Wednesday, June 27, 2007
So Suit slapped me in the face again. Only this time I opened my big mouth in public and vented so loud, word had to get back to him.
Our school does something called "Faces of ...." at graduation every year. In the past, teachers who had been students walked across the stage and said a few words along with the students of the many different countries represented by our multi- cultural population. This year the procession began and ended with two teachers who had won awards. Guess who was not one of the teachers? You got it, ME!!!!!!! I was livid. I complained to the AP whose name was on the program as being in charge of that part of graduation. She apologized but said she had nothing to do with it. Suit had picked the faces! I loudly told her that the kids were also surprised that I wasn't on the stage.
Suit, I know you don't read this blog but I almost wish you would. I feel like writing to the PTA because by denying me the right to announce my award you are demeaning their award. I know you don't care about me but I know you care about them and the image you portray to the public. I've decided not to retire in the near future. I'm going to stay around and try to slap you back whenever I can.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Graduation was today. It was great seeing all my seniors. The two kids that made me feel the best about what I do are the two kids who graduated on the five year plan. They were both in my double period C-D class last year. Neither had passed math since freshman year. Both passed the regents and math while they were in my class. Unfortunately, they failed other classes and did not graduate on time. I'm sure passing my class last year enabled them to graduate now. I met the mother of one of my students. She was grateful for all our phone calls and even appreciated my broken Spanish.
I hope both of these kids learned something, go on to a 2-year college and make something out of their lives. Both are bright. They just need a little extra push.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I donated blood this afternoon. I sometimes pass out when I donate. I usually feel faint and I hate the needle sticking in my arm. It hurts. So, why do I donate?
When I was young, I started donating blood with all my math department friends once a year. We worked across the street from the Blood Bank and it was a social activity. In those days I didn't even weigh the 110 pounds necessary to donate so I loaded my pockets with heavy stuff to tip the scales. My friend L was over the 110 pound limit but only because he was over 6 feet tall. Everyone would donate and be up and out in 30 minutes. L and I would lay there suffering.
For many years I stopped donating. It was stupid to torture myself. Then I had some surgery and donated blood before the surgery in case I needed it. (I didn't want blood that wasn't mine in me if I could help it.) Luckily I had an easy time. When my mom was first diagnosed with Mylo fibrosis and we found out she would need transfusions every few weeks, I started donating again. Although my blood didn't go directly to my mom, I wanted to do my part to replace the blood she was receiving. People donated so she could live. I wanted to help others live too.
Now that my mom is gone I plan on donating just as regularly as I always have (about 4 or 5 times a year). First I did it in her honor, now it is in her memory. The prick of the pin and the faintness I feel pass quickly. The lives I might be helping to save go on for a long time.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
"I used to tell your mom, all we needed was each other." My dad said those words to me today as we were returning from a visit to her grave. I'm glad that they were so much in love. I'm glad that they were so happy together. They needed more than each other. How sad my dad is. Without my mom, he has no purpose. His house is too quiet. His meals are too lonely. I wish he had lots of friends. I wish he had other people around to ease his sorrow. Love is great, but we all need more than one person in our lives.
Friday, June 22, 2007
The seniors came in today to pick up their tickets for graduation and their caps and gowns and of course those whose graduations were in doubt found out if they actually made it or not. After the pick up, there was a big barbecue in the courtyard. Last week, at staff undevelopment, Suit told us how much it means to the kids for us to be there and to show our support. Since they don't get their year books until school is over, this is their big chance to get everyone to sign their books. Imagine the teachers (and kids) surprise when he got on the loudspeaker and announced "This barbecue is just for seniors. Teachers, your barbecue will be next Wednesday." Okay, most of us figured. We don't want to eat anyways. We just want to see the kids and say goodbye. Well, guess what? The school has sunk to a new low. They posted armed (not really armed, but it felt like it) guards around the entrance and would not let anyone but the seniors in. I hung around for a while, signed a few books, hugged a few kids and then I had enough. It felt stupid looking at the picnic through a window. As I was leaving, I saw the band setting up. Turns out two of my kids are in it. Now I had to stay and hear them play but I told them it would be from the outside, looking in.
The kids in the band were great. I can't believe they play all the stuff I grew up listening too. The band leader is a big Pink Floyd fan (also a good AP calculus student). One of the kids in the band is no bigger than a 6th grader. He is so cute. Good thing he was sitting down to play the drums so no one realized how little he is. This kid plans on being a doctor, a pediatrician so he can be bigger than his patients. (He's not really that small, I just love to tease him, he has a great sense of humor). A girl joined the group to sing Hotel California. Kids like these renew my faith in future generations. They are the leaders of tomorrow.
The kids say goodbye and promise to come back. They all swear they will never forget us. They will. Five minutes after graduation we will all be history to them. That is the way it should be. They go on to college and a brand new life.
I wish all my graduating seniors the best. Congrats. They earned their honors and their awards and their diplomas through hard work.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Last night I sat with a new parent (teacher on child care leave) and an expectant father (both parents to be are teachers). We discussed staying at home to be a full time mom. I say, if you can afford it, and want to stay at home you should do it. Children are little for such a short time you've got to enjoy them while you can. Of course full time motherhood is not for everyone and no one should be guilted into doing it and not everyone can afford to stay home. Teaching is a good job for mothers (or fathers). In NYC you can take up to four years off and then come back and pick up exactly where you left off. How great is that!
The teacher I was talking to has a seven month old son. She is totally in love with him and in being around him. She is torn about coming back to work. Everyone in school is pushing for her to return. She was relieved to hear me say "follow your heart." There is no right or wrong answer. She is considering taking a longer leave. The expectant dad told me he's glad I don't know his wife. He fully expects her to return to work immediately after the baby is born even though they can easily live without her income for a few years. How sad. He is going to deprive his new son and his wife the bonding they both want and need.
My old AP believed women should return to work immediately after giving birth. She always bragged about being back on the job two weeks after her sons were born. She berated and harassed me when I told her I was not coming back after my daughter was born. She tried to make my life miserable and the only way I could handle her was to hang up on her when she called. (She got the hint and stopped calling.) She once told me that she never sat down and played a game with her kids. I always felt sorry for all of them.
Teaching is an important job but so is parenting. It is possible to do both but if you want to only parent for a while, then that is what you should do. No one has the right to tell you to do otherwise.
I think Principal Suit might have screwed himself out of a performance bonus this year by insisting that everyone takes the Math A regents. The Special Education students who were told to take the exam were not prepared for it. In fact, they were very frustrated by questions they had no clue how to answer. The kids that had only completed half the course (whether they passed the half they took or not) also were not prepared and failed miserably. These kids brought our statistics down, instead of up, the way Suit had hoped. TOO BAD FOR HIM!!!!! The other thing that really hurt him was annualization of Math B. The kids that failed the first half still took the second half of the course and sat for the regents. The grades were not nearly what he hoped or expected them to be.
Hopefully Suit will learn a lesson from all this and not force kids to take exams that they are not prepared for in the future.
Monday, June 18, 2007
We finished marking the Math A regents today. Kids who I haven't seen since the first week of school passed the exam. If we count the 55's that give the kids graduation credit, I only had one failure (one of my kids got a 38). Passing means a score of 35 out of a possible 84 points or roughly a little less than 42%. I don't know what the cut off was for a 55 but it was much lower than the 35 points. I used to take pride in the regents exams. I stayed late to mark the exams and cheered when the kids passed. Now, its no big deal to see them pass. They all do, whether they know anything or know nothing.
Years ago, the state worried about standards. They instituted the RCT's (regents competency exams). These exams tested minimum competence in math, reading, writing, social studies and science. On the math, calculators could not be used. Although the exams were not difficult, the kids had to know something to pass. Then, the state decided that everyone should pass a regents exam. When it was found that this was too difficult, the exams were dummied down. Now, the kids that could never pass an RCT are passing regents exams. Everyone is getting a regents endorsed diploma. Too bad the kids know less today than they ever knew before.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
My friend is an RN in Texas. Actually, she is, or should I say was, in charge of the entire obstetrics department in a major hospital. Her philosophy was always work hard, people are depending on you. She worked weekends, nights and any time she was needed. She expected the nurses that worked for her to do the same. She claims she took care of her employees. I'm sure she expected the hospital to take care of her. Too bad what is expected is not always gotten. Her hospital was taken over by a big corporation. Originally she was happy about this. She said that no nurses would lose their jobs, only some of the management people would be out of work. Too bad she never thought of herself as one of those management people. She has been forced out, early retirement, way before she was ready. I feel awful for her. She is a great nurse. People in her charge get great care. Too bad she had to learn the big business lesson the hard way. Hopefully someone out there is looking to hire a 55 year old nursing administrator.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Someone needs to investigate the validity of the NYS regents exams and exactly what it doesn't mean if a kid passes. All the kids in our school were called and told to come in to take the test. It didn't matter if they were truants or cutters and had not been in class since the first week of school. If they were tenth grade or higher, they were told to sit for the exam. I heard a rumor that they were told they would be given a credit if they passed.
Now, in the old days, passing the regents meant that the course was mastered. I remember marking the exams and taking pride in my student's accomplishment. The exam was a measure of the year's work. It was comprehensive and challenging. It was possible to review for the exam and to teach test taking strategies. This new Math A exam did none of these things. It did not test topics crucial to algebra. There was no graphing, factoring or parabolas on this exam. I'm sure other important topics were missing also. There was a construction on this exam--a topic so unimportant that most of us do not even bother to teach it.
I stayed late today to help get the exams marked. I wanted to see who was going to pass. I have some nice kids, with not much on the mathematical ball and I'm hoping they pass the regents so I can pass them in the class. We managed to get about half the papers scanned before I left. I would guess that about 97% of the kids passed on the multiple choice alone and we still have to mark the long questions. Kids who have not sat in class at all passed. What does this say about the quality of this exam?
The Board of Regents, the Mayor and the Chancellor will all take credit for these wonderful passing grades. The Principals and the Assistant Principals will once again collect their big performance bonuses for the results. What a crock! The kids still know no math. And, we have now taught them that it is okay to cut and be truant. All you have to do is sit two hours for an easy exam and all will be forgiven.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
A teacher saw me talking to L in the hall last week. She said "Why are you wasting your time talking to L? That kid is garbage." I just stood and stared at her for a few minutes before I could speak. I then said "L is not garbage. He is not a bad kid. He wouldn't harm anyone. He doesn't steal. He is always respectful. His only fault is that he doesn't like school. He's not a good student, but he is a good person. He is not garbage." She looked at me like I was crazy, half agreed with what I said and then walked away.
I've been teaching for a long time and can't think of very many kids (or any kids) that I have said something like that about. I wonder how a person like that can be in a classroom daily. What is she saying behind closed doors that can scar a child for life? Sure there are kids that do bad things but, as teenagers they are still growing and changing. Our jobs are to help them grow, not send them to the dump like useless junk.
Monday, June 11, 2007
My mom's birthday was last week. My sister came in to spend some time with my dad and to give me a break. Of course, the first thing she asked when she told me she was coming in was "can you or hubby pick me up at the airport?" I blew up at her then. Making my life easier did not include runs to the airport to pick her up and bring her back. I told her to find her own way to the Bronx. She's 52 years old and afraid to get in a cab with a guy she doesn't know! When I blew up at her, she agreed to find her own way.
Sister and dad had a good visit. She's finally learned that when she comes to New York to spend time with the parents, she should not run off with her friends. She went to the cemetery with dad last week, which was good for me. I really didn't want to go. Besides, I have been sick for over a week and would have found the trip difficult physically as well as emotionally.
Today, before she left, she called me to tell me how bad my dad was last night. I could only answer "tell me something I don't know." She kept saying, you don't understand and then proceeded again to tell me what was going on. I just said, "Now you know what my life has been like. Every time you called and told me how great he was doing, I tried to tell you this was going on. You didn't want to believe it. You thought I was only trying to get you upset." She could only say, "Now I know. Now I see." It's been the same story with her for years. She never believed me when I told her how sick my mom was. She never bothered to make the trip to New York to see my parents when they were both healthy and could have enjoyed her company.
I can't say any more to her. I know she is consumed with guilt for her past actions. She is not a bad person, just a stupid person. I try to be nice to her, but I am angry and resentful because of her actions all these years. I know my dad is happy to see her, but he doesn't trust her motives.
My dad's birthday is in July. I will be in Alaska for two weeks then. My husband would divorce me if I cancelled the trip. I've told her to come in and spend some time with him while I am gone. Hopefully she will.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
My AP has a thing about uniform finals. He insists we give them every term. This is a nightmare in a school as big as the one I teach in. We go 12 periods a day and he gives two forms of the exam. By the middle of the day every kid knows all the questions on the exam, no matter how much he thinks he can secure the exams. The kids all have lunch and other classes together and freely share answers. I know I did the same thing in school. Why would he expect today's kids to be any different?
Another problem with uniform exams in a school the size of mine is that teachers teaching the same prep do not get to see the exam and have input into it until it is too late to make changes. With over thirty teachers in a department and C-6 assignments there is no time to meet. We are on 5 different schedules and have different free periods. When I finally saw the M&D exam, I found quite a few errors on it. It was too easy and did not cover enough topics from the semester.
In spite of this, my AP weighs these exams very heavily. He does not want us to pass kids that have only passed the final. He has no qualms about failing kids who fail the final, no matter what their grades are for the rest of the term. Many of us have been known to inflate a kids final exam grade so he won't hassle us about the passing grade.
Resource room kids have an especially difficult time during this period. All their exams are coming at the same time and they almost don't know which exam they should finish first. Getting the exam up to resource room is an experience itself. The poor resource room teacher is expected to both pick up the exam and then deliver it back when it is finished. This is not an easy thing to when you have 5 classes of 10 - 12 kids (or more) each. Some of the resource room kids need readers. So now one teacher is reading an exam to multiple students at the same time. To me, this does not sound like very good testing strategy.
Years ago, when I first started teaching, we gave uniform exams. The only difference was that time was set aside for the exams, the same as the regents exams are given today. Only a policy like this can make uniform exams viable.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Thursday's staff development included about an hours worth of time looking at our schools' report card in relationship to our peer schools. Suit first tried to stress how improvement meant more money. He quickly caught himself before the teachers could call him on the fact that more money meant big performance bonuses for him and the other ap's but nothing for us. He tried to emphasize that more money would be coming into the school. He quickly said that more money could not reduce class size since we had no place in the building to put additional classes. I wanted to ask him if any of the money would be used to repair the trailers (fetid puddles, leaking roofs, improperly functioning bathrooms,...) but I held my tongue. I already opened my mouth earlier and got the look of death from him. Was he going to provide more security? Was he going to find spots where teachers can actually work during the day? Was he going to do anything that would directly help a teacher and encourage us to improve the report card? And he talked quickly, so no one could question how the money would be spent. Most teachers work hard. They do their best every day to help their students. This new rating system means nothing to us and I resent this extra burden being put on us daily.
Friday, June 08, 2007
I sent this letter to Principal Suit today. I don't expect an answer and I am sure it will piss him off, but I don't care. I had to say what was on my mind. I'm too old to let these things fester inside of me.
June 8, 2007
Dear Principal Suit,
I want to tell you that when you announced every teacher award at yesterday’s meeting and did not mention my winning the PTA Heart Award I was very hurt. That is an award that I earned through my hard work and devotion to my students. I got it, not through politics, but from merit. Although there is no money or pianos attached to it, it is a valuable award, something I will cherish always. I know many of my colleagues were also shocked by the omission. If I did not open my mouth and make a comment at the meeting, I am willing to bet the award would not even have been mentioned as an after thought.
These are pictures of the puddle that sits outside of my trailer. Unfortunately you can't really see all the slime that is living in it. By tomorrow if there is no rain, it will be a big mud pile. On rain days, the puddle gets so deep we have to roll our pants to get to and from class.
It's a good thing the Mayor values NYC children!
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Now that school is open for teachers on Brooklyn Queens Day, teachers in a big school like mine have an opportunity to meet together, to come together as a faculty, to discuss problems, find solutions and praise each others accomplishments.
What HOGWASH!!!!! We spent the morning listening to Principal Suit's B.S. He really didn't have that much to say so we got to watch part of the school's production of Footloose (the terrible acoustics in the auditorium makes it impossible to understand any words sung) and listen to the honor orchestra, lead by the award winning music teacher (excellent performance). We got to hear about his being the number one music teacher in the city. Principal Suit then went on to praise the head of the JROTC for being the number one teacher for them. He praised an English teacher who also won a nice award. After, he continued with more B.S. and then remembered he forgot to praise a science teacher who is the science teacher of the year. He then handed out some stupid article about equity in the school system. Of course, exceptional teachers could fix any problem. When I finally opened my mouth to complain about teachers being always dumped on he added, "Oh yes, #$& was the PTA Heart Winner this year."
No matter what he said when I got the award, I know he didn't want me to have it. I guess he felt good, ignoring it at the meeting. It only made him look bad. The people that count knew about it and others were finding out about it as the day progressed. Poor Principal Suit, what a sore loser!
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
The Award Ceremony was tonight. It was even better than I imagined it would be. Everyone was so happy that I won. No one said that I got it because I suck up to administration! I'm sure Principal Suit was not happy about me being the winner, but since it came from the PTA, there was nothing he could do about it. I heard I was nominated last year, but Suit quickly told the parents I wasn't the kind of teacher he wanted to win. This year the parents outsmarted him. A few of my AP kids canvassed my other classes and got all the kids to write letters nominating me. When my name was mentioned and all the letters were read, he had no choice but to go along with their choice. I got to read the letters tonight. They were great. The words on the plaque came from one of the letter. I was also presented with two dozen pink roses.
To make the evening complete, we picked up my dad and brought him to the ceremony. I know he was so proud. It was the first time I saw him smile in months. We took him out for dinner first and made it a really special evening. At times, I knew he was thinking about my mom, because I saw that look on his face, but he got over it. Maybe I will be able to convince him to come over more often now that he has done it once. He still drives but, he is a smart 83 year old. He knows that his vision is not good at night so he limits his driving to day time.
My kids wanted to come to the ceremony too. Unfortunately they both live 4 hours away and since this was a work night, they couldn't be here. My fantastic daughter sent me the other bouquet of flowers to celebrate my award. She has grown into a thoughtful, wonderful adult. I am so proud of her. I spoke to both of my kids after the ceremony. They were both so happy for me and wished they could have been there too. I just got off the phone with a friend of mine. She said I sounded good tonight. Well, I should. I had a great night!
Monday, June 04, 2007
I'm a math teacher, not an English or an ESL teacher but when one of my AP students told me she was worried about passing the English regents as she has only been in this country one year, I decided to help. We've finished the AP curriculum and are just wasting time until the last days of class anyways, so I figured I would try to make the time productive. First we did some reading aloud and I helped her with her critical lenses and essays. She told me the vocabulary and the listening is the hardest part. I asked an ESL teacher for advise to help her and he recommended television. I then hit on a great idea. I brought in my little DVD player and a Three Stooges video. I figured the Three Stooges would introduce her to some pop culture and entertain while teaching. I didn't realize until I started watching with her how much of a teaching aid this video would be. The Three Stooges were big on language play, one of the things foreign born kids have trouble with. When Curly had to "take the chair" as a witness in a trial, he literally picked the chair up and took it. I stopped the video and we talked about what was going on. When the judge told him to stop using vernacular, we got into a good discussion of current slang. Along with the girl who must pass the regents, I had 4 other ESL kids watching. They are all going to write a paragraph about the video for homework. WShe also picked up some good vocabulary words.
I once had a discussion with an English teacher about how math teachers can do it all. She got quite upset with me for even implying that I could teach someone English. I know I won't do as good a job at it as she does, but I am doing it the same. And, my way is entertaining.
Friday, June 01, 2007
I can't believe I actually won this years PTA Heart Award!
PTA HEART AWARD
You have been chosen
by the students at &% High School
As the recipient of the
2007 PTA Heart Award
The award will be conferred at Awards Night, Tuesday, June 5, 2007