Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's the small things...

Each summer as August 1st approaches the anticipation becomes a little too much to handle. August 1st my friends is the date when NYC public school teachers can begin using their Teacher's Choice funds. This year, just like last year, our allotment is $150. I, like most teachers spend well over $150. This year however, my goal is to keep better track of how much I spend and stay as close to my $150 budget as possible. My shopping so far has not consisted of my standard Staples and Officemax trips. Instead, I went to Barclay's School Supplies in Brooklyn.

For those who don't know, Barclay's may be THE BEST thing to happen to teachers. It's located in the basement of a building in downtown Brooklyn, easily accessible by many convenient subway lines and buses. As I was walking towards the store my excitement was growing, I kept seeing teacher looking people walking around proudly with great big plastic bags sporting the "Barclay's" logo.

This was going to be great. And it totally was.

As I exited the elevator I entered into a teacher's wonderland. Everything was so colorful and at first, before my eyes adjusted, a bit overwhelming. I just walked around aimlessly for a few minutes, somehow finding my way to the foreign language section. This section wasn't terribly extensive, but I have yet to see a truly impressive FL section in a school supplies store. I was able to get some stickers in Spanish as well as some handy verb posters.

The two things I am most excited about that are also probably the most dorky are raffle tickets and sentence strips. I have struggled with a good way to grade participation and think that raffle tickets may be the answer. When students speak Spanish in class they'll get a ticket, when everyone has their homework they all get a ticket, etc. When students have a certain number of tickets they can trade them in for something, maybe a free homework pass. I imagine it would be an exciting list of prizes Dave and Busters or Chuck-E-Cheese style. You know, like 25,000 tickets for the toaster. I could even have some funny joke prizes like that. I'd have to keep track of who I give tickets to in case they don't trade them in until the end of the year or lose them. I'm super excited about my sentence strips too, I think I'm going to use these to make a word wall of sorts for my freshman classes, and a literary device word wall for my AP kids. Good times.

Since I teach in a public school I was exempt from paying taxes so my rather large bag of goodies came to $56.

I walked out of Barclay's with my head held high, proudly displaying my bag and smiling at all of the other teacher people doing the same.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

To friend or not

At some point in their careers every teacher is faced with an extremely important, potentially career-altering decision: whether or not to "friend" their students. (Watch out, you'll be seeing me verb a lot more nouns in the future, it's how I do).

I live about an hour away from school by public transportation, and although I have run into students in my neighborhood, it's very rare. It is more common however to run into my students online. When this happens, what's a teacher to do? I'm no longer the social networking slut I used to be in college, I'm down to a facebook page only now. That being said, I'm no spring chicken, I've been places, I've done things, do I really want my work life to tango with my personal life? I tend to follow a strict no friending current students policy, I will however add students that have graduated. I usually don't add them as friends, because, let's face it: it would suck to be denied. This summer is the first time I've added students to facebook and I think it's a lot of fun reading about what they are up to, and all about their pre-college excitement and jitters. It's all very, ahem, rewarding. *blush*

Any thoughts on this? If you're a teacher do you friend your students?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A day at jury duty

About a week ago I discovered a misplaced piece of my mail, not a wedding invitation, or thank you card, or credit card bill, but possibly the worst kind ever: a jury summons dated July 27th. Alarms went off in my mind as my eyes fell on the intimidating red bold print threatening possible fines and jail time for those who don't respond. I called the number listed on the summons, and after spending way too long talking to automated machines and getting disconnected twice, I was finally connected to a real person: "Sure, no problem, I'll give you a new date right now, when is good for you?" I decided I wanted to get this out of the way before school started so I asked for today, August 25th.

I went in this morning, and was greeted by a humorous, jolly court employee who had the perfect sarcastic comments at just the right times. He put on a video for us to watch, the highlight of which was a dramatization (ya know, Unsolved Mysteries style) of the ways people were tried in the 1800s, before there were juries. It was hilarious, hilarious! Apparently one way to figure out if someone was innocent or guilty was to tie them up and throw them in the lake. If they sank they were innocent, if they floated they had some explaining to do. The video went on to explain how valued the jurors are and the various ways we could plan on being pampered throughout the day: public pay phones, vending machines, bathrooms for men and women, ahh, you had me at pay phones Supreme Court of Brooklyn, you had me at pay phones.

I was actually not dreading my day as a juror. A friend of mine told me that he just sat in the main room all day on his laptop doing work. I planned accordingly and brought two different literature books. (I'm such a nerd!) I was all snuggled up in a good seat when my name was called. That's where the adventure began. Well, not really for me anyway. There were about 50 of us herded into a back room, then up to a court room on the 21st floor. Sixteen jurors at a time were interviewed by the lawyers.

It seemed to me less like juror questioning and more like group therapy. People talked about being victims of crimes, all crimes, large and small. No matter what the crime they were always asked if that experience would influence their opinion of the trial. Let me just say, I will NEVER again take for granted good question answerers. It was a little painful listening to adults...ADULTS(!) not answer the questions they were asked. I have to hand it to the judge though, she had the patience of a kindergarten teacher, always rephrasing her question when she didn't get the response she was looking for, or a response period.

I was not one of the first or second group of 16 to be interviewed today, so my adventure continues tomorrow...when señorita in the city, becomes señorita on the juror stand. ;)

Monday, August 24, 2009

I have to admit I have a bit of a crush.

I have spent most of the summer tackling the 54 required works on the Spanish Literature reading list, well not really, that was my original plan. I must admit I got caught up in sleeping in and watching back to back episodes of 24, so haven't read as much of the list as I wanted to. My goal was to read everything before the school year begins, ha!

I have started to get my act together and have, much to the disappointment of my summer love affair with Jack Bauer, begun reading and lesson planning. I started off with poetry, normally not one of my favorites. Clearly I have been reading the wrong poems. Now, normally I'm not attracted to the "bad boy", but that all changed with Jose de Espronceda. His poem "Cancion del pirata" is on our list, already you can tell he's awesome because of the pirate connection. This is a man that knew his values and defended them even to the point of being incarcerated, at the age of 15! At the age of 20 he fled to Paris with a married woman! He even fought alongside the french in the July Revolution. Unfortunately for women everywhere in the mid 1800s he died at the young age of 34.

I've read from other teacher who have taught the same class that the key is for the teacher to relay his/her passion for poetry to their students and the effect is contagious. I feel for the first time passionate not so much about the poem itself but definitely about the man behind the words. Now hopefully my enthusiasm translates into an interest in the poem, and not a 34 year old dead guy. Hopefully.

Sigh, I <3 you Jose.

P.S. Do you think it would be too cheesy to wear a pirate hat the day we read this poem? Don't worry, I'll post a picture.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reflecting while looking ahead.

I started this blog around this time last year and unfortunately haven't kept up with it as much as I would have liked. But just like with most things, people get busy and forget about the less important things like blogging, no offense to the people who read this. :) I am pleased to see however that I completed three out of my four goals I had for myself last year. I went on a field trip, made my classroom more "green" (with the help of and worked more with my special ed. students. This past year was a success, and I've enjoyed my mostly relaxed summer. I didn't travel for an extended period of time this summer like I did past summers, but instead spent a long weekend in romantic Montreal.

I'm super excited about a new class I am teaching: Advanced Placement Spanish Literature. This specific AP test has apparently the lowest pass rate of all AP tests. I have been working hard preparing to teach it this fall, and am feeling very excited and confident. I also am lucky to have a great class that I'll be teaching so I'm feeling good.

I'm going to try and update this daily. Don't worry when the school year starts there will be all sorts of juicy goodness to write about.