Spring parent/teacher conferences were held last week but at my school, these conferences were held with a twist. My 9th grade students participated for the first time in student-led conferences or SLC’s. SLC’s are essentially individual presentations that students give with a parent or guardian present and a teacher in the background. The idea is that students should be responsible for their learning progress and be able to own up to the work they have completed over the course of the year.
Students worked for over two weeks to gather evidence of their academic strengths and weaknesses in each of their courses and prepared a script to help them with their presentations. Students even wrote hand-written invitations and will write thank you notes to their parents for attending the conferences.
At first, teacher and parent reactions were mixed regarding how effective a parent/teacher conference would be without real interface with the teachers. The result, however, was extremely positive, as parents, teachers, and students laughed and cried while listening to the individual presentations.
I have witnessed students who have struggled with their educational growth begin to make great headway in the short amount of time that has passed since these conferences. Through this experience, I learned to challenge old ways of thinking and to always prioritize the focus on making student learning as visible for both students and parents. After all, they say it takes a village… and this is just one way to help reinforce that.
Carolina, Fellow since 2010
One of the biggest changes that I have noted since joining the Teaching Fellows and becoming an educator eight years ago is my sense of the scale of time. Paradoxically, it seems both shorter and longer than it did in my pre-teaching life. Walking into the classroom on the first day of the first year, I had rehearsed an hour-long lesson that I’d been polishing since the middle of the summer. I had developed my thoughts on where I wanted the lesson to “go” and all the beats I wanted to hit.
The thought of being alone in holding the attention of twenty-five restless teens with my ability to infect the room with a passion for biology made each of those sixty seconds seem like an eternity in the planning. After it all, the day flew by. My peers and Fellow Advisor had all offered useful input, the kids were wonderful and ultimately, it was a successful initiation into my new life in the classroom. But with this milestone reached, there were still a hundred and eighty some-odd days to go. A year seemed very long, indeed.
Now it is eight years later (another strange trick of time) and we are about one hundred calendar days away from the end of the school year. In that span, there are days for trips and days for exams and the Spring Break still to come. Thinking of the work we have left to accomplish (ecology, human impact, biotechnology) the time seems preciously short indeed. The longer you are at it, the smaller and smaller a year’s time will seem.
Yet at the same time, my sense of the possibilities in each moment has greatly expanded. In the four-minute passing break between classes, I can top off my coffee, answer a question in the office, arrange a tutoring session with a student and add an agenda item to a meeting with my colleagues. In a classroom moment you can check a student’s understanding, and redirect the day’s agenda to approach some concept from a different angle. With experience, you will find that more will ‘fit’ into any unit of time than you had ever imagined.
In science class, we invest time making sure students apply the proper units of measure to any labs they undertake. We reinforce the importance of using ‘scaling’ to make graphs that communicate their experimental observations. The thing we cannot teach, that everyone eventually discovers for themselves, is the elastic nature of our individual sense of time. At once, moments are longer and years are shorter….especially for the teacher.
Anthony, Fellow since 2004
Maybe you want to make a difference.
If you’ve thought about it ever, if you’re thinking about it now, then this is your opportunity. If you’re ready to see if you have what it takes to immediately affect change in the classrooms that most need you, we encourage you to complete and submit your application for the June 2013 program now. The final application deadline for the June 2013 program is this Monday, March 11, 2013. Applications will not be accepted after this date, so in order to be considered for this year’s Fellowship, you must apply by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Monday.
Teacher shortages remain in schools within underserved neighborhoods across our city, and there continues to be a need for new teachers in some of the hardest-to-staff subject areas, like special education, science, and math. There’s no better time to take a stand against inequities in education and provide the students of New York City with the encouragement and support necessary to flourish in school and beyond.
If you want to become a part of something bigger, if you’re ready to join us, we hope you will make this commitment to change the lives of the students in NYC. In the process, you’ll also be changing your own.
Crystal, Alissa, Shauna, Carly, Melody, Alissa, Zach, Ali, Maria, Guy, Anna, Chelsea, Nicole, Caitlin, Julie, Blake, Rosie, Chris, and Michael
The NYC Teaching Fellows
I knew it was coming. It always does around this time of year. Some people call it the “Teaching Mid-Year Slump”, others call it the “Longest Months of the School Year.” I call it “The Wall.”
The Wall used to loom up mid-way on my jogging runs. It was the time when I suddenly lost energy and motivation to keep moving forward. Suddenly the roads seemed to extend out of my reach and ability. The Wall makes you start to doubt if you have the stamina to complete the run and accomplish your goal. And then as quickly as it appeared the Wall would fade away and I’d move forward with renewed energy and drive.
Teachers sometimes experience this feeling. The year is more than half over and yet the few remaining months seem like they will never end and June is but a dream. It takes effort to keep the momentum and enthusiasm going when you feel tired and drained. I find if I schedule mini-events (Earth Day is April 22nd!) and treat myself to something special at the end of each week the time does pass and once June comes it’s all downhill!
So, it’s one foot forward, now the other foot… keep going, that’s great! We can do it!
Georgina, Fellow since 2002
Hear personal reflections from current Fellows about first-year jitters, what they learned, and how they feel now.
This week, I’m so proud of my student, who has really come into her own as a scientist in the school lab. Last year, I mentored her work on a DNA research project that she successfully presented at the American Museum of Natural History. This week, as she waits for her junior-year internship (at a science museum!) to start, she’s got some unplanned spare time on her hands.
Realizing her skills, we’ve enlisted her help as a lab technician, testing the results of various procedures we’re using with the freshman biology classes in an upcoming unit. For four hours each day, she has directed her own efforts around the lab, using pipettes and centrifuges and reagents to extract genetic material from various foods for analysis. With confidence, she was able to let her former teachers know what combination of materials and protocols yielded the clearest results, and has offered to help implement the lab for her peers. It’s a gift to have the chance to share something with a young person in the first place. But it’s all the more rewarding to see how much further they can go on their own with what you’ve taught them.
Anthony, Fellow since 2005
Cohort 15 Fellow, Michael Seymour, and Cohort 20 Fellow, Lynn Shon, from Middle School 88 in Brooklyn, recently entered a video into Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest and are one of only 15 finalists selected from a pool of 15,000 applicants and the only finalists from NY state!
The contest speaks to the need for technology investments in high needs schools. Because of Michael’s and Lynn’s hard work, their school is eligible for a $110,000 grant based on your votes! To view their video and to place a vote, click here: https://pages.samsung.com/us/sft/video.jsp.
Get your votes in today! Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday, March 4!