Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ms. My S**t Does Not Stink

Ms. My S**t Does Not Stink had her frozen mac and cheese in the cafeteria's microwave oven. However, she did not think it worthy of her time to stay nearby and watch it heat. When I walked into the cafeteria, the microwave was not on. I opened it to heat my food, found her ice cold food, and took it out. All of a sudden Ms. My S**t Does Not Stink jumped up and started screaming because I preumpted the microwave. I told her, that not only was it not turned on, no one was even nearby and I had no way of knowing when the person that put it in would return. I took my dish out and let her continue, or should I say start cooking hers. She begrudingly apologized.

Ms. My S***t Does Not Stink and I have had similar run-ins in the past. She actually gave me permission to continue sitting at a table that she and her cronies decided to use. To quote her, "Don't worry, you don't have to move." (As if I was planning on moving!) She been snippy when I had to get resource room exams back from her and refused to do anything about her student who cut unless I put it in writing. Evidently, Ms. My S**t Does Not Stink can't remember something so simple unless it is written down.

Special education teachers are often and unfairly looked down upon by other teachers. It is teachers like this one that give them this unearned reputation. Ms. My S**t Does Not Stink needs to learn to play nice with others

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Looking Good Is All That Counts

jd2718 said...
one of the progress report categories, or is it NCLB? or quality review? whatever. One of the categories that schools are being rated on is how they help their weakest students, and how they help their lagging subgroups.All good ideas, yeah?Except they get credit for
a) doing better?
b) trying to do better?
c) showing someone that they have a plan to do better.

I think just c.

You know what Jd, I think C too! Yesterday we were given a list of all the students in all of our classes. We were told to contact every parent of every failing student and document the nature of our contact on a special form to hand in by Monday. Most of us have been contacting parents. Having us fill out these forms only serves to make the administration look like they are really doing something new to help the failing kids. When will it all end?

I've been thinking about the administration's push for our African American kids to succeed. Is it fair to help these kids and ignore the others? Is the Asian kid who needs help a "throw away" because our school has plenty of Asians that are succeeding? Instead of singling out one race, shouldn't we be finding ways to help them all, or at least help them all equally? If schools truly care about no child being left behind then statistics need to be thrown away and children need to be looked at.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The school is suddenly concerned about the lack of African American students in AP and honor classes. They are also suddenly concerned about the low number of African American students receiving advanced regents diplomas.

The sad fact is that there is not one African American in any of the AP calculus class or on the math team. For years, I have been talking about this problem. We have lots of bright African American kids in our school. They seem to fall through the cracks in the system. As much as I hate to say it, racism is alive and doing too well in the twenty first century. If it wasn't for the outcry to improve our statistics, these kids would still be going through high school unnoticed. (Unless of course they do something wrong.)

Yesterday, Principal Suit came to our department meeting and brought up this subject. He wants us to do something about the problem. Today I handed the AP guidance a list of African American students from my Math B class that can use a little extra help, either academically, or with some extra motivation. They are all good kids, bright kids, but kids that can easily get lost in the system. I told her to put her money where her mouth is and find a way to help these kids. I've already doing all that I can for them. She took their names and promised to look into it. I want to look into how all the data the school has been collecting and analyzing lately will be used to help these kids.

Monday, February 25, 2008

There's a Hole in the Trailer

There's a hole in the trailer. Maybe they are looking for a new classroom. Might be good for a swimming class.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Footsteps in the pristine snow. No one visits the cemetery in February--except my dad.
Mom loved red roses. Dad wanted to bring her some for Valentine's Day.
Dad saying Kaddish by her grave.
Dad walking away, his tears melting the snow in his path.

Friday, February 22, 2008


For all of you out there that love to eat out and like to save money, I recommend You have to join, but that part is free. For $5 you can buy $10 gift certificates to many restaurants and for $10 you can buy certificates worth $25. Be careful, and read the fine print for restrictions (there aren't that many.) Wait until the end of the month of make your purchase as the certificates go on sale and are 50 - 60% off.

Looking for something to do yesterday, we printed a certificate for Mim's. The place was extremely elegant, a much nicer place than I usually lunch at. The certificate cost me $1.20 and my lunch bill (including two meals and a beer) was only $15. My husband had dinner last night with a friend at the Barefoot Peddler. Their meal, fajitas and two margaritas came to $16 plus the $4 certificate. is a great way to try different places and save money along the way.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Daddy's Little Girl

It's the twenty first century. Women make their own money and take responsibility for themselves. While watching this sweet four year old going through the racks at Century 21, I comment to her dad "She better get a good education so she can make a living that will support her expensive taste." He just answers "She better get a husband that can take care of her the way I do." I just give him a look. You would think he would know better and want more for his little princess.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Makes A Fair Election?

In a democracy we always say, majority rules. But, what exactly is a majority?

The simplest type of voting involves only two choices. With two choices, the most common way of deciding is majority rule, that is, the candidate with more than 50% of the vote wins. While this rule is taken for granted, it is important to check three properties:

1. Every vote has the same weight.

2. There is symmetry between the candidates. If all votes were reversed, the loser would become the winner.

3. If a vote for the loser were changed to a vote for the winner, the outcome of the election will not be changed.

Of course, in a democracy, there are many variations of this majority rule. A Constitutional Amendment can only be passed if it is approved by 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the states. A jury can only convict on criminal charges if there is 100% agreement.

Voting with more than two choices is much more complex. Sometimes, more often than not, no one gets a majority. Mo gets 35% of the votes, Larry gets 33% of the votes and Curly gets 32% of the votes. Mo cleary has the most votes, but not a majority. He has what is known as a plurality. These votes are very close. If Larry had decided to drop out and all his supporters decided to vote for Curly, Curly would win. Problems are definitely going to arise in this system. Studying this, makes it clear as to why some of our presidential hopefuls are dropping out early and giving their support to others.

In the mathematics of voting, we study different ways of holding an election, using preference schedules. We hold elections using run-offs of the top two candidates, sequential run-offs (similar to American Idol), Borda Counts (similar to figuring out GPAs) and pairwise comparisons. Holding the same election each way can give different results.

One of the things we always want is fairness. Judging fairness is subjective but mathematicians and political scientists have come up with four basic fairness criteria that must be met by a fair voting system.

Criterion 1: If a candidate recieves a majority of the first-place votes, that candidate should be the winner.
Criterion 2: If a candidate is favored over every other candidate in pairwise races, that candidate should be declared the winner.
Criterion 3: If a candidate is declared a winner and a second election is held which ranks the candidate higher, that candidate will still be the winner.
Criterion 4: If a candidate is declared a winner and a second election is held in which one of the losing candidates drops out, then that candidate should still be the winner.

In 1973 Kenneth Arrow received the Nobel Prize in Economics for his mathematical analysis of voting systems that led him to discover that no voting system satisfies all four fairness criteria.

I've only touched on this topic here, but it is one that I enjoy teaching. Delving further into it, students can appreciate how the electoral system we have now was developed. It brings real life applications of mathematics into my student's lives. It shows them that there is more to mathematics than the quadratic formula. There is a strong correlation to what they are learning in their government and in their math classes. For my weaker students, it is a way to practice arithmetic and calculator skills in an interesting manner. Kids who can't do the basics, are still drilling their basics (percents, fractions, decimals) and are not being treated like babies.

Source: Using and Understanding Mathematics by Jeffrey Bennett and William Briggs.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Can I Use Teacher' Choice Money For These?

This is the latest in trailer wear. The full body protection is needed to wade through the puddle on rainy days.
Or maybe these boots will be enough.

(Both products from the Bass Pro Shop, Baltimore, Md

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I have been following the thread concerning homework on KTM. Rather than comment there, I thought I would add my own comments here.

Homework is an integral part of mathematics. Since the only way to learn mathematics is by practicing, practice must be done at home, after school. Before I give any homework assignment, I do it myself. If it takes me more than 10 minutes (5 minutes for a low level class), it is too long and I shorten it. The homework always is a reflection of what was done in class and the students should have examples to go back to for help. In an advanced class, I try to assign problems with the answers in the back so work can be checked. Although the answers don’ t explain the problems, many times it is possible to work backwards from the answer and figure out the process.

Every homework problem is gone over in class. My room does not have much board space, so I have students (a different one each day) do the assignment on an acetate and then use the overhead to display. If a student cannot do an example it just has to be written down with space left for the solution. The students are supposed to make corrections with a different colored pen. After the assignment is gone over, it is collected. I go through the papers, see which problems were the most difficult and return them the next day. I do not have the time or the ambition to mark each paper and put corrections on them. Besides, years ago when I was young and ambitious, I found my efforts ended up in the trash more times than not.

In my advanced placement calculus class, I don’t check homework every day. It takes too long to collect it and give it back. To compensate, I give “take home quizzes” once a week and mark those. So far, this has been successful.

I don’t know if this is the best way to check homework, but at the moment it is the best I can do.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

School Condition Update

My puddle--picture taken from inside the room.
My puddle, picture taken from the top of the ramp. The white stuff floating around in it was pretty scary stuff. I was assured it was not toxic, but who knows? Today the custodian (one I trust) told me it was the sodium chloride put down to melt the ice.
View from the top of the ramp. At this time the puddle is so deep, it is impossible to get in or out without getting soaking wet
Today's puddle remnant. What an enticing place to get an education!
More puddle residue.

On another note, while my trailer has soap in the bathroom, the trailer next door still has none. Trailer people must be immune to germs. Both trailers are still missing paper towels.

Good news, the APO is getting all new furniture in her office and one the F Status people has had an office carved out for her. She has her own desk, phone and computer.

Isn't the NYC DOE great!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No Workshop Model For This Guy

The guy who wrote this would like to hear what teachers think. He would appreciate a comment even if you don't agree.

Let Teachers Teach

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Smart Young Guy

Taken from The Politricks.

Presidential Idol

For years Americans have complained about the presidential election process and election after election Americans sit at home instead of going to the polls to cast their vote for a candidate who will ignore their campaign promises and help out their wealthy friends.

Americans in states with late primaries complain that by the time they get a chance to vote for the party representative of their choice there are no choices left. Other times political parties decide that a state won’t get any delegates at the party’s national convention because they didn’t have there vote on the day they were told to. In the national election many people in smaller states feel like their vote is pointless because of the few electoral votes their state is worth. There are also many people in non-swing states who feel that their vote and voice cannot possibly sway the masses. These factors plus the laziness of people not to want to drive to wherever they are assigned to vote wait on line and pull a few levers has lead to a large portion of the country not participating in the democratic process.

In this modern age there is no longer a need for this archaic process. I recommend we go to a system that has proven to work and allow Americans to select their top musical candidates for the past six years. If the American Idol process can work for soon to be pop legends such as Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, and Jordin Sparks why not for our next great president. If nothing else it would be great entertainment listening to Simon Cowell call Hillary Clinton’s health care policy rubbish, Randy Jackson telling John McCain he is his “Dawg”, and watching Paula Abdul swoon over Barack Obama’s good looks.

This new system would allow us to text message our votes in after each episode.
without ever getting off the couch. I feel this might be the only way to get this attention span deficient nation to care about politics. One hour episodes one day a week with a second elimination episode is about all we seem to be able to handle, anything more seems like to much effort.

Although by now I am sure you can all detect my sarcasm in this post I am still disgusted to write it. How is it that more people take the time to vote on who has a better singing voice then who will lead the free world? Last time I checked there was no Iranian Idol or Cuban Idol. These shows can only exist in a free society, something that many of us chose to ignore!

Monday, February 11, 2008

E-Mail From A Student

Email from a student:

Hi Ms POd, has Jill seen you lately? For Chinese New Year, my family
went to toronto so I have been absent. I just got back from toronto. I
will be back with an absence note and my parents should call you later when they
have time. Because my mom was off from work for a while, so she has to
catch up on the work she missed and so do I. May you please prepare the
worksheets I missed? And can I take the math test again?

My answer:

I spoke to your mom this afternoon.

See you tomorrow.

Student Response:

Yes. I know she called me at 2:16. But yeah, I didn't go to toronto. I apologize for not going to class, but I got a new history teacher and I needed to catch up on the work so I had to go find help on the homeworks and I also needed to go talk to Mr. Bill regarding receiving my honors credit so I waited for him in front of his office. After the thursday that i didnt go to school because of chinese new year, my 2 AP classes had homeworks and essays that were stacking so i had to go finish it, thus i couldnt make it to 9th. Im sorry for the inconvenience and I will get all the work done and finished as soon as possible. I didnt tell my mom as I knew she wouldnt want me have trouble with my classes and fuss over it, but I was going to tell her today or something about math so she could write me an absence note. If you want to have a talk with me or something, let me know and I could come see you period 4,5,or 7 thanks

My answer:

I want you to stop cutting--NO EXCUSES and no more lies.

No make up on this test. Better not miss any more!

And again she tries:

alright, but you don't want me to come see you or anythng right?

And again I answer:

Nothing to say--you've said it all

Once again:

ok so can i get the worksheets and hws so i can come back to class prepared?

I give up. She cuts, She lies. Now she wants me to give up my lunch to help her. Yesterday I saw No Country for Old Men. There should be a spinoff--No Teaching for Old Pissed Off Teachers.


Why would they put their empty coffee cup on top of the ice bucket? Wouldn't it have been better to throw the cup in the garbage?

Saturday, February 09, 2008


One day there was grass and the next day there was a slab of concrete. It's been here over a month and no one knows what it is for? Anyone have a clue?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's Chinese To Me

One of my classes is full of kids that do not speak much English. They are fairly new in the country and they are really struggling. There are kids in the class that speak their language (and English) and excel in math. These kids often explain things to the others in their own native tongue.

Last week a boy in my class was explaining LRAMS, RRAMS, and MRAMS (rectangular approximations of areas between the curve and the x-axis) to another . I listened carefully and watched what he was pointing to. I told them I just wanted to make sure that he was doing the work correctly. Both kids laughed as they know that I do not speak or understand Chinese.

I started listening as a joke, but as I stood there, I thought about how hard it must be for them to understand me, although their limited English is far better than my knowledge of Chinese (which is nonexistent.) I wanted to feel the way they felt every day. I told them why I was listening so hard. The kids just smiled and thanked me. That part of the lesson was just as valuable or even more valuable than the calculus they learned that day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Limitless Inability

Is it possible that there are math teachers out there that do not know math? The shocking answer to this question is YES! I 'm not talking about not knowing advanced math or even high school calculus, I'm talking about geometry, intermediate algebra and trigonometry. My AP said the new geometry course is going to be a problem because most of the teachers in my department don't know the subject and can't teach it. Little by little the old timers are retiring and those left behind are a sad bunch. (Not all new teachers are this uneducated in math, but lots of the ones in my school fall into this category.)

One of the young ones who will be around for a long time (and probably become an administrator) told me that if an answer is 3/2 and a kid writes 1 1/2, she marks it wrong. I tried to explain to her that she couldn't do that, the answers were equivalent. Her reply was, "my students know what I want and that is what they will give me." She taught the probability of picking a red and a blue marble from a bag of marbles and refused to recognize the answer had to be the probability of red and blue plus the probability of blue and red. It's her way or no way. My AP loves her. Even if he knew, he would probably not say anything.

There are teachers that go to the library for their C-6 tutoring assignment but who cannot help the kids with any math past the Math A regents. Even that is too hard for some of them. One teacher had to teach an SAT course over the summer and refused to learn the math. I have no idea what she taught but she will freely admit that she did not know the material and did not bother with it. The administration was just glad to have a body in the room and to be able to say the course was being offered.

A few weeks ago, my chairman brough a large part of the department in to watch one of the young ones teaching factoring. Her lesson consisted of doing the same exact problem (slightly different numbers) over and over. She never introduced coefficients higher than or lower than one or exponents higher than two. Don't get me wrong, she was excellent, but she doesn't know how to progress and there is no one to show her. She's a teaching fellow and her math education is limited.

My school is a good school. Attracting quality teachers should not be a problem. But, in a system that does not value senior teachers this does not happen. Seniority transfers are no longer available. Administrators want the newbies who take a much lower salary than the experienced teacher and jump to follow all their directives. Experienced teachers in the schools already are being harassed and told to transfer (as if some other school would take them.) Only the young are valued.

When I started teaching there were many experienced teachers around. I needed to learn and they were around to help. Sadly, this is no longer true. Sadly, even the older teachers still around are so overwhelmed with work that there is no time to help the new ones. Soon the only teachers left will be the ones who don't know the material and can't teach. These teachers will embrace the horse shoe seating arrangement and they will embrace group work so my guess is they will be embraced by the administration.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Bucket Runneth Over

The neighbors are home.

The faucet is still leaking. They put some doohickey on the end to stop the leak, but it is not stopping it.
They put a bucket under the leak to catch the water, but the bucket is overflowing.

I don't understand why they don't empty the bucket. Their car was parked in the driveway this morning and now it is in front of their house. They have to know it is leaking.

Something is really wrong with these people.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saga of My ID Card

This term my room at the college requires a swipe card for entry. Once inside, there is a computer hooked up to a projector. I can use a graphing calculator without having to drag one from room to room. I can put a book on the projector instead of using the old fashioned overhead.

I don't have a swipe card so the secretary typed out a letter authorizing the ID office to issue me one. This office is not open evenings so I ran over during lunch (and prep) to pick up the card. The college is only about 5 minutes from the high school I teach in and the secretary told me the whole process would only take about ten minutes. Everything usually goes well at the college, so I was not concerned.


The highway had a lane closed for construction. The five minute trip took fifteen minutes.

Mr. Homeland Security, the guard at the front gate, did not want to let me in to park. He told me that the school does not issue swipe cards. I had to wave the letter in his face to gain entry.

The secretary told me to go to a room *** but when I got there, I found a sign directing me to room ###. Of course there were no signs around pointing out the location of that room and no one was around to ask. (It was hidden in a corner behind the Bursar's office.)

The line to get into the ID office was 50 people long. Since I am faculty, I walked in without waiting. Faculty ID's could only be taken at one of the two machines and the woman, Ms. Discombobulated, that worked the one I needed, was on a break. By the way, the office opened at 11:00 and I arrived at 11:10. Ms. Discombobulated wouldn't take the picture until she ate her gum drops. She needed the sugar. Then she took a phone call. Next, she insisted I needed my expired ID (which I did not have). The number she needed was already on the computer, so she really did not need it at all. She finally took the picture, but the computer did not hold it. How anyone could lose a digital picture on a computer is beyond me, but lost it she did. I then sat for another one. It came out awful, but at that point I did not care. I just wanted to get out of there. While all this was going on, the other ID person, Ms. I Don't Give a S***t was busy doing something, I'm not sure what that something was. Meanwhile, the line outside grew longer. The kids on the line became agitated. The ten minute process was up to forty minutes but, I did get my card and I got out of there before any of the kids on that line got violent. In all that time, only two students had been taken off the line.

I still have to wait a week before I can use the card. A locksmith has to put my number into the system and like all NYC contractors, he is only in the school one day a week. But, unlike Ms. Discomboboulated and Ms. I Don't Give a S**t, the secretaries in the math department are efficient. They are the ones in charge of getting my card to the right person so it will be activated. I know that it will be working soon.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Get Out the Hip Boots

My puddle--good thing there are no really late classes in here.
You would need boots to enter and leave.
This shirt, seen on one of my students, says it all.