A teacher’s attention

20180302_150425.jpgAs 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

Channeling My Inner Norma


In my first year of teaching, I was never observed by an administrator. I started to think that not being observed might be a good thing, as I was struggling mightily to keep my classroom under control.

I taught 8th grade English in a public middle school in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The school itself was struggling and had been placed on a state list for low student achievement. The principal and assistant principal were both brand new in their jobs and in hindsight, I have empathy for the difficult situation they were in (although I certainly had no empathy at the time). I got used to the idea that administrators were people who helped when things went badly—for example, when a discipline problem forced me to call them and get help. Maybe it was better they weren’t visiting, I thought. What would they see in my classroom? That I was a failure?

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55-25 and my 40th Birthday

Julie Nariman PrincipalThe 55-25 retirement option

In my third year of teaching when I was 24 years old, there was an option to sign up for “55-25.”  “55-25” was an early retirement option for educators, which meant that once you turned 55 and had been teaching in the system for 25 years, you could retire early and receive 50% of your average salary.

I remember several veteran teachers asking me if I had signed up for 55-25.  I barely registered their question. I figured, there’s no way I’ll still be in education in 25 years.  Continue reading

Drugged with notes

Notes pictureI started my teaching career in September 2000 at Intermediate School 33 in Brooklyn, a school that has since closed.  I was hired to teach 8th grade English at the same time as Sara Milstein, both of us recent college graduates who quickly became friends.

On the first day, we introduced our rules to our students.  “What happens if you break them?” asked a student.  We weren’t sure.

The first several months of our teaching careers were an exercise in containing classroom chaos, and many times, we ended the day in tears.
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