Monday, April 30, 2007

Open The Book

To encourage my students to buy the $3.00 regents book, I give a 10-point quiz from it every day. I told them when we have 10 tests I will add up the points and count it as a test. Most of the kids like the idea and have been responsive. To get them interested, I started with the easiest questions. If the kids don't have a book, they can't take the quiz. Friday, I watched a kid trying to hand in a paper without opening his book. When I confronted him, he didn't say much. I then said "In the past, you must have had some pretty stupid teachers if you got away with a trick like that." He looked at me and said, "You're right, I did. This stuff always worked in the past." I told him, "I've either done or seen every trick you can come up with. Better start working now." He just looked down and started drawing pictures on the paper. Maybe he still won't learn any math, but at least he learned that he can't always get over.

Thanks Principal Suit

I write lots of bad stuff about Principal Suit so even though he doesn't read this blog (at least I hope he doesn't), I would like to publicly thank him for his kindness and humanity in my time of need.

I approached him today about FMLA. He told me that the school would work with me. that alone will help to make things easier.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Super Hero

I grew up thinking my dad was a super hero. I haven't thought that for a long time. Like most daughters, I just took my dad for granted. Watching him this week and spending hour after hour with him at the hospital has reminded me of his super hero powers. My dad worked two jobs. He wanted to provide his children with everything they needed and wanted. He wanted my mom to be home full time with his daughters.

When I was little, there was nothing my dad could not do. He would go to the mail box after work and pull out letters I got from the animals in the zoo. It never occurred to me that they only wrote when he was around to read them. I just knew there would always be one when he got home. He always knew how to make two pennies magically appear in the change holder of a pay phone and always handed one to me and one to my sister. When hoola hoops were the fashion, and every store was sold out, he found them for us. Only my dad would spend an hour on the subway carrying two hula hoops for his kids. When my daughter wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll, dolls selling for 4 or more times their value on the "black market", my dad got her one. He worked in Macy's and got his associate in the toy department to hold two for him. That's my dad, filling any need that needs filling.

Even as an adult, my dad never lets me down. When my son was in the hospital, and I was scared, he flew to my side. When my son was a baby, he came every week to watch him for a few hours to give me a break. He had never changed a diaper before this boy was born but, he learned and changed his grandson's, never complaining. When my idiot sister needs money to save her house from foreclosure, he races around to banks to get her the money. This one he does complain about, but he never lets her down either.

My super hero dad is falling apart right now. He goes to the hospital every day and stares at my mom, in her unconscious state, hooked up to all her tubes and he cries. My mom is his Achilles heel. He loves her so much and every day he is dying a little more inside. My mom is very sick, but the doctors think she still might get well, or at least get better than she is now. Today I made him go home at 3:30. He had been there since 9:00. He feels he is deserting her when he leaves, although she has no clue that he is there. I don't know how to help him. I buy him little treats and try to spend as much time as I can with him, but it only helps for a short time. I try not to cry in front of him. Even my mom's doctors and nurses are worried about him. I love my mom but I want her to get better because I love my dad. She is not in any pain. She is not suffering. He is. I want his suffering to end.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Show Must Go On

It seems that my school is losing points in the rating systems due to the number of regents exams our students complete by eleventh grade. We give the American History exam in January of their senior year, so that puts us at a big disadvantage. Too bad no one cares that our grades are some of the best in the city. To compensate for this, Principal Suit has decided to give the Math A regents to all kids who never passed it and are in the tenth grade or higher. Some of these kids are running single digit averages in the first term of a four term sequence. So what do we accomplish if we get some of these kids to pass? Our stats go up. The kids still know nothing. And, the worse part is we are rubbing salt into the wounds of the poor kids who know they are not capable of passing this test. But Principal Suit wants his performance bonus. I guess he doesn't care how many innocents are being knocked down along the way.

Friday, April 27, 2007

CSA Agreement

I am sure you have had by now that the CSA has reached an agreement with the DOE. The Principals are now held accountable for the performance of all students. That includes the bottom students. We will be judged heavily on how well we help the bottom students learn. It is time we all learn the best practices and help out all the students, particularly the bottom student.

I don't know why my AP thinks that we teachers will care anything about the CSA agreement or that Principals are now held accountable for the performance of all kids. Principals might be judged on the kids performances and this judgement could possibly lead to job termination or big bonuses. I fail to see how this judgement is going to affect me or any other teacher. I have tenure and so far my union has not given that away. I will not receive a bonus, no matter what my students do on standardized tests.

The teachers I know have always worked hard to get their low level kids to achieve. They care and do all they can to guarantee the kids success. They will continue to work, not so Principals can get more money, but so kids can go on to have good lives. There is a part of me that would like to stop working so hard. I resent the bonuses these administrators will be getting on my back, but I can't stop working. I like my kids too much. I want them to do well. I want them to be a success.

In the past, the lowest level classes were always given to the newest or the worst teachers. If a teacher was pregnant and the administration knew that the teacher was not going to finish out the year, that teacher got a low level class. If a subject had to be taught by an out of license teacher, that teacher too got the low level. Our neediest kids got the neediest teachers. The only benefit to the kids I can see with this new plan is that administrators might stop this program and start putting teachers in these classes that can make a difference.


To relax after a long day at work and the hospital, I watched My Name is Earl last night. For anyone who hasn't seen it, Earl is an uneducated red-neck type of a guy who found a winning lottery ticket. He believes in karma and he is trying to make all his karma good by fixing all the bad stuff he has done in his life. Last night Earl went back to school. He found all his teachers were burnt out and had stopped caring about whether anyone learned or not. This really bothered him so he went to find out why. He heard about all the horrible things the kids had done to them over the years and decided to become a substitute teacher to help change the kids. He found out the hard way that talking to these kids didn't help. He ended up having to pull the same sort of tricks on them that they pulled on the teachers. The final point was when the teachers tried to make a kid's car play "I have a small penis", the car blew up instead. This scared the sh**out of the kids and they in turn started respecting and responding to their teachers properly.

Of course, no one with only some high school. like Earl, will be able to teach, but the point of the story was good. Teachers need respect in order to do their jobs well. There has got to be a way to do this without blowing up cars. Maybe there is even a way to scare people like Bloomberg and Klein into giving teachers the respect they deserve.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Six Year Plan

According to an article in today's Newsday, almost one-third of all NYC high school students are on a six-year track to graduate high school. This is great. Under Bloomberg-Klein tutelage, this is down from 44%. Still, too many kids left behind! Suburban and wealthier schools are doing better. Could this be attributed to smaller classes and better resources???? Could it be that suburban parents have more money available that allows them to hire private tutors? I have a friend in Hewlett whose son is a resource room kid with lots of problems. He has small classes. Because of this, his teachers always have time to contact his mom about potential problems. His school has on-line learning systems which can enable his teacher to check work done from remote areas. Not only don't NYC kids have access to this, teachers don't have access to in school computers. My school has a staff of over 300 teachers plus paras, school aides, etc. Our teacher center has FOUR computers!

To help NYC school kids stop lagging behind we need small classes. We need better resources and we need curriculum that are better suited to the needs of our students. Not everyone is meant for college and we have to stop pushing everyone in that direction.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


My mom's illness has really made me think about the true meaning of love--not the love a mother feels for her child but the love a man and a woman feel for each other, or should feel for each other when they marry.

My parents have been married for 58 years. While I wouldn't say that every moment was wedded bliss, I would say that they have a wonderful marriage. They are each other's best friends. They shop together, eat together,play games together and watch television together. They only go to movies they both want to see and if there is someplace my mom really wants to go, my dad will go along, kicking and screaming, but going nevertheless.

My dad goes to the hospital every day. He gets there before 6:00 AM and stays until 7:30 PM. The last few days before the surgery, my mom didn't even know he was there, but that didn't stop him. Now, she is still sleeping from the surgery, but he goes anyways. He stares at her bruised and bandaged body and talks about his beautiful wife and how much he loves her, how great their life was together, how he wants her back, even if she is crippled or can't talk or anything. He talks to her about bringing her home, bringing the wheel chair up to the apartment and walking her around there. He promises her he will wheel her into the bathroom and bathe her body and wash her hair. He even promised her to get rid of the years of accumulated stuff (old tv guides for example) that have been driving her crazy for years. He'll do anything if she will just get well and come back to him.

My parents never had a lot of money. My dad worked two jobs because he wanted her to be home with us his kids. Money was never that important to either one of them. We always had enough. We were rich--not in money but in love. I am lucky, watching my parents enabled me to find a husband as good as my dad. My kids often tease him and say that he is just like my dad. Until recently, I saw lots of my dad's faults in him, but these past weeks have done more to point out the strengths than anything else.

My husband has been coming to the hospital with me every day since we got the call last Wednesday. Not only does he come, but he stays in the room with me all day long, only leaving to accompany my dad to the cafeteria. He patiently waits until my dad is ready to leave at the end of the day and makes sure he gets home okay too. He talks to doctors for them and flirts with the nurses and nurses aides to make sure that my mom is getting extra good treatment. It's not easy to be there. We all cry a lot. And the room smells awful. Even when my mom was ranting, he never left.

My sister drives me crazy. He defends her. At first I got mad at him for doing this. After all, if I did what she did, he would go ballistic on me. I realize now that his defending her is a sign of love for me. She is my family and he is just sticking up for me by defending her. I know when this is all over, he will go back to talking about her the way I do (behind her back).

Some people need gifts of flowers or jewelry as a sign of love. I don't need that. I don't need constant hugs and kisses to know I am loved. Like my mom, I found a husband that will sacrifice all to make me happy. When (and if) my son and daughter decide to marry, may they both find spouses like my mom and I did.

Call Me.......NOT!

Last time I checked teaching was not a job that required us to be on call 24/7. When Bush visited a charter school in Harlem last week he said that one of the best things about the school was that the parents had the teacher's cell phone numbers so they could get information about their child anytime they wanted it.

It's a good thing I don't have any intention of transferring over to a charter school. My cell phone is strictly for my family's use. Up until my mother's illness, I never even gave the number to my sister. Even the few friends that use my cell number know to use it only if the matter is urgent.

These politicians need to get real. Teaching is a job. When we go home we should be able to leave that job behind. Private lives are important too!

Monday, April 23, 2007


I have to be careful what I write here. I found out that my daughter reads this blog. I know that I showed it to her, but who would think that my kid would care enough about anything that I write to actually read it. I found out about her reading it when I called to tell her about my mom. She said she knew. She read it on the blog and was angry that I told the world before I told her. I tried to tell her that no one really reads this thing, but she was still a little annoyed with me. So now, even though I am writing this the night before the surgery, I won't post until tomorrow.

My mom has been going steadily down hill. The doctors seem to think that she can still come out of this. The surgery might bring her back to the way she was before. If she didn't have so many things wrong with her it would be a nothing operation. The thought of an operation is making her crazy! She is saying things that make no sense and crying all the time. She is fighting to get out of bed and giving everyone a hard time. This is not my mother's personality. The worst part is my dad. He is suffering so with her. I know that if she doesn't make it, he doesn't want to live either. Today, for the first time he told me that he would be okay, it would just take a while. I hope he means it. I ask myself why she is suffering so? I wonder if it is G-d's way of making her passing easier for my dad and my sister and me. Although we don't want to lose her, we will be relieved when her suffering ends. It is just so hard to take.

My mom's sister is always talking about Rabbi's and their beliefs. I know she means well, but when she tells me that my mom will be okay because the Rabbi is praying, I have to hang up the phone. On Rosh Hashana we pray that although our fate is written, prayer and repentance can change a severe decree. This doesn't work. I watched too many good, repentant people pray and die.

I want my mom to be okay.....I want my dad to recover from all of this. I want my sister to stop feeling guilty for all the stuff she has done or not done during her life. I want the pain to stop for all of us....

Mom had the surgery today. She had an awful day leading up to it. She was hallucinating,ranting and thrashing around all morning. I don't think she knew who any of us were. I've never seen anything so awful and at one point had to leave the room because I knew I was going to start crying and wouldn't be able to stop. My husband has been wonderful. He has sits with me non stop threw this entire ordeal. He has even been great to idiot sister. She left her medicine at my house and he had to go back to Queens from the Bronx to get it for her. He never complains. Idiot sister is serving a great function too. I have no nursing skills. Even when my own kids were little, my husband changed diapers. My sister has helped clean my mom, feed her and do everything possible to keep her comfortable. And, although she gets on my dad's nerves, I know she has been a comfort to him, staying with him. Mom came through he surgery fine. We have to wait to see if it will actually do any good. She is sedated tonight because she is fighting the breathing tube. The nurse said that is normal. The only good part is that we finally got my dad to go home and get a good night of sleep. He is exhausted. I don't know how much longer he can go on like this. I just pray that there will be a happy ending for all of us.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Conversation With A Ginger Kid

Me: Jay, I have to talk to you. Please don't think I am a racist, but this is important.

Jay: Sure Ms. POd....

Me: Ginger kids have a harder time in schools and life sometimes than other kids. I'm not saying that it is a deserved reputation, but it is a fact. If a dean walked in this room while you were playing with your cell phone and two non Ginger kids were doing the same thing, I am willing to bet you would be the one to get in trouble.

Jay: (looking down) You are probably right.

Me: And Jay, I know you are a great kid, a kid who would never do anything wrong but, that hat and thing-a-ma-jig on your head makes you look criminal. If I wasn't a high school teacher and I saw you on the subway, I would probably run to the next car. It's not fair, but you Ginger kids have to be careful. You are a very special young man--bright with lots of potential. Right now you are doing nothing. Your charm and good looks won't last forever. Please don't think I am saying this because I don't like Ginger kids.

Jay: I know that you like us....

Me: I want to see you in the papers later on as a fine, successful adult, not as a statistic.

Jay: Thanks Ms. POd. I'm going to think about this. And I hope your mom is going to be doing better.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sleeping With the Enemy

My mom has agreed to the surgery. She is going to have it on Monday. Tonight I left her for the first time in 9 days feeling like she might have a chance. My dad has temporarily stopped crying Let me try one of my bitch posts again in an attempt to get back to normal..

The new thing in our school is study groups to take the place of faculty conferences. Everyone signed up for a group they are supposedly interested in. Here is where the problems come in.

1. Most people are not really interested in any of these groups. We had to sign up for something, so we did.

2. Because the school is so large, and we are on so many different sessions, it was impossible to meet with the group many teachers signed up for. We were told to just go to any other group that fit into our schedule--real meaningful!

3. Some teachers were assigned "homework" from their groups. Contractually, we have to attend these meetings. We don't have to do any outside work for them.

In discussing these things with other teachers, we all wonder how our Chapter Chair did not object to this obvious contract violation. This only confirms our opinions that the Chapter Chair and the principal are "sleeping together"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Trailer Security Again

I was talking to the teach
er who comes into my trailer after me when we heard what sounded like a gun shot. We both jumped, looked out the window and saw nothing. The room suddenly filled up with an obnoxious smell. A kid had set off a smoke bomb right outside the window.

I went in and happened across the head of the security guards. When I told him about it, he said "well, we don't have enough security for out there." Later on, I saw the AP in charge of security and told him. His answer, "yes, I already know. We don't have enough staff to cover the trailers." He then started babbling about other schools that are smaller and get more money for security. I told him that wasn't an answer. There are kids outside smoking all day long. They hide behind the dumpsters. They always rough housing and take their getting to class. He said, "You aren't going to lke my answer. I send security out when there is a problem. When it clears up, I take them away." I told him that we trailer people were part of the school too and entitled to security. He really didn't have an answer to that.

It's interesting that when the Chancellor came yesterday, security was all around. I guess he is more important than the students and teachers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thank You

I just want to thank everyone for their kind words and prayers. Your words are very comforting.

After the hospital, I went to teach my college class. The students in that class are very supportive, asking about my mom and me. It felt good to see so many who barely know me caring about me. After the class, I went to the Arista installation in my school. The kids nominated me to be one of the mentors. I didn't feel like walking on the stage. I didn't even have time to go home and put on decent clothes, but I wanted to see my kids get installed. They looked terrific, all dressed up and proud. They were so happy to see me there. The first thing they all asked was how my mom was. They really care. I teach in a multi-cultural school and the kids are all praying to their own G-d's. With so many different religions looking out for us we are in good hands. Even Principal Suit came over to see how I was doing. He told me the school would do everything to help. I know they will. They had no problem covering my classes so I could leave early today.

Seeing the kids tonight reminded me again why I don't want to retire. I'm just not willing to give up the warm feelings I get from them. Sure they are not all great and lots of them drive me crazy, but, they also keep me sane. At present, work is my salvation.

Mom Update

My phone rang at 6:30 this morning. It was my dad. He told me that mom's heart rate was bad and they were moving her to a critical care floor. After what I saw last night, I got hysterical. I decided to go to work anyways but did a lot of crying in between classes. I ended up leaving early so I could be with my family.
I got to the hospital and found mom sitting in bed, talking, still slurring but awake and she knew what she was talking about. The antibiotics seem to be working and the infection is clearing. Her heart rate is back to normal, at least normal for her. Her breathing is a lot better too. We are not out of the woods. We found out she needs to have the blood clot on her brain removed. Not a serious operation for a healthy person, but who knows if it will be for her. The doctor said that there is a 15% - 20% chance that the surgery won't work and she will need it again. The math teacher in me doesn't like that percentage. We are out of a 95% confidence interval, which is not good. My mom has been insisting that she does not want an operation. My dad was freaking out about telling her. My husband and I made him and my idiot sister leave so we could explain it to her. She got it. She said if she needed it, she needed it. If it would make her better, she would do it. She told me to explain it to my dad, he is so afraid of losing her.

My parents are great. Maybe I am reacting like this for no reason. Maybe she will end up coming through.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I’m sitting in the waiting room in Montefiore Hospital. No internet connection so I am writing in word. I need to do this to keep busy. My mom is not doing well. Her arms are infected and they can’t even put in an IV to give her a blood transfusion. Right now the doctor from critical care is putting a stint in her so they will be able to transfuse. My dad is having a hard time. My parents have been married for 58 years. I don’t know how he will manage without her. One of the doctors seems to think that the anti- biotic she is being given now might help, but others are not so sure. She has so many things wrong with her…..She is suffering so much….I know everyone must go some time. If it is her time, I just pray that she doesn’t suffer and that my dad learns to live alone. I feel so helpless.

My sister flew in from Houston. I know she means well, but she is on everyone’s nerves. She thinks baby talk is the way to go. I can’t stand it when she stands over my mom and talks to her like she is a two year old. My mom goes in and out of lucidity, but she is not incompetent. She goes to my mom “be happy, your two baby girls are here”. My sister is past 50 years old. It’s been a long time since she has been a baby but she still thinks of herself that way. She comes to me for comfort, but I have nothing left to give her. I’m doing all I can to hold it together so I can be strong for my parents. I go to work every day to take my mind off what is going on. I lost it with a crazy bunch of kids this morning. I really let loose on them for not shutting up. When I told them why I went nuts, they got quiet and got to work. That shouldn’t be necessary.

The doctor is almost finished. Hopefully everything is going ok. I can’t write anymore. I’m empty……

She probably won’t be okay….Me and my dad are her health proxies. The doctor just asked us if they should incubate if it becomes necessary. They say she might come out of this but she is very sick. Her white count is very low and dropping. They asked us what she would want. My parents never discussed this. I asked the doctor if she could be the way she was before and he said yes. I told him to do it if it becomes necessary. I don’t think she wants it but I am not ready to let her go if there is a chance she can live. My dad is beside himself. He told me that he is going to die right after her. I’m 55 but I need my dad. I beg him to be strong for her and for me.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Guilt is a powerful emotion. While growing up, my mom used it on me all the time to get me to do what she wanted. I used it on my own kids and I know lots of my students tell me their parents use it too. Thinking about how well guilt works in the parent-child relationship, I thought it might work in the classroom as well. I've tried it and it has worked!

Last year I had a student that I could not get to work, no matter how hard or what I did. I was constantly on the phone with his mother, no luck! Finally, ready to give up, I sat down next to him and had the following conversation:

Me: Ray, don't you love your mother?

Ray: Yea Ms. my mom is my heart.

Me: Well every day when you force me to call her, you are driving another nail into her coffin.

With this, I got up and walked away. I couldn't believe my eyes when I turned around and saw him working. Ray ended up passing math and fullfilling his math requirement for graduation. Unfortunately, he still had to go to summer school to make up a history class and still graduated late.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Boot Camp

In my AP classes, I give extremely difficult exams, so difficult that a kid told me last week that the 40 years the Jews spent crossing the desert were easier than a POd teacher's exams. I have to agree with him. But, I do mark on a big curve so the only thing that is really being hurt by these exams is their self esteem. These AP kids are used to getting grades in the high 90's but, they are not used to thinking. In the past, they were always given review sheets before the exams. Like good little boys and girls, they ran home and redid the sheets a few times until all the problems were memorized. These kids could just reiterate everything that was on the sheets without any real understanding of what was taught. My tests make them think. They always know the topics, but the wording gets them every time. Nothing is straight forward. The AP exam is not straight forward and they invest so much time and money in this exam, I do my best to help them get passing grades. Amazingly, they always walk out of the exam "cursing" me, telling me that the AP exam was much easier than any of the tests I had given them during the year. They then thank me for the torture I put them through all year.

I equate studying and taking an exam to an athlete's preparation for a major competition. I tell them the expression "NO PAIN, NO GAIN" was actually thought up by a math teacher.


The UFT newspaper this week has printed a copy of Gary Babad's NCLB game. Check it out!

Kodak Moment

The Chancellor is coming to my school next week to visit our new science labs. I haven't seen them but I am betting that they are state of art! I wonder if he will be followed by a camera crew. I'm going to dress up for the occasion--wear my oldest jeans and my NO TEACHER LEFT BEHIND tee shirt. I wonder if Principal Suit will also show him the leaky trailers, the rancid pool that sits in front of mine, the classrooms with no windows or ventilation systems, the classrooms that have been split in two--long and narrow so kids cannot see the board from either side, etc, etc, etc.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Dumb People

I hate to call anyone dumb but, anyone who knows my sister would say that calling her dumb is being kind. Our last conversation was scary because too many people in this country share this dumb point of view.

Me: Do you believe that they want to rate teachers according to how well their students are doing on standardized tests?

Dumb Sister: What's wrong with that?

Me: Why would I ever volunteer to teach at risk kids if I know that my salary and my job depends on their success? I usually can make a difference, but, why would I take a chance?

Dumb Sister: If you are good, you wouldn't worry.

Me: Should a doctor want to be rated on how many patients he cures?

Dumb Sister: If the doctor has confidence in himself, why should he care?

Me: How about the Oncologist that only treats cancer patients? How many of those patients will he be unable to save? If doctors are going to be judged on their success rate, who will try to save the really sick ones?

Dumb Sister: Well, uhhh,.....ok.....I don't know.......

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rain, Rain Go Away.... WE WANT TO LEARN

It rained again today. The area around the trailers flooded again. No afternoon trailer classes again.

So much for education in a NYC high school.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Health Care

Time to be pissed off about health care in NYC! My mom went to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx today at 2:00 AM because of a fall. She has a rare blood disease and has had a number of surgeries, one was for a brain tumor, which caused her excrutiating headaches. It was the headache that brought her back today.

First, I would like to say that the doctor and the nurse that took care of her in the ER were fantastic. When a problem arose, they stayed with her non stop, until it subsided. The techs who took care of CAT scans, the aides and the transport people were also great. So, why do I have a problem??????

The ER was jam packed. Stretchers were so close together that there was no room to stand next to my mom without leaning on another patient. Stretcher were set up two deep, there was no privacy around the front stretchers and you had to jump over IV tubes to get from bed to bed. My dad, who is 85 years old had no where to sit. He was on his feet almost straight from 2 AM. She had to wait hours for a bed and a room.

Hospital care in the city of NY is deteriorating. The city is closing more and more emergency rooms, forcing the few that are still left to carry loads far beyond what they were built to hold. I understand from talking to one of the techs that another hospital ER in the Bronx might be closed soon. This will increase the burden on Montefiore.

Schools are over crowded. There is no excuse for that, but what I saw today makes the school's situation pale by comparison. I guess the mayor and the powers that be assume that the people that use hospital's like Montefiore are of a lower income bracket and like our children, not entitled to quality care.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Larry Does Suduko

The New UFT (according to Bloomberg)

Mayor Paints UFT as Akin to the NRA

Mayor Bloomberg appeared at a press conference yesterday fighting back against critics of his plans to overhaul the school system. He appeared with dozens of supporters, none of which are actively involved in the NYC school system at the moment unless you count special interest groups. These groups have major contracts now with the school system or are trying to get a major contract. The mayor's panel did not include one teacher, educator or parent. The mayor even went as far as saying that the number one obstacle to education today is the UFT.

"Number one, there's the UFT. All they want to do is roll it back," he said of the changes he has made so far in the schools."

Bloomberg never mentions that the reason the UFT is trying to roll back some of these changes is because they are BAD BAD BAD for education. He even equates the UFT with the NRA. The NRA is a small ispecial interest group trying to put guns in everyone's hands, the UFT is the same. I guess when you can't come up with a reasonable argument, you go for the absurd.

Along with blaming teachers, he blames news media, political groups and everyone else who disagrees with him.

"There's the political power of people who just want to pander when they come out and they find something wrong with everything. There are the newspapers that can never find anything good enough. They're in favor of change but they've never yet in their whole publishing history seen a change that was good enough."

This mayor is out of control. It is good that the children of NYC have people like Leonie Hamison fighting for them. More parents need to participate in Class Size Matters and read NYC Public School Parents to join the fight.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Why I Became A Teacher

I know why I became a teacher. I often wonder why others have done the same thing. Dr. Homeslice talks about his reasons. His reasons were nobler than mine. I simply became a teacher because I didn't know what else to do with my life. I grew up in the projects of NYC, the eldest child of a family where no one was college educated. My parents wanted me to go to college, but they couldn't offer any guidance. My father grew up in one of the few Jewish families that actually had no use for education, encouraged him to go to a vocational high school (from which he could be found cutting more often than not) and ended up transferring to a local school and luckily graduating. He is a very bright man, and with the right support he probably would have gone to college and became an accountant. My mother's family pushed education but my mom didn't have school in her. The courses were too difficult. She graduated with a general diploma and went right to work. In those days, no one in the projects had a college education. The only people I ever met with higher degrees were teachers so I just followed in their footsteps and became one. Lots of the teachers I had in high school were only teaching to avoid the draft and Viet Nam so they got into the profession in kind of the same meaningless way I did.

I look at the young teachers around me and wonder why they are teaching? Hopefully it is a job that they want to do. Hopefully they want to make a difference and are willing to put up with all kinds of abuse to get the job done. Hopefully they won't get discouraged and quit or let burnt out old timers like me turn them off to teaching. I try to avoid the young ones in my department because I don't want my negativity to rub off on them. No impressionable young soul should be subjected to me for any length of time.

One of the girls in my AP class is thinking of becoming a math teacher. At first, I thought that is what she really wants to do. Now, she asks me all the time if teaching is a good job? Are the benefits good? I keep telling her that those are not good enough reasons to become a teacher. I asked her if she really wants to teach? I would hate for her to become a teacher because someone told her it was a good job. People always told me that I should teach--that teaching was a good job for a girl. Although I like teaching, I wish I had the opportunity to pursue engineering. I took all the pre-requisitite courses in college but girls didn't become engineers in those days.

I know quite a few new teachers that are only teaching until something better comes along. That's okay as long as they are doing their best now. I'm hopeful that some of the good ones will change their minds and stick around.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Not Exactly Why Schools Have Cable....

School District Investigates Porn Bill

Apr 7, 10:49 PM (ET)

UNION CITY, N.J. (AP) - School district officials are trying to identify who watched $250 worth of pay-per-view pornographic movies using a school cable television box, officials said.

Someone after business hours used one of the five cable boxes in the Board of Education building to order the films, priced between $4.95 and $9.95.

The cable provider, Cablevision, has refunded the school district the money, and is helping to investigate the purchases.

School officials have since gotten rid of three of the cable boxes. A board official said the building had cable in case there was an emergency.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Not A Great Form of Discipline

She might lose her job?????

April 5, 2007

A Toronto school principal faces a serious board of education review after admitting to throwing feces at a young boy who was not in her care.

Maria Pantalone, 49, pleaded guilty to assault against a child Monday out of "total frustration" but was given an absolute discharge to keep her from having a criminal record stemming from the incident last June - but she now faces peer sentencing for her actions.

Since the charge, she has been suspended indefinitely from her job as principal at Keele Street Junior Public School and Mountainview Alternative.

The in-house counsel for the Toronto District School Board, Grant Bowers, told the Toronto Star that the board will be conducting its own review into the incident.

Mr. Bowers said that the review could result in punishment, transfer or dismissal of Bowers.

In his ruling, the judge said Pantalone was "publicly embarrassed, if not humiliated. She has suffered more than most." She might get her job back.


A while back I wrote about how happy I was that one of my kids who had been failing miserably had finally started passing. I really thought I had made a difference with this kid. Boy, was I wrong. Two tests ago, he got a 44. I chalked this up to a bad day. On the next test he got a 26. I feel like a failure!

I e-mailed him a copy of that last post. He was really proud of it. He said it made his parents feel great too. I think I will e-mail him this one also. I want to see how this one makes him feel. Too bad it won't make him feel as bad as it makes me feel.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Test Rules May Loosen for Disabled Kids

So, does he really care about helping these kids or is he just looking to find a way to make the NCLB policies look more successful?

Test Rules May Loosen for Disabled Kids

AP Education Writer

April 4, 2007, 9:23 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is letting more children with disabilities take simplified tests under the No Child Left Behind education law. The change, outlined in final regulations Wednesday, would triple the number of children who can take tests that are easier than those given to most students under the 2002 law.

Roughly 10 percent of special education students -- those with the most serious cognitive disabilities -- currently can take simplified, alternative tests and have the results count toward a school's annual progress goals.

Under the new rules, about an additional 20 percent of children with disabilities could take alternative tests and have those count toward a school's progress goals.

The new tests are for children who are not severely disabled but who have been unable to work on grade level at the same pace as their peers because of disabilities, such as some forms of dyslexia.

The new tests will not be as easy as those given to the children already exempted from the regular tests. But the tests will not be as hard as those given to typical students. Federal officials said the new tests would provide educators with a more meaningful way to measure what some students with disabilities know and can do.

"It's an option for those children whose needs are not being met under the current system," the deputy education secretary, Raymond Simon, said Wednesday.

The change means 3 percent of all children -- or roughly 30 percent of all children with disabilities -- will be allowed to be tested on standards geared for them.

The No Child Left Behind law is up for renewal in Congress this year and lawmakers, educators and the public have pushed for changes.

Simon said the administration would like to see the new special education rules written into law when No Child Left Behind is updated.

Some lawmakers gave the new rules high marks.

"It's essential to fully include children with disabilities in No Child Left Behind's guarantee that every student counts. Today's regulation is an important step forward in helping to address that challenge by ensuring better assessments for children with disabilities that recognize their progress and ability to achieve at high standards," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who heads the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The administration is responding to pleas from states for more flexibility in how they test special education students.

The 2002 law requires that all students be tested in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. When enough students miss annual progress goals, their schools can face consequences such as having to overhaul their staff.

Schools can face penalties even when just one group of children, such as those with disabilities, fails to meet the benchmarks.

That has focused more attention on the progress of children with disabilities, says Doug Fuchs, a professor of special education at Vanderbilt University.

"It includes them in the same accountability framework as kids without disabilities," Fuchs said. "Educators feel as compelled to work with kids with disabilities as they are compelled to work with kids without disabilities."

Several advocacy groups for children with disabilities worry that the changes could weaken the promise to leave no child behind.

"Most of these kids surprise us in what they can do," said Katy Neas, a lobbyist for Easter Seals. "When we set the bar higher, more kids do better than we ever thought they could."

Neas said she hoped the government would provide states and districts much help in coming up with high-quality tests and putting the new policy in place to ensure the right students are given the correct tests.

The department said $21 million would be available to help states come up with the new tests.

In addition to calling for changes in how special education students are tested under No Child Left Behind, lawmakers are debating changing the testing requirements for students learning English.

Lawmakers also are considering giving states more flexibility in how they measure student progress. Schools that fail to meet progress goals by just a little are treated the same as schools that miss those goals by a wide margin, something lawmakers say is unfair.


On the Net:

Education Department's Office of Special Education:
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Kids don't learn arithmetic anymore. Adults are forgetting everything they ever knew about it because calculators will do the computations for them. Fractions, signed numbers, decimals, etc, etc, etc can all be done on these little machines. After all, most of us use a remote to change the station when we are watching television and we certainly use a washer-dryer to launder our clothes instead of beating them with a rock on a river bank, so why not replace our brains with little machines that can be purchased for less than $20?

I don't have a problem with calculators if they are used to enhance learning, not replace it. Kids need to understand how operations with signed numbers work before they just start pressing buttons to hopefully arrive at a correct answer. They need to understand what happens when they find a percent of a number, know whether the answer should come out larger or smaller than the original number. They should know that multiplying by pi will give a number slightly larger than three times the original number. Too many times I have seen kids come up with totally insane answers and write them down because that is what the calculator gave them.

I do believe that arithmetic shouldn't hold anyone back. Not mastering fractions should not be equated with the inability to solve an equation. After years of trying, kids should be able to move ahead with a calculator if that is the only way, and I do mean the only way.

Calculators do have a place in higher mathematics. By freeing the individual from tedious calculations, more difficult conceptual problems can be studied. But, even in the higher level classes we are doing our students a big disservice by allowing a calculator on every exam. For example, kids no longer know trigonometric relations of quandrantal angles or of the special angles, and some of the beauty of math is being left behind. We used to teach them to find sin 15 by using sin(A - B) formula. Now, they just want to get the answer from their calculators.

The AP calculus exam is divided into four parts. Parts II and III allow calculator use. Parts I and IV do not. The calculator parts are the most difficult parts because of the concepts that are being tested. In my class, to prepare for this exam, I give both calculator and non calculator exams. At first, the kids whine about not being able to use the calculator. THEY HATE DOING ARITHMETIC! THEY DO NOT REMEMBER SIMPLE TRIG RATIOS! They soon find that the arithmetic they are being forced to do is the easiest part of the exam. I find that I have to show them silly calculation tricks to make the arithmetic easier, things that they should have learned (and are more than capable of learning) a long time ago.

So, what is the answer to all this? I don't want to do away with calculators. I just think calculators need to be used sensibly. Teaching must include calculator and non calculator questions. Exams must sometimes be calculator exams and other times be calculator free exams.

Mathematics is more than arithmetic, but, an understanding of arithmetic is vital to being successful with it. Technology must be used, but, it must not be used to the exclusion of everything else.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Meaningless Meetings

Klein made his 5th trip to Queens to sell Bloomberg's "Fair Student Funding" plan, according to an article in this weeks Queens Courier. At the two hour long meeting, he told parents the DOE would be sending out surveys for every one of the 1.1 million children in the City's school. He said that unlike previous surveys, the responses would go directly to the DOE, instead of principals. The results would be included in the new Achievement Reporting and Innovation System so that teachers, principals, and parent groups would have up-to-date information.

The parents at this meeting had their own agenda and gave him an earful. They asked about funding for schools with more experienced, higher paid teachers. He claimed provisions will be made for this. When asked about smaller classes, he replied that good teacher are more important than small classes. A child is better off in a class of 25 with a good teacher than a class of 17 with a bad teacher. The last time I checked my rosters, I saw 5 classes with 34 kids each, a far cry from his 25.

Klein went on making excuse after excuse for poor decisions for such things as empowered principals and the DOE's busing problems. Martine Guerrier, the city's first Chief Family Engagement Officer was with him. He is already making excuses as to why she will not be able to be successful. Borough President Helen Marshall expressed concern that despite a staff of 1400 and a $50 million budget "things were going to come down on her."

Too bad Klein and Bloomberg are just too bullheaded to admit that a fix that will work is smaller classes.

It's The Real Thing

Pair Accused of Trying to Poison Teacher

Apr 2, 10:24 PM (ET)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Two students were arrested on felony charges that they tried to poison their science teacher by pouring a fabric freshener into her soda, authorities said Monday.

The teacher, 51-year-old Jacqueline Hutchins, was not hurt, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. She noticed an odd taste when she sipped her Pepsi on Friday.

Other students told deputies the boy and girl, both 15, huddled around the teacher's soda and talked about putting the Febreeze fabric freshener in her soda, authorities said.

The boy and girl, both 15, were charged with poisoning, a first-degree felony, authorities said. They were taken to a juvenile detention center, and their status was not available Monday.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Teachers In Trouble

If the Board of Education is giving you a hard time and you need legal representation, check out Teachers In Trouble.

This law firm helps teachers and supervisors who are having trouble all kinds of problems in their schools.

Credits....Get Your Credits.......

Credits for no work seem to be the new norm. IB a math teacher is always writing about his senior credit factories where all the kids have to do pretty much is breathe and show up to get credit, and this is too much for them. It seems to be the same everywhere. Principals are under pressure to increase their graduation rates and the only way to do this is to give kids credit for being alive.

Here in New York our wonderful mayor did away with evening school. After all, these were just credit factories. Evening school has been replaced with extended day school. The classes meet two days a week for an hour and a half. There are no standards and teachers are pressured to pass the kids. I know one kid who is taking two math classes during the day and one in extended day school. This is not very conducive to learning for a kid who has never learned in the first place. It just gives him the credits and pushes him out the door. Summer school is now being reduced to four week sessions for non regents classes and six week classes for regents classes. They will be local to the individual school so the principal will also be able to assert more pressure to pass everyone.

Now everyone is graduating, but is everyone going to college and succeeding? I think not! Maybe the graduation rates are going up but the caliber of students graduating is going down. Kids are not being prepared for anything at all. They are not succeeding in college, they jand they just don't have the right work ethics and study skills. They don't do well at work because they are used to having things done to suit them. This NCLB law is doing a great job of leaving lots of kids behind.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Too busy cleaning and cooking, preparing for the holiday, to think coherently.