Sunday, February 8, 2009


Team teaching situations can be a complete joy or a total nightmare depending on the chemistry between the parties involved.  

I often praise my co-teacher Lauren with whom I have taught elementary school for the past seven years.  She is a beautiful woman - inside and out - and my words could never do justice to the admiration I have for her as an educator and as a person.

With all the love for Lauren spread across the posts I have totally ignored my other co-teacher, Cayne, who is also a beautiful person, inside and out.  He just turned 32 (Happy Birthday!) has a fantastic wife and daughter and will have his doctorate within a year.

Cayne and I have been teaching together at Fordham University as part of the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Certificate program for Young Readers at Risk (that's a mouthful) for the past four years. 

Eleven years ago I was asked to teach a class at Hunter College in their Deaf Education program.  I turned it down because I was terrified by the thought of teaching adults.  I did not have the confidence or the background at the time to accept the offer.  I thought for sure that it was the one and only time I would ever be offered a teaching position at a college, but I was wrong.

When the opportunity presented itself again at Fordham I accepted - actually the way it was offered by Dr. Uhry made it clear that saying no was not really an option.  However, I was still genuinely nervous.

On the first day of class I took Cayne's lead.  I watched how he was totally at ease, how he leisurely walked around the room while he taught, how he made jokes and laughed and good-naturedly went with the flow.  I thought "I can do this".  

And I have enjoyed it. I already miss the fact that next summer we won't be teaching together during Fordham's Annual Summer Literacy Institute. The next class I teach at the college level will probably be one that I will teach solo. I am back to feeling nervous and apprehensive. How will I be without a partner to bounce off of or to finish my sentences when I talk myself into a corner?  

My guess is I will be okay.  I have had a good role model.

Thank you Cayne for teaching me how to be a better teacher. For bringing in humor mixed with 'smarts'. For taking care of all the technical aspects of setting up our PowerPoint presentations. For making me chill out when I get too anal and detail oriented. 

And above all else, thanks for your friendship.


J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Bravo Gary and Cayne - and Gary, you will be brilliant, I know. I teach in a way similar to what you describe (admittedly with a different audience), and have found the bonds I create with my students to be priceless.

Dumdad said...

Your love for teaching positively oozes out of your every blogpost. Your students are very lucky to have someone who cares so much.

tut-tut said...

Nervous? No, I'm sure you will find that one thing that will be the stepping stone to another way to connect.

focusfinder said...

All that a good teacher needs is good learners. Student's ages are largely irrelevant.

Sara said...

Was that 11 years ago already?

I get the nerves - it's nerve-wracking - but you are more than ready to fly solo and you'll do a *great* job!


Cayne said...

Wow I have been a lurker on this blog for awhile now and never commented. But I think this post warrants a comment. First, Gary is definitely being too modest here. Let’s be honest, don’t we all read this blog and leave thinking ‘man he is a natural at this teaching gig’ ‘he makes it look so easy and fun’ ‘he loves those kids and elicits each one’s unique and highest potential’ ‘wait what grade are these kids in?!’. Everything you read here is exactly how he runs his college level classes…with honesty, passion, knowledge, humor and ASL (which I have still yet to learn).

Nietzsche said a thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions--as attempts to find out something.

To the thinker, to an excellent educator, to Gary

Thanks for the shout-out!

WAT said...



Look at Cayne!

I better behave.


Ms. Gibson said...

So happy to see you at my library blog. I like my Auntie blog a lot more, but it is what it is.

Since you are working towards your PhD, you probably already have a delicious account.
Check out my own. I have a few tags on kid.lit. And one day I would love to fly over & see YOUR delicious account too.

presious said...

it is so awesome to acknowlegde when someone has done such a good job, especially when it comes to teaching. All too often, people become critics about the negatives in ones character only causing bitterness. Humans tend to remember the bad before they remember the good. Cayne, continue to do well and to influence others, especially the little people, in positive ways! Good, good job!


mouse (aka kimy) said...

children or adults.... either are lucky to have you as a teacher and a guide!

I just can't imagine you nervous...

sounds like attract fantastic co-teachers!!

Reya Mellicker said...

OK? You'll be GREAT. C'mon!!

I love the way you take time to appreciate so many people and situations. You're incredible. Bravo!

And yes you are right it's just about time for me to get to the Big Apple. I even have a place to stay in the city. I'm going to start planning when and how.

Ms. Gibson said...

Hi Gary,
This interesting link was forwarded to me by Judith Schaffner of NYCDOE library services;

The GiggleIT Project is a global collaborative publishing project hosted by the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL), working in partnership with the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL).

It is "Designed to help children around the world improve their English language literacy skills, the GiggleIT Project encourages students ages 10-14 to contribute their writings to an online book (eBook) celebrating stories and humour from their culture."

Barbara said...

You will be just fine on your own. But it's great that you had such a role model to get you ready!

Gary said...

J.DZ-S - Once I get the swing of things I am sure that I probably will be just fine but it has been nice to have a co-pilot, someone to watch my back, a little added support. With Cayne it has really been fun because we make each other laugh and then we can talk about how things went afterwards. I like that kind of reflection.

Dumdad - Nice word choice; oozes. I do love teaching that is certain. My friend Joy and I were talking about this on Monday night and she commented that given my passion it is hard to believe I ever went wanted to be an actor. I guess the two have very similiar traits. Teaching is performance but for a captive audience :)

Tut-Tut - Nerves come up at unexpected times and I am so horrible at covering when it happens. I get hot and start to sweat, which is not how those deodorant commericals say you should be at all. Sometimes I am unforgiving with myself but am learning that admitting you don't know something or that something was a total failure and laughing about it is the best way to respond. If I can laugh at myself then I should be okay.

Focusfinder - Right you are of course. I tend to be the one who responds best with those students who are the most 'difficult'. The kids who have high energy, have learning differences, difficulty paying attention, falling behind. Those kids seem to be the most interesting to me because I know how to help them and progress is so visible. It's like the difference between sweeping peanuts off of a clean floor or sweeping a floor that has a few specks of dust. Sweeping the peanuts is more satisfying.

Sara - My champion?! (Ladies and gentlemen Sara is the one who offered me that college teaching job so long ago and also was responsible for my first presentation at a confrence and my first published article.) How wonderful to see your comment! One of these days I'll be a Dr. like you and we can publish something again - until then my academic writing is focused on my own research. If you have my email please write. I'd love to catch up.

Cayne - It seems like we have a bromance. This post has been brewing for quite a while, I could have written more but I think I made my point; Cayne is da man!

Wat - I know, right?!

Ms. Gibson - I feel like I am missing something because I had no idea what a delicious account was before I clicked on your link. I already spend way too much time on the computer, thanks to this blog, but will go back to look around some more. Also, thanks for the info about the giggle project. I'll pass it along to our librarian.

Presious - Positive over negative is a good way to go I think. It is so easy to become negative and it gets us no where.

Kimy - I have only had one bad experiene with a co-teacher but thankfully that only lasted a week. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from that and am so grateful that the person who had the power to change this situation respected me enough to get me out of it ASAP. Talk about a negative person...

Reya - Drinks are on me. Perhaps a show?

Barbara - I have already been offered another class but I am rather looking forward to not teaching at the college level for the next school year so I can focus more attention on my own studies. Trying to teach first grade, college and take classes myself has been exhausting. And who knows what treasures and treats the future has in store.

Mum's the word said...

Hello Gary,
I've just found your blog and loved reading it. It sounds like you were made for teaching.
I have just passed Level 1 BSL and will be starting Level 2 BSL after the Easter break. My daughter is also learning at a primary level in her school. And I find it a wonderful, expressive language to be learning. My daughter and I often use BSL in practice to communicate.
I can't wait to start classes again. I have a wonderful teacher called Emma, who is patient beyond words.
I look forward to reading more from you.


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