So if you've been living under a rock since November, you may not have known that I have been planning a school trip to Washington D.C. for our students. Well, the trip has come and gone, and I am glad to report that it was a HUGE success. The kids all had a blast (and so did I). I wanted to take a few paragraphs to talk about some of the challenges of planning such a big trip, especially as a first year teacher.
The first hurdle I had to get over was convincing my administration to let me do the trip. Our school had NEVER done an overnight trip before, much less to a different state. So when I first approached my AP and principal with the idea, they both flat out told me know. However, my AP warmed up to the idea after some more one-on-one conversations, and after she received a flier in the mail from a tour company, she was hooked. A few weeks after my initial proposal, she told me that she would personally talk to the principal and see what she could do.
Obviously my nagging, and my AP's persistence, paid off. But the hard part was just beginning. My principal wanted a list of students to see who would be interested in going on such a trip. I asked a couple of coworkers to help me approach the 8th graders about the trip idea, and an overwhelming majority said they would be interested in going. Step one: Success.
After showing the principal the list, she then asked me to send out a letter to the parents to see if they would be willing to pay the $140 cost of the trip. A week later, I had more than 90 7th and 8th grade students whose parents said they would pay (we added 7th grade just to ensure that we had enough people to fill up a bus). Step two: Success.
However, narrowing down 90+ students to 54 was more difficult than I could imagine. There was so much to consider, including attendance, uniform violations, grades, attitude, etc. It took more than a month to finally come up with the final list of students. Then, we had to give out the information packets and permissions slips. Once they were collected, we had to collect almost $8,000 to pay for everything. Fortunately, my students were enthusiastic about paying for everything, and collection was fairly simple. Step three: success.
Now the fun part. With money in hand and a budget to work with, my team and I had to collaborate on an itinerary, find a bus, hotel and food for 61 people. The bus was easy to find (thanks to an Internet search), and I found a great website that allows you to submit information to a database of hotels, who then bid on your event. We found a great deal at The Churchill Hotel (www.thechurchillhotel.com). Planning phase: success.
Finally, after months of planning and long hours of work. We were ready to go. So on March 20, I arrived at work at 5:50 a.m. and left New York with 54 students, four teachers, and three parents to Washington D.C. for two days of action-packed fun. Here are some pictures that highlight everything we did:
I know it's been a long while since I last posted, so I suppose it's time to catch up on everything that has been going on.
My students have successfully complete the NY State ELA exam. We won't know their scores until June, but based on their initial reactions to the test, I think they all did great. Trust me, after all of the preparation we did for the exam, they should be pros by now!
However, all of this testing has helped me see the effect of NCLB. Don't get me wrong, I think have a systematic list of standards for the country is a good thing. It helps create a bar that every state must reach. However, different communities obviously have different needs that make meeting those standards difficult. Plus, different states require different standards at different grades. So what does that translate into? Inconsistency... and according to all of the teaching practice I've had, that is a very bad thing.
So the NY State ELA exam is just a couple of days away, and, to be honest, I'm becoming a nervous wreck. Don't get me wrong, I am confident that my students will pass the test -- no, not pass, succeed -- I still find myself panicked about the implications for the exam.
To be fair, I shouldn't even refer to it as a test or an exam, my seventh graders told they hate the word test, so I vowed to come up with a different term. We settled on "Brian Party." My eighth graders think it's "corny" but it has been an affective motivational tool.
Anyway, I'm nervous because of the implications of this test. For all my students, the test determines whether or not they can be promoted to the next grade without having to go to summer school (and subsequently retake the "brain party"). For my seventh graders, the "brain party" scores go onto their high school applications next year. Talk about intense pressure!
But as I was saying, I'm confident in the teachers my students have had the last couple of years. The potential they've shown in my class the last couple of months has been astounding. What worries me is my teaching ability. I wonder, have I done enough to make a difference between a 3 or a 4 for any of them? What about between a 2 or a 3? I guess in a few days we'll know.
moved to New York City in June 2008 to start summer institute for Teach for America. He attended the University of Florida, where he earned both his master's and bachelors' degrees. He teaches English, literacy, and writing to seventh and eighth graders, as well as advises the school newspaper, yearbook, and student council. His school is in Washington Heights, NY.