Bringing The Holidays Into Your ClassroomI love incorporating the holidays into my classroom. Even though this may seem more challenging with older students (my students are in high school), they still appreciate a little holiday cheer!
One way I always bring in the holidays is in the Do Now. A Do Now is a short writing prompt at the beginning of a lesson. The point of a Do Now is to get students focused, working, and writing immediately when they come into the classroom. For Thanksgiving this year, my English co-teacher and I asked students to write what they appreciate in our classroom and in their personal lives. In previous years, I have asked students to write about family traditions and meals, favorite Halloween costumes, and New Year’s resolutions.
The day before a holiday break, I always plan a holiday themed lesson. In Algebra this year, this has really been a hit. I find holiday themed connect the dot activities in which students have to plot points on a coordinate plane and connect them to create a picture. For Halloween this year, students plotted and graphed a bat, witch’s hat, or pumpkin. For Thanksgiving, they created the Mayflower, a pilgrim hat, or a turkey. I also always find a holiday themed logic puzzle. Students have to use logic, reason, and teamwork to figure out what person brought what dish or what their favorite candy is using clues. Students love our holiday days and have a good time showing off their work or working together to solve a challenging puzzle. In English, we usually do holiday story starters. Students read the first sentence of the story, then add on a sentence. Next, they pass the story to the next person in their group. The process continues. At the end, we share out our crazy holiday stories. They can be pretty hilarious.
The best thing about holiday themed lessons is that students think we are just having a good time, but in reality, they are still using their math skills, working as a team, improving their writing, sharing in front of the class, and getting to know each other. Holidays really bring families and friends together, and they also bring my students together!
Corey, NYC Teaching Fellow
Using the Holidays to Teach Culture and ToleranceAs a teacher I have learned that the holidays are the perfect opportunity to teach my students about culture and tolerance. It is very easy for my student to see the differences between them and other races and cultures. Many of them have not experienced anything outside of their communities, therefore, I use the holidays to expose my students to the world’s communities. Celebration of similar holidays is something all cultures have in common such as Diwali, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Dia de Los Reyes, and of course Christmas.
I like to take the last two weeks of school during December to teach daily lessons on how children (my student’s age) celebrate their holiday. I bring in decorations that are typical for each cultures holiday, and show pictures of children dancing and celebrating just as my students celebrate Christmas. On the last day of class before winter break, I along with other Fellow teachers bring food that represent the different holidays as our student presents on each culture’s holiday and how it is similar to the American Christmas. It has become our school’s holiday tradition and the kids enjoy learning about it every year.
Marilyn, New York City Teaching Fellow
A Fellow Tells Us What She’s Thankful ForI am thankful that I am a New York City Teaching Fellow for many reasons. I love being a teacher in a high-need school. I also enjoy working for the Fellows in various roles. Finally, I have met many people and developed lasting friendships with other Fellows.
I love working in a high-need school. Every day, I truly feel I am making a difference in the lives of children. I love designing engaging and interactive lessons that will get my students excited about learning new things. I cherish the moments when students thank me for my help, go up to the board to solve a problem, or give me a big smile when they earn a great grade on a test. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to work with my students each day.
I am also thankful for the opportunities I have had through the Fellows program. Two summers ago, I was a coach and last year I was a session leader in the Spring Classroom Apprenticeship. As a coach, I observed and gave feedback to Fellows in their summer school placements. In the spring, I met with a group of Fellows once a week to teach them new techniques and strategies and share what I was doing in my classroom. I loved working with new teachers, answering their questions, and sharing my experiences and student work. I am thankful for these opportunities because I learned a lot through the training and working with them, as well as developing many lasting friendships and relationships.
Finally, I am most thankful for the wonderful people I have met through the Fellows program. When I was in the Fellows program, I became close friends with the people in my graduate classes. To this day, we still have reunions, reach out to each other about jobs, and always run into each other at various DOE related events. I also still see the Fellows from the summer and spring, and we try to meet up every few months. I have met some of the most amazing people and developed great friendships through the Fellows. I am very thankful for that. —Corey, Fellow since 2008
Tips for Inspiring Your Students: Get Them Excited to LearnI love when students truly get into and excited about a topic I am teaching. In order for this to occur, I usually start out by asking my students what they want to learn.
During my first and second year of teaching, I taught self-contained special education students global history. Self-contained special education classes are smaller classes that provide students with more support and structure. My students were very interested in belief systems and had many questions about Judaism. I asked them to write down their questions and hand them in. I told them I would do my best to answer them along the way. Their questions inspired me to find pictures, movies, articles, and even plan a trip to the Jewish Heritage Museum. Students were excited to learn new things and have their questions answered.
During my third year of teaching, I taught self-contained science. I had to teach body systems. Again, I had students ask questions that they had. Their questions shaped my unit. I found videos on injuries and diseases, showed them the birth of a baby, created awesome experiments and projects, and concluded with a trip to the Bodies exhibit. I was so proud when they were pointing out organs, naming their functions, and discussing how they worked together while at the exhibit.
Over the years, I have learned that I need to get students excited about the topics I am teaching them. As I mentioned above, I usually start with finding out what students know about a topic and what they want to learn. Along the way, I try to reach them and present material to them in a variety of ways. Finally, I always try to end a unit with a field trip or a project. It gives students something to look forward to as well as to show off or synthesize their new knowledge.
Corey, Fellow Since 2008
Good Teachers Impact Lives: A Student StoryNine years ago I had my first day as a New York City Teaching Fellow. I started my career in the classroom by leading a class of first year high school students through an introductory lesson on biology. Up front and center sat Angel, who was a commanding presence in any classroom he was in. He has a big body, a big voice, and a big personality that filled every session in room 326 with energy.
His all-around bigness could sometimes be a challenge to work with. His strong opinions and natural lack of reticence often led to disagreements with teachers and classmates, and he wasn’t shy about testing the strength of his ideas through debate. Some kids and colleagues just weren’t sure how to take him. Sometimes, he would get frustrated and shut down in class, disengaging himself from others in frustration. My instincts (since I didn’t have a lot of experience to draw upon) led me to think that Angel’s natural intellectual restlessness was an ideal pick for the lock of the unknown. All he needed were questions big enough to match his outsized need to assert himself. What he needed was philosophy.
Following my hunch, I offered a course on western philosophy in my second semester, to share something I loved and to put an undergraduate minor degree to work. I bought books in Angel’s native Spanish to help make the abstract texts more accessible. We organized the class around discussion, to engage with the ideas, and create a space for student voice. More than I would have hoped possible, Angel ran with it. Soon, he was expressing his own questioning sensibility in terms of the Socratic Method. He cast classroom rules in terms of Kant’s categorical imperative. He started reading Nietzsche on his own time, lingering at lunch to discuss passages from books he borrowed from the classroom library.
Lately, many of my first-(and lately second-year) students have returned home as college graduates, having navigated the demands of both high school and university, and Angel is among them. Angel studied philosophy at Bard, and found work in the City University system. He is living the life of the mind he yearned for, even all those years ago. It is humbling to know that even in the earliest days of one’s teaching, you can have such a profound effect on the shape of a young person’s trajectory.
Anthony, Fellow since 2005
The Things You Learn Your First Year TeachingDuring my first year of teaching, I was very nervous about making students present in front of the class. I remembered being a student and feeling scared about reading in front of my classmates or going to the front of the room to perform. I assumed my self-contained special education students might feel the same (self-contained special education is for students that require more structure and support in a smaller setting).
So, I was very surprised when I invited to a guest speaker to my class that wanted to have my students role play without much preparation or planning. The guest speaker was the HealthCorps Coordinator at my school. HealthCorps is an organization in schools that teaches students about being mentally and physically healthy. His presentation was on peer pressure and decision-making. His plan was to teach a lesson, and then have students pick scenario cards, and role-play how to resist peer pressure and make good decisions. I told him my students had never done anything like this before and may feel uncomfortable, especially with a new person in the room. He told me not to worry, and that he would come with a back up plan, but he planned on sticking to his original idea.
The day of the lesson came. The students responded well to his lesson. When it came time for them to role-play, he had the first student act out a scenario with him. It was fun and hilarious. Everyone applauded. Students were jumping out of their seats to be next.
After the lesson, I let him know how impressed I was with him and the students. He told me, “Sometimes, if you just give the kids a chance to do something new, they’ll surprise you”. He was right.
After that, I let go of my worries. I gave my students more chances to be in front of the class, think on their feet, and shine. I still incorporate this thinking into my lessons and classroom all the time, and my students always exceed my expectations.
Written By Corey, Fellow since 2008
Deadline today October 15th!Six years ago, Kaia Nordtvedt was studying for an Master’s degree in Arabic and struggling with a sense of unfulfillment in her program. After visiting the NYC Teaching Fellows website, she immediately realized this was the opportunity she was looking for.
“I knew that this was the challenge that I was meant to take on,” Kaia recalls. “Having worked in high-need communities, I believed that each and every child deserves a quality education and an educator who believes in their potential.”
Kaia spent 5 years as a middle school math teacher. Last year, she planned, proposed, and founded a middle school in Brooklyn, where she started as principal this September.
Joining her at Liberty Avenue Middle School are several Teaching Fellows from her own cohort, as well as many first-year Fellows who will start their careers at Kaia’s school.
Kaia is one of the nearly 400 Fellows who continue to amplify their impact as administrators in the NYC Public Schools.
Where will you make your impact? Apply by October 15th.
A Trio of Top StudentsOver the past three years, I had a group of students that liked to go by “TUV”. Tanner, Ugo, and Victor are three best friends that went through middle school together and began high school in my self-contained (small special education) math and science classes.
During my first year with “TUV”, I noticed all of them had very strong math and science skills, but had other circumstances holding them back from being in a general education class or passing the state tests.
Ugo was excellent in math and science, but struggled with focusing and sitting still for long periods of time. Because of this, I would always sit Ugo in the front of the class (free from distraction) and let him be my classroom helper whenever possible. He loved to run errands and pass out and collect papers. This helped him to use his extra energy in a positive way. Ugo ended up passing the state math test that year and moving on to general education math and science classes, where he passed both state tests. He still came back to me for extra help and to say hi.
Tanner would get very nervous and overwhelmed when taking tests, even though he was probably one of my strongest math students. He knew the basics well and excelled at multi-step problems, but could not handle the pressure of high-stakes testing. To help him, we began setting goals and taking full-length state practice tests once a month. This helped him to develop endurance, get used to the proctor reading the test (a test modification special education students can have), and feel more comfortable in a test setting. Although he did not pass the test on his first try, he did on his second. I still remember texting his mom and reading her reply. She said how excited she was and thanked me profusely!
Victor loved science. He always loved my video clips about the human body. He was excellent at studying and learned new vocabulary quickly. During the second year that I had Victor, he was in an ICT or co-taught Living Environment with myself as his special education teacher and another teacher as his content teacher. I always encouraged Victor to raise his hand and participate. As a result, his grades in the class improved. Everyone was confident that Victor was going to pass the state test at the end of the year. Unfortunately, he missed it by one point! I e-mailed Victor and his sister to let them know that I would be happy to tutor Victor over the summer. Victor and I met at the Starbucks by school. I brought him books, review packets, and sent him websites to study from. He retook the test in August and passed!
“TUV” was one of my favorite groups of students. I am very proud of them and look forward to watching them walk across the stage at graduation this year.
- Corey, Fellow since 2008
A Dramatic Career Change
In 2004, I was at a crossroads. I had been working over five years at a job I didn’t love, and felt that my time was slipping away from me. I was ready for a meaningful change, and the NYC Teaching Fellows helped to make it possible.
As young people, we all have big dreams about the kind of adult we want to grow up to become. I’d dreamed of finding a purpose in my work that went beyond supporting myself to allow me to care for others. After working as an internal cost accountant, I wasn’t satisfied that I’d lived up to the promise of that dream of service. Though I was the author, I was unhappy with my own life’s story.
I thought about what I felt the most deeply about, and came back again and again to memories of the classroom, or tutoring younger students, and of the support I felt from my teachers. Feeling I had only one chance to make such a dramatic career change, I knew that teaching resonated deeply enough to abide me through the challenges of changing jobs, moving to a new city and making a fresh start. I submitted my application to the Teaching Fellows, and life began anew.
Nine years after that fork in the road, I can take comfort in knowing that I chose wisely. Teaching provides the opportunity to learn and be a part of daily transformations among the students you serve. It offers the chance to grow personally and professionally among a deeply committed group of colleagues. Before the Fellows, I couldn’t imagine what my life was to become. Now, I couldn’t imagine where I would be without them.
- Anthony, Fellow since 2005
The Fellow Community
“I love the people who I’ve met in this program. I am so proud and thankful to be with such wonderful, hard-working individuals who have a burning desire to teach children.”