Monday, April 30, 2012

Crunch Time

Finals are just around the corner and the kids are waking up and starting to work.  It will be too late for most to pass, but I am glad they are finally starting to get it.  Hopefully the second time around will also be the last time.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Help or Detriment?

Last Sunday's Times had an article by professor at Columbia Teacher's college discussing how remediation in college sometimes does more harm than good.  She discusses how students, even students who have done well in high school, are placed in remedial classes because of entrance exams and often never go any further with their education.

I'm not close to this woman's level and I haven't done the research, but I have seen the same thing happen time and time again on the high school level.  Many students arrived at Packemin with good grades from their middle schools.  These students must take a placement test before enrollment and many are placed back in classes they have already passed.  In addition, ninth grade teachers also give their classes a placement test and several weeks into the term kids are once again moved around.  In the twenty plus years I taught there, I saw kids who could have succeeded fail.  I saw kids angered because of their course placement just give up and go with the flow. 

I always wondered what would have been so bad if these kids had been given the chance to succeed.  Many would have gotten the extra help they needed and rose to the top.  I clearly remember Michael, a bright ninth grader whose record, grades and parent showed he should be moved up a year.  The placement test showed otherwise and the AP would not permit him to be in the correct class.  Michael, a boy who started out wanting to be an engineer, a boy who clearly had the ability, never made it to pre-calculus in high school.  I don't know what he is doing now, but when I last saw him, a career in mathematics was not in his plans.  Nory, on the other hand, a young lady in the same situation was "smuggled" into a higher level class with the help of her counselor and a fellow math teacher.  Nory ended up in AP calculus and is currently a student at Sophie Davis School of Medicine.  Luis, another bright and extremely immature young man wanted to see how many letter patterns he could make with the choices on his entrance exam and of course scored poorly.  Lucky for him, his talent was spotted early and several teachers inspired him to succeed.  He just graduated college with a degree in computer engineering, soemthing his placement test would have prevented.

I'm not saying kids don't need remediation.  Many do.  But, there is more to the student than just an entrance exam.  Maybe they need a chance to jump in.  If they fail, so what?  There is always a time to repeat.  And, if we weren't so hung up on statistics, they would get this chance.  I used to think money was the issue.  Schools didn't want to spend the money to let kids repeat.  Schools waste more money trying to get kids to pass remediation than they would if they just let them take what they need and what their records show they can do.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


An AP sends a teacher an e-mail requesting a meeting about various "infractions" and suggests the teacher bring union rep.

The AP puts the word "invitation" in the subject.  This is not an invitation, it is a command. respond  Has this AP lost his mind?

If Anyone Should Be Fired....

A parent has a a problem and calls the assistant principal.

The assistant principal insists the teacher is responsible (not the case).  The assistant principal tells the parent that if the teacher doesn't do something, the teacher will be fired.  Not only is this impossible, it is not very professional.

The parent and the assistant principal get into an argument, the assistant principal hangs up the  phone on the parent.

If anyone should be fired, it is the AP.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gibberish or Memo_41 Continued

I'm not an administrator and I never took a course in administration but it seems to me this:
To be in compliance give the Acuity test to all ME 42 and ME 44 classes tomorrow.  Directions are attached.

Would be much better than this:

 We have to give the Acuity exam to students in ME44 and ME22 again! If we did not give the exam now, we would be incompliance. I would like to get this done as soon as possible. The materials will be picked up on May 2, 2012. I tried to avoid doing it to no avail. And I have to no other option. I will have the materials ready by tomorrow morning. I will send you the directions under separate cover or maybe as another attachment.

(Memo_042 is out.  That will be posted soon.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Memo_041 Or Double Talk In Writing

After the faculty conference yesterday, I began to think of how we grade students on efforts. I honestly think that it is not an option in our math classes for students not to put in the effort, at least for most of us. The final grades students receive reflect how much effort they put in, provided they are in the correct math level. Unfortunately, some students could not pass their pass math even though they put in the effort. Some of them fail because of their lack of basic skills which have nothing to do with effort. Others fail because they lack the abstract thinking ability which also has nothing to do with efforts. We are also bound by the Regents exams. So, if you are one of the few teachers who allow your students to sit in your class and not put in effort, you need to find a way to get them to focus. There are many strategies to get students to participate and I will be more than happy to share them with you. There are many math classes that have close to 100% attendance. Why? Because the teachers give students hope – the students believe they can learn and pass the Regents exam with the help of their teacher. If you have attendance issues in your class, it is a good idea for you to begin re-examining what you are doing with your students. If you change or modify what you do, it is likely that more students will attend your class regularly.

I had to read the above memo several times before it made any sense and it still doesn't make much sense to me.  Is he saying teachers should count effort or they shouldn't?  And, if kids are in the wrong class, exactly how does one encourage them to attend and put in the effort?  Previous memos stated students had to do more than just pass the regents to pass the class but how do you get them to put in the effort if they have been told the effort might not be enough.

There might be many strategies to get kids to participate but, it is almost May.  A goosd supervisor might have used conference time to share these strategies and demonstrate how they work.  If the kids lack the basics, there is no way they can comprehend what is going on now.  Credit recovery and social promotion is a big culprit.  As for attendance, I would bet big money on the classes with good attendance also have higher functioning students.

I know the teachers at Packemin.  They don't allow their students to sit and do nothing. They've done all that is humanly (and super humanly) possible to get them to do well.  At this point, it is hopeless for many.  If a boy is reading a book instead of doing math, he is not disturbing others.

Memos like the one above do nothing but demoralize the people they are addressed to.  And, the amount of time figuring out what is being said could be spent on doing things to improve the class.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why Bother

They are a nice bunch of kids.  For the most part, they work in class.  (Heads are only glued to cell phones part of the time.)  They don't study, they don't do homework and they don't own the textbook.  They don't bother going to the lab or library to use it there and they never go for extra help.

Their math skills are non existent as are their study skills.  Single digit test grades are not outliers.  I've spoken to others teaching the same subject.  We all have the same issues with our students.

The Queens School Of Inquiry asks their students not if they are going to college, but where they are going.  I hope the kids in this school are as good as the article says they are.  Looking at some of the students I see in college, I would ask, "Why are you going to college?"  They are wasting time and money.

The Pain That Won't Go Away

I know it is not nice to deliberately inflict pain and I didn't do it on purpose.  But, I did enjoy seeing the affect my presence had on this particular person.

I paid a visit to Packemin to deliver something to a friend still working there.  I had hoped to find the friend in the trailer but that didn't happen.  As I made my way to the room friend teaches in, I ran into a number of people who were actually happy to see me.  We chatted for a while, I got lots of hugs and plenty of gossip.  I'll be filling up the blog with some good stuff soon.

The discomfort my being around caused this person was something no one could possibly miss.  And, if this person only knew the people I spoke to, people I was not seen with, this person would be have very wet pants

The nasty letter this person sent to the entire department about me is something I will enjoy taking payment on for years to come.   I know my reply to all answer really knocked this person down, more than a peg or two.  It is good to know that I am gone but just the memory of me is a pain that won't go away.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Killing the children in my charge and the people that work for me as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Small and deadly.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Throw Away Kids

There is a group of kids that go by the unofficial name "throw aways."  These kids are kids that have managed to pass a regents or two but have had trouble passing the last one in the sequence.  The AP in charge of the department is worried about statistics so he decided to drop them from this class into a lower level one, a class that has no regents requirement.  He is giving them their third year of math but not the class they need to avoid taking remedial classes in college.

The "throw aways" don't have text books.  The AP has decided that these kids are not worth the cost of the texts.  (The department actually had these books several years ago but, in his infinite wisdom, he lent them to another school and cannot get them back.)  Parents are starting to complain.  They don't want their kids to be tossed aside.  They want a real education for them and they know their children need books to succeed in math.  While the books are available cheaply on Amazon, the parents don't feel they should have to pay for books in a public high school.

The AP is angry that noise has been made over these books.  He, of course, blames the teacher and has found another person he is pushing to retire.

Time and time again this administrator has shown his true colors.  Time and time again he gets away with these unconscionable acts. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Alive In Those She Left Behind

I never met the woman but, as I sat and listened to the people who did I began to feel I knew her well.  You see, the words being spoken, the attributes of this woman's life are the things that are embodied in her son, my friend.

This woman was described as the brightest person known.  Well, the one she gave birth to is right up there in the intellect department, for he surely is more intelligent than most.  Like his mom, he can analyze a problem and arrive at a solution.  He shares her no nonsense sensible approaches.  I have seen him take control of difficult situations and come out the leader of the winning party.

We were told this woman had a heart of gold and could always be counted on to help others.  When I think of the people I can count on, his name always comes to mind.

She was a woman in her 70's who loved her computer.  The son used to walk around attached to his, which has recently been replaced by the I-pad.

Laughter was part of her life and her laugh would always allow anyone to find her in a crowded room.  His merriment is just as strong.  She was always smiling.  Even in her tears, I could see the smile as he talked of the woman he loved.

She worshipped her grandchildren as he does his child.  His child has the warmth and sunshine personality ascribed to his mom.

She is gone.  My only contact with her was a wave through a car window.  She made the trek to Queens to pick up her son when his car broke down.  Although it was inconvenience for him, I'm glad it happened.  I now have a face to go with the person who helped make my friend so special.  She is gone but she lives on in her son and her granddaughter.

Friend, I am so sorry for your loss.  I know how it feels to lose a mom.  When you feel sad, look at your beautiful daughter and see the many wonderful qualities she got from her Jelly Donut Grandma. 

When Things Don't Go As Planned

Have fun anyway.  Pictures on Facebook

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dummying Down Of America

So now the state is talking about doing away with the Global History Regents because too many kids can't pass it.  Wow!  In one breath they are talking about making graduation requirements more stringent and the next they are talking about trying to make them easier.

Even Packemin, one of the best schools in the city has problems getting kids to pass this regents.  Could it be that the kids have trouble reading?  Is too much material covered in the two year span of the course?  Whatever the reason, history is important as anything else the kids study in school.  A person who succeeds in any field, be it science or engineering or art needs to have a well rounded education.  Engineering programs require students to take social science and liberal arts courses as well as math, technology and science. 

Too many students are coming into college unprepared for the rigor their course work will present.  They are too used to getting an easy out--a couple of online questions or a Golden Book report.  They are used to being able to substitute an arithmetic course for one in trigonometry.  Aside from hurting education, the wrong message is being sent if a math regents is allowed to replace one in history.

All the state really cares about is graduation rates.  Education doesn't matter.  Kids and their futures count for nothing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Change For The Best

The best laid plans don't always work out but sometimes the alternative plan is even better.

I found the seminar at 50 Broadway cancelled when I arrived at 9:45 this morning.  At first I was pissed.  It took me an hour and a half to get there only to find no one bothered to call to tell me about the date change.  The secretaries were sweet and sorry I didn't get a call.  They refunded my big $2 fee and gave me the opportunity to sit in any other class offered.  I decided instead to enjoy the day in the city.

I began with a walk to a nearby school where I visited with an old friend, now an AP.  T is not a typical AP. He still respects teachers and does not take advantage of the power of his job.  He never makes anyone cry.

I then got to visit the 9-11 Memorial.  They don't make it easy.  Tickets have to be picked up on Vessey St, about 6 blocks away.  The line is huge but moves fast.  It was worth the walk and the wait.

The day was beautiful so I headed west and walked up the Hudson River.  Before I knew it, I was on 14th St and hit the Highline again (third time this spring--I never get tired of it).  I continued on to the end and then walked over to 34th and 6th to catch train home.

According to the App on my phone, I walked close to 6 miles.  After two recent equivalent walks, I finally got it and wore comfortable shoes.

A few more pictures on Facebook.  Others will be added in the next few days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Circumstances Beyond My Control

Good old Rob met me in class tonight and asked me to sign a drop slip for him.  And then he did something that shocked me.  He apologized for his behavior in class.  He told me his brother died recently and he was having trouble coping.  He told me he was going to get himself together and retake the course next term.

I thanked him for his apology, extended my sympathy (but what can anyone really say to something like that) and wished him well.

Many of these difficult kids have stories that explain their problems.  I know there was nothing I could have done to help him and I am glad I never said anything in class that might have embarrassed him. If this had been a high school class, his failure would have been my fault.  I'm glad I am not in high school any more.

RIP Rob's brother.  Rob, find the strength to go on.  I bet your brother would want you to do well.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shown The Door

Good old Robert walked in again, took out his cell phone and dissolved into his own little world.  He knows he needs to be marked present to keep his financial aid intact.  (Passing a class is not a government requirement.)  I decided several weeks ago to follow his advice and not talk to him.  But, when he walked out again and stayed out for a half hour I broke this resolution.  l privately told him that he was getting the WU because of the time he spent in the hall and walking out early. 

I thought he would get upset and was ready, but all he did was ask me why I didn't say anything in the beginning of the class.  He told me he wasted an hour of his life sitting there for nothing.  I calmly told him I did as he suggested and stopped talking to him.  He walked back into the room, picked up his phone and jacket and left.  He'll have to find another power source for the phone since that is all he ever accomplished in my class.

It felt good to watch him leave.  It was great to know I was following school policy by giving him the WU and telling him about it.  The college where I work has to accept kids who don't belong but it doesn't have to pass them through. We are encouraged not to pass students who don't make the grade.  If high schools would do the same thing, we might have a better group of kids seeking higher education.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Herald Square Park

Seat covers
Wall flowers

Hand dryer
Empty garbage can
Sink and soap

Herald Square Park has one of the best kept sectrets of the city--private booth bathrooms, sanitized after each use.  These great finds deserve a post of their own.    The park is on Broadway and the bathrooms are on the north end.

These are also better than any you would find in a NYC school.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tragedies Should Never Be Repeated

The Titanic sunk a hundred years ago today. South Street Seaport, in addition to many other places have memorialized the sad event.  (There is a good exhibit in the museum there if you get a chance to visit.)

Let's hope and pray that 100 years from now no one is memorializing the death of education in this county.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chaz's School Daze: Thank You!

Chaz's School Daze: Thank You!

Truth In The Comics

I thought about Eric and what the media is doing to him and other NYC teachers.  My friend Ricochet beat me to the punch and posted first.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Media Accountablilty Needed

The News has been busy for the last few days reading Eric's blog and learning the true facts.  Too bad these individuals who call themselves reporters don't bother to check facts and report the real news before they go and print stuff that is not true and has the potential to ruin a person's life.

The News is quick to call for teacher accountability.  Where is there accountability when it comes to reporting the facts?

I apologize for the orginal post.  I guess I didn't read the article carefully enough.

Chaz's School Daze: The Independent Arbitrator And The 3020-a Process.

Chaz's School Daze: The Independent Arbitrator And The 3020-a Process.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

They Call This A Break

Spring break was always a time for kids to recharge.  I remember my own kids using the time to lay back, sleep late, watch television, visit museums, play with friends and catch up on school work.  I remember years of car shows, movies and a constant house full of kids having fun.

I began this post with the word was because spring break isn't the same anymore.  I drove past an elementary school in the Bronx today and watched children carrying heavy backpacks pouring out.  With all important exams looming in the near future, children and teachers are spending their breaks preparing for them.  The freedom attached to spring break is gone.

One more week cannot make all that much difference in the education of a child.  The extra prep might up a score several points, but that is all it can do.  Kids need fun in their lives.  It is important for their development, more important than the points they might get on these ridiculous high stake exams.

Many of my former students had parents that believed in this high power education and sent their kids to Saturday and Sunday classes, summer classes and vacation classes.  These kids had no life but school.  Many burnt out by the time they were juniors in high school.  They needed time to be kids. I fear the same thing will happen to all kids today.

All work and no play makes jack not only a dull boy but a sad boy.  Let's give the kids back the break they need. 

Chaz's School Daze: The Principal & The SCI Investigation - My Story.

Chaz's School Daze: The Principal & The SCI Investigation - My Story.

Monday, April 09, 2012

After Thought

I never met a teacher who defended bad teachers.  I certainly never met a teacher who defended a sexual predator in the classroom.  Teachers want these low lifes gone as much and maybe more than everyone else does.

Shouldn't this say something to Eric's character?  Not only was he exonerated of charges, the people that know him and have worked with him are all pushing for him and trying to expose the vicious lies he has been subjected to.  Walcott never met him.  The reporters at the News and the Times don't know him.  Our words mean something, theirs don't.

The media needs to print the truth.  Unfortunately no one can talk to them.  They lie and distort and turn our words against us.

Damned If You Care, Damned If You Don't

If you are a teacher in New York City there are times you just can't win.  Take Eric Chasanoff, for example.  Eric is a warm, caring teacher who had a young woman in his class who was not doing well.  He could have taken the easy way out and ignored her and let her fail.  Instead, he talked to her, encouraged her and did the unspeakable, HE PRAISED HER.  She passed exams and for this he was punished and eventually exonerated.  The Daily News and the NY Times are keeping the punishment alive.

Another teacher I know takes the opposite approach.  He feels kids should do well, or not, on their own so, when he has a child who is not performing well, he leaves that child alone.  He was recently observed by his Principal and written up for not involving this young man in the lesson.  This teacher, while still in the classroom, is also worried about eventually getting that ineffective rating.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't.  There is no answer to the right way to hold on to your job.  There is an answer to the right way of doing it and Eric has that answer.  I worked with this man and know that while he might have used an inappropriate phrase and let's face it, who hasn't--even the almighty education mayor and his poodle have done so, he is not a sexual pervert or a danger to students in the classroom.  I would have been thrilled if he had taught one of my children.

Not only is Eric and the other teachers being punished with these so called news articles, but every teacher in the system is being put on notice.  A teacher has a major job not only teaching, following ridiculous common core standards and now must censor every word and deed before it is actually said or done.  Robotic teachers and videos might be the wave of the future.  At least these things can't make the mistakes these educators made. 

(No reason for the picture except that I love these old wooden escalators in Macy's.  I hope they keep them in spite of all the renovations.)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Good End To A Great Visit

Can you hear the quiet?  The kids with their boy/girl friends are on their way home.  It was so great having a full house for the holiday and all the extra sets of hands made preparation so much easier.

The laundry is in.  There are plenty of leftovers for dinner.  Time to play with Photoshop.

Pictures taken 4/5 either on the High Line or on my way there.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Flower Show 2012

Macy's Flower Show is something that shouldn't be missed.  Unfortunately, it only runs for one week so it is not always easy to get to.

This year the store is undergoing major construction so the flowers have been relegated to a tent on Broadway.  Although it is smaller than usual, the show is magnificent.  It is a tribute to gardens in Brazil. The store windows were also a sight to behold. To complete the experience, a guard was handing out $10 gift cards at the exit.

I'd say go, but it ended today.  More pictures on Facebook.

The True Story

One of the teachers vllified in yesterday's papers tells the truth.

Go read a real story on Chaz School Days.

Friday, April 06, 2012


In this country, people are assumed innocent until proven guilty unless you are a New York City teacher.  In this case, even if you are found innocent, you are still guilty.

The witch hunt continues.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Street Smarts

Robert sits in class, night after night, ignoring everything except his cell phone and his long trips to the bathroom.  I've spoken to him repeatedly but have gotten no where.  Monday night I asked him why he even bothered to show up.  He looked at me and said, "Why do you bother to talk to me?"  I realized he was on to something.  Maybe he would never get a college degree but he had street smarts.  I was wasting my time and energy on a person who would not change. 

And that was the last time I spoke to him. Tonight, he walked out early.  I changed his attendance to absent so he is now over the limit and will get a grade that gives him no credit and might hurt his financial aid.  Maybe next term he will realize there is a reason teachers talk to students who are not doing the right thing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Helping Him Drown

Knowing I can still cause pain is a high.  I'm gone but not forgotten.

It is wonderful being the rock hanging around a drowning man's neck.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Intervening Parents

Mrs. Curtis glided into the Homework Helpers room, her white dress and long braids flowing behind her.  She found me asked me for her son Isiah.  At that time I had no idea who Isiah was and told her.  She told me her son had told her he would be attending tutoring.  She thanked me for my time and promised Isiah would be there for the next session.

The next day a tall, good looking African American male approached me in the hall and introduced himself as Isiah.  He told me his mom told him to find me and he would be coming to Homework Helpers from now on.  I said, okay, see you there and went on to my class.

Sure enough Isiah showed up at the next session and so did his mother.  She wanted to make sure he made it and was there working.  I, in turn, always helped him or found him someone to work with.   Isiah continued coming, continued working and passed math and the regents that term.  His mom continued dropping in from time to time to check up on him.

Isiah was the third of four siblings to attend Packemin and he was the most difficult.  Mrs. Curtis knew her son wasn't like her other children and needed extra prodding and pushing to get him to succeed.  She was constantly coming to school and calling his teachers and counselors.  She made sure he stayed current in all his classes and continued to pass exams.

Isiah graduated high school but had no interest in attending college.  He got himself a job as a truck driver and last I heard he was doing very well.  He was also considering returning to school.  His success is not due to me, or any other teacher (although we did help him) but to his supportive parents.  Curtis was in the school band and on performance night his family filled up an entire row cheering him on.  They did the same for his younger sister.  When the sister was about to start at Packemin, the family left nothing to chance and Mr. Curtis made an appointment with a counselor at the end of June to ensure her a good program.

Families like the Curtis' are the reason a kid like Isiah succeeded.  All the teacher phone calls in the world wouldn't have helped if he didn't have such caring, involved parents, parents who supported him and helped him find himself.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Principal's Message: School is a 24/7 Job

Mrs. Smith bitched to the Principal that little Alfie's teachers never called when little Alfie wasn't doing well in their classes.  She didn't know how she could help little Alfie if she didn't know what was going on.  The Principal, in the nicest tone ever, spoke to the teachers about how they needed parental support.   He said, "If we don't contact them and give them the opportunity to intervene then we can't say they aren't involved."  He then added that large case loads are a fact of life and teachers need to deal with them.

It is a good thing I am not a teacher in Little Alfie's school because I would have several things to say about this:

1.  I raised two successful children without phone calls from teachers.  I saw them do homework every day, knew when exams were approaching, made sure they studied and was aware of each and every test grade.  When my children had trouble in chemistry or Spanish, I made sure to intervene and get them the help they needed.  It was my responsibility to know.  I didn't expect a teacher to call and tell me my son only got a 65 on his Spanish exam.

2.  Not only are teacher case loads large, the amount of free time during the day to do anything extra has decreased to almost zero.  Is this Principal now expecting teachers to work longer hours?  I am sure many are already giving up lunch and prep periods just to stay afloat.  This extra work might earn the Principal and his Cabinet some big bonus dollars but it will do nothing for the teachers.

3.  Even teachers who want to make the calls are often at a loss to find an available, private phone to use.

Mrs. Smith needs to do a better job of parenting.  She needs to be on top of little Alfie to make sure he is on top of his school work.  A teacher with 150 students cannot contact all, or even half of them.  It is an unfair and unreasonable request.

Living Hell

Keeping the fire burning in his living hell is something I plan to keep on doing.  He brought it on himself.  His only out would be an apology, complete with an admission of guilt, something he will never do.  I don't mind I have lots of time right now.What can he do?  Put a letter in my file?