Monday, February 28, 2011

A Career in Education is a Roller Coaster Ride!

Day 21 - Monday February 28, 2011
It's good to be back! With mid-winter recess over, it's time to go back to school and begin the final three week stretch at Longwood High School. After a week off, I was excited to head back to school and get back to work. With a fresh hair cut I hoped to look a little more mature (possibly age 18!) and no longer be asked for a hall pass when I walk in the halls during class. I was excited to see my colleagues as well as the kids. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the amount of acceptance and approval given to me by the students. Before, during, and after each class, students will converse with me informally about their lives and ask for advice about their futures as well as joke around a bit. They all were more than willing to engage in the warm-up without protest and brought a high level of energy to the team handball games. After three weeks I had developed a very strong professional relationship with these students and was flattered to have them ask me for advice about their personal lives. This is perhaps the best intrinsic reward I have received thus far. As a teacher, it is an unspoken responsibility to be a mentor and resource to all students. Teachers help to guide students toward their interest and help to reveal their character as they grow into adults. This respect is something that I am truly honored to have gained and I am more than ecstatic to continue to work with these students for the next three weeks!

Day 22 - Tuesday March 1, 2011
Two separate, but equally important events defined today; one inside the classroom and one outside the classroom. Inside the class, I had to deliver my first 'stern' lecture to two of the classes. During both warm-ups, students refused to jog or stretch after several repeated statements by me to do so. Mr. Reilly said bring them in and talk. After I blew my whistle, I brought everyone in and told them simply that I would like the same respect given to me as I have demonstrated to them. I inserted a few jokes as to not seem overly stern but enough-so that set a precedent that I am a teacher and should be listened to as if it were Mr. Reilly teaching the class. It is crucial to draw the line between student and teacher especially if you are a student-teacher. I'm not much older than them and if I want them to listen I need to lay out the foundation of what is expected before I jump into gaining their approval.
Outside of the classroom, there is growing concern over potential layoffs within the school district due to the recent cuts to education funding by Governor Andrew Cuomo. With the recent news of Sachem School District laying off 315 teachers (noted above in the video), Mr. Dillon called for a meeting of the physical education staff. Due to the budget cuts, it appears that Longwood School District may cut 70 teaching positions. This put a sense of unease in some teachers as it is the recently hired teachers who will be the first to go, some of which are in the physical education department. It is an uncertain and frightening climate in the realm of education and no one knows when this will clear up. Districts all over Long Island, New York State, and the country in general face massive layoffs. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is raising the issue of performance over seniority in removing teachers. If is currently a troubling time to be a teacher, let alone a teaching candidate like myself. While the uncertain outweighs the certain, I must remain positive and look toward the future and remain in a form of solidarity with my colleagues.

Day 23 - Wednesday March 2, 2011
As the financial climate of the school district continues to heat-up, many are uneasy about what their futures hold. Yesterday, we met with the department chairperson to discuss the current situation and go over potential issues that may continue to arise as we move forward. Today, there was to be a meeting with the district's director of physical education regarding the most up-to-date issues and where we stand and where we go. After school, we met with Ms. Curiale as a department alongside the health and family-consumer science departments. She announced that things were looking rather grim for the future. There appeared to be imminent excess of teachers in order to recoup some of the funding that was cut from the state. For me as a future professional, this is quite troubling as it appears that the field of education is something that is being dismantled piece-by-piece as we move toward the future. With these teachers being excess, the need to hire new teachers becomes mute. I need to explore more options for my future while I still can in order to provide a happy and prosperous future for myself. I truly still want to be a teacher and hope things clear up, however, I need to always consider alternative options to keep food on the table and the bills paid well into the future.

Day 24 - Thursday March 3, 2011
Since January 31, 2011, all of Mr. Reilly's classes have been playing team handball. Class after class, they would play by the same rules, use the same equipment, play with the same teams, and follow the same routine. In order to shake things up a bit, we lowered the basketball hoops as an alternate scoring opportunity worth double the points. Also, we switched from using a playground ball to using a school-approved team handball. We then allowed them to chose new teams and opponents for the class today. I also introduced the concept of a yellow card and ten second penalty for a rule infraction. While these alteration may seem minor, they were able to boost morale and excitement about the game. After playing the same game for so long, the students began to become weary of it and wanted to move onto the next sport. By adding new challenges and tasks into a game, it breaths life into it in order to keep it going for just a little longer. I know the kids want to move to the next sport and I myself admit that I have gotten to the point where I am beyond team handball. Keeping the kids on their toes and listening to their feedback gives them more ownership and enthusiasm for the game and creates a better environment for the teacher and the students. Hopefully these rule changes can get us through to next Wednesday for the completion of the unit!

Day 25 - Friday March 4, 2011
There are days that are good and there are days that are bad. Today, however, was probably the best day that I have had here at Longwood High School as a student teacher. Going into the day, I knew that Mr. Reilly was going to be out due to the track meet upstate and that there was going to be a substitute. Essentially, the class would be mine to run with support from the substitute teacher when and if it were needed. Generally, 'B days' tend to have the most active students in class and today was no exception. The classes all acted as if Mr. Reilly was still there in class. All were on their best behavior and participate fully and enthusiastically. I made sure to balance time with activity in order to provide the best experience possible. This was the first day in which the classes truly felt like they were mine. I was in essence on my own and working and interacting with the students as I would in my own classroom when I become a teacher. To top it all off, my student teaching supervisor, Terry Phelan, stopped by for a visit. He observed our 7th period class which, coincidentally was another double class with another substitute. The class however ran like a fine oiled machine. All students remained on task and cooperated fully. I received praise for my performance but still needed to focus more attention to safety during the class. This proved to be an interesting week with all that was occurring but at least I was able to end it on a good note like this!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anything is Possible (With a Little Help)

Sometimes we all need a little help to get through the day and achieve the goals in which we have set forth. Even if you cannot see it, there are powers that are behind you to ensure your happiness and success. These powers can be a friend, colleague, or family member. They do not necessarily need to be seen nor do they need to be. We cannot do everything on our own so make sure you help out those who need it; even if you want to keep it a secret.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Have a Seat, Put Your Feet Up, and Stay for a While!

Day 16 - Monday February 14, 2011
Today, I was eager to begin yet another week at Longwood High School. Myself and Mr. Reilly would continue the handball unit and, with it, the XHL tournament. I was surprised at how many students were eager to begin playing immediately. I was met with virtually no negative attitudes or unprepared students. This was truly a welcome moment as these days can be truly far and in between (especially for a Monday!). I turned in my lesson plan to Mr. Dillon and sought after new projects to work on to use and better develop the skills I have acquired. After 5th period, I asked Mr. Reilly if there was anything he would like for me to work on in terms of teaching, communication, etc. He stated that my presence in the classroom has been very good thus far and receptive of what the kids want and need to be energized to go. However, he fell back on a comment from a few weeks ago; he once again stated that he wants me to become more comfortable and social with the physical education staff. While it may seem like a silly sentiment, I still view these men and women as superiors even though we are colleagues. I shy away from contributing to off-color conversations and attributing to ones in which I have very little to add. However, he is right. Wherever I end up, I will have to cooperate with my co-workers and in essence accept them as peers and friends. While I gradually make my way up to breaking out a few jokes, I need to remember that they were all in my position once. All it takes to tear down the wall is some character and a good opening line!

Day 17 - Tuesday February 15, 2011
As I continue to move forward in the high school, I do not just simply limit myself to Mr. Reilly's classes and sit and do nothing during off periods. I tend to float between other teacher's classes to view other teaching styles and give them a hand if needed. One of the additional classes I enjoy helping out in is Mr. Schroeder's outdoor education class. After my experience at Raquette Lake, I am very enthusiastic about outdoor adventure. Currently, Mr. Schroeder's class was climbing the indoor rock wall in the auxiliary gymnasium. He had taught them how to belay, tips for climbing, and how to tie the proper knots. I would assist students in tying the knots as well as hooking up their belay system and a pre-flight check. One of the most important things to consider in this environment is the safety of the students, especially those climbing the wall. There were several instances in which I had to correct several students who were belaying. The major issue was that they would not lock the rope when they finished pulling up the slack. However, one girl did not listen and her climber, rather than dropping a few inches, fell down about 5-10 feet before she locked the rope. This is extremely important to reinforce safety precautions at every angle and at numerous times for all students. My supervisor Terry Phelan is very big on safety and I immediately thought of him at this moment. In order to engage in an activity such as this, safety must be addressed every class numerous times.

Day 18 - Wednesday February 16, 2011
For the only time of the school year, today would be a half-day for students in the high school for parent-teacher conference day. This is something I was familiar with in elementary school but not for the high school. However, when looking back on it, it seems better to have these conferences in the high school as it helps to steer students in the direction of their futures in a collaborative effort between teachers and parents. Mr. Reilly only had a few appointments for the day and I sat in and listened to what he said and what the parents had to say. It's interesting to note that the parents who came were those of students who were achieving highly in class. This can be attributed to any number of reasons but nonetheless it was good to see parents taking an interest in their student's academic careers. As I stated earlier, it is crucial for the teacher to work closely with the parent to identify strengths, weaknesses, as well as potential extracurricular activities that may spark interest in a future career. This day was not only a huge growth professionally but also personally. It was truly the first time all the male teachers were together in the same room at the same time sharing stories of the past and conversing informally. There were lots of laughs to be had and memories shared and made. This is the day I can pinpoint where I feel a warm sense of belonging and look forward to the rest of my time here!

Day 19 - Thursday February 17, 2011
"Make the call, you're the ref!" That was a big theme for the day. In several of the classes, the energy level was high which resulted in some very impressive displays of athletic talent in the team handball games. During class, after my introduction and warm-up, we move right into the games where myself and Mr. Reilly play the role of referees. After doing team handball for so many classes this year, it's easy to note rule infractions and penalties. However, much like all referees in any sport, it can be hard to see some plays and even harder to make a split decision call based upon the play. Sometimes I just react and sometimes I hesitate leading to cries of making the call in both directions. Mr. Reilly simply told me, "just make the call right away they'll forget about it quickly." This is probably the most important advice I've gotten based upon my officiating. I need to be fair and impartial and not be biased towards one group of kids over another nor show favoritism. After all, this isn't a professional handball league. If the referee calls are blown, we move on and continue to play. It's much better to defer an argument rather than address it and waste time. It's difficult for the students to understand that I have better angles of the play watching than they do playing. Even though I have blown a call or two, they kids still have fun and respect me for what I am doing.

Day 20 - Friday February 18, 2011
As we conclude this week, the half-way milestone has already been reached! It's hard to believe that four weeks had gone by so quickly and with mid-winter recess next week, there is only a mere three weeks left before this placement is over. Today was notable in that attendance was rather low. It seemed as if students took advantage of the day and opted to begin their vacation a little prematurely. With this in mind, it's easy to note the perceived 'burn-out' rate of public school students. They begin each year, as with every year before, knowing when their vacations are and what is expected of them throughout the year. As we reach those days off, the students, after weeks of overload from their various subjects of work, grow weary and look forward to the upcoming time off. It is important not to overload the students at this age as it may turn them off schoolwork and academics in general. On the other hand, stimulating the brain is always a good thing. The students who did come to school made it worthwhile and a great time was had by all in class. They really let loose and enjoyed themselves playing team handball. While I too am a bit overwhelmed from my work, I look forward to this nice little break!

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Here are some heartfelt moments that help define the feelings people have toward others!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chill Out! You've Got Back Up!

Day 11 - Monday February 7, 2011
After a weekend of self assessment and brainstorming for the unit, I came to the conclusion that I had to introduce an old friend to Longwood High School. Xavier Waddles made his public school debut as commissioner of the XHL: Xavier Handball League (just one of his many careers!). For Mr. Reilly's sport module classes, I developed a season of the XHL where the students were divided into teams and played 'regular season' games that would eventually lead to the playoffs and eventual championship game. This turned out to be even better than I expected. The students embraced this concept and were eager to hear more about the league and how it would progress and what they could do to develop team unity. I met each class with enthusiasm in discussing Xavier to them all and where would would go from here. It really impressed Mr. Reilly and Ms. Kozofsky with these ideas. I realized that this is what I need to do to keep my lessons fun and exciting: create a story and run with it. I will continue to see this league through until we have a champion for each class period and lots of smiles to go along with it!

Day 12 - Tuesday February 8, 2011
As the week progressed, this day saw the same roll-out of the XHL as yesterday's classes had seen. Student response remained strong and enthusiasm was at an all time high. Some students were in classes on both days and were eager to compare teams and strategies within both classes. What really stood out to me today was how the students began to become more receptive to my ideas and my presence in the gymnasium. Each class would have conversations with me both before and after the lesson not only to learn more about the games but also to learn more about me. I began to feel that sense of belonging that Mr. Reilly had told me to reach for late last week. The students were interested to learn more about me and I was intrigued to discover more about them as well. I hope that as we continue to move forward through the next few weeks that I can develop a stronger relationship with the students and the staff as well.

Day 13 - Wednesday February 9, 2011
I have realized that it is very easy to fall into the pattern of the school day and other responsibilities of life and forget that there are others outside the building waiting to help you whenever necessary. Today, I received a surprise visit from Terry Phelan, my student teaching supervisor. I had yet to meet Terry up until this point and I was very excited that he had come to visit. We were able to talk a little bit about the school, my responsibilities, and the experience thus far. He then observed me in Mr. Reilly's third period class. Now keep in mind, this is the double class with Mr. Schroeder and there are nearly 60 students confined to half of a gym to play team handball. I was not worried during this observation and did as I always did with each class. Terry commended me on a job well done and noted that I did the best I could with the means available. He did make note to always put a strong focus on safety. This was a great visit as it enabled me not only to get an evaluation of my work but also to remind me to always be on guard and ready to give my best as at any time in the future an administrator could come in and observe my class. It's always a good idea to be on your toes!

Day 14 - Thursday February 10, 2011
So far in this experience, I have been met with positive interactions with students in my classes and enthusiastic and cooperative transitions in order to maximize game-play. Today, however, our period 5 class was a little less receptive. When organizing the class, some students were not moving quickly and were less than cooperative when directions were being given. Enthusiasm for the game was low and I was feeling a negative vibe from the class. At one point I told them that the longer they take to get set up the less time we could play. I noted that they were wasting their own time and not mine. It was at this moment I had, for the first time, asserted myself in a more aggressive manner to get the point across. After a few more moments, the class was back to normal, play resumed, and the smiles were back. I realize that all classes are different but the one thing that needs to remain constant is my demeanor and position as an authority figure.

Day 15 - Friday February 11, 2011
When Friday came, the first week of the XHL was in the books and it proved to be quite successful for the students and to me as well. The sport of team handball is beginning to become second nature to me and I have gotten down nearly 70% of the names of the 300 students in Mr. Reilly's classes. After three weeks, I am really starting to feel home at Longwood High School. I no longer restrict myself to Mr. Reilly's classes either. I assist Mr. Curley with his cardio unit, Mr. Schroeder with his outdoor education unit, and observed the option two class with Mr. Cipp and Mr. Roenbeck. These experiences will surely have a profound and positive impact on my experiences in this school. It is vital for teachers to collaborate with one another and be familiar with what else is being taught within the curriculum to other age groups and/or populations. With the third week now history, I look forward to the next five weeks of adventures at LHS!

Sunday, February 6, 2011