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Teachers Diary

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Teachers: you are on the front lines of education in New York City. We want to hear about your experiences in the classroom, and your views of the overall system. What’s on your mind? Submit potential opinion pieces to schoolbook@wnyc.org.

Schoolbook

Dear Reformers: Teachers Are Neither Heroes Nor Zeroes

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Queens English teacher writes: Dear education reformers, I humbly submit that teachers are not the Zeroes you make us out to be. Nor are we all Heroes. We rarely confront fire-breathing dragons, but we do face off against hormone-engorged adolescents. We don't pull swords from stones, but we do pull thoughtful answers from reluctant learners. And we do face off against 'poverty, hunger, discrimination, abuse, bullying and neglect. Sometimes, we even win.

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Schoolbook

Gearing Up for Test Day. And Then What?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Laura Klein, a middle-school teacher in the Bronx, writes that test prep is in full swing at her school -- as it must be, given all that rides on the results. But the problem is not in using precious school time to teach to a test. "Our failure is that we struggle to inspire them beyond the test," she writes -- and students have to be reminded why learning must continue in the sunny months of May and June.

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Schoolbook

At a Bronx Middle School, Reflections on Trayvon and Lost Dreams

Monday, April 02, 2012

Laura Klein, who teaches at a Bronx middle school, says she has had a tough time getting her students interested in current events. But the Trayvon Martin case practically walked into her classroom. When she gave her students an assignment related to the case, she writes: "They got right to work, quiet and focused, only pausing to discuss the issue with their peers. This was an issue with which they clearly connected."

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Schoolbook

Does Helping a Student Add to My Value?

Monday, March 26, 2012

An E.S.L. teacher at a Queens high school writes: 'It’s not often you can get in the middle of something and make such an immediate difference. We didn’t have to do this, and none of us got paid extra for it -- but things like these, not merit pay, not test scores, make us love what we do. Still, I have to wonder what would happen under the new paradigm in New York State and New York City. Would Stephanie help our value-added scores? Would Mom keep her home the day of the test? If she were on our registers, would that affect our ratings?'

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Schoolbook

How Do You Measure the Spark of Creativity?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

An English teacher in Queens writes: "Great teaching, like great writing, is nuanced, complex and much larger than the sum of its parts. Good principals and administrators 'know it when they see it.'"

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Schoolbook

Still in Middle School at 17, and Out of Hope

Monday, March 19, 2012

For Laura Klein, a middle-school teacher and regular SchoolBook contributor, the tragedy of Kiara was not just that she was 17 and still in the eighth grade. The tragedy was that she was giving up on herself at such a young age.

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Schoolbook

Charting the Stages of Teacher Data Report Grief

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Queens English teacher writes: "The feeling when your teacher data report arrives by e-mail is akin to going over the crest of a roller coaster, realizing you’ve lost your wallet, and stepping where the last stair ought to have been, all rolled into one nauseating package. It’s an event that you know may have drastic implications for your career, but you also know the result is as random as a scratch-off lottery ticket. "

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Schoolbook

The 'Magic' of Student-Teacher Relationships

Monday, March 05, 2012

A teacher who blogs about her experiences teaching in a Bronx middle school writes: Often teachers who pull the best out of a troubled student are considered to be transforming -- even magical. But kids who succeed because of us are not kids who have the tools to succeed in the long run. Relationships matter -- but they aren’t enough.

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Schoolbook

High School Matches That End in Just 'O.K.'

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Eighth-grade public school students will learn their high school assignments on Thursday, and SchoolBook's teacher-blogger writes that many of her students have already forgotten which schools they requested. It's not that they're forgetful, she writes. "It's that they made their choices without a lot of thought or commitment. They didn't go to countless open houses or pore over the thick high school directory. They have also been told that many of the better schools are unlikely to accept them." Nevertheless, it usually "turns out O.K.," she says. "And 'O.K.' is what they've grown to accept."

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Schoolbook

My (Oops! I Mean, the Author's) Fight for Pronouns

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An English teacher writes: "The first salvo in the war on pronouns was fired several years ago when teachers were advised that we should have students steer clear of using pronouns in their writing. Despite 20-plus years of hearing dubious dictates from the Department of Education, I nevertheless assumed that writing teachers were being told to make sure students avoided the overuse of pronouns. I was wrong. Or, as the pronoun police would have me say it, the author of this essay was in error."

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Schoolbook

No Way Out of the Evaluation Trap

Monday, February 27, 2012

A teacher writes: I spoke to my students, cajoled them, threatened them, contacted their counselors and called their homes repeatedly. I try everything I can think of, and sometimes I fail. Does this mean my name ought to be on page 3 of The New York Post as a poster boy for everything wrong with education?

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Students Learn Differently. So Why Test Them All the Same?

Friday, February 17, 2012

A high school teacher who works with English Language Learners writes, 'Of course my kids can be assessed. But expecting the same thing from them and kids who have been speaking English all their lives is ludicrous.'

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Schoolbook

Everyday Failures, but a Narrative of Success

Monday, February 06, 2012

A middle school teacher writes: 'In order to maintain sanity you have to accept the feeling of not being done at the end of the day. You have to grow accustomed to the to-do list that generates in your head as you lie down for bed -- a parent that needs to be called, a referral that you have to write, a retest that has to be administered. At the end of the day, you just aren’t ever done. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t wonderful moments of absolute satisfaction.'

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Schoolbook

Bullying Changes a School, One Child at a Time

Monday, January 23, 2012

A middle school teacher writes about one of her students: 'The true danger of bullying is the way that it changes kids. After weeks of feeling defensive and guarded, Rocky began to hide her sweet softness. Enough of this transformation in children, and the environment of a school is changed.'

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Schoolbook

Mad Libs and Dangling Participles

Monday, January 09, 2012

Grammar, the necessary “evil” that English teachers cannot avoid, is often resisted, both by students and teachers alike. Thus, says one teacher, "we have developed a severe case of Grammarphobia.'' Her solution in the classroom: Use Mad Libs, that popular word game for kids.

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Schoolbook

In Creating Successful Schools, One Size Does Not Fit All

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A teacher who taught at the Bronx Lab School, a jewel in former Chancellor Joel I. Klein's small school movement, says his views on what works and what does not have changed over the years. Now, he says, he strives for good and sustainable, rather than great and unique.

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Schoolbook

Sometimes You Have to Settle for Just Being There

Monday, January 02, 2012

In her latest blog post, Laura Klein writes: In the past, I dreamed of plucking my students from their miserable homes and finding solutions to their problems. I felt powerful and capable, as though I would be able to offer them something better. Now I know that the best I might do is to just be there when they return from their holiday break, offering them something steady and certain.

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Schoolbook

'No Excuses' Is Not Just for Teachers

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Bronx middle school teacher says: We want to be understanding, and we don’t want to be the one who cuts off students' opportunities. But do excuses really provide support? At what point do these crutches become crippling?

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Schoolbook

Finding the Child in the Behavior

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Children's misbehavior and the use of suspensions can leave adults in particularly tricky territory.

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Unearthing the Surprises Within a Child's Mind

Monday, November 21, 2011

A middle-school teacher writes: Often I read a child’s paper, or talk to him or her, and am startled at the interpretation of events in his or her life. It is as though no one has explained the world to these children, and so they try to understand it based on what they can see. We must remember to ask, or we will never know.

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