Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Can I make a ground breaking suggestion?

Please don't laugh at me, I'm only going into my 5th year....
But I happened to read Mr. A's post on the whole Master / Turnaround Teacher offers that the DOE has put out and, I just don't get it.

Are there not already school and district based coaches? And mentor teachers? And lead teachers? And cooperating teachers for student teachers?  And don't half of them end up assigned to areas they know nothing about? Does the DOE propose to eliminate these titles? Why add so many layers to an already convoluted system? Sounds like someone  who hasn't been in a school for a while had an idea in a meeting.

 This might be a bigger deal in D75: I can't tell you how many times a coach or lead teacher has walked into a classroom of mine with only a smidgen of special ed experience and told me NOTHING that i didn't know already. As if I never tried a graphic organizer before!  I've experienced behavior / classroom management coaches that refuse to observe the children - instead taking me through powerpoint presentations on how I feel about things like having a chair thrown at me. "Angry. Frustrated." "You have remarkable insight into yourself, Miss Rim, how did you learn that? " "Therapy." Colleagues of mine had coaches in their rooms to model lessons and outright refuse to teach after the first curse word.

So I'd like to make the groundbreaking suggestion that the DOE streamline these titles, but make the duties a little more specific. They could also make a cute little acronym and get good PR that way, say...M.O.M (Master or Mentor)....So a middle or high school who is very needy could have an school based  ELA MOM or 2, A math MOM or 2, etc, etc and with elementary sites there could be a K-2 MOM, 3-5 MOM, etc. on site daily working with teachers and admin, helping to design AIS,  assisting with classroom management, etc. For "less needy schools" maybe the MOM comes a few times a week.
For D75, I'd see it as a bit more specified, the MOMs would have to specialize in either standardized assessment kids, or alternate assessment kids, with grade levels and such.
Then I see these MOMs working at schools to select the right mentor / cooperating teachers and giving them support.
And eliminate the whole "turnaround " word- come on - can you imagine getting one of these jobs, having the best of intentions and then being introduced as the turn around teacher? (although I have the feeling the way it's set up, most of those teachers will be arrogant douches just off their 2nd or 3rd year)  If I may continue the lousy metaphor, these turnaround teachers will be treated like evil stepmothers by the existing staff.

Are you still laughing? That's OK, I know it's more complicated that what I've suggested, (especially the sea change that it would entail) but it's got to be more simple than this.

Wanna hear another joke? I'm going into my 5th year and will get my THIRD student teacher in the fall. That's right, folks. I've been a cooperating teacher since my 3rd year - most of the more veteran teachers where I work can't take it anymore, so the principal assigns some of them to me. Not that I suck at teaching - because I really believe in my bones that I don't- and I give my student teachers what I can, but it's a disservice to them getting such a newbie.

Let's all comment on the way other teachers mentor and model for each other!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

the obligatory E4E / Ruben Brosbe post

Before I get into it, I'd like to give Mr. A. Talk my sincere thanks for the plug he gave me. When I saw the title of his post, I screamed so loudly and with such joy that Mister Rim was suspected I won the lottery. And I actually called my mother. Mr. A's kind of my guru. Thanks, pal!

So to get on with it, a bit of disclosure for those who don't already know: I'm a newer teacher (going into my 5th year) and was a Teaching Fellow. And I am very sympathetic - no, EMPATHETIC-  toward new teachers in alternate certification programs. I think for the most part, most of us want to do well, and the vocal group of E4E "Asshats" and "reformers" represent more of a minority than you really think. (Or I pray that's the case)

In fact I think I "liked" E4E on Facebook, before I knew what they were. But here's what's wrong with the whole thing, in no particular order:

Teaching is not an art, nor is it an assembly line. It's a CRAFT. Think about a craftsperson, say a carpenter....
There's GOT to be a lot of technical know how - you get the specs, envision a finished product, find out how your client (s)  feel about it, then tweak a bit, then there's measuring, proportions, sawing, sanding - ELBOW GREASE. Then on top of that you've got to think of the design - this is where your heart and soul and most importantly YOU GUT  goes. Do the clients want a plain austere design, or something fancy with whimsy? Do they want something fancy with whimsy while you think that plain and austere is the way to go....Confused? Turn on any reality TV home make over show, and you'll get my drift.
The former is something that can be taught to a teacher, lots of "strategies" out there - the latter comes from the gut, the picking and choosing of which strategy goes with the teacher and the kids.  But no matter how good you're gut is, if you don't have the know how, the meat and potatoes - you're LOST. You can't ask the right questions if you don't even know what they are. Admit it, we got shafted with training and DEMAND you receive the guidance and mentorship you deserve.

And if you can't do that, join the union  - that's what its there for. You may not always agree with their decisions, but that's life. And if you join, get vocal. In my experience, the UFT, for all their flaws has always been very supportive of newer teachers, and also special ed teachers.

Tenure? Get over it. What it is now is not what it's supposed to be. Tenure is not a feather in your cap. It's the right to due process - so "they " can't fire you for, say being an unprepared TFA / Fellow who they just don't like. Tenure doesn't mean you're a great teacher. Tenure guarantees you have a chance at NOT being fired for some stupid thing - if a principal can't terminate you because you're a lousy teacher, theh the principal hasn't done their homework.

It's better to leave than be stubborn....My wise mommy, Mrs Rim, told me " If you haven't got your sea legs by the 3rd year, shame."

And lastly - DID YOU LEARN NOTHING FROM YOUR ASSBACKWARDS TRAINING? All we learned was political crap - I wrote a 10 page paper on "pedagogy of the oppressed" my junior year4 as an undergrad, and a 3 page one as a NYCTF grad student. Ugh. If you are in the blogosphere your first few years teaching, stop bragging about all the cool shit you do (and you probably DO do cool shit sometimes) and start ASKING.

Newer teachers, especially those in special ed have an absolute obligation to ask more and tell less..

And as for the hipster beard, Ruben - I have a theory that people with facial hair are creating a shield between themselves and life.

*this is what I have to say. I don't plan on posting much more on this topic, unless something else interesting comes up  - I think  E4E will implode upon itself like the house in "Poltergeist" by....hmmmm .. March?

Stay tuned for more specific tales from the short bus....and Thanks a Zillion Mr. A Talk!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How they have to spend their summer vacation

I work in a D75 school, at an offsite in a class of alternate assessment kids. Almost all the students in D75 have a mandated 12 month year. I chose not to work this summer for two very good reasons: 1. I'm getting married and 2. I was feeling so burnt out that I was worried I'd snap and end up in The Post under some badly rhyming or punning headline: "Miss Rim, Filled to the Brim, Abuses Kids in the Gym"

But I truly adore my kids and my job, and I missed them, so I popped in for a visit. After being waylaid by various office people who wanted to give me the gossip, I was happy to catch them off guard, throw open the classroom door and yell, "You guys are tearing me apart!!!" (inside classroom joke, folks.) I got my fill of the hugs and cootchie - coos . (Yes, I do give my kids hugs sometimes. And I will continue to do so. So there.)

I asked about the "theme" for summer school and was told it was "Picturing America." OK, great. Most of my kids are really, really interested in maps and states and countries and other cultures. (One kid told me his dream was to go to "Montreal-bec" Canada and eat creme brulee - aside from the violence, I have a dream class)  So I was excited for them. And a little bit envious, I was thinking of all kinds of cute things I would like to try with them with respect to that theme.

But apparently, this summertime theme for the school - which has many sites, is K-12 with students that run the gamut of classifications, was not modified for the younger student or AA kids. It was some group of paintings from some museum education course. Which would be fine, kind of - but each class got a painting and had to write about what it reminds them of - which is still fine, kind of - but my class got a painting of the 1st COntinental Congress. To write about.

Now I know all kinds of ways to do writing with my kids even if they can't hold pencils. So do my colleagues. But the 1st continental congress? Come on! The summer teacher in my class, who is a gem, but has very little experience with this population asked what I thought they should do. When I asked some of them what does this picture remind them of....well, the word remind is hard for I asked what it looked like and they said "History." "Grandpa" "Dress" and my favorite, "Computer."

I kinda sat there agog for a minute - but being an AA teacher - you get kind of used to that (I swear AA teachers are probably THE most creative). So I finally told her what I my two top choices... I'd kinda sabotage it....After ass kissingly asking for some help  /ideas / or resources (which likely wouldn't happen) I'd simply make BB with the paintng and their actual reactions: "grandpa" "computer" etc... OR, since I care about the kids,  I'd pick another, more familiar picture out of the set (like the one of the White House, which I hear 11th graders got) and ask the kids what they know about that. They know Obama lives there, they  know the George Washington lived there - even tho he didn't, they kinda get the president thing.

I am tenured, by the way.

Really, this is often the plight of the D75 teacher and their students. With this new observation rubric, and all the other edupeak hullabaloo coming down the line, which D75 schools are expected to follow to the letter - doing this kind of thing looks good "on paper." But I'd love, love, love to see someone show me what these expectations would look like with our kids.

 Seriously - show me and I'll stop with the un - rigorous crap I do. "Computer!"

Coming up: The un-rigorous education D75 teachers provide.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thinking about becoming an alcoholic...but not quite there yet? Join NYCTF!

Many of you obviously remember those signs on the trains....
My first few years of teaching, through NYCTF, my "fellows" and I re wrote those signs...
"What do you call a room full of sociopaths and psychotics? Your first period class. Join NYCTF"
"Wanna learn how to duck chairs? Join NYCTF!"

So, some words on Fellows, TFAers, an the "alternate certification" thing:

Almost all of us have good intentions

Our training sucked. We got shafted. We literally know nothing. (Case in point: In June of my 2nd year I was asked for a kids AIS folder. I said "What's an AIS folder? What does AIS stand for?" ) We don't even know what questions to ask our first years. We also were fed all kinds of ego stuff - we were told we were "the cream of the crop" ad nauseum, so we think we know when we don't. Veteran or mentor teachers, or admins try to be sensitive to that...AND TELL US STUFF.

Many of us use it as a stepping stone to other things, that's unethical at best. If one teaches for a few years and decides it's not a good fit, that's one thing - but if you "get into" one of these programs for the prestige, or because you just graduated and dunno what to do with yourself - I suggest you pass. If you're 22 and wanna party - NOT the way to go.

For more veteran teachers, don't write one of us off immediately, for every Rueben Brosbe and E4E douche, there is another that really wants to be a good teacher - and we want your ideas, your support and sometimes your shoulder.

Miss Rim's tales from the short bus

    Once upon a time, there was a girl who was 5 (or so )  years out of college, working with developmentally disabled adults years out of college and searching.for something "more." Taking inspiration from her then colleagues and mother who was a teacher for 35 years, she applied to the New York City Teaching Fellows and was accepted to teach special ed.
    Whereupon, her mother replied, "Are you fucking CRAZY?"

    And that's the end of the fairy tale.

   In the interest of full disclosure, I was a Teaching Fellow. I now teach in D75 in an alternate assessment classroom, but did my first 2 years in a standardized class at a school for exclusively ED kids. I have highlights and lowlights, which are forthcoming.

   My reading of the estimable Mr. A Talk has clinched my decision to write this blog. With all the hullabaloo out there, I think that the voice of special ed teachers, particularly in D75 needs to be heard. I will begin with a couple of readings about my specific experiences as a newer teacher in an alternate certification program...a "reflection" if you will...and then get a bit political....