Thursday, May 21, 2015

No Wonder They Know Nothing

A friend who teaches evening school in Brooklyn just sent me this academic policy.  The teachers are being told to pass everyone.

Just show up, or not, it doesn't matter.  Make up the assignments or don't even bother.  Teachers need to hold on to their jobs so tests showing mastery of  material will be dummied down.

No wonder that college professor had to read the riot act to his students. They got out of high school knowing nothing and barely showing up.  Why should this be any different?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sometimes The Ones Who Care The Most Look Like The Most Heartless

A college professor met his freshman class and gave them a pretty harsh lecture about the realities of college versus high school.  He made a special effort to point out his pay check did not depend on their success or failure and their success was up to them alone.

Speaking as an adjunct who has been teaching in a junior college I concur totally with his sentiments. Even as recently as ten years ago, most students came to college knowing something.  They bought books, did homework, attended classes and studied.  They knew college was a privilege, not a right and they did what they had to do to succeed or dropped out.

Ten years ago high schools were different.  There were no credit recovery programs or three week summer school classes.  There was no ranking of teachers based on their students passing rate.  If a student earned a high school diploma he knew something.  Things are different today.  Teachers are under extreme pressure to pass everyone.  A teacher I know was reprimanded because 4 out of 30 students in her class failed the Geometry Regents last year.  Another was rated ineffective because she failed to call on 2 out of 29 students during an observation.  Teachers are held accountable for attendance, lateness and a million other things.  They have to pass kids if they want to keep their jobs.

The professor was right on target.  The students have to know they can't wait until Thanksgiving to start studying.  They have to know every grade from the beginning counts.  There is no extra credit or second, third, tenth chances.

Anyone who has not  taught college freshman for years might think this professor is heartless, but I disagree.  He is laying the foundation for success.  If he didn't care, he wouldn't say all of this.  His message should be spread to every freshman everywhere.

Friday, May 15, 2015

This Is What It Is All About

I just got this Facebook message from a former student.  This is what counts, not test scores or opinions of no nothing supervisors and principals.  This is what made working at Packemin worthwhile.
Hi Ms. POd, 
I just wanted to thank you for everything!  you believed in me back when I was in high school and wrote me a recommendation which helped me get into college.  Today I am a few days away from graduating with a Master's in Accounting.  It wouldn't have been possible without your help and support for that I sincerely want to thank you!  I look forward to working hard and making you proud.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


When my former AP had a problem with something, we would meet, he would babble, I would say fine but he kept going and going. He knew I thought he was full of crap but fine was the only word I ever used.  He wanted an argument and I refused to give him one.

I know he was never happy at the end of a meeting.  I, on the other hand left feeling fine.  Scott Adams knows plenty of bosses like him to be able to put this in a cartoon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunday In The City

A walk across the RFK Bridge gave a great view of Astoria Park, East River and led to Randall's Island.

I love NYC, especially in the springtime.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

This beautiful little girl was trying to fall asleep on her mom's leg.  Epitome of love.

I promised the mom I would not show her face.

(Randall's Island)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Bronx Zoo Photo Class Trip

Two camera batteries, both almost dead because my charger broke.  So happy I still managed to get some pictures on our photo class trip to the zoo.  I am happy today, the new charger arrived.  It was only two days late.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

When All Else Fails

The AP did her best to get the teacher to retire.  But he was stubborn.  He liked teaching and knew he was good at it.  He knew he was better than the AP whose teaching strategy followed whatever the special of the day was.  He knew he could reach kids others couldn't.  Besides, he was not ready to put away the chalk.

Finally the AP hit on an idea.  She decided to use humiliation.  She began observing and criticizing.  If 30 students answered questioned, she wondered why there were 2 student never called on.  If the kids worked in groups she complained they were too noisy.  If they listened quietly, she complained they were not involved.  It got to the point the teacher believed the observations were written up the night before the AP actually saw what was going on in the class.  The humiliation didn't stop there.  The AP made a point of talking about the teacher in front of others every chance she got.  She filled up department conferences with references to the teacher.  She got up and spoke about him during faculty conferences and she loudly berated him in an office full of people.

The teacher has decided to retire.  The AP has won.  After a 40 year career, the once beloved, highly regarded teacher was leaving.  What a crime, not for the teacher for he will make out very well with a pension and a job in a local junior college but for the high school kids who will no longer learn from this wonderful teacher who knew how to make the subject come alive and be crystal clear to all.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Losing Your Best Friend

You know death is imminent.  Daily you see her sleeping more.  First, it is difficulty with the stairs.  Then, it is out of breath on little walks even to the bathroom.  You gradually watch oxygen use increase, the single tank goes to double tanks and finally to a huge unit permanently in place.  You see the hospital bed take the place of the couch and then the commode and then a second commode for night use.  You hear her request diapers for night time.  You hear the bed sores are starting to form and pneumonia has set in.  You hear the constant coughing, see her unable to catch her breath, too weak to bathe herself or open her own medicine bottle.  Your head tells you to prepare, death will be here soon.  Your heart doesn't believe.  She half sits in bed and nods and attempts, between coughs to hold up her part of the conversation.   She smiles through her pain because she does not want you to get upset and cry.  Your heart says she can't be that sick and by next summer she will be back to her old self.

 But, your heart lies.  The cancer has taken over and it is only a matter of days, weeks, months if she is lucky or unlucky because those of us who love her don't want her to suffer anymore.  The end came in weeks.  I held her hand as she pleaded for help, "I can't breathe, help me, help me."  Always polite, worried because she could not remember the nurse's name, "I can't breathe."  They helped.  They increased the morphine and slowly she fell asleep, like she often did as we sat and watched television together.  Surrounded by family and friends she left this world.  It hurts.  It hurts more than when I lost my parents for she was my friend, my sister, not by blood but by choice.

We met in Julia Richman HS where I had been teaching and she had been transferred.  It was the '70s and many teachers moved from school to school.  We grew close when she met her husband and moved into the neighborhood.  From sharing lessons we went to sharing babysitting and then back to lessons.  We loved walking, theater, museums, travel, everything the same.  Teaching AP calculus was both our passions, she at one school, me at another.  We went to conferences all over the city and state together.  We helped each other when stuck on problems.  We even helped our friend technically impaired friend learn to use his calculator and find his dots.  My kids were her kids and hers were and still are mine.  My husband was her friend and hers was and still is mine and they are friends too.

She's gone and I feel like a part of me is gone as well.  If I could have shared the years I have left with her I would have done so without hesitation.

I am sitting and writing my love and happy she knew how much I, my family, and everyone around loved her.  She died surrounded by devotion and will never be forgotten.  She died too young but she left a tremendous mark on the world, bettering the lives of everyone she came in contact with.

I now understand what it means when someone looks at you and says "you look like you lost your best friend."

Thursday, April 30, 2015


All of a sudden Martin started doing homework and classwork.  He answered questioned.  The young man who had been doing nothing suddenly became a star player.

He saw me smile at him as I walked by and I asked him what turned him around.  He told me it was me.  Knowing I believed in him made him want to succeed.

I don't know if Martin will be able to pass the final and the class.  He doesn't either.  But, now he knows he can.  It is heart warming to know I had a part in his change of heart.  I don't care what the stats show and thankfully the college does not care either.  Martin let me know I am an effective teacher and the school knows because of comments from students like him.

There are a lot of teachers like me out there.  A former colleague at Packemin is one.  She believes in her students and pushes and prods them to do their best.  She has turned many around.  Her AP doesn't think she is effective.  He doesn't like her lessons and the questions she asks.  He blames her for the behavior of the students that no one else in the school can control either.  He doesn't see all who grow under her tutelage.  He doesn't care.  He wants her gone.  He will do all in his power to get the teacher who believes in her students to leave.  I cry when I think of all who will never benefit from her caring teaching and who will never know the teacher who gets them to learn by believing in them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Is What The APs Thought Of Us

One semester I was given a class of main stream and special education students.  The students had all scored poorly on an entrance exam and needed the Integrated Algebra subject taught with extreme patience and in four semesters instead of two.

I just found some old photos that I took of the room we were assigned.  It was an art room. The only board was the little one pictured above.  The students on the side could barely see what was written. Kids were on top of one another and not very comfortable.

The weakest kids in the building were assigned to one of the worst rooms.  It was a team teaching class and it took over three weeks to find a special education teacher capable of working in it.  I was first assigned a young substitute with no special education experience or credits.  She tried but did not know how to deal with one of the emotionally disturbed boys in the room.  When I spoke to the chairperson to get help, she responded by removing the boy, an error I believed because I knew I could have worked with him.  Eventually a good special education teacher, one with a heart and math ability and experience joined me and the class began functioning quite well.  We were one happy, learning family who adjusted to our horrible conditions.

And then a new geometry class was created.  The math AP decided the teacher free that period was not capable of teaching geometry and my program was changed.  I lost my "family."  The kids were also upset.  They did not want a new teacher, they wanted the one they knew and the one they knew liked them.  (Not that the new teacher didn't, they just didn't know her.)

Bottom line, these were "throw away kids."  No one expected them to pass so it didn't matter if the room was awful or if the teachers kept changing.  What a crime.  Two administrators gave them whatever was left over.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Opt Out

I was talking to a fourth grade teacher about standardized tests her students were in the process of taking.  She said one was good but another reduced kids to tears.  I then asked her how many kids opted out.  She said none.  Her school is in the inner city.  The parents are immigrants and the whole concept of saying no to something the school is doing is not something they even realize they can do.  Most just want to stay under the radar and do what people in charge are saying is best for their children.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Changing A Life

Nay wasn't the world's worst student, but he was a far from a good one.  Yet, I saw through his immaturity and knew there was something great inside of him.  I told this to his mom as she sat crying in the guidance office listening to the counselor saying one bad thing after another about her only son. I don't remember what I said, and I know I did not lie, but her tears stopped and she smiled.  I somehow managed to give her hope.

I just got an e-mail from Nay.  He is working and going to school for an MBA.  He is doing great and his mom is proud.  He said it was the college recommendation I wrote that turned him around.  I wrote hundreds of letters and can't remember what I wrote in each but I know ones for kids like Nay took a lot of effort.  I refused to lie or even exaggerate the truth so I spent a long time delving into his character and wrote down where strengths and possibilities.

I never gave those letters a second thought after I sent them out but I now know if one affected Nay so strongly, others must have been affected too.

My AP did not think much of me as a teacher.  He still makes disparaging comments about me, mostly to a staff of newbies who have no idea who I am, but that doesn't matter.  The kids were the one I worked for. Their words are the words that mean something.  Their success and my part in it is all that counts. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bathroom Story

Last week I stopped by Kohl's to return something and remembered running into two of my students there years ago, kids I knew were on late session and should still have been in school.  I asked them why they were out and they looked at me and said.

"Miss, we needed to use the bathroom and you know how disgusting the ones at Packemin are.  We just couldn't go there."
I told them it was a good story and they should be in school, not in a department store but inside I knew they were right.  The bathrooms were pretty gross.

Wonder if they have gotten any better since I left?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Class Room Management

The class was hard to handle and I called the deans more times than I was comfortable with, but, I was at my wits end and needed help.

At the end of the semester I went to the head of security and apologized for calling so often.  He told me not to worry.  Every student I had called about had a file two inches thick in his office.  He said I called less than other teachers and I actually had done a good job dealing with them.

My AP did not agree.  He never stopped letting me know how bad I was at classroom management and to this day, 4 years after I retired, still takes time from department conferences to remind the staff of how awful I was.

I learned never to call him.  Several years later I had another hard to handle class.  This time I went to the Principal for help.  After paying the class a short visit he told me some of the students were incorrigible.  Of course, to my AP, I was at fault again.

Another teacher in the department had a rough class.  She went on sabbatical and he gave the class to a new teacher.  But, before handing over the class, he removed the 3 biggest trouble makers.  The class was well behaved and he never stopped telling everyone how the new teacher did what the experienced teacher could not do.  He never even considered removing students for the old timer.

Judge teachers, but judge them fairly.  Realize some kids are just going to do the wrong thing and no one can stop that.  Stop stacking class and stop blaming teachers for things they cannot control.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shame On You!

Yes, you heard right, shame on you.  You are the Principal that is allowing the teacher to be abused by his immediate supervisors, probably even encouraging it.  You don't care that the teacher has been in the system for over 30 years and in your school for more than 20 of them.  You don't care that the teacher spends hours of his own time helping his students, before and after school and even weekends.  You don't care about the hours he agonizes over exams and lessons.  All you care about is that you don't like a couple of questions you heard him ask or the problems he has had with students that everyone else in the school has with these kids.  You care about your vindictive, incompetent AP who does not like him and you support that supervisor.

But, mostly you don't care about the children you are in charge of.  You have allowed this AP to make the teacher so miserable that he walked out before the end of the semester.  You sacrificed the education of over 100 students to get a good, caring teacher to leave.  The teacher wasn't perfect, no one is but in the scheme of things that doesn't really matter.  The kids who were fortunate enough to be in his class learned well.  They had a loving, nurturing teacher.  Now they will have a string of substitutes.  There will be no stability There will be no one involved enough in their lives to care.

You claimed to have taken the job of Principal because of your love of children but you are not showing it.  You have your own.  Would you want their teachers to walk out in the middle?  You might as well admit it, you care about moving up on the career ladder and nothing else.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Picketing For Good Jobs

I promised this great group of young people I would post their picture.

They were standing in front of Verizon, on their own time, demanding good jobs, not an unreasonable request.

(2nd Ave, south of 14th St)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Department Conference

This reminded me of the department conferences I used to attend.

Nothing the AP said made sense.  He never lacked for words either.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


The grade fixing at John Dewey HS is not local to that school.  It is epidemic to all schools in the city.

Years ago, before I retired, I ran a credit recovery program.  I wanted standards and insisted on it.  I carefully chose 300 problems of varying difficulty and set up two online assignments.  After several weeks it became obvious that the students were not doing them.  Administration changed the two assignments adfsto one and then instead of 150 questions, only 75 were required.  Still, many kids did not do the assignments.    Those who did often had help.  Several students told me they paid others to do assignments for them.  I watched a teacher (an Assistant Principal) doing one of her student's assignments on a smart board with the entire class.  Other teachers set aside class time to let students work on these assignments instead of doing their own class work.  Students got credit for two classes in one.

John Dewey is under the microscope now but the inspection should extend throughout the city.  With the push to pass everyone, for schools to stay open and for Principals to get their big bonuses, cheating is epidemic.  It will continue until things change.  It is about time schools are getting caught.  Maybe now education will get back to the way it should be.

Monday, March 23, 2015

PS 1

PS 1-an old school now used as an art museum for some of the world's most experimental art. I like the art but love walking around this old, re-purposed school building.