Face Forward: Kevin Ladaris

  Face Forward: Young African American Men in a Critical Age

Face-Forward-Okwu-Julian-C-R-9780811812153

I found this book in the bookstore Friday after work. It was a pretty rough day… filled with fights, disciplinary letters, criminal charges, and disappointing students and adults. After leaving school and heading home I happened to fall into an African American bookstore that I’ve seen, but never had the chance to walk into. The store is pretty small, but I made sure to take every second to look at all of the titles on its shelves. The store was full of erotic fiction, inspirational texts, collections of muslim texts, children’s books, urban fiction, and biographies.  Reading the diversity of the titles relaxed me and really made me feel at peace for the first time in the day.

Kevin Ladaris is the gentleman pictured on the front cover of Face Forward. I imagine he is really rooted into the earth, and is very analytical. His locs tell me that he’s inquisitive and can a calculated agitant  when results are needed. If I were Kevin, I would would write a letter to my principal looking for guidance. I’ve attached it below:

 

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Dear Principal,

I’ve been at this job for about a year. I still can’t tell how I’ve been doing at this teaching thing. It seems like I’m always playing catch up, lesser than, getting in trouble, going against protocol… you name it I feel like I’ve done it. As the principal of this school I seek your feedback to help me get a better understanding of how I’m performing here. I respect your opinion, and would appreciate the constructive feedback.

 

1. How would you rate my performance?

This school is different than most other NYC public schools. Its been nice having my LIU coach come observe my classes. But she hasn’t been able to give me the type of feedback that I can build from. Which she’s mentioned on more than one occasion. What would really help me is knowing what you and the other administrators think of teaching skills and abilities. Do you like how I teach my students in my classes? What about how I handle disciplinary actions with and about students.

2. What classes am I teaching next year? 

There’s been mention of me teaching an internship class next year. Which reminds me, can we sit down and talk about what this class should involve? Also, what else are you anticipating I’ll be teaching next year? WIll I continue to teach Just Words and Rewards reading intervention classes? If so that’s cool. I actually have a few ideas of how I can make the classes more interesting and hopefully fulfilling for me and the students. I’ve taught math and English this year. I’ve learned a lot through both. I’m wondering if I can co-teach a science class next year as well. I’m interested to see what strategies are used that help students play with the information in their heads.

3. Actually, will I be invited back next year to teach?

I mean… you never know. And I feel like I’ve been messing up a lot lately, so let’s be straight up. What are you thinking? How am I the same as the person you’ve hired? How have I grown? Where have I dissappointed?

4. What characteristics were you looking for when you hired me? What did you see in me last year that made you hire me? 

It’s hiring season, so a lot of teachers have come through for interviews and demo lessons. Usually I’m ready to jet out on Fridays, but I’ve attended a few sessions and met a couple of the candidates. Its always interesting to see who the interviews are. Certain characteristics stick out in potentially good candidates. People who speak up and project their voices are given automatic points. There’s never a moment in class where a conversational/mumbling tone has worked with my students. Unless we’re working one on one. I also like to see someone who takes time to think about their answers and works through them even while replying. It reminds me of myself. The students easily pick up on people whose personalities, energy matches with their own. Body language is important too. I like to see someone who is erect for lack of a better term. Your body looks alert and engaged. Slouching, leaning away, disengagement don’t really work. Also, its always interesting to see teacher who ask students to comply with a certain rule/practice during interviews. For instance asking a student during a demo lesson to put their phones away. It shows guts, and a knack for engaging even in unknown situations.

Observing other interviews has helped me see strong characteristics. However, it would really help me to know what you think I’m strong in, and areas where I can still grow.

5. How do you feel about the fight that occurred in my class on Friday?

I was a little shocked when someone walked into my class at the beginning of third period to observe me. Normally this isn’t a big deal. But I’m coming off of pretty bad week instructionally. The combination of my grad school finals and the Art of War Art Battle wiped me out when it came prepping for my classes. Thursday and Friday were supposed to be my great return to the teaching stage. 2nd period Just Words was amazing. We  had a strong day instructionally, the students were engaged, they read aloud, and processed the articles we read. 3rd period Just Words has a completely different pulse and energy. Not only did we not get any work done again, but their was a melee in the class. The first time a student actually got hit in one of my classrooms. I’m NOT happy about this and feel as though I failed in preventing the situation from escalating.

The situation quickly escalated from verbal exchanges between two students to full out blows with me in the middle trying to break them up, but being unsuccessful. Note to self, next time forget the rule of not touching the students, get in between the two students, and back one of them out of the door closing and holding it behind me.  I was slapped many times. I don’t know how many, the blows didn’t hurt and are actually the least of my concerns, what hurt was feeling like I couldn’t stop the situation. To call for help would mean leaving a clear field for the students to attack each other. So that’s not a realistic option.  *Wait a minute where did that other adult go. Surely he will call for help, step in and grab one of you or something* After a few minutes of royal rumble, and quite a few landed blows on me and the other students, someone comes in and helps me separate the students. Apparently the male students landed a pretty hard blow on the female. At the end of the day I was told that the young lady’s family pressed charges against the male student. A complete fucking blow to my already bad day.

I would just like you to know that next time I don’t care who is in my room, or for what purpose, when something happens I’m  going to do whatever it takes to prevent the fight from happening. I couldn’t go manage my class the way I normally do because of the visitor that was randomly placed there. Next time I’m going to act without keeping them in mind.

6. As you know I’ve been struggling with the Special Education/IEP responsibilities. What would you suggest I do to get a better grasp of this?

Its no secret that one of my weakest areas is my command of the knowledge and procedures that make up the Special Education part of my job. From scheduling and managing IEP meetings, to analyzing and incorporating knowledge of student disabilities and how it may or may not be manifested in their behavior, even following through with the endless paperwork that never seems to end. How would you suggest I get better at these things? I’ve made a few suggestions about things I think would help me handle this part of my workload better. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to implement any of those. You’ve seen my performance, you also know better than I do what I face in the preparation for my classes and how my teaching schedule can chaotic at times. What would you suggest I do to help me perform better here?

I’m really interested in your feedback… You can email it to me, or I guess stop me in the hallway when we both have a free second to breathe and catch up.

Regards…

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