francese se voglio impararlo per bene.

L'Arabo, ho studiato per diversi raggione. Quando ho abitato a Firenze ho conosciuto tanti Arabi. Ho sentito l'Arabo parlato spesso e ho piaciuto come sentire. Un giorno, scerzando con un amico Arabo, ho detto "Io posso imparare l'Arabo. E' un corso che offrono a l'Universita che frequento in Arizona." Mi ha risposta, "No, non puoi imparare l'Arabo. E' troppo difficile!" Lui stava scherzando ma non ho mai dimenticato cosa ha detto. Due anni dopo, stavo per registrare per l'ultima semestra a l'Universita. Ho visto un annuncio per un nuovo corso di Arabo. La mia programma era gia piena ma ho deciso di inscrivermi nel corso. Era molto divertente. Era interesante imparare come funzione una lingua che sembra impossibile imparare. Si e' un po' difficile ma non impossibile. Sentivo rimorso che non ho deciso di studiare la lingue prima (adesso era l'ultima semestra a l'universita' e non avro' l'opportunita' di studiare di piu.) Pero, non era completamente vero. Ho frequentato in altro corso di Arabo a (community college) e poi quando ho abitato in Sardegna ho assisisto ad un corso di Arabo. Come Francese non parlo molto Arabo ma adesso capisco come funzione la lingua. La prossima lingua che voglio imparare per bene e l'Arabo. Per fare questo voglio abitare in Egitto o Libano. Ho projetti di insegnare a una scuola internazione l'anno prossimo o l'anno dopo. Ma questo e per un altro posto.

I love languages. I like learning languages and listening to different languages. I like watching foreign language films and I like traveling to countries where they speak languages other than English. I’m very interested in bilingualism and the different methods for raising children to speak two languages.

I wouldn’t say that I learn languages easily but I like learning them. I want to learn as many languages as possible. I already said that I studied some Spanish and obviously Italian. I’ve also studied some French and some Arabic.

I studied French when I lived in Florence. (Strange, I know.) I attended the University of Florence and they had a language center. Language courses didn’t cost much and I could earn credits in “related fields” that I needed for my degree at Arizona State. It was very interesting leaning French in Italian. The teacher translated in Italian form French and grammatical explanations were always in Italian. Then, when I lived in Sardegna I worked in a language school, Inlingua, and I attended another French course (for free). I still don’t speak French well. I have to live in a country where they speak French if I want to learn it well.

Arabic, I learned for different reasons. When I lived in Florence I knew a lot of Arabs. I heard Arabic spoken often and I loved the way it sounded. One day, joking with an Arab friend, I said “I could learn Arabic. It is offered as a course at my university in Arizona.” He replied, “No, you can’t learn Arabic. It’s too difficult.” He was just joking but I never forgot what he said. Fast forward two years later. I was registering for my last semester at ASU and I saw a flyer for a new Arabic course. My schedule was already full but I decided to enroll in the course. It was so much fun. It was interesting to learn how a language works that seems so impossible to learn. Yes, it is a little difficult, but not impossible. I regretted that I hadn’t decided to study Arabic sooner as that was my last semester at University and I wouldn’t have the chance to study the language again. But that wasn’t entirely true. I took another course at the community college after graduating and when I lived in Sardegna I audited another course. Like French, I still don’t speak Arabic very well but now I understand how the language works. The next language that I want to lean well is Arabic. To accomplish this I want to live in Egypt or Lebanon. I have plans to teach in an international school next year or the year after. But that is for a different post.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Guided Reading Lending Library

In the last two days I've spent ten hours working to get my idea for a guided reading lending library off the ground. I am actually amazed at the amount of work that I got done (with the help of some other teachers) in just two days. I wanted to take a picture of the work in progress but I forgot to bring my camera.

Thursday I started by laying out all of the books that I had sets of (5-8 books). There was another teacher who had quite a few sets too so I added those to the piles. I then went around to every teacher's room (there were quite a few working) and asked them for what ever they had and added them to the stacks around my room. By the end of the day every desk and table surface was covered in sets of books.

Today when I came into my room I was overwhelmed at all the work there was left to do. Luckily I had three great teachers there to help me. Leveling the books was the biggest and most important part of the whole project. Two teachers worked on leveling the K-3 books (by using the Fountas and Pinnell book as well as by comparing them to anchor books and descriptions). I used the F&P 3-6 book to look up the other titles. Anything I couldn't find in the book was given to a third teacher who used a binder with level descriptions to figure out each book. By 1:00 we had leveled ALL of the books! I had had serious doubts about completing the job but we did it. Next came the task of organizing the books in groups by level A, B, C, etc. and the recording on a list to see what we had. As it turned out we had a pretty good assortment of books for each level. For levels P-Z, however, we were really lacking in books, just one or two titles per level. We'll have to order those books for next year. Finally we worked on coming up with a system for loaning out the books. Each set will be stored in a magazine file with a library card on the front. When a teacher wants to take books they just take the books and the book info card (with teaching points, vocab, etc.) out of the file, sign the card, and go.

Now we just need to organize them into the room/closet that will be their home (TBD at the moment). We want them to be in a place where all teachers can get to them any time they want without having to ask permission or hunt someone down for the key. If it's not accessible and easy to use, teachers won't use it. We'll probably get another day or two to work on the project next week (for some reason our school has lots of extra money to spend before we loose it). This is great news because I'd love to have the room ready to go by the start of the school year and September is just such a busy time for something like this.

When everything gets set up I will definitely share pictures.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Non Parlo Spagnolo, Ma Sarebbe Utile

Dico sepmpre, per ogni parola che ho imparato in Italiano, ho perso quella parola in Spagnolo. E credo che sia la verita'. E siccome ho studiato l'Italiano per cinque anni e ho abitato in Italia per tre anni ma ho studiato Spagnolo per solo tre anni nella scula superiore, si puo' capire perche ho detto, "Non posso dire neanche una frase in Spagnolo." Pero, penso che tutte le parole Spagnole che ho imparato sono sotto chiave e posso farle riuscire.

Il 18 Luglio, vado in Guatemala per un mese. Frequentero' un corso di Spagnolo per i primi cinque giorni (solo) ma spero di fare uscire tutte le parole e frasi che ho gia imparato. Sembra necessario parlare un po' di Spagnolo perche l'Inglese non e' molto parlato in Guatemala. Pero, sono un po' apprensivo di imparare (di nuovo) perche non voglio perdere l'Italiano che ho lavorato molto di imparare. Sarebbe molto utile parlare Spagnolo pero. Quasi tutti i genitori dei miei studenti parlono Spagnolo. Adesso no parlo con loro perche non posso.

E' strano che ho deciso di studiare Spagnolo nella scuola superiore perche sarebbe praticale ma adesso, cuando mi serve, no posso dire niente.

I always say that for every word I learned in Italian, I forgot that word in Spanish. I believe that that's true. And since I studied Italian for five years and lived in Italy for three years, but only studied Spanish for three years in high school, you can see why I say, "I can't even say a phrase in Spanish." But I also think that those words are just locked up and that I can unlock them.

June 18th I'm going to Guatemala for a month. The first five days I'm taking a course in Spanish. I hope to be able to unlock all of the words and phrases that I've learned during those five days. It seems necessary to speak a little bit of Spanish because English isn't widely spoken in Guatemala. But I'm also a little apprehensive about learning Spanish (again) and "messing up" the Italian that I've worked so hard on. It would be very useful for me to learn Spanish, however. Almost all of the parents of my students speak Spanish. Now I don't speak with them because I can't.

It's strange that I decided to learn Spanish because it would be useful but now that I need it I can't say anything.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Last Day of School Wednesday (Sort Of)

So the last day of school is Wednesday and I couldn't be more excited. Soon I'll be off to Guatemala for a month and just before that a good friend of mine from high school is coming to visit for a week. But even though the kids' last day is Wednesday, I'll be at school on Thursday and Friday too.

Ages ago I had this idea to start a "guided reading lending library" (I just made up that name) at my school. I saw it at a school that I went to visit and thought it was fabulous because I never have enough books on every level to use for guided reading and my AP doesn't like it when I use the paper books printed online from readinga-z (because "we have PLENTY of books at this school"). Basically the "lending library" is a book room that has guided reading sets of about eight books each, and several titles for each Fountas and Pinnell level A-Z. When teachers want to plan guided reading all they have to do is go and grab their class sets for the levels that are needed. Everything is organized and waiting to be checked out.

After seeing this storage room at the school I visited I thought We have to have this at my school! I tried to get around to telling the AP of my idea but you know how they are always running around and it's hard to get them to stop and listen for a minute. Well, I finally told her about this idea on Friday and she LOVED it. And it makes sense that she would because we'll be making good use of the books already in our school and it solves my problem of needing to use the paper books (which are a pain to get copies of at school). I just didn't expect her to love it so much as to say "I want to start this right now! Can you work Thursday and Friday?" I did a quick mental calculation in my mind and came to the realization that that was the start of my summer break. She added that there would be per session pay and I agreed. Not only for the money (though I would NOT spend my first two vacation days working for free) but I am really excited about this project. Teachers can't do guided reading without sets of books and it is impossible to run around trying to round up the books you need each week. And contrary to what some at my school think, you can't do guided reading from a basal reader. I hope that I can get a lot accomplished in the two days. I also hope that teachers are appreciative of everything once it is done. If they're not, they probably aren't doing guided reading like they should be.

Imparare a Parlare L'Italiano

Since I'm going to be writing in Italian I thought I'd write about how I started learning it and other things related to speaking Italian. It could be kind of like a theme for the week, although I'll admit I don't know exactly where I'm going with this. It's good practice for me in any case. It's been two years now since I lived in Italy so I'm sure my Italian's a little rusty. Apologies in advance for any major errors.

Non mi ricordo quando ho pensato per la prima volta di imparare l'Italiano. Mi ricordo pero, che quando ho cominciato la scuola superiore volevo inscrivermi nel primo corso di Italiano. Io pensavo che la scuola superiore avesse tutto. Ma non era il caso. Ha offerto solo Francese, Tedesco, e Spagnolo. Mia amica, che voleva studiare Italiano anche, ha scelto Francese invece ed id ho scelto Spagnolo (perche sembrava piu praticale). Ho studiato Spagnolo per tre anni.

Cuatro anni dopo, quando e stato tempo per scegliere un'universita', ne ho scelto una con una facolta' di Italiano abastanza grande, cosi potevo frequentare tutti i corsi di Italiano che volevo. Ho studiato Italiano per cinque anni e adesso non posso dire neache una frase in Spagnolo. Ma parlero' piu' di questo la prossima volta.

Translation (not word for word, but slightly more eloquent being that English is my native language and all):
I don't know exactly when I first knew that I wanted to learn to speak Italian. I do remember starting high school and being so excited to start taking Italian. High school was this big amazing place that had everything. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. The school only offered Spanish,French,and German. My friend who had also really wanted to take Italian decided to take French and I chose Spanish (thinking it was more practical). I studied Spanish for three years in high school.

Four years later, when it was time to choose a university, I made sure to choose one that had a big Italian department so that I could take as much Italian as I wanted. After studying Italian for five years, I can't even speak a sentence in Spanish. I'll write more about that the next time.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

According to Srah Blah Blah tomorrow starts "Language Week." In observation I'll try to blog a little in Italian. Hopefully with the last week of school I'll be able to keep up with the postings. Here are the "rules."

Anyone else? Kelly some posts in Turkish? Julie, a little French?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Start of Something Big?

I think a lot of us will be watching D.C. to see what happens next.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Taking a Trip is not Cheap!

I got my plane ticket to Guatemala City for just $306. I couldn't believe I could go somewhere so cool for so cheap. But when I got to thinking about what I would pack I realized that I needed so much. I went shopping today and got a lot of what I needed. I'm trying not to have buyers remorse because I know that I need all of this stuff.


I seriously didn't have any shoes suitable for hiking around lakes and ruins and cobblestone streets. These sandals are unbelievable comfortable and I think they'll go with a lot of different types of clothing. On the other hand the light colors might not be the best for traveling but I'll just have to wash them when I get home. There was a buy one get one half off sale so I got both pairs for $120.

Day pack:

I don't own a backpack so I had to get this for carrying around daily stuff. Only $20 at some random store near Union Square.

Guide Book:

Rough Guides are my favorite. I also picked up a Spanish phrase book. I'm thinking about taking a five day Spanish class when I first get there but I figured this book will come in handy as my Spanish is beyond rusty. This was the best buy of the day because somehow the guide book rang up as $6.99 instead of $18.99. The cashier didn't seem to mind. Both books for just $13.99. Score!

Digital Camera:

My biggest purchase of the day. I desperately needed a new camera. My old one was about four years old. It only had 3.2 megapixels, was extremely slow, had a small display, and was completely unreliable as the AA batteries it took never stayed charged no matter what kind I bought. This Cannon Power Shot is beautiful and I can't wait to start using it. Of course I also had to buy a 2Gig card, a case, and an extra battery just to be safe. (I don't want to be at the top of a Mayan ruin and have my battery die on me). Camera with all accessories: $420.

And I'm not done! I still need some rain gear, a few items of clothing, and backpacking essentials like chamois, travel lock, etc. It's a good thing I found a cheap ticket.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summer Travels Ahead

I just bought a plane ticket. I'm off to Guatemala on July 18th! I'm still in shock that I actually bought the ticket.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Well, the organization sheet is in and it looks like I'll be teaching ESL again next year. There really wasn't much movement in the teachers of the lower grades so no spot for me.

There are a few things that am looking forward to about sticking with ESL.
1) Hopefully in my third year teaching it I'll sort of know what I'm doing and be able to improve upon the last two years. In fact, I just had my "End of the Year Conversation" with my program director for TFA and I outlined a few things I want to work on next year including phonics instruction and making connections between quality children's literature and writing, grammar, vocabulary, and listening/speaking.
2) I've spent about 15 hours of June Planning working to prepare for doing just what I described so it will be nice to actually get to use it.
3) This will be my first time teaching the same kids for a second year. Apart from a few kids who test out of ESL and a few kids who test in, my roster is essentially the same. I'm excited to think of starting the year off knowing all of my kids and what they need. For example Brandley, Marco and Fernando need systematic phonics instruction from day one if they are going to improve their reading levels. Heidy made 1.5 years reading growth this year and is now at a mid-first grade level (she is a second grader). She's being held back and I know that if we work just as hard next year as we did this year she'll make another 1.5 years of growth and start the third grade on grade level.

I'm starting to get excited about next year already though I am definitely looking forward to the summer. There might be a trip to Central America in my near future. I haven't been abroad in two years now so a trip is definitely long overdue!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

One step closer to certification

I finally finished the last of my certification exams. Eight hours of being at the testing sight on a Saturday was not my idea of a relaxing weekend but at least I am finished. I took the ATS (assessment of teaching skills) and the content specialty test (CST) for ESL. The ESL test I didn't even know that I had to take until a few months ago. Before I started teaching I had to take the multi-subject CST and I thought I was done. Then a few months ago Pace, my masters program, sent out an email saying ESL people had an additional test to take. Now I thought that there was just one CST per license area but I could be wrong. Either that or Pace made us take the wrong test two years ago and now they are having us take this test without telling us that we wasted our time and $88 by taking the other test.

Now I think all I need for my certification is to complete one more year of teaching.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Come On!

I got a really good workout today. I spent 50 minutes on the treadmill and elliptical machines today while watching the Republican Presidential Debate. So many things infuriated me that I think it got my feet moving faster than usual. Now, I'm not one who usually blogs about politics (others can word their opinions much more concisely and eloquently than I can) but there was one topic that does pertain to this blog that actually caused me to say aloud (under my breath) 'fuck you' to the T.V. while I was running.

Now, I'll say right away that I wish I could quote this more accurately but I couldn't find it in my Google search and I didn't catch the candidate's name during the debate (he wasn't one of the top 3 or 4 candidates). Anyway . . . in debating the new immigration reform that is currently being considered, he said that the real issue with that wasn't people overcrowding schools, the health care system, etc., but protecting English as the dominate language in this country (again I'm paraphrasing as I don't remember the exact words). He said that the country is moving towards being bilingual and that is "not good." (That part I do remember.) He was in favor of making English the official language of the U.S. Especially as an ESL teacher it is so frustrating to me that people think like this!

Wake up! Bilingualism does not threaten the status of English in this country, nor is it a handicap to be overcome. Bilingualism is a great resource that contributes to national productivity, diplomacy, competitiveness in the world economy, and (as a Republican should not overlook) and national security. As a teacher and a lover of languages, I strongly believe that knowledge of another language is enriching and fosters understanding of other cultures and can even help in perfecting a first language.

With these sorts of negative attitudes towards bilingualism, I can only imagine what that would mean for education policy. Already states such as Arizona have outlawed bilingual education while NCLB now requires students in the country one year and one day to take the the English Language Arts exam along with native speakers.

I believe that rather than try to eliminate bilingualism we should be trying to promote it. Early on in elementary school students should begin learning a second language. Classes should be offered to help students improve their home languages. (Most of my students speak a broken Spanish and can not read or write in the language although they speak it at home with their parents. They could greatly benefit for a "Spanish for Spanish speakers" class.) Literacy skills are transferable and what is learned in one language can be applied to another. More ESL classes should be offered for parents of students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). Everyone should remember that the goal of bilingual education is to become proficient in TWO languages, not to quickly learn English and then discard the first language. (In NYC this type of program is called "Dual Language" while bilingual education is meant as a transitional stage until students become proficient in English).

While I am on this rant, here are some myths about language learning that really get me going.

*Bilingualism confuses students and handicaps their cognitive growth.
*Young English learners will "pick up" English quickly if they are "totally immersed in it"
*Bilingual education sends the message to immigrants that they can get by in the U.S. without learning English.
*And the worst . . . "My great-grandfather came to this country without a word of English and he succeeded without bilingual education."

Don't get me wrong. I think it is incredibly important to learn English. It is essential to getting a good paying job. What I feel like people don't always understand is that making English the "official language" of the U.S. isn't just about symbolically declaring that English is our dominant language. These types of bills are usually include many policy ramifications. One such bill was proposed in 1981 which proposed to forbid government agencies--federal, state, or local--from adopting or enforcing "laws, ordinances, regulations, orders, programs, [or] policies" requiring the use of any language other than English. Similarly, the "English Language Empowerment Act" of 1996 would have limited the Federal government's ability to communicate in languages other than English and repealed bilingual voting requirements.

Back to the Republican Debate. My take is that the opposition to bilingualism is more sue to a hostility or resentment towards immigrants that being against speaking two languages in order to be a more cultured or well-rounded person. Do you think it would be such an issue if people in the U.S. were becoming increasingly bilingual in Italian and French for example?

I for one would like to learn as many languages as possible. I majored in Italian in college and have studied some French, Arabic and Spanish. When I have kids they too will become bi- or even tri-lingual either through a bilingual program at school or, if the case may be, by learning English from me and (insert language here) from my (future) husband.

Please weigh in on your thoughts. Bilingual Education? What do you think?

Also, for more info check out this site.

Ready for a Change

Today I talked to my principal about getting my own class next year (as opposed to the K-5 pull out that I do right now). I think the exact words that I used were "If there's any way possible, I desperately want my own class next year." (I think I even clasped my hands for emphasis.) I'd already mentioned this to her once and put it on my preference sheet but I wanted to really make my case for why I wanted it. Luckily she said that she wanted to know my reasoning and we sat down for a conversation on her office sofa to talk about it. I told her that while I do like ESL (the kids, the strategies, the philosophies, etc.) it wasn't my choice to teach ESL, TFA placed me there. What I've always wanted to to is have my own class of kids, particularly the lower grades, K-2. Some of the reasons for wanting to have my own class are, 1) having a group of teachers to work with as a team, plan together, etc., 2) to get to really know a group of kids (now I have 40 kids and some of them I barely know even at the end of the year), 3) to focus my instruction on one grade (right now with 6 grades I'm all over the place). I'd like to become really proficient in teaching one grade and be able to improve upon it each year. And, 4) to be able to have some routines and consistency with the kids. Now, I never know if I am going to have a coverage, not be able to pick up the kids due to a special event or trip, etc.

I also told her that I know that being a classroom teacher is not easy. There are different responsibilities like report cards, cumulative folders, testing, etc. If the kids are driving you crazy one day you are stuck with them for the entire day you can't just send them back to their class after 45 minutes. Now, I am lucky to have a lot of freedom to plan my own schedule, move around the building, to go outside the building for workshops and PD, skip a teaching period to work on the yearbook, etc. There are many teachers that would kill to have an out of the classroom position. Considering all of this I still really want my own classroom.

We had a really good conversation and the principal agreed with all of my pros and cons for each position. She said I had good reasoning for wanting to make a switch. Having said that, however, she said there were considerations such as my license area (ESL, not common branch), if there would be a vacancy, and one other thing . . . my classroom management. She said that she has seen me briefly (never for extended times) with my small groups and I am good with them but the few time she has seen me doing a coverage I'm not as good with the larger groups. I said that it's hard when you are covering and you don't know the kids and they know they're not going to see you again. She agreed but said that there was a certain (positive) aggression that a teacher needs to have. I tried to assure her that starting at the beginning of the year with a group of kids I'd have time to teach them routines and procedures so that everything would run smoothly. She also suggested that maybe I do some reading on the subject over the summer. At the end of the conversation I kind of got the feeling that she was saying, not for sure that I wouldn't be able to handle it, but maybe.

I also told her that whoever the new ESL teacher was (if I got my own class) I'd be happy to help them with things such as reports, compliance issues, testing, reports, and all of the other administrative tasks that can be so daunting when you don't know how the system works.

Overall, I think the conversation went well. I'm glad that she at least sat down to hear my thoughts on the matter. Still, I give it about a 10% chance I'll actually get my own class. In the meantime, I busy with June Planning trying to map out a long term plan for next year.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The last few weeks . . .

I am finally back at school after a week of test scoring. Add that to the two weeks of testing and it's been a whole three weeks since I've taught anything. And, man, it is so hard to get back into the swing of things. Especially after the three day weekend and all of the kids acting like summer break starts next week. I am looking forward to next week's half day. My school is doing a dance festival outside on the playground and the weather is supposed to be great so it should be a wonderful day.

* * *

The school drama I mentioned in the last two posts ended with the petition to recall our chapter leader being sent in to the UFT office. It had the required 1/3 of the staff signatures so a rep was sent to hold a vote to determine if our chapter leader would be recalled. There weren't enough votes so our chapter leader stays. End of that drama for now.

* * *

Our principal gave out copies of our school's quality review. It is such a joke. We scored proficient. Reading through all of the comments written about our school I just kept thinking "Seriously? How can you know that after just a day and a half at our school?" It seems like most of the things written had to have been based on the comments of one or two people. It really made our school look much better than it is. What is the point of going through this whole review process if the schools are not going to be accurately evaluated?

* * *

I have my Masters!! I graduated on Wednesday. I'm so glad to be done with it all.

Friday, May 18, 2007


It turns out that the negative comment posted online was on the UFT website in the Grapevine. A teacher posted a comment about how the school is not a good place to work and other negative comments about the administration. The principal got her "team" of teachers who are on her side (and against our chapter leader) to go on the site and post positive comments to out weigh the one negative. Now there are several comments on the Grapevine saying what a wonderful school we have, that the administrators work hard and are supportive, and that it is just one person trying to spread negativity. The thing is, any intelligent person reading these comments will be able to see through a comment that in on line says the school is a great place to work and in another says "it's not the administration that makes the working conditions unpleasant." At our UFT chapter meeting today one teacher said that he posted a positive comment on the site to balance the negative one. His reasoning was that we want good teachers to come to our school and if we post negative comments no one will want to work at our school. He is one of the teachers on the side of the administration and it wouldn't surprise me if he was the one who showed the principal the original negative comment (which was posted on a UFT member only section of the website).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Overheard Today in the Office

My Principal to the AP: No matter what we do it's never enough. Now there is stuff written online. I just can't believe someone would do this. After everything we do.

I'm not really sure what they were talking about (and the words I wrote are not verbatim) but it was referring to something that had been written online about the school that the principal had printed out to show the AP. The situation was very odd as they were having this conversation in muffled voices right next to about 12 teachers waiting to punch out after a PD. The principal, who had started the conversation, kept telling the AP to stop talking about it as it wasn't the place. I don't know what the online posting or comment said, but the thing that really baffles me is how astonished she was that something bad could be said about her or the school. She has made comments like this before: How could the staff possibly file a grievance against me after everything that I do for you. She really is that delusional. As if we don't notice that everything she does is for show. As if we should overlook the harassment and intimidation of teachers she decides to pick on. None of the teachers in the school are happy. Fifty teachers have left since she started six years ago. Really? She doesn't get it??

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Almost Done

I just submitted my last assignment for grad school! Whee! Now all I have to do is attend my last class this Saturday and then I graduate on the 23rd.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The End is Near . . .

(Of grad school, that is)

In 25 days I will graduate and finally be free of Pace. It really can't come soon enough. Just one research paper and two lesson plans/reflection papers to go.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Real Teaching Today

Today was slightly better than the last two days.

The poetry lesson that I did with my first graders went much better with the kindergartners today. Just like yesterday I read the kids three poems about rain. This time we made a web about all of the things that they think about when I say rain BEFORE we read the poems. The kids touched on pretty much all of the things that the poets did. This got them ready to imagine what they were hearing in the poetry. Then, I had them write their own poems about rain (which I didn't do with the first graders).

For K and 1 we have "poetry paper" which is paper with lines centered on the page that are only about a third of the width of the paper. The students wrote their poems on these lines. Although my kindergartners don't understand the rhythms and line breaks in poetry yet, their writing sounds like poetry because they don't always write in complete thoughts anyway. The lines force them to write with line breaks so it looks like poetry too.

* * *

The last two periods of they day I had a coverage of fifth grade. I've covered them before and they can be quite a handful. Today I went in armed with a plan. I gave each student a post-it to earn tally marks for a treat at the end of the period. This worked well for me as I've always struggled with behavior management on coverages. As for the lesson, I did a poetry lesson that I've done both this year and last year with various grades. First we read a poem called "Winter Eyes" that looks at winter through the senses. (I Do) Then, we brainstormed our own ideas for looking at winter through each of the five senses. Next, we re-write the poem about winter using the first two lines of each stanza and changing the last two. (We Do) Finally, the students choose a season other then winter and make a graphic organizer and then write their own poem in the same style of the poet. (You Do). The kids did really well on the assignment and it was fun working with them.

Two full periods of teaching! Too bad I couldn't have spent it with my own students.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why I'm Not Crazy About Teaching at the Moment

Here's a quick rundown on what I've done at school since we got back from spring break.

-First period(prep): I had to move all of the furniture in my room back to its proper place after it was scattered all over the place for our second floor waxing of the year.
-Twenty minutes with my newcomer group.
-I administered the NYSESLAT Interim Assessment to my fourth and fifth graders.
-We had an hour-long AIS meeting as part of our quality review process.
-Last period of the day: I taught a poetry lesson to my fourth/fifth special ed. group.
-37.5 minutes. (Essentially I baby-sit for a kindergarten class while the teacher dismisses the half of the class that goes home, then I take half of the kids that are left to my room for a fifteen minute lesson before packing up to go home again.)

-First period (prep): I got organized for the day, including making posters on chart paper for my first grade class.
-Spent 45 minutes packaging interim assessments and field tests and having them shipped.
-Twenty minutes with my fourth/fifth grade special ed. (We finished the poems from the day before.)
-45 minute PPT meeting as part of our quality review process.
-Poetry lesson with first grade class. (Went horribly, need to take a new angle.)
-Grammar lesson with second/third graders that is part of my action-research project for grad school. (Also went horribly. I need to do better tomorrow.)
-37.5 minutes. (Essentially I baby-sit for a kindergarten class while the teacher dismisses the half of the class that goes home, then I take half of the kids that are left to my room for a fifteen minute lesson before packing up to go home again.)

See what I'm getting at? There's really not a whole lot of teaching going on at the moment. I really hate days like these because I feel like I am not doing anything. It's days like these that I really wish that I was a classroom teacher so at least I could be with my kids all of the time. The end of the year starts to get more and more like this as I have the NYSESLAT to administer, classes are taking field trips left and right, graduation practices, assemblies, etc. All of this is not to mention the tons of meetings I get sent to. Before break I had one per week for five weeks! According to my program director for TFA the next few weeks should be the final push to achieve significant gains but I just feel like there's no time at all!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The End of Break

Spring Break is almost over. At the moment I feel like there's still a little bit of time but soon it will be tomorrow and that feeling will be gone. Thankfully we only have three days to get through before the weekend. And, my school is having our Quality Review so that should be interesting.

Well, my break started out very productive. I got up and went to the early classes at the gym and then came home and marveled at how much I could accomplish around the house before noon. I even went to some museums and FINALLY went to Zibetto. If you love good espresso even half as much as I do you have to check it out.

The second half of my break--not so productive. I slept in impossibly late several days and caught up on some movies on HBO On Demand. I'm on break though so it's allowed right? Hopefully tomorrow I'll make the early class at the gym and feel productive once again before going back to school. And, I should probably plan something for the kids to learn when we get back.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What's Next?

It's hard to believe that my two years as a TFA corps member are almost over. When I decided to apply back in February of 2005 (when I was living in Sardegna) two years seemed like such a long time. (How could I commit to living in the states for two whole years?) Soon after arriving in New York I started thinking that maybe I would teach a third year too. Living in New York City, though not a foreign country, is certainly more exciting than living on a small island--even if that island is in Italy. Now that the two years have flown by, who knows, maybe I'll even start thinking about a fourth.

So, I am definitely committed to staying in New York and teaching next year. There are a lot of reasons teaching another year makes sense. First, I feel like I'm just getting started when it comes to being a good teacher. I still have so much room for improvement in my teaching, I don't want to quit before I have a chance to realize my potential. Also, and I just learned this, I need to teach a third year in order to get my professional teaching certificate. Last, when I finally do decide to get that international school job abroad, I want to have a little bit more experience under my belt.

So where does that leave me for next year? When I switched schools last year I wanted a school that I could stick with for two years. I made the switch and my school is 100% better than my first year and I am a lot happier with my program. Still, things aren't perfect. The administration is terrible. I spent most of the year on what I call "the bad list" though it seems like things have recently turned around and I might just be back on "the good list." The staff is so much better than at my previous school and there are a lot of good teachers here that I can learn from but most of them are talking about "getting out" next year. While my school definitely isn't the worst, I long to work in a school with a supportive environment where the staff works together and teachers rave about the good things going on at their school. (This really happens, I have been to a lot of PDs at schools where this is the case).

Being that it is the end of my two years in TFA, I have started getting a lot of recruitment emails and such from the charter schools. Today I went to a career fair-type event sponsored by TFA that had many charter schools and some public schools there in addition to other non-profits. I didn't see any school that I was totally in love with but a few that I might look into some more. I'm not sure that I want to make the switch to a charter school (partly because I can hardly fathom the hours of their school days. Selfish?) Even so, I think ideally, I'd like to be at a really great public school. And, even if I did find that, I don't know how I feel about working at a third school in three years.

I mentioned to my principal recently that I would really like to teach a self-contained K,1, or 2 class next year (technically out of my license area). She said to put that down on my end of the year preference sheet. If she gave me that, I might be convinced to stay as that is what I've really wanted all along.

In any case, I'm definitely teaching in NYC next year.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Back, I Think

Ok, so here is my excuse.

When I moved into my new apartment (back in October) we didn't have internet so I barely had time to do the essential stuff let alone blog. Believe it or not, we only got internet and cable about three weeks ago. Now it seems like it's been so long since I last posted and the year is almost over. I feel like I don't even know what to write anymore. Well, I'll use this sad little post as a starting point and hopefully get back into the swing of things.