Category Archives: Teaching

Why is it so hard to add a special ed credential? :(

At many of the schools I worked at, Special Ed was always the area where we struggled. One school straight up ignored it, while the other schools had a relationship with Seneca (if you’re in Bay Area education, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  Interesting tidbit: did you know the CEO is on the Alameda Board of Education? Talk about conflict of interest…).

I can’t say anything general about Seneca since some of my friends LOVED their Seneca peeps at their school, and I’ve felt mixed about my personal experience.  Anyway, the point is, schools ALWAYS struggle to find special ed teachers so they outsource to places (like Seneca) and end up with subpar results that simply comply with legal regulations but don’t actually help the kid….

AND, now I can see WHY.

I have 3 cleared CA credentials.  During my multiple-subject credentialing program, I was told I could just add a single-subject English credential by taking an additional online class and passing the CSETs. So I did.  Then later on in my career, I took an additional online class, passed more CSETs and added a Foundational-Level Math credential.  Now, taking these classes suck, but they helped me get to where I wanted to be….

To get a Special Ed credential, it seems like what I have to do is not only take those CSETs but ALSO take a full on credentialing course! It’s insane!  As a sane adult who no longer has the brain capacity to educate AND take full-on classes, the logical recourse then is just to continue with what I have.

 

This is so problematic. I don’t think teachers naturally veer towards Special Education because it feels so foreign. I think AFTER teaching for a while, you can start to see the need AND ways that you personally can fill that need. (At least, that’s what happened for me).  A lot of the complaints about SPED teachers from gen ed teachers is that they’ve never actually been in the classroom. They’ve worked with small groups so that what they suggest or prescribe to the teacher is not something that a teacher can easily implement.  I had the privilege of working with a teacher who used to be a SPED teacher. Watching how she differentiated and helped her kids in an inclusive environment is something I’ll always take with me.

Now, seeing the NEED for SPED teachers, I thought, why not? I’ll add that credential. But NO~! I can’t!

Dear California, I understand the need to properly train and vet our teachers. At the same time, there has to be some way to help teachers reach across and teach in other areas without making them a full-time student again.  Also, I’ve TAKEN classes about reading difficulties and the brain and learning.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ll try to go into special ed.

The end.

Lather, Rinse, Reset

AHHHHHHHH

I WROTE THIS HUGE POST AND SOMEHOW IT GOT COMPLETELY ERASED!!!!!!

But you know what? That’s okay. Because I’ve saved YOU, my reader, from reading my processing and I’ll just give you the nuggets of wisdom I just gleaned.

  1. I cried at school this morning and basically, I think I cry when I’m frustrated by how self-centered my kids are.. especially since we’re in March and the classroom is still so disparate and lacks community  Especially when I compare how much wealth this school has in comparison to my school in Oakland, I just start to feel icky…. and disgusted by them.  (Plus.. they’re LITTLE kids.)
  2. Some kids did come to me to apologize (and one girl said, “I think you need a hug”) … and I just drily told them, “4th and 5th grade is the awkward year where you don’t just say you’re sorry, you show it.”
  3. However, I can’t continue in this vein. I can’t control them by snapping at them or by fear. It’s not right.  I think it was really hard to overcome the coldness I felt though.
  4. But ultimately, I can’t CHANGE them. I can only change ME.  And my attitude.  And even though I don’t really know how to make this right, I know I have to try. (Even though for some of the kids, my extension of a white flag is what I “should do” since I’m a teacher and “it’s my job.”)
  5. So then, I wrote a list – 25 things – one to each child – where I let them know what I appreciate… and that brought me to the fact that
  6. They’re trying. Regardless of how emotionally stunted I think they are in comparison to where they should/could be… they are in their different ways.
  7. So.. the end. Tomorrow is a new day. I will try again.

Times likes these, HGSE love!

I don’t normally plug my grad program.  I’m ambivalent about the stances they take and the directions their churned out alumni run towards.  BUT I’m REALLY thankful for the research I got to dip into AND the classmates.  Even people (like the two below), with whom I’ve only had very brief encounters with (well, I guess with M, it wasn’t brief since we ended up driving across the continental states together), because we bonded over shared ideas, I CAN STILL HIT THEM UP NOW!!!!

Anyway, I love the resources that spill out of this convo. I feel like they’re pretty rare too. SO, if you’re interested in bringing in relevant and thoughtful resources surrounding native history in the US, look through this convo!

  • Junia

    Hey ladies – just took over a 4/5th combo class. They haven’t started US history yet. We’re starting by looking at regions and I’m doing a slapdash job of it.

    If you guys have references for how to do due justice to native history (upper elementary reading level) pre-Columbian.. I would totally be grateful.

     12/5, 8:39pm
    Amanda

    Hey! I haven’t looked too much through it but this was created by a friend who works at NACA in NM: http://bbdkricky.wixsite.com/nisnresources

    nisnresources
    HOME
    bbdkricky.wixsite.com
    12/5, 8:41pm
    Amanda

    I think the key would be to connect the narrative of history to the narrative of today (i.e. native people are still alive – funny how often that isn’t taught lol expose them to the traditions but also modern day native authors, music (tribe called red), art (Steven paul judd) – some well known ones

     12/5, 9:26pm
    Junia

    I’m trying to teach it as waves of immigration but yeah – THIS is what I need like – names / people to look into

    12/5, 9:27pm

    Amanda

    do you follow adrienne keene’s blog native appropriations? there’d be some good resources there, too

    you could have kids do a media or report on an article on a native news site perhaps

    as a way to help them see natives are alive and have agency in their communities

    12/5, 9:31pm

    Junia

    i’m clicking everything you’re sending me – I really appreciate the quick turn around and ideas.

    12/5, 9:52pm

    Meaghan

    Check out “time immemorial” — it’s the curriculum created by tribes in WA state! I’ll find a link

    12/5, 9:53pm

    Amanda

    no problem! wish I could help more!

    12/5, 9:53pm

    Amanda

    Buzzfeed’s Another Round and #NoDAPL
    Just a quick post to let ya’ll know that I was on Another Round on Buzzfeed again, and had a lovely conversation with Heben (she’s back!). In addition to talking Standing Rock and #NoDA…
    nativeappropriations.com
    12/5, 9:54pm

    Amanda

    “We Are Still Here” — A Documentary on Today’s Young Native Americans
    What is today’s young Native American’s life like? What are the challenges they are facing? How the historical traumas influenced their life? This short docu…
    youtube.com
    12/5, 9:54pm

    Amanda

    Also, could be interesting to have them draw similarities between AIM (american indian movement) and BLM

    12/5, 9:55pm

    Meaghan

    Here is the curriculum: http://www.indian-ed.org

    Indian-Ed.Org | SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL
    Article VI The constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in th…
    indian-ed.org
    12/5, 9:55pm

    Amanda

    Native American Girls Describe the REAL History Behind Thanksgiving | Teen Vogue
    6 Native American girls school us on the REAL history of Thanksgiving. Still haven’t subscribed to Teen Vogue on YouTube? ►► http://bit.ly/tvyoutubesub CONNE…
    youtube.com
    12/5, 9:56pm

    Amanda

    Naelyn Pike, Danny Grassrope, Bobbi Jean – all young native activists I met at a recent summit, Naelyn is still in HS – could be cool for her to FB live or skype into your class she’s awesome! you couod prob google some of her videos

    12/5, 9:56pm

    Meaghan

    Also I would check out the stanford history education group’s “reading like a historian curriculum” — it is a teaching framework for getting kids to use “historical thinking skills” and simulate historian’s practices — namely using primary sources to view history as the construction of narrative. they have a lesson on the battle of little bighorn that is GREAT

    12/5, 9:56pm

    Amanda

    From Times Square to the Capitol, Apache Protestors Fight U.S. Land Swap with Mining Company
    Apache protestors pass through Times Square on the way to the Capitol to fight a federal land swap with a copper mining company.
    dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com
    12/5, 9:57pm

    Meaghan

    they also have a great lesson on retelling the story of Pocahontas — that basically has kids pick apart disney (really engaging)

    12/5, 9:57pm

    Meaghan

    U.S. History Lessons | Stanford History Education Group
    The United States Reading Like a Historian curriculum includes 71 stand-alone lessons organized within 11 units. These lessons span colonial to Cold War America and cover a range of political, social, economic, and cultural topics. Each lesson includes a 1-2 day plan that outlines the lesson’s activ…
    sheg.stanford.edu
    12/5, 9:58pm

    Meaghan

    keep an eye out for articles on Standing Rock on Newsela.com. I do freelance for them and they’re going to have a series of articles on grade level with assessments aligned to CCSS

    5th graders would also eat up “absolutely true diary of a part-time indian”

    might be interesting to contrast a contemporary native story to the stories told of native people as history and not as modern

    also — for humor, the 1491’s have really create satire. not sure if 4th/5th would get it all, but could be interesting!

    12/5, 10:01pm

    Meaghan

    pocahontas lesson i was talking about — https://sheg.stanford.edu/pocahontas

    1. Pocahontas | Stanford History Education Group
    Thanks to the Disney film, most students know the legend of Pocahontas. But is the story told in the 1995 movie accurate? In this lesson, students use evidence to explore whether Pocahontas actually saved John Smith’s life and practice the ability to source, corroborate, and contextualize historical…
    sheg.stanford.edu
    12/5, 10:22pm

    Amanda

    yes 1491s for sure you might be able to find some that are approps

    12/5, 10:35pm

    Meaghan

    Oh man remember when they came to Harvard??

    12/5, 10:38pm

    Amanda

    Yea!

    Ahhh let’s all just go back 5 years 😬

    12/5, 10:39pm

    Meaghan

    yeah lets!


Closing the Loop

At one of my schools, teachers need to fill out an “End of Year” form so that their future teachers can get a quick snapshot of the varying degrees of needs in the classrooms.

As I began filling out information for the 6th and 7th graders, and then reading last year’s notes, I just got all teary, because it feels like that scene in the movies where the little boy has to give away his dog, so he writes this letter about the things his dog likes and then asks the future owner to take good care of this dog… and there’s an idyllic country tune playing in the background and the boy noisily wipes his running nose and eyes.

YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN????

It’s hard to leave for something else.  I had the first part of 6th grade conferences today and it felt so premature for me to leave while letting them know that my co-teacher was staying.  I know I’ll feel differently later, but for now, I’m just feeling a little sad.  Also, there’s these LITTLE notes I want to give. Like, not ONLY should Jane not sit with Joe but Joe does really well with Bob on these occasions but not those.  Also, texting works better for Susie’s mom while for Curly, make sure you start contact and conversation early.

But then, it’s like, once you give away your dog, you’re not the owner anymore. The new owner might graciously ask you a few questions but once she changes his name from Fido to Fluffy, you don’t really have a say.  In 2 days, I will no longer have a say.

 

 

Pave the Road For Your Oakland Kids

During my four years working at Oakland, I found a lot of ways to stretch my time and money to get the kids just that much bigger of an edge.  Here a few things you could do at different parts of the month to get resources, trips, and programs for your middle school students!  (You’re in charge of figuring out transportation though; but BART and AC Transit have some sort of discounted cost as long as you contact them ~4 weeks ahead!)

AUGUST

Get Caught Reading – Order Free Reading Posters

Email Universities – Ask for college posters / pendants to post in your room!

CalShakes – {Humanities/ELA}  – check these guys out to see if you can get free Student Discovery Matinee tickets for the next School Year and get an In-School Residency underway.  The instructors here are fun, experienced, and this really allows students the opportunity to move and SPEAK!  (**I’d suggest the workshop happening second semester when classroom management is better).  BART/shuttle! 

SF Asian Art Museum – {Humanities/History} – Look through their exhibitions and see which ones could correspond with your lessons! Get a docent! It’s free for OUSD students and their chaperones, and BART/walking isn’t too bad.  And Sign UP! 

EXPLORATORIUM – they partnered up with PG&E to give out a few free field trips. Sign up ASAP!

Schedule a Holocaust Speaker for 2nd Semester – History is so important.  Let your students hear from a Holocaust survivor who can speak to the horrors of what happens when we don’t stand up for others and simply allow evil to happen.

FLOCABULARY – in the 2015-16 SY, OUSD built a partnership with Flocabulary so that teachers could get access to their videos and lessons. This is AWESOME for class vocabulary building, for introducing history concepts, and for getting down algorithmic math concepts. THE BEST THING is their Week in Rap, that, one year, my students and I watched every week.  It keeps us in the know about what’s going on around the world.  Lastly, if used regularly, this could lead to a cool project where students choose a topic and create their own educational raps!

REMIND.org – Get parents to sign up for this STAT so that you can send out reminder texts. Spanish AND English!

SEPTEMBER

Donors Choose – get your account started and submit something.  In the first week, any contributions can be doubled with whatever code exists.  Have this here because your first project is almost always guaranteed to get more enthusiasm from your friend (and I’d suggest something between 300-400, because if enough people donate, then some altruistic stranger will most likely cover the rest)…

I’m not done though.  The MAIN reason you want to be on Donorschoose is so that you can start writing your DonorsChoose request for materials for Chevron’s annual Fuel Your School thingy.  Think about what you REALLY want that costs $1,000 or less.  Write it up; make sure you’re detailed about what you’re getting and why… BUT  do NOT submit your draft until 9:00PM PST so that it qualifies for Fuel Your School.  IF you do it right at the 12AM EDT start time, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be fulfilled.  

**Rule of thumb; always have a project underway; you never know who’s going to suddenly get it into their head to donate a bunch (like Google and Stephen Colbert).

Adopt-A-Classroom – sign up for it. You might randomly get a few free $100s with no strings attached and no work to do afterwards.  Use it towards your classroom!

OCTOBER

Read For the Record – {Humanities/ELA}– this is a COOL yearly event where kids from schools all across the country are read to, or read to others.  Every year 1 sweet, sweet book is picked (and is available for free online that day.  If you have a K-8 school, coordinate with the younger classes to get your big kids there to read!  If you’re in a 6-8, find a nearby elementary school to go to!

Prepare for NaNoWriMo {Humanities/ELA} – November is National Novel-Writing Month.  There are ways to create a virtual classroom and to get a classroom kit to jumpstart the excitement for writing! Students create their own writing goals and then boom! Off you go!

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER

NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH  (write everyday for 30 days)

Start PREPARING YOUR KIDS FOR HIGH SCHOOL

AS YOU START TO FEEL MORE SANE

CS-First Start a CS club with your students!

JANUARY

Help your kids APPLY TO HIGH SCHOOLS

Girls on the Run Bay Area – get your girls running after school.  This is a BIG commitment, but it’s free for the girls who are in it and they get shoes and lots of opportunities to build community and perseverance.

Do you have a $100,000 dream?  Submit a proposal.

Home Run Readers – If your students reach their reading goal, they get to go to a free A’s Game!

FEBRUARY

Google Science Fair {Science} – Use their resources to help kids start a project for the Google Science Fair (disclaimer: the winners are definitely students who have a bunch of resources that our students could only dream of. Perhaps starting a DonorsChoose project earlier to prepare for this might help?)

Prepare for Pi Day (3.14) – There’s a free pass to the Exploratorium on that day.  But even if you don’t go, start ramping things up by starting your geometry unit or ratios or irrational v. rational numbers.  Pi Day is so fun.

MARCH

3.14 – PI DAY!

 

JANUARY – MARCH – This is when students can start signing up for programs for the next school year or over the summer.

Aim High – 5th-8th graders can apply to this awesome summer program.  I personally know really cool educators who were involved with this program in Oakland.

College Track – this is for our graduating 8th graders. I highly encourage you to get the applications and put in inquiries if you can’t find the application links around January or February.  This is an amazing program that sees kids to and through college.  They have LOTS of resources.  (Only applies to schools with whom they have a working relationship with: Oakland Unity, Life, Skyline, Oakland Tech, are a few, if I remember correctly).

CS Edge – This is a coding/math enrichment program that’s fairly new for 8th graders.    There are a few workshops during the Spring and summer course before high school.  Afterwards, this feeds into the high school program.  No links, but if you’re interested and can’t find information, feel free to contact me directly.

Girls Inc – Various Programs for the summer. I don’t know much about it but some of my top-notch girls have been in this!

Outward Bound Youth Leadership Cohort – this is for high school students, but if you’re in touch with intrepid kids, let them know about this and encourage them to apply!

JUNE 

Get kids reading! with the Oakland Public Library’s cool reading challenge and prizes

Things to look into over the summer…

Bay Area Wilderness Training – If you want to take your kids camping, this is a great way to get training and THEN discounted tent/sleeping bag / other supply rentals!

Personal Perks/Training

Preparing Your Kids For High Schools in Oakland

As a teacher, I had the privilege of working with one teacher who has the whole preparing-your-8th-graders-and-their-families-for-high-school down.

From about September-December, she has representatives from neighborhood high schools to come speak with our 8th graders.  Throughout the months, we usually get a mix of guidance counselors and students who come and tell us about their schools and sometimes share school swag with the students!  This also allows us opportunities to goal-set and just start to prepare for the future.  At the end of the semester, after seeing a few of these schools, it’s a good idea to run a “town hall” or “community circle” so that students can bring up questions and share their learnings.

During the first conferences, we share a packet with the students and their families where we talk with them about what they’re interested in and provide recommendations.

Here’s a bit of what we say:

If the child is less self-motivated and has trouble with executive function, homework, positive choices, etc (basically every middle schooler ever!), we suggest a smaller school.

District Schools:

MetWest – this is small, it provides internship opportunities. LOTS of positives.

Charter Schools:

Oakland Unity – small charter school. Our alumni and their families speak positively about this school.

Envision – another small charter.  A few mixed reviews, but in general, our students and families feel positive about this school.

Leadership Oakland (LPS)  – A small (strict) charter. Again, some mixed reviews, and I think I’d recommend Unity and Envision over this one, but LPS > a large OUSD high school any day.

If the child really doesn’t want a small school, 

Oakland Tech is a district school and it’s okay.  If the student is an academically successful student, there’s also their PAIDEIA program which sort of functions as a small school within a larger one.

Lighthouse and Life Academy are both great high schools, but unless you have a sibling there, you most likely will not get in. 😦

OAKLAND SCHOOL FOR THE ARTS requires try-outs/portfolios/etc… so look into this EARLY.

If the child is self-motivated, they’ll be successful anywhere, basically.  We still highly recommend Unity and MetWest, though, although Oakland Tech should be fine too.

By January, once the district applications are out, we run a parent night so that we can help fill out the form together.

Some insider info (which you probably won’t need if you’ve been working in OUSD):

  • If students are at all interested in MetWest (which I recommend), they need to mark it as first since it’s so small.
  • For the larger schools, Oakland Tech > Skyline > Oakland High > Fremont > etc.  (Sorry, no offense; just one middle school’s teacher’s experience with her students going there. Like I said, if the child needs more focused support, I’d suggest MetWest OR a small charter school).
  • For charter schools, students might as well apply to all of them since they could just say no once they get in.  For district schools, it’s important to put your first choice first. DO NOT LET KIDS PUT SKYLINE FIRST.  Because Skyline is a hot mess (it used to be better) AND most likely, they’ll get placed into Skyline anyway.   (although if they are going to Skyline, have them apply to College Track which will help them stay on the right path towards college).
  • Students without an Alameda or Berkeley address cannot go to a school in Alameda or Berkeley
  • Students going to school in San Leandro could also try out the Envision school there
  • Castro Valley has great schools if students are moving there.
  • If in Richmond, there is Aspire’s Cal Prep (which is actually pretty great) and LPS Richmond

By March/April, students should start hearing back about where they’re going.  If somehow they dropped the ball on applying to charters and ended up getting placed in Skyline or Fremont (a frequent occurrence), have them sign up for the waiting lists at…

  • The ASPIRE schools in Oakland
  • Alternatives in Action (some of my struggling kids go there and they feel positive about it… although I can’t safely say that this prepares students for the rigor of college)
  • I guess… ARISE?  I mean, ARISE has a great social justice focus but the academics are a hot mess and I can’t really recommend it over Fremont or Skyline.  I mean, I guess it’s small?  I know some teachers there who are awesome (but then the same could be said for Skyline/Fremont)

IF YOU CARE ABOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE or just IF YOU CARE ABOUT STUDENTS BEING TREATED HUMANELY

  • just say NO to Oakland Charter High School and American Indian. (Why are they still open?  Oh yeah. High test scores.  And friends in high places. And the fact that California actually doesn’t have any real accountability towards their charter schools which is why paternalistic, abusive, and embezzling schools continue to stay open.  It’s not libel if it’s true).

 

PS: If you can somehow get your kids into Life or Lighthouse, they are set!  

Sometimes I feel Perplexed that I’m a math teacher

Over 6 years ago, after my first summer in the “Summer MA in English for Teachers” program in UC Irvine (fabulous, cost-efficient program – I recommend – even though I didn’t finish), I wrote my “about” section and theorized my thoughts on the purpose of this blog’s existence.  I was into poetry, I still reveled in my Comp Lit BA, I was 23, I was a bit puzzled after my first year as a teacher, and I just had lots of ideas of what I wanted to do with education.

Then I went through graduate school.  I went through 2 years at a patriarchal, no-excuses charter. And now I’m finishing up at an organization where it was (for the most part) positive.  I went from teaching English Reading and Grammar to a self-contained middle school classroom to Humanities to Math.  MATH!

Every time I come here, I begin to just go in crazy random directions of reflection…

Right now though, I’m excited to share my first original math project that I’m going to introduce to my 6th-8th graders next week!!!! FINALLY!!!  I like it because it allows us to get excited about math history and provides a lot of entry points (I think), while also maintaining classroom management.  I was so excited about this I cranked it out in about 6 hours.

The URL is accessible, I already created a packet. The only other materials necessary are colors, paper, graph paper, rulers, compasses, calculators… which I know sounds like a lot but it actually isn’t that bad because different students can use different materials at different times.

If you feel like taking a look and giving me feedback, go to tinyurl.com/kimfibonacci.

 

Whee!!

 

(Teacher note: I think for 6th graders, I’ll sort of look and see. The start is a bit dry, and maybe it would be better just to start with the artsy Wheel of Theodorus).