RealJobs: Austin Naughton

Austin Naughton’s work day on Wednesday, February 10, 2010.

Wednesday was happily less hectic than Tuesday!  Sort of.  At least, I knew more what to expect in terms of bouncing around from classroom to classroom.  Not being based in one classroom is quite a different experience for us co-teachers.  I am comparing this to most teachers here in the USA — they have one classroom that is solely their own the majority of the school day.  In some other nations, teachers move from room to room and the students remain based in one place.  I suppose there are pros and cons to each.

I again woke-up at 4 work on school-related stuff.  Final grades are due today, so I wanted to make sure I was all-set.  I have students calculate their averages so that they know how their grades are determined.  After 20 weeks, there are a lot of scores to average as I tend to give a daily quiz  As I did my “homework,” I listened to National Public Radio (lots of snow cancellations on the East Coast today!).  Of particular interest to me was an extended story about changes for special education categories regarding Asperger’s Syndrome.  For more information, go to this link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123577220

I drove to school today due to off-campus meetings in different neighborhoods.  I arrived just ahead of the 7:50 sign-in time, spoke with a few colleagues en route to class, and waited outside the classroom for the bell to ring.  Sometimes we co-teachers do not have keys to our colleagues’ doors, so we knock to gain access, just like the students.

Period 1:  This Algebra course has about 23 students, which is small compared to most other general education classes at our school.  In addition to the Math teacher, the Bilingual Aide, and me (the Resource Specialist Program teacher), there was also a student teacher observing.  I again helped with attendance and some other logistical matters while the teacher focused on directing the overall lesson about building a multiplication chart.  He is adamant about the need for students to be skilled at this since so many struggle with basic multiplication facts.  He then reviewed PEMDAS for “order of operations.”  As you might imagine, students who are not yet expert in these matters will find Algebra to be extremely challenging!

Period 2:  The Geometry course was quite calm and productive today.  As is typical for the start of a semester, students are checking-in and out of classes as schedules are adjusted.  A new student arrived from a different part of the state.  The disruptive student from yesterday was not present.  While this resulted in a more low-key class, I wonder what will happen with that student.  He was so angry these past few weeks.  I hope that the dean is able to have a conversation with him so that he can receive the support he needs to be successful.  It can be frightening to encounter such anger in students as you never know what is really causing them to be so upset.

Nutrition break:  I used the time to make photocopies and set-up my classroom.  Our room was used by the Adult School program last night, so things are in a different configuration.  This is something that I will need to get used to — including clearing my desk each afternoon and storing all “valuables” in a closet.  As you might imagine, this can be quite inconvenient as those of us who share the classrooms with people we don’t even know have to make adjustments.

Periods 3 and 4:  My two Language Skills classes have very different “energies.”  I arranged students’ desks according to which math classes they are taking:  Algebra 1, Geometry, and those who had completed their math requirements.  Fortunately, the Adult Assistant is very engaging with the students and feels comfortable addressing things head-on, like removing head-gear, monitoring the use of the gadgets that so many students have, and trying to be helpful.  We had a class conversation about the goals of the class and, for one period, this was infused with discussion about the mayor of Los Angeles.  He was on-campus to speak with students’ social studies classes.

Lunch break:  I went to my old classroom to get supplies and met with students about their plans for the semester.

Period 5:  Today’s Transition class featured a brainstorming activity about what students think about the realities of college.  We had lively conversation about numerous issues.  Trying to explain the differences between college and high school can be quite interesting!   Of course, such discussion has me reflecting upon my own time at Boston College.  There seem to be many more options for students these days with regard to the different types of school opportunities that are available.  I think it is hard for them to imagine lives before the internet and cell phones.  We only received email addresses during my senior year at B.C!  My students are applying to college in an era of on-line applications and distance learning classes via the web.

Period 6:  I met with 4 students at the Special Education Office.  One student needed my signature to adjust his schedule.  Another wants to observe some elective classes and I will do this with him tomorrow as he is relatively new to the school.  The other two are pondering transitions to other schools.  Last semester, I met with them and their families to discuss how they could be more successful in pursuing diplomas.  We visited several schools so that they could see their options.  One made a decision yesterday, in consultation with her mother (via phone), her friends, and we staff members.  The other student’s situation is more complicated and I am not sure what will come of it.

After-school:  I finalized the documentation for the student who will be transferring to a smaller school as she waited patiently.  I entered final grades for several students.  By 4:15, I was in my car and on the road to the UTLA Headquarters.  I am part of the Secondary Committee and we have monthly meetings.  I believe it is important for us educators to be actively engaged in political activities related to our professional lives. After all, many decisions about our work lives — and our students! — are made by people quite far-removed from the realities of schools.  I was involved in student government activities at the high school and college levels, so I find such union work to be similar, but on an “adult” scale.  In addition to union activism at the local level, I am also part of a professional development group through the National Education Association.  Here is some information about the work we do:

http://www.nea.org/home/29923.htm

The committee meeting ended around 6:15 and I stopped by a political action meeting for a few minutes.  I then headed home, where I had a phone conversation with my co-teacher for the Transition class.  We are meeting tomorrow meeting with the main Transition teacher to do some planning.  By 9 PM, I was quite weary and nearly ready for bed!

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