Saturday, March 31, 2007

School Oversight

The following is a copy of letter to editor in this week's Queens Chronicle. No matter what anyone says, Bloomberg is still blaming the teachers union for the ills of education.

Dear Editor:
This letter comes in response to recent criticism of two Assembly members, Cathy Nolan of Ridgewood and Ruben Diaz of the Bronx, because they, like others in Albany, want the best for the students of New York City. Let’s be clear, it’s not about the teachers union, it's about our kids. Just speak to the parents of primary school students who were given Metro Cards during the middle of winter and told good luck getting to school.

We know, as concerned and responsible parents, what our children need to achieve academically and obtain a balanced education, which, by the way, plays no part in “complete mayoral control.” Parental input is constantly provided and assumed to be wanted, but for the most part never utilized. The Department of Education is about to roll out a $15 billion dollar budget with revisions to school and pupil funding, while completely reorganizing the school system. All of this will occur without a formal public hearing effective July 1. Didn’t the DOE just reorganize a short three years ago? This is and should be a major concern for parents, and they should be up in arms to protect their priceless investment — their children — because a “mulligan” only exists in the game of golf.

Complete mayoral control just doesn’t work, and the school bus fiasco is just one prime example why. We can praise the efforts of our mayor and his administration to say good has come from the change six years ago, because we have a completely funded Five Year Capital Plan and new schools will be built. But the current test scores and citywide graduation results of the last few years do not reflect significant high school improvement, and most of our intermediate schools need improvement to prepare students for high school. Our mayor continually attempts to operate the DOE like one of his successful business ventures — only there aren’t any gains, and our children pay the price.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj,
vice president,
District Community Education Council 24,

Friday, March 30, 2007

Only the Best for Our Kids

Bloomberg is once again saying that he wants the best education possible for the children of NYC but, this education does not include small classes. I know that this man is not stupid. He can't really believe that children learn just as well in a class of 34 as they do in a class of 20. The only explanation for his not agreeing to smaller class size must be greed. He would rather put the cities money into his little pet projects than into the future of our children. According to an article in today's NY Sun Bloomberg is once again blaming the union and teacher tenure for all the ills of the school system. Will he ever admit that this is just not true? Will he ever come to a school and see what is really going on?

I spent some time today with Nut Job and boy could he be the poster child for small class size. When I first met him I thought he was brainless, disruptive and if not a hoodlum presently, definitely a hoodlum in the making. I've gotten to know he well and see now how wrong my first impression of him was. He is disruptive. He gets distracted easily, but, he is smart and he is not a hoodlum and will probably never be one. Smaller classes would help him. His distractions would be kept to a minimum. Teachers of smaller classes would have an easier time keeping him on track because they wouldn't have to deal with as many other students. I looked over a test paper that Nut Job just handed in. What he completed was excellent. He was one of the few kids that could successfully graph a parabola and a straight line, find the points of intersection and do the checks correctly. In spite of this, he still failed the test because he couldn't simplify the radicals that were also on the test. On the days those topics were being taught Nut Job was sneaking out of the classroom whenever his teacher turned to write on the board or help another student. Nut Job has taken a liking to me. Today, he walked into one of my classes and wanted me to help him with the radicals. Of course I couldn't do this, I had my own class at the time but what a saw was a sign of hope a sign that he really wanted to learn and do well. He just needed a little individual attention.

Not only are kids like this one not getting an education, they are the kids that will end up in trouble--either jail or dead on the streets, not because they are dumb or evil but because no one was able to reach them in high school or before. They will end up doing the wrong thing because every teacher in their lives only saw them as the disruptive, brainless kid who was good for nothing. Thirty four in a class just not allow us to really get to know them and to see through the exterior they often present.

I know this blog means nothing to Bloomberg and people like him. Klein and Bloomberg keep walking away from meetings where they will be forced to face this issue. Hopefully, one day, with enough people writing and protesting something will be done and the children of NYC will finally be able to get the education that they are entitled to get.


Other signs of a broken computer:
1. Marked test papers
2. Lesson plans
3. Home cooked meals

The Eleventh Plague

Comment a kid made during my calculus test today.

Ms. PO'd...The Jews wandered the desert for 40 years, but this test is worse than any of the hardships they suffered. If G-d should had sent it to the Egyptians as the first plague, then he would not have needed to send other ten.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Life Is Short

(click on picture)

Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you smile.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Value Everyone

One of the school aids came running over to me today and asked me to help her with a math problem. She was embarrassed to ask my AP because she thought he would have called her stupid (he's not always nice, but he wouldn't have done that--he just gives the impression he would). She needed me to show her how to calculate her weekly salary, which included a small raise and some over time. It was sad to see how little this woman got paid. I know we teachers feel we are underpaid, but when I see the salaries of school aids, security guards and paras, I feel wealthy, but this is a whole other post. Getting back to the topic, I showed her how to figure out if she had been paid for her over time or not. She thanked me a hundred times and then said something that hurt "I'm only good for making copies, I'm not smart like you." I immediately told her that what she said was false. Everyone has special talents, mine happens to be in math. I'm sure her strengths go beyond the copy room.

Our society tends to undervalue people that are not academically inclined. Many of those people are talented and good at things that people, like me, in academics could never hope to succeed in. It's time to let everyone know that it is okay if they are not book smart. They are still smart. They still have value and their value is equal to or superior to everyone. The whole concept of telling everyone that they should go to college is only pushing this myth of the "superior" educated people. A real NCLB law would encourage teaching that everyone, no matter what their job function is should be valued.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Helping Kids

I happen to share a lunch period with the resource room teacher of one of my students. This student did well last term, but this term she has been excessively absent and only got a 36 on the last test. I apprised the resource room teacher of this today. Her answer surprised me "What do you expect me to do? I am not her mother." To this I answered "I thought you wanted to know. You are always sending me progress reports." She then said "I would prefer you to fill out the reports I send."

I told her that I have 5 classes with 34 students each and do not have the time or the energy to fill out her reports. A two minute verbal report could benefit the child just as well, if not more, as far as I am concerned. I guess she didn't agree. Maybe she wanted the papers to file away so she could look like she was really trying to help. (I do think she cares about the kids, too). I want to help the kids. I don't care about how good she looks.

Dangerous Conditions? Not According to DOE

According to an article in this week's Queens Tribune, the DOE has two suspension trailers that sit several feet behind PS 173, located at 174-10 67th Ave. These trailers are the site that students in grades six through eight who have committed dangerous and violent infractions are attending classes and receiving "counseling". Parents, community leaders and elected officials are up in arms about he inappropriateness of such a site so near to an elementary school. DOE officials claim parents have no need to worry. These students are in totally different facilities with their own security guards, faculty and learning center and the dismissal times are different. To me and the parents in the community, this is just an incident waiting to happen.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On The Outside Looking In

Does anyone outside of a classroom really have a clue what it takes to make a student successful? I highly doubt that.

C-6 assignments "brought" to my school much needed tutoring. I leave the brought in quotes because for the most part it is tutoring on paper only. Up until this week, I had a little table, with dividers in the back of the library to work on. There was only room for six people to sit and no way to walk around. It was a good thing that the other teachers from different subject areas decided to skip this assignment because there would have been no way that English, history, science, etc,etc, etc tutoring could have gone on. After much complaining on my part, tutoring got moved to a better part of the library.

A very nice parent came to see me parent teacher conferences because his son gets help from me daily for his pre-calculus class. The parent thanked me and then asked why is son was still having trouble. I explained that I am only one person, tutoring sometimes up to ten kids on different levels. Although I can do the pre-calculus, there are topics I do not remember off hand and have to read the book. With a big crowd, I just don't have time. The same is true for the kids in math 6. There are some topics I just need to refresh myself on and since I have not taught this subject since the new curriculum came into being it takes me a while. The parent was shocked. He thought tutoring mean this son's topics would be the only ones gone over. He had no idea of what was really going on. He felt betrayed by the school. And, his son is one of the luckier ones. I know that some of the math teachers cannot do the pre-calc stuff and will not even bother reading the book.

Another parent whose child is struggling insists that her child comes to the library for help from me daily. No amount of talking to her could convince her that I would barely be able to help her with more than two or three questions and she should try to find an alternative.

I recently saw one of my failing students in the library. I immediately called her over and paired her with two other kids in my class so she could get some help. I told them to work together every day. The girl said "Ms, I only have tutoring on Thursday. I am excused from gym for math help." It would have been nice if I had been informed of this. I wonder how many kids are floating around that have been "excused" from gym and are not availing themselves of tutoring. Besides, even if she does come every time, how much help will I actually be able to give her?

Two years ago I came up with a tutoring plan that worked. I paired my calculus students with kids who were not achieving. My kids worked one-to-one with these other students. They became friends, e-mailed and phoned each other for extra help. It worked. I had a 100% success rate. I rewarded my students by putting extra effort into their college recommendations and by helping them whenever they needed help. This semester I have a Muslim girl tutoring a Spanish girl, an African-American tutoring an Asian boy and a Korean girl tutoring an African American kid. The kids are not only learning, but they are also looking past race, nationality and religion and seeing each other as valuable members of society, an integral part of education.

I would have liked to expand this program. But, Principal Suit likes seeing my name on paper as one of the library tutors. I just don't have the time or energy to continue. I still try to set up tutoring schedules for my own students but turn down anyone who is not in my class presently. I feel bad saying this to some of the resource room teachers who come to me, but I just can't continue at this rate. Maybe I am being selfish, but I want to take back my life. I want to have a free period to eat lunch and I want to have my prep period daily. I've come to the realization that I can't save the world and I am going to stop trying to. All the administrators and politicians that think they have the answers don't even have a clue as to what the problems are. Stop legislating and demanding and let teachers do what they think is right for their students.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Check This One Out

The sad thing is that I think this stuff could actually be going on.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Too Bad My Students Don't Do This

Rita studying for the AP exam.

My Kingdom

In my classroom, I am the reigning monarch. When I give an order, it must be obeyed. Luckily for my students, I am a benevolent monarch. I do not ask them to clean my car. Nor do I ask them to scrub my toilets or mow my lawn. I don't even expect them to spend hour after hour studying and doing homework. I do expect them to spend a reasonable amount of time on homework and studying. I do expect them to show up in class every day. I do expect them to pay attention in class. I expect them to go to tutoring if they need help. There is no beheading or dungeons in my kingdom but there are consequences for not obeying the Queen. Failing is the ultimate consequence.

A Ray of Hope

Parent-teacher conferences were today and yesterday. Mailing failing test papers home is the best idea I've ever come up with to get parents to come to school. Or, maybe it was the worse idea. I was inundated last night. This afternoon was a lot easier. I saw fewer parents and really had time to talk to them.

I spent quite a bit of time with Joey's parents. Joey cut almost the entire semester last term. And, when he did come to class, he did nothing. He did start trying at the end of the term, but it was too late. This term, he is trying. He is coming to class every day and carrying a sign in sheet.

The bad thing is that math is cumulative. It is hard to pass an exam that includes work from the term you decided to take a break from school. I was checking homework one day and Joey said that he didn't do it, but he thought about doing it. Although not the answer I wanted to hear, I said that is better than what you did last term so I am happy. Now, tonight, try actually doing it. What good would it have done to yell at him for not doing it? The old saying, "been there, done that" would certainly apply. I made a deal with Joey--just try. Do a little better on every test and if he got it all by the regents I would pass him. The first test of the term he answered 4 questions. I praised him and told him I was proud of his improvement. Next time, I expected him to get a few more correct. The next test, he got up to 10 right. Again, I praised him up the kazoo. I took out his latest test to look at while his parents were in the room. He didn't pass yet, but he had attempted 14 out of 24 questions. For Joey, that was unbelievable progress. His parents looked upset and asked me if he would pass. I told them I didn't know, but I was hopeful. I told them that Joey had faced failing so many times that the thing he needed most now was encouragement. Yelling and punishing hadn't worked in the past and it wouldn't work now. I told them that I thought we should try a new approach. They left, a little doubtful, but I hope I gave them hope. Sometimes a little bit of honey goes a long way.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Nice Lady

I was paying for my haircut today and talking to the hair stylist/owner about bringing my mom to her when my mom needs a haircut. She told me that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are senior discount days. I told her that her prices are cheap enough. She doesn't need to give discounts. In fact, I told her that although I don't want to pay more, she should really raise her rates. She is just too far below the going rate and she gives a great hair cut. He answer surprised me. "In this area there are tons of seniors. They can't afford to pay more. I don't want to hurt them."

I walked out of the salon thinking what a great lady she is. I gave her a 50% tip and still got a bargain.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Easing His Troubled Mind

No, this is not a picture of the toilet in my trailer. But, I am afraid this will happen so I always keep extra toilet paper in the desk, hidden under a bunch of books and papers. Yesterday I saved the day in the adjoining trailer by supplying them with this necessary supply. Not wanting to be caught short, I picked up two more rolls during lunch to bring out with me for my afternoon classes. People passing me in the hall looked at the paper and we laughed and made jokes. Principal Suit happened to walk passed me and said "Ms. POd, why are you carrying toilet paper?" I explained that the trailers often run out in the afternoon. I like to be prepared so the kids have no reason to leave the room. I thought he would say "Good idea" and then walk away. Instead he said "Where did you get them?" Did he think I robbed his private supply? Did it really matter where I got two lousy rolls of paper? Was he really worried about this? Could he have nothing else on his mind? Not wanting to stress him out anymore, I calmly said, "The custodian gave them to me." A big smile came across his face and he continued on his merry way. I was happy to be able to ease his troubled mind.

Report card day has arrived. Kids are being forced to face reality. No one can pass a class without passing exams. No one can pass without doing classwork. No one can pass if they don't do homework. No one can pass if they are not in school. No amount of "I'm sorry" or "I promise to do better" can help. Threats don't work either. One kid actually told me that since he didn't pass, he wasn't going to come to class anymore. (This was from a kid that begged his guidance counselor to get him into my class.) I said, that is fine with me. I now have one less test paper to grade and one less student to yell at for arriving late. Too bad, he didn't mean the threat. I know he will be back tomorrow. HE ALWAYS COMES BACK!

I had to fail one of my students for excessive absence. She gave me all kinds of excuses, begged and pleaded to be passed. I wouldn't bend. What did she do? Took off the next day to spite me! She came back today. We reviewed for tomorrow's exam. She sat and played with her side kick, refusing to stop, no matter how many times I told her to put it away. Another boarder line student got a 20 on a take-home quiz. He didn't pass either.

I lowered a student's grades for poor homework and classwork and for being generally disruptive. Instead of being apologetic and trying to do the right thing, he walked around the room and asked everyone if he was keeping them from learning, wasting almost 5 minutes of class time. A bright kid, but he doesn't get it. We went over the do now which consisted of 5 regents questions 10 minutes into the period. I asked one kid why he didn't do any of them? His answer, "I just got settled in."

Tomorrow is parent teacher conference. I know some of them are worried about what I will say to their parents. These are not stupid kids. Instead of worrying, they should be smart enough to do the right thing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The NY Sun

We just started receiving the NY Sun. We got an offer for a free year and hating to pass up a bargain started our subscription immediately. Truthfully, I just thought it would give my husband another crossword puzzle to do and I might even come up with a new restaurant to visit, but I was not expecting anything more.

I always skim over the paper when I get home from work and have found this newspaper to be ...hope you are sitting....PRO TEACHER. Today there is an article by Sara Berman asking why private schools employ mediocre teachers. (She heartily defends most teachers in the article) and ends with "I don't know how the teachers do it."

The front page had an article on Klein's school spending and while he has promised to cut beaucracy since his appointment in 2003 but has in actuality done the opposite. Even his planned budget cut of $73 million will only save money he was spending on the new bureacrats he hired. He reminds me of the shopaholic who saves $200 by spending $300 on things that they don't need to begin with.

Let's hope The Sun keeps on standing up for what is right. If it does, I will continue my subscription even when I have to pay for it.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

The guy in the adjoining trailer beats all my trailer stories heads on! He has to teach with an umbrella open! The melting snow is leaking down on his head! Wonder if getting a new roof on the trailers is in Bloomberg's budget?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Lack of Consequences

"I just came back from a meeting. On my way to my office I confiscated 2 hats, 3 i-pods and 4 cell phones. This school is a community. We have to take care of each other. Do not use these things in school. Teachers and security guards, if you see them being used confiscate them. If the student will not give them to you, take the students name. If you can't get the name, don't worry, we will find them later."
The above is a para-phrase of Principal Suit's sixth period announcement. I'm sure he feels that an announcement like this will make a difference. My experience says something else. The good kids will listen. The others will ignore him. I tell the same kids, every day, to put away these toys. They listen for a minute, or don't listen at all. The deans office does not follow through if I write the students up, so why bother? Even Principal Suit returns the confiscated materials to students daily, without any real penalties.

I walk past kids in the hall that are guilty of these infractions all the time. I don't' feel guilty about ignoring them. I can confront them, but what would I accomplish? The kid might take the hat off, or put the phone away for a minute. As soon as he walks away from me, I know it will go back on. He can choose to ignore me. If this happens, I must make a decision, do I continue harassing him and try to get him to do the right thing? This might mean sacrificing my lunch period, the only chance I have during the day to sit down. Or, I could just pretend the situation never happens. What does this do to my authority in the future when I try to get a kid to listen to me? I choose to leave my confrontations for the places that matter.

I do believe in rules. I just believe that I should be able to enforce the rules I set and there should be consequences for breaking the rules. Consequences should be uniformly dealt out. In my school, kids who disrespect a dean or an administrator are dealt with more severely than kids who disrespect a teacher. A school aid was threatened. She wrote it up and gave a copy to the principal and AP of security. Nothing was done to the kid. Another kid took the room pass and went to Arbies. He too suffered no consequences. A kid in my class walked out on my AP. Guess what? He got suspended. And the girl who threatened the pretty young dean? You guessed it again, suspended.

So, Principal Suit, stop interrupting our classes with your stupid, pointless announcements.

Mr/Ms Guidance Follow-up

Well, she go my point. She actually made the trip to my trailer to apologize. Now I feel bad that I made such a big deal about the whole thing. Bad, but not that bad. I'm too old to take crap from anyone anymore!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Address This!

What is the point of NCLB until this issue is addressed?

Dismantle NCLB

Ms. Whatsit has a post urging everyone to petition congress to dismantle the NCLB law. Please, read her post and sign the petition. The NCLB law does nothing to help our children. Its mandates put undo burdens on our children to perform at levels that some are incapable of reaching. It forces teachers to teach to tests, rather than to teach our students to think.

The school systems need accountability, but this law is not the way to go about doing it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


There is a kid in the trailer next to mine that is a real "nut job" He walks in and out of class on whim. He's been suspended a number of times. No one seems to be able to do anything with him. For some reason, this kid has decided he likes me. He came to visit me while I was tutoring in library last week. When he sat down, I said "K, I need a big favor. Your friend D is driving me crazy. I can't teach some days because of him. He makes all kind of wierd noises and tap dances in his seat. I was just about to send a letter home, but you know I like him. I don't want to get him in trouble. Will you please talk to him? Be his parent. I want him to pass math this term. He has so much riding on it. If he passes now, I can change his grade to passing from last term and he won't have to go to summer school." His answer surprised me. "Don't worry Ms. POd, I'll talk to him and take care of it."

By ninth period I forgot about this conversation. D came in the room and got right to work. He was probably the best behaved kid in the class. He told me K spoke to him and he was going to try. I couldn't believe that it worked. Unfortunately, by the next day things were back to the way they were before. But, one day was better than no days and I'll take what I can get.

On the plus side, after K and I had the library conversation about D, I said to him "I know you have a test today, do you need any help? Of course he said "I have a test? How do you know? What's on it?" I explained that his teacher was a good friend of mine. And, I know he had been given a review sheet with the same type of questions on it. "It's all on the sheets you got in class." K took out the sheets and carefully went over them. (Most of the kids in that class would not have the sheets by the next day or even by the time they leave the class on the day they are given out.) He asked questions about a few of the problems and quickly grasped the explanations. I'm willing to bet he passed the test. This kid, known as a "nut job" is really quite bright. He seems to have attention problems and difficulties focusing. In a school as large as ours, and in classes as large as his, there are just too many places for a kid like this to get distracted. Kids like K need smaller classes. Pissed off Mom talks about her personal experience with smaller classes. Her kids are lucky to have parents that are both bright enough and financially secure (or willing to go into debt) to provide a proper education for their children. Too many of the kids in NYC do not have this kind of parent. If the government is really serious about the NCLB legislation, smaller classes have to be provided for everyone who needs them. Kids like K and D are bright and should be afforded the same opportunities as everyone else.

Self Help

Before started venting on this blog, I vented to the newspapers, the local papers and the UFT paper and anything else that I could get to with a click of the mouse. Writing has always been my way of getting the stress out. Lots of my letters to the editor have been published. Teachers in my school are happy that I shared my trailer pictures with the world. (They don't know my site, but they know I shared them. I don't see any benefits of sharing this site with Suit.)
Now I am always hearing "You write so well, why don't you write about...

1. The ramp to the trailer with the wood that is falling apart.

2. The miserable conditions in the teacher's bathroom (filthy, no soap, etc.)

3. The Math A regents with no standards.

4. etc. etc etc.

What I don't understand is why some of these other people don't complain the way I do? They are all college graduates! They all know how to write! If others would stand up and demand things that are wrong be fixed, we might get somewhere.

So my message to all of you

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

The guy in the adjoining trailer to me is a great teacher, definitely, the best teacher in the school. He is absolutely brilliant and can teach any subject (and I do mean any subject) if he is just given 20 minutes to prepare. Most things he can just teach off the top of his head. This brilliance is not what makes him the best. That, combined with the way he relates to kids does. He can teach the top (BC Calculus class) and the bottom kids, He knows how to break things down to their simplest parts so everyone understands. He never talks down to anyone or makes them feel inferior. He spends hours every day preparing work sheets and worked out solutions to home works in his Math A class because he knows the Prentice Hall book he is required to use is worthless.

So, why do I write about him now? I just want to point out that being a great teacher does not mean you always have great classroom management. Yesterday was an interesting day. He has a very difficult ninth period class. Some days they are great, but others are just too stupid to be believed. Yesterday was one of those days.

The noise from his side was loud, even for that class. Next thing we see is a kid in the back of the room opening the door between his room and mine yelling "HE FARTED, HE FARTED!!! WE NEED AIR!" The kid kept fanning the door back and forth. My class, not an easy one either got themselves worked up over this event too.

We finally got our classes back to work when my back door opened again. This time only a rear end could be seen. The kid in the back of my room yelled "HE"S FARTING ON US!" Thankfully by the time we walked to the back of our classrooms, things settled down. I guess the kid finally finished relieving himself.

I always think, if someone wrote these things into a situation comedy on television, would people outside the teaching profession think the writers had gone too far? Would anyone believe that stuff like this could actually go on in our schools?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sheldon Silver and Charter Schools

According to an article in today's NY Sun Sheldon, assembly speaker, met with Cardinal Egan today and told the Cardinal, who came to ask for money, that his budget actually gave more money to parochial and private school than Spitzer's budget. The money would be used to defray the costs of special services mandated by the state. This budget came as a major surprise because Silver is not known to be an advocate of private schools.

The best part of the article was Silver's plan for charter schools. First, he wants to require every charter school with more than 250 students to unionize. He also wants to limit the formation of new charter schools to 50, down from the 150 Bloomberg wants to create. He is also denying Klein any say in the formation of these schools and charter schools should only be created when they do not interfere with existing schools.

Silver was able to claim he supports private schools by pointing to his $39 million.
Too bad more politicians don't feel this way.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dear Mr/Ms Guidance Counselor with 15 minutes experience

Dear Mr/Ms Guidance Counselor with 15 minutes experience.

TJ came to class today. When she walked in, I remembered failing her a few years ago. Nice girl, but did no work then, slept most of the time. I think I got her then because of a fight she had with another teacher. I asked her what got her to me this time. She said it was YOUR FAULT!!! You had her going to an M$4 class although she never passed the class before. Not only didn't she pass the class, but she never sat for the regents. She said you were sorry, but she was being changed. In fact, she said you told her Tough luck!!

So, Mr/Ms Guidance Counselor with 15 minutes experience, what do you plan to do about helping this girl catch up on all the work she missed? She is already years behind as she started this course at least three years ago. She is not a strong math student and missing almost three months work is not going to get her to pass the regents. My consideration does not involve either passing her in a class she does not deserve to pass in or giving up my time to help her catch up. You made the mistake, now you have to fix it. And fix it does not mean just changing her program.

Mr/Ms Guidance Counselor with 15 minutes experience, perhaps this girl is making the whole thing up. Maybe it really is her fault that her program got so messed up. But, I asked you two days ago for an explanation as to why the change was made. I'm still waiting to hear from you. Perhaps if I send a copy of this letter to your AP, you might respond quicker, but I can't bring myself to do something like that.

I am awaiting your reply.


Ms POd!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Note From Guidance

I received the following note today:

Dear Mr/Ms. POd,
I am adding T. J. to your class now. Sorry to do it so late in the term. Your consideration is much appreciated.


Guidance Counselor with 15 minutes work experience

To which I responded:

Dear Mr/Ms Guidance Counselor,


I know the counselor doesn't know me, but almost everyone else does. She could have at least figured out my sex if she wanted my consideration. Also, a little elaboration on the reason for the change might not have been a bad idea. I hope she got my point if and when she read my reply!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Are Teachers The Only Ones Held Accountable?

Students' test rulers don't measure up
Mismarked tools supplied by state create what teachers say is even more stress during assessments

March 13, 2007

Teachers now administering the state's annual math tests complain that, this year, Albany has come up a little short.


The problem: 1.1 million plastic protractors mailed out by the state last month with test packets are missing 1/16th of an inch from the four-inch ruler along the bottom of the angle-measuring tools.

Moreover, 1.6 million plastic rulers also sent out by the state are irregularly marked, with quarter-inch hash marks that are shorter than three-quarter-inch marks. Those lines are equal on standard rulers.

The State Education Department says it purchased the Chinese-made devices for $324,000 through a state-approved vendor, United Supply Corp. of Brooklyn, which did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Department officials first became aware of the flaws Feb. 28, through a call from a regional BOCES agency serving schools in the Syracuse area. In response, Steven Katz, the department's assessment director, wrote that the protractors and rulers were "the best plastic measurement tools that the Department was able to procure in the large volume required at a reasonable cost."

Eileen Welch, coordinator of math and science for the Brentwood school district, Long Island's largest, said the situation "just adds to the frustration and stress."

Like many colleagues, Welch fears the faulty devices could add to pressures on the more than 200,000 Long Island students already harried by hours of testing. Statewide tests for students in grades 3-8 began last week and continue through this week.

Scores won't be compiled until the end of this month. But education department officials who had hoped the measuring equipment would ensure uniformity in testing say they don't expect flaws to affect students' marks. These officials add that the protractors are used only for measuring angles, not lengths.

Mary Sennett, a math specialist who initially alerted BOCES to the problem says she's never seen rulers marked this way before.

Sennett, who works at a school serving Native American students 10 miles south of Syracuse, thinks it's ironic that state testing officials should suggest that flawed equipment is good enough.

"They are holding us to a very high standard within our district - we are expected to have most of the kids passing," Sennett said. "So now I think these people should be doing the best they can."



Number of plastic protractors that had 1/16 inch missing from the ruler across the bottom


Amount State Education Department says it spent on the state-approved devices, which were made in China.


Number of state-issued plastic rulers that had quarter-inch hash marks that were shorter than the three-quarter inch marks. On standard rulers, those lines are of equal length.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Memos From Suit

Punishment was severe. If a plantation
owner beat an Irish slave to death, the
only penalty was the value of the slaves
financial loss.
(indentured servitude)

Please include a "Do Now" assignment in every lesson. You might want to consider grading the assignment or granting contribution towards a student's grade for the marking period.

Now, I don't know where Principal Suit has been for the past 30 years, but these "Do Now" assignments are something that has been done since the beginning of time. Marking them, now, that is a different story. Aside from the time it takes to mark them (most teachers do want to spend at least 5 minutes quality time at home with their families), it takes too much class time to collect them and then distribute them again. This is not something I am willing or capable of doing.

Teacher volunteers will be needed for this effort (hall sweeps) and your participation will be greatly appreciated.

My participation will be appreciated? Will it be appreciated enough to let me leave a period early to make a doctor's appointment without having to pay back the coverage? Will it be appreciated enough so Suit will reconsider asking me to transfer? Will it be appreciated enough to release me from my C-6 assignment once a week? I think not!

The NYC Police Department and School Safety Division will be given a presentation....We are requesting you attend this presentation during one of the above periods if you have a non-teaching period or non assignment time....It is imperative that all of us be informed as to how to protect...

If it is so important for me to attend this meeting, why can't I go during a professional period? Isn't this meeting a professional topic? I already know how to secure my property, so it must be school property they are worried about. I, for one, am not going. I will not sacrifice my lunch or prep. It's a shame that lots of teachers will show up.

I'm tired of being treated like an indentured servant. It's time that we all start sticking up for our rights. Only when we all stop going along with these non-ending requests will something get done about them.




Sunday, March 11, 2007

Senior (Citizen) Pictures

It's time to take year book pictures again. The juniors are coming to school, all dolled up and ready to put on their best smiles. The film is rolling, bulbs are flashing and appointments have been made. The only problem is that the appointments have been made during ...MATH!!!!!!!
The kids have no say about when they want to take the picture. They are just sent the notice and told to show up. The juniors in my M&C class are gone all the time. Now, this is not good. These juniors are taking a class that they should have passed in ninth or tenth grade. Most not only need to pass this term but need a whole year more in order to graduate. Does anyone care that they are missing ...MATH? I've repeatedly told my kids that if they want to look anything like their graduation pictures and get out before they start collecting social security, they better buckle down, start studying and stop cutting. Why would anyone in their right minds schedule these kids to take pictures during ... A MAJOR SUBJECT??? My son attended an equally large high school. He made his own appointment for his pictures. He went and took them after school and ...NO CLASSES MISSED!!! Seems to me, my school can do the same.

Does Privatization Work?

In order to save a couple of bucks, the US government switched the maintenance of Walter Reed Hospital to private contractors. We all know how that has turned out. Our wounded soldiers are getting the shoddiest treatment around and healing in a sub human disgusting environment. Is this what Bloomberg and Klein will do to our schools when he turns them over to private contractors as well?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

NCLB --A Play That Should Not Be Missed

I just saw a great play that I will strongly recommend anyone in the New York area sees, especially teachers--No Child.... this is a one-woman show in the Barrow Street Theater, written by and performed by Nilaja Sun. Ms. Sun worked as a teacher artist in New York City for eight years and draws on her experiences from teaching to create this show. Ms. Sun accurately portrays teachers, students, the principal and even the janitor of the school. She points out all the things wrong with the NCLB law and calls the call to become a NYC a call to the lion's den. She moves from character to character flawlessly, changing her facial expressions and posture to match each person she is portraying. If you are like me and don't like to spend a lot of money for shows and are a member of TDF, you can even get discounted tickets here. Ms. Sun came out to talk to her audience after the performance. She was warm and outgoing, thanked us all for coming and even inquired as to where we were teaching. She said that her Wednesday matinee is usually full of school children (think trip, if your school allows it). Klein has come to see it, although he hasn't commented on it or acted like everything she portrayed was true. Bloomberg has yet to come.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Houston Teachers Asked to Return Bonuses

HOUSTON (March 9) - Almost 100 Houston teachers were asked this week to return parts of bonuses they received in January because of an error made by the school district that runs the nation's largest merit pay program.

A computer program mistakenly calculated their bonuses as if they were full-time employees, instead of part-time personnel, according to the Houston Independent School District. The error led to almost $75,000 in overpayments, with amounts ranging from $62.50 to $2,790.

The district said less than 1 percent of teachers were affected by the gaffe, but critics have said this is one more indication of what is wrong with a system that was unanimously approved by the school board last year over opposition from the teachers' union.

"It's just another example of how poorly thought out and planned the whole program was, so it's not surprising these kinds of mistakes are being made," said middle school teacher Steve Antley, who did not receive a bonus.

Even before the program was implemented, critics said it was flawed and divisive. Then, shortly after the district doled out $14 million to almost 8,000 teachers two months ago, officials realized they overlooked several hundred teachers, so they distributed $1 million more.

The district is to give the 99 teachers and other instructional staff affected by the latest error the choice whether to have the money deducted from a single paycheck or spread over 10.
But the local teachers' union president advised members not to give the money back at all.

"If it's the district's error, then the district should bear the loss," said Gayle Fallon of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

The district won't be able to take back the money unless teachers sign a form authorizing it to do so, Fallon said. "And if they direct them to sign it, we'll see them in court," she said.

George Bush


One of the teachers in my school buried her husband today. They were only married 10 years and he was only 55 years old. He was a terrific guy, the kind of guy that made the sun shine on the cloudiest days. He was always so full of life and energy. Once J walked in the room, everyone was laughing and having fun. My friend not only lost her lover, but she lost her best friend in the world today.

Lots of the teachers in my school wanted to go to the funeral. The church was nearby. Some were able to get coverages. There was a good turn out. The JROTC even provided a color guard. It was wonderful. J was a veteran and earned the honors that he was given.

My AP planned to go to the church. We had even arranged to go together. Ten minutes before we were to leave my phone rang. "Ms PoD, I can't go to the funeral. Principal Suit wants to meet with me now. I will call him and see if I can change the meeting to a later time." Not hearing from him, I called back before I left and got no answer. I assumed he was at the meeting and hoped that everything was going well there. When I returned to the building I went to see him and tell him about it. I also wanted to see if he was okay as he seemed a little upset on the phone. "Would you believe that I went to his office and he wasn't there. I have to go back later anyways!" It seems Principal Suit had a meeting outside the building but never bothered to cancel his meeting with my AP. I guess AP's matter as little to Suit as teachers do.

I don't know what his scheduled meeting was about and I don't know what he was upset about, if he was upset but he mentioned something that I hope is a clue to some of his bizarre and mean behavior lately. He was talking about another AP in my building that was taken out and placed in the Rubber Room. I know this guy's removal has lots of people on edge. If it can happen to one person, it can happen to another person. No one is safe from any of these charges, many of which are trumped up.

When J found out he was dying, he decided he wanted a memorial service instead of a funeral. He wanted people to come and say good things about him. I didn't think we should talk about him when he was gone, so I went ahead and wrote the eulogy and gave it to him. This started a long series of correspondences between us. Lots of his letters were incoherent because he was losing his mind, along with his body, but I know he enjoyed my letters to him. Here is the eulogy I wrote for him, minus the names.

When I first met M, I was on an anti social binge. I had all the friends I wanted—there was no room for anymore. But I felt sorry for her, started talking to her and discovered I liked her a little. Then I met J and it was love at first sound. J has more life in him than anyone I ever met. J talks so much that M told me that during a power failure, the apartment building uses his mouth as a portable generator.

The first time I met J was at a New Year’s Eve party at my house. I remember J was quiet when he first walked in, probably the only time in all the time that I know him that he was ever quiet. I remember being busy that night, but J, in his wonderful, outgoing way, made friends with all of Steve’s friends. In fact, S's friend’s always have a major super bowl party and all we heard was that he should bring J to the party. It took us a while to figure out who they meant since we really did not know him well then.

I got to know J really well at the JROTC balls. J and I would spend the night talking to the kids and taking pictures and socializing while M and S sat like wallflowers on the side. The strange thing about this was that J never met any of these people before, but it did not stop him from talking and from being totally involved with them.

Calling M has always been an experience. I used to try to call when J was at work, because once he answered the phone, no one else could get a word in edgewise. I could never call when I was in a hurry if I knew Johnny was home.

M used to complain about J’s driving all the time. I figured she was exaggerating, until Johnny picked me up one morning to drive me to school for our trip to Florida. A triple loop roller coaster ride would have been calmer than this drive. Now I knew why M liked to sit in the back when he drove. J is one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. I feel honored to have been one of his friends. I will miss him greatly.

Anyways, I didn't start this entry to bitch again. I just wanted to say Goodbye J... Rest in Peace.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What Went Wrong?

I know I make my school look like it is in a third world country when I write about it, but it is really one of the top schools in the city. We are so overcrowded because we are so good. Parents from all over send their kids here if they can. For the most part we have great students and a great faculty. The school is in a good location. It's safe. I can't blame parents for sending their kids here. I sent my own kids to schools we were not zoned for because my neighborhood high school does not have a great reputation. One of my kids went to a specialized school. The other one, an average kid got into the good school because I knew someone at that school in power. I can't fault parents who do the same thing or lie about their addresses so they can come to my school.

I used to teach in a school that was not too good. It took me an hour to get there and it was almost impossible to park. The halls were not really very safe. There were staircases that it was not advisable to walk in. Kids carried guns. One of my students was arrested with a sawed off shot gun one day. Another kid shot an FBI agent over the weekend. On fire drills, the kids lit real fires. I was happier there. In spite of all this, I liked the school and the staff. I got to school early, stayed late and never really complained. I'm still friends with all the people I worked with there and they pretty much feel the same way about teaching as I do.

So, why the change? Why is this nice, safe environment, ten minutes from my home, with plenty of parking making me so miserable so much of the time? Could it be this new NCLB law? I don't ever remember being told I had to have the majority of my class passing. I never got told to "raise my expectations". Kids sleeping in class was not my fault. No one ever told me to re-evaluate my teaching methods. I had a miserable AP back then too. If she didn't like you, she made your life miserable. Even if she liked you, she made your life miserable. But, she was realistic. She accepted certain kids were incapable of learning and passing. She knew some classes would not be quiet no matter what the teacher did. There was none of this blaming the teacher for everything that went wrong.

Why did I leave? I probably would have been one of the people they had to carry out when they closed the school if it wasn't for my two babies and my need to work closer to home. But, I guess that school would have changed now too. They too would feel the pressures of getting everyone to succeed, of being forced to have standards so low that everyone will pass. I guess I am just getting too old for this stuff. Maybe it is time for me to go.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Parody of NCLB--stolen from another blog--definitely worth reading!

No Dentist Left Behind

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don't forget checkups He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I've got all my teeth.
When I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he'd heard about the new state program. I knew he'd think it was great.
"Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said.
"No," he said. He didn't seem too thrilled. "How will they do that?" "It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as excellent, good, average, below average, and unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. The plan will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better," I said. "Poor dentists who don't improve could lose their licenses to practice."
"That's terrible," he said.
"What? That's not a good attitude," I said. "Don't you think we should try to improve children's dental health in this state?"
"Sure I do," he said, "but that's not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry."
"Why not?" I said. "It makes perfect sense to me."
"Well, it's so obvious," he said. "Don't you see that dentists don't all work with the same clientele, and that much depends on things we can't control? For example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don't bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem, and I don't get to do much preventive work. Also, many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay. To top it all off, so many of my clients have well waterwhich is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?"
"It sounds like you're making excuses," I said. "I can't believe that you, my dentist, would be so defensive. After all, you do a great job, and you needn't fear a little accountability."
"I am not being defensive!" he said. "My best patients are as good as anyone's, my work is as good as anyone's, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most."
"Don't' get touchy," I said.
"Touchy?" he said. His face had turned red, and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. "Try furious! In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average, or worse. The few educated patients I have who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating is an actual measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I'll be left with only the most needy patients. And my cavity average score will get even worse. On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?"
"I think you are overreacting," I said. "'Complaining, excuse-making and stonewalling won't improve dental health'... I am quoting from a leading member of the DOC," I noted.
"What's the DOC?" he asked. "It's the Dental Oversight Committee," I said, "a group made up of mostly lay persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved"
"Spare me," he said, "I can't believe this. Reasonable people won't buy it," he said hopefully.
The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, "How else would you measure good dentistry?"
"Come watch me work," he said. "Observe my processes." "That's too complicated, expensive and time-consuming," I said. "Cavities are the bottom line, and you can't argue with the bottom line. It's an absolute measure."
"That's what I'm afraid my parents and prospective patients will think This can't be happening," he said despairingly.
"Now, now," I said, "don't despair. The state will help you some."
"How?" he asked.
"If you receive a poor rating, they'll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out," I said brightly.
"You mean," he said, "they'll send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience? BIG HELP!"
"There you go again," I said. "You aren't acting professionally at all."
"You don't get it," he said. "Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score made on a test of children's progress with no regard to influences outside the school, the home, the community served and stuff like that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think of doing that to schools."
I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened. I'm going to write my representatives and senators," he said. "I'll use the school analogy. Surely they will see the point."
He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I, a teacher, see in the mirror so often lately.
If you don't understand why educators resent the recent federal NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT, this may help. If you do understand, you'll enjoy this analogy, which was forwarded by John S. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools for the Lancaster County, PA, School District . Be a friend to a teacher and pass this on.

All I Want For Christmas Is A New...

Memo from my AP:
Make sure you lock all doors when you leave the room.

Ms. POd: Mr. Supervisor, I told you, my door doesn't close. It doesn't sit right in the frame anymore.

Mr.Supervisor: Just push it shut from the outside when you leave.

Ms. POd: But, I told you, it doesn't fit right. It is too hard to get it in right. Besides, every time someone comes in or out, I have the same problem. There is a permanent draft in the room.

Mr. Supervisor: Have a student do it if you can't. The kid can close door from the outside and then walk around to the other trailer and re-enter through that one.

Ms. POd: It is not safe. Anyone can walk in from the outside. Besides, sometimes I am there after the kids leave.

Mr. Supervisor: What do you want from me? I have given you alternatives. You choose not to do any of them. Why do you always complain so much?

Ms. POd: I want a door that closes properly. But I guess that is too much to ask for in this place.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bloomberg Cares

The Mayor is spending $80 million on a massive computer to track kids progress. He is saying our kids are worth it.

My kids don't even have a classroom with a door that closes. Last week it was possible to yank the door shut, now it doesn't fit squarely in the frame anymore so we are permanently open. At least if the room gets too hot, we can enjoy the natural air conditioning. It's great having that fresh air on a morning with temperatures near zero degrees.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Bitching time again! I found a notice this morning that one of my students has been suspended with a note to send work and an evaluation form within 24 hours from receipt of the letter. Now, being a math teacher I know that 24 hours would bring me to Tuesday at 6:50 AM. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang in my class at 2:00 today telling me that the dean in charge and the parent had struck a deal. The suspension would start immediately and I should send work now. It didn't seem to matter that I was teaching a class at the time and that my day ended at the end of that class. Very politely I told her that the request could not be filled. She then asked me to send a work sheet. Sorry, I said, I don't have a work sheet for today.

So now, the kid sat in the suspension room without a math assignment. I'm sure he couldn't have done the assignment after missing the class, but no one cares about that. The only thing that matters is the piece of paper that makes it look like the school is doing its job.

This kid is a troubled kid. He is doing much better this term than he did last term and I have good feelings about him being able to pass in the end. My piece of paper today would have no effect on his ability to learn. In fact, if I did have a work sheet it might have frustrated him rather than help him.

When the suspension is over I will do whatever I can to help him catch up. I'm just not willing to jump through hoops to make the school look good.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Reputations. Once you get one, it is hard to live them down. I know. For years, my school looked down on my math skills and my ability to teach higher level classes? Why, you ask? Well, because I came into the school to teach special education students math. I like teaching the lower end kids. It feels good when they succeed, when you finally break through that thick barrier that has prevented them from succeeding in the past. But, as things would have it, the special education AP did not like me and I got sent to the math department to teach. After all, I do have a math license. For years I taught the bottom of the mainstream. I worked hard and eventually moved up the ladder to teach the AP Calculus class. So now I have a reputation as being a great teacher. It still doesn't seem to matter what I do because now I am good and nothing I do seems to ruin my reputation as a teacher either. My AP came in to do his little snapshot observation last week. My class was its normal crazy self. When I told a kid to take off his hat (which I never do) he even said, "what are you getting so bent out of shape for? You always let us wear hats.") I had to get in his face and scream like a crazy person to get him to take it off. Of course the other kids knew about it and were laughing. I had two kids sleeping while he was there and another reading a magazine.

I went to talk to him about the lesson on Friday. He said, "Everything is fine. You are doing great with these kids. Keep up the good work." This was especially interesting because his latest memo chastised teachers who had the same kind of things going on in their classes.

Sometimes I feel like a fraud in the classroom but, since it took me over ten years to build up the good reputation I figure it will take me that many years to lose it and I know I will be long gone by then. I don't want to lose my good reputation but I would like to see all teachers treated equitably. MY AP should have the same standards for all of us.

Real Life in a Cartoon

I just caught the beginning of tonight's Simpson's. The Principal and someone else (maybe the mayor or the chancellor)were turning away a family of kids who had never been to school because they did not want their scores lowered. Lisa Simpson catches wind of this and sets about writing a news article to expose this cover up. Unsure of how to stop her, they think of offering her a bribe, kind of what Bloomberg just did by hiring a parent to work with him for $150,000 a year. Now Lisa Simpson is a cartoon personality with character who cannot be bought off so easily (they think of offering her a Gap gift certificate) so they come up with another way to dissuade her, making her a tutor and working on her ego issues.

It's funny how a kids cartoon, like the Simpson's echoes real life.


A few weeks ago I posted a story about one of my students. I decided he should see it and e-mailed a copy to him. Here is the response I got.

THANK YOU FOR THOSE WONDERFUL WORDS ms pod u no that ur favorite teacher i pass that test only for u because the way u encourage me i was like that's it watch i'mma pass her test that why i studay so hard but ms i like u alot and i will do anything to make u happy ms thank you for everything

This little e-mail is my reason for teaching. This is my "teacher of the year award."
Now, I've got to get him to work on his writing!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Beldon Nosely Incorporated

Just because a kid isn't a good student, doesn't mean he can't make it as an entrepreneur.

My husband reminded me of one such student I taught years ago, Beldon Nosely. Beldon used to get dressed up as a long shore man and go down to the docks at night to unload the ships. Every 5th box or so would end up in his friend's car. The day after this adventure he would come to school selling his take from the night before, sometimes radios, gloves, sweaters, etc. My favorite was watch day. He would just roll up his sleeve and offer everyone around the time. I wonder whatever happened to him. He is either a millionaire or in jail or maybe even underground. I'm hoping for the millionaire thing.


I found a blog from NYC Ed that kept saying teachers did not need job protection. Wanting to see what kind of person would say these things, I clicked on the link. I'm not adding it here because the things this person wrote were not the kinds of things I would want to share with anyone.

The basic premise of this blog is that anyone can be taught to do anything. If people have not succeeded over the years, it must be the fault of the way they have been taught. Any obstacles, such as poor parenting, poor genetics, poor living conditions can be overcome with the right teacher and the right teaching technique. Every person that fails is a failure because of the system.

While I agree that the system has many, many faults and kids do fail because of it, I find it ridiculous to lay the entire blame here. First off, people are born with different intellectual levels and different abilities. While it is not up to a teacher or a test to exactly determine what these abilities are, they do seem to show up in a person as they mature. Once a child reaches high school, they probably have a good idea of some of the things that interest them. They might have already decided that the classroom is not the way to go for them. By constantly pushing academics down their throat, we are creating a hostile atmosphere to work in. Kids who can't succeed often act out. It is better to fail because they want to than to admit, they cannot do the work. Bright Minds wrote a piece about why it is no longer safe to teach in public schools. I know schools are not what they used to be. When kids could take courses that interested them, they did better and some of the problems we see today did not exist. That is the reason programs like Boces offer alternative programs with career and technical courses. I know someone who took hairdressing there and is now following a wonderful career path. Because she found a reason for school, she is also now attending college and getting a degree in business and hoping to open up her own shop one day. Another boy I know decided that academics wasn't for him either. His parents supported his desires and he has become a chef. What would have been the point of forcing Shakespeare and quadratic equations down his throat?

One of the comments on this blog pointed out how Einstein failed elementary math. Big deal! No one told him to give up because of this. He still followed his interests and found his calling. Stopping an academic education is not the prerogative of any educator. I've seen many bright kids fail in high school and go on to earn PhD's and other advanced degrees. But, we have to realize that there are kids that just can't do the work. Last year I worked non stop with a boy who needed to pass the Math A regents to graduate. He managed to pull out a 65 (with a little marking creativity). He graduated and is now in a junior college where he is struggling like crazy. His frustration level is at a new high. The only one benefiting is the psychologist he sees on a weekly basis. This boy has lots of strong skills. He loves cars. He loves to drive. What would have been so bad if he became a chauffeur? If he drove a truck for UPS? Doesn't society need people to do these things too? By pushing a college education on everyone we are creating a generation of liberal arts majors whose only training is to ask if you want fries with that.

There is more to life than what is learned in the classroom. I stand by what I wrote about learning ceilings. Everyone, including the authors of that blog have them. Every one's learning ceiling is different. It is up to the individual to know when they have reached it. And a young child should never be told he has reached his. We have to change they way we think about society and start valuing the person who cleans our toilets as much as the person who defends us in court.

Parent Blog

I just found a great new blog--NYC Public School Parents. this blog is written by two real NYC parents, patrick Sullivan and Leona Haimson, not parents on the Bloomberg payroll or with children going to his elite schools. All NYC residents need to put this blog on their daily reading list.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Klein and Bloomberg

Klein had a meeting with some parents this week. I only saw a little of it, but what I saw was distressing. A parent asked him how he could have been so callous about changing bus service and leaving 5 year olds with no way to get to school. He side stepped the question by talking about the waste in the money the city is spending on buses and mentioned how it is much more important to put the money into the classroom. Too bad the parent didn't ask him how money in the classroom would help her child, if the child could not get there.

I know no money is being put into my classroom. I don't have shades on the windows or a door that even closes properly. There is no security. Anyone can walk in off the street. My students can do as they please when they walk from the building to the trailer.

I guess I shouldn't complain. Bloomberg is still setting up lots of little schools and giving and giving fields away to wealthy private schools. I guess they are more deserving than the average NYC student.

Floods Again

It poured today. Of course the paths to the trailers were flooded and trailer classes were moved to the auditorium. Not wanting to waste time, I left my class briefly to go make copies of an old exam I could let my kids practice on. Of course that was the time someone was looking for me. Luckily, it was a school aid that I get along with, so no harm was done and no one knows I left.

By fifth period when I looked out a window I saw the sun was shining. I called the APO and asked if the trailers would be open for afternoon classes. "NO, IT IS STILL TOO WET OUT THERE!" Being the cynic that I am, I went out to check for myself. Guess what I found? Dry path (except for two little puddles!) I again asked if the trailers could be opened. The APO told me to go tell her secretary. Her secretary said "It is not my call." I told her I was just repeating the message her boss gave me. She mumbled something under her breath and walked away from me. Within five minutes there was an announcement that trailer classes would resume in the trailers.

The thing I can't figure out is why no administrator thought of taking the walk outside to check out the situation for themselves.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Not All Fun and Games

A few of my seniors have been accepted at West Point for next year. It is a great honor and they are really excited, and nervous at the same time. West Point invites perspective students up for a few days to get a feel for the campus. The kids have a great time, living in the dorms, participating in sports and attending a few classes. They come away with the feeling that West Point is going to be all fun and games.

Although I am not a fan of the military, I believe everyone should follow their hearts and do what they want with their lives and if they want to be in the military, they should go for it. My problem with all of this is the way West Point is presented to them. It happens to be one of the most demanding schools, both physically and academically around. While they might enjoy their experiences there and will probably look back on them with fond memories, the four years they spend there will not be fun.

The kids are also being told they will not have to face any combat if they don't want to. Everyone knows this is not true, yet the kids are being fed this pack of lies and they are believing it.

I know our country needs excellent military leaders. These two kids have the potential to be just that. I know no one sells a product by advertising the bad parts of it, but, when a child's future is at stake, they need to be told the truth and have their eyes wide open.