Monday, December 15, 2008

LAST exam, quick review.

I took the LAST exam (one of the first NYC teacher certification requirements) this past weekend. It's a general knowledge and general analytical skills assessment test. There's really no way to study or prepare for it -- maybe other than simply looking at a sample exam up on the state's website. It really could be described as a "making sure you're not a moron" test, which I suppose is not that bad to have.

It consists of 80 multiple-choice questions and a 300-600 word essay, for which you're given 4 hours, which is WAY too much time. I'm completely anal about taing standardized tests and check/re-check my answers a ton, and I was out of there in just over 2hrs. Again, if you're on the road to teaching in New York, you'll need to take this exam, but it's a fruitless endevour to fret or at all concern yourself with this test. If you can pass it, you're fine -- and if you can't, there' really no way of changing that -- other than boning up on ALL OF KNOWLEDGE ... 8)

Of course, I'm really hoping that I wasn't pushing on fate to have taken this certification exam before getting into either the New York Teaching Fellows program or Teach for America. Ugh.

Now, it's just a waiting game -- about a month to go before I should hear from both.

Friday, December 12, 2008

LAST exam tomorrow -- head start? or Karmic disaster?

Anyone who wants to teach in the NYC public schools, regardless of the route by which they get there (NYC Teaching Fellows, Teach For America, traditional certification) needs to jump through a number of hoops, one of which is the LAST exam.

LAST stands for Liberal Arts and Sciences Test and consists of 80 multiple-choice questions plus a 400-600 word essay. As per NY State's own language on it, "The explicit purpose of [the exam] is to help identify for certification those candidates who have demonstrated the appropriate level of knowledge and skills that are important for performing the responsibilities of a teacher in New York State public schools." -- or put another way, to make sure that teacher's have a basic level of genereal knowledge and aren't dumbasses.

I'm taking the exam tomorrow.

I wanted to get a jump on the game and get this one rather bothersome requirement out of the way so I'd be ahead of the game come Spring (since there are other exams and requirements to deal with). I do worry that it may have been a giant Karmic kick in my rear-end, since I haven't actually been accepted to either NYC Teaching Fellows of Teach for America yet.

oy vet.

I'll provide some notes on the exam this weekend.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

NYC Teaching Fellows interview, quick review...

I know. I know. I've been lazy. I've already had a few people bug me about putting up my thoughts on the NYC Teaching Fellows interview -- especially as it compared with the Teach for America interview. So here goes...

I had my interview this past Tuesday evening. Two things right off the bat: it was a PACKED house, there were easily 75-80 people there; and I like that they had it in the evening (4:30p-10p) rather than in the middle of the day. Their program is obviously geared towards people with jobs, as opposed to TFA, which had their interview mid-day, jobs-be-damned.

Though things were in slightly different orders, the NYCTF interview and the TFA interview, some details aside, were fairly similar (as I expected they would be). So here's a quick run-down of the NYCTF interview and some of the major differences:

  1. They both had multiple-choice quizzes, but the NYCTF quiz was much more math-centric and really required some mathematical/analytical skills, while the TFA quiz was more about answering situational questions about teaching and reading information off of charts/reports. The math on the NYCTF quiz was not difficult math in itself (no calculus, trigonometry, etc) but each question was somewhat involved. I could see someone who has trouble with math having trouble with this quiz. I'm sure a good number of people didn't finish it. It was 23 questions and we had 30 minutes. Oh, and during this first bit, while we were all taking this quiz, 2 mice ran across the room. Good stuff. I think they might've been part of the interview process. 8)
  2. NYCTF then had a 1 page "sample essay" by a 6th grader. You had 10 minutes to go through and mark up all the mistakes, focusing on spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  3. We then split up into smaller groups and did our lesson plans. This part was almost exactly the same as in the TFA interview. While basic humility prevents me from commenting on my own performance, I will say that most of the lessons in my group sucked donkey balls. One or two were decent, the rest ranged from awful to God awful. I spoke with a few other people in other groups and this wasn't the case across the board. Possibly I got stuck in a sucky group.
  4. Then, just as in TFA, we had a group discussion based on a short reading that described a situation in a school. The interviewers did not participate in the conversation, but overlooked, jotting down notes, and seeing how people in the group interacted. I believe they were less concerned with the solutions that the group came up with and moreso with how each person interacted with the group: did one person hog all the air? did someone not speak at all? could people agree and disagree civily, etc. This was similar to the group discussion we had with TFA -- though I felt here, it was a little less organized.
  5. We then had to write a short (1-page or so) essay, pretending we were writing a letter to our principal about some issues. This wasn't far off of the written essay we had to do for TFA.
  6. Then we had our 1-on-1 interviews. Some big differences. TFA 1-on-1s were 45-55 minutes long, these were 20 minutes, in-and-out. The TFA interviews were much more conversational, in-depth, and probing. In this interview, the interviewer was heads-down, rapid-fire Q&A, very impersonal. Very difficult to get and read on how the interivew went.

After being wait-listed with TFA, I'm hesitant to guess at how I did at the NYCTF interview. But I think I did well. I think my lesson plan was solid. I'm unsure how the 1-on-1 went, but, again, I think I did ok.

At this point, all I can do is wait.

I was told that we'd hear back from NYCTF around mid-Jan, so maybe Jan 15th? And I'll be hearing back from TFA on Jan 20th. So I have about 7 weeks of sitting around with my thumb up my bum.

If anyone has any specific questions about either of the interviews, just shoot me a note.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

NYC Teaching Fellows interview today --- plus, long time no see...

Yeah yeah, I know. I haven't posted in several weeks. It's been a combination of me still being pissed off at Teach for America for putting me on their waitlist and life getting really crazy for a bit: work=crazy/busy, vacation-to-Italy=crazy/wonderful, Thanksgiving=crazy/yummy, training for Bronx 1/2 marathon=crazy/crazy...

But this blog isn't about ME, it's about teaching. Well, ok, it's about me trying to teach...

Anyway ... today I have my interview with Teach for America (as does my compatriot-in-crime, KC). The interview process for NYCTF seems fairly similar to that of TFA, so I'm extremely interested to see how they differ. I'll try to come back tomorrow with a decent report on how the interview went.

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