Saturday, September 29, 2007

F Status

Under the reign of Klein and Bloomberg Principals have control over how their budgeted money is to be spent. I know of one high school in the Bronx that is not using any of its money to hire subs when a teacher is out. All the kids are being sent to the auditorium and someone takes their attendance. I wonder what is going to happen with all the money that is being saved? Hopefully it will be put to some good use to benefit the students of that school.

One of the innovative things Principal's have found to do with their new money is to hire old, retired, Assistant Principals and favored teachers in an F status position. F status hires back retirees to fill positions that supposedly cannot be filled by teachers in the system. Mentoring is a common way this is filled. In my school a woman who just retired has returned to do just that. Although she is a brilliant woman and was an excellent teacher, her only teaching for the last five years or so involved teaching three advanced placement classes. How she is equipped to help a new teacher deal with classroom management issues I will never know. AP's, long retired, are also starting to reappear to fill these jobs. We even had an ESL teacher mentoring math and science.

So, for a recap of the state of our schools today--ATRs are filling the buildings but are not being allowed to have classes their own, teachers are being paid to teach a sixth class instead of hiring new teachers or giving the ATRs classes of their own and money is being given out to F status people to do jobs that most likely have nothing to do with the education of our children. I give Klein, Bloomberg and the Principals a big F for F status.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Overcrowding Continued

Overcrowding is forcing kids to stay in school 9 or 10 periods a day. They aren't being given more classes, just more holes in their programs. Some have two lunch periods and internship periods. Here is a picture of a bunch of kids studying for an exam outside the math office. There is no room for them to sit inside and no chairs available for them to bring outside.

Baby It's Hot Inside....

Students taking exam outside. The one in the background is sitting on the steps.

Broken thermostat.

Someone got into my trailer Wednesday after school and cut the wires on the thermostat. I guess that is what can happen when there is no security. I guess that can happen when the cover on the thermostat has been missing for a year and the thermostat itself has been hanging by a single wire on the wall for just as long. Now the air conditioner does not turn on. We never really had a thermostat, unless you count turning it on and off 10 times a period. So now the room is a furnace. My complaints to the administration were met with "lots of rooms don't have working air conditioners." The other rooms aren't located inside tin boxes with windows that barely open. The other rooms should have working air conditioners as well. I bet Suit has a working air conditioner in his office. My kids had an exam today. Many opted to take their chairs outside where the weather was much better.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Overcrowding Problems

I just found out that one of the kids in my Math B class should be in Intermediate Algebra. She is a senior who would never have time to complete the entire three terms. Besides, although she works hard, math is not her subject, and this is a class she might have trouble passing. Intermediate Algebra is easier to pass and more useful than doing a geometric proof.

The problem with all of this is that there are no seats available in any of the Intermediate Algebra classes. Her guidance counselor told her to wait and hopefully a seat would open up eventually. This didn't sit right with me so I sent her to my AP. He couldn't get her into a day class so he put her in night school Night school has no class size limit so there is always room for one more. There is only one night school teacher, probably only two classes in this subject, so I am sure that class will be huge. The woman who teaches it doesn't know much math so she hands out a lot of sheets and does only really basic stuff. No one really cares because she passes them all and the school can increase its graduation rate.

So now our graduation rates will be high. Our Principal is really doing his part so that no child will be left behind. Physically, this girl won't be left behind. She will graduate with her class, on time. Educationally, she will be miles behind.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You Don't Work For Burger King

Last week we got a paper asking us to list our top three C-6 assignment requests. The administration promised to do their best to give everyone one of their choices and if this was not possible, they would be able to refile and request a second time. By the way, we were only given 24-hours to complete the form.

Assignments came out today. I did not get one that I requested, even though I am one of the most senior members of my department and the school. When I spoke to the APO I was told "speak to your chairman". When I spoke to my chairman I was told "speak to the APO." I told him I had already done that and I had been sent to him. He started his usual double talk and then got to his favorite expression when he is talking to me "you are always complaining." At this point I walked out on him.

Now, my options include grieving or just going along with the latter. I'm copping out and going along with the assignment. It was given to me for the period I requested and I really do like tutoring the kids. I just don't like being forced to do it. I know that if I grieve, I will probably lose, at least on the first few steps. And, on the chance that I win, I win the battle and lose the war. The rewards of winning this time are not worth the risk.

My biggest problem with all of this is the paper I filled out in the first place. The school had no intention of letting me, or any other teacher choose our own assignment. This being so, there was no reason to ask me what I wanted. But, I guess they have to go through the charade of honoring the contract. Oh well...I feel it is just about time to get out of this business while I still have some of my sanity left.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We Care About Children

At yesterday's faculty conference we heard how the school is doing everything to make things better for the kids who go here. For example, a kid who lives far will not be given a first period class if he doesn't want it. Late classes will not be given to kids who need to leave early to work or to pick up siblings. Guess what happened today? Classes were equalized (yeah--no more standing room only) but kids were removed without giving them an explanation or a choice. They were up in arms. Kids now have 1 - 9 schedules with different teachers. I understand that we are a big school and kids always can't get what they want. Just don't say we go out of our way to give them what they want when all we want to do is make it easy for us. If classes were not so huge to begin with, this would not be happening.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quality Review

My school is going to have its quality review next week. Since we did so good last year, it was decided that we would be first, to set the bench mark for other nearby schools.

Suit is nervous. Although we did well, there are areas that we did not do well enough in. He called a staff meeting today (even though contractually we don't have to meet in September.) He handed out sheets with lists of what we did well in and where we need to do improvement. He ignored the question of a staff member who questioned that more was not being done for school security. He spent a lot of time discussing that parents seem not to know what is expected of their children in school. He blamed this on parents not knowing what the term "expectations" meant. I am willing to bet that the parents that completed the survey spoke and English and knew the meaning of the word. Blaming the parents was just a way of pushing the blame off the school. Now, all teachers are expected to use the word expectation in the classroom all the time. We also are expected to put more into differentiated learning and to gear our lessons to individual needs. With 40 kids per class, I really can't see this happening. He talked about grading and the problems of two sections of the same subject where one teacher has 80% passing while another might only have 25% passing. A few years ago I had three sections of the same subject. I did the same thing in all three classes and my passing percentages were 25%, 60% and 85%. The kids, although randomly programmed were very different.

I don't have to worry about the reviewers not liking me. Suit will never let them near me, which is fine by me. Besides, I'm sure he would never let them near the trailers. The conditions out there are terrible. He would not want to show them off. He also fears my mouth, which is a good thing for me.

On the plus side of everything, my trailer bathroom has been cleaned. There is soap in the dispenser and toilet paper in the holder. I bet my blog mate NYC Ed would be jealous if he saw (his never has any of those things). Maybe the reviewers will venture out if they need to use the facilities.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Success Story 3

Some of the teachers in my school have a very elitist attitude. If Einstein had been in their class and failed to hand in a homework assignment or only got a 75 on a regents exam, they would have written him off as a loser. If Bill Gates did not make it through AP calculus, they would have been sure he was doomed to a life of sweeping floors at Burger King.

High school is not always an indicator of success in later life. One kid I know who really excelled in high school dropped out of college and is now delivering pizza to make his rent money. This is sad and a problem but, not one I think I can do much about. Another, a girl who was not much of a student in high school is now in medical school. Her teachers in high school never thought she would be more than a house wife and a greeter in Walmart. I hope none of these teachers ever need her expertise to help them.

I know that one of the most important things I do is try to build self confidence in my students. I don't judge. If a kid tells me he wants to be an engineer, but is failing math A, I just stress all he needs to accomplish before he can follow his dream. As a high school teacher, it is not my job to discourage and to put ceilings on what my students can accomplish. I realize that some might never be able to reach the stars they are shooting for but some might just need to grow a little taller to reach the top.

Baynard Rustin

I came across Justice and Not Just for Us from a comment on my blog. This blog is written by a teacher who has been U rated and is not being given a chance to defend himself. The following is a direct reprint from his blog. Nothing could say my feelings about the way we teachers are being treated than this:
"When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.”
Bayard Rustin ...



ABOMINATION: extreme disgust and hatred : LOATHING

While in temple on this Yom Kippur, praying for forgiveness for my sins, one stood out more than any others this year
For the abominations we committed.
Reading this, I couldn't help but think about the abominations heaped upon the children and the teachers of NYC this year by our wonderful mayor and school chancellor. Here is a list of things I think these two should be repenting for and should be trying to correct:

For the abomination of class size so large that students can not receive the help they are entitled to.

For the abomination of giving guidance counselors case loads so large that students must wait weeks to get an appointment and sometimes even longer to get into the correct class.

For the abomination of classes that meet in rooms that have been split into two with walls that are not sound proof so that every sound from the adjacent room is heard in their classroom making hearing and learning hard.

For the abomination of classes in these rooms having seating arrangements that make it impossible for kids at either end to see the blackboard.

For the abominations of making kids stand in classrooms or sit on floors to do their work.

For the abomination of making teachers sit on the floor in the hallways to receive extra help from their teachers.

For the abomination of forcing kids to sit in tin can trailers without working air conditioners (and possibly no heat) or windows that open.

For the abomination of forcing kids to be in a room without a working thermostat so the room is either too hot or too cold.

For the abomination of forcing kids and teachers to pass a fetid pool of water to get to class every day.

For the abomination of not giving teachers a proper work space, computers and telephones.

For the abomination of bathrooms without soap, towels and in some cases running water.

For the abomination of having experienced, good teachers wandering the halls as an ATR, instead of putting them in a classroom where they can do some good.
Klein and Bloomberg: prayer will not help absolve you of these sins. Actions will.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Only A Teacher

The school is overcrowded. New classes are supposedly going to be formed. Teachers will be asked to teach a sixth class. ATR's are floating around the building with no program. This doesn't make sense to me. But, what do I know, I am only a teacher.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Standing Room Only

My AP says, "If you need anything, just ask." Then he says "I am not your maid. Do not expect me to get you everything you need."

Today I stopped him in the hall and risked his wrath by asking him for chairs. "My fourth period and my eighth period classes have standing room only. R's class, in the adjoining trailer is also over packed so I can't take any chairs from that room." He told me to go see the custodians. Teachers are usually not permitted to talk to them directly. We must go through the chairman. Of course, the custodian's office was closed whenever I went by. When I went to my eight period I found another new student. I lost my temper and called the AP in charge of school organization. She sent me out 4 folding desks immediately. (Of course, I had asked her for the chairs at least twice before.)

I don't understand why I am always made to feel greedy when I ask for things in school. Chairs for my students give me no personal gain. Klein--your extraordinary start is leaving classes more crowded than usual, classes with no places to sit and kids still sitting in the wrong class. I think that the school is going to create some new classes next week. It is great for education when kids are getting new programs a month into the term.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Library Problems

The library is supposed to have a center for teachers to work. There are four computers and a printer. Surely enough workspace for over 300 teachers.

I went to the library Friday afternoon to type out a worksheet for my afternoon classes. I was lucky. There was actually a computer available. I worked and worked and felt good when I hit the print key and heard the printer happily printing away. Unfortunately, there was no ink in the printer.

I went to the librarian and asked her to fix it. She said it was not her problem. I said, that is the problem with this library, nothing works. She became indignant, still claiming there was nothing she could do. The computer in her office works, but of course I could not use that one. I'm only a teacher, not nearly as important as a librarian.

Maybe she couldn't fix the problem. Maybe the problem belonged to someone else. I still had a sheet that could not be printed. There was still a major problem with the library, whether she liked it or not. Our school library does not fulfill the needs of the staff or the students. Someone should accept responsibility and fix it. Our librarian needs to stop getting so defensive whenever a problem arises and do something to fix it

By the way, there is still no ink in the printer and no word on when it will be working again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Letter From Klein

My colleague is still recovering. He missed getting this letter today, so I hope he reads this to get a flavor of what he is missing.

Welcome letter from Klein:

We've had an extraordinary start to the school year....managing to open schools more smoothly and efficiently than anyone could remember.

If, by an extraordinary start he means overcrowded classrooms with standing room only, kids sitting in the wrong class three weeks into the term and broken copy machines, he is 100% correct. I can't argue with him here.

Last week, we also announced the results of our first-ever parent, teacher, and student survey.

I don't recall seeing anything on the survey about class size. My students were concerned with lack of certain sports and how long it took to get their programs straightened out. That was not mentioned either.

He also printed an except from an e-mail from a middle-school counselor.

People will usually rise to the expectations that is set and from what I see not being 'protected' from being fired is making people use their heads and think of solutions for their schools.

I wonder what planet this middle school counselor lives on. The majority of the teachers I know work with their heads every day. It is not fear of being fired that keeps us going, it is the strong desire to do what is best for our student. And, no matter what Klein would like to do, he cannot just waltz in and fire teachers at will.

She goes on to write
I can feel like a professional and a mentor.

Klein's initiatives have made teachers feel less like professionals and more like hired hands. He offered Steve Colbert a teaching job, even though Colbert has absolutely no teaching credentials. By doing this, he implied that anyone is capable of doing what we do. How does this make us feel more professional? He has instituted hall patrol and potty patrol. He has programmed every second of our day. He has stripped us of all decision making. If this counselor feels that we are now being treated like professionals, I worry about the children she is counseling.

I'm a teacher. Children will always come first with me. Klein's blatant disregard for class size and general schools conditions is an indication to me that he really puts children last. I also sent him an e-mail in which I detailed all my concerns about education today. In fact, I sent him multiple e-mails, one just before he visited my school. My e-mails did not get published or even answered. He only likes the ones that say what he wants them to say.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Hate My Cat

I'm not a cat lover. We have two cats, strays that found their way into our back yard two years ago. We didn't want them to die in the winter so we took them in, got them fixed, gave them shots and tried to find them a home. No one wanted them. They began their lives here in the basement. I'm allergic. Very allergic. I felt bad for them. They liked seeing people. Little by little we let them come upstairs. I still don't like them much....well, maybe a little.

These two cats are really my husband's cats. He feeds them, cleans their litter box and generally spends time with them. He is away for the week. My little boy cat has been sitting on my lap all night, cuddling. He has wormed his way into my heart. I hate to admit it...I love this little cat.

AP Calculus

Professor Posamentier, the dean of education at City College recently wrote an article in Newsday saying that AP calculus should not be taught in high school, that school's should emphasize algebra skills instead. He said kids are coming into the colleges with AP credit, yet their skills are severely lacking.

I know Professor Posamentier quite well. He was my main math education teacher as an under graduate, graduate and post graduate student. He is a brilliant teacher and I credit him with my skills as a teacher. I completely and whole-heartedly disagree with the premise of this article. Kids might come into college ill prepared but, it is not the fault of AP calculus. Instead I would blame the poor curriculum of Math A and Math B. I would blame the early emphasis of calculator use. I would blame the use of manipulatives, instead of memorization (multiplication tables) in elementary school.

I have been teaching AP calculus for over ten years. The students I have must qualify for the class by taking pre-calculus and doing well in that class. By taking away AP calculus from these kids we are dummying down the curriculum and once again teaching to the lowest level possible. We should not assume that all kids are not capable. The kids in my school are. Sometimes I do end up with students who "sneak in." They don't have the prerequisites. When I find out, I try to "hide" them in the class. The five on the AP exam is not that important. The skills they learn in my class are. AP calculus is a class that teaches kids how to think, how to apply their knowledge to problem solving. They are able to solve problems numerically, analytically, algebraically, and graphically. They must be able to support or confirm answers through written exercises. They must understand that technology is used to support results. Students are taught that mathematics provides the foundation that allows technology to solve problems. No other math class does this.

Calculus taught on the college level does not delve as deeply into the subject as it is on the high school level. There simply is not enough time. Rather than remove AP calculus from the high school curriculum, we should be doing more to insure more students get to take it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Teacher, Student Trade Blows After Spat

While I don't condone it, I can understand this teacher's frustrations. I have taught rough kids, but I can't imagine a population like this.

Sep 14, 9:45 PM (ET)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) - A teacher and a 14-year-old student were arrested after trading blows during an argument over taking out trash at the desert's Riverside County Community School.

Teacher Thomas Silva, 61, was arrested and booked for investigation of willful cruelty to a child, while the teenager was arrested for battery on a school employee, Sgt. Mitch Spike said Thursday. Both were released.

"Neither one of their actions were justified," the sergeant said.

Silva, who wasn't available for comment, has worked for the Riverside County Office of Education since 1979, spokesman Rick Peoples said, adding he was unable to discuss the incident because it was a personnel matter.

At about 11:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Silva asked the student to throw out the trash and the teen refused, Spike said. They argued and the student shoved Silva, who then slapped the student, the sergeant said.

The student then slapped the teacher and the teacher punched the student at least three times in the head, Spike said.

No medical attention was needed.

Peoples said the school serves about 40 students, who are in the seventh through 12 grades. The students include those who have been expelled from other schools, are on probation or have other problems.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jena 6 Update

Mychal Bell's conviction has been overturned. They could not try him as an adult.

Success Story 2

It was not that long ago that kids were not required to take all those hard, academic courses that they had no interest in. Maybe some coasted by, and maybe some took courses beneath their intellectual level, but they got that much needed diploma. If they had been forced to take the more difficult courses there is a good chance they might have dropped out.

I met a former student today who was one of those kids. He was a student of mine in a pre-algebra class. I can honestly say Seth was one of the slowest kids in that class. He talked constantly about becoming an engineer and no amount of talk on my part could make him see that he needed math. To make matters worse for me, he was a friend of my son's and I knew his parents and grandparents. No matter how hard everyone pushed, he could not do the work.

Seth graduated high school and attended community college. He graduated and is now finishing his last year at Stony brook. He is publishing his first paper soon. He plans on going to Cal Tech for graduate school in computer engineering. It has taken him eight years to complete what others do in four but complete he did. If we had pushed him more in high school he might have ended up as a dropout. If we had dummied down the exams, he might not have been ready for the rigors of college. He admitted to me today that he did nothing in high school. He just was not interested.

Some people have to mature into school. Some people will never reach intellectual heights. That is just the way it is.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lowest Common Denominator

Summer was nice. I wrote about lots of stuff that interested me, about my travels and about my city exploration. Now I am back to my whining and even I am getting tired of listening to me.

This term I am teaching the first term of Math B, for the first time. The kids all passed the Math A regents so, theoretically, they should be proficient in algebra skills and understand the basics of geometry. Unfortunately, what they should know is not necessarily what they do know.

I began the term discussing three concepts--median, altitude and angle bisector of a triangle. I spent TWO DAYS on these three little concepts, drawing pictures, using colored chalk and stressing each word in the problem. Some of the kids just couldn't get it. And then there were the related algebra problems. I have kids that don't know how to solve a basic equation.

Luckily, not all of them are this limited. But, because I hate to leave any kid out, I find myself spending too much time going over the basics, the things they should know from last year but don't. And, I don't think it is because they have forgotten, they just never knew them.

I would love to blame last year's math teachers for this deficit. If I did, I would be one of the worst culprits when it comes to pushing kids ahead. I taught two regents classes last year. I passed the kids that passed the regents, even when I knew their knowledge was very limited. When kids have to repeat a class after the regents is passed, they don't take it seriously. We know how stupid and easy the regents is. They don't. Repeating the course would have made no sense. The math A curriculum is awful. It doesn't teach real math skills. Almost any student can be taught to pass the regents if they know how to use a calculator. A scientific one will do just as well as a graphing one. The kids I passed that didn't know much need to pass to get that diploma. The diploma might only open a door to a job sweeping floors at UPS, but it opens the door just the same. When I went to school there were different types of diplomas. Kids that were not academically motivated or gifted, could still get a diploma. That is not true today. Everyone is college material.

So, where does that leave us? NCLB is leaving all our kids behind. The brightest kids are being deprived of a challenging education because I (and others) are too busy trying to reach everyone. The kids at the bottom might now be able to pass, but they are not learning anything, at least nothing useful.

If the politicians really care that no child is left behind, the curriculum must be changed so everyone can benefit from a high school diploma.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


A person who comments on this blog keeps saying that NYC schools deserve to be in the shape they are in because New York City residents don't pay the same taxes as Long Island residents. This person seems to think our kids should be packed into rooms with upwards of 40 kids. So what if their are no chairs? What is wrong with sitting on the floor? It doesn't matter if the roof leaks on them either. The money their parents are saving on taxes could be used to buy waterproof clothing. They don't deserve classes that are on the right level for them. Big deal, so they get a program change three weeks into the term. They don't pay taxes, it doesn't matter if they missed all that work. They can take math B without passing Math A if Math B is the only class with an available seat.They should never get new books. I bet this commenter wouldn't mind if there was no heat in the winter either (unless, of course it was a room that person was teaching in.)

The things I want for my students are not frivolous, they are basic rights. A quality education is something that everyone should be entitled to, no matter what their economic status is. I'm tired of people thinking our kids deserve less than their suburban counterparts.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Merit Pay

My AP has been berating all us old timers, telling us constantly that the young teachers are the only ones who never have discipline problems. In fact, one of the young teachers (brand new) took over a class mid year from a teacher going on sabbatical last year. The teacher had lots of problems with the class she left. My AP has been going on non stop about how this young teacher had such control, you could hear a pin drop in her room. Today we learned the secret to her success. HE REMOVED ALL THE TROUBLE MAKERS AND LEFT HER WITH THE NICE, QUIET ONES! Too bad he won't share this recipe for success with the rest of us.

We had a teacher in my department a few years ago who had the best regents results around. The reason???? Any kid failing was removed from her class. That would explain other teacher's poor results.

And thus we see the reason that merit pay will never work in the city of New York.

Early Term Pictures

My friend and colleague is still out sick. I want to share some early term pictures with him, so he will feel a part of the system while he recovers. Teachers have absolutely no place to work in my school. Here is a picture of a friend standing in the book room and working on his lesson plans. He is standing, as there are no chairs. Also missing are windows, fans, and air conditioners. The room is full of dust. I guess this really doesn't matter because he is a NYC teacher, also a Queens resident. The citizens of NYC pay low taxes, so this is what we should expect.

This is a picture of two boys getting math help in the book room that the teacher above is working in. There is no place for them to sit, or to put their book bags. But, their parents don't pay huge property taxes so I guess they are getting what they deserve.
(Sorry for the sarcasm, but an anonymous commenter seems to think that since we don't pay big buck property taxes, our kids are not entitled to a decent learning environment.)

Sunday, September 09, 2007


A friend told me that Principal Suit actually asked about me over the summer. I'm sure he was hoping that I had decided to retire. Tough on him. I'm not ready to go anywhere yet.

He's always making comments to my friends about their choice of a friend. This time, he said that my friend should work on softening up my edges. My edges are just fine the way they are. They curve when they need to curve and cut through steel when necessary. He is the one that has to soften up. He is the one that needs to stop making all the nasty comments. He is the one that needs to value what I do for the school.

Principal Suit--learn to treat me and all my colleagues with respect and you will see how soft I really can be.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Off To A Great Start

The first week of school has come and gone and although Klein and Bloomberg claim that everything is going great, things are not good. As usual, kids are sitting in the wrong classes. A kid who never passed math A has been sitting in my math B class all week. When she told me, I sent her to guidance. Of course the secretary would not let her in the door. She just took the form and told the girl that her guidance counselor would look into the problem. I'm sure it will be at least a week until the class is straightened out. Another one of my kids was placed in the new integrated algebra class. He should have been in math B. He couldn't get anywhere near guidance. Luckily, we ran into each other in the hall so I was able to walk him into his counselor and I got her to make the change immediately. I did ask her to put him in my class because he is a kind of space cadet who needs a little extra care. Of course she didn't. She claimed she couldn't move his science lab. It took me about 30 seconds to get someone in the program office to make the change the best way for the kid. A hard working, bright girl was not given pre-calculus because the math chairman decided her grades were not high enough (she has a 94 average and every math grade, except for MB 31 was in the mid to high nineties. MB 31 was her only 85. This girl is in the science research program and plans to study some science in college. She needs the math.

Klein--sit in your office and make your claims about the caliber of NYC public school education. Don't provide more counselors to improve programming. Don't provide more advanced math classes so all that want to take the classes are able to. Don't worry about the BC calculus class with 41 kids in a trailer built to hold 30. Don't worry about the air conditioners that don't work , the ceilings that leak, the kids sitting on the floor because there are not enough chairs, or the bathrooms still under construction. NYC schools had a great start. Keep up the good work Klein.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Success Story

150+ kids a semester, two semesters a year, over 30 years of teaching, it is hard to remember the kids I've taught. Unfortunately, some, even the best ones, are forgotten as soon as the term is over. Some, stand out in my mind forever.

One such kid, or I should say man, because he graduated a few years ago, is D. D was tenth grader taking a ninth grade math class. he was the best dressed kid I ever taught. When I asked him about his clothing, and how he could afford such expensive stuff, he always told me about his bargains, how he knew how to shop at places like Marshall's and Century 21. He never ever paid full price. He was always trying to get over. He had a certain charm and he had given the school a series of wrong phone numbers so no one was able to get in touch with his mom.

I liked D right from the start. When he started playing games, coming to class late, not doing homework, I tried to call home. The phone number he had given me was to the waiting room of the LIRR. Not one of the school offices had the correct number either. Not wanting a mere sophomore to get the better of me, I went home and hit the computer searching both his last name and the name he gave me for his mom. After three calls, I stumbled upon his grandmother. I had a nice conversation with her, got his mom's number and grandma's assurance that mom would be informed of the conversation. D came into class the next day, head down, but happy. Happy that someone cared enough to put an end to his BS.

D had an okay term with me, passing, but barely passing. From my class, he went into a few other classes where although he had lots of difficulty with the math, he managed to pass. Everyone loved him and all the teachers did their best to get him through. At graduation, he even won an award for being the most improved senior in the graduating class.

The reason I am writing about D tonight is that I just ran into him in the paint department of Home Depot. He stopped helping a customer and we hugged as soon as we saw each other. I couldn't stop saying enough good things about him. The customer and my husband were both impressed. My husband remembered the LIRR story. He has been working there since he graduated high school. He is also going to college and is trying to get on the police force. D is learning disabled. This has not held him back. He has goals and aspirations. He has worked consistently for years. He is a fine member of society, a son that a mother will always be proud of.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Partial Credit

My AP is against giving too much partial credit on exams. At Friday's welcome meeting he passed out copies of a final exam from summer school and asked us what was wrong with it. Not one person in the department could come up with an answer. The questions were well written in mathematically precise language. They were typed. They covered the entire range of the course and they were not too easy or too hard. He was in shock that we could find nothing to complain about.

After a few minutes he yelled "Don't you see it? The multiple choice section is worth 24 points (4 points each) and the rest of the exam consists of 4 and 6 point questions where partial credit is given. This is ridiculous. An exam should have no more than 30 or 40 points of questions with partial credit. Besides, don't you have better things to do than to mark papers?"

We couldn't believe our ears. Sure these tests are harder to grade. But, we are teaching math. If a kid has a concept, but makes a careless mistake, why should that kid lose full credit? What are we teaching when we grade in such a way that kids will fail too quickly?

I am a firm believer in partial credit. Kids leave out signs. They hit the wrong button and get the wrong answer from their calculators. They make a small mistake in one part of the problem and then carry through to the rest of the problem. Partial credit encourages them to show their work. It encourages creative thinking. It allows you to review your work and learn from your mistake.

Last year I was given the task of getting 28 seniors through the Math A regents. These kids had not passed a math class since freshman year. I got 27 out of 28 through and most passed just by doing the multiple choice. I've perfected the art of teaching to the test and in this case, teaching to the multiple choice on the test. My kids could even get the correct answer to a factoring problem as long as their were choices available. Did they pass and graduate? Yes! Did they learn any math? Absolutely not (except for two or three of them). Could they have done this without the choices, on the problems where partial credit is given? No way.

I know how the teachers in my department feel about this. I am wondering how other math teachers in other places deal with the partial credit dilemma?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Brother-In-Law Update 2

I just had a wonderful phone call with my brother-in-law. He is, ON THE MEND!!!!! This is the happiest I have been in a while. He swears he is giving up smoking for good and is really ready to amend his ways. I hope he does.

The one good thing out of all of this is that I now realize how much I love my sister. I am actually now looking forward to her moving back to NY, and not just because she will be good for my dad.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You've Got Mail

Today was the first day of classes. Some of the kids I have taught before, but most are new to me this term. As much as I hated the first two days back, I loved today. Kids from last year all came over to say hello. My favorites are the hugs from the kids who I had to fail. They know that I did my best to help them get through and that it is not my fault that they failed. They know that I still respect them as people, and love them for who they are. Their abilities, their work ethics and their attendance matter in their grades, but not in the kind of people that they are. They know that I will keep on encouraging them and helping them and be their loudest supporter at graduation.

Right now, I am sitting at the computer waiting for the "you've got mail." I give an e-mail address to my students every term and tell them to send me an e-mail, with their name and class so I can create a class list and send it out. I get so excited hearing that expression. I know some teachers don't like to use e-mail. They are afraid. I keep my e-mails impersonal. I write nothing that could be taken wrong. The kids love it. I don't mind answering homework questions. It is an easy way to get in touch with parents.

Most schools out of NYC use e-mail all the time. What I am doing is not rare or unusual. It is for a NYC teacher. It gives me a way to get to know the kids a little better. It is not an invasion of my personal time. I only have to answer what I want to answer.

So now, instead of waiting for the phone to ring, with maybe some bad news from my sister, I am waiting for the mail to come.

Brother-In Law Update

The days before my mom's surgery, the surgery she never woke up from, she was delirious. She hallucinated. She thought everyone was out to get her. She said mean things to everyone around. This is what my brother-in-law is doing now. He got off the ventilator on Sunday. We thought that was a good sign. The doctors said he would be disoriented for a day or two, but that should pass. It is not passing. Now they are saying he might have brain damage.

My sister was at the hospital non stop during my mom's last conscious hours. She always thought my mom would get better. I knew she wouldn't. Now, as she watches her husband going through the same thing, she has no hope. She fears he will never be well. I try to bolster her, but I am too far away. She is alone, maybe there are a few friends around, but no family.

I used to love my brother-in-law. I'm just angry with him now. He did this to himself. He smoked when he knew his health was at risk. He smoked when he spit up blood. He never had a job that provided health coverage so we don't know if what he has now could have been prevented. I hate him for what he is doing to my sister.

I saw a good friend at work go outside to light up today. I laced into him. I told him that he doesn't really love his wife or he wouldn't be risking his health this way. He wouldn't risk putting her through what my sister is going through. He said he is going to stop, but I have heard him say that too many times before to take him seriously. Smoking is an addiction and a disease. I know he can't help himself, as my brother-in-law could not help himself. I feel so helpless. There is nothing I can do to make her pain go away.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Back to bitching!!! I've got to keep that colleague who is recovering and not in school informed about all the fun he is missing.

Friday we had workshops. I got lucky enough to go to one on technology, and the new computers and screens that are hooked up in about two rooms in every department. I got "chosen" for this workshop because I am computer savvy. The AP running it began by asking the people in the room why we did not use technology. One person mentioned accessibility. The guy refuted this and pointed to the newly installed equipment. I then told him "Training. We need lots of training and it should be on school time." He got kind of nasty and said "That is what your prep periods are for. Prep does not mean double lunch. Besides, you can always come in early or stay late." He lost me with that comment. I left at the end but went back to speak to him about his rudeness. Of course, he was not around. I will speak to him next week. He doesn't know me. He doesn't know that my lunch is always used as a prep when I am not tutoring. He asked why we don't use technology. I told him. I guess he could not deal with an honest answer.

Beautiful Day

I would love an apartment with this view. Who would think that this is in the middle of NYC? Queens? A hop skip and a jump from where I live.

(This stuff is so much better than my rants about school! The impeach Bush sign was in a car window in lot. I just couldn't resist!)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Butt Head

I hate smokers. They not only kill themselves, they kill the people that love them.

My brother-in-law is one of those smokers. He is 53 years old, lying in an ICU, hooked up to a ventilator, fighting for his life. He has been smoking for years. He has had severe bronchitis for years. He has had major incidents of coughing up blood. He refused to quit. The doctors just found a mass on his lungs. They do not know if it is cancerous because they cannot operate while he is in such a weakened condition.

I love my brother-in-law but I hate him for what he is putting my sister through. When he refused to give up smoking, he not only chose to give himself a deadly illness, he chose to destroy his wife, the love of his life. she Shas not slept or had a happy moment in 10 days. He chose to possibly deprive his newborn grandson of knowing the love of wonderful grandfather.

My mother-in-law smoked herself to death. She smoked from the time she was nine years old until she died, at age 83. She died due to complications of surgery, a surgery necessitated by her smoking. Her smoking did not allow blood to circulate fully through her body and as a result, some of her toes had to be amputated. Because of the smoking, her body could not take the anesthesia and this is what killed her.

When my mother-in-law started to smoke, no one knew how deadly cigarettes were. By the time the truth was known, she was too addicted to stop. Her life was hard and cigarettes were one of her few pleasures. My brother-in-law is different. The dangers of what he has been doing have been known for years. He should have been smart enough to stop. He should have been strong enough to stop. I don't think he ever tried to stop. I don't think he thought it was important to stop.

I pray every day that he will get well. I pray that he will get well and find the courage to give up this thing that has him fighting for his life. I pray that others that smoke can find the strength to stop.