Snow Plow

Following a recent blizzard, Kim Sekel finds herself reflecting on what drew her to the classroom. Her path first took her from her New Jersey home to a career in publishing, and then to the New York City Teaching Fellows program, and on to IS 383, a middle school for gifted and talented students. After struggling to find her feet as a new teacher, make sense of her new status as a minority among mostly African-American students, and get a firm grasp of the curriculum, Kim is able to reflect on her first year blunders and subsequent successes.
Students at IS 383 come from all over New York City to enjoy enrichment and advanced learning opportunities at this gifted magnet school.

Students in Kim Sekel’s class often collaborate on their writing.

It’s days like this that I’m glad I got rid of my car. Some of my neighbors were up before dawn shoveling 15 inches of wet, heavy snow, while my only problem is walking to the train station without breaking my you-know-what. Still, I can’t help feeling a little sorry for myself, a little cheated out of a snow day as I trudge through the slush. I wonder how many students will show up today as my half-empty train whooshes into the station.

My eighth-grade homeroom is missing 15 of my usual 38 students, and I look at my lesson plans, wondering how much sense it makes to plow through my agenda with this slimmer-than-usual attendance. I gotta hand it to those who did make it here, though, especially given that they come from all over the city. And at least I’m able to wing it, a gift that’s only come to me more recently. I chuckle to myself: a little experience goes a long way.

By second period I’m moving ahead full steam, making the most of having a smaller group of students in my English class, knowing that today’s focus—direct and indirect characterization—will likely take more than one period to firm in my students’ minds, and that giving this group a jump on the lesson will only help them tomorrow when they can support the rest of the class.

See Kim’s characterization lesson outline below:

In my third period advanced English class, we’re reading The Secret Life of Bees. It’s easy to feel lily white teaching here, and this novel allows us to deal overtly with racism and descrimination. Of course, I have high academic goals for my students, but I have other goals, too. I want to push them, and myself, to think critically about race, culture, and society. After all, self-awareness is what it means to be fully human, isn’t it?

Students in Kim’s third period class work together on revising their essays on The Secret Life of Bees.

Click here for the NYSED English Language Arts Core Curriculum.

Click here for the NYSED English Language Arts Sample Tests.