Friday, August 31, 2007

Beginning Term Stuff Continued

I’m sitting in the student’s cafeteria at the second of today’s meeting. I can’t get my laptop to sign on line so I am typing now in word. Yesterday Principal Suit told us to bring our own laptops to school because the school only has 4 computers in the library for a staff of over 300. Since most people have laptops anyways, we should just bring our own daily. So now, on top of two bags and a coat and umbrella, I am expected to carry a computer with me, the computer that will not pick up the internet in the cafeteria. There is no way I am going to bring it during normal school days. Aside from the logistics of not wanting to carry another thing around, and of it not working, there is no safe place to leave it when I am not teaching. If I am tutoring in the library, I am lucky to have a seat for myself and a corner on the floor to dump my books. If I have hall patrol, I just have one more thing to carry since the hall provides no safe storage.

I’m thinking that I should just head over to Target and borrow one of their shopping carts. Too bad I cannot use my teacher choice money to buy one. I can load it up, maybe even bring in a lock and chain for my lap top so I can move easily from room to room. Oh wait, I forgot, there are stairs in the building and an elevator that does not always work. I guess I will have to do what every teacher is told to do—IMPROVISE, MAKE THE BEST OF A BAD SITUATION.

How Low Can We Go?????

My AP went on and on today about standards, about how a diploma from our school means more than a diploma from other schools. And then....he passed out multiplication tables for us to copy and distribute to our students to use when we are teaching factoring because learning them is no longer a requirement....Talk about standards??? I didn't think our standards could ever get this low.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome Back!

The first day of school. They were ready for us! The bathrooms were not all open and the ones that were open did not have toilet paper or paper towels and the floors were disgustingly dirty. Nice way to be welcomed back.

Principal Suit flew into the meeting and stuck his thumb out at the people sitting in the last row and yelled "move up." We all thought that was an especially nice greeting. He then began his address to us with the words "Welcome home." We all have places we call home, this school is not one of them. After shushing us, he told us he had a good day planned for us and we were going to continue the fun we have here, singing and laughing, just like camp. He told a bad joke and then showed some Civil War movie that I think was supposed to pertain to leadership, but I am not sure (the auditorium was so hot that I walked outside for most of it.) After what seemed like a 24 hour period, we continued in the student cafeteria which, is air conditioned. We sat in groups and talked about resilience. We heard how he was resilient and became principal--lucky us. The only thing I learned is that one of the teachers I like has a really cute lower back tattoo.

My friend and I sat with some of the young teachers, and told them to pay attention, since they did not have tenure yet. One of them came up with this:
You can be mediocre and not get fired because there are not enough teachers around to replace us.

Being a math teacher, she is 100% correct. What a sad commentary. What a sad fact that someone so young has picked up on this already.

The highlight of the day was lunch at Subway, since it is one of the only places within walking distance. At least we all got to sit around and BS in peace and in quality air conditioning.

After lunch we looked at some paper explaining some guidance stuff. The kid's guidance counselors are coded in their homerooms. Some counselors use first name initials, some use last name initials and one uses a final letter of her last name. Nice system. Easy to remember.

The afternoon ended with departmental meetings. My AP rambled on as usual. He made his usual derogatory comments about a colleague that retired in January (a good teacher who he just did not like.) He contradicted everything he told us to do last year. Before handing out programs, he said:
It is not my job to program to the UFT contract. I program for what is best for the school.

My program is fine. I wish people whose program is not would grieve, but most are too timid. That is why he gets away with this stuff. He finally handed out programs but did not go over what the course codes mean. I am not 100% sure of the courses I am teaching. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

This post is dedicated to a good teacher in my school who is currently out sick. He is recovering from the treatment he received for a cancer on his tonsils. I know he feels terrible about missing this exciting day. Hopefully he can experience some of the pleasure he missed through this post.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You Have Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

I was talking to a neighbor today about teaching, retirement, what the future holds for us. She can leave any time she wants (tier 1 and over 55) but she is not ready to go yet. She spent the last two days getting her classroom ready for next week. I told her that there was no way I would set one foot in the building until tomorrow. She answered, "We have one of those new, young principals. She is always writing everyone up. I don't want to get written up."

I don't know what a tenured teacher, one year from retirement is worried about. It is teachers like this one that permit the system to keep abusing us and to force us to work all these extra days. I don't have a classroom to set up, but if I did, it would get set up on school time, not my vacation time. If an administrator expects me to get something done, they better give me free time during the day to do it. (Of course this does not apply to doing extra for my kids--I am always around to tutor or to talk to them.)

Last year, College Board started requiring teachers of advanced placement courses to submit curriculum. This took hours and hours of work. When we were first told about this, I asked, "When will we be given time to get this done?" After hemming and hawing, we were relieved of regents proctoring to write the curriculum. (I am proud to say that mine was one of the few approved on its first submission.)

The abuse of teachers will continue as long as teachers allow it to continue. I understand the newbies--they have no tenure and must go in extra and work extra. I did the same when I first started out. I don't understand how the old timers, like me, can still be intimidated. Two years ago I had a disagreement with my Principal. He told me that since I don't "share his vision", I should transfer. I told him "Good school, near home, easy to park, I'm not going anywhere. Learn to deal with it." I haven't spoken more than a few words to him since (except when he handed me my Heart Award in June).


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


One minute everything is fine. You are going to work. You are bitching about traffic. You are having dinner with your family, playing with one grandchild and thinking about the other one that you haven't had a chance to meet yet. One minute everything is good. Next thing, you are lying in a hospital bed, horrible itchy things that blow up are on your legs, you are hooked up to a ventilator. Your lungs are not working. No one knows if you will make it.....

This is the story of my brother-in-law. He is young, early 50's. He is a good guy. So is my sister, in spite of all the nasty stuff I have written about her. She is watching her husband now looking like our mom looked before she died. The doctors say they are going to wean him off the ventilator, but that is not happening. I'm scared for her. I'm scared for him. I wish I was closer so I could be there for her. I wish this wasn't the first week of school. I pray for him to get better and for her to stay strong.

Summer's Over

Summer is over and although I am sad about that, I know my summer was well spent. I saw my dad about twice a week. We didn't do much, but it was good for us to have the time together. He's still sad, but he is getting better. He even consented to have the laser surgery he needed on his eyes for his glaucoma. He's even happy he did it.

Aside from dad, I spent two weeks in Alaska, and had a great time. It was a trip I didn't want to take but I am glad I did. It was so great that I plan on returning. Not next summer, we are thinking of an African safari for then, but soon. I went to lots of museums and spent many days exploring my favorite city--New York. I even managed to spend some quality time with good friends. I saw a few Broadway shows. Tonight's was Curtains with David Hyde Pierce. He was fantastic. I bought tickets to see Jersey Boys on my anniversary (had to break down and pay full price--OUCH!) I saw a few off Broadway shows too. Will Durst, a political humorist, is in The All American Sport of Bipatisan Bashing. Although he picks on everyone, the Republicans, and Bush, get the brunt of his act. This was a great show for a liberal like me.

So, a good summer has come to an end. I hope a good school year is next. If not, retirement, here I come!!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

College Class

Classes started in the college tonight. It is a good thing that I like to see my name online or I would have missed my first night. I thought classes started on Wednesday. This would have not been the first time I missed the starting class. I love searching the catalogue for "pissedoff" and seeing myself pop up.

My class seemed really nice. The college classes usually are. I teach a math class for people that do not like math. I tell all who are looking for a heavy duty math class to drop. The class is not a hard class, but it is a lot of work that they have to be prepared to do. We look at math from a useful point of view. We do statistics from the newspaper, learn what those surveys really mean and how they are taken. We look at probability in terms of real life situations, from actual gambling to how insurance premiums are figured out. We do exponential growth and how it affects bank accounts, credit cards and even pay checks. My favorite topic is voting theory. We go into the mathematics behind an election and what makes a fair election. It is amazing to go through the process of how the electoral college was formed, especially when you realize that our founding fathers had no access to calculators or computers.

As much as I was not ready to return to work, I'm glad the college classes start a week before high school. It gives me a chance to break in slowly. It gives me a chance to remember how much I love teaching, before I start with all the BS on the high school level. It gives me a chance to see that the people in my class really like me. Every term, I have people in the class that are repeating. Even though they failed with me before, the come back, knowing that I will do my best to get them to succeed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Not Handled Well

A few months ago I posted a story about two of my students who were accused of cheating on the math regents.. I've come to believe that the boy involved really was cheating but I am still having trouble dealing withe the way the whole thing was handled.

To begin with, the kids parents were never called. The kids themselves were never even told what they were accused of and they were never given a chance to try to prove themselves innocent. But, this is all old stuff that I have written about.

The girl involved got to take the regents in June. She found it easy and I am sure she did well on it. The boy was not allowed to take the exam.

The boy did not understand why he failed the class and why he was not allowed to retake the regents as the girl was. He is learning diaabled and will be placed in special education classes in September. He sent me an e-mail questioning his failing grade. I could only repeat what I had been told in June. His parents are fairly new immigrants to this country and his dad might have some learning disabilities also. They do not have the ability to question the failing grade and the disqualified regents.

If we are truly here to teach these kids, we should want this boy to learn from his mistake. Clearly, it was not handled in a way that would teach. And, since he doesn't understand his crime, there is nothing to prevent him from repeating it in the future.

Not For Me

I think it is a good thing I'm not rich. I was walking on Park Ave admiring the beautiful buildings and the fancy doormen when it occurred to me that the guy working on the building in picture one would have to enter the building through the gate in picture number two. He would never get to experience the grandeur pf the lobby, with its interior garden in the last picture. Treating people so differently is definitely not me. I could not live with someone working for me having to enter my building this way.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kid Nation

Kid Nation is a reality show where 40 child, aged 8 to 15, were brought to a ghost town in New Mexico and made to survive on their own without any adult supervision or intervention. The kids were taken out of school and no tutors were provided. Now that it is over, there is tons of controversy about the way the children were treated, and not treated and about violations of the law.

While there is much legal stuff going on, the real criminals are the parents that signed for and allowed their children to participate in this. I have two children and there is no way I would have allowed either one of them to participate in an event like this. Money is just not that important. The parents involved probably all hope that their children will be "discovered" and have successful careers as actors or models. One parent interviewed said her child was used to being in the limelight because she had been doing pageants for years.

Something is seriously wrong with a parent that would allow an 8 year old to go off and live like this. Something is seriously wrong with a school system that allows a child to miss school for so many days to be on a television show like this.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Group Work

Comic strip--Mallard Fillmore

The Cave Blog

(Comic strip--Rhymes with Orange)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Museum Of Sex

I visited the Museum of Sex this week. (There is a $5 off coupon on their web page.) It's a nice little museum that approaches sex as a part of life. There is nothing pornographic or obscene about the museum. There is an exhibit on sex and people with disabilities, which is extremely informative and important for everyone to see. I think there is a tendency to forget that people with disabilities have the same needs as everyone else. There is also an exhibit on the history of sex in films, which included a show of banned commercials from commercial closet. The other exhibit is on fetishes. The museum emphasises that as long as no one is getting hurt, and everything is consensual, there is nothing wrong. Although some of these things were a little too much for my taste, it is good to see how others live. Again, just another way of increasing tolerance.

The museum changes exhibits all the time. Last time I was there the exhibits were completely different. It was a fun and informative day. I didn't want to take too many pictures inside, but I especially liked the new way to use the internet. The other pictures are just the Empire State Building, view form 28th St, the sink in the ladies room and the stair case and "out of this world picture are from subway. Next week is back to work week, so my fun pictures will end and the bitching will return. I know I can retire if I want, but I'm not ready. I'll just keep on going in and find lots to complain about.

Really My Back Yard

On this rainy day, I sit and reflect on my city. People think NYC is all big buildings, dirt and concrete. This is definitely not true. When I walk out of my house, and cross the street, I enter one of the most beautiful parks around (sorry, no names, I don't want to give away where I live.) The park has beautiful trees and paths, both wilderness paths and paved paths for bicycles, running and walking. There is a wonderful playground, picnic tables and ball fields. Hopefully Bloomberg will not lease these fields to his private schools also. I remember watching the kids in my school play baseball on these fields. There are handball courts and tennis courts. Children can take inexpensive tennis lessons here. The park is paradise and it is only across the street from where I live.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Planned Day???

I got my husband to accompany me on a random day today. He claims it wasn't random (he's an engineer, he hates things unplanned) because we had a plan, but since we didn't stick to the plan, I say it was totally random.

To begin with, we were going to go the South Street Sea Port. As soon as we left the house, the weather turned cloudy so we decided to go to the American Museum of Natural History instead (change number one). We were going to park at the subway, but at the last minute decided to drive because traffic is light on Sundays during the summer and parking is not too bad either (change number two). Before we hit the museum, we hit a flea market on 77th and Columbus. No purchases, but I did meet a great young fashion designer who made her clothes from wet suit material. One of her coats and her flyer are pictured above (change number three). We did eventually get the museum and saw the new dinosaur exhibit and the gems before getting the "museum headache" and leaving. We then headed uptown (86th and Amsterdam) to the Popover Cafe for something to eat. Rachel Ray did a thing on them a few weeks and I ago and I wanted to try them out. Good stuff. I would recommend it highly.

The pictures aren't too great today, hopefully tomorrow's will be better. I'm meeting a friend to go to the Museum of Sex on 27th and 5th.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sad Shape of the World

Bullet-proof Backpack

DANVERS, Mass. - New for this U.S. schoolchildren this
fall -- stylish yet functional -- it's a backpack with
a bulletproof lining. The item is being marketed by MJ
Safety Solutions, a company founded by Mike Pelonzi and
Joe Curran of Massachusetts. "I'm a parent and so is Joe
and we wanted a way of keeping kids safe at school and
this is what we came up with," Pelonzi told The Staten
Island Advance. The company sells two sizes, one for
books and the other for laptop computers. Both have a
light metal plate sewn into the back, guaranteed to stop
bullets although weighing no more than a bottle of water.
The MJ Solutions Web site says there have been 328 school
shootings since 1999, with 229 dead and 422 injured. "In
almost 97 percent of these documented incidents, MJ Safety
Solutions' backpack could have provided the ballistic
protection that could have saved lives," the site claims.
The makers say the backpacks will also protect against
knives and other weapons

Joel Klein On His Anniversary as Chancellor

Next week Joel Klein will have been Chancellor for five years – one of the longest serving in NYC history. For the occasion, he sat down for an interview with Mike Meenan of NY1. Some excerpts:

Despite all the reorganizations, he admits that in some ways there has been little change: Klein: "Any fool can lower class size by the numbers. The question is can you lower class size at the same time you maintain and improve teacher quality?"

If any fool can do it, why can't he? Especially given the fact that there are now almost ten qualified applicants for every teaching opening.

Klein says he's all for class size reduction, but wants to take time finding the right teachers. It’s a go slow approach.

Slow indeed. At this rate our grandchildren will still be waiting.

"It’s a little bit like that song ‘The Glory of Love.’ You know, you gotta give a little, you gotta take a little and in the end you gotta let your poor heart break a little,” says Klein.

Some would say there's been a lot more taking than giving. Fewer classes provided in nearly every grade under this administration -- leading to no discernible progress in class size, despite falling enrollment.

He's often accused of running the system from the top down. Klein insists he does seek the input of parents. "Let me say to you, I consult broadly and extensively,” says Klein.

Hmm. Wonder which parents he consults – perhaps parents of private school students?

Asked what the proof of progress is:

Klein says the proof is coming, most visibly with every school now getting a report card. "You don't need any lingo, right? A, B, C, D, or F. People get it,” says Klein.

What mark would you give the Chancellor? NY 1 lets you grade Klein on his performance.
posting from
Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011


Friday, August 17, 2007

Must Be A Generation Thing

My dad won't go out to dinner with a woman, because people might talk, or because she might expect something. "My boyfriend" worries that my husband might not understand when I give him a ride home from shul. I've never had a problem having male friends. We've gone out to dinner or just talked. We've been friends, nothing else. My husband does not care. Their wives, when they are married, do not care either. We are friends, that is all we are. My dad could have a lot more friends if he was not afraid of being friends with a woman. The women he knows are probably just as lonely as he is and would welcome a friend. He shouldn't worry about what people will say. People say to my new boyfriend "she is married." He really has nothing to worry about. There is nothing wrong with me being friends with a man, especially a man 40 years older than me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Extended Test Time

There was an article in today's NY Sun about the problems with extended time on exams. I have to agree. Too many kids are getting this time. Their parents are paying psychologists and fancy schools to get the right diagnosis and the kids are getting time and a half to do the exams. The problem is that kids are being taught to cheat and that cheaters prosper. Kids that really need the time are often not given the time because of this rampant cheating. Kids that really need the time are having their intellect questioned. Taking extra time that they are not entitled to is the equivalent of using a handicapped parking spot with a stolen sticker.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Have A Boyfriend

(picture by fosta)

I have a boyfriend! Maybe it is wrong, but it feels so good. He flatters me. He is always telling me how beautiful I am, how young I look, how terrific I am. He says I am easy to talk to. He usually doesn't talk to married women, but with me, he just cannot resist. He is worried about my husband. He told me I shouldn't tell my husband about him.

I met my new boyfriend at services, one of the good that has come out of going to say Kaddish every night. Sol doesn't drive so I offered him a ride home tonight. We sat in front of his house and talked and talked. He told me his whole life story. Sol told me about his girl friend, Minnie, who talks way too much. He told me they have been dating for eight months and they only kiss hello and goodbye--that is as far as they go.

Sol does not have to worry about making my husband jealous. Sol first told me he was 85 years old but, I did some arithmetic-his age when he met his wife, the age of his oldest son, etc.. and conclude that Sol is at least 92 years old. I guess he thought I would only be interested in a younger man. My husband can accept my hanging out with a guy that age. I'm lucky, I'm not married to a jealous man.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dad Update

I think my dad is starting to heal. Last night he went out for coffee with an old friend, a woman who lost her husband a year ago. She was visiting the area from Florida and called him. It took me a while to convince him to go, he cried, said he could never go with another woman. I told him it was just friendship and nothing more. He told me they sat and talked for two hours. People he knew came in and he talked to them also. She even convinced him that it might be a good idea to spend some time in his condo in Florida. He originally said he would never go there without my mom.

I know he will never get over my mom, he will never totally stop being sad or give up crying completely, but at least he might be able to go on and enjoy the rest of is life.

Monday, August 13, 2007

In My Own Backyard Part II

If you want to feel like you are on vacation, you often do not have to go more than a few miles from your home, especially if you live in NYC. You don't have to spend a lot of money either.

Today I met a couple of friends. (Their feet are in one of their pictures. Their faces are left off to protect their identities.) We started our day in the Waterview Restaurant. It is a lovely place in Port Washington. We sat on the Pier, ate a delicious lunch of poached salmon on a salad with an apple vinaigrette and watched the boats and the water. After lunch we headed up to Sands Point and walked along the beach, enjoying the wild life and the beautiful homes that we will never be able to afford.