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Ms. Floratos featured in New York Teacher

posted Sep 29, 2013, 5:46 AM by SCCS Info   [ updated Oct 14, 2013, 9:55 AM ]

THREE TEACHERS, ONE OPENING DAY

Margentina Floratos, 6th- and 7th-grade social studies, Spring Creek Community School, Brooklyn

BY RACHEL NOBEL | SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 NEW YORK TEACHER ISSUE

Pastries for everyone. I got up at 5 a.m. and got ready for work. I made Greek desserts to welcome our new staff. I think it’s important to not only have a warm welcome for students, but teachers as well. And sugary delights during the day give us a high energy level! So I carted in my trays of cookies. Most of the staff was in the building early setting up their classrooms, so I went around saying good morning and wishing everyone a happy new year.

The gang’s all here. About 8:30 a.m. we start our day, and I went downstairs to meet my advisory students. In our school, advisory is the heart of our community. The adviser is a student’s advocate and go-to person in the building. I had 100 percent attendance on my first day, all 16 students. It’s fun to see how much they’ve grown over the summer and to share their enthusiasm, knowing that we’re ready to learn again and begin the year.

Golden rules. During the day, I taught my 6th-grade social studies classes, and our focus was on how we can create a collaborative and successful learning environment that’s positive. We talked about the idea of community and belonging and how we’re all vested in our success, not just academically but emotionally and socially. I introduced my Golden Ten, which is basically 10 rules of the classroom that are non-negotiable. I asked them to think about which rule they think is the most important and then share ideas and come to a consensus. Then I charted their answers and we did a vote. So I was able to introduce a graphic organizer, how we work in groups, some literacy techniques and how we speak in social studies class, and still get through my behavioral policies.

A step toward independence. We’re in 6th grade, so it’s a big transformation from elementary school to middle school. It’s overwhelming, and it’s very easy to want to give up right there on the first day. But that’s where our teaching comes in. The students need to know that you’re there to reassure them and address their needs. Noticing that student who’s not engaged and going over and having that quiet conversation with them — that’s what works.

At last, success. At the end of the day, all the teachers spontaneously gathered together in the hallway and congratulated each other on a really successful first day. I stayed after school to speak with the teacher I mentored last year, and we started engaging in planning and brainstorming. I ended up staying after school until 7 p.m. I came home, cooked some dinner, played with the baby, and then I went to sleep to do it all over again the next day. But I went to sleep with enthusiasm, and that’s a special thing. We have a job that we can look forward to doing the next day. When you’re actually doing the job and interacting with the students, you know why you’re a teacher.