I’m always surprised by how much I learn about our school from our prom. We recently held our prom earlier than most schools due to Ramadan, as we wanted more of our Muslim students to be able to attend.
Our high school is a school for newcomer English Language Learners from all over the world who have been in the USA less than 4 years. The students are excited by the idea of the prom but they don’t have a strong expectation of what it should be so there’s no comparison or disappointment.
Last week, I saw my school through new eyes.
We had a visit of 11 first-year teachers from other high schools, part of a new teacher support initiative in the Bronx. My school was one of 15 schools chosen for the visit with a focus on teaching methods for English Language Learners, as the majority of our students are newcomer immigrants who are learning English.
I told my leadership consultants, Ariel and Shya Kane, about the visit. “First-year teachers? They’re going to compare themselves if they feel insecure,” said Ariel. “Set them up to not compare, and look at your school with a beginner’s mind so they can learn.” Continue reading
I remember my school having a Career Day when I was in 10th grade. I eagerly signed up for journalism, picturing an exciting, glamorous session around undercover reporting. At the end of the day, I was clear that I didn’t want to be a journalist. Getting clearer on what I didn’t love got me interested in other careers. The experience was invaluable.
This past Friday, my school held its first-ever Career Day.
I walked into the auto mechanic presentation. Joe, a friend of mine, had brought a huge bag of tools from his auto shop and laid them out on a table. A student, Yonas, who immigrated from Eritrea last year, looked fascinated. * Continue reading
I always thank the substitute teachers who come to my school. It’s a tough job even with the best-laid plans, and requires a lot of thinking on your feet. In our school, the majority of students are English Language Learners, and subs need to find creative ways to communicate and get the students engaged in their work.
Thirteen years ago, I had the most unusual subbing experience of my life. From 2004-2005, I lived in South Korea teaching English at a university. During one my school vacations, I travelled to Thailand. A teacher I knew suggested I volunteer to teach a guest lesson at local school as a way to “give back” during my vacation. I thought it was a great idea.
Self-portrait created by a student at the High School of Language and Innovation.
“I don’t like social studies class,” Michael told me. Michael is a 9th-grade student from the Dominican Republic. “The kids at my table speak Arabic too much.”
Looking in on a class in my school, you’ll see groups of students composed of different cultures sitting together. Our school is for English Language Learners from all over the world. Complaints and situations like Michael’s are common, especially in 9th grade when many of the students are recent arrivals to the country meeting different cultures for the first time. We purposefully group students of different cultures together to promote the use of English, which can be tough at first as students are learning the language.
The cafeteria is a different story from the classroom. Continue reading
Me at age 16, the day I got my driver’s license.
On March 14, students across the nation are planning a walkout to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting. The recent surge of student voice has gotten me thinking about how much responsibility and trust we give, or don’t give, to teenagers. How capable are teenagers? How reliable are their opinions? How smart are their decisions?
In high school when I was 16, I had a Driver’s Education class which meant that I got to practice driving once a week instead of going to one of my regular classes. At first, my instructor just had me drive around the school parking lot, but as I got more experienced, we’d drive on highways and busier roads.
One day when I got into the car, my instructor asked me, “Do you have your learner’s permit?” Continue reading
As our nation discusses the idea of arming teachers, I’ve been thinking about a teacher’s ability to see and hear the many things happening in a classroom.
Years ago, I was working in a school where a teacher left in November due to illness. A few days later, a new teacher was hired to fill the position. The students in the class were struggling, and even though they were compassionate about the situation, they were upset. And hungry for structure.
I met the new teacher the morning she was starting her new job. She had a lesson plan. She’d be entering the classroom in an hour. There were so many things she needed to do on that first day to establish structure. Where to start? Continue reading