Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Conditional and the Inverse

It seems there is a policy in NYC that students may not walk at graduation unless they are actually graduating. I mean, graduating in June, not in August or the following January. The students were told this. They were also told that under no circumstances would they be given cap, gown and tickets if they were not going to be permitted to walk. Not all our students are good math students and have trouble understanding the difference between a conditional and an inverse of a statement. That is, if the conditional is true, the inverse is not necessarily true and just because the student is given a cap and gown does not mean that they will be allowed to walk. One poor student found herself in this situation. Suzie. a sweet hard working young woman is not one of our sharper students. She worked very hard this year and walking at graduation meant everything to her and her family. She was told that she was missing a credit and could not participate in the ceremony. However, she was given all the graduation paraphenalia and assumed, albeit incorrectly, that she would be allowed to walk on stage. Her mom (in a wheel chair), along with various family members proudly attended the ceremony. Suzie's guidance counselor, Mr. X, spotted Suzie in the audience from his spot on the stage and had her removed from the auditorium. Poor Suzie was distraught, as was the rest of her family. The school made the mistake of letting her think everything was going to be okay. The only thing accomplished by having her removed was to embarrass her and her family and to drive her further and further from wanting an education. The mistake was made. Who knows who is really at fault? Was it the poor kid and her family? Was it the guidance counselor who didn't advise her early enough of the courses she needed to graduate on time? Was it the math teacher who didn't emphasize the difference between the conditional and the inverse of a statement? Is it the person who issued her graduation material? Why is she the only one to suffer any consequences?

Final Faculty Conference

We had a faculty conference today. Our principal stood in front of the auditorium and congratulated himself (and us) on our wonderful passing regents percentages. I could not believe my eyes as I looked around and saw how amazed and proud the teachers were. Don't they realize that a 65 on a regents means that a student knows about 40% (if that much) of the work. The English teacher sitting next to me told me that there were kids in her class that passed that are illiterate. A failing paper somehow was magically changed to a passing paper by going through the hands of her assistant principal. A history teacher told me that in order to pass that test, kids just had to be able to pull a few ideas out of a paragraph on the test--doing something called scaffolding. I know for a fact that pushing the right buttons on a calculator can give you a mark in the 70's without any real knowledge of any mathematics. The Math Assistant Principal summed it up well when he gave his statistics. He said "we raise our passing by lowering the bar. This year the passing score on Math B regents was 47 as opposed to 55 in the past." of Only the ELL teacher had the courage to mention their statistics--a measly 55%. This is realistic since many of the kids in the program don't speak a word of English. His statistics were not mentioned.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Moving the Cheese Doesn't Help

Some teachers are always whining about how bad the kids we teach have gotten. These kids haven't gotten any worse than their counterparts thirty years ago. The reason they seem so bad is the education that they are subjected to. I'm old. When I went to school there were academic, commercial, general and vocational diplomas. Kids were not subjected to subjects like algebra and biology if they were not interested in them. They were able to study subjects relevant to their abilities and to their interests. They were allowed to drop out and find a job they were capable of doing. They did not act out and cut classes as much because they were not forced to perform at a level far above their abilites. In the old days students were graduated with degrees that meant something because the Board of Regents didn't try to prove that everyone had equal abilities. Although there was no express "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" policy, fewer kids were left behind. What does it mean if a student gets a 70 on an English regents and still must take remedial reading and writing in college because the 70 on the regents doesn't even guarantee minimum competence. The 80 on the math regents shows that a kid knows how to press a few buttons on a calculator and make some intelligent choices. We need to stop looking at the poor kids and look at what is wrong with the system that is making them that way. Moving cheese will not correct the problem.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Slowly I Teach

Our principal, always the great thinker has come up with a new idea. He has decided that since the regents only covers about 40% of the work taught in Math A, we should only teach 40% of the curriculum and we should decide amongst ourselves the 60% of the course that is irrelevant. I guess he thinks that if we teeeeaaaachh reeeeaaaaallly slooooooow, the material will sink into our students brains better. I'm sure he's seen this work when someone spoke slowly to him in Chinese. Let's suppose the principal is correct and we can get the kids to pass by teaching only 40%, what happens to the good students who want and need to learn the remaining 60%? We will definitely be shortchanging them. Already I have done too much math for him.

Principal Academy

A soccer fan spent six hours wandering Hanover looking for his hotel before he went to the police with a vague discription of the area. It took the police another hour to locate his hotel. Bloomberg and Klein should find him. Sounds like he is the kind of person they want for the Principal Academy!

Top Ten Things to Wish I Wish For My Principal

10. A pimple on his butt.

9. Adult acne.

8. Explosive diarrhea.

7. His schools statistics .5 points lower than his competition so he will not have the "best" school in the city.

6. A school where all the teachers wear shorts and tee shirts.

5. A party where no one shows up.

4. Having his graduating data scrutinized by the New York Times.

3. Sex with the science chairthing.

2. A lost book of brain teasers.

And my number 1 wish:

1. A broken loudspeaker system so no one has to hear his voice or music again.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

It's Worth It

The seniors in my school had their end term barbeque today, right after they picked up their tickets for graduation and caps and gowns. I had a rough year with some of them. They were the "sweathogs" of the 21st century. I worked really hard to keep them coming to class and to get them to pass the regents. Only one out of twenty eight did not make it. The hugs and praise I got from them made my hard year worth every bit of the effort I spent. Time after time, I got thanks and greeted with "I couldn't have made it without you." I know the principal of my school will never like me, but that is okay with me. I did my job well. I believed in my students and I got them to succeed. It was worth it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who Cares?

My AP put out a notice telling us how good our kids did on the regents. (not a hard task, since this regents is made so anyone can pass). The thing that bothers me is that he made a big point out of the fact that school A beat our statistics. We usually beat them. Shouldn't he be smart enough to realize that the teachers don't care! We are not in a competition. We have nothing to gain by having the best or for that matter, nothing to lose for having the worst statistics. We all work hard because we want the kids to succeed! We teachers receive no awards for being the best. Our only rewards are in the satisfaction we get from helping our students. There is no "Super Bowl" or "World Series" regents exams. And I am not going toget a trip to Disney World when it is all over even if we come in first.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I'm tired of people in private sector bitching about teacher's pensions. I just came from a wedding where I listened to the same thing over and over again. What all these people fail to realize is that the pension is just part of our salary. We agree to take a job, beneath our education and beneath our earning potential for many reasons. Why shouldn't we reap the rewards of a pension at the end of our careers. A teacher's education is equal to that of a lawyers, but we don't earn their salary. Many teachers have a far higher education than others who make more than us. Teachers take their income at the end. We work now for less and reap the rewards when we retire.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As far as I can see, there are three types of people we deal with on a daily basis. First, there are the good ones. The students are the ones that do all the things we ask of them and then even more. They study hard and make our jobs easy. The good teachers are the ones that help all students and help each other. They never judge anyone, just help and off criticism that is both helpful and asked for. Second, there are the bad ones. And I say bad students and bad teachers, not bad people because these people can be helped. The kids are not able to adjust to the one size fits all model of education. Given the right encouragement and the right environment even the bad students can become good ones. Even bad teachers can be taught to be good if they are willing. Lastly, we get to the ugly. I have never met ugly students but I have met many ugly administrators and teachers. These people have no tolerance for any students other than the ones that automatically fall into the good category. They have no tolerance of students whose learning and behavior are different from the norm. The administrators have no tolerance for the teachers who defy conventional means to help the bad students become good ones. They focus on minutia, like horse-shoe seating in a classroom and ties on male teachers. We need more of the good to help the bad and we need to do away with the ugly.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mr. Principal Meets With Mr. A.

"Mr. A, please report to the principal's office immediately", is the announcement bellowed over the loudspeaker. Mr. A, being an obedient teacher, stops marking papers and heads downstairs. He is greeted in the principal's office by Mrs. APO and Mr. AP Security. Mr. Principal begins the conversation with "Mr. A, it has come to our attention that you are walking around the building, visiting different offices and disrupting all the work going on in there." A stunned Mr. A looks at them and replies "I never bother anyone. If anyone's work is being interrupted they ask me to leave and I leave immediately. You are just after me for this because you don't like my wearing shorts, tee shirts and sneakers with no socks every day and there is nothing you can do about it." Mrs. APO clearly agrees with Mr. A but is not strong enough to fight Mr. Principal and she says nothing. Mr. AP Security meekly shakes his head in agreement with Mr. Principal. This is understandable. Mr. Principal hired him for his ventriloquist dummy qualities. Mr. A, is not meek and is no one's dummy. He knows his rights. He gets up, and walks out of the office, never looking back and heads into the first office he sees to visit.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Two Year Colleges

Johnny is graduating high school this semester and is going to be attending the local community college. He had decent grades in high school due to his hard work and the fact that he is learning disabled and had to take classes with some of our less motivated students. The college that accepted him has decided that he should be in their honor program, even though he will be taking remedial reading and remedial math. Luckily Johnny is very aware of his disabilities and said no thank you very much to the offer of the honor classes. Learning disabled Johnny is much brighter than the phd's running his future college.

A Tale of Twins

Twin boys attend my school. Both are good boys, polite, hardworking with good study habits. Two boys with learning disabilities. Their mother, a good woman, has fought to keep her sons out of meaningless special education classes. She tutored them and got them all sorts of extra help. She constantly came to school to find out how she could best help them. One was lucky. He always seemed to end up in classes with good, teachers, kind teachers, who knew he was bright and helped him overcome his learning disabilities. The other was not so lucky. Term after term he always had some hard nose who gave him a hard time and threatened his graduation. Mom was once again in school this morning, one week prior to graduation, trying to convince this semester's hardnose to give him a break. Two boys, similar intellects, similar work habits, taking identical subjects, perceived so differently by different teachers.

End Term Party Part II

Most people in the school do not want to go to the party. Mr. Principle is now using strongarm tactics to get the staff to attend. One department agreed to go because they feel bad for their supervisor who will be "punished" for not attending. The "newbies" all fear reprisals for not attending. The literacy coach is supposed to go around recruiting people for this party. After all, isn't this the primary job of a literacy coach? I think the army might have better luck recruiting soldiers for Iraq than this man is having recruiting them for his party. I imagine root canal is less painful.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Happy Days

Principal should be happy--all the kids in my double period math class showed up for the regents. These kids really made him look good since the majority of them are Hispanic kids--the ones he needed to take the regents so he can get off the "improvement needed" list. All of them are seniors so he needed them to take the test too. And although the conversion table is not out yet, I believe that all but one will pass. He should be happy, but I bet he will now find something else I do wrong and happy days are still not here. Oh well, I still have my tenure and the satisfaction of knowing that I helped quite a few kids graduate.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


A young teacher asked me today when I am going to retire. I probably over reacted when I yelled at him and told him I would retire when I was ready and he'd know about it when he didn't see me anymore. I know he only asked because he is hoping for an opening in the school so he can be hired full time. I know I reacted the way I did because of the way the administration treats older teachers. They want us to retire. They don't like the fact that we won't buy into their new ways of teaching, ways that have not been tested and in fact were never even tried by people working in a classroom. They don't like the fact that they have to pay us more than the newbies and they don't like the fact that we know our contractual rights and refuse to be bullied!

Back Credit

New education policy--back crediting. Our principal wants all juniors and seniors who have never taken the Math A regents to take the exam, regardless of what math class they are currently in and then, if they pass this ridiculously easy exam, he will back credit them for all the courses leading up to the exam. It doesn't matter that the kids know no math or that they never attended a math class on a regular basis. I say, since we are just handing out degrees anyway we should greet them at the door as freshman and hand them their diplomas. Think of all the money that could be saved.

The Prom

Last night's news showed a table of High School Seniors at their prom busted for alcohol. The only evidence against them was a bottle someone had left under the table. Blood tests vindicated the kids. Since these kids were the school leaders and showed no outward signs of drinking, wouldn't it have been wiser to give them the benefit of doubt? Some school administrators are going overboard, probably to make up for years of not really seeing the whole picture.

Mr. Principal

Mr. Principal has a vision for his school. He wants his students to walk proudly in the halls, dancing to the show tunes of days gone bye. He wants them to leave their hats, their phones and their MP 3 players behind (not necessarily a bad idea, but not one of the most important problems faced in school today.) He wants them to have milk and cookies and eat jolly ranchers. He feels that there are more important things than learning to write an English essay or speak a foreign language. Mr. Principal has a vision that he would like to require the entire staff to share. Luckily for the students in Mr. Principal's school, most of the staff does not share his vision. These staff members have a different vision--a vision of graduating students ready to go on to conquer the world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On Missing Classes

One teacher had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance this afternoon. Will the administration make him pay back the coverages for the classes he missed? Will he receive a counseling letter telling him to do better next time?

Last Day

Today was the last full day of classroom instruction. Notices were sent to the students who must take regents exams. Once again the administration does the unbelievable. They waited until today to let the kids know where they would be taking the exams. Many of them were not in school today. Oh well, I guess it is the teacher's fault that that not everyone received a notice! Perhaps we should hand deliver them to the kids at home.

Monday, June 12, 2006

End Term Party

Every year some of the staff tries to gather everyone together in a party or on a boat to celebrate the end of the school year. Every year the school has the same problem--not enough people sign up to even meet the minimum amount guaranteed to the restaurant. This year, is no exception. Our illustrious leader has now put out a memo inviting everyone to come and celebrate all our accomplishments of the year. I for one vote for an alternative party, where no administrators are allowed and no one is going to tell us what a great job we did (especially when they don't mean it!)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

June 14,2006

Wednesday, June 14, what a joke of a day. Students are supposed to come to school for two periods, to sit and do nothing, no matter what anyone proposes. The one class I teach is comprised of graudating seniors who know their grades are already set. We all know there is nothing I can say that will interest them. The poor tenth graders will have almost a two hour break before they take the World History Regents. Wouldn't it have been better to let these kids stay home and sleep so they will be rested for the long afternoon exam? Wouldn't it have been better to make sure they were home and well fed before this exam? Once again, it's not what is best for the kids but how can we make our schools look good for the press!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

First Thoughts

I come from a lower middle class family, from the projects in the Bronx My dad worked two jobs and my mom worked too. The only college graduates I ever knew were either teachers or doctors. Since I didn't want to be a doctor, I became a teacher. I knew I had to find a job to provide an income for myself and didn't really think I had any other options. In the 70's there was no career guidance for girls. Luckily for me, I ended up loving my job and I think I do a pretty good job. Thirty years later, I am still teaching, I know I made the right choice for me but I hesitate to encourage young people to enter this profession. All of a sudden, teachers are responsible for all the problems our students have. We were told at a recent faculty conference to adjust our lessons to deal with these problems. So what if a kid is living in a car or his mother is HIV positive? So what if a girl goes home to a sexually abusive step father every evening? If they fail, we fail. Patients do not accept a doctor if that doctor cannot cure him, although I do know that many doctors face dying patients every day. Not every lawyer can get his client released either. When I started teaching, my job was to teach mathematics and to hopefully prepare my students for life beyond high school. Now the young teacher is expected to do this and to right all the wrongs that have been inflicted upon that child, no matter what. This is just too much for any individual to do. We are not Don Quixotes and cannot right the unrightable wrong and cannot reach the unreachable star. We should not be required to fight with our last ounce of courage to beat the unbeatable foe.