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