Posts tagged ‘GOOD DAY’

Guess what? I are an English teacher!

Somehow or the other, I have beaten the odds and found myself a job as an English teacher!!

I interviewed at what I will call LMS, in the Suburban School District, on August 7. The interview felt like it went pretty well, but I never feel like I exactly know – especially considering I got only two hours of sleep the night before. The local Educator Grapevine began buzzing shortly thereafter; the Asst. Principal called my mentor teacher and got a resounding recommendation from her (I love you and owe you a lunch, DR). I had discovered that one of my grad school cohorts teaches at LMS; she told me that she’d heard the interview went well.

Every day felt like a week. There was a point in time when I wanted nothing more than to teach middle school, and a point in time when I felt I preferred high school; after interviewing at LMS I wanted to teach THERE and nowhere else. I mean, I tried to hedge my emotional bets; I told myself and my loved ones that I would be perfectly happy at a different school, that whatever was intended to happen would happen. But I was definitely counting those unhatched chickens.

A couple of phone calls and phone messages later,  I was really excited. Things sounded positive.

I was supposed to find out by 8:30 AM on Wednesday. By 2 PM today, I knew that I was going to be a seventh grade English teacher.

I haven’t done paperwork yet, due to some timing issues, but I’m scheduled for new teacher orientation Thursday and Friday. I’ve met the principal, however, and gotten a look inside the classrooms. I’m going to be teaching four classes of English 7 (writing) and one class of English 7 (literature) first semester; the lit class turns into a 6th grade keyboarding class in the spring. There’s another class in there that hasn’t been determined yet. I’m also – and I’m really excited about this – going to be advising student council. I know that student council at the middle school level is more emerging leadership than actual government, but I’m excited about the prospect of teaching some of the skills I’ve learned through membership in and advisement of student organizations.

The scariest/stupidest thing I did, in terms of counting those darn chickens, was thinking about a classroom. To me, one of the coolest things about teaching is having that space to yourself, that space to decorate and fill and make your own. I  knew it was a bad idea to get my head going that direction. Many first-year teachers share classrooms or travel from room to room with a book cart (hence “cart teacher”). Still, it was just too much fun NOT to think about.

Well… I have a classroom. (!!!) There was a slight confusion with the room number, and the room I’m currently assigned still has another teacher’s things in it, so I’m not 100% positive which room will be mine once I can officially begin moving in. Apparently the current inhabitant is changing subjects and moving to another wing of the building. I was able to wander around the school and take a look inside several classrooms. Mine is like most in that it doesn’t have a window or a computer projector, but it seems to be of average size and has a cozy feel to it. I am thinking about bookcases and trying to figure out how to arrange the room so that there is some division without making it crowded…

Eek! I am so excited… I’m browsing IKEA’s website, wondering if a small sofa will fit in the classroom, thinking about the possibility of buying my own projector, watching clips of Olympics-fan Bush on the Daily Show….

I’M A TEACHER. I HAVE A JOB. WHOO HOO!!!

There is only one video in all of YouTube that is up to the task of expressing my glee. Presenting, in all 9:33 minutes of glory – each and every second full of awesome – the NerdFighters/Brotherhood 2.0 Happy Dance Project. (If the embedded video doesn’t work, just click the HDP link.)

Advertisements

August 12, 2008 at 11:45 pm 4 comments

Recommended

A pivotal part of this teacherly job hunt has been the collection of recommendation letters. Urban School District prefers what is called a “closed placement file,” which means that my letter writers sent their contributions to a neutral third party (in my case, the university career center) who then sends the letters to districts on my behalf. I am not permitted to see the letters; the idea is that the job hunter will then be unable to cherry-pick the “best” letters for his/her packet. (Hopefully, an applicant would know who will write strong letters, thus rendering this precaution somewhat arbitrary.)

In my case, most of my letter-writers voluntarily offered me personal copies of their letters. In fact, two of them showed me drafts and asked if there was anything I would suggest, and one wrote his letter while I sat in the next chair. (That was uncomfortable – but a good idea; he was able to ask me clarifying questions that helped him focus his letter.)

Ultimately, I asked for and received letters from my mentor teacher, my university supervisor, the principal of CHS, one of my favorite education professors, and one of my favorite English professors. I was fortunate enough to be able to read all of these letters except the principal’s; my mentor spoke to him, however, and indicated that the letter would have been a strong one.

Today I went by CHS to take care of some business in preparation for summer teaching, and there was a folder waiting for me from one of the assistant principals. I opened it and found an unsolicited letter of recommendation. It’s clearly not a form letter – in fact, it indicates a level of familiarity with my work that I hadn’t realized the AP had. It is a very nice, very strong letter. Perhaps my favorite line comes near the end:

I strongly recommend her for a teaching position and know that this is the kind of person that gives back to people and the institution way more than she ever takes.

I would definitely like to think that this is the case. I’m the sort of teacher who really buys into the school culture; you’ll see me at games, performances, graduations – and not because I feel obligated, but because I enjoy them. I wear school colors, adopt the mascot, pay attention to matters of school politics and development. I love to build programs and events. Most of all, I genuinely love the students and care about them as people. I’m so interested in who they are outside and beyond the classroom. The hardest thing for me is when the kids walk out of the room at the end of the year, and I am uncertain if I will ever know what becomes of them.

Anyway. I am just blown away at the AP’s gesture. It always makes you feel good to get a strong recommendation letter, but this goes above and beyond that. For a busy assistant principal to take the time to write a lengthy personal letter, under his own volition and without my request – that says something. It makes me feel really good that he noticed me, was pleased with what he saw, and wants to help me find a position.

June 5, 2008 at 5:46 pm 1 comment

Paycheck!

I got a job!!

Well, kinda.

I was in the right place (next to my mentor teacher) at the right time (the moment when the principal of our summer school learned that one of their English teachers quit at the eleventh hour) and now I’m going to teach a semester of ninth grade English this summer. It will last about 3 and a half weeks, mostly in June, two classes a day. The pay is awesome (around $23 an hour) and the experience is priceless. Plus, it’s at CHS. Mr. Bees will be in classes at the time anyway, and we could definitely use the money.

The first semester of 9th grade English is pretty cool. Short stories and poetry. I’m excited…

In other good news, both DR and BR recently expressed confidence that I will be able to get a job this year. Feels good to hear it from people “in the know.”

May 28, 2008 at 10:09 pm 3 comments

Interview Update

My screening interview with Urban School District today went, as far as I can tell, quite well.

I arrived a little later than I’d intended, which wasn’t an auspicious start; fortunately, my watch and my interviewer’s watch didn’t agree, giving me the undeserved appearance of earliness. I ended up in a corner of the district offices I hadn’t known existed in what might be the nicest cubicle I’d ever seen, complete with frosted glass door, a wall of bookcases, and enough room to turn around.

The interview started off on strong footing because I had had the good fortune to meet my interviewer before. In fact, I’d invited her to come in and observe my class while I was student teaching. It hadn’t been a particularly sterling day of instruction, but she had enjoyed herself and had a lot of good things to say about me at the time – including a very positive district evaluation sheet such as they would use for an in-service teacher. (Thank you to the CHS math teacher who suggested I try to get a recommendation letter from the district department head! She couldn’t give me a letter, since she’d be interviewing me, but it was DEFINITELY worth it to have her observe me.)

Interviewer (let’s call her Mrs. I) started off by asking me about classroom management situations. I told her the story of two girls and how I had been able to reach one but not the other, and we had a nice frank discussion about how difficult it can be to find the right way to connect with some students. Next Mrs. I asked a couple of questions about how I incorporate grammar, technology, etc. into my instruction.

When Mrs. I asked me whether I thought journaling was valuable to students, I responded “Absolutely.” She raised an eyebrow as she started to take notes, so I continued. I talked about how it can help with writing confidence and fluency, how it can help a student develop their own voice. I told her how every writing class I’d ever taken had urged us to journal, and that I had never been successful at keeping a journal until I tried doing it on a computer. I told her how powerful I had found it. Then I came back to the question and acknowledged that I believe that the way that journaling is incorporated into some classrooms is NOT effective, at least not to all students. I talked about some of the drawbacks of classroom/structured journaling and about how I would try to avoid those drawbacks. I admitted that it seemed more helpful with older students than younger, but that I hadn’t seen it used very often with younger grades; Mrs. I told me about how she used journaling in a second grade classroom before moving to administration. Then she asked me about privacy issues in journaling, and I got to expound on that for a while. (This paragraph, and this question, were really interesting to me – I think I’ll save details of my opinions for their own post, whaddaya think?)

The next question is apparently the one that EVERY teacher gets asked: what are you reading? I had forgotten about it, but fortunately was ready with an authentic answer. I’d just finished one book and was starting another, and we were able to chat for a moment about the two books. She recommended another book to me based on the one I’d just finished, and my new book (I’m reading that Twilight book that all the high school girls are carrying around – curious as to what all the hype is about) prompted a brief discussion of vampire literature.

At the end of it she asked if there was anything else I would like her to know about myself. This was awesome; it gave me a chance to talk about school atmosphere and how much I buy into the “whole school” – school spirit, colors, mascot, athletics, performing arts, etc.. I got to talk about my strengths in content knowledge and technology, too.

Finally Mrs. I asked if I had any other questions. The primary one, of course, was whether or not there were likely to be any job openings this summer. She believes that there may be – very good to hear.

Basically, Urban School District screens all of their applicants and then gives them a rating based on that interview and their resume, transcript, letters of recommendation, and test scores. That rating goes anywhere from 1 (someone they would never consider hiring) to 5 (top prospects). The rating is completely confidential, and I will never know what I received (although if I get a 1 or a 5 I will probably figure it out eventually). When a principal realizes that he or she will have a job opening that will not be filled by an in-district transfer, s/he calls up the district office and asks for a manifest. They then receive a list of the top-rated applicants to call for a second-round interview.

I feel like I did well. The interview was easy, because I “knew all the answers” – I feel confident about my teaching experiences and philosophy, and just had to tell the truth when she asked questions. I know that my transcript is good (although I sure do wish I had more endorsements) and my test scores are strong. Three of my letter-writers showed me a draft before sending in their letters, and they were quite positive. I don’t have other resumes against which to compare my own, but I know mine is very pretty (hooray for a tech writing background). 🙂 I can’t say with any confidence what rating I believe I received, but I also can’t think of anything I could have done to place myself higher.

So now we have the waiting game…

May 22, 2008 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

Exciting News!!

We’ve been sitting on this a while because we wanted to make sure it was going to pan out before sharing… but I think employment is on the horizon!!

Mr. Bees and I have both taken a couple of education classes from Dr. P. He is on the board of a new charter school that operates under an exciting educational philosophy – or at least we think it’s exciting, because it closely approximates a teaching system that Mr. and I have thought about ourselves. Among other cool things, this new school incorporates grade-level teams at the junior high level and colloquium-style team teaching at the senior high level. Teachers for younger students work together as a cohesive unit: one social studies, one language arts, one math, one science, all of whom teach the same core group of students. It’s a powerful and effective organization, and not especially revolutionary. The senior high system, however, is pretty unusual. Basically, most of the classes are taught by two teachers at the same time. You might have two English teachers in a class, or two math teachers. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well, not necessarily – not the way this school has figured it. They go through this extensive interviewing, screening, and shuffling process to match up teachers who actually like and work well together. It’s pretty complicated, but the end result is that you have two compatible teachers sharing classroom duties and complementing one another’s teaching styles.

They’ve discovered that this does extraordinary things, not only for students but for the teachers. Teaching is a pretty lonely job, on an “adult” level, and one of the biggest reasons for teacher turnover isn’t pay but the feeling that they are isolated or underappreciated. This system promotes collaboration between colleagues and a lot of support. Being in a similar position as a student teacher with an awesome mentor teacher, I can attest to the fact that teaching with a compatible partner is a BLAST.

Doubly interesting is the fact that they have colloquium classes. If I am understanding this correctly, they have classes where two teachers from different disciplines work together to teach a broader subject. For example, this year they are teaching a class about Harlem – by a music teacher and an English teacher. They’ve done a biology+history class, a music+science “physics of sound” class – stuff like that. (I guess last year there was an English+”community sciences” class where they wrote and read about food!) Some of these classes are electives, and some are alternative core classes.
Next year they are looking to implement an alternative core for seniors, a colloquium taught by a history and/or civics teacher and an English teacher. It covers a lot of the same themes from a senior government class, only using historical fiction as a base rather than textbooks. Basically, it’s your senior government class and your senior English class all rolled into one. And it’s not a cupcake class – because this isn’t a cupcake school. Apparently the kids really have to jump through hoops to get in…

The pay is amazing, easily twice what we’d make in a local public school – to start. I guess that’s what happens when interested parents are behind the funding. We’ve seen interactive video of the facilities and are really impressed; the school is (obviously) new, with lots of state-of-the-art technology. Beautiful community. They’ve got a strong music program – I mean, obviously it’s small at this point, but growing rapidly. They even think they’ll have a football team next year! There’s an in-school (well, it’s just barely off-school, like a seminary building) day care facility for teachers (and, I suppose, students) who have young children, which is something I’ve always thought needed doing in schools.

Most exciting for us, I guess, is the fact that they are committed to hiring progressive young teachers that will bring energy to the school (while, no doubt, being more easily molded to the school’s vision). They’ve been having on-site interviews at our college, and they spoke to Mr. and I in January and again early last month. This morning I received an email from Dr. P. Basically it said that the other Board members and the hiring administrator were SUPER impressed with Mr. and I, and thought it was so cool that we were married and both teachers. They really liked our vision and teaching philosophy, thought we interviewed really well, liked the way we looked on paper. And I guess they just happen to be looking for compatible pairs to teach that new English/government class next year… and apparently, they’re going to offer us both positions for the 2008 academic year!! (They’re even going to work with Mr. on the alternative certification program – it’s a pretty common problem what with NCLB; basically they go ahead and hire you, and you have three years to complete the certification process.)

There is only one down side to the entire thing, which is why I’ve saved the bad news for the end of this email. The problem with the school (it’s called the Zomboski Academy, by the way, not sure if I’d mentioned that) is that it is located in a town in southern Alaska. That kind of scares us, to be honest, but then again… Mr. and I kind of figure we are young and relatively unencumbered, and while we’re not really in a position to go do Peace Corps or something, we should do crazy adventurous stuff now while we can, right? The school offers a heavily discounted travel plan so that out-of-staters can visit home frequently, and they pay to move people to the area. Plus… if we end up teaching there a while, we will qualify as Alaska citizens – which means that we’ll get in on that oil stipend. Neat, huh?
Anyway, we are SO excited. A little scared, yes, but… I mean, seriously. Could it be any better? An amazing new school that teaches right to our interests and philosophy, AMAZING pay, terrific benefits, great administration – wow. I’m practically beside myself with excitement.

PS Oops, I meant to give you the school’s website. They are in the process of getting accreditation (which allows you to get a .edu URL) so for now their address is www.zombo.com. Make sure and turn on your speakers to hear their fight song! It is located in a smallish town called Cicely, AK. This year there are 300 students in the senior high school; they expect a total enrollment of 1,000, from all the neighboring areas, next year.)

April 1, 2008 at 7:42 am 1 comment

Diary: Thursday, February 14

Today was an AWESOME day.

We started with basic start-of-day stuff – vocab bell activities, spelling test for 5th period.

Next I talked about Valentine’s Day, and how you might love it, or you might hate it. Each student had two handouts, one pink and one green. The pink one included ideas for writing love poems (hooray for How 2 Write Love Poems that Don’t Suck) and the green one ideas for writing “anti-valentine” poems. Even being a happily-married romantic type, I prefer the green sheet prompts. 🙂

Then I had them each brainstorm a list of people/things/etc. that might warrant a “warm and fuzzy” Valentine and a list of those that might warrant a “mean and nasty” Valentine. I suggested that they think outside the box. Write a Valentine to pop-tarts! An anti-Valentine to your math teacher! A Valentine (or anti-Valentine) from one Presidental candidate to another!

I gave them five minutes of silence to organize their thoughts and begin composing a poem – warm/fuzzy or mean/nasty. After five minutes, I turned on my iTunes (a school-appropriate love/hate music mix) and the ARTS AND CRAFTS VALENTINE AND ANTI-VALENTINE MAKING DANCE PARTY began.

I had set out a long table in the back of the room with construction paper, doilies, stickers, foam cut-outs, markers, glue, scissors, etc.. They had freedom to make a (anti)Valentine however they wanted. Many went with variations on the traditional heart, but there was a lot of creativity. As they finished their poems, I checked them off and had them “publish” them  by taping them up in the hallway outside the classroom.

What a fun, multi-sensory activity in audience, purpose, and publication! The kids got totally into it. There’s something special about reverting to grade school that really gets high school students going. Plus, it let them express their most powerful emotions of the day – either sophomore love, or sophomore angst. They could be serious, funny, sappy, snarky – and they were. Only one person all day rejected the activity and refused to do anything, and frankly, I would have fallen over in a swoon if he’d participated.

It gets better.

BR unexpected dropped in to observe me during fifth period. I was terrified as to how they would act, after this past week, but they were good as gold and it was a terrific period. BR sent me an amazing feedback email, which felt great. I thought sure he would have more to criticize, but he didn’t.

And after all that, I was doing some grading after school and after DR had left, and the principal walked past. He stopped, read many of the poems, and then struck up a conversation with me about the activity and poetry in general! It was GREAT.

I’ve taken pictures but I haven’t downloaded them yet. Will share soonly – they’re fantastic.

But for now, my wrists are KILLING me. Calling it a night.

Happy Valentines/Single Awareness Day!

February 15, 2008 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

Exciting Stuff Afoot!

CHS returns to school from Christmas break a full two weeks before the university, but exciting things are already afoot. To wit:

  1. Mr. Bees is now in his Block II at CeHS, where he was placed with a real live 12th grade American Government teacher. That’s pretty rare; there are so many more poli sci education majors out there than there are appropriate mentor teachers that a lot of them get placed in junior high history classes. Anyway, he’s loving it so much that he went in every day for the past ten days. Keep in mind that A) he is only required to put in 100 hours this semester B) the semester hasn’t started yet and C) he is most assuredly NOT a morning person.
  2. Yesterday was a half day at CHS, and yet I didn’t leave the school until after 4 PM. Why? Because DR and I were working on getting the classroom ready for my invasion! How cool is it that I now have a desk of my own? That I have the keys to the building and will probably go in this weekend and do my own bulletin boards in preparation for the next unit? That I’ve been given enthusiastic permission to do as I wish with the classroom? Squeee!
  3. It’s not just that she’s so happy to hand over the wheel to me… I have a truly awesome mentor teacher, and I love her to death. I am one lucky sonuvagun. Daughteruvagun? Hmm.
  4. ALL (BUT TWO) OF OUR STUDENTS PASSED THE EOC! One of the students who failed is ELL and is being moved back into the ELL program. The other… well, we need to work on the other.
  5. Our average score for the regular sophomore English class was slightly higher than average for the rest of the department.
  6. ALL (BUT TWO, I THINK) OF OUR STUDENTS PASSED FIRST SEMESTER SOPHOMORE ENGLISH!
  7. I’m putting together a poetry unit that has me disproportionately excited. It is being so much fun, and I’m just shocked – I was honestly expecting not to care for this unit. At this point I would be quite content teaching nothing but poetry all semester. Can’t, of course; there’s Shakespeare and standardized test prep and (ick) Lord of the Flies to contend with.
  8. My dog is spinning around and around and around and around, far in excess of three times, trying to make her pillow comfortable. That’s not related to student teaching, but seems somehow notable…
  9. I’ve been asked to come to lunch twice next week, gratis, and help interview two candidates for new professors of English education at our university. Hate to be out of school, but this seems like an awesome opportunity and way to give back to the program, plus – hey, free lunch! When you are in a two student-teacher household, you don’t turn down free lunches!
  10. Did I ever mention that I got a 4.0 last semester? I’m still kind of buzzed about that.

(Up there at the top… should that have been “to whit”? Things I woulda thought I woulda known…)

There is some bad news, however. Remember Ramona? Well, having given it a semester, she’s decided that this whole “public school” thing is for the birds. I think she’s taking a couple of classes through CHS still, things she couldn’t have gotten through home schooling, but she’s ditching us. Sucks. But she’s hated it from the word go, and hasn’t worked up to her potential, and maybe she’s right – maybe it isn’t for her. We’re disappointed, though, and we’re going to miss her. I would have been quite interested to see what she contributed to our exploration of poetry.

January 19, 2008 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

I am striving to maintain anonymity on this blog so that I may more freely interact with my fellow edubloggers. If you know who I am, please help me protect my anonymity in your comments. I use pseudonyms or initials for everyone I write about to preserve their anonymity as well.