Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And the School Year Begins

I know it has been a LONG time since I posted, but needless to say, things have been somewhat crazy lately.

Last Wednesday, I started my first year teaching at Fredrick Douglass Academy VII in Brownsville Brooklyn. I am teaching 10th grade Earth Science to 4 classes, and over 110 students. As part of The New York City Teaching Fellows Program, I attended classes, and training sessions to prepare me for becoming a high school teacher. Although my training was only 2 months, I have stated off the school year feeling prepared, pumped, and extremely blessed to be given the opportunity to enrich the minds of some of New York City's most needy students.

I am teaching 4 classes, the class size ranging in from 25-31. My school is extremely well organized, and i find the administration to be not only very supportive, but also very effective in all its endeavors. I get to school at around 8:30 everyday, and start preparing for the day's classes. (This is in addition to all the preparing I do at home as well, thus far as much as 5 hours a night!)

My students are wonderful. Of course there are a few that make this job exhausting and difficult, but the majority of my students come to class, prepared and eager to learn. While disrespectful outburst happen in class, I feel that for the most part, my students are respectful and pleased to have me as their teacher. About 2/5 of my students are repeating the Earth Science course I am teaching, due to lack of an effective teacher last year (They had 2. The first one broke down and said he could no longer take teaching after the class drew all over his suite with sharpie marker, while he was turned around and writing on the board. The 2nd teacher, who came in half way through year, was not retained this year, for his classes had a 3% passing score on their Regents exam (an end of year exam that measures mastery of material)). So, needless to say, I have a big task ahead of me this year, and I have set my professional goals very high. I plan on 85% of my students passing the Regents exam in June. In order for me to make this happen, I have a lot of work to do.

These kids are smart. They want to learn. But they have been taught ineffectively for a very long time. My students are all in the 10th or 11th grade. Many of them can not even write a simple, complete, coherent paragraph. They do not remember simple scientific theories and process. In order to explain the Big Bang for instance (the subject matter of this weeks lessons), I assumed that my students understood simplistic scientific concepts such as matter, atoms, and gravity. Yet this was not the case. Many of my students believed our world was the universe, and that our galaxy was the only one in the solar system. (Not having any idea that there are millions of galaxies, and our solar system is in just one of them!) Teaching this subject, I also had to explain that science and religion must be separated in school.

The capability of these students is what astounds me. I know they have the availability to do anything and everything they dream of. However, they have many obstacles they must overcome in order to achieve things that may be easy for others. For example, my school is located in Brownsville Brooklyn, an area that high crime rates. The majority of my students live in public housing, accommodations being different and harder then those someone living in "private housing" must have to go have.  These communities are filled with low income residents, and are filled with violence and dug abuse. These housing projects are not always safe, and therefore my students home life many not be as stable and comfortable as mine was. This is a huge obstacle they must overcome. Secondly, Brownsville has a high gang population, and the peer pressure of my students to do wrong is overwhelming. This being said, there are still students who rise in the face of adversity and are doing anything they can to move on and go to college. It is now my responsibility to to help them make this happen. someone at my high school would be able to do. 

Though I am have a full plate with my new teaching career, I am also taking classes at night to earn my Masters Degree in Secondary Education. One of my classes is made specifically to help us get through our first year, and as an assignment in that class, I will be updating this blog regularly ( at least once a week!) about the trials and tribulations of my first year teaching.

I hope you enjoy the journey with me.