Former NYC Teaching Fellow Is a Finalist For the Prestigious Fishman Prize!
Congratulations to Sasha Growick, 2007 NYC Teaching Fellow, for being selected as a finalist for the TNTP Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Excellence.
The Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Excellence is an annual award for exceptionally effective teachers working in high-poverty public schools. More than 570 teachers applied to the Fishman Prize and nine were selected as finalists.
Sasha started her teaching career at PS 134 in the Bronx teaching special education and she now works at Success Academy Bronx 2 teaching third grade. This past November, Sasha’s 3rd graders averaged a 94 percent on their math interim assessment, scoring several points higher than the other third grade classes within the network.
Perseverance and Strength
This week I am looking forward to catching up with W, a student I had earlier written about, as an example of the perseverance and strength of the students we serve. This was a young lady who put in so much hard work to graduate with her class, all the while working full time, to help provide support to her parents. It is amazing to see just how much she has grown since I first saw her operating the cash register of my local grocery store. Since last June, a lot has happened, from her securing a management position, to her beginning her road to work in Law by finishing up her first semester at John Jay. While I don’t have the chance to check in as much as I used to since she moved on from the grocery store, I feel secure that this is a young lady that “gets it.” I know that no matter how much time has gone by, any update will find W further along on her path to success than in our previous conversation/email. As a teacher, I feel it is so important to set and raise the bar high for all your students, and to provide encouragement and support, but it is also important to help our students remember just how much potential and how many gifts they have. I remember my initial meetings with W, and it is amazing to see how our conversations have gone from me checking up/pushing her on all she needed to get done, to her pushing herself to achieve her goals. That is what it is all about. Proud of you kid!
-Nick, Fellow since 2004
The Power of the Doorway
One of the most useful Teach Like a Champion techniques I have used since the beginning of my teacher tenure is the “threshold”. The idea behind the “threshold” or technique 41, is that students walk into your classroom through a main door by crossing the threshold and in those 3-5 seconds of time you can do some key things to set up students mindset. Using this strategy can do three vital things for your class, it can set the tone, create or maintain a behavior expectation or it can be used to build confidence in your students depending on what you are targeting. A teacher can set up the tone of academic expectations with their class by either shaking hands to greet students or welcoming them into class. Teachers can also use the time it takes to cross the threshold to remind specific students of behavior or academic expectations for the class period. For example, a teacher could use this moment to preview the day’s lesson or remind a student that they need to raise their hand in order to participate during the lesson: “today we are going to learn something you can do when you get to a hard part in the text you read, called questioning”. Another way to apply this tool is by praising specific students on the good work they did in the previous class period. An example of this is “good afternoon (student name) I really was impressed by your participation in the mini-lesson yesterday I want to see it again today”! These are just a few ways I employ this strategy and believe it to be one of the critical components of setting clear expectations for my class periods. I have had continued positive results with my students when I am able to greet each of them as soon as the bell rings. Don’t just take my word for it, try it tomorrow and for the rest of the week and see if you get positive results.
-Carolina, Fellow since 2010
Pay it Backward
During a recent week off, I had the opportunity to travel home to visit family in Florida. While there, I scheduled a visit to meet one of my early mentors, a paleontologist I met while on a high school field trip. In 1989, he guided the students of my high school into a shell pit, where we had an opportunity to pick among the clay and sand for bits of shell and bone from the ice age.
As a passionate science student, my heart ached to make some unlikely discovery, like a love letter from nature returning my affection for it in the affirmative. I waited for the school bus comically over-prepared for a class outing, garbed in army fatigues and toting every earth-moving implement I could carry. Spare liters of water and a sandwich double bagged in plastic were strategically included so that I wouldn’t have to waste precious minutes of my search for fossils waiting on the lunch line.
It really shouldn’t have worked, but as if guided by some subterranean magnet, late in the day, my equally geeky best friend and I struck a chocolate-colored fleck of bone, a foot or so buried in the muddy shell marl. As we dug, our fingers exposed a larger and larger section, until at last we had unearthed a mammoth jawbone. With this discovery, the course for my life in science was set.
The paleontologist, recognizing our enthusiasm, made us his ‘fossil boys’ and for the following high school years, invited us on many adventures. In the long spaces between looking and finding, he shared his own stories of growing up and the unconventional path he followed to becoming the namesake of a species of fossil manatee. I didn’t just learn about ancient creatures – I learned a lot about life, itself.
In college and later, I had less and less time for fossil hunting, and eventually, moved away to New York City to train as a science teacher. Though I seldom returned to the field, my memories of those formative days were never far from my mind, especially as I shared the bones I’d dug up as a student with my own classes. When I made my plans to travel homeward this spring, I was sure to include time to see my mentor.
On a sun-bleached day of towering clouds, I drove down the industrial coastline of railway sidings and freight ship ports towards my teacher’s home on the banks of a brackish river. He greeted me, sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck whose bed was loaded with trays of rock and bone. With the same impish enthusiasm, he showed me around his house, pointing out the additions to his collections and images of his latest work being exhibited in museums. He autographed for me the latest edition of his book and discussed his plans for an upcoming expedition. For the first time as a teacher, I was able to thank him for the positive influence he’d had on my career, and discuss how what he had taught me has become a part of my own teaching.
As much as he had given me, the best gift I could offer was the evidence of the positive ripple effects it has had on young people he would never meet. It felt good to say on my own students’ behalf, “thank you.” He was moved to know that the gift he gave all those years ago is still reverberating like a bell through subsequent generations. Driving home as the sun began to set, I thought, “perhaps someday, one of my students will pay me a visit…”
Anthony, Fellow since 2005
Say it IS So: Free Guitars for the Classroom!
About a year ago, I signed up for a professional development that allowed me to acquire ten acoustic guitars. Originally, I thought it was a joke, but I went to find out more information. It’s no surprise that my students were also enthusiastic about it. Once we received them, the plan was to play as much as possible.
Fast forward a year and while the guitars are in my classroom ready for use, we have not used the guitars as often as I would like. But something happened to my students today that made me compromise with them. A few die-hard music lovers agreed to complete an extra math assignment in exchange for more guitar practice during the day.
How could I say no to that?
I am a big music fan too, so I saw this as an opportunity to not only learn more about math, but become better guitar players and hopefully execute our end of the year performance. I am still crossing my fingers on that one.
Once again, I realize that music can be very powerful. It can bridge many gaps in the classroom and help refocus students, building their confidence. It also can re-energize a teacher at an integral point during the school year.
Sixto, Fellow since 2010
You Can Take it With You: Teach Like a ChampionThis week I am looking forward to working with a school in Far Rockaway that utilizes a number of Teach Like a Champion techniques. Having worked with a number of their teachers earlier this year, I am excited to see their progress, as well as the achievement of their students.
Special Education is such a rewarding, yet challenging field, and to be able to share some of the techniques and strategies learned from working with the NYCTF to help raise student achievement for all students is something I am extremely grateful for. As the beginning of pre-service training for the June 2013 Fellows rapidly approaches, I am excited for the journey that our incoming cohort is about to embark upon, secure in the knowledge that September will bring yet another group of dedicated individuals who will hit the ground running, and will continue to close the achievement gap in NYC.
Nick, Fellow since 2004
Attention all Fellows: Showcase Student Talent at the NYCTF Welcoming Event
Are you a current Teaching Fellow who leads a student performance group at your school? We are looking for high-energy student groups of all ages and populations to inspire a new cohort of Teaching Fellows at our annual Welcoming Event, held this June. Successful student performances in the past have included jazz bands, step teams, and upbeat choirs.
We will accept auditions as e-mail video files, and submissions may be e-mailed to Nicole at email@example.com. In addition, you may also upload your video to a web-based platform such as YouTube, and send us a hyperlink. All submissions must be received no later than May 1. Please note that submissions will only be accepted from current Teaching Fellows.
In my teacher opinion, September is the most important month for emphasis on room décor and class environment. April comes in as the second most important time to revamp your class. I call it my professional Spring-cleaning! Students and teachers often need some new energy and inspiration during this time of year, and what better way then to provide it with a new look and feel for your classroom.
Every year, with the week after Spring break comes a brand new unit on both student choice selection and exploration on how to read and write of both informational and narrative texts at a 9th-grade level. The unit gives my struggling students an additional opportunity to show their progress throughout the year, while still providing my top students with a preview of what to expect in English language arts in 10th grade.
My co-teacher and I try to make our class look and feel like a new learning space by changing almost every bulletin board in the class and revamping what student responsibilities look like so that it creates a way for students to become more independent learners.
These small changes help us to become refreshed and refocused for the few weeks left of the school year, which become increasingly more important for my students, especially since they are at the high-school level. So with that, spring has sprung, and to all those city kids and teachers out there: lets make these next few weeks the best we have had all year!
Carolina, Fellow since 2010
Spring has Sprung
Spring is the season of renewal. After a winter of chilly days and long nights, the cold’s grip has eased. Creatures that have hibernated through the darkest season emerge with renewed vigor, pushing upward to the promise of the light and warmth of brighter, longer days. Life re-emerges, hopeful and optimistic.
Last week was New York City’s Spring Recess, which marks a time of renewal among teachers and staff, as well. It serves as the final, major milestone on the march to the end of the school year, with only brief, scattered punctuations left to anticipate. After spending these early spring days to recharge our internal batteries and reconnect with our friends and families and selves, we look ahead to making the most of every remaining moment in the classroom. For although our seasonal sense of renewal is real, the annual cycle of teaching and learning we are in the midst of is rapidly approaching its conclusion.
With fewer than fifty instructional days remaining, we will need every ounce of that reserved and re-energized capacity to do all that remains to be done. As students, our sense of these days is very different than it is for teachers. For the young, nine weeks seem immeasurably long when measured in assignments and assessments and tasks to complete. Meanwhile every teacher I know can name at least two or three important things they’d do if they only had a little more time with the students. As an educator, it requires professional judgment to balance the bustle of competing demands in these final days. One maintains a sense of urgency, without rushing through the learning. One seeks balance between the depth and breadth of our instruction, of doing much and doing it well. We must prepare our students for the future as we savor a fleeting present, working with new energy to write a positive final chapter together.
Anthony, Fellow since 2005
Take a Picture; It’ll Last Longer
It has been several days since I was last at school, because of our much needed Spring Break. I am always very grateful for the time off, but there comes a time when I need to return to work and get back to the business at hand. I really do miss being around my students, teaching them new things, and seeing them grow up.
I have plenty of experiences to share with them from the week. I always try to take as many photos as possible with my camera. I hope that some of my photo club students did the same, so that we can talk about what we did during the break. My students always like to hear about my stories from my life. They are always fascinated by the amount of times that I board a plane. They love seeing my photos from above the clouds. I like to remind them that I was like them. I always wondered what it was like to travel to different places and fly in the sky. I like to tell them that they all will have their own experiences to talk about and share with others when they become older. They can accomplish anything, because I am helping them prepare for real life through the lessons I teach them every day.
Speaking of lessons, we are heading towards the home stretch. Each classes needs to complete one more unit in their respective grade level, and then it is time to review for the Math state test. Most students feel nervous about the test, but I try to alleviate their concerns by reviewing topics that they want to cover. I leave it up to my students to lead the review sessions with their suggestions. Everyone benefits from these lessons, and it is great to see how much they have learned and progressed during the academic year.
Sixto, Fellow since 2010