Monday, March 31, 2008

Cheaters Never Prosper

Sometimes you just have to let kids cheat! I watched a kid erase a perfectly correct solution and replace it with his friend's totally wrong one. I separated them, but then let the test stand. I'll get my revenge when I return the papers.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Thursday was the end of my eleventh month period of saying Kaddish for my mom. The Heavenly Tribunal judges a dead person's soul. A guilty verdict takes twelve months while acquittal takes eleven. Eleven months of Kaddish says that the soul was pure.

I'm not an overly religious person and while I do like to go to shul, I never attend as often as I should. When my mom died, I decided to honor her by saying Kaddish as often as I could. I know it is something she would have wanted me to do. She would be proud and my grandfather (her father) must be looking down, smiling on my deed.

When my mom first died, my aunt told me to send a donation to Yeshiva University so the people there could pray for her. I couldn't do that. Prayer is personal. I did not want a stranger doing my praying for me.

Attending services daily was not easy. Although making the commitment was a decision I made out of duty, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Kaddish is a healing time. Attending every night gave me a chance to pray, and be alone with my thought for twenty minutes. I prayed with mostly the same people every evening, mostly very old men. We did not become close friends, but we became friends. I met my boyfriend here. I met a man who recently lost his wife, but was going on with his life, reading, attending college classes and talking to anyone who talked back. He is the one I will miss the most as I am no longer going to attend daily. (I did promise to come at least once every few weeks so we can keep in touch.)

Thursday night was the end. When the Rabbi announced the end, I started to cry. Everyone hugged me and urged me to keep attending whenever I could. It was an experience I will never forget. I never expected to be able to keep attending services for an entire year. Now a days, most people don't do this. Some of the people I know don't even bother with the week long shiva period. Kaddish may have religious significance but the spiritual healing that resulted from it was what benefited me the most. I'm glad to have the free evenings but I have been rewarded in more ways than one for doing this.

We Will Make A Difference

One of the kids in my period 9 class came to the meeting of the Gay-Straight Alliance. I asked her today if she enjoyed the meeting and if she would come again. She answered "Yes. My friend made me come but I want to stay a member so I can learn to be accept life styles different from my own."

I'm glad I made the decision to sponsor this club.

Trailer Update

Now the railing is coming off!
But, on the plus side, the hole in the trailer is fixed. It only took four little screws to reattach the piece that had fallen off! On the minus side, it rained and the puddle is back.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First Gay Straight Alliance Meeting

Last week was the first meeting of the Gay Straight Alliance that I agreed to be the faculty advisor for. I went to the meeting, dreading what I had gotten myself into, afraid of what I would be dealing with and pissed with myself for having to stay in school an extra period.

This week, I am going to the meeting without the dread. I still don't want to stay late, but I am looking forward to listening to the ideas of a bright group of young people, proud of who they are and willing to embrace the lives they are leading.

About thirty kids attended last week's meeting. Most were gay, although many were not. These kids had joined to show their support. One of the organizers, a boy in my period one class, told me he was not gay and then asked if I thought he was. I told him that I would never judge anyone by appearances and it did not matter to me what his sexual preference is.

The kids took turns introducing themselves and talking about things they were interested in. I was relieved that sex did not come up as I am a firm believer in abstinence for teens. After this, they broke into groups, discussed whether gay marriage should be legal and then shared their findings with the rest of the group.

The meeting ended with a talk about the Day Of Silence coming up and how they would show their support. The girl who introduced the topic was fantastic. She explained that by not speaking they would be speaking for all the gays that could not speak for themselves.

During my C-6 assignment today, I met a young man who was at that meeting. We started talking about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I want the kids to get involved in a lobby to over turn that law. (I am sure there must be a lobby group working on that somewhere.) I then found out that the JROTC has the same policy, so I am going to try to push them to work towards the end of that in our school.

These kids are alive with spirit. It might take a while, but it is kids like this that will change the world.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Please Pass The Trash Can

The appearance of our school and classrooms can have an impact on our student behavior and learning. Please monitor your classroom and pass the trash basket around to your students and ask them to pick up any trash that is on the floor around them. If you come into a classroom and find that it is in poor condition, please report this to your assistant principal, supervision.

This, from a principal who allows this and this to go on!

The Great Divide

When did the Great Divide come into the teaching profession? I'm not referring to the divide between the administration and the teachers, that one has always been there. I'm referring to the divide between the young and the old teachers.

Young teachers, believe it or not, I was once young too. I also wanted to(actually I still do) save the world and thought I could do it one class at a time. But, I also knew that I was inexperienced and needed help.

Years ago, before the Great Divide, older teachers were valued. Their ideas and their skills were appreciated. Young teachers absorbed what they had to offer and in return, the older teachers got an energy charge from the young.

Things are different now. The young and the old teachers are totally separated. There is an "Us" and "Them" feeling in the school. The young ones are being put on pedestals and are being heralded as the type of teacher we all should be. Only their methods are good. Only their teaching methods can break the barrier preventing all from succeeding.

The older teachers are disgusted. We don't want to share with the young ones. We will all retire and take our skills, and our lesson plans with us.

I don't know how all this happened. I don't see any way to stop it from continuing. I only know what I see and what I see will hurt the education of future generations.

Friday, March 21, 2008


The new ECLB (Every Child Left Behind) is much more successful than the NCLB law ever was. I see this every day in my Math B class.

Last week we began the part of the curriculum that deals with factoring. After a quick review of Math A factoring, we began the more difficult ones, factoring with variable exponents and factoring trigonometric expressions. I expected the kids to have trouble with some of these. I knew that many would be weak when it came to any kind of factoring. What I never expected was kids to react as if they had never seen or heard of factoring before. After all, my school is a good school. We teach, we have standards. Then, it hit me, we taught them all the Math A they needed to pass the regents. We teach so that ECLB.

My AP did not think we should teach factoring with lead coefficients greater than one. It was much too hard for the kids and since it wasn't on the regents, why bother? He also encouraged us to teach them to work backwards from the choices so they could find the answer with their calculators without understanding the process. Us old timers rebelled and taught the kids to factor. The young ones, not knowing any better, followed the directions of their fearless leader. One of my Math B kids told me he failed math 3/4, the term where factoring is taught. But, since he passed the regents, he was given credit for the course and moved ahead.

So now, where are we? We are teaching kids who do not have the foundations needed to move ahead. When George Jefferson moved on up to the East Side, he was prepared. He worked hard and had all the facilities he needed to meet the challenges he would face in his new life. Our Math B kids are kids that have been moved up only they are not as fortunate as George. They did not receive the same preparation to move ahead and while he thrived in his new environment, many of ours are failing. We're moving them on up, but only because Suit needs that bonus money he gets when more kids are taking Math B, that the kids are being moved along. Success while in motion has nothing to do with anything. ECLB is thriving.

I know I've said that I am in a good school, with good, bright kids. But, the bright kids are in the same classes as the kids that are not as bright, not as ready to move ahead and these kids are holding the others back. My AP would say differentiate the lesson, but with 34 in a class, that is not possible. Suit would say, go to talk to other teachers and see what they are doing. With five classes and a C-6 assignment, we barely have time to use the bathroom, let alone talk to other teachers. Right now I am losing the weak kids and failing the bright ones. Test grades last week ranged from 100 all the way down to 8. Something has got to change if education is going to work. Something has got to change if we are going to prepare our kids to face the future.

Mr. Whine

Ms. Math Teacher was sitting in the teacher's cafe yesterday, as usual, doing school work. It seems a math teacher's job is never done. Ms. Math Teacher usually has her I-pod in her ears so she can work without distraction, but had forgotten to put them in on this day.

Sitting at the next table was Mr. Whine who was enjoying his lunch of cheese and crackers. Mr. Whine is a brilliant liberal arts teacher and a fantastic educator and he never has to work during his lunch period. His is usually pontificating on some topic or another, and while Ms. Math enjoys listening in, she needs the I-pod so she can turn him off and concentrate on getting her work done.

Mr. Whine was talking about his child today. He is a parent totally enamored by his child. Ms. Math Teacher has met the child and totally agrees with his assessment. This period, Mr. Whine was whining about the child's math. He went on and on about trapezoids and triangles and other shapes he has no use for. At that point, Ms. Math Teacher lost it.
"Mr. Whine, it is parents like you that make it hard for math teachers and the children they are teaching. Every year, parents come to school and when I tell them their child is struggling in the class, they respond with 'I always had trouble in math too.'"
In other words, it is fine for the kid to struggle in math. It is no big deal to get a low grade or fail math because the parent failed math too.

Mr. Whine is a learned man. He is probably much brighter than Ms. Math Teacher. I am sure he would not accept his child not being able to read or write, yet he feels as long as his child is competent enough in the four basic operations, plus fractions, decimals and percents, she knows all the math she will ever need. I'm not saying that a parent's attitude will make everyone love math, but a more positive approach to the subject sure might help. Besides, at the moment, this child loves math and is doing quite well. An attitude like Mr. Whine's may turn the child off to math.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Student Urinates in Lunch Box in Class

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A teacher was put on paid leave Tuesday while officials investigate why a student urinated in a lunch box during her class.

The Meadowbrook Middle School student urinated in a lunch box while hiding behind a classroom bookcase, Orange County school officials said Tuesday.

According to statements by other students in the class, school officials think that when the boy asked to go the restroom on Thursday, teacher Jameeka Chambers told him to hold it or use her lunch box.
The boy took the lunch box, hid behind a bookcase, urinated in it and returned it to her, Frank Kruppenbacher, attorney for the Orange County School Board, told the Orlando Sentinel.

"I think we clearly know she didn't tell him, 'Go pee in this box,' in the sense of going to go do that," Kruppenbacher said. "That's beyond our comprehension."

Chambers is to be interviewed on Monday.

The next morning the boy's mother complained to the principal and told a local TV station that Chambers would not allow him to use the restroom.

The boy was not regularly in Chambers' class, but was in her room to complete makeup work on a computer, Kruppenbacher said.
This is a first-year teaching job for Chambers, who teaches sixth-grade language arts.

A telephone number listed under the name of a Jameeka Chambers in Orlando was busy.

How many times have we all been told by administrators not to let the kids use the pass to go to the bathroom? How many times have we had kids who just want us to let them walk the halls? Is this another way to send teachers to the rubber room for no reason?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What He Really Meant

The latest memo had a sentence in it that said we need to improve the scores on our AP exams. I was really pissed when I read this. The AP calculus scores are always the highest AP scores in the building (except for native language Spanish). If Mr. Department Head had a problem with our AP scores, he should have spoken to the people directly involved instead of one of his lovely memos and then, it hit me.... He wasn't complaining about us. He was worried about the kids that would be placed in these classes next year.

Our school has been cited for not having enough (or any) African American students in our AP classes. Principal Suit is suddenly concerned about this. I imagine his bonus will reflect this lack of diversity or he would not really care. Mr. Deaprtment Head is worried that Suit will start putting kids into these classes that have not taken the required prerequisites or even if they took the prerequisite, they had not scored high enough in that course.

Mr. Department Head is worried about his statistics. He would probably crap his pants if he heard me telling the kids not to worry about the exam. This exam is one exam that will have no long lasting effect on their lives. If they score a 4 or a 5, they might get to skip a term of calculus. If they don't, they can retake the course and and get an easy A. My idea is to learn the course, learn to think. Passing is just the icing on the cake.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dump Your Children Here

This is the garbage strewn puddle outside my trailer. But, most people reading this blog have seen this picture many times before.
This is something new. Someone seems to have forgotten to pick up the garbage or even put it in the dumpster. Last week when it was windy, a teacher got hit with a flying box.
More garbage pictures. We walk through this every day to get to the building.
Another view.

Got to love working for the NYC DOE!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kid's Say The Darndest Things

No one makes a big deal about Pi day in my school. I'm the only one who even bothers to wear a Pi shirt and wish the kids a happy Pi day. I wonder if I could have taken the day as an RO, being a math teacher and all.

Anyways, I have some pretty bright kids this semester. Some didn't get the happy Pi day on the board, and I had to go through the name the date game. They usually got it then and told me how corny I was. I did have one surprise, a good one and not from one of my better students.

"Pi is not 3.14.08, today's date. You are celebrating the wrong day, Ms. POd." You just have to love a kid like that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bet You Didn't Think They Could Get Worse

I have met with parents whose children were cutting their math class. I was told by some parents that some math teachers never bothered to contact them when their child was absent. Ladies and gentlemen, please make a phone call and make sure you speak to the parents of students who cut your class. It is unfair that we do not speak to parents when a student is cutting our class. It is not fair for a student to fail a math class only because s/he does not attend, either. Remember, you can not teach to the empty seat a student sits in. You can only teach the student in that seat.

The PTA will print a new letter and I will ask parents to contact you if their child is failing math and they have not heard from you. You might be better off to be pro-active and contact parents first.
Wow! So now I am responsible for making sure every parent knows every time their child is absent. Let's see. Thirty four kids in a class, five classes a day (actually six for me with the college now class in the morning) and no free periods except for lunch and prep. No available phones. No place to sit. Many parents cannot be reached during the school day. This sounds really like something I am really going to do! There is one teacher in my department who is outstanding when it comes to calling parents. They are always coming in to talk to him. He has not eaten lunch in weeks and many of the kids are still having problems.

Don't get me wrong. I contact parents all the time. Chronic cutting is not the teacher's responsibility. We have an attendance teacher in the school. We fill out scan sheets every day with daily attendance. It's not the teachers fault that the attendance teacher and the attendance office can't do it all. We can't do it all either. Besides, a kid that has chronically cut math and suddenly decides to return to class will be incapable of catching up since all new math depends on previous knowledge. Years ago, my AP told me I was too nice to the kids so they all came to my class. He said that was the reason I sometimes had discipline problems. Now he is telling me to get them all come to class.

I would like to insure that when math teachers retire, we are not in a "hole". Therefore, if you are interested in teaching a first period. College Now Course, please see me as soon as possible. We have to make sure you are approved by the college involved.

This last paragraph was meant for me. Instead of asking me about my plans, he makes a stupid announcement to everyone. If he would only have asked, I would have told him that I plan on continuing College Now after I retire and that when I am ready to give it up, I will give the school plenty of notice. I've already had this conversation with the College Now Liaison. I thought about telling him how obnoxious and insulting his memo was but then I figured, why bother? He hasn't gotten anything in the past and I am sure he will get nothing in the future. I'd rather bitch about him this was and get everything out of my system. By Monday, he will have a new agenda anyways.

Thursday, March 13, 2008



Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Me and My Big Mouth

I don't usually do school clubs. When I'm asked to sponsor an after school club, I always say no and keep walking. I should say, I almost always keep walking.

Last week, a nice boy in one of my classes asked me to sponsor his club. I did not walk away fast enough and he said, "It is an interesting club." Here is where my big mouth got me in trouble. I had to say "What kind of club?" He hesitated and then said "Gay-Straight Alliance".

This must have been a difficult subject for him to approach me with and I decided I wanted to help. I was glad that I couldn't as I teach the period the club wanted to meet. He then asked me about another period and again, I couldn't. My college job conflicted with the time. I felt bad, told him the other days I would be available and tried to find a teacher willing to work with this club. Turns out no one wants to stay late.

Yesterday this boy approached me again. After much thought, the meeting time was changed to agree with my schedule. I am now the sponsor.

I've managed to avoid all after school jobs for over thirty years. I refuse all per session jobs. I'm not going to kill myself working now just to pad my pension for later. Since I don't want to stay late for money, I certainly won't stay late for free. While I stay late to help my students, I try never to do it officially. I've got to learn to keep my big mouth shut.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Math Standards Today

Today an old time teacher, one that I "had respected"told us that he doesn't bother teaching the trigonometric functions of the special angles. That is of the 30, 60 and 45 degree angles. He said there is no reason for the kids to know the exact values as they can figure out all multiple choice questions using a calculator, working backwards from the choices, if necessary. All us old timers just stared at him in disbelief.

I always knew that this new curriculums and the NCLB dummied down the courses. I knew that some of the younger teachers skipped this stuff because they did not know any better. I never expected someone who is teaching almost thirty years to dummy down his lessons also. This guy has a reputation of being a great teacher. The kids like him. He gets them to pass, but does he really teach them any math? A few years ago, some kids went from the strictest teacher in the building to this guy's class. Their grades went from 80 to 95 yet they told me they preferred the strict teacher because he was teaching them math.

Many of the math B kids in my school are very bright and go on to take honor pre-calculus and advanced placement calculus BC. Originally I could not understand how they could know so little trig coming into the class. They fought me when I refused to let them use calculators on exams and forced them to figure out these basic trig values.

Every day I grow more and more weary. My teaching days are coming to an end soon and it is things like this that are pushing me to go sooner. I fear for the future of our students. We are sending them to college without the tools they need to succeed. It is hard to hold the kids you are teaching to standards when so many others in the same building are not doing the same.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Should A Teacher Be Forced To Attend Graduation on a Sunday?

The following is from the money section of today's Newsday:
DEAR READERS: In the past week I received several letters responding to the column about the private-school teacher who wanted to be paid for being forced to attend a graduation on a Sunday. The school doesn't have to pay her because teachers are exempt from overtime. All of the letters took the teacher to task. Here is a sample:

DEAR CARRIE: I was disappointed to read that a teacher is more concerned about getting paid on graduation day than attending this exhilarating ceremony. The choice to become a teacher is a decision that obviously requires people to give of themselves. The nights I spend grading papers and creating lessons, going to workshops to improve and stay current with educational reform, and keeping up with the daily routine all go along with the job.

The choice to become a teacher is a decision that has an impact not only on the future of your students but also on your life. A teacher's desire to work with children is a calling and does not end in the classroom. Watching them grow and making a significant difference in this world is rewarding alone.

[That reader] should be proud to attend the graduation ceremony, because teachers are partners in their students' learning and a reason these students have this wonderful opportunity. Believe me, I truly believe that teachers are underpaid, but, as a teacher, I would take real pleasure in watching my students be part of the "pomp and circumstance."

I, for one always attend graduation but I am so tired of people talking about teaching as a "calling" and that our job does not end in the classroom. Most teachers do take pleasure in watching their students achieve, but enough is enough. Yes, we are teachers but we have private lives as well. Not wanting to attend a school function after school hours does not make anyone less of a teacher or less devoted to their students.

This year, for the first time, the graduation at my school will be held a day after the last day of school. I am sure that I will attend as I cannot imagine not watching my seniors graduate, but I resent the fact that it is being held this day. I intend to go as a guest and will do no work assisting in the graduation unless there is some sort of compensation. The school could easily substitute a staff development day in exchange for attending graduation. (Oh no, how would we survive without all that data analysis training.) It is not fair to always ask teachers to give. We are considered professionals when something is needed from us, otherwise we are considered peons, worthy and deserving of nothing.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Passion Quilt

This meme requires each player to find a picture or design a piece of art that communicates what you, as an educator, are most passionate for your students to learn about. I was tagged by Tamareden who has a wonderful blog I just found.

The most important thing I teach my students is how to think. If they understand a concept and know how to analyze the question, they can do anything. Too often, my students have succeeded by memorizing rules and completing assignments by rote. I always say "Give a man dinner and he has food for the night. Teach him to fish and he has food for life." By understanding concepts, they are ready for life. The math I teach them is good, probably not helpful in the long run for most. Everyone needs to think and learn how to apply those thoughts to making good decisions. The picture is one I took this summer of a man salmon fishing in Alaska.


Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for kids to learn about
give your picture a short title.
Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt”
link back to this blog entry.
Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network

I would like to ask all who read this blog to think about what they are passionate about and share it.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Memos Keep Coming

During my routine visits, I observed a few classes in which the teacher was “teaching” while some students engaged in their own conversations. Thus, one could not hear a pin drop. This really has to stop. We are not teachers to students who want to learn. All students who attend your class want to pass and you are responsible for every student on your class roster. Please start engaging every student during your lesson. It is unacceptable for students to sit in your class and do next to nothing in terms of learning math. The new world we live in requires you to try to reach every student.

First he is telling us that we are not teachers to students who want to learn (an obvious typo, but being petty is something I am good at) and then he is telling us that all students who attend our classes want to learn. I don't think I teach in the same school he does.

Ms. XXXX came up with a Citizenship Report which included positive aspects of what a student does. I will revise our old one to include the positive aspects. Please do not mail a letter which is positive so that we can save some postage. Please only mail the letter which indicates that a student will fail.

Saving a buck is more important than saying something nice about a kid. I often get more accomplished with nice words than with harsh ones. This is a guy that would not understand about that.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Doc In A Box

Yep, Doc In A Box, that is what my kid's pediatrician used to call those walk in clinics that you go to when you can't get an appointment with the usual doctor.

I have an ear infection. Being the idiot that I am, I went to work anyways. My eighth and ninth period classes were scheduled for an exam and I did not want to disappoint my students. I always hated it when a teacher was absent on a test day and I had to go home and study all over again. I called my regular doctor to get an appointment but, Ms. Bitch, the receptionist, said there was nothing available until tomorrow. Knowing I needed the anti-biotic, I hit Doc In A Box.

I walked into the office and was excited to see only one person waiting. I was sure I could get in and out in no time. No such luck. The receptionist took twenty minutes to sign me in. Then, I had another 15 minutes in the room waiting for the doctor. She looked, confirmed what I knew and told me she would give me a prescription for drops and the anti-biotic. I thanked her and walked out.

The woman at the front desk kept me waiting for another twenty minutes to finish the paper work and give me my prescriptions. Another bitchy receptionist, full of herself and the power she has over us poor mortals.

On the good side, I do have my medicine and the drops are already working. I think I'll wait until tomorrow to mark the exams. It's not a good idea to mark them in the mood I am in.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ms Timid and Mr. Bully

Mr. Bully visited Ms Timid's class last week. The class was a repeater class consisting of all juniors taking freshman math. Ms Timid was proud of them. They were all quiet and everyone was working except Jimbo. Jimbo had his head down and was evidently having a great dream as he was grinning from ear to ear.

Mr. Bully: Jimbo has his head down, Ms. Timid. Why haven't you done anything about it?

Ms Timid: I'm sorry Mr. Bully. I'm trying so hard. I've called Jimbo's mom. I've spoken to the guidance counselor. I offered him money to stay awake in class. I bought him a new bed, the kind where he could pick his own sleep number. I figured if he slept better at night he would not be tired in class. I even went to Jimbo's house last weekend to see if he wanted some extra help. Nothing I do works. I'll try to do better.

Mr. Bully: Trying is not good enough. You must get all these students to pass or you will get a U rating and end up in the rubber room. I will not lose my job or my bonus because of you. Stop by my office at 5:00 PM. I need to speak to you.

Ms Timid: But my day ends at 1:40 and I have a doctor's appointment. My appendix has been acting up all day and the doctor said he could take it out this afternoon. I did not want to take a day off for a little operation.

Mr. Bully: It will only take a minute, then you can go have your operation. Just make sure that you are in school tomorrow. And, don't be late. Oh, and enjoy your trip to the doctor.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Sometimes we know we should do something, but put off doing it for various reasons. By the time we get to do them, it is too late.

My boyfriend
just died. I knew he was sick when I did not see him in temple for the daily minyon and for services last Shabbos. I asked about him. At first, no one knew where he was. They thought he was just staying away because he did not like a comment someone made to him. Then we found out that he fell and was in the hospital. He was not a very nice man, most people in the temple really did not care much for him. No one went to visit. I planned on going to see him, but between work and visiting my dad, I never had time. Tomorrow afternoon was going to be my visit. Today the phone call came that said he passed away. I am not going to get to make my visit.

Sol was one of the first people I became friendly with when I started attending the daily minyon.He was a lonely old man and I was just sad. It was nice to see a friendly face while saying Kaddish. Besides, he flirted with me non stop. It felt good to be told how young and beautiful I was, even if the man telling me that was 95 years old.

Sol liked me to sit with him. At first I resisted because I like to hide in the back. I'm glad I gave in. He told me that the thirty minutes we spent together were the highlight of his day. Jack thought he was an expert on everything. He knew more than the Rabbi and knew more about life than anyone. I just smiled and agreed with him. He was arrogant, but harmless.

I really never got to know the man. Intellectually I know that I did not do anything wrong by not going to see him. He never would have expected me to. I hope I brought a little bit of joy into his life. I feel I could have made his last days happier by paying a visit to his hospital room.

Maybe others won't miss him. Maybe he wasn't the easiest man in the world to get along with. But, I will always remember him, sitting in the second row, loudly saying his prayers, wrong pronunciations and all. Sol, I will miss you.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Cry For Help

Joe wanted to be on the varsity basketball team more than anything. As a freshman and a sophomore he played junior varsity but he knew how good he was and yearned to play with the big boys. His happiest day was the day he made the team.

Joe became the number one forward on the team. He led the team to victory and everyone was sure he would lead the team to winning the city championship. Unfortunately, report cards came out and Joe failed four subjects and was dropped from the team. Every teacher said he was missing homeworks, was excessively late and that he had poor work habits. Even his basketball teacher said his work habits were poor. Yet, Joe was taking a full load of classes, classes that only a bright kid would take.
I was the teacher responsible for handing Joehis repot card. When I saw it I felt ill. I knew he was not doing well in my class and had many discussions about this with his mother, grandndmother and guidance counselor. I had no idea he was doing so poorly in all his classes. I photo copied the report card and walked into the counselor's office. I wanted to make sure he was aware and would try to help. "Ms. POd", he said, "Joe is just lazy. Besides, he is overwhelmed with work since basketball started. He is glad he is off the team and will have more time to study." I just said "I have never met a kid who wanted to flunk off the basketball team. There must be something else going on. He is too good a kid and too smart a kid to get grades like this." The guidance counselor promised to look into it and to bring his mom to school for a conference. I am still waiting for the conference to happen.
By the third marking period Joe passed enough subjects to get back on the team. He's in my class again and up to his old tricks--no homework, lateness, etc. I told him if he's not careful, he will be off the team again. He told me not to worry. Report cards come out after the season is over.
Joe is a member of the ethnic group Principal Suit is so eager to help. I gave Suit Joe's name earlier this week and asked him to do something for him. Joe is too bright to be failing. Why is it that no one in the school will do anything to help a kid like Joe? Maybe its just me. Maybe those grades aren't a cry for help, they are just the grades of a kid too lazy to do any school work.