Saturday, February 28, 2009

U + Me = Us (Calculus)

I just sent this one to my classes.

I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.

I always try to impress them with the relevance of math to real life.

Quality Review

We were just told our quality review is next week. I understand why the administrators are uptight, their jobs and their bonuses might be at stake. Why teachers like me worry, I have no idea.

I hope the quality review team comes no where near me. I have no respect for the jobs they do or the opinions they form. I am willing to bet that their classroom experience is not equal to mine and I am sure they cannot be experts in every subject they are seeing. They have no right to judge me based on a short observation. I am not a trained seal and I do not perform on command. I will not make my students nervous in anticipation of their arrival.

That being said, there are things I will do should these people come in contact with me.

I will be the best teacher I can be, as I try to be every day. I will continue with my goals of trying to reach every student. I will continue trying to get my kids to think and to learn to tackle difficult problems. And, in spite of what I write, I will do my best to help Principal Hula and his staff look good. In spite of being a suit, Principal Hula is the best principal I have ever worked with. Under his leadership I see hope for the future of our school and for the education of our students. I would not want any of my actions or words to cause him any stress or to give the Quality Review people cause to lower our ratings.

Adjustable Switch

Someone asked me today if I am ever tired. She said that I am always moving around. I don't know how to slow down or rest. I can't sit still and watch television or hold a conversation. My problem is I only have two switches ON and OFF. I need one of those gadgets like the ones that lets you adjust the level of light to your comfort. I wonder if they sell those for people and if they do, where I can get one.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ms Bitch Is At It Again

Disclaimer: This post is not about administration. It is just one of my ramblings about a bitch.

Turn That Frown Upside Down

Mr. AP has been all smiles and niceness lately. He even stopped me in the hall and said how much happier everyone looked after a week off. I told him I agreed the week off was nice but I also realized while on vacation that I cannot retire. I'm just psychologically not ready and will miss being here too much.

It might be my imagination, but I thought I saw his smile turn into a frown.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm A Mule

I have to say the last words in any argument I am in. That is one of my big faults. Here goes my latest argument on why credit recovery and late afternoon school should be done away with.

A few years ago there was a big move to get a large group of seniors who had only passed one term of math in the past to graduate. Because of my track record with difficult kids, I was assigned this task. (I actually volunteered for it. I love a challenge.)

My class consisted of 28 seniors, kids who had not only failed math, but had failed multiple subjects. In addition to my double period of math, they were going to Saturday school and late afternoon school. They were also doing independent study in various subjects.

These kids, not the hardest workers to begin with, were overwhelmed with work. Now, they could never get into class on time to begin work. First, they had to walk around and say hi to all their friends and make sure everyone got the little kiss on the cheek. Then, as they did the math, they also did their history homework and worked on their art projects. When I asked for math homework, sometimes I got it, and sometimes I got "Ms, I had evening school yesterday. I had no time to do it." One day Charlie told me he couldn't do any homework because he had to wait on line all night so he could be the first to purchase a pair of sneakers that was going to be available that day. He did no work for any classes that day or the next. He was too tired from being up all night.

While I don't believe in credit recovery and programs like these, I believe in doing my best for my kids and through lots of hard work, 27 out of 28 of them passed the regents and got their back credits. Some graduated, some fell short in other areas and had to graduate in August or the following January. I felt good and bad at the same time. I got them to graduate but I did not teach them any math. I taught them how to get over. I told them "I only work here. I have to do the job my supervisors ask me to do."

All semester, I told these seniors that I was teaching them to get over. And, while I tried to teach the math and the concepts, I mostly concentrated on test preparation. I sometimes meet some of those students at the community college I work at and feel sad about their lack of preparation. I wonder if they would have been better off spending the extra year in high school, really learning something, and then going on to college. Maybe then their college years would be more successful.

Enough said, I might not get the last word but I made sure I got the longest one.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Raw Nerve

I think my last post hit one.

My big mouth always gets me in trouble.

Just Ask For Help

Did you forget to go to gym for the last four years? Is your graduation in danger because of this?

Did you fail history and not bother to spend a week in credit recovery?

Are you five credits short of graduation?

Don't despair. Help is here for you. Just come on down and see me. I can arrange for you to take as many gym classes as you need to make that June graduation. I can arrange for you to attend late afternoon classes to make up the history credit you never went to credit recovery before. I can program you for as many classes as you need so you can make that June date and make your parents proud.

Don't worry about time. We'll squeeze more classes into a day than anyone has ever imagined possible. Don't worry about studying, seat time is all you need. Besides, there is no time being allotted for studying and we all know that cramming this amount of material into you in such a short time will produce no real learning anyways.

You spent your first four years of high school partying. It is not going to be a problem. Help is on the way.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Message To Obama

(Tree of Hope from the lobby of the Apollo Theater)

I'm sitting here listening to Obama talking about education and I am thinking how totally clueless he is when it comes to this topic.

He's talking about the need for higher education and pushing all Americans to get at least one year of either college or vocational training. He wants America to increase the number of Americans with college degrees.

I wish I could give him this message:

President Obama,

Going to college is a great thing. Getting kids to graduate from high school is something we all should strive to do. But, we have to start making these high school diplomas mean something. Right now, kids are sitting in classes they are not capable of passing. Be realistic, not everyone is college material and has the mental facilities to succeed in academic areas. Regardless, these are the subjects the kids today are being forced to take to get a diploma.

As a teacher, I strive to do the best for my students daily. But, I am also realistic. I know that there are certain things my students cannot master and because of this I cannot teach on as high a level as I would like to. I have to water down the topics and hopefully teach enough to get them to pass the state regents exams. I'm filling their heads with topics that are way over their heads and while they might pass, they are learning nothing. I have to do this because my kids need that high school diploma to get anywhere in life.

You also talk majestically of charter schools. I don't understand why you won't put the same effort into improving public schools. In New York City high schools there are 34 students in each class. In my very overcrowded school, there are kids who arrive at 7:15 AM and others that do not leave until after 5:00 PM. We have classes that meet in substandard trailers. We have class rooms with no windows or ventilation. We have two rooms made where there was once one. The walls between them are so thin that the sound of chalk on the black board is disruptive in the adjoining room. Tutoring takes place in the hallways and often kids cannot even get to tutoring because there is no time for it during the day. Public school teachers are hard working, caring people working in some of the worst conditions around. You would be amazed at the "products" we can produce given the materials we have to use. We need your help. Vouchers and charter schools are not going to do it.

I know I am rambling here, but I can't help it. I voted for you. I sent money to your campaign. I believed in the change that you were promising. I still want to believe but your education policy is scaring me. Please, talk to teachers and visit schools. Visit the public schools and see what is really going on. Ask us. We'll tell you what we need.

Computer or Human Error?

Boy POd is a very popular name. So popular in fact that a doctor recently submitted a claim for another Boy POd using my son's information. GHI rejected the claim as my boy has not been covered under my insurance for many years. The lab now wants $573 from us to cover this visit. Husband POd spent four hours on the phone trying to get things straightened out before a collection agency gets involved trying to collect money we don't owe.

Many people blame these errors on computers. They forget that it is the human that puts the information into the computer to start with.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras

The Presbytere

How To Beat A Bully

Disclaimer: I have never been bullied like Moriah, Henry or Fidgety. If I had been, I am sure that none of the things you are about to read would have worked. My tactics have helped me to survive the day to day stuff so many teachers are forced to endure.

When I was sixteen years old, I was mugged on the Fordham Rd and the Grand Concourse. A girl grabbed my new purse with my brand new driving permit. I reacted fast and jumped on her. When I jumped her, three of her friends jumped me. I did the only thing I could, I sunk my teeth into her upper arm and bit down as hard as I could. I still hear her yelp and clearly see her dropping my purse and running away. My mom almost had heart failure when I got home and told her the story. She ran to the synagogue to make a donation, thanking Hashem for not letting me get killed. I would thank Hashem for giving me the strength to stand up to bullies, something that I did unwittingly then and knowingly now.

I was just reminded of this story as I sat with a colleague at lunch a few weeks ago. We were discussing the bullying of teachers by certain administrators. I decided to share my secret of never being bullied with her.

When you come up against a bully you can show no signs of weakness or fear. When attacked, you must attack back, consequences be damned. You must show your teeth and not be afraid to use them. You have to show that there is nothing you cannot take and there are plenty that you will not take.

I've taught the best classes in the school and the worst. No administrator can threaten me with a bad program because if the class has been given, chances are I have already taught it. I've taught the kids who just got released from Rikers. I've taught the kids who have shot FBI agents. I've also taught the bright ones. I'm not afraid of kids that are smarter than me any more than I am afraid of the gun toting ones. I am okay with not knowing the answer to all the questions the bright ones might throw at me and I know enough to keep the other ones as my friends. As for room assignments, I've spent years in the trailers. I've taught in split rooms where the teacher next door and I coordinate to give exams on the same day so the kids will be able to work without hearing the participation from the next room. The term I was pregnant, my wonderful AP assigned me 5 classes in 5 different rooms, rooms, rooms so spread apart I had to walk through a crowded cafeteria to get from class to class. Did I whine and take it? No, I fought back and got the rooms changed. I don't like late session but I am willing to take my turn when my turn comes. In other words, I'm not afraid to fight because I know that the little ploys administrators like to use will not work on me.

I refuse to show anyone any sign of weakness. Sure I get upset but I won't let it show. When I am losing an argument I use my favorite word, "fine", to end the discussion. Everyone knows that things are not fine but since I am agreeing, the argument is over. By giving in, I have won the current battle.

I also accept the fact that in the whole scheme of the school I am nothing. If I left tomorrow, I would only be missed until a replacement was found. Once the system found that nice sweet teenie bopper to take my place, I am history. Accepting my value to school keeps me grounded. Yes, I know the kids would miss me, but they are the only ones and even they would forget me once they got accustomed to the new person in the room.

I could have gotten killed when I fought the girl on Fordham Rd. I didn't. The only thing I thought about was not getting bullied and beaten. I've carried that lesson with me for many, many years.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Untamed Teacher

Please go over to Untamed Teacher, read her story and offer her your support.

What this teacher is going through can happen to any of us.

Where is our recourse?

Where is our union?

More Faces (And A Hand) Of New Orleans

I should be thinking about what I am going to be teaching tomorrow. My ADD is acting up again. I'd much rather share these people I photographed in New Orleans. I love taking pictures of people. One day I will probably get in trouble for doing this.

The police officer--this guy and many of the other officers looked like they drank one too many big ass beers.

Guy at parade.

Hand of guy pouring my big ass beer on Bourbon Street

Waiting for the parade.
This lady had a lot of positive attitude.

Man by River Walk

' Bourbon Street reveler.

Anothe parade goer.
This little girl was crying because her brother did not want to share his beads.
This little boy was not happy waiting for the parade to start. Once it did, he was ecstatic.

This guy was on the ferry to Algeria. I finally figured out how to use my telescopic lens.
Down by River Walk.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Apollo is 75 Years And Still Going Strong

After every trip I try to do some NYC sight seeing before I go back to work. I live in the best place on earth and as Dorothy said "There's no place like home."

The Apollo theater is celebrating its 75th anniversary with an open house this weekend and next. The cost--NOTHING!!!! It was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to wander the theater, go backstage and on stage and be where so many of the music and comedy greats got their starts.

It is one of the most fabulous NY experiences I have ever had. If you live in the area, or plan on being in the area don't miss it.

The bathroom was fantastic--there was even a matron handing out paper towels, just like in the glory days of the Apollo. (My weakness is photographing nice bathrooms.)

The balcony. People used to jump off the balcony to get near the stars.

The chandeliers in the lobby.

The box seats.

The original dressing room. Although new dressing rooms, completely modernized have been added, many celebrities prefer the old ones. They like the ambiance of knowing they are dressing in the same place their heroes dressed. The stage and the wonderful man that lead the entire production. A few audience members went up on stage to sing and dance. They had the experience of being on the actual stage where Amateur Night at the Apollo took place. More careers were launched here than on American Idol and Star Search.

The sound system, behind the stage. The seats. They were all replaced a few years ago. The original ones were yellow vinyl that people stuck to in the summer and ripped their polyester on the torn seat cushions.

The celebrity wall of signatures. You can find almost every great here if you look hard enough.

Manhattan Pictures

I don't feel right traveling around the country unless I spend at least one day of vacation in my own city.
I was shocked to see a ticket on a NYC police car--Columbus Circle, by Central Park.
I loved the iron work around this door.
Great architecture
Overhead subway--#1 line on Broadway and 125 St
Seinfeld's coffee shop--Broadway and 112 St.

Airlines and The DOE

The airlines post an arrival time 45 minutes later than the flight should land. If by some miracle the flight leaves as schedule everyone is happy as we made up quite a bit of time in the air. If the flight leaves an hour late it will arrive within 15 minutes of its scheduled time and the airline keeps its on time record. This very sneaky practice has been going on for years. A Jet Blue employee admitted this to us on our way home from New Orleans.

The sneaky school system does the same sort of thing. Regents and other exams are made extraordinarily easy and the passing rates go up. The school system is improving. Incidents are not being reported, the school system is getting safer.

Our schools and the airlines have much in common.

Enjoy these faces of New Orleans, people watching the Druids parade.