Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mr. Robinson

I just watched the season finally of a pretty awful show, Mr.Robinson, a bad show that I was somewhat fascinated by.  Mr Robinson is a musician who became a middle school teacher because he needed the money.

The characters on the show are pretty stupid and on the surface do not portray a very positive image of teachers.  But I realized today why I kept watching.  This immature, insane group of teachers and administrators love their students and care more about their success than anything.  In the last episode Mr. Robinson gives up a chance to tour with Earth, Wind and Fire because his kids needed him.

It was nice to see teachers and administrators working together and working over time with the only important thing being the welfare of the children in their charge.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Segregation In Integrated Schools

Yesterday's Daily News had a great opinion piece about how our schools are still segregated and unequal.  And, while this is true, I think we have to take a deeper look into schools that are integrated and see the racial make up of those classes.

From my experience at Packemin, I saw extreme segregation in classes. AP math classes were white, Asian and South East Asian.  There were a smattering of Hispanics but kids whose ethnicity showed only in their names.  In my last year I did a study to see why this happened.  I found many African American students entered the school with as good or better backgrounds than their peers yet they never made it to the advanced class.  On the other hand, if I looked at the slower algebra and geometry classes, I noticed too many dark faces.

My opinion and this is from my personal observations is that African American students did not get the same opportunities as their white and Asian peers.  If they messed up once, they were out of the path that led them to advanced classes where other races got second chances.  One year I met a young Black girl who wanted to take AP Calculus.  The chairperson said her grades weren't good enough but I picked up a transcript of a Chinese student with lower grades who was admitted to the class.  A back door got the girl in and she did well.  Lack of Black faces in my AP classes bothered me from the day I started teaching them in 1995 and nothing I did made a difference.  I don't know if things are any different now, I have been gone for 4 years.  I hope so.

We do need to integrate schools but we also must make sure that once schools are integrated classes are too and we need to make sure all students have the same opportunities regardless of their ethnic background.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Too Bad This Isn't Real

For all you teachers headed back to school, this is something you could really use for professional development and never ending meetings those first few days.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Wedding

She was a student of mine in AP calculus and I wrote all her recommendations and helped her get into the Time 2000 program at Queens College.  I helped her write lessons when she student taught at Packemin and lost touch with her after graduation.  Several years after student teaching I met her at the community college where she was working, first as an adjunct and then as a full time professor.  (The AP at Packemin did not think she was a good fit for that school.  The college loves her.)

Fast forward even a few more years.  The girl is a young woman and getting married.  I was honored to be invited and thrilled to witness the biggest event in her life.  Pictured above is the tea ceremony from her wedding.

No reward is better than the rewards I have gotten from my students and from knowing the positive influence I have had on their lives.  No negative words from any administrator can take that away.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Packemin Packs Them In

I know hardly anyone reads this blog anymore and I hardly ever write anything, let alone anything interesting yet all I have to do is mention PACKEMIN in the title, body or tag and I get a ton of hits.

People must love reading the dirt on that place and believe me, there is tons of it.  I don't write much of it because doing so would reveal my source.  Still, it is fun to know certain people are sweating just because the word came up in their reader.

Enjoy the Hagar cartoon.  Tell your students another reason they need math is so they can understand the funny pages.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Summer At A NYC High School

It used to be summer classes were provided to help students re mediate and then pass subjects they failed during the school year.

Summer school has a different purpose now and that purpose only involves statistics.  The kids go to school for a couple of hours and get credit for the course.

Fifty kids in a summer class is normal.  Schools like Packemin have no problem doing this in classes like math, English and history, subjects they need to graduate and need to learn to provide college background.

Packemin is rated one of the best neighborhood schools in the city.  How can any school with class size of 50 be rated well?  How can 50 kids packed in a room built for 34 be educated? How can a teacher be expected to help them all?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Fix That Started years Ago

Before there was a de Blasio and a Farina there were politicians like Bush and Obama and billionaires like Gates making school graduation rates a priority.  No one stopped to think about why all of a sudden schools had such tremendous growth in the number of graduates.

My former AP wanted everyone to set passing goals for their classes.  Since I usually ended up with the most at risk students my stats were usually lower than many others.  It did not bother the Principal since he understood the challenges I faced and respected the number I got through and how I was able to work with them but it bothered the hell out of my AP, a guy who only saw life in black and white.  I refused to give him a number.  When he pushed, I said my goal is 100% passing.  He told me that was unrealistic and wanted a number around 80%.  I finally told him I could not be comfortable with a goal of 20% failing.  Of course he mumbled something and I left with no goal set.

Other teachers were not as gutsy and he did get them to set goals.  If they did not meet these goals he badgered them and berated them in public (not by name but everyone knew who the senior teacher was  who taught geometry period 8).  Teachers were forced to stretch grades and give credit for names on papers.  No one would believe some of the regents answers that were given points.

Phony diplomas are not a new thing and they need to stop.  Maybe the Post's story will finally help to bring an end to this horrific problem.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Don't Wait For Tomorrow

One minute you are fine, the next minute you are in a hospital fighting for your life.

This is what happened to a friend of ours I will call Max, to protect his privacy.

Max was a vibrant, outgoing  69 year young man.  His only problem involved his hips which were successfully replaced a few months ago.  A month ago he developed a severe headache.  His wife brought him to the hospital. He was checked and released.  Several hours later the symptoms returned and his wife brought him back to the hospital.  At 4 in the morning she got a call telling her he has a massive stroke.  He is recovering but it is slow.  I spent the afternoon with him and wonder if he will ever be the same.

I won't go into details of his health here but I will say this.  Life is uncertain.  We don't know what tomorrow holds in store.  We don't know when our hearts will stop, when a car will plow into us or when an aneurysm will explode in our brains.  I want to enjoy every minute I have and not wait until tomorrow.

Prayers for a full recovery for Max and for strength and hope for his family.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How The AP Became A Success

This is what you do when you know nothing and have zero education or experience and become boss.

Bet everyone knows an AP or Principal in this category.  I can think of a few but one really stands out.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

When The Uneducated Are In Charge

The AP realized the more students she put in main stream classes, the better she would look.  Team teaching classes seemed to be the best way to dump educate these children.  A problem with this was not enough special education teachers were available to team teach.

The AP was not one to stress about such a major minor thing.  She assigned anyone free to these classes.  So now a mainstream teacher with no experience dealing with learning disabled and emotionally handicapped children was working with a teacher straight out of college with no special education degree or experience.

As luck would have it a boy with many issues was in one of these classes.  His mom was well aware of the problems her son faced and wrote long letters explaining his disability and promising to be available whenever she was needed.  This letters went to the main stream teacher as there was no special education teacher on record at the time and then the extra teacher assigned was not even certified in special education.

After two days the young man said some very inappropriate things to the young teacher in the room.  She freaked out.  She spoke to the AP who immediately removed the boy and put him in another class.  From what I understand, he was moved around many times.

The AP whose job it is to help students like this boy failed miserably at her job.  The boy was lost in the system.  Eventually a special education teacher was assigned to the class and the remaining students got the help they needed and were entitled to.  The AP looked good as many of the students were not in self contained classes any longer.  But, I wonder how many got lost along the way?  How many never received the help they deserved?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fun At Work

It was 8:35 on a Wednesday morning when the phone rang.  I figured it was a telemarketer and picked up the phone ready to let loose a whole bunch of expletives.  Before I opened my mouth I heard the voice of the secretary from the community college.  She immediately apologized for calling so early but said she was desperate.  A teacher had called in sick at the last minute and she had to find coverage.  She knew I lived close.  Now, I don't like working in the summer and I especially don't like the 3 hour long classes and I hate teaching remedial but, I love the school and I love the way they treat and respect their staff so I agreed.  I folded my newspaper, turned off my I-pad, poured my coffee into a travel mug and told my husband I would be back in about 4 hours.

I managed to get to the school a few minutes early and stopped by the office to pick up a book and sign to get paid.  I thought the look of gratitude on the secretary's face was enough to make my day.  That, was not even a fraction of what happened next.

I got to the room and immediately went in search of someone to unlock the door.  The 25 students waited patiently and then filed in.  I introduced myself and then asked them to tell me their daily procedure.  I told them since I was only there for the day I wanted to do things exactly as their regular professor did them.  I found them all to be bright, enthused, motivated and extremely cooperative.  Although much of the work was familiar to them,  I threw in lots of decimals and fractions, things I knew they needed help with and they were extremely grateful.  I even emphasized that most were probably in remedial because of carelessness, not lack of knowledge and confessed to being the queen of careless mistakes.  Before we knew it, the three hours were up.  We said goodbye and hope to meet up again soon and left.

I will get a nice check for the work I did but more importantly, I had fun.  How many people can say work is fun?  Teaching used to be a fun career, a career where one can make a difference in another's  ' life.  I am so fortunate to be able to continue mine this way.  It is sad so many others cannot and so many good teachers will end up not doing what they are so good at doing.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lower Manhattan

 Lower Manhattan is on the rise!!!!  Views from the street and cruise on City Clipper, courtesy of

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Leaving the Dog House

The AP thought her life was made.  The veteran teachers, the ones who saw through her incompetence and her negligence were gone.  She had successfully navigated them into retirement and she had carefully chosen and molded her new staff of minions, servile newbies who quaked at her wide eyed vacant stare and shivered as she yelped and barked.  She thought life was going to be a breeze.  Her minions were all in place to assist the lowest level students get regents diplomas and credit for every single course needed towards graduation whether they deserved it or not.  She figured she could sit back, her feet on the desk and spend the next few years lapping up the perks that come with the job.

The AP, hidden in her own little world was unaware of the quiet revolt going on around her.  The minions had enough.  Albeit young and inexperienced, they were bright and had morals.  They knew what she was doing was wrong and they did not want any part of it.  Behind her back they applied for other positions in schools with APs who hopefully are not so corrupt.  Being young, easily molded and cheap, they got hired.

So now the yapping, barking AP must start all over.  Yes there will be a new crop of minions ready and willing to take the vacated positions but she will have to get off her comfortable chair and start working at molding again. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Grade Fixing Is A Major Deal

DeBlasio thinks grade fixing is no big deal, Well, if he saw what I see in the community college, he would change his mind quickly.  I have been teaching mathematics at a community College since 2003.  In only 12 years I have seen the caliber of our students go down dramatically.  Students, not all as we do have many fine ones,  are coming in who cannot work with fractions, who cannot divide and do not even know multiplication tables.  These same students brag about passing regents exams and doing well in high school.  I have seen students who refuse to buy books or even use the free ones in the laboratory and library.  Many never do homework and don't know the meaning of the word study.  They got a free ride in high school and expect that ride to continue into college. They expect extra credit, grade forgiveness and grade curving.  They are totally unprepared for college or for much else.  Grade scrubbing improves high school graduation rates but it does nothing to prepare students for college and for life.  In fact, it hurts them infinitely more than a failing grade ever could.  As someone who has taught both on the high school and college level, I urge the Mayor to take this grade fixing seriously and do something to fix it.  Fixing it is all about the future of our city.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Dilbert Does It Again

Scott Adams must be portraying a Packemin graduate.  The prospective employee expects a paycheck with no work and no attendance requirement, exactly the way he got his high school diploma,  

Okay, no fair picking on Packemin.  Kids got diplomas requiring no work all over the city.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


It was like looking at a picture post card