Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Super Teacher

After reading all the blog posts about Freedom Writers, I had no desire to see the movie. That is, until AMC theaters announced that they were letting teachers in for free this week. Not wanting to pass up a bargain, or a free night out with some friends, I went to see it last night. As a movie, it was entertaining. As for anything else, I found it deplorable.

1. Older teachers in the film are portrayed as burnt out bigots who have no desire to teach ghetto kids and who think ghetto kids are worthless and unteachable. (not in my experience a true portrayal)

2. No kid, no matter how good the teacher, will go from being illiterate to a perfect reader and writer in such a short time.

3. No kid who has been turned out of his home by a mother will be allowed to return just because he read Ann Frank.

4. Even if she did succeed with some of the kids, she couldn't have possibly reached them all. It is not realistic to believe that books and writing kept them all out of the streets and prisons and saved them all from gang violence.

Moreover, Ms. G. is a young idealistic young woman who sacrifices her entire life for her students. She works extra jobs to make money to buy them books and take them on weekend trips. Although this was fine for her, it is wrong to expect other teachers to do such things. After all, teaching is a job, like every other job. Teachers have husbands and children and lives outside of the school. This is not 1872 and teachers do not have to sacrifice all for their jobs.

This movie presented teachers as being the only variable in education. A good, caring teacher can move mountains. There is nothing they cannot do. Every child can succeed. Every obstacle can be overcome. Bloomberg and Bush are trying to hold teachers accountable for every failure. If Ms. G. can save everyone, so can every other teacher. It was not fair to present teachers in such a light. AMC gave teachers the tickets to rub in our faces what failures we are because we insist on life outside of school and cannot perform the miracles that were performed in this movie.

Maybe the movie industry should try to make some real movies--show the public what really goes on in a classroom every day. I bet the public would like to see that stuff too.

Another Day In Paradise

January 31, the last day of the fall semester and another day of enthralling conferences, full of information no teacher can be without.

Teacher time began at 7:45 and from then until 8:20 we were treated to a breakfast of mini pre-frozen cardboard tasting bagels with our choice of cream cheese, jelly or butter. No one was watching. I actually saw people take more than one bagel and use multiple condiments. Those teachers really knew how to live on the edge. We also were given cold, tasteless coffee. Of course the bagels and coffee ran out long before 8:20. Principal Suit would not want to waste any money on the staff.

After breakfast we all were supposed to report to the gym for a faculty photo. The bleachers were ready and over 200 teachers posed, bright and smiley in their faculty tee-shirts. Quite a few teachers refused to wear their shirts or pose. I'm sure Principal Suit is major pissed off now.

After the picture we went to the auditorium to see a power point presentation on the new shake up in the school system. Naturally the slides were too small to see from the back and the ones that were interesting were passed over very quickly. We got to hear all the ways the school could improve itself, and get more money (for Principal Suit and his cronies). He never did say how the money would help us (because it won't). We'll never see any of this money, not in actual benefits to our students or to ourselves. Principal Suit also bragged about this new 7 - 8 split math class he created for the weak Math A students. He went on and on about how the passing rates were so much higher but ignored the teachers who teach those classes because he didn't want to listen to how bad those classes actually are. In fact, that 7 - 8 split drove me to sabbatical last time I taught it. The only highlight of the meeting was when the AP of Pupil Services stood up and said how much she valued older teachers. Even if it meant less money for the school (because of their high salaries), she didn't care. Their contributions to education were priceless.

After the meeting, we got to sign up for some exciting workshops. We'll be working on different projects all semester instead of attending faculty and departmental conferences. Sounds great for the administration. We get to work our butts off, come up with new ways of doing things while they get out of having to run meetings and then reap the benefits of our work. We also got to give out report cards, program cards and metro cards. We had to keep the kids in the room for 45 minutes. No easy task when there is nothing special for them to be doing and they are not even our regular students so we don't know who they are.

All this was before our gourmet UFT luncheon. After waiting on line 30 minutes to make sure we actually paid (have to make sure all those sneaky, cheap teachers who didn't pay don't try to get a bagel for nothing) we got in. After checking to make sure we were on the list, we were handed a plate and a fork and walked down the buffet table full of meats, cheeses, salads, breads and cakes. The drinks ran out early. We got treated to hearing Principal Suit announce the winners of his raffle (if your attendance sheet gets picked, you win a pen). We also listened to a Unity Suit giving us more of the Union's propaganda, assuring us that none of our rights will be given away (and denying that this has ever happened.) This was the same guy that one of our members was rumored to have fought, so we were looking for a little excitement. Nothing happened.

After lunch, we went to department meetings, or department lectures. We were told we better be effective teachers or else. Since Suit's job was on the line, we better make sure we towed the line too. After insulting the department, he proceeded to insult the resource room teachers in the room (something he always does). One feisty teacher looked like she was going to punch his lights out. This little thing could have done it too. I've seen her in action. Luckily, her friends managed to calm her down and again violence was avoided. We also discussed the new math that is coming and it was obvious that my AP had no real idea what he was talking about. Little Ms. Wannabe Suit walked around, handing out pamphlets and turning out lights to make slides easier to read. Principal Suit even stopped by, supposedly to say hello, but I think he was just checking up on us.

Anyways, it is now 4:00, I am home and away from all the BULL SH**. Classes start tomorrow. I think a day like today is meant to make me appreciate some of the lunacy I will deal until the end of June.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Social Promotions

In the beginning of the school year, Bloomberg announced an end to night school. Many people were up in arms. How were these students who did nothing for three years suddenly going to earn the credits they needed to graduate on time? Although I have never taught night school, I know that after going to school a full day, kids that are not the best students to begin with absorb nothing more in an additional class. I know that after teaching all day, I sometimes feel that I am shortchanging my evening class because I don't have the energy to do any more. I'm an adult feeling this way, so how are kids going to do any better? When my day students came in after a night school class, they were often sleepy and never had homework, citing night classes as the excuse.

Yes, no more night school. Critics hailed this as a big money savings technique and a way to end social promotions. What a farce! What a lot of horse manure the citizens of NYC were being fed! No more night school, now there would be late day school. The money saved on the night school program was now going to be funneled into the schools for this program. Generic courses would be offered in the main subject areas so kids from different levels could get the extra math or English credit they needed. A teacher who teaches the math part told me her kids are undisciplined, lazy, and often disruptive. She has three different levels in one section. The administration wants them all to pass. After all, if graduation rates do not increase, Principal Suit and his buddies might not get their performance bonuses again.

No matter what laws the government passes, no matter how many times they proclaim "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND", social promotions will never be ended as long as programs like this exist. (I don know that there are kids that do benefit from these programs but these kids are few and far between. In a school like mine, with a 12 period day, these stududents could just have a regular class added into their schedule if they are serious about making up credits.)

Even I Think This Guy Went Too Far,,,

Teacher Reassigned for Anatomy Drawings

Jan 27, 9:00 PM (ET)

YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) - A teacher has been barred from classes after having his seventh-grade students draw male genitalia on the blackboard during health class, a school spokeswoman said Friday.

The teacher, whose name was not made public, was assigned to administrative duties and Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio will ask trustees to fire him, said Yonkers school spokeswoman Jerilynne Fierstein.

"There was no way we were going to let him be in front of children," she said.

Fierstein said the state's seventh-grade curriculum calls for lessons in human anatomy and sexuality, but "as a teacher you have to be sensitive and you have to look at the age-appropriateness of any activity that you ask a child to do. And this was just not appropriate."

Pierorazio said the teacher had began his lesson by asking students to volunteer to come to the board to draw male anatomy.

Fierstein said the administration learned of the drawings, which occurred in a class of boys and girls at the Pearls Hawthorne school, when a parent complained.

Trustees will consider the teacher's firing at a March 21 meeting, she said.

Jon Klibonoff, a father of a student at the school, said he did not believe the material was inappropriate.

"This is biology, it's anatomy, it's human sexuality," he said. "They're in puberty. They're aware of it on one level or another."

Fourth-grader Noah Klibonoff disagreed.

"They're not supposed to know what it's supposed to look like at this age yet, so I think it's a little embarrassing and it's also a little inappropriate," he said.

Pierorazio issued a statement saying, "I will not tolerate insensitive, inappropriate behavior by any staff member toward our students. Every student's physical and emotional well-being is paramount in our decision making, therefore immediate action was taken."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Left Triangles

I was helping a student study for the Math A regents and we were going over right triangles. I drew this picture on the board. The boy said "Why did you draw that? I thought the problem was about a right triangle? I answered "So, look at the picture!" and he responded with "but you drew a left triangle". The boy was dead serious. It took me a few minutes to realize that he wasn't kidding. I spent another few minutes explaining that a right triangle was a right triangle, no matter which way it faced and then we went over the definition and properties of a right triangle.

Footnote: This boy scored a 77 on the regents. Just goes to show the low level of competence needed to pass.

Better In Print

A colleague told me that he doesn't read paper news anymore. He sticks to what he finds online. That is great for finding the news, but he is missing out on so much more.

I saved a lot of money and got what I wanted today, just by reading the newspaper. We were looking for a new chair and found the one we wanted in Macy's. Being great procrastinators, we never went back to buy it. Well, yesterday's Newsday had a Macy's ad that said NO TAX ON FURNITURE THIS WEEKEND. Definitely something I would not have known if I stuck with Newsday online. This forced us to go buy the chair (the old one can go in the trash on Friday.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

If Bloomberg Could Have His Way....

1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.

2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the daily' session.

3. Make your pens carefully. You whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of this earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honest.

9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Real Life Application

A kid came into class and said, "Ms. Pissed Off, I have a math joke for you."

I told him to go ahead and tell me.

"I met a girl last night. I told her I want to be the sin squared to her cos squared so together we can be one."

Since I am always telling them math jokes, it felt good to be hearing one. The rest of the class then informed me that that line was from Beauty and the Geek the previous night. Maybe it wasn't an original joke, but it was a joke using math, nevertheless. The kids were thrilled to find a real life application of the things they were learning in class. They were also proud of being geeky enough to get the joke.

Privatization Of Public Education?

The following is an Op-Ed published in the Queens Courier. Definitely by a politician that gets the true picture of what's wrong with schools under Bloomberg's rule as mayor.

Privatization Of Public Education?


Thursday, January 25, 2007 3:01 PM CST

Ivan C. Lafayette
I am extremely concerned by many of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s methods and the practices he has instituted pertaining to education. It seems clear to me that Bloomberg has slowly, but methodically been trying to privatize public education in New York City. This is a big problem for Queens because many of the Mayor’s methods are having a negative impact on the most overcrowded schools in the city.

Despite all of the Mayor’s proclamations about needing outside help to support education, New York City’s share of education costs out of a total city budget of 56 billion dollars was just 9 billion dollars or less than 20% of its available funds. The most recent planned state budget would have the state paying more than half of the city’s education budget, with the federal government contributing approximately 2 billion dollars.

I have spoken personally to Bloomberg over the last couple of years, alerting him of many locations I identified to build new schools, but unfortunately the Mayor, New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the School Construction Authority (SCA) did not act reasonably to acquire these properties and they were sold to other buyers. Meanwhile our public school students are still attending school in evermore-overcrowded classrooms.

Mayor Bloomberg has also made it known that he does not wish to use eminent domain to acquire property to build new schools. This has caused the SCA to not have the ability to purchase or lease property. The most overcrowded areas and overburdened schools in our city are precisely where property is difficult to obtain, and impossible without the possibility of eminent domain.

I believe the Mayor has an ulterior motive. He is hoping that as our public schools become more overcrowded, a greater demand for more construction of additional charter, private and parochial schools will occur, with available money for education going to these types of schools.

The Mayor also claimed that he has created 100 new schools. However, what he fails to say is that often he takes one school and breaks it down into four new schools, one of which is a charter school. This does not increase the number of seats and does not relieve the overcrowding.

The Mayor also seems to have the ability to use money from foundations established to help with the broad educational needs of children but instead distributes the money unfairly to private schools, charter schools and lastly public schools.

Additionally, the DOE has instituted a practice of first hiring contractors through a private, nonprofit corporation, the Fund for Public Schools, which collects donations for the school system and is controlled by Chancellor Joel Klein. The department then awards the contract at taxpayer expense without seeking bids. In fact, hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts have been awarded without bidding.

The school system is not subject to city rules that require competitive bidding unlike the police or sanitation departments. This puts the control of these no bid contracts squarely and solely in Mayor Bloomberg’s hands.

The Mayor has mouthed the mantra of smaller class sizes, full-day pre-k and classes for all three-year-olds, but his actions of not providing more seats deny children these resources.

Two years have now gone by since capitol funding has been made available and New York City has not really even started the process of utilizing this funding to help relieve the overcrowding. It was also unfortunate that the Mayor, unaware of new capital money available to him, stopped all capital repairs for three months affecting the health and safety of many students and faculty. This included fixing wiring, plumbing and heating, generally worsening conditions in existing schools.

We can do better. The public should have all of the information about what has happened under this current administration, and its failure to do what is required to give our children a sound education.

Assemblymember Ivan C. Lafayette represents the 34th Assembly District

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Become a Librarian

Become a Librarian:

The librarians in my school are retired on the job. They get full teacher benefits with none of the responsibilities.
1. No papers to mark
2. No C-6 assignment. They spend their C-6 period in the library doing the things that other teachers would probably do at home.
3. They have their own desks, phones and computers.
4. They don't have an office on their backs.
5. When the stress of kids gets too much too handle, they put a "library full" sign on the door and no one else is allowed in.
6. They can order any best seller book they want to read.
7. They can block off exits so kids have to stay put until the bell rings.

So, all you future teachers out there--before you decide that you can help kids, that you can make a difference, think about taking the easy way out. BECOME A LIBRARIAN at a NYC Public HS.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Don't Want To Be Liked So Much

A kid came running up to me in the hall all excited the other day. "Mrs. T, Mrs. T, I've been looking for you everywhere. I'm applying for a summer internship and since you are my favorite teacher, I want you to write my recommendation."

I wish I wasn't her favorite teacher. I'm so sick of writing recommendations. Each one takes so long to do. If I'm doing them, I really try to do a good job. I make the kids submit resumes and then sell themselves to me. I never say no but I really want to say no. I always give them a copy of the recommendation. That way, they don't have to mail it if they don't like it, and they can't blame me if they don't get into the college or program of their choice.

I tried to tell this kid that being her favorite teacher was just giving me extra work. She didn't hear what I was saying. I think I did too good a job of writing it. She said her mom liked it so much that she made a copy of it and sent it to all her relatives in India. She promised me that when she is a senior, applying to college, she will let me write all her recommendations. I can't wait!

You Touched My Car

I was just coming back from lunch today and as I got out of my car, I saw and heard one of the funniest things ever.

Two ESL teachers were walking to their cars. One crossed the street. The other walked straight ahead. He saw that another car had parked very close to his, so close that the bumpers were kissing. I could see that he was very agitated. He walked back and forth, looked at both cars from every angle imaginable. You could see his anger growing by the second. The owner of the second car soon returned to her car, got in, backed up and started to pull away. He yelled at her "You touched my car! YOU TOUCHED MY CAR!" The owner of the other car looked at him like he was nuts, pointed out that there was no damage and left. He screamed after her "YOU TOUCHED MY CAR! I'M GETTING YOUR LICENSE AND CALLING THE POLICE."
This happened on a NYC street corner. Parking is often at a premium and cars are often parked closer to one another than they should be. But, when you own and drive a car in NYC you have to expect such things to happen. I wish I could be the fly on the wall when the police department gets this complaint. I'm sure the officers in the precinct will be laughing as much as I am.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Never Happens To Me

I just read Flogger Blogger over at California Guy. He was writing about a problem he has when he can't think of something to blog about. I never have that problem. To me, blogging is like talking, I never run out of things to say. I'm sure the people around me wished I had his problem once in a while.

When A Raise Is Not A Raise

The following was printed in the Queens Courier in answer to an Op-Ed by Bloomberg:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is so busy patting himself on his back for the new teachers' contract that he has no time or vision to see how demoralized the teachers of New York City public school students have become under his regime. I'm not even going to mention the salary. While it is a good income, it is not a raise. A raise is more money received for doing the same job. Teachers are now doing more than ever.

With the extra days added in the beginning of the school year and the extra time added on to our day, we are probably not getting a raise at all. I wouldn't mind the extra time if it was used to better my students' education, but it is not used this way.

Staff development, as it is called, consists of having teachers who have taught for maybe 2 years, telling experienced teachers what to do. We sit around in a room, or an auditorium and waste time.

The new professional assignments we have been given are anything but professional. Potty patrol is not what I went to college to do. Teachers can no longer decide how to spend their time in school. We have no time to speak to parents, guidance, write college recommendations, or do any of the hundreds of things we normally do.

Mayor Bloomberg, the contract you offer us is no bargain and not worth the paper it is written on.

Mixed Message

"Welcome to the afternoon session of regents exams. Good luck. I am sure you are all well prepared. Remember, no cell phones, beepers, walkmans, mp3 players, ipods, or any other kinds of these devices are allowed in the building."


"Now, if your cell phone rings or vibrates during the exam you will be disqualified. Turn all these devices off and give them to the proctor in the front of the room."


I am sitting in school right now. It's regents week and I don't have any proctoring assignments because I am an AP teacher so I must submit curriculum for a major audit of the program. What a waste of time. It seems that some colleges do not take AP courses seriously because some schools call every course an AP course to help kids get into college. My school doesn't do that, at least not in math. We have very high standards as to who gets into AP calculus and AP statistics. What I can't figure out is how spending hours typing a curriculum into the computer is going to make my course more meaningful? I can write anything I want. Who will ever know what I do in my classroom? Just because I am typing it, does it mean I will follow it?

I am actually a teacher that does follow all the guidelines set out by college board. I go to workshops whenever they are available in the New York area, and follow online discussion groups, but I know that what I am typing is not exactly what I am going to do.

Instead of making us spend hours doing this meaningless work, why not just look at the AP results from previous years? From my results, it would be obvious that everyone taking the course(last year all 68 of them) also took the AP exam. The average grade was 3.88 (out of a possible 5)and there was a 93% passing grade. This would hopefully show the kind of course I teach. And it would be much more realistic than the curriculum I am copying from a book.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I'm a Bad Teacher

I'm a bad teacher. A kid told me that today. Every time I give out a worksheet, I deliberately skip him, so he can't work. He can't ask for one like everyone else does, because I yell at him for talking.

I guess its my fault too that he chooses to read a novel, instead of doing the work that is on the board or that he does no homework, even when it is from the text book that he should have at home. Or maybe he lost it somewhere? I guess that is my fault too. I probably sneaked into his house in the middle of the night and stole it. I make him talk all period to the boy next to him and I force him to yell across the room when I separate the two of them.

He is going to have a different teacher next term. I hope the teacher he ends up with is not as bad as I am.


I just made up final grades for my class. This process should be very easy since I use excel. I enter grades as soon as I mark the exam and the computer figures out the average for me. So why do I stress so much? I want to be fair. I don't want to ruin a child's life by giving her a grade that is too low or too high. A grade too low can eventually keep her from getting into her dream college. A grade too high can give her a false sense of her knowledge or the amount of work she must do to earn the grade. I worry if my marks are really accurate enough to reflect a difference between a 94 and a 95 student. If a kid fails, I want to give that kid a 55, the highest failing grade possible. I don't want to give a grade that an average will be impossible to recover from. Principal Suit feels that a kid that gets a 55 will be able to pass the second term. He then wants to reverse the grade. I don't mind passing the kid that has made up the work, but Principal Suit seems to think every 55 can be made into a 65. I have some sweet kids in my classes. Sweet, but not too bright in math. I don't want to destroy transcripts so I give a 55. Then I look at the average and change the grade to 50. Then I change it back to 55. This will go on until I hand my grades in on Wednesday morning. I don't like having this power. I wish I could just teach and forget the grade part of the job.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Teaching Awards

I was reading UFT paper and noticed the following awards for teachers.

Christopher Columbus Award: Encourages teams of middle school students to use science to improve their communities

James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation: awards fellowships for graduate study of the U.S. Constitution

Technology grants: HP is giving awards to teams of five teachers from k - 12. Emphasis is on using technology
(This is the only link I can't get to work)

Teacher of the year: honors exemplary teachers

Presidential awards for math and science teachers: recognizes exceptional math and science teachers in high school and middle school

I'm sure we all know overwork, overlooked teachers who should win some of these awards. Let's nominate our deserving colleagues.

Larry Studies Calculus

More Art from Baltimore

Math and Art? Go Figure!

Kodak Moment

I saw this in the Baltimore Museum of Art. It is what I tell my students all the time. I'm going to start printing it on all the papers I hand out in class.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Stupid Kid

I have a kid in my class that cheats like crazy. No matter how much I watch him, he manages to cheat. I finally realized that I have to give different versions of the same test. I told him that I was going to do this, but, of course, he did not believe me. The test day came. I made sure that none of the kids around him had the same version. Sure enough, in the middle of the test he yelled out "I can't believe you really gave me a different test!" The whole class started laughing. We all know he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but we didn't think he was stupid enough to broadcast his cheating. Even after 30 years of teaching, I thought I had seen everything. I guess there is plenty left for me to see.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Make Someone's Day

One of the cleaners in my school is female. That might not seem like a big deal to some of you young people, but to me it is a great big deal. This woman is performing a job that I spent almost my whole life thinking was a male only job. Every time I pass her cleaning outside, I try to say a few words to her. To me, she is a great role model. She is a true 21st century woman. I became a teacher because it was a job that was open to women. She became a cleaner, a job traditionally done solely by men.

Today when I arrived at school this cleaner was sitting at a desk in the custodian's office. I stopped to say hello and said "I think, this is the first time I have ever seen you sitting." Her reaction stunned me. She had tears in her eyes, grabbed my hand and said "thank you for noticing." I couldn't believe an innocent, meaningless comment on my part could make anyone feel so good. We talked for a few more minutes and I even told her my opinions of her and her chosen profession. When I left her, she said I made her day.

We all need to stop, look around, and let the people around us know that they are valued and appreciated. It costs nothing and takes no time or effort.

Drawing circle

Final Exams

My AP insists that we give uniform finals in the math department. That is because he doesn't trust our judgement to give an exam that is fair, not too hard and not to easy. After years and years of doing this, he has finally come to see the same problems with this policy that teachers have seen for years.

1. Our school is on a 12 period day. Since teachers only work an 8 period day, we often never even speak to people teaching a different section of the same subject. I, for one, don't know what the other teachers have emphasized and can only hope that my kids are prepared for the exam.

2. Because I don't usually see the exam until right before it is given, I find that I sometimes give the same exact problems as practice problems during the week. Not a very sound testing policy.

3. My AP thinks he can stop cheating by giving two forms of the exam--one for periods 1 - 6 and other for periods 7 - 12. By the time the kids came into my 9th period class, they knew all the problems on the exam (of course too many still fail). One of my top students even asked me how to do one of the problems right before the exam.

My AP plans on asking Principal Suit for two days at the end of next semester to be devoted to final exams. Although this might prevent cheating, I'm not crazy about this idea either. How can we expect kids to do well when using this procedure they will be subjected to two to four exams a day?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why Teacher Unions Are Good for Teachers and the Public

The following article was printed in the American Teacher Magazine that came out this week. This is what the UFT should be touting.

They Protect Teachers' Rights, Support Teacher Professionalism, and Check Administrative Power

By Diane Ravitch

We live in an era when leaders in business and the media demand that schools function like businesses in a free market economy, competing for students and staff. Many such voices say that such corporate-style school reform is stymied by the teacher unions, which stand in the way of leaders who want unchecked power to assign, reward, punish, or remove their employees. Some academics blame the unions when student achievement remains stagnant. If scores are low, the critics say it must be because of the teachers’ contract, not because the district has a weak curriculum or lacks resources or has mediocre leadership. If some teachers are incompetent, it must be because of the contract, not because the district has a flawed, bureaucratic hiring process or has failed to evaluate new teachers before awarding them tenure. These critics want to scrap the contract, throw away teachers’ legal protections, and bring teacher unions to their collective knees.

It is worth recalling why teachers joined unions and why unions remain important today. Take tenure, for example. The teacher unions didn’t invent tenure, despite widespread beliefs to the contrary. Tenure evolved in the 19th century as one of the few perks available to people who were paid low wages, had classes of 70 or 80 or more, and endured terrible working conditions. In late 19th century New York City, for example, there were no teacher unions, but there was already ironclad, de facto teacher tenure. Local school boards controlled the hiring of teachers, and the only way to get a job was to know someone on the local school board, preferably a relative. Once a teacher was hired, she had lifetime tenure in that school, but only in that school. In fact, she could teach in the same school until she retired—without a pension or health benefits—or died.

One problem with this kind of tenure was that it was not portable. If a teacher changed schools, even in the same district, she would lose her tenure in the school where she was first hired, and she would have to go to the end of the line at her new school.

Pay for teaching was meager, but it was one of the few professional jobs open to women, and most teachers were women. Pay scales were blatantly discriminatory. Teachers in the high schools were paid more than those in the elementary schools. Male teachers (regardless of where they taught, though almost all were in high schools) were paid more than female teachers, on the assumption that they had a family to support and women did not.

I would like to remember some of the forgotten heroes of the movement to establish fair and equitable treatment of teachers in New York City.

First, there was Mary Murphy. She started teaching in the Brooklyn schools in 1891. Ten years later, in 1901, she got married. That was a mistake. When she got married, the Board of Education charged her with gross misconduct and fired her. Teachers were not allowed to marry. She sued the Board. She lost in the lower court, but then won in the state court of appeals, which ruled that marriage “was not misconduct” and ordered the Board of Education to reinstate her.

Second, there was the Interborough Association of Women Teachers. They started a campaign in 1906 to wipe out the salary differentials between male and female teachers. Their slogan was “equal pay for equal work.” When the state legislature passed the Association’s bill for equal pay, it was vetoed by the governor. These stalwart female teachers finally won pay equity in 1912.

Then there was Bridget Pexitto, a veteran teacher of 18 years in the Bronx. She took advantage of the new right to get married without losing her job. But then she got pregnant. That was a mistake. The Board of Education fired her on charges of “gross negligence by being absent to have a baby.” Not only that, the Board ordered the superintendent of schools to discover whether there were any other pregnant teachers in the city’s schools. He somehow did a visual inspection of the city’s teachers and found 14 of them, and they were promptly suspended from teaching. Bridget Pexitto fought the decision in state court and was eventually reinstated with back pay by the state commissioner of education.

The forerunner to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was the New York City Teachers’ Union, which was founded in 1916. It was known as Local 2 of the American Federation of Teachers. Its purposes were to fight for improved salaries, to fight against “oppressive supervision,” and to defend the rights of teachers like Mary Murphy and Bridget Pexitto.

Today, the UFT and other teacher unions around the country continue to play important roles in protecting the rights of teachers, especially in the current climate of school reform. There’s a common view among corporate-style reformers today that the way to fix low-performing schools is to install an autocratic principal who rules with an iron fist. Many new principals have been trained in quickie programs of a year or less, which try to teach them to think like corporate leaders. Many of the graduates of these new principal programs have little classroom experience, and some have none at all. Many of them lack the judgment and knowledge to make wise decisions about curriculum and instruction or to evaluate seasoned teachers.
When experienced teachers must work under the control of an inexperienced principal, they need the protection of their union against arbitrary and unwise decisions.

Furthermore, to the extent that New York City, where I live, is the wave of the future, then teachers will need their unions more than ever. In New York City, under mayoral control, the mayor—a businessman—and his chancellor—a lawyer—selected a new curriculum in reading and math. They also insisted that all teachers across this system of
1.1 million children adopt exactly the same pedagogical style (the “workshop model”), and they micromanaged teachers’ compliance with tight, sometimes daily supervision.

Teachers found that they were in trouble if they did not teach exactly as the mayor and chancellor dictated, if they did not follow the scripted cookie-cutter format of mini-lessons, if their bulletin boards did not meet detailed specifications, or if their classroom furniture was not precisely as prescribed by regulation. In these past few years, I have often been confronted by teachers who asked what they could do when their supervisors and coaches insisted that they teach in ways they (the teachers) believed were wrong. I could only answer that they should be glad they belonged to a union with the power to protect them from “oppressive supervision,” to use the term that was familiar to the founders of Local 2 of the AFT.

As it happened, in the contract negotiations of 2005, the UFT successfully added language to the contract that specifically protected teachers from being punished because of: “a) the format of bulletin boards; b) the arrangement of classroom furniture; and c) the exact duration of lesson units.”

The union is thus necessary as a protection for teachers against the arbitrary exercise of power by heavy-handed administrators. In our school systems, as in our city, state, and federal governments, we need checks and balances. Just as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government all act as checks on each other, we need checks and balances in our school systems. It is unwise to centralize all power in one person: the mayor. We need independent lay school boards to hire the superintendent and to hold open public discussions of administrative decisions, and we need independent teacher unions to assure that teachers’ rights are protected, to sound the alarm against unwise policies, and to advocate on behalf of sound education policies, especially when administrators are non-educators.

In the current climate, when it is in vogue to select non-educators to administer school systems, it is vital that teachers have a voice. School reform cannot possibly succeed when teachers—who are on the frontlines of implementation—are left out of the decision-making process. If there is no “buy-in,” if teachers do not willingly concur with the orders handed down from on high, then reform cannot succeed. If administrators operate by stealth and confrontation, then their plans for reform will founder. They cannot improve what happens in the classroom by humiliating and bossing around the teachers who are in daily contact with the children. Only in an atmosphere of mutual respect can administrators and teachers produce the kind of partnership that will benefit students. And administrators cannot achieve this collaborative atmosphere unless they are willing to talk with and listen to the leaders chosen by teachers to represent them.

The essentials of good education are the same everywhere: a rigorous curriculum, effective instruction, adequate resources, willing students, and a social and cultural climate in which education is encouraged and respected. Teacher unions today, as in the past, must work to make these essentials available in every district for every school and every student. They cannot do it alone. They must work with administrators and elected officials to advance these goals. The unions will continue to be important, vital, and needed so long as they speak on behalf of the rights and dignity of teachers and the essentials of good education.

Bloomberg and Tenure

Bloomberg again is talking about education reforms.

Bloomberg proposed additional changes to the educational system, such as giving principals more power, determining funding per student rather than per school and making it harder for teachers to get tenure.

The mayor said the city was "building a more rigorous review process" to ensure "ineffective teachers are not awarded the privilege of tenure and the near-lifetime job security that comes with it.
Once again teachers are being blamed for the shape of education today. Giving principal's more power just means they will be whipping us teachers harder and more often. Bloomberg mentions performance bonuses for schools that do well. Once again, the Plantation Owners are getting richer and the slaves are working harder. Does it matter to the owners if we quit? Not by any means. They will just find a new body to take our place.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Country

People come to this country in search of a better life for themselves and their children. They give up a lot, but I guess they figure it is worth the sacrifice. Yet, term after term I have students who disappear for weeks or even months at a time to go back to their "countries" for things like weddings and engagement parties. Family is important. I really believe in family, but when you make the decision to start a new life in a new country you have to be willing to make changes. What kind of message are these people sending to their children when they tell them it is all right to miss that much school? One of my students returned today from Columbia. She has been missing since a week before Winter break. No note from her parents, nothing. She walked into the final. A girl who was running a solid 85 in the class got a 24 on the exam. Can I pass her? Do I even want to pass her? I don't think so. Another kid is on a religious retreat in India with his grandmother. He is gone six weeks. At least he got permission from the school before he left. He is an AP calculus kid who works very hard and has been keeping up with the work on his own. I got a new student last week. He was going to the school, and then left in October to go to a wedding in Pakistan. He returned in the middle of January. What kind of wedding celebration lasts over three months?

How can we teach these kids when they are not here?


Bloomberg is once again touting his wonderful education reforms and his plans to reform education even further. One of his big issues is teacher tenure, which he wants to change. He claims that all a teacher has to do is teach for three years and the tenure is automatic. As far as I know, this is not true. New teachers are observed quite often and a good administrator keeps track of what that teacher is doing. If there are problems, there is a system in place to address those problems and if the teacher is not satisfactory, terminate employment. The big question the mayor should be asking is why principals are not doing their jobs? Could it be that actually trying to deny tenure means extra work for the principal? I don't know how many times I've seen teachers transfer from school to school, due to a principal's suggestion to avoid the U rating and thus keep the job until tenure is earned. Years ago we had a principal who was known for being tough on unsatisfactory teachers. More than a few teachers would dropped under his tutelage. Did innocent teachers bite the bullet? I'm sure they did. But, lots of kids were saved from terrible teachers too because of this guy. Let me add, that I was not a fan of this guy, but I respect the way he did his job. We have a guidance counselor in our school who is awful. He has been awful from day one. Everyone knows this. Did this guy get tenure? You bet he did! I've heard that his mom is a friend of Principal Suit. This guy is usually found surfing the internet in his office. Now he is one of those teachers giving tenure a bad name. Why? Because of an administrator who did nothing.

The majority of teachers with tenure have earned it. We work at jobs where we are underappreciated and definitely underpaid. Our education is the equivalent of a lawyer's education but our paychecks are not. We can't go to the bathroom until a bell rings. We carry everything we own from room to room. We are abused by principals who don't like us expressing opinions different than their own. But, we have one major thing that lots of other occupations do not have--TENURE. We cannot let the UFT allow the mayor to take this away from us

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Colbert Report

I love the Colbert Report. I know that fake news reports are not the only way to get the news, and I certainly don't rely on them to tell me what is going on in the world, but they do make me laugh and I do agree with the point that Colbert is usually trying to make.

On the January 15th he pointed out a use of statistics that the Bush administration is using. He stated that the armed forced exceeded their recruitment quotas this month by reducing the quota to 700 from 7000. Changing the quota meant that instead of falling 87%below the quota, the quota was exceeded by 23%. All you need to do to meet expectations is to change your expectations.

Colbert also mentioned a dog he used to have that peed all over the living room rug. Instead of trying to stop the dogs peeing, he told the dog to do whatever he wished. His expectations were now met and he had a good dog.

What Colbert says in jest is sadly the truth. We increase the graduation rates by making the passing grade so low that a good 5th or 6th grader could pass. We let kids who do no work make up courses in afternoon and summer school classes, where breathing is the only requirement to pass.


I had dinner tonight with a friend whose former school has been divided into "learning communities." The student body is just as big as it ever was, but on paper the school is smaller because each learning community is counted as a different school. Now there are classes with 38 and 39 students in them, because they are singletons in that community. Our wonderful union seems to have no problem with this.

One of the things she told me that distresses me the most is the treatment of special education students. In one of these communities, all the special education students are mainstreamed into math A, good old GW and his goal of NO STUDENT LEFT BEHIND. There are 38 students in the class. There is one teacher and no paras or aids. There is a girl in the class whose IEP says that her goal for the semester is to obtain 80% proficiency in understanding bar graphs. This poor kid is doomed to failure.

Instead of creating programs that look good on paper, the schools need to create programs that work and can help the kids.

This friend of mine retired in June. She wasn't really ready to retire, but she couldn't deal with the nonsense in her school anymore. All her classes weren't easy to teach. All her students were not good. These were not the things that drove her out. More and more experienced teachers are leaving because of all this bull sh** we are dealing with every day. Not only does no one in power care, but they are glad about it. One less experienced teacher means a lower payroll--two new bodies for the price of one. One less experienced teacher means one less teacher to question the actions of the administration. Besides, who really cares if the teacher is any good? A kid who can't read a bar graph or can't make change will never be able to succeed in math anyway. So what if the teacher is no good.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stereo Types

Ma and Pa Kettle Math

Math Fun

I really like doing math problems, but I realize that most kids, even the ones in my advanced placement class do not share my excitement so I try to come up with ways to interject fun into the lessons. I try to do this by taking everyday stuff, music, television, commercials or movies and try to convince my class that the foundations for these things began with math. Here are a few examples:

Draw a picture--Where do you think Kodak came up with the expression "A picture is worth a thousand words"?

Glade--Plug it in, plug it in, when it is necessary to replace a variable with a different variable or a number.

Jeopardy--When we are curve sketching and we start with the clues from the derivatives and second derivatives and end up with the function.

Related Rates--The Song "One Moment in Time"

Reimann Sums--Beyonce's new hit "To The Left, to the Left"

Removable Discontinuities--Jerry McGuire's "You Complete Me"

The creators of CSI thought of the show by looking for clues in math problems.

I tell my students to save money on movies, go to McDonald's with their friends on a Saturday night. Order from the $1 menu. Take extra place mats and bring plenty of writing utensils. Entertain can be had by figuring out "exciting" problems on the back of the place mat.

I also try to interject real math topics. For example, I tell them how L'Hopital actually stole his rule from the Bournoulli brothers. Of course I embellish it a little, but the idea is still there.

I know this stuff is corny, but it seems to keep the kids entertained and working at the same time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Book Thing

My daughter just introduced me to THE BOOK THING, a book "store" in Baltimore. I put book in quotes because everything in the store is free. The Book Thing was started by a guy named Russell Wattenberg. While managing a bar in the Baltimore area, a group of teachers came in for happy hours (not that teachers need to drink). He had just picked up a load of books and offered the teachers the keys to his van and told them to take what they wanted. He then realized that lots of people have attics and basements full of books they no longer want or read and he saw a lot of people with no money to purchase these books. The Book Thing was set up to give everyone free and easy access to books. There is no charge for the books. Donations are accepted, but they are not asked for or solicited. The only charge is a smile.

For more information see:


The Assistant Principal in charge of security eats lunch the same period I do. He is very adamant about having a duty free lunch. No one is allowed to talk to him about any school business and he gets upset if he overhears anyone talking about school. The reason I bring this up is that as he was enjoying his lunch on Friday, the cafeteria phone rang. Of course, it was his lunch period so he shouldn't be compelled to go answer it. He had no problem yelling across the room to the school aid (a woman who gets less than 30 minutes free a day when you count her clocking in time) to answer the phone. It might have been an important call for him. I guess in his opinion only school administrators are entitled to duty free lunches.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

Heard on Z100 radio, Friday morning, January 12 "Teaching has a higher burn out rate than any other." What a surprise!!!!!!!

Friday, January 12, 2007

DSL Teacher

I found a cocker spaniel that I really like in the library period 6 today. He tried to tell me that this was his lunch period, but I knew better. I've been trying to get an Arista Cat to buddy up with him, and try to help him pass some of his subjects, so I know his program and know he should be in a class period 6. When pushed, he admitted that he had DSL (Dog as a Second Language) that period. He told me, his teacher, Mrs. Bow Wow didn't speak Dog, and he couldn't understand her. Not being a big believer of a dog that cuts, I went to the DSL department and asked one of the teachers I knew if there actually was a Mrs. Bow Wow in the department. I was told "yes." I was then told that Mrs. Bow Wow speaks Dog with a very thick German Shepherd accent and her grammar is not very good, as she learned it from a French Poodle.

I think this dog might have better luck learning Moo from Mrs. Cow or Quack from Mr. Duck. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think a person that teaches Dog should be able to speak Dog well.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Visits from Returning Students

It's winter break in most of the colleges and my former students have been coming back in droves to visit. That feels great. My kids have never gone back to visit their old high schools and teachers. They were glad to be free of them. With all my bitching and moaning, I must be doing something right if they keep coming back.

Two of my former students from last year have decided to become math teachers. I hope I was part of the force to influence them in that direction. In spite of everything I write, I do think teaching is a great job. The money, while never making me rich, does provide me with a comfortable life style (I have simple tastes). The rewards are endless. Two kids that came to see me graduated three years ago. I was glad to see them with name tags (one of Principal Suit's good policies) so I didn't have to fake remembering them. Both are doing great. One is a bio-chem major at CUNY honor and plans to be a doctor. The other is a finance major at Johns Hopkins. Both have great memories of the AP class they were in and enjoyed the daily abuses I laid on them.

Over the years, I have had students returning from many professions. I am happy to hear that they have made it as doctors and lawyers, but the special education students who are now holding jobs as truck drivers and McDonald's workers make me equally proud. I am not naive enough to think that the math I taught them had that much influence on their lives, but I hope that by believing in them, by treating them with respect and by helping them get diplomas, I helped them become better human beings, human beings able to take care of themselves and their families and perform valuable services to their communities.

I read an e-mail someone wrote to NYC educator on interviewing for a Teaching Fellows position. The writer desperately wanted to become a teacher. I hope she did get her Fellow's position, but if not, pursues the career anyways. Teaching is not easy. There is lots of crap we put up with from administrators and from students, but it is worth it. Sure, I need a drink sometimes when I get home. But, lots of people need the same when they get home from work. The visits from my former students remind me why it is all worthwhile. For years, I talked about retirement, looked forward to the day I would no longer have to put up with the abuses of everyday work. Now that I have reached the age I know I am not ready for it. Teaching keeps me young. It is a big part of who I am. I thank these kids for reminding me of why I became a teacher in the first place.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another Memo

If you had very high failure rate during the second marking period, you should make an effort to briefly visit your colleagues who are teaching the same course and see what they are doing.....In almost all cases it is the level of expectations.

I am one of those teachers that had a high failure rate in one of my M&C classes. The other class had a very low failure rate. Maybe I should go visit myself to see how my expectations vary from period 8 to period 9.

Many of us are aware of the fact that seniors in most required courses do not do as well as sophomores or juniors. What are YOU doing about it since you already know it?! Have you spoken to their parents? Have you made sure they attend tutoring? Or have you done nothing besides conplain?

I don't think my AP wants to address the fact that there are serious reasons why seniors are still taking required classes. I, for one think, complaining is the best way to handle the problem. I can't force them to go to tutoring,and unfortunately most of their parents can't force them either.

I know most of these memos are not directed at me, but I find them insulting anyways. Why is everything the teacher's fault???

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

MY Big Day is Here

Well today is officially my "Teflon" day. I've hit the magic 55 and being Tier I with over 30 years in the system I know I can walk out the door whenever I want. I am invincible!!!! Principal Suit is lucky that I do love teaching and will not stop doing my job to the best of my ability but, he better BEWARE!!!! I am now a rain slicker on a stormy day. Everything he says can roll right off me. I am a silverstone frying pan, nothing sticks!

And My School Doesn't Even Have a Teacher's Lounge

Bangkok Office Introduces Daily Nap Time

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - A Bangkok municipal office has launched a new program to increase productivity: Lights go out just past noon and civil servants are invited to take an afternoon nap.

Seeking to infuse city workers with a bit more pep, the Pathumwan district office in central Bangkok has set up a lunchtime "nap room" with soft music, sweet-smelling flowers and strict rules barring mobile phones and talking, said Surakiet Limcharoen, the district's top official who started the program.

"I've been taking naps at lunchtime for a long time, and decided to introduce the project to my staff in November," he said, noting many use the naps to recharge their batteries ahead of evening shifts.

The Bangkok Post showed a photograph in its Monday edition of the nap room - a wood-paneled room with civil servants seated around a conference table, their heads down on desks with the blinds drawn.

Of 200 employees at the municipal office, there are about 20 regular nappers who have reported feeling "fresher and brighter" after a midday snooze, Surakiet said.

When they aren't sleeping, the civil servants handle all municipal matters for the district, including taxes and identification card registration.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bull SH**

I just heard a story on the news about kids who were in the country less than three years being required to take the same reading tests as students who were born in this country. The rationale behind this decision is that testing tells the policy makers what is needed to help these kids. I say BULL SH**!!!!!!!. The only thing these tests do is provide extra income for the test makers. If the powers that be really care about helping these kids succeed they will provide more money for smaller classes and provide more supportive services. The one thing the kids and the schools do not need is more testing.

I Don't Like Everything

I walked into an English class the other day. They were reading "The Grapes of Wrath". I read that book last year, because one of my AP calculus students recommended it and I like to show the kids I can do more than just teach math. It turns out that I didn't like the book. It was too flowery and descriptive for my taste, but the boy who recommended it and I still had an interesting discussion about parts of the book. I commented to the English class, that this book was not a book I was very fond of. My friend, the teacher, was not happy that I told the class this, but I really don't understand why. People tell kids they don't like math or science all the time. That is fine with me. Different strokes for different folks. We teach kids daily things that they do not like, but they have to learn them anyways. I like math, but I don't like every topic I teach, and I tell the kids when I am teaching a topic I don't care for. I love to read but don't like every book I have ever read. I don't think we can force kids to like the things we teach them. I tell my students that they learn for learning sake. They are young and need to be exposed to everything so that they can better choose what they want to study in college and what careers they want to pursue. Just because they don't like something, doesn't mean they don't have to do it. I think it is more important to let the kids know that teachers are people first, with likes and dislikes, just like they have. We all do things we don't like.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


The house next door to mine was torn down and is being replaced by a huge "McMansion", the biggest in the neighborhood. I live in NYC, where the plots of land in my neighborhood are only 60 ft by 100 ft, so the houses are small. This house has an extra 20 ft of land and the new owners have used every inch that the law allows. Although I don't like the house, I respect their right to do with their property as they wish. They seem to think, that because they have all this money to build, they have the right to do anything else they want, no matter whose rights it impinges on.

We tried to be good, welcoming neighbors. Weeks went by and the lawn was unmowed. When the grass was almost up to my waist, and we were still getting promises that it will be mowed soon, we were forced to call the city and complain. They must have received a notice of this because very soon afterwards they were out mowing in the pouring rain. A few hours after they left, a huge old tree in their back yard fell onto my property, barely missing my car and screen room and knocked some of the siding off my garage. We notified them immediately, thinking it was an accident. Although I couldn't use the garage for a few days, we waited until the tree surgeon they hired could come clear the mess. We didn't even bother them about the garage. My husband and I thought this was just an act of nature. My other neighbor swears the new owner probably tried to cut the tree down on his own and caused the damage.

Construction continued. Although it was noisy and dirty, we kept to ourselves. After all, these people were going to be our neighbors and we wanted to get along. While they were doing demolition, they asked us to move our car out of our driveway every day, just in case some debris fell. We obliged, even though it meant getting up early every day. While putting the roof on the house, the roofer dropped a 2 by 4 from the roof on the hood of my new car. The car was in the driveway--it was a Sunday morning. No work is allowed to be done then. The neighbor said he didn't want any trouble and didn't even want to go through insurance (he is probably using unlicensed contractors). He volunteered to pay for the repair and a car rental while the work was being done. Of course when he found out how much the work would actually cost, he was quite upset, but paid anyway. He offered us a little extra money to make sure the car was not in the driveway while they were working and promised to use licensed contractors from now on. Of course this did not happen.

Every time my husband speaks to him about the dirt on my property, he gets abusive. The other day, someone was throwing debris over the fence, into my yard. It only stopped when we threatened and did call the police. It turns out that the child of a worker was doing this. All he had to do was own up to the truth and stop, but he wouldn't do that.

About 2 months ago, we had some very heavy rainstorms. When I got home from work, my husband told me that water was pouring into the basement through the electrical box. A big part of my basement was ruined. It took Con Ed days to show up but when they finally did, we were told it was my neighbor's doing. He illegally cut the electrical line from his house to mine and left an open pipe in the ground. The pipe was working as a conduit for the water. We now must take him to court and once again, he is threatening us.

Today, Sunday, he is building the roof to his garage. It is illegal to work on Sunday. We called the city and made him stop. I listen to his banging six days a week, I will take my peace and quiet on Sunday, as the law allows. His workers also saw fit to use my garage roof to lean on while building his. We also stopped that.

I cried when the house next door to mine was ripped down. It was a great old house (same as mine), built in 1927 with stained glass windows and cathedral ceilings in the living room. Great mahogony beams crossed this ceiling. The people that sold it (were forced to move to Florida because of a job) loved the house. They spent tons modernizing and adding charm before they left. I cried, but I understood. Now I cry because of the people I will now have to call neighbor. My neighborhood consisted of teachers, nurses, police, fireman, etc, hard working people who got along and respected each other. Although we aren't all friends, we are all civil, have long conversations when we pass each other in the street and would generally do anything to help one another. If I could have one wish now, it would be for the family building this house to sell it to someone else. No one on my block has been royalty before. No one thinks they are royalty. There is no reason for this family to think they are any better than anyone else.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Material Kids

Maybe kids have trouble learning math lately but they have no trouble recognizing designer apparel. I was wearing an old pair of shoes yesterday, a pair that I picked up for about $20 in an outlet mall. I bought them because they were comfortable and I liked them. I could not believe how many kids thought I was wearing Prada shoes. My main experience with Prada is the Canal Street knockoffs I used to buy. One pair of Prada's would probably cost more than 10 pairs of shoes in my closet, definitely something I would not buy on a teacher's salary, even with the upcoming $750 bonus. How do kids know these things? And more importantly, why are they so impressed by them? Boy, has our society turned materialistic.

Warning Label

A good reason to learn to read!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tutoring Program?????

Back to tutoring in the library. Today was ridiculous. There was an English class in there so the library was closed to most students. After all, why should the librarians be forced to actually do some work? They might have to get up and walk around if there are a few more kids in the library. At least five kids told me they tried to get in for tutoring and were turned away. We have a tutoring program in name only. If anyone asks, it looks good on paper. Too bad very few kids are getting serviced. Principal Suit looks good. He'll get his bonuses. He might even be able to get a job as a hot shot, $1000 a day consultant when he decides to retire. That is all that matters.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Raising Expectations????

I heard that a student did something really gross today. He ejaculated in the math office after his teacher sent him out of the room. My chairman would tell the teacher it was her fault, she should raise her expectations and the kids will respond. Unfortunately, this kid was raising something else. I wonder if he thinks this is the teacher's fault too?

A Decent Suit

The only thing I really don't like about being an adjunct at the Community College is that I don't get to know my students. I am only there two nights a week, for an hour and half. While the people in the class are nice, and for the most part motivated, I just can't seem to get a handle on who they are and I don't like that. The students in my classroom are people and I always believed that the best way to reach people, especially people that don't like the subject you are teaching is to make a connection.

This brings me to my real issue. C is a young woman who was in my class last semester. She really struggled with the class, but never said more than two words to me until the end of the semester. She waited until everyone left and then came to me with tears in her eyes. She explained her math phobia problems and the fact that she had been working one-to-one with the math chairman for years. I felt bad for her. I gave her an extra week to hand in a take-home assignment and tried to give her encouragement for the final. Unfortunately, she didn't pass the exam, but did do better on it than she had on previous exams. I felt I had no choice but to fail her, making it impossible for her to graduate and go on to the four year college that had already accepted her (not one of the better schools, but a school that could give her a chance for success.) I got a very sad e-mail from her, again explaining her phobias with math and her efforts. Not really knowing her, I called the Chairman. I now know I Suit that I like and respect. This man, spent quite a bit of time on the phone with me. He said, "You are the teacher. I will not tell you how to grade. I respect what you do for the students you teach." After some prodding, I got the feeling that if it was up to him, he would have given her the D- she needed to graduate. I felt relieved because in my heart that is what I wanted to do all along. I not only changed her grade, but changed two other grades as well. I like to be fair and if she passed, I wanted to pass the two other people with the same sort of grades. This girl and the two others in the class are not going on to be mathematicians. They were just fulfilling a graduation requirement. I wish them all the best of luck in their chosen fields of study and am glad to not be the one to hold them back. I thank the Suit in charge of the department for getting to know this girl. He helped her pass the remedial math courses she needed and gave me the encouragement to pass her. Too bad there are not more administrators like him. The high schools could really use a person of his caliber.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why I Still Keep Teaching

I got home from vacation and found a Christmas cards from former students. One who graduated in 1985 and one who graduated in 1978. These cards and these former students are the reasons I keep teaching. I just called my 1978 student. She is now 46 years old and lives in North Carolina with her army retired, now mail carrier husband and her two children, ages 16 and 10. She was just 15 when we met. M was a favorite student. Everyone loved her, mostly because she loved school and loved learning. I got to know her really well and never realized that she was just a few years younger than I was. She had a terrible home life. Her dad tried to rape her and she watched her mom try to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. She had to barricade her room at night to keep the rats out. Her brothers ended up in jail and her sisters all were pregnant. But, there was something about M that kept her going. She cried whenever there was a school vacation. She was always clean and bright, although her apartment was often without hot water. She ended up getting a part time job working for Jim Henson while she was in school. She flourished there. I remember her walking me around the town house he used as an office and picking up some of the Emmies the Muppets had one. She was a poor girl who was making it. Someone in the office befriended her and helped her get into a good college. Unfortunately, she only completed three years there, but that is okay. She ended up joining a church group and being who she was, she immediately became a congregation favorite. She met her husband through the group, and followed him on two tours of army service in Germany. She succeeded where others in similar predicaments failed. I remember going to guidance and trying to get her help. Thirty years ago help was not available to abused children. I remember the guidance counselor telling me "Don't say anything to anybody. You will make her life worse." As a 23 year old inexperienced teacher, I took this counselor's advise and did nothing but stay friends with M and help her as much as possible. Thank goodness things are different today.

I will be old enough to retire next week. I have enough years in to collect a nice pension, but I am not ready to go. I will not let the Principal Suits push me out. I know I can still make a difference in a child's life and I won't stop doing it until I feel ready to go.