Feature stories

Three members, one opening day

Vincent Dellatacoma, math teacher

New Dorp HS, Staten Island

Vicent Dellatocoma, math teacherBruce Cotler A jumpstart to the year. The first day is such a tornado of a day. It’s fun because it’s a jump-start to the year, but you look forward to the part of the year when you’re in your rhythm again. The first challenge was that I had forgotten my computer password from the year before, so I had to run around looking for the tech guys to help me reset it. Then we spent the first two hours of the day meeting and greeting the freshmen at orientation. I hope to stay in this school for many years to come, so being in the auditorium with that many students and seeing the teachers I’ve worked with was a very family-like feeling. Here we are, we’re all back together and here comes another group of students it’s our responsibility to teach.

Vincent Dellatocoma, math teacherBruce Cotler Math and motivation. Because of the long orientation, the class periods were only 22 minutes. So it was mostly going through our math department contract and the rules and regulations, just to get them familiar with what the year is going to be like and setting the tone for what I expect out of them each day. With my calculus students, I tell them, “It’s great that you made it to this place, but” — and I say it politely — “to do well on the AP exam you have to commit a lot of effort and a lot of hours.” My other class is students who didn’t pass the algebra Regents, so with them it’s about giving them the speech to light a fire under them. I tell them I love the subject and I genuinely mean it. I tell them, “I know this well and I’m going to do my best to make it easy for you, but you have to meet me halfway and work together.”

Getting to know you. I gave them a little questionnaire to fill out, just an icebreaker activity. My personal belief is it’s really important to get to know your students. If you win them over and get them to trust you, they’ll do anything for you. So you have to go all in with them. But that relationship takes a while. For the first day, being ready and being energetic is the best you can do.

Running to the fridge. Because the periods were so quick, I didn’t feel comfortable between classes running to the fridge and heating up my food, so I was hungry the whole day. The second those kids left, I went to the cafeteria and got my lunch and devoured it. And I felt like falling asleep right there. But I had to go home and keep making more lessons, until about 9 at night. In the back of my mind I was thinking: Print out the bubble sheets for the assessment. Print out the seating chart for 6th period. So I told myself, when I get to work, I’m going to do these three things that are the most important. I said it a few times in my mind and then fell asleep.

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