Monday, December 31, 2012

Miss M on a Day Off

Along with all the other NYC teachers, I've been off since last Friday for the holidays.  Perfect time to start this new section, called Weekend Teacher.  Here's what I wore on my way to the movies for a morning screening of Les Miserables.  I had intended to see Lincoln, but that didn't work out.  All in time, though.

my pup trying to get in the shot...

loving this color combo. olive colored, J.Crew pants with hot pink Swedish Hasbeens and mint colored sweater from Target

nothing like a mix of textures and a pop of gold

my trusty J.Crew puffer coat, perfect on a cold New York day

my go-to bag by Louis Vuitton

and this is how I protect my ears from the fierce winds...

a smile from a teacher off from work

Miss M

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays!

A co-worker gave me a card with the best attachment ever! How innovative and thoughtful!

After this morning, I look forward to enjoying this tiny bottle later.

I like to give out cards that show my personality with a little candy cane attached. This year I got my cards from the Target dollar section. The cards are black with neon pink, green and blue Pine trees. Twenty cards for $1. Doesn't cost too much to spread some joy.

Miss M

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Do Students Learn Transference?

I once covered a sixth grade class while I was a self-contained 7th and 8th grade teacher. And my!  Thankfully I bought my own work because there was none. Even so, it was intense! In the span of forty-five minutes, I shed a layer because I was hot, gained a headache, kicked a disrespectful girl out of class and was hit with an accident. Whew!

Fast forward to this school year where I am an ICT sixth grade teacher.  I recently taught my sixth graders by myself, all day long!  They missed my co-teacher, I missed her and on we went.

I realize all children need consistency.  I used to especially notice when my 12:1:1 kids were off because one of their teachers was out or the class paraprofessional was absent. It was like the class just could not function at times. I would always be amazed to hear the reports of disrespect from the classroom para when I was out. Considering they usually respected her, to hear the other extreme was baffling.

I now realize the same goes for my largely general education sixth graders-- they also struggle with transference when one of their teachers is out. I wonder, though, when does it transfer? When do children, or students, learn how to apply what they know regardless of the situation and who is or isn't there? I know middle school isn't it, so I'll have to talk to some high school teachers and find out if that changes.

Miss M

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Leopard and Boots

an easy dress, with a flattering cut
I love a pop on color against print.

my trusty Ninewest boots

A Sticker Situation

The literacy coach was visiting the other day and she started a sticker craze in sixth grade ELA.  She placed a sticker on my cardigan, and later my co-teacher and I did the same to the children-- except we placed stickers on sleeves, notebooks, whatever we could reach-- and they went crazy!  They love stickers.  I also happen to love stickers, so I have since pulled out my entire sticker collection.  Yes, I do have a sticker collection.  Stickers are awesome.

I have little stickers, big stickers, flat stickers, raised stickers, hologram stickers, scented stickers and even heart-shaped perfume stickers that came in the Viva La Juicy perfume I treated myself to at the start of the school year.  I'm really good at scavenging things to re-purpose as student rewards.

Ever since that day, the sticker situation has evolved into stickers during the entry slip, or do now, and a super sticker for the star entry slip. My co-teacher and I will scan the entry slips as the students write, and place an awesome ant sticker or a tiny smiley face on notebook pages to acknowledge on task behavior. After four minutes are up, we acknowledge the best entry slip by shouting out that student as his class class gives props by clapping or snapping fingers.  That student reads his work and chooses a super sticker-- usually one of the larger stickers with an animal on it or brightly colored apple.

The sixth grade is eating up the sticker situation. And I love it.

Until next time.
Miss M

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Sticker and a Brooch!

My students seemed to like this outfit.  They like when I wear sneakers.

I enjoyed the light blue against mustard color combo.

My students enjoyed my frog brooch (sale bin at J.Crew) and yes, my sticker says "wow." Thanks ELA coach!

Monday, November 26, 2012

And Who Raised Us?

who we are speaks volumes
about where we come from
and who raised us
who loved us and who didn't

about where we come from
what we've been taught and what we never learned
who loved us and who didn't
what we believe in, who we answer to

what we've been taught and what we never learned
where we have been in life, and where we want to go
what we believe in, who we answer to
if good and lasting things will come to us

where we have been in life and where we might go
and who raised us?
if good and lasting things will come to us
who we are speaks volumes

A pantoum poem, written in class and shared with students, 2009

Color Contrasts & the Wizard of Oz

pink up top, pink on the bottom

a co-worker likened the contrast between my shoes and pants to Dorthy from Wizard of Oz. Yes!

black sweater, chambray shirt & pink flats from Old Navy, blue Cafe Capri pants from J.Crew, tinge of Girl About Town lipstick by M.A.C.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to Enter a 12:1:1 Classroom & Teach

I had a conversation with a co-worker recently that still has me pondering: How do you enter a self-contained class with the students already in it, and gain immediate control of the classroom?  Already, having students walk into a room from the hall can be challenging, in that the students come to you with all kinds of energies, moods and problems.  However, something that worked well for me during my self-contained years, was greeting my students at the door.  I addressed each of them by name and I taught them to address me similarly.  What I was really doing was monitoring the energy that was entering the room.  If a student was too rowdy or upset even, I told them to pause at the door, breathe deeply and let it go.  I taught them, mainly by repetition and practice, to leave all drama at the door.  If a student happened to run-in while I was not at the door, I asked them to re-enter like they knew how, in other words, in a more appropriate and respectful way.

Thankfully, I had my own classroom and I guarded its energy furiously.  My classroom was my home away from home, and the last thing I wanted was negative energies coming in and making home in my teaching space.

So when it came to this conversation with this co-worker, the only thing that came to mind was you can't start your lesson right away when you walk into a self-contained class, or any class for that matter.  You have to read and address the energy of the room.  Say good morning to the class and have them address you in turn.  Transition is important, even for the older-too-cool-for-school kids.  I also suggested he do a mood check-in by going around the room and having the kids say one word about how they are that day, or they can jot it down.

My advice to all teachers walking into a self-contained room to teach easily unfocused students: Acknowledge their person, acknoweldge them as students and make sure they address/greet/welcome you as teacher.

This is just the beginning of conversations between this co-worker and myself around self-contained teaching strategies, and I welcome this dialogue as means to reflect on my six years working with special education students in the 12:1:1 setting.

Miss M

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Mix of Colors & Hot Pink Boots

boots, high-heeled Jodhpur by Swedish Hasbeens
Chambray, mustard, black, hot pink & tan
Fun with colors...
these boots are comfy!


A student told me I wear tight clothes. This is a student who is a little awkward and says things that most students wouldn't in a completely serious way.  She has said, I am serious because I am young and my co-teacher is old.  In this instance, I corrected her saying, fitted and then I listened to rest of her comment.  And yes, I do wear fitted clothing.  This is me teaching at age 27 and not 21. 

There is room for my hips in middle school.  It took me six years to learn so, but this I know.

Miss M

Pink Flats and a Pink Helmet

Off to work for parent-teacher conferences.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Everybody is Not Going to Like You

The student I mentioned with a chip on her shoulder struck again. I was walking down to the lunch room, a place I don't like going because it is crazy and dangerous with all the energy, to get my students for tutoring.  I overheard her saying: I don't like her to two students who do "like" me.

I jumped in saying: You're not going to like everybody. And everybody is not going to like you. That's a life lesson. The sooner you learn it the better. She didn't like what I was saying. Probably because I was right in feeling she was talking about me.

The girls, who are quite mature and have their own troubled history but have turned around, agreed with me saying: Yup, she's right.

And that was that. I've taken to giving life lessons to students when they least expect it. Keeps me sane, and may even teach them a thing or two.

Miss M

Paper Clips and Staples

I had a child who I asked to staple his packet together and he was unsure how the staples went. As a special educator for seven years, nothing surprises me.

In my self-contained classes, I have instructed students on how to use paper clips.  I have learned to put my surprise aside and teach to most moments.

As an ICT teacher, I continue to teach during all teaching moments.

Miss M

Belted and Brown

cream sweater from Express, pencil skirt from Target, belt from a thrift store in Maine, opaque tights by Hue, trusty pumps by Frye

view from the back

my favorite bracelet combo at the moment.  blue beaded bracelet is from a Maasai market in Nairobi.

I love the seams on this skirt! Gives this skirt a sturdy look despite the cloth material.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I am the Teacher, You are the Student!

A student named after a frank virtue told me two things today.  One, as we crossed paths in the hall before first period, she told me I matched-- in the past she has told me that I do not match as well as asked how I match.  Two, she raised her hand in class during independent practice to tell me that my nails finally match-- they are all pink this time, instead of a few different colors.  Luckily for her, the big red stone I had on one finger on each hand fell out, or else she wouldn't have been able to handle it!

The outfit, okay.  The outfit and the nails in one day crossed the line.  I told her, I am not your peer! I am the teacher, you are the student.  It's not like I was reprimanding her per say, but she was getting too comfortable.  Sometimes a student may approach a teacher as though they are the same age, but the longer I've been teaching, my patience for such has seriously dwindled.  Either way, I do not come to school dressed to gain her approval.  I'm not sure that she'll ever understand this though.  At least not this semester.

I love color and have fun with it.  Some kids can appreciate it, just like some adults can.  And some, some are too far in the box.  As they say, each one teach one.  That applies to many things including yes, a teacher can wear funky colors and yes, this teacher does ride her bike to work all year long in her skirts.

Miss M

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Teaching in a Sweatshirt Dress

Every teacher needs something like this in her closet.
dress, tights from Express, boots by Ninewest
Today was a sweatshirt dress kind of day. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fiction: High-Low Book Series

The other day, I was searching for high interest, low level book series and I struggled to find reviews from urban, public school teachers, such as myself.  So here goes.  Below are a few excellent book series, I've come across thus far.

The Carter High series is amazing.  It is low level, as in third grade or so, and it is high interest in that it is a realistic fiction series that deals with issues high schoolors go through.  Middle schoolers, especially the upper grades that I've worked with, eat it up!  Both boys and girls seem to thoroughly enjoy this series. 

Ideally, a struggling reader will go from devouring the Carter High series and graduate to the well-known and loved Bluford series. However, the Bluford series while lower-level is still too high for some students who struggle with reading but are socially mature. It can be especially challenging to get most students to read what they consider baby books at their current levels.  The Bluford series is great for reluctant, middle school readers who are only one or two years below grade level.  Here is a link with information on how to purchase Bluford books for $1 directly from the Townsend Press publisher. Just a heads up, keep a tight grip on these books; they will disappear from your classroom forever if you are not diligent! 

For the not-as-socially mature, or perhaps more playful, struggling reader, R.L. Stine's Rotten School series is perfect. Who know the writer of the acclaimed Goosebumps series could be so hilarious!  The Rotten School series is on a third or fourth grade reading level and enjoyed by boys and girls. 

There is also the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilky.  This graphic novel of sorts is very popular with children who have a sense of humor or enjoy reading silly, not-too-serious books.  The reading level for the series is approximately third or fourth grade.  These books will also disappear from classroom libraries forever if the teacher is not careful! 

Similarly, there is the Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series, also by Dav Pilky.  This action, adventure series is also a graphic novel, and is on a second grade reading level. 

The Weird School series by Dan Gutman  is on a second grade level and is a fun read for boys and girls. This series includes many, many books which can be helpful for older, struggling readers who need to read a lot at their level in order to improve their fluency and comprehension.

As you can see, most of the low level, high interest book series I can vouch for are humorous, often slightly-zany books. It is challenging to find realistic fiction books that adolescents can relate to. I did request that my principal order the Orca Currents series, but I haven't read any of these books nor have I seen students in my past school devour this series in the way they have responded to the aforementioned books. Either way, Ocra prides itself on catering to reluctant readers, so I will let you all know what I think when I get to read a few.

Next up, nonfiction books for reluctant readers.  Until then...

Love, Miss M

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grad School Interview Outfit

This is what I wore to my graduate school interview.  In a sea of black suits, I was one of two applicants wearing color.  Here are two hurried photos from that morning.

The colors did not photograph as well.  But in person, I thoroughly enjoyed the color combination.  Bright pink tippi sweater by J.Crew, red skirt from Target, black opaque tights, brown pumps by Frye.

Camel winter coat from Uniqulo, trusty wrap-around scarf from the Gap.

Trip Ideas in New York City

Sony Wonder Lab-- one of the best trips I've taken students on was to this interactive museum.  Very hands-on, fun and informative!  Plus there's a free Sony arcade in the adjacent building.

Transit Museum-- located in downtown Brooklyn, very interactive.  Great for younger kids and middle schoolers.

Musuem of Moving Image-- located in Astoria Queens, this is a must as most students don't get to go here.  This museum is also very interactive and informative.  The kids get to do voiceovers, sound mixing, create short animations and learn about the history of TV and film.

Museum of Natural History-- one of my favorite museums in the city, though many students tire of it by the time they reach middle school.  Plenty to see that aligns to science and history curricula. 

Hall of Science-- located in Queens, this is a hands on science museum with an interactive, science-orientated playground. The kids love it here, and so do their teachers!

Apple Store-- one of the best trips I've taken students on was to the Apple Store on 14th street for an iMovie workshop.  We learned how to create movies using photos taken with Photobooth.  Our instructor was very personable and great with my special education group.  We left the store with bright yellow t-shirts, and CDs containing our movies.  Very cool trip with a long waiting list.

Prospect Park Zoo-- most schools trek to the Bronx Zoo, which is the largest zoo in the city, but Prospect Zoo is small enough to enjoy in one trip and still has a variety of animals.  Plus, this zoo is adjacent to the beautiful Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Sweater Dress

 It is officially chilly in New York City!
sweater dress from H&M, trusty tights by J.Crew
Almond is wondering what I'm up to, as I hurriedly take my photos before rushing off to grab doughnuts before work.
booties from Steve by Steve Madden

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yes, There are Good Public Schools!

In my two months of teaching sixth grade in Brooklyn, I especially know there are some outstanding, public elementary schools in this city!

On the second day of school, I had to ask my students, "What schools are you all coming from?" Already I could tell the children were bright and extremely articulate. The students were using accountable talk by connecting thoughts to their peers, they were using transitions in their writing and choosing huge, independent reading books. It was beautiful! So I made that connection and was curious to know more. Their responses were all "P.S. this" and "P.S. that." In non-New York terms, they were all coming from Brooklyn public schools.

I believe that all children are bright, some in unconvental ways.  However, this brightness needs to be nurtured and in some cases, uncovered.  It is refreshing to see students who are entering middle school, shining brightly and not afraid to be articulate and share what they know.

The other day, a student showed me her awesome fifth grade yearbook. It was nice to see the poems written by some of my current students; the trips attended; the social clubs including a sister circle (I'm part of a sister circle!) and a boys-to-men club. Talk about teaching the whole child, and fostering community!  Prior to viewing the yearbook, I already had an idea of this student's former school in terms of academics.  It was nice to see that some of these academically rigorous elementary schools are also culturally rich in that they teach the whole child.

Teaching upper middle school for most of my career thus far, my focus has been on high schools, and more specifically high schools that accommodate students with special needs.  Now that I teach sixth grade inclusion classes, I can see the fruit of solid elementary schools thanks to the children right in front of me. As for my current school, it's refreshing to be part of a rigorous, college preparatory school with high expectations of all, one that is also a public school.

Miss M

Cropped Pants and White Chucks

A chill outfit today-- black sweater, blue Capri pants by J.Crew, white Chucks all day long. I love the mix of casual with work wear.

Almond joined me for the photo.  Now if only he could come to work with me!

A Trip with Sixth Graders

I recently went on my first trip at my new school.  While it was awesome-- my sixth graders are a lovely group-- the teachers seemed very stressed even though we were at an interactive museum with a science playgroup where the kids could safely run around and explore.

I mentioned this to one of the teachers, and was told that the school projects this energy around trips.  There seems to be an overall worry that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.

At one point, after I had finished scaling the rope jungle gym, with encouragement from a student I'll call N, I had to monitor my energy by leaving a certain area of the playground and heading to another.  In the midst of such a fun, hands-on trip, there were unnecessarily sharp words and uncalled for attitude towards the children. So I removed myself.

I am aware that people don't always know what they're putting out.  Since energy is a big deal to me and I am sensitive to it, I noticed the slight stress. Maybe this is due to my self-contained teacher past, but I allow children to be children with guidelines of course.  I do not anticipate the worst and then prepare for it by being overbearing and in turn, stressed out.  I have the ability to keep tabs on ten children even if they're not hanging off my arms.  It's my job to know where they are, even if that means knowing they are in the vicinity of a place.

On a brighter note, I took pictures with my new, bright purple Olympus E-PM1, and bonded with the students in a way I hadn't prior to the trip.  The students saw another side of me-- wearing jeans, climbing ropes, enjoying myself, choosing to take my group into the gift shop and not being worried about what a disaster that would be.  Likewise, I saw different sides of them-- from N helping me scale the ropes and giving me confidence, to the student who remembered the bus numbers.

Trips are important.  Another thing I miss about teaching self-contained in my prior environment is being able to take my students on seemingly-random trips aorund New York City to learn.  This city is amazing in that there are so many oppurtunitites to learn.  As a middle school teacher, I think it is important for me to expose my students to new things, all the while teaching reading, writing, lsitening and speaking.

Miss M

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Refuse

Today a student hit me with a pencil. I calmly addressed the situation and walked out of the classroom with the intent to make a phone call. But then I was reminded that I need to write it up. The situation warranted more than a phone call to mom.

I know this kid is acting out because there is something going on, but he won't say. He won't say to me or anyone else from what I hear. But that still does not allow him to disrespect my person. As I told him, I'll say here: I do not come to school to be hit with pencils. Or anything else for that matter.

I know of teachers being hit and physically assaulted. I refuse. I do not accept that idea with any ounce of my being. Unless you are mentally incapable of doing better, I expect that boundary to be respected.

More about that later.

Miss M

Bright on a Crisp Fall Day

white Converse for my bike commute
go-to Frye pumps for when I get there
polka dot sweater from Old Navy| cloth pencil skirt from Target| black opaque tights from Hue| suede leopard tote by J.Crew
I love the mix of colors, from the tricolor nails to the outfit

I added a few bracelets to the usual mix-- tortoise bangles from street vendor in Soho and black rubber bracelets from market in Kenya
Perfect brightness fora  crisp fall day!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fixing Things: Using a Toolbox in School

I put some IKEA furniture together last weekend. I also took apart an old, cast iron table that was left in my newish apartment, and used a power drill for the first time.

As I sat there in the middle of my kitchen floor early Saturday morning, I thought of how I especially encourage my special education students to think critically and practically. We even had a toolbox in my self-contained classroom (a lovely paraprofessional I worked with bought it in).  There was one student who would fix everything-- from broken clipboards and faulty staplers to the DVD player which he disassembled piece by piece.  He liked to, as he put it, take things apart and see how they work inside. 

Aside from fixing things, this kid was not into school. He and his father lived and breathed baseball. This kid was going to be a star one day, and that's was that. So in between persuading him to read, write and think critically, I allowed him to take on side projects of things that needed to be fixed or improved around the classroom. 

This is one thing I miss about teaching self-contained:  having the space to figure those thing out, and to nurture children in different ways that do not fall under the usual academic lens.  From the naturally, organized students who organized the room and kept it that way, to the artists who made the posters and decorated the room when there was time. Seriously, there were some interior decorators in my classroom!  Maybe the environment I came from is especially different from my new, college preparatory, rigorous environment. Or maybe it's the pressure of the new Common Core State Standards and all the testing and test prep. 

Either way its important for children to explore and learn. Unfortutely this is not always encouraged in the home, and in the past as a self-contained teacher I had the space to do it. 

This weekend when I put together a table set with four chairs, and a lovely turquoise cart, I problem solved. I read the wordless directions that IKEA is quite fond of. I tried things out and tried them again. And then I got it.

We are all special learners. While I was never in a special education class, I am happy someone noticed and encouraged that I have a way with words. I'm glad that someone noticed I had organizational struggles and helped me with my binder and when my locker fell out in high school, didn't judge me. Reading, writing, mathematics, science and history are are main subjects. But, nurturing an artist, allowing an organizer to aid with organization, and motivating a student to complete classwork by allowing him to use a toolbox in class are also important.

Miss M

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blues and a Floral Print

stretchy pencil skirt & flowery blouse from Target, staple navy Jackie cardigan from J.Crew, trusty Frye pumps
I love the detailing on this skirt.  It makes it more sturdy even though it's a cloth skirt.

I love that these pumps are my "nude."

Chip on Shoulder

There's a girl in one of my classes who has a chip on her shoulder. You could say hello to her, and she'll catch an attitude. The other day, I checked her class work and gave her a pointer. She caught an attitude. I simply addressed it in a very nonchalant way, as though I could be talking about giving text evidence. I told her, "You don't need attitude here."

And that was that.

I often address a situation, like the one here and some more troubling, with a piece of correction knowledge, and then walking away. If the student wants to talk back, I don't give her a chance.  I said the last word, and there is nothing more to say.

A few students will eventually apologize, but at least I acknowledged the situation. It's important that students understand that teachers will correct them when wrong.

Miss M

Monday, October 22, 2012

All About a Brooch

this was a fun outfit! navy up top, navy on the bottom!

snakeskin jumper/dress from the GAP. my accent finger nail inspires me!

these flats are comfy and fun! from J.Crew
this brooch from H&M stole the show! one student thought it was a roach?! the boys appreciated it, as did some girls.  nonetheless, it made me feel very teacherly and slightly librarian.
I was going to wear bright pink, patent leather flats but then I decided that would be too much.