Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow in the City!

I had a meeting in Lower Manhattan today and the snow started falling just before our lunch break so I was able to get out and catch some of the newly-fallen snow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

There's always some sort of emergency around here

We have an "emergency" faculty meeting tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. Rumor has it that it's to discuss the budget. Do other schools have "emergency" faculty meetings? And if you call them "emergency" is it then okay for them to break our union contract by having them, a) more than the regular once per month, and b) before our contractual working hours which begin at 8 a.m.? (Oh, wait, we ALWAYS have our faculty meetings at 7:30 a.m.) I think this is already our second or third emergency meeting of the year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Email me at my new email address:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election Reaction

My whole school was buzzing about the election yesterday. From Kindergarten up through fifth grade all the kids were aware of what had happened and very excited. In the halls kids were heard shouting "Obama rocks!" and one particular first grader walked up to everyone he saw to tell them "Obama is the new president of the United States!" In my morning "extended day" period I had just two students (a first and a fourth grader) who don't speak much English yet. I tried asking them if they saw the election last night. The fourth grade boy looked at me with a puzzled face that said "I have no idea what you are talking about." Then I said "McCain, Obama." The boy's face lit up with recognition and the little girl perked up and said "Obama!!" with a huge smile. So cute.

Throughout the rest of the day I gave each group of students a chance to say what they saw on T.V., what they thought, or to ask any questions. Almost all of the students had a lot to say. More than half of them said their parents or someone they knew had voted and some even got to go with their parents to see what it was all about. In talking with my students all of them knew that Obama would be the first African-American president. Some other tidbits from the day:

-A second grade girl said "His dad is from Africa, and I'm from Africa too."
-A fifth grade boy wanted to know why McCain was motioning with his hands during his speech. (I explained how he didn't want people to boo when he was congratulating Obama.)
-Many students wanted to know if McCain was mad that he didn't win.
-One of my newcomer ELLs asked "What happened to the girl who was always with Obama before?" (Hilary Clinton)
-I was impressed when one third grader knew that the donkey was for the Democrats and the elephant was for the Republicans. Many more students knew the colors, probably from watching the map the night before.

After spending most of each class talking about the election, I made a web of things we had talked about and had the students do a "quick write" for five minutes about the election. (Our first QW of the year.) They all wrote for a solid five minutes and had good things to say based on what we had talked about.

I was very excited for the whole day and I had a great time talking about the election with all of my kids.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The "Spelling Chip"

Today I tried a new strategy with my first and second grade classes that I adapted from a video I saw in PD this week. In the video the teacher explained how when she did centers/guided reading with her students she was getting a lot of questions from students that they really could answer themselves. It was getting to the point where she couldn't do her small group instruction because of the interruptions so she came up with a system where each group of students got a "question chip" in which they could use once during the 90 minute centers time to ask a question. This made me think of my lower grade classes and how all of the students are constantly asking me how to spell words that are on the word wall or that in any case they could be attempting on their own. I sometimes tell them to try on their own and other times end up helping three kids spell words simultaneously. It was getting out of hand.

Today I introduced the "Spelling Chip." Each student got a chip (really a math counter) that they could use to ask me how to spell a word. I explained how they could only use it once so they should try to save it for a really tricky word. We reviewed the different ways they could try to spell a word if they didn't know how (word wall, stretch it out, look around the room, ask a friend) and I stressed that even if they didn't spell the word correctly I would be very happy to see that they tried.

It worked like a charm. Only two (TWO!!) students asked me to help them spell a word because they were so interested in "saving" their chip. I still went around the room helping the students with their writing and in some of those cases helped them with spelling and sounding out words, but for the first time I didn't have a huge mob of seven year-olds around me asking me how to spell every single word.

I'm hoping that it wasn't just the novelty that was exciting for them and that we can keep this system going. (It's nice because the tangible aspect of it keeps me on track too.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Love My Little Ones

One of my favorite students, a first grader, asked me this week why I take another boy in her class three times a day but her only once a day. She loves me and coming to ESL class so she was very serious in trying to figure out this huge injustice in her six year old life. I tried to explain to her that her classmate only spoke a little English so he needed extra help so he could learn. She was very understanding, "Yeah, he only speaks a little bit English. Not that much." The she added in a whisper, "He said that you play games with him," hoping to dispel his rumor. "That's true. You can learn by playing games too," I told her. Then she said very sternly, "To learn you have to do a lot of *homework*! Not play games!!"

I don't know what's funnier: that a first grader reprimanded me for playing games in class or imagining two six year olds discussing coming to my class and what they do there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Updated Blog Roll!

I was looking at my blogroll and realizing that I really haven't updated it much since I started blogging in 2005. It was so out of date that practically none of the blogs were being updated anymore. Since I started using a reader I don't ever look at the list of blogs on my page anymore. I went through and added most of the blogs that I actually read from my Google Reader. I made new categorizations: NYC Teachers, International School Teachers, Other Teachers, and ED Policy. I'm hoping to add more blogs to the International School Teachers list this year as I start to think about applying for one myself. If you know of and good ones I'd love the recommendation.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Seriously?? (Yes, seriously.)

Today at school we had an "emergency staff meeting" during our morning extended time in which our principal revealed our letter grade from the city. She stressed that the information was to remain embargoed until the scores were officially released but I will say that it was not an A nor a C and it was an improvement of our last year's grade of a D.

We were oh so close to an A she said and that was due to our hard work with the students. And we could have reached that A if the 94% of teachers who filled out the survey hadn't trashed and attacked both the school and the administration we were told. And to think of all the Unsatisfactory ratings she could have handed out yet didn't. And all the times we teachers asked to go home early or have a day off and she NEVER said no. Hopefully we would think about all of these things next time we filled out the surveys.

Seriously. I can't make this stuff up.


Oh, and PS, I have been teaching students for over a week now! Yeah, between my super organization from last year and a lot fewer students to test for ESL I finished my admin stuff in one week rather than the three it has taken me every other year. I'm kinda liking it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Back to School . . .


Actually, ever since last Friday I am kind of excited to go back. I'm excited to see my students (though I won't be teaching them for a few more weeks), to put the finishing touches on my classroom, and to organize and plan my schedule for this year.

Getting my groups organized is my favorite part of getting ready for the new year. Friday I printed a report that showed me how my students did on the NYSESLAT last spring. From that I can see which of my students will be returning, who moved up a level in proficiency, and who tested out of ESL. So far it looks like I'll have a very small group of kids in the upper grades (just 4 fourth and fifth graders). I have many more second and third graders than in the past so that group may become two either based on grade level or proficiency depending on the students. As for Kindergarteners, I have no idea yet what that will look like.

My big task for Tuesday will be going through all of the new admits to see who is eligible to take the test to enter the ESL program. After I do that and then test the students I will finally know which students will be in the program and then I can start to make my schedule. I usually have five groups of students (based on proficiency and grade level). The tricky part is organizing my schedule so that it doesn't conflict with the prep schedule, lunch schedule, math classes, etc. As of last year I've sort of taken a more relaxed attitude toward planning my schedule. I have 40+ kids to organize into 5 teaching periods a day and all the obstacles of the lunches and preps to get around. I can only do what I can do with my schedule. Not all the teachers will be happy with when I am taking their students out and not all students will get their full mandated time, but I am just one person with a tight schedule and I can't make everyone happy. My schedule was much more consistent and organized with this new attitude that I took last year and I plan to do the same this year.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big Suprise at School Today

In our first PD of the morning my AP starts going on about the guided lending library and how you can check out books to use with your classes.

Huh? What? Where?

"Wait, what about the library? Where is it now?" I asked. "In the closet. Ms. X moved all the boxes and spent a lot of time labeling it." Replied the AP. *Me mildly panicking inside.*

After the meeting I went to go look at the closet and to my surprise it looked beautiful! It's in the closet that I originally wanted it and it looks great. The labels are actually the check out cards that I made. Since they cut them to be labels I'll have to come up with a new sort of check out system but it's OK because I understand why they had to do that to make them fit. I'm very happy. Check it out:
(Just a portion of the library.)

In other news, my principal came up to me this morning before the beginning of her meeting and said with a big smile, "A lot of things may change. We know what you want." Referring to the fact that we now have two coach vacancies so classroom teachers may get put in those positions thus opening a lower grade class for me. Why would she say that?? We still wouldn't have and ESL teacher so I'd have to stay. If she really wanted to give me what I wanted she would have looked for an ESL teacher to replace me over the summer. Just why? Why would she bring that up again when it is not going to happen. And now even if she did offer it to me--hello, I just spent all day organizing and decorating my room. Aargh.

Well, over all it was a decent day. Look at all the supplies I got from our basement.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not Going in Early

I was going to start this post by saying that this is the first summer since I started teaching that I have absolutely no desire to go into work early and start getting my classroom ready but in looking back on my old posts, I was feeling EXACTLY the same way on this day a year ago. I only got back from Italy eight days ago so I haven't had any time to have my lazy summer days or the get in that summer productiveness that comes with all that time off. I was literally gone from the day school let out so I didn't have any time to be home. I certainly wasn't going to give up one of those days to be in my classroom. Again, maybe if I were going to have kids in my room on the first day of school I'd be energized to get a head start on things, but it'll be the end of September before that happens.

I was reading some blogs this morning and saw that the other Ms. M was also not feeling going in to school early but was getting pressure from her administration and coaches to do so. Other commenters said they were getting the same thing. I wondered if maybe the same was going on at my school so I checked my DOE email for the first time since June but didn't find any such pleadings. No doubt on Thursday when we go into school our principal will publicly thank the teachers who did come in early but I will be content knowing that I enjoyed my last days of summer and won't have even an inkling of guilt.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer Planning?

It's the last week of summer and as Nancy says "everyone has planning on the brain." Everyone except me that is. I've never been a good long-term planner. Beginning from my first summer before teaching I just couldn't sit down and plan. Then it was because I had no idea what my ESL pull-out teaching assignment would look like or what would be expected of me. While all my TFA colleagues were home planning their hearts out I just couldn't as much as I wanted to.

Now that I've had three years experience I still am no good at planning. My current excuse is that I want my lessons to support what the students are doing in their regular classrooms so I wait to see what they are doing with their teachers and plan accordingly. Usually that means that I plan on a week by week basis. Also, I have six grade levels (K-5) that I have to plan for. That really doesn't lend itself very well to long term unit planning for each class. Lastly, when it comes to summer planning, I'm just not under pressure like the other teachers are to get things ready for day one. On September 2nd our building will fill with students anxious for their first day. Teachers will be setting the tone for the year, introducing routines and procedures, and generally trying to make it though the day. I on the other hand will stroll in five minutes before the bell rings and get down to paper work and administrative duties. Three weeks in when teachers are really starting to know their classes and summer had faded to a distant memory I'll be picking up my kids for the first time. Needless to say, I'll have some time to think about what I want to teach for my first week of class.

I wish that I were more like Nancy and that I loved to plan, but so far I just haven't hit that groove. I'd love to think that with a different teaching position or a more supportive school environment that I'd be able to do it, but maybe I just don't have it in me.

So here I am in the last week of summer. School's just a distant thought in my mind. Before I know it I'll wake up and it'll be back to work, the summer a yesterday away.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Library That Never Was

It was a year ago this week that I presented my idea to create a guided reading lending library for my school to the assistant principal. She loved the idea and we immediately started working on putting it together after the last day of school. Many teachers were paid per-session rate ($40/hr.) to help me collect, organize, and level the books. I also planned a whole PD session on how to do guided reading. In September I bought supplies to hold the books and created a check-out system. I was given an empty classroom to set everything up and I spent many lunch periods and preps putting the finishing touches on everything. Additional books were needed to fill in the gaps so I wrote out a huge book order. The library was ready for teachers to come in and check out books! Here is a picture of what it looks like . . .

Now here's the sad part of the story: Not a single teacher ever got to use the library.

As I worked to finish the preparations at the beginning of the year I tried to set a date with the principal to introduce the library and how to use it as well as to give the PD that I'd planned. She picked some date in October but it didn't work out. Then she suggested I give it at the Election Day PD. "November will be here before you know it." Well, turned out we had district people talking to us about data that whole day so it got pushed back again. And so on and so on until we all practically forgot about it. After the ELA I pushed to introduce it again because "Book Clubs" were the focus in the upper grades and that would be perfect for the teachers to have sets of books to check out. Still didn't happen. Finally it started getting to the point where the year was wrapping up. Is anyone even *teaching* guided reading now (if they ever were)? I just didn't feel motivated to bring it up again.

Now it is the last week of school. Half of my book order arrived last week. Today I integrated them into the library. And still not a single teacher has been able to take advantage of the library and all of the time, effort, and money that has gone into putting it together. I fear for the fate of the library next year. The classroom that the books are housed in will go back to being an actual classroom. The books could fit in a large closet but the proper shelving would have to be installed to make them fit and be accessible. Half of my books can't be ordered until next year's budget "opens up."

I still can't figure out why they dropped the ball on this one. All the work was done. All the effort put in. Plenty of money spent. A simple workshop and set of keys was all I needed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Still trying to negotiate that self-contained class

Today was our end of the year meeting/celebration for my ESL study group. It was the most fabulous meeting I have ever been to. It was held at the Water Street Restaurant in DUMBO and after a few short presentations we had a delicious lunch (paid for by a book company that gave us a presentation). After the meeting I walked around the waterfront and took some pictures before returning to school (because I had a paid PD I needed to get back for).

At the meeting I talked to my supervisor/ELL specialist/CLSO-whatever-you-call-her about how I wanted to move to teaching Kindergarten. She thought that was a great idea and asked if it was a self contained ESL. I said no, just a regular class. I told her about the whole situation with my principal saying she couldn't post a vacancy. She replied that she could and SHOULD post it on the open market. She also said that she would try to send some ESL teachers my way. She had a suggestion for me as well. She said that I could have all of the incoming Kindergarten ELLs in my class (along with some other students) and I could have a self-contained ESL kindergarten (my ideal class). This would lighten the load of the pull-out ESL teacher who would then only have to service grades 1-5. A good situation all around, in my opinion.

When I got back to school I relayed all these ideas to my principal. She interjected ways that it wasn't possible and I countered with how it was since I was told by our district ESL know-it-all that it was!! I also told her firmly that I CANNOT teach the same thing again next year. I am in a rut doing the same thing three years in a row! I am a kind of person who needs CHANGE! (She tried to get me to distinguish between 'unhappy' and 'in a rut' "because they are different." I can't distinguish between the two because it is both, I told her.) She listened to everything that I had to say and said she would consider it and get back to me by the end of the week.

I really hope this works because I seriously need a change for next year. Oh, and at the meeting I gave my email address to two schools that need self-contained ESL teachers for next year. Networking, networking.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Apparently the answer to Tuesday's question was no.

So my principal talked to me today about next year's assignments before she handed out the organization sheets. She said that she put me down for ESL again though there was a vacancy in a lower grade like I requested. She said I was "being considered" to fill the position but the problem was that she couldn't post a vacancy for my license area. If she found an ESL teacher though I could possibly be given the Kindergarten class that had a vacancy. (It was sounding a little hopeful at this point.) Then she went on to say that while she was interviewing for various vacancies she would put it out there that the ESL position was a possibility but that she couldn't specifically advertise for the position because she "couldn't create a vacancy in my license area." Well, what if she hires someone for the Kindergarten position and finds an ESL teacher after that? Can I still have the position? I asked her. No, she said because it will have been already filled she said. I pointed out that it seemed unlikely for her to randomly come across an ESL teacher if she doesn't post the position. Yes, she agreed, as she nodded her head and gave me a look that said "this is the unfortunate predicament that we are in." I pressed on saying that it seems like I am stuck here in this position. It's as if the only way for me to get my own class is for me to go to a new school and start all over. She made some light comment about not letting me leave and I'm so great or something like that. (Throughout the whole conversation she showered me with compliments about how great I am with the ESL program and that the AP thought so as well.)

Essentially I came away from the meeting with the impression that she has no intention of giving me the position but is trying to make it seem as though she is doing everything she can to work it out for me. In the end when it doesn't work out she will be able to blame it on "the system" for not letting her create a vacancy. She compared this to a previous year when a special ed teacher wanted to go into a general ed classroom and so they put her there for the next year and created a vacancy but then "it wouldn't let them do it and she had to put the teacher back to special ed." (She says this all cryptically as if there is a computer system that knows where she is placing people for next year and won't let her do certain actions.) Now I understand about not creating a vacancy insomuch as she can't give me my own class next year leaving the ESL position with out a qualified person to teach it when I am qualified and working in the building. I completely get that. But I don't see how anything is preventing her from advertising and actively looking for my replacement. This is why I know this whole business she keeps repeating about creating a vacancy is her cover. I know this woman. If she really wants to do something, she will *find* a way to get it done. Obviously she doesn't want me out of ESL.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Will I ever get my own class?

For the second year in a row now I put on my preference sheet that I want my own class instead of teaching ESL. Just like last year my choices were 1) first grade, 2) Kindergarten, and 3) second grade. I talked with the principal and she knows that I really, really want this for all the same reasons as last year. This year though she keep mentioning how she knows I'm "not comfortable with the inconsistent schedule of being an out of classroom teacher." Weird that this year she tries to subtly put me down by saying I can't handle an inconsistent schedule of coverages and maybe I should "consider going into the classroom" when last year she said she had seen me in coverages and I needed to work on my classroom management if she were to consider giving me my own class. Contradictory much? Anyway, she said she would seriously consider it though it is problematic to create a vacancy in a "high-needs" license area. (Makes me think I'm definitely not getting it as she's already set me up for why she can't.) Then at the full day PD last week when her and I were discussing yearbook stuff she said I needed to make sure to go to the PD with the rest of the teachers because I need to "be in the loop in case I have my own classroom next year." (And still I think she's just saying that to say it.)

I know that next year they are adding a first grade class and a Kindergarten class and both of the current Kindergarten teachers want to move to new grades so there should be plenty of movement if she really wants to give it to me. The tentative organization sheet is due out Thursday.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Watch Me Fly!

For Ms. Frizzle's Birthday we went to the New York Trapeze School. We learned a surprising amount in just two hours. Here is my last fly of the day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Rubber Room

If you don't know what the Rubber Room is check this out. And then go see the movie when it comes out. One teacher from my school was sent to the Rubber Room at the beginning of this year and he is still there.

Thanks for the link Nancy.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Too Much Information?

I have a blog, I post a daily photo of myself every day on Flickr, I have a Myspace account and a Facebook account (to which I semi-regularly post "status updates" telling my Facebook friends what I am currently up to). I share plenty about my daily life and my friends and "friends" that are linked to my various accounts are able to keep pretty good tabs on me (as far as I'm willing to share), I'd say. But is this taking it too far?

Is anyone on Twitter? I checked and none of my friends are. Yet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy Friday

Today was a wonderful Friday for me. I had a meeting to attend that was just three blocks from my house! And even better, it didn't start until 9am. This meant I got to sleep until 7:45. By the time the meeting ended at 1pm there was no point in going back to school since I get an hour for lunch and then an hour for travel time. There was nothing else to do but go home :) So wonderful!

The meeting was about scoring for the big state English proficiency test that all of my kids just finished taking this week. Starting on Monday I have to train a group of teachers at my school to score them. The scoring should only take a couple of days since my school doesn't have that many ELLs. Then it will be back to real teaching again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Three Angels

Why I love Kindergarteners . . .

One of my Kindergarten girls, Jessica, was trying to tell me a story but I couldn't understand a word of what she was saying. "Angel, the man who cleans the floor!" She said, referring to our custodian. "My cousin's name is Angel, too."

"I know." I said.

"There are two Angels. My cousin and . . . Oh, and the one that flies. So there are three Angels: the one that flies, my cousin, and the one here."

So precious.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

My First Ever Meme!

I've been blogging for about three years now and this is my very first meme. And clearly I need the inspiration right now since I haven't blogged in month. Thanks Julie!

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

In 1998 I was 17 and a senior in high school getting ready to graduate! I was planning my first backpacking trip to Europe which really gave me the travel bug. In the past ten years I have taken a trip or lived abroad almost every year (the first two years living in NYC were pretty rough financially so I didn't make it anywhere those years).

Also ten years ago on that backpacking trip I randomly met a Jordanian guy who I had a romantic summer fling with. We have always kept in touch and have seen each other on various trips of mine to Europe (and one of his to NYC). It still amazes me that ten years later he is still a really important person in my life. Meeting him also sparked my interest in the Middle East, learning Arabic, and now a desire to go teach abroad in the Middle East. Sometimes I forget that all of this started with a chance encounter in the Florence leather market.

It's interesting to reflect upon how ten years ago the things going on in my life were sort of setting up for what is happening now.

2. What are five things on my to do list for today?

Well, the day is over now but the only thing on the to do list was to go to brunch and I can proudly say that I accomplished that!

3. Snacks I enjoy:

-carrots and hummus
-chips and guacamole

(These are just random things that popped into my head. I'm not sure if they are my most favorite. I'm sure there are others.)

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

I don't really sit around thinking about what I would do if I had extreme amounts of money. Like Julie, I do know that I would travel the world. It would be nice to have a house in a few different places that I like to visit often so I could split my time between say, NYC, Italy, etc. And (obviously) I would donate to a worthy cause. Most likely something involving education would be on that list.

5. Three of my bad habits:

-Hitting snooze in the morning. I love the morning and I REALLY would love to be a morning person in theory but I just can't get out of bed in the morning. Even if I've already had more than enough sleep.

Hmm . . . the first one was easy, let's see.

-Maybe taking ridiculously long showers. All the time. I know, it's bad to waste water (and time) but I love being under the hot water and as much as I try (or don't try) I can't seem to take a quick, or even relatively quick, shower. I have ALWAYS been like this.

-I'm starting to think spending too much time on the internet. Sometimes I "multi-task" by watching T.V., talking on the phone, and/or eating while being on the computer.

6. 5 Places I have lived:

-California: I lived there until I graduated high school.
-Arizona: I went to college there and my family moved there too so I don't really have family connections to California anymore.
-Florence, Italy: I studied there twice. Once for a study abroad program and another time as an exchange student with the University of Florence.
-Sardegna, Italy: After I graduated from college I taught English in Sassari, Sardegna for a year.
-Brooklyn, NY: I moved here in 2005 when I started teaching as a Teach For America corps member. I put NYC as second choice of cities that I wanted to teach in but in my heart it was really first. I'm so glad that I ended up here.

7. 5 jobs that I have had:

-Starbucks Barista
-selling jackets in the leather market in Florence
-working at the reception desk in a youth hostel in Corfu, Greece
-waitress (in Italy and Arizona)

8. Peeps I want to know more about:

-Minty at Pepperknit
-Kelly at An Adventure of a Lifetime
-Ruth at Out of Uganda
-Ms. Brave at Ms. Brave Teaches NYC
-Miss G at Closing the Gap in NYC

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Language Learning

Recently I started taking Arabic classes again. The classes were going well at first but tonight I was really frustrated by the way the teacher was presenting the lesson. There were so many things that I would have done differently. Mainly I was frustrated that the teacher was doing all of the speaking in Arabic and we, the students, barely got to say anything. How can you learn a language when the teacher is talking and the students are listening? Students need to SPEAK in the target language. This critique comes not from my teaching experience here in NYC but from my TEFL training in Italy and then teaching for a year at Inlingua (a private language school) because those experiences were comparable to the class that I am currently taking. So when I got home tonight I wrote an email to the school telling them about my concerns. At first I thought the email was going to sound really rude because I was so frustrated but I think it turned out to be quite reasonable. What do you think? Would you have emailed the school too?

so I just had my third Arabic class and I am not feeling satisfied with tonight's lesson. The first class (which was my trial class) was good but the teacher deviated from the book so that perhaps wasn't an indication of a regular lesson. The second class was with a substitute and it was also good. This third class, using the book with the regular teacher, I did not like. The problem that I have is that the teacher did the majority of the talking. For most of the lesson she read all of the tables of words to us in Arabic and asked us if we knew what they meant. We then responded in English. Then for the exercises she read the sentences to us in Arabic and we answered filling in just two words in Arabic. There were so many opportunities for us (the students) to be reading/speaking in Arabic that were missed. I felt really cheated out of the time that we had in class. With just three students we should have had ample speaking time. Instead, the teacher talk time was about 90% while the student talk time was about 10%. I hope that we can somehow resolve this because otherwise I really like the class (and the teacher) and want to continue with my Arabic studies. please let me know what you think about this. (And if perhaps I am addressing this with the wrong person could you please forward this message on?)

Thank You,
Ms. M

Friday, March 28, 2008

Our "Quality" Has Been Reviewed

So the first word (given by our principal over the loudspeaker just minutes after the reviewer left) was that our review was "extremely positive" with more details to come.

I'm sorry, but I'm not excited that my school did great on our Quality Review, because it just isn't. For the second year in a row we managed to fool them. If I were the principal I think my goal for next year would be to get the same result without any crazy preparations leading up to the day and a half review. If all these pretend things we did for the review (bulletin boards, data binders, classroom rearrangements, prepping the students and teachers to say the right thing) were just naturally in place all year with out a mention of the QR, THEN I'd be happy we got a good review.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kindergarten Writing

This week I introduced my kindergarteners to using a rubric to get a "happy face" on their writing. I showed them a big rubric I had made on chart paper and explained all that they would have to do to get a happy face.
- a detailed picture
- a sentence with a capital at the beginning and a period at the end
- spaces between each word
- all words sounded out ("stretched")

After explaining the rubric I asked: "Who wants to do their best writing and get a happy face on their paper?" They all raised their hands and were really excited. AND they all really did their best work of the year. They were so excited to see if they were going to get the happy face on their papers. Even my kids who usually struggle a lot got it with a little help.

There's just one kid, my newcomer, who didn't get the stretching of the words. He's just not there yet developmentally. But he did his neatest writing, a great picture, perfect spacing, copied the sentence starter I have them ("I learned that . . ."), and then wrote a string of letters for the rest of the sentence. I asked him what his sentence said and he said he didn't know. He really did his best work of the year though. So do I give him a happy face or really stick to the rubric and give him the "medium(?) happy face" because he can't stretch his words? He was the only one who couldn't do all four things even with help.

I gave him the medium happy face and told him what an awesome job he did.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


. . . because Ms. Frizzle asked.

Pineapple bits, orange and tangerine marmalade on a whole wheat English muffin, cottage cheese and, of course, coffee.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Now that the math test is over we have the Quality Review to drive us crazy.

I truly think that the quality review team should just show up completely unexpectedly (at any point in the year) without any warning. If we have to "get ready" for it, then we're really just putting on a show, aren't we?

First it was the binders with printouts of data that no one really uses. Do you think the QR people will notice that we printed out test item analysis reports to be analyzed a MONTH after the ELA was already over? Clearly those were not being used to "drive" instruction. So the newest thing is the "Vigilante Squad" (as one first grade teacher calls them). The Vigilante Squad consists of the Principal, AP and both coaches. They are going around from room to room completely changing furniture arrangements, demanding that more charts be added, putting in "centers" that we don't use, and generally causing all the teachers in the school to freak out. They don't consult the teacher on what they are changing, nor do they ask the reasoning behind the current set up of the classroom. When they finish their rearranging, they give the teacher three days to complete the organizing and cleaning (Or else?). The funny part of all this is that the administration has been harping on how when the QR people come "you students better know the routines of your class, how to use things in the room, where to find things, etc." So I guess changing every room in the school just a few weeks before the QR was the best way to ensure that.

If only we put the same amount of time and energy into teaching and planning and collaboration, we might just have a decent school.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I finally have my week back!

Now that the math test is over, so is after school, Saturday Academy, and weekly PD. That's eight extra hours a week all to myself! This is what I did with my week:
Tuesday-one-on-one training at the Mac store for my new computer
Thursday-Arabic class

I don't regret doing all that I signed up for this year; the extra money was definitely worth it and now the extra time is just that much sweeter. I'll definitely do it again next year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Letter in the File

Today I received a "letter in my file" from my assistant principal.

Hold on though, it was a GOOD letter. It was thanking me for doing such a great job on a particular report that I have to do every year that collects data on the ELLs in the building. My AP said that she knew the report took a lot of extra time and I did it "without complaining" and my doing so freed her up to look after other things. She even threw in a little joke about how we both finally nailed down the meaning of a particular term regarding ELLs that had been throwing us off for quite a while now.

While I was very happy to be appreciated for my work on the report, the letter was kind of funny for a few reasons: 1) It's my job to do the report, not the AP's, so it wasn't really like I was helping HER out, 2) While it did take a lot of time, it wasn't as if I took it home or did it after school; everything was completed during regular school time, 3) I finished the report a month ago, so why the sudden recognition?

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have any positive letter put in my file that she wants to write, it just makes me wonder: Is the administration trying to butter me up for something?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

One For Me, One For the Kids

I stopped in Barnes and Noble after brunch today to get a new book to read. Of course I couldn't resist the picture books in the kids section and ended up with this book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. It is hilarious and I can't wait to read it to my Kindergarteners and first graders. While taking this photo I actually settled on the book that I am holding for myself, Through the Children's Gate: A Home In New York. I'd been browsing around for an hour or more and seen lots of book that I have wanted to read or that look newly interesting, but none that I was ready to commit to today. Then I found this one and didn't want to put it down.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's Official!

My job contract arrived today and I purchased my ticket . . .

I'm going to Italy this summer!!! I got a job as an RA with a study abroad company. For five weeks this summer I will be looking after high school students studying abroad in Florence. It's suddenly becoming real . . .

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Bowl Salsa

Salsa before:

Salsa after:

I have been making this salsa for many years now and it's always a hit. Basically it's just all of the veggies from the first picture plus a can of corn, a can of olives, a red onion, salt, pepper, olive oil, and two squeezed limes (plus the one on top for decoration).

I have a funny story about this salsa. I made it for my Italian roommates and some of their family members one year when I was living in Italy. (I had to go to a specialty store just to get the tortilla chips.) So they had all sort of eyed me chopping the vegetables wondering what exactly I was making. My explanations in my first year Italian weren't really working. When I was finished I left the salsa on the kitchen table with the open bag of chips next to it. I left the room and came back a few minutes later to find no one had tried any. I took a bite myself and one said "Oh, you eat it like that." Then they all tried a bite. One of my roommates said "It's good," in a still unsure voice. He paused for a few seconds and then added, "But it would be really good if you cooked it and put it over some pasta."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Afternoon in Cobble Hill

Today after teaching Saturday School I decided to walk around a part of Brooklyn that I love but for some reason or another don't get to all that often: Cobble Hill. I had lunch one of my favorite brunch spots, Bar Tabac. I sat at the bar (by myself) and had a delicious Croque Madam. I even shamelessly dipped my French fries in the little ramekin of mayonnaise on the plate leaving the ketchup untouched.

I also made a few purchases which I will share with you all in photos:

1. I had this Lenanese coffee on my birthday when I ate at Tripoli. I loved the small strong coffee with cardamom and asked the waiter to write down the name of it for me. He told me I could buy it at a shop just a few doors down from the restaurant. It's taken me almost two months to get back but I can't wait to brew some at home.

2. Although I once loved this slim gold wallet, it has clearly seen better days.

I've been on the lookout for a unique looking wallet that I was really in love with for several months now. I wasn't sure I'd find one before the old one totally died on me but today I found this:

I love this coin pouch that is attached to the inside; it's what initially drew me to the wallet. I also love the way the pockets are set up and the magnetic clasp. And . . . after I photographed it I realized there is a strap that pulls out in case you want to carry it alone (which I do every time I go out to get lunch at school). And I love that it is blue. I really HEART this wallet! I didn't even have buyer's remorse when I paid $65 for it.

3. I got these sweet little cookies at One Girl Cookies. I loved the atmosphere of the little shop. So cute! The cookies aren't bad either :)

(Cookies shown on a little plate that is part of a tea set I got for my birthday.)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Window Box Herb Gardens

Today I worked with Kindergarten and first grade classes planting window box herb gardens. I wish that I could post pictures of the kids getting their hands dirty in the soil because they had so much fun. One first grader was so adorable when he said: "Look how nice or garden looks when we work together. If I didn't behave I wouldn't get to help plant . . . and this is SO cool." Such grown-up statements for a 6 year old.

The lower grade classes are donating the window herb gardens to the upper grade classes as part of the community service aspect of the project.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two New Things, One Photo

1. After Christmas my sister let me take her cat back to New York with me. It's sort of like a temporary adoption. I love her so much! It's great to finally have this pet on loan since I can't commit to getting one of my own.

2. I started my second scarf in three years at the knitting get together Jules organized last Saturday. I think this is going to take FOREVER to finish! I think we need another meet-up quick.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I got a fun summer job.

I'll share the details when I'm sure that I won't get pinched and wake up :)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Quote of the day:

"You have to listen to the teacher. That is the true meaning of school."
-Christian (Kindergarten student, to another student)