New Career Paths

So, I love teaching.  I haven’t been doing it long.  And it’s REALLY hard.  But I love it even on the bad days.  Interestingly,it took me a long time to get around to it and even now I am trying to figure out my niche.

Going into college I was quiet shy and thought I wanted to be a marine biologist so I could swim with sharks.  I quickly realized that biology was not going to be the adventure I thought it would…. And I do NOT have a brain for biology.  After the first semester I tried life as a business major for a semester….. not a match.  I finally gave in and got my degree in teaching despite my severe stage fright (which has never REALLY gone away).

I love my kids, but I recently met a woman at EdCamp in Hartford with what might be my dream job.  She teaches a help desk class in her high school where the students learn how to use the educational technology tools in the building and then the students go out to help the other teachers use them in their classroom.  I don’t know how I didn’t know that such a position existed but I think it’s genius.  Not only is it great to teach students to use a lot of different technologies, but it would help to overcome some of teachers’ most common excuses for not using the technology in their buildings.  No time for PD?  That’s OK because we can have a kid or two come into your class and facilitate the use of technology in your classroom!

How do I create this position for myself somewhere?


Fun With Technology

I did my first major project with my class this week.  So many challenges, but so much fun!  My world history class created Common Craft style videos in demonstrations about apartheid.  It took twice as long, and twice as much coaxing as I expected, but the results were actually very good.

When I first told them they’d be creating 2 minute videos, they all moaned as though I had just told them they’d be writing a 10 page research paper.  I showed them some examples, and some of the anxiety lifted.  A few got downright excited! 

Day 1:  I gave them today to research apartheid laws and pick 1-2 to create a scenario for…. Most of them chatted about prom.

Day 2: The goal was to create a script…. A few started looking at the laws.  No one got to the script.

Day 3: We had a conversation about time expectations and motivation.  I spelled out how the rest of the timeline would work and it really helped a few students to get moving.  I had most of the scripts in hand by the end of the day!

Day 4: Groups started creating pictures.  Now the momentum really picked up!  We had everything from stick figures, to detailed drawings of people, buildings, and even a cow.

Day 5: Pictures were completed (for most groups), and some groups started rehearsing.  It was so fun to watch the groups work out their choreography, tweak the scripts. 

Day 6: Dress rehearsals all around.

Day 7: Every group managed to get their filming in! 

There was one group that could not get motivated and I had to step in and help them get organized and act as director, but every other group had a product they were proud of to show the class.

I learned a lot through the execution of this project.  First of all, next time I will have more supplies on hand.  Ridiculously enough I didn’t think to get more scissors!  I had a day where a good amount of students didn’t have much to do because there was only one pair of scissors per group.  I would also show them more examples, and give them a calendar with the plan for each day.  I think that knowing exactly what they were expected to achieve for each period will help to keep them on task. 

The biggest problem I ran into was attendance.   With around 30% of our student body chronically absent, the groups were inconstant flux.  I had one group who literally fluctuated from 1 group member to 7 from one day to the next, and another group had only 2 member there for the day of filming.  So now the problem is grading.  How do I give full credit to a group member that was never there?  I guess in the future, I will ensure that each group member has a role with a rubric specific to that role and points for attendance?  That’s the only way I can think of to make it fair to those left picking up the slack.

In any event, I will definitely be trying this project in the future. 

The Hunt


So, for those of you that may not know, I am currently holding a long-term substitute position, possibly (hopefully) to the end of the year.  This is wonderful, and I appreciate the work, but I am approaching the time in the year where I am beginning to stress about what’s to come.  First of all there’s the summer, during which I will need to find some sort of temporary employment regardless of where my career is headed in the coming school year.  The really stressful part is filling out all of these extensive job applications online.

I know my last post indicated my desire for a paperless world, but in this case I feel like the technology is working against me.  Even with Connecticut having this wonderful standardized template for public school applications, each of these can take me anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on how much of the information is successfully imported from previous applications, and which essay questions they select to use.

It’s these essay questions that really kill me.  I guess it is a way to sift through the piles of resumes they must get, but somehow I feel like if I don’t include the right buzzwords, the ones they are using in their keyword searches through recent resumes, my application will sit permanently in the purgatory that is this online database.

So, I spent the last two days writing and rewriting essays, revamping my cover letter and resume to include as many buzzwords as I could Google, and filling out job applications.  I don’t know if all of my work will ever see the light of day, but I plan to keep at it until someone gives me an interview!  Last year I managed to get 2.  I don’t know how I did that but I refuse to give up, and in the end that has to make a difference, right?   Regardless, I’m hopeful and still smiling 🙂


I am the least organized person on the planet. Every school year as a kid I would head off to my first day of school with my fresh notebook and folders and a plan to stay organized for the whole year this time. 

NEVER happened.

Inevitably, by the end of the first quarter, whether I had a desk or a locker, I would have the sort of mess that was so out of control the teacher would assign someone to help me tame it. Not much has changed as an adult.  I still am constantly fighting the clutter in my car, my home and now my classroom.  One of my biggest struggles with having my own classroom has been trying to manage all of the paper! I’m not a hoarder, I swear, and I actually hate messes and throw everything away, but I just get so overwhelmed by my desire for the organization to be perfect that sometimes I don’t even try to approach it out of anxiety.  Neurotic, I know.

Anyway, I’ve decided that this is just one more reason for the world of education to go digital.  I keep trying to make things paperless but I am met with resistance at every bend.  First there is the initial time and technology investment.  That is my own battle to fight with, and I usually win that one.  Then there are the kids who, despite their love for their cell phones, still have a fear of the computer.  I put ALL of my assignments on my webpage.  They ALL have Google Drive accounts through the school. This should be easy right?  Wrong.  They’re just so used to all the paper.  So I am slowly training them to be self sufficient.  I have them get the work they missed off the website, teach them to use the tools, inch by painful inch we are making progress.

Unfortunately, the biggest barriers I face are ones that, since I am a long-term sub, are mostly out of my control.  First of all, Internet access is prohibitively limited.  All social networking, blogs, and file sharing sites are blocked so online discussions are out.  The number of computers is limited and even more so this time of year because of ALL THE TESTING.  The thing that kills me,is that the school can’t afford textbooks for all students, and we have  a paper shortage and have been asked to go as “paperless as possible” but where else do we turn for teaching tools.  What I wouldn’t give for a classroom set of Chrome books with a few online textbook subscriptions  and unfettered Internet access!  Goodbye mountains of paper and clutter!  Hello streamlined computer filing, emailed grades, and screencasted feedback!

A girl can dream….

So this week has been super stressful so I will keep it short (and off topic).  Monday was my first day teaching in my newest role and I have gone from teaching one VERY familiar subject, US History, to two somewhat unfamiliar subjects, Sociology and World History.  Top that with homework for two graduate classes, wedding planning and a very sick (and fat) cat and I am FRIED.  I can’t imagine what I would do if I had children right now!

Thankfully weather has changed just in time and I was able to go for a very therapeutic run yesterday.  Since it’s been months since I was physically active, I am in some serious pain today, but it was just what the doctor ordered.  While the workload promises not to let up, the prospect of some outdoors time has brightened my life.  Bring on the sunshine!

Thoughts on Detention

detention-tardy     So my school has decided to enforce their tardiness policies.  “Good for them!” I thought, when the administration made the announcement several weeks ago.  A two-hour detention for every three tardies.  Someone needs to teach these kids the importance of being in school and on time, right?

Well, since then, as my classroom hosts the lucky recipients of 2 hour detention twice a week, I have watched the number of students quickly multiply and fill with the students who failed to take the warning seriously.  Today was almost funny though.  It took three classrooms to hold the 75+ students, most of which were upperclassmen who had been late to homeroom 3 times.  Now I don’t know how I feel about the enforcement of the policy.  I still see some value in it assuming it works, but I wonder how long this will take to make a difference and how long can they keep this up?  It would be an interesting sociological study for someone to do I think and since I start teaching that in 2 weeks, maybe we’ll do just that.

Teacher Growing Green in the South Bronx

A South Bronx teacher making a difference for at risk students and their community

I came across this beauty on my snow day today.  As a (wannabe) teacher aspiring to work with at-risk and urban populations, I am so inspired by this man who dared to do something different…. And it’s working.  He’s been invited to the White House, collaborated with multiple charities, schools, and foundations, and has managed not to fail his own students or community in the whirlwind that has picked him up.  I am inspired by his energy.  I want to share it with the world, and to be a part of it myself.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world” ❤