8th grade ELA teacher at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School (NY)
Segment I – Background and Inspiration
Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught?
– Ariel has been teaching for 10 years. She is currently at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School where she teaches 8th grade English. Before that she taught at two NYC DOE schools both of which were high-needs schools that served 100% poverty populations.
Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher?
– She had unbelievable training at Bank Street College. In particular, Madeline Ray, who was her mentor, also served as a prolonged influence, mentoring her for an additional two years when she began her teaching career.
It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.
– In Ariel’s first year she asked her students read the entire novel through before discussing it. When the due date arrived, it quickly became clear that 50% of the students had not read. She had lost many of her students in that moment but gave the students amnesty. She divided the class between those who had read and those who did not. The ones that finished had amazing discussions about the text and those that did not read saw this, overheard this and were inspired to read. This method was still a powerful model in her eyes, she just had to build the systems and structures to support all students.
Why teach English and the language arts?
– She believes that English is all about how to communicate with people — how to listen, speak persuasively, and how to write coherently. Then there is the artistic elements of beauty, wonder, sadness, which helps us to understand our place in the world.
What is one thing that you love about the classroom?
– A teacher can create structures and routines but it the dynamic of a classroom is unpredictable. Every class, every day, every year is different.
Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies
What book do you recommend to a developing teacher?
What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?
– Ariel believes that teachers should get acquainted with the neighborhood where students live is valuable. Walking a mile in her students shoes can create a lot of opportunities for greater understanding and empathy for their background.
Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?
What can a teacher can do to make students better writers?
– Pair students and have the partner read the draft. This is because writing is in the ear. Often we don’t hear our own weakness until is is read to us and the reader will pick up on it and the writer will hear it as well.
What novel or poem do you love to teach and why?
Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a book that she is currently in love with. In Ariel’s eyes, it is a masterpiece of young-adult literature because it discusses inequalities in such an approachable way. It is just great fun.