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Showing posts from 2016

2 Rules and 1 fact

Every year on the first day, just like so many other teachers, I lay down the law.  The rules, the expectations.  Pretty standard stuff.  But then I tell the students two rules and one fact that the three most important things to remember in my class (and in life).

Rule 1: No Glitter. Now, don't get me wrong.  I love glitter.  Sparkly things are pretty! But, sometimes I really hate glitter.  First, when  kids cover a project in glitter it is inevitable that the glitter is going to end of everywhere.  For months afterwards, I go home with pieces of glitter stuck to my face and and I find it all over the classroom. Also, I run a science classroom where students learn to think like scientists and act like scientists. As far as I can tell, scientists don't often (or ever) put glitter on, well, anything.  It's hard to take someone's life's work seriously when it sparkles.  After I present this rule, there are the inevitable "What about...." questions.  What abo…

A Monumental Mess Up

Oops I did it again.
Last year I was observed four times by my principal and assistant principal.In NYC we get to choose from a small menu of options outlining when and how we can be officially observed.My administration suggested that we choose three informal and one formal observation.For the informals they can come in at any time and stay for about 15 minutes.For the formal, you know when they’re coming and you meet with them before the observation to review the lesson you are going to teach. Observations have always been a thing but, before Charlotte Danielson came into our lives, months and months (and sometimes an entire school year) could go by without an admin stepping foot in your room.Those days are over.And that’s OK.We all want to get better at what we do, right? If used properly, these observations to be a really powerful tool to improve practice. At least that’s what I tell myself every time they walk in the room.
So, last year my principal came in for my first observat…

More Awesome with Every No

This is about sharing the awesome. We've all got some awesome to share.

This year I start my thirteenth year of teaching.  Three schools and over a thousand students later I think that I have learned a thing or two about how to teach. And I am always happy to share what I have learned.  This year (as I may have mentioned a time or two before in earlier posts) I started at school number three.  In one year I think I grew more as an educator than I did in the previous 5 years.  So, I have to share all this new found knowledge.  Right?

Sharing step one: Start a blog.  All the cool kids are doing it.  Helps to reflect on my practice and share a little bit of my awesome with the world.

Sharing step one accomplished (or at least in the process of being accomplished). I've actually enjoyed blogging.  And, even though I say I don't care how many people read it because it's only for me (blah, blah blah), I get all giddy every time the number of views on a post goes up (though I …

A right to feel proud

In the beginning of my career I spent 3 years looping with the same students in the South Bronx.  I started with them in the 6th grade.  They were new and so was I.  I followed them into 7th and 8th grade science.  The term for this is looping.  Every mistake I made as a first year teacher looped with me.  Those were definitely the hardest years of my career.  But, by the end of those three years, I felt really invested in those kids and in their lives and futures.

At the beginning of my fourth year I started at a new school in Queens.  This time I was teaching 10th grade science.  We were a new school with few science teachers and I ended up looping with those kids too.  I had many of them through 11th grade chemistry and 12th grade environmental science. I planned their prom and senior trip and cried when they graduated.  I've stayed in touch with some of them and hear about many of them through the grapevine.

These students from both schools are now in their early to mid 20'…

The Best Laid Plans...

This is a tale of a project that didn't work quite the way I wanted.  For the last weeks of school I turned my classroom over to the students and allowed them to plan and teach the lessons.  It was kind of a mess.  So, I guess they did teach me something and maybe next year I can turn this failure of a project into a success.

The beginning of June came (as it thankfully always does). I had one unit left to teach and 140 7th graders to keep focused until June 28. I had a great idea.  Assign standards to the students, teach them about planning a class and let them teach the classes until the end of the year.  Perfect! They would learn the new material and practice talking in front of the class. I would sit with the class and participate in the lessons like any other student.  I gave them 3 days to plan in class and then we were off (well, sort of - June is full of PD days, meetings, days when the kids are not in school and a 3 day trip I planned).

As you may have guessed from the t…

Why are you so nice?

My first few years of teaching were rough.  I had no idea what I was doing.  There was blood in the water and the sharks were circling.  I was good with the content but my classroom management was less than stellar.  We were a new school with very green teachers and most of us were just trying to keep our heads above the water.  If it wasn't for Ted I never would have survived.  He was the only one of us with more than 5 minutes experience in a classroom. Sometimes I would ask him to stay with my class for a few minutes so I could go in the hall and cry. And, to add insult to injury, I looped with those kids for 3 years, so every mistake I made as a newbie followed me for 3 years.  Not for one second do I blame the kids though.  It was all me and it was awful.  I felt like I was failing them.

One day during my first or second year, I was talking to the principal and her advice to me was to be more of a (warning, bad word ahead) bitch.  That is actually what she said to me.  I was …

A Teacher or an Educator?

I hope that I am an educator and not a teacher.
Let me go back a few steps.This past week I watched a very good friend of mine give her first TEDx talk on her experiences throwing out grades (and she rocked it!). This event also featured several student speakers.All the students were fantastic – well spoken, poised and passionate in their delivery. They had a lot of great things to say but two of those things stood out for me.One student talked about the experiences of students working hard to create projects that only the teacher sees.This has sparked in me a tiny revolution but I am going to go into that further in another post.This post focuses on the talk of a young man named Timmy, a senior in high school, who counted off the number of teachers he’d had over the years that he considered educators and not just teachers. As he went on to elaborate about what made a teacher an educator, I just kept thinking, “I wonder if he would call me an educator and not a teacher”.
What makes s…

A Good Week

This was a good week, but it didn't start out that way.

Monday afternoon I was teaching a class when I got a call from the principal.  She had gotten a phone call from a parent about the grades her son was getting in my class.  It seems as though this parent had poured over the online grade book with a calculator and had a few things to say about my grade book.  This wasn't the first time I had heard from this parent.  And I was really bummed that she had not talked to me about it but had gone right over my head to the principal.  This incident sparked in me one of those teaching crises of faith that I go through every now and again.  I love what I do but is it worth it? Why didn't I do something with my life that depended on my output alone rather than what I can get 150 13-year-olds to do in 40 minutes a day? I'll never get promoted. I 'll never get a bonus.  And on and on and on in my head.....

On Tuesday I came into school and I was still feeling the teaching b…

The M Fell Off

"Ms. Cimini! The M fell off!" When I heard that I thought the kids were joking.  My response was something like "So, there's an M just floating in the water?" I went over to investigate and sure enough, there was an M floating in the water.  Somehow, the M had come off the M&M intact and was just floating there. Everyone stared at it for a moment, took a few pictures then went back to dissolving M & Ms for science. Chemistry was happening. It was fun, fascinating and the students were learning.

Last year, I taught middle school chemistry for the first time.  I had taught regents chemistry years before and in teaching middle school chem for the first time I fell to a lot of the bad habits I had developed when teaching high school.  There were a lot of Power Points and worksheets. But this is my year of trying new things. This year I wanted to teach chemistry in a way that was going to make the kids excited to come to class and excited to talk about chemi…

New Adventures!

Welcome to my blog! Each post will have some thoughts on teaching, science and stuff (but mostly teaching and science). So, away we go!

The Teaching Section This has been my year of new things.  After spending a lifetime as a diehard New Yorker, my husband got a new job and we moved to New Jersey.  Of all places, Jersey.  As a New Yorker, moving to New Jersey was like moving to another country.  Up until last July I had lived my entire life in the best of NYC's boroughs, Queens.  Sure, I went away to school and spent a year living in a cabin in the Massachusetts woods (my Thoreau year?) but my drivers license always said NYC.  But now, I sit in my suburban New Jersey neighborhood, and an NJ license sits in my wallet.  I miss Queens terribly but I have a beautiful house with a backyard and square footage I could have only dreamed of in NYC.
For 8 years I worked at a school in my Queens neighborhood, only a mile from home.  But, the move to NJ made the commute unbearable.  A toll ro…