Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jennifer Comes For A Visit

This week, my niece from California, Jennifer, came for a short visit. In September, she will be starting her second year teaching fourth grade in Brooklyn, New York. I say that she's from California because that is where she was born and raised, and where she will eventually end up! I know she loves NYC, but we all know the weather in NYC doesn't compare to southern California.

The reason for her visit was to see Tom and me, but really to observe several veteran teachers whom I think are fantastic at the school where I worked for many years. As Eloise would say, "Here's the thing of it..." Jennifer, along with hundreds of other first year teachers didn't get to experience the first of the year chaos because many of the colleges hadn't started their fall semester. By the time they are given their student teaching assignments, public schools have already been in session for a month or so, and the students have already been informed of the rules, consequences, routines, etc. As a result, many of these first year teachers are thrown in their classrooms with no idea of what to expect that first day, first week, or the first month. Harry Wong and Ron Clark are wonderful resources, but actually being able to experience the beginning of school is so important. Some colleges do have what is called, "September Experience," that actually places student teachers in public schools for the first two weeks, before they begin their student teaching. Not Fordham.

The school year starts early in the south and in the north, specifically NYC, they start the day after Labor Day. This worked out great for us because Jennifer was able to observe and meet with several experienced, creative and amazing teachers. She arrived last Tuesday evening and we were at school early Wednesday morning. Wednesday was the last day of preplanning; the students were coming Thursday. Naming each teacher who helped her is going to be dangerous because I know I'll forget someone. Jennifer spent most of her visit with Mary D. Debbie B. also met and shared with her as well as Martha S., Sammie C. and Tracy. Cathy C., the math coach gave her a few resources and Karen P. showed her the computer lab. Patti C. took the time to gather up tons of activities and gave her tips on how to use them. The wonderful thing about this school is that ANY TEACHER would have been willing to stop what they were doing and help her.

Thursday was the first day of school for the students. Mary D. agreed to allow Jennifer to spend the morning in her classroom. We made it to school a little before the bell rang. I was hoping that they would have the morning announcements up and running, and they did! I was in the hall when I heard "It's A Beautiful Morning," play. I ran to Mary's room and watched the students do the announcements on BTV. The gifted teacher, Wana S. does an excellent job with BTV. Every school should have morning announcements on TV. The students love it and they listen. Thank you Wana! Jennifer was able to observe Mary's first encounter with the students. Really, this was the second time she met the students because "Meet and Greet" was earlier in the week...great idea, it soothes the nerves of the students and the parents. Jennifer was amazed at how much time was spent on the rules and procedures. She was also surprised to hear, "Yes, ma'am," and "no, ma'am." Southern manners...aren't they great? In fact, she told me one of the students in Mary's class said "yes ma'am" to her...her first time! Another thing that surprised Jennifer was the absence of noise in the hallways. Students enter the building quietly with little or no talking. Students do talk during lunch and some times that area gets extremely loud, but the monitors have it under control.

We left school during lunch. I think she was up to her eyes with ideas. Sharlene, a former "partner" in school met us for a relaxing lunch at a nearby restaurant. There we shared what Jennifer observed and what she wanted to use in her classroom. Mary's idea of tickets seem to be the #1 idea. Consistency and enforcement of rules, as well as positive reinforcement should be the first thing taught and discussed with students at the first of the year. Unfortunately, first year teachers are bombarded with curriculum and lesson plans, so they seem to concentrate on them, instead of "laying down the law." Okay, I'll get off my soapbox.
Martha's bulletin board idea was also a hit. Dollar Store, here we come!

That evening my friends, Penny and Karen came over for dinner. Barbara stopped in earlier for a quick visit. Karen stayed a little later, talking with Jennifer about Smart Boards. They searched the internet trying to find out the difference in Smart Boards, Promethean Boards and Activboards. Jennifer is one of a few teachers in her school who has an Active Board in her classroom. Karen, being a math coach and a veteran teacher has lots of ideas and was sharing them with her. Jennifer used this technology at Fordham and loves it. Another tool that Karen told Jennifer about was the Magic Ruler. Knowing Jennifer, she'll get right on it and figure out a way to get them. Thank you, Karen.

Before flying home to California on Friday, we did some last minute shopping. The first and most important stop was Lakeshore...a great store for anything to do with education. We bought some cut-outs in an ocean theme for her to use in her classroom. Then we went to Casabella, where I work a few hours a week and finally, Borders. I broke down and bought a book on Windows Movie Maker. I surrender. I need help.

I really want to thank everyone at Brown for all of your help. All of the teachers who I mentioned in the third and fourth paragraph, I can't thank you enough. Jocelyn, the principal, Lorraine, the assistant principal were so welcoming. Jocelyn, you didn't have to let us come and observe, but you did. What a great principal you are! Thanks also to the office staff. Nancy, you are always so welcoming and Jan thanks for giving me a copy of an invoice of an idea that we want to use! Although I'm no longer a part of your school, I have wonderful memories of my years there. You have shown Jennifer just how great a school can be. Look out Brooklyn!

I hope all of you have a wonderful school year. I know Jennifer's will.

Yes, I put her on MARTA. Hey, she's ridden subways all over the world. What's one more?

1 comment:

JennyB said...

I also want to thank Brown Elementary for being so gracious! I'm hoping to bring some of that Southern courtesy to my classroom in Brooklyn this year...I really want someone to call me ma'am again! Aunt Nancy, Mom and Uncle Tom-you're the best!