Wednesday, October 31, 2012


We got lucky.  No damage and we have electric.  No cable, Internet or phone .  My neighbor had a150 year old oak fall on her house.  She has been living with us.  Since it is a city tree she can't do a thing to make her house safe.  The parks department told her to call 311 but 311 answers with a recording saying it is not a working number.    I am currently using a neighbor's Verizon account.  Unlike Time Warner they seem to keep their system running.  I can't get my laptop working so no pictures.  Hope everyone is safe.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012


 Only have two classes so marking their test papers shouldn't be a chore, but I hate doing it.  I am the queen of procrastination. 

Instead, I have been playing with photo shop and looking at the beautiful autumn pictures I took in the park across the street from where my house. 

More photos here, on Facebook.

(Couple above were preparing for a wedding.  They lucked out with weather.  And, their venue was beautiful and priced right.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Narrow Minded and Missing Out



Fiona refuses to go to the MOMA, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, or any modern art museum because she doesn't like modern art.  She refuses to understand not all modern art is abstract art.  The very artists she loves the most, Monet, Munch, Dali, are featured in these museums.  There are wonderful Picassos and Van Goghs and hundreds of other artists whose work she has copies of in her home.  There are specialty exhibits that make the trip and the price of admission worthwhile, but Fiona is stubborn.  She doesn't like modern art and won't go.

Fiona taught for many years.  She had students who began the semester hating certain things she taught, but she pursued them anyway.  Even those who never learned to appreciate the beauty of her subject, learned to respect it and appreciate it for what it was.  Too bad Fiona can't be educated the way she educated others.

(Forgive bad pictures.  I can't hold camera steady enough without flash but I had to post a few.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Washer Woman

Scrubbing is the practice of taking every regents score between 59 and 64 and trying to raise the score to a 65.  It is something that has gone on for as long as I can remember. Schools get rated by the number of passing scores so it is imperative to get those failing grades up.  A lesser known practice is the scrubbing of grades below 85 because these grades also increase the rating of a school.

Miss Marsh was our school's scrub woman.  While everyone marked, she did the rereads.  She found points no one else would ever have thought of awarding.  She was so creative with the points she awarded, she was even brought in after retirement to keep on scrubbing.

According to an article in Gotham News, the number of 65s on regents exams has decreased. I wonder if anyone checked the number of 66s or the increase in the number of 85s.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NYC Post

I haven't written too much about city sites lately but that doesn't mean I haven't been taking them in.  Yesterday I got to visit Discovering Columbus, one of Public Art projects.  Tatzu Nish, a Japanese artist transformed the statue of Columbus by erecting a six story structure around it and putting Columbus in the middle of his living room.  It is truly a wonderful site to see.  In addition, the view from here of Central Park and surrounding areas is terrific.  More pictures here, on facebook.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Need Fractions? Of Course!

Sign on 57th St on a new pedestrian walkway being built between 6th and 7th Ave.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Letter To Obama

Dear President Obama,

I am a retired teacher and personally have nothing to gain or to lose with any new evaluation system or with added value data.  But, I do have a lot to gain or lose based on the future education of today's youth.  It might be a little hokey to say that children are our future, but hokey or not, it is true.  I, and others, will be dependant on the young to keep this country running.  We'll need the doctors, nurses, and engineers.  We will also need the cooks, the toilet cleaners and the ditch diggers.  And, Mr. President, these last occupation are equally important to my future.  Not everyone wants to go to college or has the ability to succeed in college.  There are people that will want and enjoy these jobs that do not require an advanced degree.  Instead of pushing everyone towards college, you should start respecting all occupations and working to insure everyone, no matter what field they work in, get paid a decent wage and are afforded respect for what they do.

Rating teachers on exam scores will do nothing to create responsible, educated citizens able and willing to carry on in the spirit in which this country has been created.  A student once told me if he didn't do well in my class, I could get fired.  This is not a message to send to the young. 

Teachers, like everyone else, have families to take care of and keeping their jobs and their income is a priority. Judging teachers by their student's test scores will force teachers to stop helping anyone not on their rosters.  When I taught, I picked up "orphans", the kids who I found floundering and in need of extra help.  New evaluation systems would force me, and the countless others like me, to ignore these kids as helping them will help a colleagues statistics and make me look bad.  And, I can't tell you how many times I have added students to my rosters, kids who were failing with other teachers, kids I hoped to help.  While I helped some, I didn't help them all.  With your plan, I would never want to take in the kids no one else wants.  In addition, the school I worked in, particularly the math department has a policy of dropping students into low level classes if they are not passing, or barely passing in the beginning of the semester.  These kids never have a chance to improve or do better. Several teachers try to hold on to these students and risk failure because the rewards of learning are worth the risk. I've also seen teachers hold on to students who should be moved into an honors class because the teacher wanted the good grades on his roster.  Again, emphasis on statistics does not help the child.

In addition to all of this you have to remember that teachers teach things that can't be measured by exams.  They build confidence and teach kids to believe in their abilities to do whatever they want.  They offer shoulders to cry on.  I've seen teachers hand over lunch money, trip money and even rent money.  They've gone to funerals and to weddings.  They play a major role in the development of the child, in things that can't be measured with a pencil and paper.

Mr President, I know not all teachers do the things I have written in this letter, but most do.  No one wants poor teachers removed more than teachers themselves, but no method being discussed will do this.

I hope you will take all these things into consideration while shaping your education policy.

Sincerely yours,

A former HS Math teacher and a current college adjunct lecturer

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ladies Who Lunch


Our Packemin HS retired teacher luncheon took place on Friday.  We welcomed two new members. 

It is so great to sit and talk to so many wonderful people we only got to know if our 40 minute lunch periods happened to coincide.  It was great to be able to talk without the distraction of a pile of papers being marked. It was great to be able to stay as long as we wanted, to know the restroom had toilet paper that rolled, soap and paper towels.

Our next meeting is November 15.  Every retired female Packemin teacher is invited to join us.  E-mail me and I will put you on the list.  Our membership grows every month.  Not everyone makes every meeting (lots of other activities to partake in when you don't have to work) so we are going to try to alternate days of week this year.

(We also accept honorary Packemin retirees, that is, teachers from other schools.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

One Smart Dad

Junior got caught texting once too often in his math class and his father was not pleased.  He didn't want to take the phone away as he wanted Junior to keep to be able to keep in touch.  Torn between the technology of the 21st century and the discipline he knew his son needed, dad called the phone company and asked for help.  The company suggested parental controls which would block texting during school hours.  Dad said yes!  Grades improved.  Phone calls home stopped.

I never knew something like this was possible.  I wonder if others don't know as well.  Might be a good idea for schools to let parents know this option is available. 

Help For Honey Boo Boo

When I saw the headline I thought, thank goodness someone is going to get that smart little girl away from the toxic environment she is being raised in.  When I read the article I found out Rosie O'Donnell wants to buy the little girl and her family a new house.  The family prefers to renovate it to a two-bedroom and a bathroom house and the whole thing is about another television show.

This family must make a fortune from this television show. Let them build there own house and let O'Donnell use her money and her name to help someone who really needs the help.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Constructing A Foundation


Teachers do what no amount of technology can--we instill confidence and get our students to believe in themselves. 

An English teacher friend sent me this:

"The teacher I learned from the most and who had been the most helpful in my life was Mrs. POd...a retired math teacher".She said I was her number one believer and the 9th period class made her day. (that class was the worst class I ever taught.  Even the principal agreed many of the kids were incorrigible.)  She wrote that she went from 65's to 90's because I believed in her.  Today she wants to be a CPA and believes she can because of me!!!!

I had no smart board and no I-pad,  just chalk, talk and lots of TLC.  I miss the kids from that crazy year.  It would have been nice to stick around and watch them mature and graduate but conditions made it impossible to stay.  Still, I am happy and proud to have provided the foundation for success.

(It was a beautiful day not to work.  I spent it walking Jones Beach Boardwalk.  Pictures here, on facebook.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Human Connection


The evening supervisor and I teach the same pre-calculus class.  Monday night we were comparing notes and were relieved to see we were at the exact same spot in the curriculum.  He told me he doesn't like to go to fast, because he wants his class to "like him."  He quickly explained that by liking, he didn't mean be his friend.  He wanted them to understand the material and be comfortable asking questions.  He said what I always believed, a happy student learns better.

I was so glad I had this conversation.  He validated my philosophy about teaching.  No technology, no gimmicks,  just a human connection.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Going Low Makes Me Happy

Hehehe, don't worry my pretty little one.  You will get your diploma.  All you need is a 45 on your regents exam to get your diploma as long as you manage to score at least a 65 on one.  You won't be prepared for anything, but my numbers will go up.  I will get my bonus.  I will look like I am doing a great job.  You will flunk out of college but that is not my problem.  You will be long gone from my statistics by the time that happens.

Monday, October 15, 2012

See Any Good ATRs Out There?

English classes with no teachers even though it is the middle of October.
Kids having a different teacher every few weeks.
Good English ATRs wanting jobs.
Teachers with the look, not young and attractive.
Some even known to this school.

It is sad when Principals will choose no teacher over one that is not deemed perfect.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Museum Pics

The math teacher in me loved the geometric ceiling in the sculpture wing of the Met.  More pictures here.  Unfortunately, no photography in the main exhibits visited.

Location, Location, Location


There are lots of reasons given for why a school is so good--the administration likes to credit their work and the work of the teachers.  And, while I won't discredit them, the real reason is the neighborhood the school is in and the type of kids the school admits.

Let's face it, a school in a middle class neighborhood, with feeder schools filled with kids that will attend it gives it a good start.  Parents don't have to worry about kids traveling long distances on public transportation.  Because of these good kids, the school offers many programs aimed at the better students and good kids apply and get admittance.  You see the high school admissions policy is not totally random.  Administrators and counselors go over applications with a fine tooth comb and take the best of the best.  A child with "3's" on middle school exams doesn't stand the same chance of getting in as a child with "4's" and the kid with "1's" and "2's" is totally dependant of the luck of the draw.

Years ago I taught at one of the most difficult schools in the city.  In fact, this school was one of the first ones to be closed down for reorganization.  Everyone knew then it wasn't because the teachers were no good.  All these teachers were able to find new jobs in the schools they wanted to be in.  Many went on to teach advanced placement classes and become mentors and administrators.  The school closed because the school population consisted of some of the roughest kids in the city.  Back doors were always being propped open so intruders walked in all the time.  Halls weren't safe and classes had to be taught with locked doors to insure the safety of the teacher and the students inside.  Kids came in with no skills.  One of my students was found with a sawed off shotgun.  Another shot an FBI agent.  I'll never forget Sheldon, who used to go down to the docks and help the longshoremen unload boxes, by unloading many for his own personal use. Fires were always started during fire drills (the kids wanted the drill to be realistic, I guess.)   I taught kids who couldn't count past 100 and couldn't read more than Dick and Jane.  I taught kids who lived in burnt out buildings with no heat or hot water.   And, while we gave our all, coming in early, staying late to help, there were terms we couldn't get anyone to pass the regents.  (Of course it was a real regents in those days.)  No one, not ever blamed the teachers.

I recently read a memo by a Principal of a good school.  This Principal was proud of all the school had done and was thrilled that people from the state were coming to see what was being done there.  I know the school is good and the people who work there, including most of the administration, do a good job but, change the neighborhood, change the kids who feed in and I guarantee this same school with the same practices and the same staff will be on Bloomberg's list of schools to close.  The same teachers will be ATRs as no school will want to hire them.

The Most Outrageous Way to Share a Coke

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Not Good Enough

People think teachers have great pensions,and I am not complaining, but I can't buy this dream mansion on east 71st St.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I went to a great exhibit at the Met today--Andy Warhol and 60 other artists.  I don't get a lot of modern art, no matter how much I read and listen to docents. (I still enjoy looking at it.)   I feel the don't get these memos.  Thank goodness I don't have to worry about them anymore as they bring no one pleasure.  (picture not from that exhibit as no photography was permitted)

These keep getting better and better.

If a student has not shown up in your class at all, you must put an “I” under the exam column - they certainly intervention right now! In other words, any students who would have received a failing grade should get an “I” in the exam column.

 I have not met with everyone regarding the exam average of your classes even though I asked to meet with everyone. Please do so no later than Friday, October 12, 2012.  When you come to see me, please bring your grade book and know the passing percentage and the exam average of your students by class, etc.

Please inform your students of the tutoring opportunities during periods 2 – 8. Some students have come in to inquire about tutoring and I checked their attendance in your class. They have not been absent at all. So, either you did not make the announcement about tutoring or they did not hear you when you made the announcement.

Active participation everyday is the key to our success and it can no longer be generated by using such comments as “Let’s …” or “Why don’t we …”, etc.  It is nice that you tried to get everyone’s attention by involving them verbally in the lesson but you must find a way to evaluate constantly whether your students are following you on.  If you know your students do not understand what you are teaching, let’s say you wait until after an exam (bad idea), what are you doing about it?  We all must work on finding ways for students to participate covertly and overtly.

 We discussed the following point during the last department meeting as well. I asked everyone to teach equation solving using transposing terms. There are still teachers who do not bother doing it. You can expect to have the lowest passing percentage on the Regents exam. Furthermore, can you at least pretend that you are using transposing when I am in your classroom?  No one will argue with me that I can get the students who are not willing or capable of doing math to pass the Regents exam. The reason is very simple – I find a way to get through to them and teach them a skill that is technique based. If I share with you effective ways to get students to be able to solve problems, why are you not willing to try? Why do students take math? They have to learn how to think from their math teacher. Most of them will never use the quadratic formula, the law of Sines or Cosines once they pass the Regents exam. But they will have to think for the rest of their lives. Are you teaching your students how to think?
Please continue to monitor the hallway during period change and get your students into your classroom before the late bell while encouraging the others to move along.


Have a great Friday and weekend.




Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reading Between The Lines


Instead of the usual posting of the memo, I decided to post my own interpretation.  Hopefully the grammar and spelling are better.  If the message is slightly incoherent, remeber, it is an interpretation of something that often makes no sense.

To all you lazy, stupid math teachers:

I can't stand the sight of many of you.  You are just too stupid to do what I tell you to do.  I specifically told you to see me with your grades, and to know all your exam averages and student  averages.  Most of you did not show up.  It is my right as an assistant principal to bully and berate you and to make you want to crawl in a hole and die.  In fact, I live for the moments when I corner you in my office and put you down.  I know most of you can't understand a word I say, I can't understand them either, but that doesn't matter.  You are nothing and I am everything.  I constantly tell you that I am the best AP in the city and how lucky you are to be working for me, but this message does not sink into your thick brains.

Now, lets get on to tutoring.  I told you to tell your students where to find help, but they still come and ask me.  If they can't find the tutoring sessions you should  make it your business to personally escort them to these sessions.  If teenagers don't know what they should know, you must be doing something wrong.  We all know they listen to and absorb everything you say in class.  You make much more sense than I do.

Your students need to participate actively in class.  Try using electric shock or crashing whips next to their desks.  If they don't understand, you are doing something wrong.  You better figure this out and fix it.  If I can get all my students to learn, you should be able to do the same thing.  So what if I can get rid of students that don't work?  I'm the boss and you better not forget this.

Now let's get back to what we talked about at the last meeting--solving equations by transposing.  If you aren't doing this, you are stupid.  I don't care that this method might not help them in college.  I know I tell you that you should teach them to think, but I don't want them to think and I don't want you to think either.  I want everyone to follow what I say blindly, even if you can't figure out what I am saying.  And, if you don't want to do what I say, at least pretend to listen when I am in the room.

You are mostly a bunch of losers and I am stuck being your supervisor.  I may be stupid and incoherent.  I may lack people skills and the ability to recognize good teaching when I see it, but I am in charge and there is nothing you or anyone else can do about it. 

Have a good day tomorrow and enjoy your weekend.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Good Teacher Not Hired But Finds Something Better

Jill told me I inspired her to become a math teacher.  She got into the very prestigious Time 2000 program at Queens College and did well.  She student taught at a school I know well and did a great job.  She has also completed a masters in math.

Jill wanted to work at this school but she was told there was no job for her there.  She felt she would never be hired there so she gave up her dream of teaching in the school she attended and applied for several college jobs.  She was hired everywhere she interviewed.

I just heard Jill is now teaching full time in a college.  I am so proud of her and proud of me for being the inspiration behind the career choice.  I am glad she didn't let one person discourage her.  She knew whose words meant something and whose didn't.

(PS--there are four teachers at the college that school was happy to let go, or would like to let go.  So much for knowing quality teaching when it is around.  The person who has no respect for them would stand no chance of doing what they are doing.)

Monday, October 08, 2012

Save Big Bird, Big Bird Helps Kids Learn

Parenthood overwhelmed me.  My two kids, 19 months apart exhausted me.  Both were early risers.  To say my son was active, would be an understatement.  The one thing that kept my sanity was his love of Sesame Street.  He would watch it at 7, 8 and 9 and on days when we were stuck in the house, he watched tapes.  (It was the only way I could get anything done or go to the bathroom in peace.  He grew up fine, in spite of, or maybe because of all this television.)  He especially loved the movie where the whole gang got locked in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and met the little Egyptian boy who wanted to be a star to join his parents.

I remember taking both kids to the museum, my son was just about two at the time.  As soon as we walked into the Egyptian exhibit, he ran from me screaming, "Mommy, mommy, there is the Temple of Dendur."  An elderly woman looked at him, clearly impressed with the words come out of my little boy.  She said, he must be a child prodigy. (Those who know him know this is not true.)  When he had his fill of this, we walked around other parts of the museum where he continued to amaze bystanders with his knowledge.

Romney claims to care about education but he is cutting funding to PBS, a valuable source of learning for many children.  At less than a year, my daughter knew all her numbers and letters.  Before she could walk, she was crawling up and down the block reading license plates.  While I read to her, I never sat and taught her the alphabet.  She knew enough to stay in bed until the clock read  "7 0 0" and diligently repeated all the digits on it until the right ones arrived.  Again, Sesame Street was her teacher.  And again, my son wowed his hospital room when, at 18 months, he made us spell every word he heard.  His love of letters came from that show.

Money is all that matters to Romney and his crew and PBS is not a money maker for them.  My kids came from a home where education was stressed and they still needed Sesame Street.  And now he wants to deprive others of this wonderful, fun learning experience.  He should be ashamed.

I know there are more important issues in this country than saving PBS, but that doesn't negate the valuable service it provides.

(I just read an article about how TLC was started by NASA as a non-profit.  Now, shows like Honey Boo Boo are its biggest attraction.  TLC has become the trashiest network one can watch.)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Loved These Women

As they proudly walked back and forth on Long Beach's boardwalk campaigning for their candidate.

Listen To The Kid

Society has got it wrong.  There is nothing wrong with being a ditch digger or doing other forms of manual labor.  It is an honest way to make a good living at salaries often higher than those of college graduates.  Not everyone wants to go to college and pursue a career behind a desk or wearing a white color.  Not everyone is capable of doing so.

Personally, I would rather have seen my children doing what they wanted to do, even if it meant digging ditches than being bored to death in a college class they can't understand and graduating with a degree that will at best qualify her for pouring coffee at Starbucks.

This country will always need people to build roads and dig holes.  Instead of putting down these vocations, we ought to start giving them the respect they have earned and they deserve.

I would like to thank all the ditch diggers out there who do the labor I am incapable of doing.  You are performing a service every bit as valuable as that of the more educated people that put you down.  You are doing a service that we do not have the ability to do.  We are all created differently.  It is time to embrace these differences and encourage them.  Respect those who choose not to go to college or whose talents like in a different direction.  The father is the one missing the point in this cartoon.


Friday, October 05, 2012

Be Honest

As I walked towards my class Monday, I saw Mary walking in my direction.  I secretly hoped she wouldn't see me because she did not pass last semester and I didn't know what her reaction to me would be.

Well, Mary did see me.  She ran over and threw her arms around me in on of the biggest hugs ever.  She told me she knew she couldn't pass that class.  (I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get her to drop and take a remedial in its place.). She told me I did more to help her than any teacher ever had and vowed to find a way to improve her math skills and pass next time around.  I walked away feeling at the top of my game, knowing I made a difference in some one's  life.

Did you read what she told me. Mr. Education Mayor, Mr. President?  Test scores aren't everything. There is more to education than a number on a page!  Helping and teaching students is not a score on an exam.  The students know this, why don't you?  Stop playing games with our schools.  Admit you don't care about the kids of this country.  Keeping budgets low by constantly hiring new and getting rid of old teachers is what it is all about.  Keeping the pockets of the testing companies full is also your priority.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


The boy is smart,super smart, but he doesn't realize it.   His school has been catering to the bottom kids and he has been able to well by breathing in the classroom.  Studying and homework has never been something he needed to do to shine in most classes as his teachers considered 80's good grades

Note that I said most of his classes.  While he catches on quickly in math, and grasps even the most difficult concepts, he needs to spend some extra time studying to get the 90's he is capable of.  He doesn't see the need for this and fluffs through.  He says math is not his subject.  This is far from the truth.  It is obvious to anyone watching him that he enjoys doing the math, he just doesn't enjoy it (or any school subject) enough to take time away from Facebook to practice.

There has been a lot in the media about the shortage of engineers and math and science people.  Low standards and poor instruction are the cause.  We've got to stop trying to make everyone the same.  There are countless students like this one who have been lost due to the mediocrity of education today.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Old Subway and Bus Ads


A trip last weekend to Atlantic Ave fair.

Lots of old buses and the Transit Museum was free.

Just gotta love those old ads. 

More here, on Facebook.


Told to cover a class in his license area until a regular teacher can be hired. 
Did a great job with kids in his class.
Not even given a chance to apply for the job.
The teacher hired, a newbie straight out of college, can't control the group.

Told to cover a class where kids have no work to do, and receive no credit for being there.
There is no incentive for them to do the right thing.
Class meets in the cafeteria where the kids are used to running wild.
Kids can't even be controlled by administration or deans during lunch.
Kids don't behave.  ATR worries he will be "U" rated.  He has good reason to worry.

Not making waves, doing whatever the administration asks.
No permanent job in sight.
He worries about what his future will hold. 
He is afraid he will never be a teacher with a classroom again.
No one will give him a chance.
Thrown away like the flowers sitting on his dining room table.