Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I just got off the phone with my daughter. She called because she needed a teacher's opinion.

Her teacher in grad school likes to use the overhead projector. He was busy lecturing and trying to finish up for an exam when she noticed the overhead was on fire. She interrupted him to point this out. He got agitated and angry at her for interrupting the class. He blamed her because he was not able to finish using the overhead in class. She called to ask if maybe she shouldn't have said anything (not really, she wanted her voice validated.)

I don't know this guy. I'm willing to bet he is a senior professor in no danger of being rated unsatisfactory or of being sent to the rubber room. Too bad he doesn't work for the NYC DOE. But, he probably would be an administrator or someone else with immunity from the system.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


We finally had our night in court with the McMansion owners and...WE WON!!!!! They will pay for flooding our basement. After almost a year, victory is ours.

Last October the lord of the house next door cut the electrical service between his house and ours so he could put in his own service. Only, he never had this okayed by Con Edison and his contractor left an open pipe in the ground. When it rained, the water poured into our basement.

First time in court, we had to postpone as we didn't have all our estimates and we didn't have the Con Edison report saying they were guilty. After that, the lord next door postponed. Then, he got his insurance company involved. They brought a lawyer to small claims court. The arbitrator didn't like the lawyer, thought we were right, but the lawyer asked for a postponement so it was granted. Next, the lord sued the contractor and the electrician who did the work. We amended our suit and sued them also. Tonight, everyone was ready (except the lawyer). Before the lawyer could speak, everyone agreed to arbitration. The arbitrator said we were right and the only issue was to decide which of the three would pay. The lawyer was furious. He tried to appeal. You cannot appeal the decision of an arbitrator. He told my husband to go f**k himself. (Not a very professional thing for a lawyer to say.) I think we will report the lawyer to the insurance company. Victory is sweet. I'm going to enjoy spending this money.

Monday, October 29, 2007

AT LAST!!!!!!!

This is what I saw after the first day. The base was there but it did not work. There was a part missing.
Looks like there might be something under here. Oh, no, it's locked. Will the custodians come in the morning to adjust the heat? Lucky us, it is a Board of Ed locked box. It only pretends to work. Maybe merit pay would get it locked. (Thank goodness merit pay hasn't come to thermostats yet.) We can adjust the heat or air conditioning to our liking.

A kid said today "It's really cold in here. Please turn up the heat." I looked at her and said "No." I kept teaching. She gave me a strange look, as I never talk to any kid that way. "I then said, "Remember, we have no heat in here." A few minutes later we heard heat coming through the vents. It went on and off, not working yet, but a sign that it might be working soon. I left to go to lunch. There was still no heat. I cam back to teach my last two classes. There was a new thermostat in the back of the room. Unfortunately, it was covered by a metal box. The box looked locked. I wondered if we would be able to adjust it. And then, I flipped the box open! We have a beautiful, electronic, functioning thermostat that is fully accessible.

Now my only worry is the door lock. Sometimes I can lock it, sometimes I can't. I really hope no one comes in and messes with this one.

Departmental Meeting

We had our monthly departmental meeting today. It should have been held last week, but Mr. AP had to leave early to take his new baby to the doctor. Our UFT rep told him it was not a problem to reschedule. We all know that rescheduling was a contract violation, but some things are not worth fighting about.

We are a school on a twelve period day. Supposedly, to accommodate different schedules, our meetings are held various periods during the day. We still have to go to C-6 assignments. This means that the only free period we have is lunch. Ms. POd bitched because the only period she could attend gave her five classes in a row. Mr. AP gave her permission to go the the bathroom and get coffee first. What a guy!

The meeting consisted of his usual double talk and talking down to teachers. He again reminded us how we are here to help children. One of my kids went to him today because she is in the wrong math class. He had told her earlier in the semester to see him if the class was too hard. He proceeded to yell at her and tell her to tell her guidance counselor to change anything he wanted. He would not do the counselor's job. The kid was upset. She said, "I am a student. I cannot tell my counselor what to do." I ended up walking her into the counselor and helped get her straight. I might not say that my job is to help kids, but I do help them all the time.

One of the things he mentioned was the availability of a scholarship report. He told us all to stop by and see him about it. I asked if we could do this during the C-6 period. Of course I got yelled at. "Your job is to help kids. Don't mention contract. So what if you have to give up five or ten minutes of your lunch." Too bad he always mentions contract when we complain about the C-6 assignments. I guess the contract only works when it benefits him. I am not going to see him about these reports. I can't see any way that seeing them will help my students.

Quality review is giving our school a second look in a few days. We are all supposed to want that good grade so we will get good students. Our school is too crowded. We don't need any more students. Besides, the school is in a good, safe neighborhood. The kids will keep coming no matter what mark we are given. Administration wants the grade for their bonuses. I just want to be left alone. The only positive thing I can say about my school is that the administration is not as bad as the one Justice Not Just Us works for.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

AP's Letter To Parents

My AP printed a letter to parents to inform them of the math department's grading policy. He included a bunch of his usual double talk about the way grades are calculated. He mentioned deducting points for homework and lack of class participation. He mentioned nothing about giving kids anything extra for these things.

He has repeated reprimanded us for giving make-up exams to kids who are absent. Many of of sneak around and give them anyways. (One of the reasons I love my trailer is that it is so easy to do this without his knowledge.) Of course kids need a good excuse if they have missed an exam and they can't pull this too often. Yet, in spite of his constant demand that we not give make-ups he has included this paragraph:

Students who are absent on a test day due to a good cause absence should not be punished-all math teachers will either drop one exam grade or give a make-up exam. Make-up exam grades that are far higher or lower than a student's average
will not be counted.

Maybe I am overly sensitive, but that one paragraph seemed kind of punitive to me. It also contradicts everything he has been saying to teachers all along.

We were all supposed to hand parents a copy of this letter at the conferences. I didn't stop by the math office until conferences were over so I never got it to give out. He'll probably have a problem with that if he finds out. Too bad. They should have been available more than five minutes in advance. I know he would have a problem with a teacher leaving things to the last minute.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Revelations About My Students And Other Things

Parent teacher conferences went great this year. I met some really fantastic parents, but that did not surprise me. This year, I have really good classes. My lowest level is a first term Math B class. Even though some of the kids are not good at math (and really don't like it), they are mostly juniors and did pass four terms of Math A to get here. I do have a few sophomores and freshman mixed in. Those kids are the super stars of the class.

I met Joe's mom and dad last night. Joe is a pip. I had him last year and he drove me crazy the entire year. This year, I found him misprogrammed for math, walked him to his counselor and got him into the right class. I told her to keep him away from Mr. A. Mr. A is a good teacher, but his English is not that great and he wouldn't give Joe the extra "kick in the butt" to get him to pass. Of course, Joe ended up in Mr. A's class. I managed to do some quick maneuvering and got Joe placed in my class. Joe is still driving me crazy and I have spoken to his mom quite a bit. Meeting his parents, I understood why I liked this kid so much. His mom took total control and firmly (but lovingly) put him in his place. His dad just sat there, quietly agreeing with her. Joe came into class today and worked hard, for the first time.

I also met Viv's mom again. Viv has been in my class 4 out of 5 terms. Viv is a weak student and her mom knows that I have always given 200% when it comes to getting her daughter to succeed. Viv decided in the beginning of this year that Math B was going to be hard and since she was not good in math, it was fine for her to fail. Luckily her mom does not agree and Viv was firmly (and lovingly) put in her place.

Kip's mom told me that he was in a bad accident last year and missed most of the school year. After fighting the system, she managed to get him a home school teacher. She said she doesn't know how he passed. The Math A regents is an easy test to pass and shows no knowledge. She spent hours talking to guidance. The teachers were never notified and although she tried to get him into an easier, more useful class, was unsuccessful. I sent her to the head of guidance. I don't know if she will be able to get him changed. It seems that there are no seats left in any of the intermediate algebra classes.
Sara graduated in June. She came back to parent-teacher conferences to checkup on her younger sister and came to visit me. I heard the usual complaints about the college math teachers (they are not as loving as high school teachers). It felt good to hear that her notes from last year were her "bible" and the A she was running was due to the stuff she learned last year. I had also suggested to her that she start a Muslim-Jewish Club in college. My school is so multicultural it was a joy to watch the different religions get along so well. I know this girl has it in her to bring about world peace (or at least start a real world peace process.) She told me she is actually doing that, and it is all because of my suggestion.

This brings me to a problem I discovered this week. I found a girl sitting in the wrong class. This sweet girl is failing. She is a senior and needs math to graduate. I went to her counselor. Her counselor said there is no where to put her, all the correct classes are filled. Too bad she didn't program her correctly in the first place. Even if this kid manages to pass, the skills she learned this term will not help her in college. She needs to hone her algebra. Proofs will do nothing for her.

Another kid realized herself that she had been misprogrammed (she never finished taking Math A). Her counselor told her to stick it out for first marking period to see how she would do. The poor kid has failed every test. Now she will be transferred, but she will be behind two months in her new class.

The guidance staff in my school have enormous case loads. Teachers have large classes. Guidance staff have offices, telephones and computers. Teachers carry their offices on their backs. Guidance counselors get paid more than teachers. Teachers should not have to do the guidance counselor's job. Someone needs to stand up and take responsibility for the classes the kids are in and it should not be the teachers. Yet, we will be judged for the kids success or failure. Our paychecks will include merit pay for successes we have with these kids. Yet, we go the extra mile, find out that they are not sitting in the class they should be in, and there is nothing we can do about the problem.

Thermostat Repair Guys

So three guys showed up period one today to fix the thermostat. My class gave them a standing ovation. One kids yelled, "take a picture", so I did.

The three guys worked for about fifteen minutes. Actually, one guy worked and the others stood around as his support group. Too bad the support group didn't help because after the fifteen minutes they told me they needed a part and left. They returned ten minutes later, stood around, attached something to the wall and left again. The thermostat is not fixed.
While they were trying to fix this, I mentioned that the thermostat is the adjoining trailer was also not working. They told me they knew, but mine was in worse shape. Mine looked worse but not working is not working and that one does not work either.

I don't know if they returned to fix it later in the day. I left the room early (half day, parent teacher conferences). I bet if these guys worked for merit pay the thermostat would be fixed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Packemin High

My school is over crowded, really, really overcrowded and the kids keep coming. Thanks to NCLB, we got 8 new admits yesterday. It is now October 24 and classes are still being equalized.

Teacher A has a class that is a slightly higher level than mine that meets the exact same period. Teacher A has an enrollment of 45. The school knew this from day one but, since Teacher A's class is an elective, the school elected to only make one section and packed the kids in. Now the school has been accused of abusing the singleton rule and the class must be thinned out. Teacher A is a good guy. He doesn't want to hurt the kids. He took the lowest scoring group and added them to my roster, keeping them in his class. Teacher A now has a class well within class size limits. (My class is now at capacity.) Teacher A's class is within legal limits in name only. He still is teaching over 40 kids.

I spoke to my AP about this today. He started screaming some nonsense to me about how we have to do this to keep from going on a 14 period day. He then started blaming Teacher A for the problem (Teacher A did not create the class.) At this point I realized it was useless to talk to him and walked out.

One of the commenters on this blog always refers to schools like mine as "Packemin High". That is an understatement. Maybe more kids are transferring to my school so they won't be "left behind" but, from what I see, the way the school is headed we will be leaving them behind as well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Geometic Proofs

We are doing geometric proofs in my Math B class. I never liked them, not even when I was in high school. I did not like them when I first learned them and could only BS my way through them and I did not like them when I grasped them completely and got 100 on my geometry regents tenth grade. I still don't like them even though I am teaching them.

My students don't like geometric proofs either. The concepts are too abstract to them and there are too many different ways to arrive at the same conclusion. They are always looking for the correct answer and an answer, in its common meaning is not what you get when you are doing a proof. The kids don't like all the writing and they have no use for the exactness of the words. To complicate things for them, I make them write everything out. I've seen too many kids write CPCTC and have no idea what it stands for. The word midpoint alone has no meaning unless they write out what a midpoint is. I guess what I am trying to get them to do with these proofs is to think logically and make sure everything they are doing and saying makes sense. There is a difference between a midpoint dividing a line into two congruent parts and to dividing it in half. Maybe it is petty, but if the proof is going to flow, all the words must make sense.

My students are finally starting to get the hang of proofs. We start at the beginning, then go to the end and meet in the middle. We use lots of pretty colors to make our triangles stand out. They can do a proof but they still don't get them. They still don't see the purpose of them and after over 30 years of teaching, I don't see the purpose of teaching them to do proofs either. With better students, I might change my mind, but, with these kids, a good intermediate algebra class would be much more beneficial.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rules Made To Be Broken

The Chancellor has declared that candy should not be sold in schools. Schools must watch the sweet intake of our children and make sure they eat a healthy diet. Schools make lots of money from candy sales. Every organization in my school is selling candy now. Principal Suit must have signed off on the candy sales. The people that are running the sales are not like me, they are people that actually follow the rules and would never, in a zillion years break any of them.

Someone must have made an issue about the illegality of this candy sale. Suit is now coming down on the kids and telling them they cannot sell their candy in school. He is telling them to sell their candy to their relatives. How any kid can be expected to sell so many candy bars to their relatives is beyond me (and them), but that is what he is telling them. The kids have taken their candy out of the carry box it came in and are now carrying the candy around the school in shopping bags. He pretends not to see it, but it is there, out in the open, for anyone with a sweet tooth to purchase.

The important thing is that the kids have learned lots from this issue. They learned that by breaking regulations they can make money. They learned that there are certain rules are okay to break, that even a high ranking administrator, like a Principal, will break the rules when breaking them serves his interests. I guess it is good to be the boss and follow only the rules you like.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I discovered a little bit of heaven last weekend. They are the best way to end a rough day.
The only problem is that they don't last too long.


I heard a rumor today that we only got a B on our Quality Review and Principal Suit is upset about it. In fact, he is so upset that he invited the reviewers to come back to try to up the score.
I don't know if this is true. I don't know what goes into making the score the score it is. I only know that the reviewers are kept far away from me. It doesn't matter that I get good results and have success with kids that have never succeeded before. I would tell the reviewers the truth about the school. I would tell those shameful little secrets that are kept hidden away. I would tell the family secrets.

I wonder what will happen if they do return. I bet Suit is already working on some of his staff to portray the "right image" and he has been coaching them on giving the right answers. I wish there was a way for them to see what really goes on. I wish they could see my classroom with the broken thermostat and the mosaic painted walls and the windows that don't all open. I wish they could see the lack of security by the trailers. I wish our grade would go down.

With all this I still have to say that my school is still one of the best around. We have a great staff and great kids. It is just not perfect. In fact, it is very far from perfect. These imperfections have to be pointed out. It is the only way to improve the system that is failing kids every day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

McMansion Update

A few months ago I wrote about the nightmare of living next door to a McMansion in the process of being built. Since my neighbors aren't home at the moment, I decided to go take a few pictures to share. Look carefully at the front steps and notice the slab of marble laying in front because the step was built too high. It just lays there, obviously a discard from the rest of the construction. Hope these pictures are enjoyable to all looking at them. To me, they are just sad.

The new fence does not go all the way to the end of the property and the rickety old fence next door is visible in the front of their house.
The marble does not go all the way to the ground. The house has cracks near the foundation. I bet it floods whenever it rains.
The roof is leaking. Notice the plastic bags on the chimney, being held down with two by fours.
Don't know why they dug this channel in the ground. It is still unfinished.
The driveway has big puddles whenever it rains. The cement was poured at different times and does not match. There are also cracks in it.

The marble fell off the bottom of the terrace at least three months ago.
Windows are still covered with plastic.
Windows are still being held in place with wood sticks.
The fence had the holes drilled wrong.
The wrong brackets were used. They do not fit.
The house that was destroyed was a beautiful English tudor, built in the late 1920's. It had been well cared for. There were new windows. There was a new kitchen. There was a pond and a waterfall in the backyard. The house standing there is out of character with the neighborhood and is out of character with any new million dollar structures. I don't know what these people could have been thinking when they had it built. My guess is that they were not thinking at all.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Joe Torre

I'm not a baseball fan but what happened to Joe Torre is a good example of why merit pay will never work.

Here is a man who did a great job for the Yankees for lots of years (not being a baseball fan, I don't know the number of years.) Things did not go well this year. Poof! He's offered an insulting contract and he is gone.

Not knowing anything about baseball, I don't know if there was anything he could have done to change the fate of this year's team. But, I do know that there are many factors that influenced the outcomes, some in his control, some not. Would the promise of a big bonus after he won the World Series have help his team do better? Would the promise of keeping his job have helped the Yankees win? If he was given more money could he have done a better job? I'm guessing the answers to all these questions is no. Joe Torre does not need baseball for the money. He needs baseball for his love of the game. Teachers do not become teachers to become rich (although we would like to live a comfortable life style.) We want to help our students accomplish as much as possible. We are already doing everything we can to help our students succeed. Bonuses are not going to change what we do. Money is not going to make us any more successful than we already are.

More From My AP

One of my favorite colleagues has had some health issues and as a result is on a restoration of health sabbatical. The colleague was visiting the school today and as luck would have it, I actually ran into him/her. It really was a chance meeting. We met on a floor I almost never go on, in a room I never go into. Anyways, my colleague looked great and will be back to work in February, which is good. This colleague is one of the few as cynical and bitching as I am. I know he/she would enjoy these latest memos from my AP, so I share parts of them here.

Memo 1: Do not be negative with
your students. Being negative does not accomplish anything.

Too bad this guy does not know that the same thing holds true for teachers. We are all so tired of his nasty memos and his threats of "U" ratings. We would be much more productive if he would only treat us like responsible, intelligent adults.

Memo 2: There are still some math teachers showing their
classes how to do examples
My goodness, there are still math teachers, teaching! How awful. I hope he is calling out support to take these unfit teachers to the rubber room.

We've also been told things like, "Make sure you call home at least three times when kids are not doing the right thing. Make sure you send a letter to every student in your class who is failing. Do this before report cards come out. Address labels will be available Monday. Report cards come out on Tuesday. And, if you don't do these things, DON'T PASS GO, DON'T COLLECT $200 AND GO STRAIGHT TO THE RUBBER ROOM."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Think Before Berating

As teachers we need to think before we berate our students for missing homework, not studying or behaving in some bizarre manner.

We have no way of knowing if that boy was up all night listening to his parents loud fights, if that girl sat all night in an emergency room with her mom, or if the twins must work long hours, not for cars, but for shelter and food for their families. Unless someone tells us, we don't know about the young girl barricading her room at night to keep the rats out. We don't know that the family will soon be homeless.

It is hard to get to know our students when there are 34 in a class. I believe most kids want to do the right thing. I'm not excusing the inappropriate behavior but I am looking for reasons for it. Only when we show understanding and compassion can we help our students. Screaming and yelling accomplishes little or nothing.

PSAT Again

At the risk of sounding like every other ranting high school teacher, I too am ranting about today's PSAT. Teacher schedules have been adjusted to allow for proctoring and then teaching. Many of us (including me) have been given assignments that mean we will put in an eight hour day. Complaints go answered except for "don't worry, we will pay you for a coverage." Coverages are one period long. Proctoring is 1.5 hours. Also, work outside a regular day should be voluntary, not mandatory. Yes, we could all grieve but the grievance would not be heard until after the deed has been done. My solution to this problem is to take the day off. Classes only meet for 30 minutes. I only have two meeting today so my kids will not miss me at all.

Today's schedule is bad. Certain attitudes leading up to the PSAT make things worse. A few of the English teachers decided to devote 10 minutes a day to PSAT practice. That is fine. It is their classes, their decisions. Besides, they can afford the time. Their curriculum's have flexibility. The math curriculum has no such flexibility. While some of the PSAT material is course appropriate (and I did go over those type of questions), 10 minutes is not enough time to make any real difference to the kids. One of the English teachers told her classes to tell their math teacher to do the math sections with them. This was not appropriate. I told my kids that their English teacher should worry about what she is going to teach and leave the math curriculum to the math teachers. Of course, the kids went and told her something slightly different (which she did not like.) Of course, she totally believed the kids. Of course she took issue with me. Oh well, just another person that won't be coming to my retirement party....Oh wait, I am not going to have one. I am going to disappear quietly into the night.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Payment for taking AP Exams

There was an article in today's Newsday that said some public schools would be paying high school students for scoring high grades on Advanced Placement Exams. As an Advanced Placement teacher, I take great offense at this new policy. Taking an AP class is a privilege that is earned through hard work and mastery of prerequisite skills. The rewards for doing well in these classes include college credit. Even more important than the college credit is the study and thinking skills learned in these classes. The students taking these exams will be going to college. No one will (or should) pay them for doing well in college. They should not be paid to do well on these exams in high school.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Fair Solution (Almost)

Because math teachers are the only ones that really do any tutoring during C-6 assignments, we all rebelled last year. To appease us, Principal Suit agreed that math teachers would be working with a buddy and doing a 3/2 split. My AP told us to work out our tutoring schedule by ourselves. This has been working for everyone. Today, one of my colleagues got yelled at for working out a fair schedule--she would work Mondays and Wednesdays and alternate Fridays with her tutoring buddy. This is the same schedule I have worked out and it has been working well. He yelled because he needed a schedule to present to the parents and he couldn't present one with alternate Fridays.

My colleague, not wanting to fight with him, agreed to change and work every Friday. This might work now, but since our school is not on a 100% annualization, it might not work in the spring term. He doesn't seem to care. He only cares about what looks good on paper.

My blog buddy, Justice, Not Just Us is looking for a school where he can really teach, where children will be first. I don't think we work for a system that will ever allow a school like that to exist. Administrators and politicians are too busy looking at what looks good on paper. The good of the students never comes into play. This little concession to teachers makes us more willing to work the c-6 assignment and as a result, we are more enthusiastic and do a better job of tutoring. But, what do I know, I am only a teacher.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Special Interest Groups

Special interest groups are moving in to certain towns and taking control of the school boards. These special interest groups are taking money away from public schools and finding ways to funnel this money into the schools that benefit their own children. In one town, an elementary school has already been closed and their is talk of combining the middle and high school. Many of the younger teachers in the public schools will soon be out of work. Many of the services needed by public school children will soon be eliminated.

This scenario is not fiction. It is currently taking place on Long Island, in an affluent district. The problem is that the parents of the public school children are not necessarily the wealthier ones. Many are not educated. Many are immigrants and have no way to voice their concerns. Their children will suffer.

New York City schools are in trouble and so are schools in other parts of the state and the country. I don't have an answer to the problem, but there has got to be one out there. This country needs the bright youth of today to become the leaders of tomorrow. This cannot happen without proper education.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Street Fair

There is nothing like the colors, aromas, foods and sights of a NYC street fair.