A piece of the puzzle at prom

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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.

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Subbing in Thailand

Thailand pic julie narimanI 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.

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45 minutes of home

art photography by julie nariman

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

A teacher’s attention

art photography by julie narimanAs 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

Being the “right” school

Subway image by julie nariman

In 2005, I started working at a transfer high school for students ages 17-21 who needed to catch up academically. All of the students who attended the school came from regular New York City High Schools and had transferred to the school looking for another opportunity. I fell in love with the population and was inspired by how a new setting could create a second chance at success.

Five years later, I decided to submit a proposal for a transfer school through New York City’s Office of New Schools.

“Actually,” I was told by the office, “We don’t need any more transfer schools. We need regular schools. Why don’t you just open a regular high school that does such a good job, kids don’t need to go to transfer schools?”

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Taking care among glow sticks

Glow stick photo by julie narimanA school is a place where people interact.  It’s easy to rush ahead and think these interactions don’t matter.  After reading about the staff and students in Parkland, Florida, I was reminded of how much of an impact people can make in each other’s lives.  I experienced this impact as I supervised a school dance yesterday.

The student government had planned the dance with a “Glow in the Dark” theme and bought hundreds of plastic glow sticks that students could wear like necklaces or bracelets.  However, nothing was glowing, and not many kids were dancing.  It was still daylight and sunlight was streaming through the large gym windows.  My assistant principal gave a pep talk to the demoralized student government so they could get past their disappointment.  It worked.   Continue reading