My name is Brian, and I’m a teacher. Contained in these pages are my thoughts on education and things that I’ve found useful in my practice as an educator.
Where Do You Teach?
I teach in an urban school in New Jersey – or as we call it in NJ, an Abbott district.
I’d say that my little city is typical of what you’d expect in an “urban” area.
High poverty – about two-thirds of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The population is mostly non-white – in our case, about 90% African American and 10% Hispanic. Crime levels in the city are relatively high, and it touches the lives of our students. There is, as you might expect, some gang activity.
Despite these statistic and characteristics, it is not the type of city school portrayed in movies. While there is crime in the city, I’ve never felt unsafe at work. I’ve been around the city at night for sporting events, and there’s no impending sense of doom.
It’s a bit strange to think of the juxtaposition between the dangerous neighborhoods that some of my students pass through on the way home and the seemingly normal environment we share during the day.
Academically, the school is also what you might expect from the label “urban.” We’ve been classified by NCLB as failing, and our test scores are typically not good. Although our graduation rate as reported by the state of New Jersey is pretty high, our Senior class is significantly smaller than our Sophomore class.
Despite what the data might suggest, it’s a gross over-simplification to call the school a “failure.” Many of our students graduate, and many of them continue on to college. Our students perform community service – they organized a blood drive last year. The school has a percussion ensemble that’s been featured in the local newspaper and on the ABC Eyewitness news. The animation academy has turned out some successful professionals.
We certainly have improvements to make, but there’s plenty for us to be proud of.
What Do You Teach?
I’m certified by the state of New Jersey as a K-12 Social Studies educator.
I currently teach United States History I, in several different variations. I teach a handful of honors students, a few classes that have a mix of regular ed and mainstreamed students, and a section for LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students.
Although strictly speaking, the curriculum dictates that I should teach my students American history from 10,000 BC to around 1900, I like to interpret that broadly. I’ve been known to find ways to connect some seemingly irrelevant topics to our curriculum – like the Kent State shootings, world hunger, and the 1990′s Rwandan genocide.
Where Did You Learn to Teach?
Although I was formally trained – and it was very helpful – I’d say that I didn’t learn to teach until I got my own classroom in September 2007. There’s only so much that college and student teaching can prepare you for.
I attended Rutgers University and completed the Grad. School of Education’s 5-Year Program. This allowed me to spend five years at Rutgers, earn a B.A. in Political Science and an M.Ed. in Secondary Social Studies Education. It’s a great program, and I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of going to school to be a teacher.
In the fall of ’06, I student taught at the Grade Nine Center at Old Bridge High School in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
What Do I Write About Here?
That kind of depends on my mood.
Technology. I grew up with technology, and despite the constraints that I face every day I’m determined to incorporate it into my classroom. A lot of what I write will focus around resources that I’ve found online, and about how I make do with the physical resources I have in school.
I think we all wish that we had an unlimited budget to outfit our room with computers and gadgets, but we don’t. More often than not, though, we can get by with what we’ve got, if we have a little determination, a little courage, and a little know-how.
Topics in Social Studies. Well, it is what I teach. I wouldn’t say that this is a content-specific teacher blog, but I’ll no doubt write about some of the topics that teach in class as well as some of the methods and lessons that I’ve found to be successful.
One purpose of the blog is to share what I’ve learned through my teaching with other teachers and prospective teachers, and I think it would be kind of strange to not write about my own content area.
Struggling with Literacy. The difficulty that my students have reading and writing troubles me daily. Since my days at Rutgers and Old Bridge, I’ve found the topic worth exploring, and it is now more relevant than ever.
Ultimately, I may end up doing some research into this area of education, and I’d like to keep track of some of my initial thoughts, questions, and observations while I teach.
Being a Student. I plan to return to Rutgers soon to begin a doctoral program. Although I don’t plan on leaving the classroom anytime soon, I would like to continue my own education and delve into educational research. This would also provide me the option down the line to teach at college.
There’s no better way to work out what you’re learning than to reflect on it in writing. When I begin my classes and my research, I’ll probably end up writing about it here.
What’s With the Name?
It’s a reference to the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song – Teach Your Children Well. They may have been singing about parents and children, but for me it seems to perfectly describe the teacher-student relationship.
We may not always understand each other, but you should never let that push you apart. Whenever your students do something inexplicable, just, “look at them and sigh, and know they love you.”
This Life of Brian » Blog Archive » About This Site
December 14, 2008