Monday, September 29, 2008

Green & Cheap Classroom Idea: Reusable bingo "cards"

Today I played Bingo with my Spanish 1 students in order to review for our Unit 1 test on Thursday. I know they enjoy playing Bingo, and while this is not a common teaching tool, I did not want to keep having to print bingo "cards" for my students to use. I purchased a box of sheet protectors and a class set of overhead markers. I also printed a class set of blank bingo cards. I put the bingo cards in the sheet protectors and pass out a card and marker to each student. They fill in their "card" with the material we will be reviewing that day, and the bingo game commences. After we are finished I clean off the cards with wet paper towels and they are ready to be used for another class another day.

The only thing I would change for the future is to print whatever is going in the sheet protectors on paper thicker than regular copy paper. Eventually from normal handling by students the bingo cards will start to get a little dingy and wrinkled, using thicker paper would prevent this from happening as quickly. So far I have used the current bingo cards twice and they are still holding up quite nicely.

My reason for doing this is two-fold: We all know resources in our schools are limited and the amount of money a teacher can afford to spend on school supplies even more so. At my school and many others in the city, teachers buy their own copy paper. For things such as bingo cards that students are not going to look at a second time, it doesn't make sense not to conserve. The green reason obviously being to conserve resources as well. Working in a school district that does not recycle gives teachers few options to do their part for the environment. Hopefully this green and cheap classroom idea will help teachers striving to conserve in both of these areas.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Roommate Search: Way Worse than Dating

As a result of the eviction I find myself with my September rent and deposit sitting in my purse, and the wide world of craigslist at my fingertips. Once again.

Didn't I just go through this process?

Anyways, I've been looking for almost two weeks which I know isn't terribly long or anything, but it definitely is torturous. What's so bad about it you ask? Let me tell ya...dealing with those in their early 20s.

I feel confident in discussing and even judging the habits of the peer group I have only just recently left, mainly because I was up to the same shenanigans when I was that age. I am however surprised by the discovery that finding the perfect roommate to live in a spare room is The. Most. Important. Thing. to those in their early 20s, all of them.

I went to see a room that was the size of my full size mattress, with no closet, and a bedroom door that wasn't able to fully open because it would rub up against the mattress. This gem would have cost me $800 a month. I had a nice conversation with the girl renting the room, after we spoke for a good 25 minutes, I think I passed some sort of test in her book because I was given "The Survey".

For those that aren't aware, The Survey is like getting a call or text inquiring about a second date. This survey was quite extensive. The written instructions asked me to "List five each of the following", but me being interesting and advanced and all, I was assured that I could fill out "just two or three and do just fine".

The survey included:

-Favorite Artists
-Favorite Movies
-Favorite Books
-Favorite Songs
-Five people dead or alive you would invite to a dinner party
-Personal Philosophy
-Words to live by

It went on...

Another apartment that I found equally entertaining was one that consisted of four people looking to fill a fifth bedroom. I attended an open house at this apartment. I had the chance to speak to one of the potential roommates, while another girl looking at the room stood there waiting for her chance. Before I left my picture was taken so they could remember me, and I was told I would be notified if I made the call-backs. Call-backs? Since when was I auditioning for a part in a high school musical?

I know this is an important process, and one doesn't want to take these decision lightly. I guess the only way to survive is to poke a little fun here and there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NYC High School Fair 2008

Yesterday I went to day one of New York City's high school fair. Not as a participant volunteering for my school, but as someone speaking to the many different high school representatives. Upon entering the building, you are thrust a telephone book size "guide" to all of the high schools in the five boroughs. If you are more comfortable in another language you are led to a table where you can pick up a similar guide in one of the eight languages of the Department of Education.

I was so excited for two reasons: 1. The fair is held every year at Brooklyn Tech, one of New York City's best high schools (and I was dying to check out their facilities). and 2. It's interesting to see this world from the parent's perspective.

The three of us took the elevator to the 7th floor and started perusing the tables of high schools in Brooklyn. We stopped at a table for a school specializing in expeditionary learning. It seems like a great idea: getting kids out of the classroom, they should learn by doing not by reading in a textbook. We heard from the New York Fire Department high school where students can get an EMT certificate before graduating high school, at the age of 21 be first on the list to become firemen, and of course at age 41, with 20 years of service in, retire with full benefits and pension. We also spoke to the principal of the Green School, which while pushing a "green" themed curriculum upon students and staff, isn't actually green, as the DOE doesn't allow it's schools to recycle. It is insane to me to think about my 13 year old self choosing a high school. Not only had I no idea of what a pension was, I certainly didn't know how I wanted to spend my 20s and 30s.

We learned a bit more about the actual application process. It's kind of like the college application process, and unfortunately for most of these kids, as important as some of these schools can make or definitely break you as a learner. Students are given an application form where they rank their top twelve choices. There is a sub-set of the high schools requiring a standardized test for admission, they are called the "Specialized High Schools". Some of the schools will only look at your application if you have ranked them as your top choice, some schools give you extra "points" if you signed in at their table, or attended their open house. It seems that this less than transparent process would lose so many students whose parents have a language difficulty or who just aren't interested.

There was one high school in my town for my sister and I to attend. It is unfortunate that middle schoolers are forced to make such big decisions here, mainly because the system meant to help them is failing them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

More fun with illegal evictions

Well, yesterday was THE day the court was allowing us to move our things. I requested the personal day, Horace requested his day off, the U-Haul was reserved, everything was in place for a quick, painless packing and moving of my things in the presence of court marshals. My roommate called me to tell me no one was there to let us in, after she called around to find out what was going on, she was told the shady "owner" filed an appeal to the judge's earlier decision, and no one was planning on coming. She of course failed to notify my roommate Jamie of this. Jamie went to the court to try and fight this decision and gain access to the apartment. Meanwhile, I was at U-Haul, waiting for our cargo van to be delivered to us, hoping to get the call saying we could go in and move. The call eventually came, the super unlocked the door, and we had about 40 minutes before he locked it up again. This is a huge mess. It's frustrating to deal with someone else's lies, and leave the future of my possessions in the hands of a judge. I really don't care about the majority of my things, but I do have important documents in my apartment, as well as a couple of sentimental items. Yesterday my packing mindset wasn't that of "pack everything important first", it was "pack everything as fast as possible".

In order to provide a visual aid, I've included what I came home to that first evening.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Two week check-in

The first two weeks have come and gone at school. I am teaching the same exact classes I taught last year, and my sophomore and junior classes have a lot of the same kids. I've got mixed feelings about the freshmen, they seem so skiddish and weird to me. I adore my students from years past who are not at all shy about stopping into my office to say hi, or tell me about their weekends. The feelings of uneasiness I had before the year started have gone away. In my previous post I wrote that I was concerned about the core people in a school leaving. After some thought and conversations with co-workers I realized that the people that make a school good are not the teachers or administration, but most definitely the students. Our kids are awesome and as long as the same caliber of student is attracted to our school, we can overcome whatever problem.

My home life on the other hand is not going quite so well. My roommate and I are being forced to move, which is proving to be very inconvenient and stressful. Luckily I have an amazing near-boyfriend to not only let me crash at his place, but help me move as well. I am a lucky girl. The having to move came about suddenly, and in the form of an eviction notice secured to the front door of our apartment about two feet above the recently changed lock. Apparently my roommate had been subletting from someone involved in dubious business. As a result, we are the ones that are suffering, and moving our things out in one day under the watchful eyes of court marshals. Although this is a huge pain in the ass and would qualify for the local news segment "Shame, shame shame!" I feel as if this type of experience is typical New York (or any major city for that matter) and will probably happen to most in their renting years. I mean, surely I saw something like this on Friends or Seinfeld, right?

I haven't been able to go to the gym since my gym shoes are locked in the apartment I'm no longer legally allowed to enter, (but have paid through the month of September for). I have however been getting plenty of exercise walking to different apartments and climbing the stairs to various two bedrooms around the "historic" Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn.

In between apartment hunting and lesson planning I have no trouble keeping myself quite busy. :)