Typical Questions Parents Want to Bombard the Teacher w/During
Back to School Night
What is the best thing a student has ever said to describe your class?
"In Mr. Cullen's class, everything is a game, it makes you think differently, and we like that."
(On starting the year discussing the importance of humanities/social studies/history courses rather than diving into history)
"I can personally guarantee that this unit (One: History Matters) will help you see history through a whole new lens. It certainly helped me gain a different perspective.
How do you determine final grades?
All assignments have a point value, from little reading quizzes & Edpuzzles at 10 points, paragraphs at 50, and tests at 200. The grade is the points your child earned divided by the total points possible
What is your biggest tip as a parent & teacher?
Have your child log into their school gmail account on your computer so you have access to email messages and Google Classroom. So if they are missing an assignment on PowerSchool, you can have a better understanding of what it is.
What are you teaching in history this year?
Our history course connects the Ancient World your child studied in 6th grade to US History they will study in 8th. We begin the year discussing the importance of humanities and history courses in your child's education and how people have different opinions based on their worldview. From there are units are the Byzantine Roman Empire, a mini-unit on presidential elections, Islamic Empires, the Mongols, the Indian Ocean trade, the move from Medieval to Modern Times, and British History.
Is there extra credit?
Yes, about 5 times a marking period an optional Hot Steak Paragraph is offered for your child to take. Based on how well they answer the question they can receive between 1 and 4 points to be added on their point total (It isnt 1/4 25% so even one point is better than 0 points). It should not take more than 15 minutes of their time.
Do you give work in advance for vacation?
What best describes your teaching style?
Disney World has been an influence on my classroom, the idea of creating experiences that make people want to come back. I would define myself as a traditional lecture style teacher that desires for his students to have experiences in the classroom that will want them to know more about history, which is the purpose of the games, decorations, simulations, hijinx, etc. The knowledge they retain can be retrieved by them to better comprehend new texts and speeches and better defend an opinion or idea.
What educational books have influenced your teaching style?
Yes, I know, Dead Poet's Society is a movie, but it really was an inspiration of how a class could be run.
What is the best way to get info about your class?
The website you're own now, Google Classroom (See Parent/Teacher tip above), following @cullenclass on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and watching the weekly videos I send through email.
Why all the non-education stuff in your classroom?
I want my classroom to look as little like a classroom as possible. My belief is if a kids wants to be in your class, 1/2 the battle to teach them has been won, and that starts by making the environment as comfortable as possible. Not only for the atmosphere I am trying to create for my students, but for me as well. I will spend more of my waking hours in that room than anywhere else in the world from September-June.
What is your goal for my child in your classroom?
If your child walks out of my class at the end of the year with more of an appreciation for history than they did when they walked in I did my job. My goal is for them to understand that many factors shaped the world they live in today from a variety of different cultures and the rights they posses, the voice they can use, and wealth they enjoy could only be dreamed of by most people in human history who lived hard lives subservient to an elite few.
What supplies does your child need for your class?
Your child needs a 3 ring binder to hold either handouts or for taking notes on loose leaf paper, a pen or pencil, a charged Chromebook, and a set of earphones/buds.
What projects do students complete?
The big one we run in class is the Mini Golf project where each student needs to design a hole based on a historical person or event, and then their group build the whole and a presentation on the hole they choose from their teammates. We finish off by playing all the holes created in the class.
What about a textbook?
A few years ago, the BOE commissioned me to write a textbook. It will be posted here as we work on each chapter. Your child mostly engages with it when they do their weekly reading quizzes through an app called GoFormative.
What are your office hours?
A student can see me during enrichment in the morning. I will have an hour every week at The Coffee Potter in Long Valley, Sundays from 7:30-8:30 am where Im available for extra help or questions for free. (Please check the front page of this website to make sure I will be there each week).
Do You Give Retakes?
Only for tests since they are the highest valued assessment that you child will take each marking period. Also, because I want your child to KNOW the material more than get an A (why would I be teaching it if it wasn't important. Your child will have one week to complete an online, open notes retake. The final grade will be 2/3's of the original grade + 1/3 of the retake.
Do You Deduct Points For Late Work?
Every assignment has a requirement that it be completed on time. Your child NEVER has an assignment due the next day. The rule is 10% reduction for late work with a zero if it is not completed in a week from being notified it was not complete (you will receive a copy of that email also). Projects may have that 10% reduction period extended.
Why the Weekly Videos?
Having a middle schooler myself during COVID I had no clue what her teachers wanted her to do at times even when seeing all the postings on Google Classroom. I figured if I was having problems as a teacher, what were my students' parents dealing with, so I began a weekly video to help the parents at least know what was expected in my class. I received so much words of encouragement to continue you the next year, so I did. This begins the 3rd full school year that I have put them out (plus they are fun for me to create)
Some of the More Trivial ?'s a Parent May Want to Know About Mr. Cullen
You seem like a smart guy, so how come you're a Mets fan?
My Dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and so were my grandparents (Mom's folks). I sat with my Grandma watching soap operas and Met games chewing Wrigley's spearmint gum. The Mets may not have provided much in the way of World Series titles, but always provides miracle moments like this.
What is the worst thing you can say to Mr. Cullen at Back to School Night?
What hobby's do you have?
Teaching is my hobby. Raising these 2 is my full time job.
With what celebrity did you have a parent/teacher conference?
When I was a young teacher in Connecticut, I had a parent teacher conference with the Queen of Disco.
What is your favorite funny teaching story to tell?
My second year of teaching the school's English teacher, a parent, and myself took about 25 eleventh graders up to Boston and Concord. I was responsible for planning the trip. One stop was a tour of the Old Manse located next to the Concord Bridge where a skirmish occurred between colonists and red coats, which was once in the Emerson family & rented by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
As we were heading to the house, a docent came out and told us she only wanted to see the chaperone with the money in the office that led to the house to start. I ran ahead in my sweatshirt and shorts, turned back to my students, and said, "Don't worry, its on me today".
The docent popped me with a good open hand in a stop pose to the chest and said, "Young man, I was serious, I only want to see the chaperone with the money"
I pulled out a wad of cash from my pocket and said, "Ma'am, I AM the chaperone with the money"
She was very embarrassed but I figured it would be a good story to tell, even 30 years later.
Who are you and what is your experience?