Wednesday, December 30, 2009

At Last

A vacation with perfect weather end to end.

Meeting The Fellow

(Getting caught at the end of each line by this guy was almost the best part of the adventure.)

Flying through the air is a great way to meet people. As we zip lined across the Jamaican Hills, I started a conversation with a nice young teacher from Manhattan. After a while, he admitted to being a teaching fellow. I gasped! How could this bright, caring, obviously good teacher be a fellow, a teacher whose sole mission in life is to steal the jobs of tenured teachers? How could I even admit to liking this guy? Here he is, a first year teacher, with four weeks of student teaching under his belt and he has a job while my ATR buddies are still floundering away, searching for that impossible to find teaching position.

Well, first let me say that this guy is a special education teacher, one of the few new teachers actually hired this year. And, let me say, he is a great guy that does not deserve the bad press and bad feelings he gets from people like me.

Getting back to my conversation with him, we both agreed that they system created the hostility between the old and young teachers. We both agreed that the students are the losers because of this. He told me his school had been closed and then reorganized recently. The paras got to keep their jobs. All the teachers were let go. This school teaches life skills. How bad could all the teachers have been that they all had to be let go? Where are the veteran teachers these young people might need to go to for advice? Why are the veteran teachers sitting around without classrooms? How long will this type of situation be allowed to continue?

Posted from Delta airline, on my way home from a wonderful vacation. Now to catch up on all the blogs I missed all week.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mrs. Neely

I still remember the flowing white dress and the long braided hair as she flew into the room. I thought, if there are angels, and angels are Black, then this woman is an angel.

That was my first impression of Mrs. Neely, Jordan's mom, the first time I met her. Mrs. Neely knew everything that went on in the school and when homework helpers started, she insisted that Jordan attend. Of course Jordan assured his mom that he would but Mrs. Neely wasn't born yesterday and what she didn't see with her own eyes, she didn't believe so she decided to check up on him.

I happened to be the first teacher Mrs. Neely ran into that afternoon. She enquired about Jordan's whereabouts but I could not help her as I had no idea who Jordan was. She kept questioning me and expected answers that I could not give her and finally she left.

The next time homework helpers met, she arrived again only this time she had Jordan with her. She brought him over to me, introduced him, told me he needed help in math and asked me to get him help. There was something about him and something about her that drew me to them and I told her I would help him myself.

Jordan was a bright kid, but he was also a kid who was not interested in school. His mom knew this and did her darnedest to keep him on track and make sure he graduated on time (which he did.) He was one of the middle sons in a family of five children and the only one who stressed her out with his school work. She understood that he was different but loved and cared for him as much as she did for her other four children. She was constantly on the phone with his teachers, not to find out what the teachers were doing wrong but to find out what her son was not doing so she could get on his case and get him to do it. Some teachers found her overbearing. Me, I adored her. Jordan was never even in my class but we spoke often because as I got to know him, I wanted him to succeed as much as she did.

Jordan graduated but I still got to see Mrs. Neely occasionally. She always came to school concerts (entire family in tow) to see whichever child was performing at the moment. She was at award assemblies and graduations. Her other children were scholars but they were no more special to her than Jordan. Jordan is still having some trouble finding his way in this world but his mom (and dad) are right there to help him whenever it is necessary.

Mrs. Neely, I know you will never read this, but I loved and respected you from that first day. The world needs more angels like you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Larry Stood A Better Chance Than She Did

My ATR buddy recently had a job interview. The AP called her and told her to prepare a demonstration lesson for a class of level 2 - level 3 students. He greeted her at the door with the words "Ninety percent of all ATRs are unsatisfactory. You weren't rated that way and that is why I am interviewing you." What he did not tell my friend was that the kids were mostly ESL students and had a difficult time understanding English.

My friend prepared a generic lesson, something that she had used before and always went over well with students. Teachers of the same subject area in my school told her it was a good choice as kids love this lesson. Mr. Interviewing AP did not agree. He told my friend the lesson was boring and over the heads of the students. He complained because she did not differentiate the lesson even though she was meeting these kids for the first time that day.

The kids in that particular class had not had a teacher for over three weeks. They were used to doing nothing and were not interested in giving a new person a chance. Mr. Interviewing AP held this against her and did not even bother calling to tell her she did not get the job.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stormy Roads Ahead

George has had some major issues but the guidance counselor and his mom are working to get him back to class. I got a note from the GC yesterday saying that all plans to get George back in class are on hold until after the break.

I asked the GC what plans are in effect to teach George all the math he missed from September until then. She told me I am the teacher, I should figure it out.

Sorry, GC, I can't do that. There is no way for me to catch George up on 4 months worth of material. I am dreading George's return to class. On the rare days he did attend, he sat like a log, hoeplessly lost, mostly due to his lack of attendance. Now, there is no hope and I worry about the heavy storm he will add to this already difficult class.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Since When

Is evilness a job requirement?

Friday, December 25, 2009

My Best Subject

I have a kid with a zero average who tells me math is his best subject so he doesn't have to do any homework or classwork. My blogging buddy, Ricochet has one who wants to be graded on potential.

What a world we live in. I blame it all on NCLB.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have You Heard Anything?

Julio is a sweet boy who does very little work in class. He has yet to hand in a test paper although he appears to be working on it all period.

Julio also converses in a mix of English and Spanish which makes me wonder if he can even separate the two languages in his head. He seems very comfortable conversing that way and I have been using my limited Spanish with him but I really think the problem extends to more than his comfort level. I just looked at his report card and was shocked at how he did in all his classes except for Spanish and gym.

Please look into this and try to help him before it is too late.

It is now three weeks since I wrote this note. Please leave a comment if the counselor got back to you because he hasn't gotten back to me and I am concerned.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I am Thankful



















Live well, Laugh often,
& Love with all of your heart.

Thanks Diana for sending me this.

I'm also thankful that I am checking e-mail and posting from the air. This might give new meaning to the mile high club.

Mile High!

I'm sitting on a Delta plane online! The pilot just announced we are heading into sunny, 83 degree weather. If only my battery was fully charged. Oh well. Sorry, no picture. I don't want to waste my battery time looking for one.

Here is a post I wrote sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight. I wrote it in answer to a commenter on a previous post regarding data analysis and Mr. AP's teacher bashing.

Ms. Nervous had reasons to be nervous. Mr. AP was always on her case about something. He put a letter in her file when chastised she passed a child with a 63 average, he chastised her for failing a child with a 72 average, he bitched when her stats were low and he accused her of being too easy when her stats were too high. He wrote a counseling memo when she arrived in class one day (out of a 20+ year career 3 minutes late.) In fact, Mr. AP did not even like the way she breathed and threatened a “U” rating because of this.

One semester, when Ms. Nervous felt she was going to have a nervous breakdown, she applied and received a sabbatical. Her classes that semester were especially trying and she could not take another minute of them or Mr. AP. Mr. AP was happy to see her go and immediately hired one of his precious teeny boppers to take her place.

Ms. Teeny Bopper found the same problems and more with these classes. The only difference was Mr. AP wanted Ms. Teeny Bopper to succeed so he removed the three worst offenders from each class. Surprise, surprise, the class began behaving and Ms. Teeny Bopper had a very good first semester.

This wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that Mr. AP began each and every meeting praising the Teeny Bopper’s control while he bashed the veteran teacher. No mention was ever made of his intervention on her behalf and it was only after Ms. Nervous returned from sabbatical that the truth was discovered.

Can you guess who got these difficult students? If you guessed another teeny bopper, guess again. If you guessed me, guess again because I happened not to be teaching the same subject. If you used your last guess to pick another veteran teacher, you win!

Yep, statistics say it all and if the same teacher gets the same bad results over and over again, it must be the teacher. After all, no one gets all the same type of students term after term after term.

While I Am Away

Jamaica is too beautiful for me to be spending time on the computer and I'm too cheap to pay the exhorbitant internet prices the hotel charges so I will not be back on until Dec 30 when we arrive home. I know, the junkie in me will put me online before my coat is off.

I have a bunch of posts that will be popping up over the week. Feel free to leave any comments you like but they won't post until I get back. (Thank Alex who outed my school for this.)

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a wonderful vacation to everyone.

Latest E-mail

Just when I think I have had enough, I get a letter like this one:

Mrs. POd
I just want to say that your kind words really made me think twice about math. So far in my life when math was taught to me, i got the "Why" and "How" of it. I just can't memorize a technique without first understanding the why and how. When I had physics, I found it hard because Mr. P treated us like college kids. Yes, it was hard and i didn't like it, but sometime in may and june i was extremely grateful to him. Even though i did not get a 99 in that class (i didn't do too bad-85), I learned lessons that will last a lifetime. Mrs. POd, you are the only one who understands that grades do not necessarily show off how smart someone is. You are right, after a test i understand the material better sometimes. I will study over the break and then I will come to you 5th pd after the break for some help. Thank you very much for your kind words and encouragement.

I hope you have a wonderful vacation and happy and healthy New Year. by the way, my aunt left yerterday for Jamaica so you probably will not meet LOL.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not Nice

He didn't have to buy any kosher food, it wasn't even expected. Still, it would have been nice if everyone could eat. Mostly, he didn't have to make a big deal about not buying it. I've been to many parties I couldn't eat at and no one ever said they didn't have to buy food for me. In fact, most apologized for having nothing I could eat.

I told him I couldn't eat the food, but I planned on going to socialize for a while (even though I originally planned a boycott.) I even baked brownies to bring. But, his comments about the food and his comments about my being a bad teacher were more than enough to keep me away.

My students enjoyed the brownies.

Seeing Red

My new red duffel is almost all packed. I'm ready to go!

No Mr. AP bashing me until next year, which is a good thing. I'm almost ready to ask him why, if I am so bad, has he never "U' rated me or even threatened to "U" rate me? He's never put a letter in my file or even written me a non file negative letter. If I am really so bad, he must be the worst AP in the city for letting me get away with being so bad for so many years.

I'd also like to ask him (and every other administrator around) why it is permissible for him to publicly put teachers down over and over again yet we must be careful about what we say about children, lest we say something wrong. He might make his comments about anonymous teachers, but we all know who he is targeting. Yesterdays rant was directed at me and everyone in the room knew that.

Don't Trust It

The MET Project (Measures of Effective Teaching Practices), the one funded by the Gates Foundation must be having trouble getting teachers to participate. Even the stipend is not enough of a draw. I just got an e-mail informing me of my last chance to earn $1500.
I'm leery about anything that involves big business and education.

Monday, December 21, 2009

And While I Am On The Topic

Just in, from the latest memo:

We discussed the importance of sharing of effective practices. If you want, I will be more than happy to inform you which math teacher is best at classroom management, running student-centered lessons (teacher being the facilitator instead of information provider), etc.

I wonder if I will be mentioned as the teacher who is best at keeping the department statistics low.

Data Analysis

I spent a period with the Inquiry Team leader looking at the report card grades of my ninth graders. The only conclusion we arrived at so far is that the majority of my class is in the bottom third of the school and that most of these kids are taking general science instead of living environment. We discussed why some of these kids are able to pass English but not other major subjects and the answer we arrived at (unscientifically) was not pretty so I won't go into it here.

The main thing I noticed was that some of the kids I thought should have been in the bottom third weren't included in that category and kids I thought were way above it were included. The team leader thought this might be because some of the lower level kids work very hard, which is something I agree with. On the other side, I believe that some of the kids included just don't care enough to work hard at all. They have the brains and don't use them. I think this idea was something he hadn't thought about before.

The bottom line in all of this is that data alone is not an answer.

We had our monthly departmental meeting today and once again the bashing and blaming continued. If our passing percentages aren't at least up to the department's average, we are to blame, especially if we are a twenty year veteran teacher. (The young ones are allowed to have lower stats.) Out of the forty minutes, 30 minutes were spent on the incompetence of some members of our department. (Since there are only a handful of us veterans left, we all know which teachers were being referred to.) Education doesn't matter, statistics are all that counts. He as much as said that, if all we do is teach to the regents, that is okay with him, as long as our results are good. Once again I am falling into the failing category by at least 7%. He said he didn't want to see our names come across the Principal's desk and that he is concerned for us.

Once again, I am ready and willing to have my name lead the list. I know I am doing my best to educate my students. My standards are low enough without making them even lower to meet his numbers. I know many of my colleagues will just start passing even more kids because that was the message we were given. I just walked out on my ninth period class. Pictured above is a worksheet belonging to one of the boys in the class. The photo was taken 30 minutes into the period. I can't get him (and at least 6 others) to do a thing. Passing these kids along would be an outrageous lie that I am not willing to tell.

Appreciate What We Have

Some of us don't appreciate how lucky we are...

We don't have to push a snow blower on a Sunday so school can open on Monday.

We don't have to drag heavy shopping carts through the snow.

We don't have to take our babies out and push a stroller on a day like this.

And these people are fortunate enough to have carts and carriages and warm clothes and jobs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Favorite Snow Pictures

Of course I had to take my camera for a walk this afternoon. I took lots of pictures but these are a few of my favorites.

A rare picture of me, taking snow pictures.

Someone took a shortcut.

This woman needed help, not an audience.

This guy was not enjoying the snow.

I loved the arch the snow made as it was released from the blower.

And my all time favorite--the plastic palm tree surrounded by snow.

The Climb Could Be Made Easier

Please don't think I have anything against young teachers. I don't. I too, was a young teacher once and haven't forgotten the crap I had to put up with to keep my job. Four preps was the norm in my school and we were all afraid to grieve because our AP was vicious and vindictive. She took work we did and published it in a book under her own name and kept all the profits for herself. She had us do everything short of cleaning her house after school was over but we might have done that too. It was the 70's. We were all young, married, some with families and we needed our jobs.

My problem with the young is not that they buy into all these new educational gimmicks and philosophies and only ask "how high" when told to jump, but with the arrogance and self righteousness I have seen some of these young people accept these new edicts. A teacher barely out of diapers had the nerve to tell a forty year veteran where she could buy a notebook to organize her lessons. They are always ready to point out what the older, more eperienced teachers are doing wrong. Maybe the old timers aren't as technologically savvy as the youth and maybe there are things they can improve upon, but these young kids do not have all the answers.

When I started out, I started teaching the lowest level classes and gradually worked my way up to teaching calculus and other advanced subjects. It was a long, difficult path, but I did it and looking back, it was the right way to go. Without understanding the processes that went into the learning in the lower levels it would be hard to get across more advanced materials.

I am a firm believer in not giving a new teacher all difficult classes. If we want to retain them in the profession, they need a balanced load. But, when I see a brand new teacher being given two or three trigonometry classes and all top classes, while senior teachers are being told they are not good enough to teach them, I see a problem. I see the youth being set up by administration as being "G-d's gift to the profession" while the older ones are being allowed to work because no one has the right to get rid of them.

The young teachers in my department are great. They are bright and enthusiastic and get along great with the kids. The math teachers here have standards, some are probably a little to high,thanks to Mr. AP, but standards nevertheless. From what I have seen, this is not true in other departments.

It is time to stop playing favorites. Treat everyone the same and things will be better. Older teachers will be willing to share acquired knowledge and the younger ones will share their technological skills and other techniques they developed. The resentment will end.

Teaching is a hard business. It is time to do what we can to make it easier. Making it easier for the teacher will inevitably make it easier for the student to succeed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

JROTC Winter Banquet

The JROTC had their winter banquet last night. The cadets get to show off their award winning stuff and their is plenty of food to eat. These guys really know how to organize and get things done. Even the buffet line runs with military precision.

I had so many better pictures but I wanted to make sure there were no faces in any and since the banquet was so well attended, this was difficult to do.

The boys raider team. Our overcrowded school forces them to tie their ropes between posts in the cafeteria but these kids don't let their poor facilities keep them down. The human bridge was a sight to see.

These boys looked like they were flying.

The girls in their unarmed performance move with a precision that would make the Rockettes jealous.

I hate the rifles and used to bitch about them so much that the Sargent in charge started calling them sticks to keep me happy. These kids are fantastic.

The girl's raider team


(Picture from last year's big storm)

We are expecting our first big snow storm of the winter. Thankfully, no big plans have to be cancelled this weekend. (We do have tickets to see Paul Taylor Dance this evening but they were free so if we can't make it we won't feel awful.) The one big party we planned for the year went off last weekend and only one couple got iced in and couldn't make it. Even my trip to Houston got off, although there were delays.

I was really worried about Wednesday's weather. The plane is scheduled to leave at 9:30 and I know there is a nice, cold Red Stripe waiting for me at the Jamaica airport. Sorry to all of you that have a wrecked weekend but I am grateful for the predicted sunshine arriving later this week.

The Young Have All The Answers

Joe reads and does math at barely a fourth grade level. Today, I looked at his program, particularly at the teachers he has this term. I noticed that the two teachers who did not pass him were senior teachers while the other teachers, the teeny bopper ones, all gave him passing grades.

Are the senior teachers too hard? Are kids being passed through because they are quiet and well behaved? Do the teeny boppers have standards too low? Is it really possible that a newbie, right out of college, knows how to work with an auditory learner in a class of 34 problem students? If the later is true, it is time for me and those of my generation to step down. If education is really being dumbed down so that a fourth grader has enough knowledge to graduate high school, education really needs reform because its not No Child Left Behind, its Every Child Left Behind.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Soap Opera

It's that time of the year again, guidance counselors are busy holding court in their office, showing off their pretty new clothes as they hold up the wall, gossipping and decorating offices. Why work? The holiday will be here before anyone knows it.

But wait! Two girls are having a major crisis. They are both in tears. No one bothered to tell them their counselors were in party mode already and they should hold off on whatever is bothering them until next year.

No one told the concerned girls' teacher either. The teacher made sure to stop at guidance before going home to make sure someone spoke to these students about whatever it was that was bothering them. One counselor said "Oh, D..., I don't know her. Do you know where she is now? (Counselor has a computer on her desk with access to every program.) I guess I can send for her but if she won't come, there is nothing I can do." I had to hold my tongue to keep from saying "Get your lazy ass out of this office and up to D's class. No one told you to wear those 6 inch heels that are so hard to walk in." C's counselor was busy helping a colleague decorate her office. She promised to go look for her, and I hope she did but, it was obvious from the look on her face that C was not a priority.

I probably should have waited around to make sure they followed through but it was Friday afternoon and I was tired so I left. I'm sitting here feeling guilty, worried about these two kids. Both are in my difficult algebra class and anyone who has ever taught a class like this one knows some of these kids have more problems imaginable. Involving parents might be the way to go, or it might escalate the whole thing and that is why I wanted guidance involved. Guess I will just have to wait until Monday to see how this saga ends.

I Would Have Gone

Joe's IEP conference is today and as much as I hate going to these things, I would love to go to this one. Joe is a great kid but totally out of his league in mainstream classes. His reading and math levels are below that of a fourth grader. Even with this, he managed to pass English and History (which make me wonder about the level these classes are being taught on.) Joe's resource room teacher asked me to attend, only I can't. I teach the period the conference is taking place.

I asked the resource room teacher to have the parent stop by and see me before he leaves. I want to tell him about Joe's frustration in my class, the conflicting information I found on the IEP and the fact that I never even saw the IEP until December 7. I want to ask him if Joe's other teachers have the IEP (I only got it because I persistently asked for it.) I want to ask him if there really is an individual plan in place to help Joe succeed.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Optimization with Calculus 2

Technology does have its advantages. One of my AP kids just sent me this video with a note saying how helpful it was as well as entertaining.

Who would have guessed that You tube could be so educational.

So Many Have Had Them Removed

Our school holiday party was cancelled this year. People used to swear up and down that they went to the party because it was fun, not because Suit pressured them to go. But, he's gone now and no one is pressuring anyone to go anywhere so the wimps did as they pleased and stayed home.

It is no wonder the city is managing to destroy the union and keep teachers down. When they don't even have the cojones to say no to some after hours expensive party, how can you expect them to stand up for anything else?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zilch, Nada, Nothing

Klein spoke at a community school board in my neighborhood tonight. I planned on going and reading the following but things didn't work out as planned. I didn't expect him to care about what I said, but I wanted to say it anyway. I'll have to settle for printing it here. I know the results will be the same--Zilch, Nada, Nothing.

Mark Twain said “there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics”. Education has been filled with lies since Bloomberg took control of the NYC school system. I have been teaching math in NYC since 1973 and math education is at its all time lowest. Yes, it is true, more students are taking algebra now than ever before and more students are graduating than ever before but they are graduating knowing less than ever before.

There are some things that cannot be measured numerically and education and the value of a teacher is one of those things. Teachers are working with human beings, people with feelings and abilities and sometimes problems far beyond what you or the mayor could possibly imagine. Our job is more than test scores. Now the mayor wants to tie teacher tenure to these scores. This is just not right. A teacher must be evaluated on what goes on in the classroom, how her students are growing and learning and developing, not on some grade on an exam made up by some big business company that has no idea as to what children are really like, capable of learning and need. Principals and administrators who do their job correctly can see what is going on daily and should be able to judge who is doing a good job and who isn’t. Parents and students themselves can help with a true evaluation. Test scores—impossible.

In my school, Packemin HS, the teachers in my department are terrified of poor regents statistics. Mid year, teachers try to drop students who are failing in hopes of keeping their passing rates high. In September, too many students are dropped from two term algebra classes into four term algebra classes to keep regents stats high. Kids are being tracked too quickly and it is all because of numbers. Teacher tenure and test scores are not even linked yet.

My AP wrote in a recent e-mail that although he would always like to do what is best for the student, we work in a NYC high school and doing what is best for them is not always possible. We have to keep our stats up to keep our A rating.

I started teaching in 1973 at Julia Richman HS in Manhattan. We offered arithmetic classes and business math classes and other classes that were geared towards a student’s ability and academic interests. We offered regents classes and did our best to get the students through. No one ever complained and blamed when the numbers were low. I just picked up a 1977 geometry regents and compared it to the regents of today and what I saw was sorrowful. In 1977 real knowledge of the material was required to receive a passing grade. You needed 65 points out of 100 to pass. You could not just randomly guess some multiple choice answers and get a passing grade. Yes, we had fewer passing then, but passing meant something. And the ones that did not take the regents still got an education, unlike the students of today, who are getting a diploma.

The business model, which people like you insist on applying to education is wrong. You are not creating a world of educated people, you are creating a world of illiterates, people who can’t think and people who are unprepared for anything.

If a teacher is not doing their job correctly and effectively, that teacher should not be in the classroom and there are ways to find this out. Test scores is not one of them. If you really care about education, take my words seriously and incorporate the things like this into your educational reform policy.

Any Doll Can Do A Job Like This (If Doing It Well Doesn't Count)

The IEPs say 1.5x for exams (except for the ones that also say 2x for exams). I assumed this meant for quizzes as well. I learned that is not the case when I gave a quiz to a resource room teacher so the child could finish it tomorrow.

The law is being followed if a child has an IEP. Too bad there is nothing in the law about making the IEP accurate or explaining what things mean to the teacher who has never read one before.

They want us to read these things. They should make them meaningful.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Latest Memo

Of course Mr. AP's the memo berates us again, it always does. Everything is our fault. After all, we are the best high school in the city so if the kids are messing up, it must be our fault. We have to learn to work smarter, not harder, if we want to succeed.

The memo ends on a high note, inviting us all to have Chinese food with him next Tuesday. Even before I read the memo, I voted to pass on these edibles. I don't eat meat and the meat and the non meat dishes always get mixed together. The office is cramped and the kids who work their butts off all semester helping the teachers who hang around there are banished from the room.

Last year I lucked out and was out the day of the party. This year I am just going to say no thanks. I'll stick to whatever leftovers were at home at eat in the cafeteria.

It Stinks In Here

The room stunk period 2 but I assumed we were getting an oil delivery and the smell would pass.

The room continued stinking period 3 and the kids really complained when they walked in. Several said the smell was making them sick and I could see, by looking at their faces, this was true. (We thought there mightbe soemthing dead in the radiator.) I called my AP. He wasn't in. I called the APO and found out there was no oil being delivered. Several kids left the room to work in the hall because the smell was getting to them. I called the APO again and this time he came up to investigate. When he claimed he smelled nothing, a girl looked at him and said "That is because you smell good. It is awful in here." Begrudgingly he agreed to call the custodian.

We waited. The period ended and Mr. AP walked by. I told him of the smell and he said he would call the custodian. I told him that was done ten minutes ago. He gave me his "stop complaining, I'm doing what I can answer" and walked away. Another 40 minutes passed and the custodians arrived.

The kids thought help had finally arrived. I knew better as I watched the custodian go over to the radiator with a can of disinfectant and proceed to spray the area. He said that is all he could do. But, he left me with the can of spray so I can take care of any future odors myself.

Bloomberg, does your office smell like that? Are the kids in the charter schools sitting in hallways because the air in their classroom is making them sick? I guess should be grateful for the can of Lysol. Ms Eyre would have had to buy her own.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where Is Mayor Moneybags Now?

The MTA is making deep cuts into our transportation system. Services will be severely curtailed. Even access-a-ride which services the handicapped will be cut. School kids will no longer get the passes they need to get to school.

One of Mayor Moneybags campaign promises was to improve public transportation in the city. Funny, I didn't see him on the news tonight when this story aired. Is it possible that he has forgotten his promise now that he has been elected for his third term? Will the people of NYC forget this and vote him in for a fourth term? Will they resign themselves to clicking their heals together and hope that by wishing they will get to their desired location?

Just Thinking

I'm sitting here watching my evening class take their final exam in the college algebra class I taught this semester. I have twenty bodies in front of me which is not so bad. I started the semester with 26. Losing only 7 in a class like this one is pretty good. Some of these kids have not done so well all semester but I am really hoping that they manage to pull out a decent grade on this test so I can pass them. They find math tedious and hard and for some it can be the one thing that keeps them from getting a degree. And, that is what brings me to the point of this posting.

Today I sat and helped a few of last year's geometry students with the intermediate algebra and trig class they are taking and what I saw broke my heart. One teacher actually took off points for kids who used pencil. She told them she is preparing them for the regents but by taking off points for such trivia now, they will never get to the regents. These kids aren't the strongest math students to begin with and they can't afford to lose points for this. I also saw exams which consisted of mostly multiple choice questions. Each one of those multiple choices were worth 5 points and kids ended up failing because they made careless mistakes, not because they did not know how to do the work. Out of the five kids I helped, maybe one will make it through the class and the regents yet all five understood the work well and would be able to pass the class if it wasn't so regents geared. These kids will probably end up being dropped from the trigonometry class in January. Heaven forbid a teacher not have passing statistics of 90% or more.

A study showed that most kids are not ready mathematically for college. These kids are capable of learning the math they need to be able to succeed in college. They need the head start a good high school education can give them. They need the slow pace a high school teacher can follow in comparison to that of a college professor. They are motivated. They are bright. Not everyone has to be a math star to succeed in life. The system is going to hold them back. The system is going to take them from the class they need and throw them into some other, easier class, a class that does not terminate in a regents, a class that failing or passing will not make the school look bad.

I wanted to teach this new trig class. Mr. AP did not let me. He knew I would not drop anyone out. He knew my stats would be the worst ones in the department again and I would be the one to bring the school down. He knew I have always and will always put the kids first. He might think that working in a NYC high school makes it impossible to always do what is right for the students. He has the power and the voice to do something but statistics are the most important thing around. we've got to keep that "A". Anyone who gets in the way will be hit with the giant demolition ball. I don't agree and I will fight him on this issue until the day I leave.


Is there a correlation between a students comfort in a classroom and their achievement?

A boy I taught last year is telling me he is not dong well this term because he doesn't feel comfortable with the new teacher and the new class. Could this really be true?

Last year, this kid did great verbally but it was a real challenge to get him to do well on exams. (He did pass the class and the regents.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Ms Eyre posted a story this week over at NYC Educator that rings so true that it is scary. There is no system in place to help new and struggling teachers, no matter what anyone says.

I always had a policy of never talking to an administrator, or at least talking to them only when absolutely necessary. Mentioning a problem was always quickly turned into a "gotcha" observation" or a demeaning conversation. It is only my old age that has gotten me to speak out loudly about some of the problems I run into and it is only since we have a new principal that I have found anyone actually ready and willing to try to help. (I haven't seen an solutions yet, but I'm going to be patient.)

Several years ago I had a low level algebra class that operated on a 7 -8 period a week split program and the kids were extremely difficult. The program was Suit's baby (he was in charge of the guidance department at the time) so I went to him for help. Suit promised to come talk to the kids but only showed up when I got on the phone and demanded help immediately. He tip toed into the room (he has an unusual way of walking), and began lecturing the kids on their behavior. He never once looked up at them or asked them anything. As he talked, they continued doing whatever it was they were doing before he walked in and were worse to him than they were to me. He didn't seem to notice as he finished his talk and left. Needless to say, I never asked for his help again. Mr. AP just turns every problem into my fault so I never go to him.

I truly believe our new administration would like to help the teachers and help the students but in many ways they are as clueless as we are as to what to do. Conferences dealing with this topic are always turned back to the teachers where we are supposed to brainstorm and come up with solutions. If we had these solutions we wouldn't be having the conference.

My friend Ted is a former math teacher and the APO of a small school in the city. A few years ago he hired an enthusiastic young teaching fellow. I took one look at this poor girl and knew the kids were going to chew her up and then spit her out. Luckily, Ted saw this too and made sure she had plenty of support and help and she made it through the system to become a tenured teacher. He asked tenured teachers to take some of her more challenging students and asked the math AP to be gentle with observations. Not many are fortunate enough to have supervisors like Ted.

Ms Eyre's post reminded me of the class Suit "helped" out in. I remember going to my AP and telling him to never give a class like that to a new teacher. It would destroy that teacher forever. Now he gives them to older teachers and holds us accountable for their preformance.

Bottom line is, Ms Eyre is correct. There is no system in place to help teachers. It is survival of the fittest and that is all anyone cares about.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nerd In Me

A former student just sent me a link for this shirt. The nerd in me just had to buy it immediately.

Help Needed

I just checked the report cards of every student in my algebra class. I'm supposed to check the data, right? I found out that every one who failed my class failed at least one other class and most failed between three classes and all their classes.

Now that I know all this, I still am at a loss as to how to help these kids.

Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Hate To Say I Told You So

Bet no one will be surprised when they read this. NYC schools are not preparing their students with mathematical skills. Nearly 90% of 200 students tested could not solve a simple algebraic equation and only one-third of them could convert a fraction to a decimal.

Hey, Education Mayor, you've increased graduation rates but what have you really accomplished?