Saturday, June 30, 2012

Biology Trumps Teacher

Mary's life long dream waste be a forward for the New York Knicks. She joined every basketball team she could find and played the sport daily in her high school gym class.

Poor Mary, all 4'11" of her never made the team. Her sex and her height made this dream impossible to fulfill.

If only Mary's physical education teachers had reflected on what they had done and worked on how things could have been different.   Mary could have been a success. But, Mary's teachers were no better than the math teachers at Packemin. They were just not effective.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The 100% Story

The memo with the department statistics just came out. Although names were not included, most people recognize their classes. The cover letter told the teachers to compare and reflect. A teacher who had 92% needs to figure out what he did wrong and whatbhe can do better as other teachers had 95%, 96% and even 100%. Notice, it is always the teacher who did something wrong.

Comparisons such as this do nothing to enhance education. While classes start out randomly, they don' end up that way. I know I used to get the most trying students in my classes because I had more success with them than many others. I even volunteered to take failing kids hoping I would be able to make a difference, something I did sometimes. But, my stats were often low because I could not reach them all. Mrs h, a woman who retired year ago was always celebrated for her stats. No one discussed the class cleansing of failing students. No one praised the teachers who succeeded with many of those kids. They only looked at the number at the end.

I heard one teacher had three kids fail the regent. There could be a hundred reasons they did not pass, but if there were only three, she had to be doing something right.

All this emphasis on stats and the comparison of one teacher's scores to another's will do nothing to improve education or teaching. This ttitude will turn teacher against teacher which will ultimately harm the kids we are supposed to help. I don't understand why no one stops this? Could it be no one really cares? I cannot believe the people that can do something are not bright enough to stop this harmful practice.

(Guidance counselors also got slammed.)
The memo:
I am sorry I did not get to say good bye to everyone. The good news is that we improved our passing percentages on all three Regents exams. The passing percentages of MG22 and MR22 classes also went through the roof. Last year, MG22R’s passing percentage was 50% while MR22R’s passing percentage was even lower. Look at this year’s numbers! I would like to congratulate and thank everyone for their part in our success. While we enjoy our success, we should also self-reflect and see what we can do differently so that we achieve even greater heights next year. If you did well this year, savor the moment.  If you did not do as well as you would like, think about what you can do differently so that you do better next year.

There are many factors to our success this year - Everyone worked hard in the course they taught; Teachers talked to each other and shared regularly; We moved almost all the students out of the wrong math classes and; The G.C.s did not have a great deal input as to where students should be this year since we gave them our recommendations; many teachers offered tutoring, etc. We can do even better next year since the G.C.s had no input as to where students should be next year in math (I kept a record of what we uploaded and it will be very easy to find out if a student was moved from where we recommended to a different class). 
Now, we must think of what we can do differently to help every student learn. The second attachment shows the passing percentage in descending order of each course. The teacher’s name and section were removed so that others could not identify which classes you taught. There is enough information there for you to identify which classes are yours. If you have trouble, you can email me and I will tell you which ones are yours. I need you to look at the numbers in yellow. These numbers should reflect that your passing percentage is lower than that of the departmental average. So, I need you to think of what you can do differently to help get these numbers to the department average, or better yet, higher than the department average. If you had low passing percentages last year, it is more important that you come up with a plan. Telling me you will work harder won’t change a thing and telling me students must do their part won’t work with me either. You must figure out what you can do differently so that you can improve your passing percentage. For example, a student failed your class because he or she did not regularly attend. The question becomes “Did I have a meeting with the parent, student and the AP regarding this issue?” If not, you must do so next year. If you “wrote off” a student, then he or she decided to stop working, you need to learn not to do that - Every student is our responsibility because our Principal is held accountable for each and every student. Or if you tend to be loud with your students because the noise level is too high in your classroom, you need to speak to me and find an alternative way of managing your class. Like it or not, raising your voice regularly is a sign you have major management issues. During your career, I hope you learn to say: “I was not able to get that student to reach his/her potential. Let me try a different approach!”

If you cannot come up with anything you can do differently to help you improve the passing percentage in the course(s) you have taught, you should talk to me or you can tell me what classes I can give you so that you can bring me passing percentages that are near or above department passing percentages.

From the bottom of my heart - thank you. Enjoy your summer vacation and I am going to miss you all.


If having a 100% passing means getting rid of all kids who might fail, I'm glad I never was part of that.

More later.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Packemin Visit

I paid a visit to Packemin this morning to pick up my unused sick day check. We get so much mail for other people, I dread thinking about how much of mine gets lost so I did not want to trust this good sized check to the postman. (I rarely took days off.)

On my way out of the bulding I met Aaron, a sweetheart and a scholar. It felt good signing his yearbook and talking to him about his future plans. It was great hearing about his sister, Liaa, also a former student, who is doing nicely in college.  Liaa didn't do well in high school math, but she worked hard and learned quite a bit.  Her term in remedial math was easy as it was the second time around.

I also ran into Debbie, one of the kids that tortured me two years ago.  She has really grown up nicely.  She even apologized for the way she behaved in class.  She hugged me and told me that I did a lot for her in school and I really helped build her self esteem.  She even got a 73 on the geometry regents.  Unfortunately she is programmed for a pre trig class next term and won't get to go for her third year math regents.  It is sad when statistics mean more than a child's education.  The worst thing to happen would be Debbie failed the regents.  She would learn much more in a trig class than in the class she is going to be in.

On my way home I stopped at a nearby hardware store.  The present owner is also a former student (37 years young.)  We laughed together about what a dingbat he was in high school and how far he has come.  It is a good thing he graduated years ago because today he probably would not have been allowed to complete the advanced regents sequence.

I'm glad Packemin is a nearby school.  I get to keep running into these awesome former students and see how great they've grown.  The post office might have delivered my check but it could not have delivered the unforgettable experience I had picking it up.

(I even enjoyed seeing the adults I ran into.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hopefully On The Mend

I took an MRI last week which showed I needed an epidural cortisone shot.  The pain doctor told me he would tell me exactly what was going to happen at each stage.  Saying I was scared, would be an understatement.  I've had epidural's before and I know one wong move could mean paralysis.  I was also scared that it wouldn't work.  The thought of living the rest of my life in this much pain petrifies me.

Things went fine in the beginning but as soon as he started administering the medicine, the pain started.  He didn't tell me it would be that bad.  It only lasted very short time, but it was intense as the medicine made its way through my body.  I had an image of the problem starting all over again.  He said the pain was a sign that he got the right spot, he said it was a very good sign.

It could take between 2 - 7 days for the full effect.  I think it is starting to work but I won't know unless I walk and I afraid.  Guess I will try later.  Meanwhile I got a nice warm pair of slipper socks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Emphasis On Statistics Means To Kids

Regents are marked.

The teacher with 93% passing is worried because everyone else has 94%.

Her scores could have been better.  She could have dropped the students who weren't passing, but she didn't want to.  She felt the kids deserved a chance and knew they would need the material for college.  Anything they learned was better than nothing.  Now, she will pay.  She will be punished for her good deed.

The teacher with 94% passing also felt bad.  He had kids in his class that should have been moved to honors.  He held on tight to this group as he knew he needed them to help his stats.

Another teacher refused to help students who were not in her class.  Their good grades would reflect poorly on her.  Still another cheered failing grades as long as the kids were not his.  Both teachers are riddled with guilt because of their actions.

Standardized exams and test grades have done nothing to help our kids.  Emphasis on statistics has brought everything down.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Rumors abound. If this one is true, I am happy I am where I am. Sorry, no details. I am not going to spread this one.  But, I just heard the same rumor from someone else so I am guessing it is true and everyone will know soon enough.

Just Moving Them Out

Hia is a bright, beautiful young woman who is more concerned with boys and looks than school and studying.  She was in my algebra class last year and was doing great until Santana was transferred in.  Santana was a lady's man who set set his sights on this young woman.  School became the last thing on either student's mind.  (Both kids have parents who take education very seriously and even enlisting their help couldn't keep these two on target.)

Both kids ended up passing the regents.  Santana, through a series of credit recovery assignments graduated.  Hia had another year in high school.

I met Hia Saturday night in a park in Corona.  I asked how she was doing in school this term and her answer was "I'm doing."  I asked about geometry and she said, "I am in business math.  I don't know why they put me in that stupid class.  I'm not learning anything I didn't know to begin with."  I told her she should have done a little more work.  She just laughed.

Hia is a young woman who is being left behind, way behind.  Looking at her grades, she is in the classes she belongs in.  Looking at her intellect, she is wasting her time, taking classes way beneath her.  But, the school needs to get her out.  Low level and low expectations will do the job.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Crazed Chihuahua

The little chihuahau growls whenever she can't get her way.  She knows no other way to get her point across.

The Beaten

Walking down the hall, a half hearted hello is said to one and then the eyes go down.

What ugliness projected.  It is obvious that work done has had some success.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

You Can Go Home Again

I hobbled my way into Packemin today to visit with some old friends and meet a new one.  I  was thrilled that the leg held up and I made it to the second floor.  The hugs and general welcome warmed my heart.  It was great to be with the people I had spent so much of my life with.

I spent some time with the math department as they labored over the geometry regents while everyone else in the school was partying (or at least relaxing knowing the work was all done.)  If I ever had second thoughts about retirement, seeing these hard working teachers got rid of those thoughts immediately.

The afternoon storm kept us in longer than we planned but I don't think anyone minded.  I think I will have to visit more often.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Nerd In Me Loves This

My wonderful nerdy son found this.

Teachers Win

The title of this post is from the headline of today's AM New York. It is referring to teacher evaluations. And, in smaller print underneath:  State votes to keep evaluations closed-to most NYers.

The politicians sell and the media buys. There is no privacy anymore. Many parents with access to this misleading report will be more than happy to share the information with friends, neighbors, the guy waiting behind them in the supermarket and the media. No one will keep these evaluations private and why should they? As a parent I know I would try to do what was best for my child and if seeing these reports might get my son a better teacher I will find the people that know and get that information. Most parents already know the teachers they want and do not want their children to have. Phones ring off the hook in the guidance office to get kids out of certain classes all the time. Counselors are bombarded now with requests for specific teachers. Imagine how this will go down once these evaluations are released and children come home with teachers whose data says they are not highly effective.

The media says teachers win. Nobody wins. The headline is just another line in the long list of things to blame the teacher for.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Universal Healthy Is A Human Right

$45 on visits to the chiropractor who was unable to help $60 on mess $15 for MRI $20 for the pain doctor $120 for PT. Don't know what the hospital copay for the epidural will be. All this with good medical coverage and income. I feel for people without. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be in this pain and not having the means to do anything about it.


Bloomberg should just come out and say:

Look, there are two sets of rules.  One is for the rich guys like me.  We get to do and say whatever we want.  We are all that matters.  Actually, there is only one set of rules and that one is for you.  Guys like me don't have rules.  You have to do exactly as I say. Kids and teachers have to suffer in  buildings without air conditioning.  You can't drink large soft drinks.  You have to bow down and kiss the ground I walk on.   

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rate My Teacher

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to limit the

From letters to editor in today's Newsday

Teachers should be evaluated by the students they teach ["Website goes where schools fear to tread," Opinion, June 18]. This happens in every college I have ever gone to or taught in. At the end of the semester, the students are given an evaluation form where they bubble in responses and write in comments. The teacher is not in the room and does not even see the results until the students are a distant memory.

The feedback has helped me pinpoint areas that needed correction and grow as a teacher.
Columnist Daniel Akst compares this sort of evaluation to the very controversial If he looked closely at that site, he would see that the evaluations are almost meaningless. There is no way to know if the evaluator has actually had the teacher, or has rated the teacher once, twice or 100 times. Many of the comments are mean and offer no constructive criticism.
Many teachers are listed multiple times, and first and last names are mixed up. I know there are comments on that site not meant for me. I've asked for a correction, but none has been made.
Teachers need to be evaluated. Bad teachers need to be removed from the classroom. Parents and students need to see what they are up against, but not this way.

I Don't Get It

Here's what I don't get about the new evaluation laws plans being fought over in Albany.
Parents will have the right to see the evaluation but they have no right to do anything about the class their child is in if that child happens to have a teacher not rated highly effective.

Parents are going to be told their child has a crappy teacher but tough!  This can't do anything to help the child and will make the job of the teacher so much harder.  My husband says all this is just a law suit waiting to happen.  He says parents with kids in class with poorly rated teachers will sue the city.  I agree.  At the least, these parents will wreck havoc on the schools.

These evaluations have the sole purpose of humiliating teachers.  They will end up doing a lot more than that.

You Too Can Be An Assistant Principal

Being in the school system for five years does not qualify one to become an assistant principal, the person in charge of other teachers. Spending those five years as a guidance counselor equates to no classroom experience and no concept as to the best ways to teach a topic and control a group of students. Five years of programming students incorrectly helped no one. The advice given, differentiate is useless as well. Five years of letting the most difficult students hang out in the office accounts for five wasted years in the students' lives.

It used to be that assistant Principal's were masters of their craft. Now, they are masters of deceit, convincing others they actually have a clue.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


In the late '70's NYS began giving RCTs (regents competency tests) to students who were not enrolled in regents classes.  These tests were designed to establish a minimum level of achievement before a diploma was awarded.

My friend NYC Educator, writing about marking the English regents, reminded me of the stress these new exams caused the English department the first year these exams were given.  In addition to the hundreds of regents papers, the department was now going to have even more essays to mark.  To make things easier, every department was recruited to help with the marking.  The idea was every teacher spoke and wrote English so everyone would be able to mark the exams.

I remember the grumbling.  None of us wanted to mark extra papers but, being good boys and girls, we picked up our red pens and made our way to assigned rooms.  Each room had one English teacher in charge and was assigned one essay.  I remember marking the business letter.  I, along with my fellow math, phys ed and science colleague were upset at the caliber of writing we were presented with and awarded very few points.

When we finished marking, the exams were submitted to the English department for review.  Everyone was up in arms because our scores were so low.  They immediately reread papers and grades were increased.  They showed us what we should look for and how we should be grading.  No one in that room could bring themselves to give passing grades to the junk we saw. Needless to say, we were never asked to grade English papers again.

Back then schools were not being judged so harshly on statistics but there was still pressure to pass as many as possible.  I've never marked an English regents but I have read college essays and other material written by many of my AP calculus students, kids who not only passed the English regents but scored in the low to mid 80's.  These kids, mostly foreign born could not write a grammatically correct sentence.  Sometimes it was even hard to follow their train of thought.  Most will end up back in ESL in college even though the state of NY has found them proficient in this area.

The state did away with RCTs in an effort to raise standards.  Everyone has to pass a regents now.  Passing a regents, passing an RTC, its all a bunch of hooey.

Monday, June 18, 2012

No Respect

The ATR did like she was supposed to, she rescheduled her interview.  The e-mail told her to show up at 10:00 AM which she did.  She refused to take my advice, came dressed to the nines ready to answer all questions.

The interviewer was approximately 20 years old.  He greeted her with, "Mrs. ATR, why aren't you in your classroom?"  She explained that she didn't have one.  She was on sabbatical.  It took several repititions of this statement before it made sense to him.  He then turned and said "We will have to reschedule this interview.  Today I am only interviewing people already in the building.  Goodbye."  She thanked him for letting her know before she made the hour long trip and walked out.

Mrs. ATR got home and called her union rep.  The union rep immediately made excuses for the poor infantile interviewer who had no experience dealing with people and then berated the teacher for being unwilling to accept a job 2ith a two hour commute.

The ATR is disgusted.  She is ready to spend the rest of her career sitting around doing nothing and collecting her check twice monthly.  She's tried over and over to do the right thing.  Her age, combined with her years of experience is slamming doors in her face.  Enough is enough.  I personally don't blame her.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Dad

I am blessed.  My dad, who will be 88 this summer is still alive and kicking.  Yes, he is a pain in the neck with his restricted diet (and no, there is no medical need for this) and his obsessive behavior, but I wouldn't trade one minute of having him for anything.

When my sister and I were growing up, my dad took an extra job so my mom could be home and watch us.  He wanted her to know our friends and know where we were at all times.  He left the house weekdays by 5:00 AM and on Mondays and Thursdays didn't return home until after 10:00 PM.  Those days we never got to even kiss him good night.  He worked Saturdays too, all day in the children's shoe department at Macy's, Herald Square.  My mom used to dress us up and take us to see him.  We were so proud watching him fitting shoes on children's feet and expertly handling the parents.  And he was so proud of us, bringing us over to all his colleagues to either introduce or say hello.  Lunch was a special treat in the employees cafeteria.  True, it was mostly home made sandwiches but just being there with him was so special.

I remember the times we waited in the building lobby for my dad.  He would run to the mailbox and excited pull out letters he said I got from the animals in the Bronx Zoo, the place he took me every Sunday.  I remember how real these letters were.  In fact, when I think back, I sometimes forget they weren't real.  I'll never forget how his face lit up when my mom brought us to the train station to meet him.  Nothing will match the joy of this man catching his two little girls as they raced under the turn style into his arms.

When hula hoops were the rage and all the stores were sold out, my dad found two and thought nothing of bringing them home on a crowded subway.  He got me books I needed for school and Cabbage Patch dolls for my children.  I believed there was nothing he could not get.  My dad was my super hero.

When my son was about 8, he developed a severe case of asthma and had to be hospitalized.  My husband was away on a business trip and I panicked and called my dad. He had just gotten to Macy's.  When he heard my need, he hung up his work jacket, clocked out and went home to get my mom and mother-in-law to stay with me.  I was an adult but I was still his little girl.  He was still taking care of me.

My dad gave up his full time job the year my son was born.  Every week he came over to babysit for the little boy, his only grandson, born on his birthday.  My dad had never changed a diaper in his life before this and my neighbors still laugh telling me how he stood in the middle of the street, calling after my car, as my little guy gave him a nice gift as soon as I left.  Needless to say, my dad learned very quickly how to make a baby comfortable.

Today is Father's Day.  My leg is mostly healed and I am going to spend the morning with him.  We'll go to the same diner or deli or Panera, the only places he likes, but that is okay.  I have my dad another year. Happy Father's Day.  I love you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Meaningless Exam

I got a chance to see the Integrated Algebra Regents today and , unfortunately I was not surprised at what I saw.  As usual, the students only needed to get 15 multiple choice questions correct to pass.  For anyone unfamiliar with scoring that means 30 out of 87 points or 34.5%.  That's right, eenie, meenie, minie, moe gets the kids passing grades.  Put this together with an AP who insists all kids learn how to guess and check with a calculator and you can only imagine how little these grades mean.

What struck me most about the exam were the number of questions that required no algebraic skills.  There were  question on bivariate data, surveys, functions.  There were scatter plots and set theory questions.  Two multiple choice questions involved the Pythagorean Theorem.

I always told my students that a good foundation in algebra was the secret to doing well in math forever.  Math would never be a problem if they could use signed numbers, solve an equation and factor.  This exam could be passed knowing none of those things.  Most high school kids lack the maturity to understand the value of mastering these topics when they are not on the test.

Next year this kids will go into a geometry class.  Good luck getting them to do number problems when they have learned nothing in algebra. And heaven help the teacher who will get them in trig, if they make is that far!

CUNY has been having problems getting kids through the first credited math class and has raised the minimum score needed to avoid remedial math. Even  a grade of 80, which is 56 out of 87 which is less than 65%.

I heard an algebra teacher telling her students how proud she was of them for doing well.  I appreciate the work she did to get them to that point and she should feel pride in what she did, but not in what they did as they know almost nothing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Democracy Or Tyranny

It should have been simple.  The little cats had to pick a representative for their local chapter of the UFA (United Federation Of Animals).  They needed a person with no administrative ties, someone who would stand up for them.  They needed someone whose loyalty would be solely to them.

Two little kittens wanted the job so an election was held. It was close.  Kitten A won the election by three votes.  Suddenly, a voter member of the group spoke up.  This member said the administrator cat had sent out a text messages or two telling the group to vote for Kitten A.  The administrator who is feared by most, tampered with the election.  Many were up in arms.  Complaints were made but, as usual, the administrator cat got to do whatever it wanted to do.

The UFA committee was shocked beyond belief.  They couldn't believe an administrator would toy with the election unless that administrator had something to gain by placing Kitten A on the board.  They could not trust the election.  A quick vote was held to remove Kiten A from the committee.      A new representative will be chosen shortly.  I have heard it will be Kitten B, the administrator cat's enemy.

Some say democracy is dead in Animal Land, dead because Kitten A is not being allowed to hold the seat it won.  Others insist democracy is now being upheld as the evil administrator is not getting what was wanted.  You decide.  Who supports democracy and who supports tyranny?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Back Then Innocence Meant You Were Innocent

Many years ago a special education teacher noticed several teachers were giving answers out during the state required exams.  He made a complaint (without mentioning specific names) and inspectors were sent to the school to find out exactly what was going on..

The students were called into meetings.  One student and two investigators scared the crap out of these poor kids.  Only one teacher was mentioned during the interrogation.  The young woman was asked if anyone helped her.  She quickly answered "Yes, Ms. POd."  Thankfully the reviewer asked her to clarify her statement, which she readily did.  "Yes, Ms. POd.  She goes out of her way all the time to make sure we understand.  She really helps us."

Thankfully the investigation was closed and no harm was done.  No one was on a witch hunt then.  I somehow doubt I would survive the same thing today. In this climate, the teacher once charged is presumed guilty, whether the act was committed or not.  Today's teachers don't stand a chance.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Going Out Of My Mind

Being laid up really sucks. Sitting with my feet up or being prone on the couch sucks big time. 

I've read until I am bleary eyed. I've played and lost so many games of WWF that I even resigned a game I was 120 points ahead in when I saw no letters left. (I didn't realize the higher score was mine.). Today I joined Net Flix in an effort to keep from pulling my hair out.

I bless the few friends who have called and the one who came to visit. I love my husband, he has been fantastic but I think we have had enough of each other. The leg is healing. Today was the first day without Advil and without ice packs but I know I still have to stay off it. My kids have argued over which one will take me when I am old and housebound.   Neither want the obligation of keeping me entertained. I can't say I blame them.

SBO Opinion

Last year, right before I left, the school had an SBO to shorten 6 days a year in order to have 90 minute school wide meetings. The teachers were promised meaningful PD and input. Me, being the eternal cynic, was opposed but decided to vote yes anyway. It seemed to be what the majority wanted and since I knew I wouldn't have to participate, I decided to give the Principal a break and go along with what he wanted.

Fortunately I never sat through any of those meetings. I've heard there were some where Mr. AP berated the department for 90 minutes straight. The only good thing about listening to him is that his  words work like backgroung noise while trying to mark papers or text inconspicuously. I can't say anything about any of the PD that was offered. I do know that meaningful PD requires hours of preparation, something no one working in a school has time to do. If I sat through one more Smart Board lecture where I was subjected to templates and handouts I would have walked away screaming. As for the hours spent looking at data, just writing the word makes me cringe.

The part of these days I can talk about was the affect it had on instruction. I worked at Packemin in the fall and saw first hand how my classes lost out on those days. Periods were only 30 minutes long and kids tend to treat shortened classes like free for alls. It takes a lot to keep them going. My class had abysmal attendance on those days. The kids could never remember to show up at the earlier time. For all intensive purposes, it was a lost day.

I understand there might be an SBO again to try this next year. I heard most of the staff is opposed. I'm not voting now but if I did, I would vote against. The six days of lost instruction is too much for these kids. I, and many of my colleagues, never took days off because we didn't want to lose instructional time. Why bother forcing yourself in sick and in inclimental weather when the administration is taking away days for this nonsense.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Vacation Rescheduled

This week has been a real bummer.  I'm not used to sitting on my ass and not moving.  Cancelling the trip really had me down.

But Delta waved the reticketing fee and the tour agency rebooked us for August.

Iceland here we come!!!!

Love This Girl

From Facebook:
forget all this dam useless drama like seriously its just gonna distract me -____- I'm gonna focus passing my regents and ending Junior year stronger than ever its just gonna be me and hardcore studying with my review books !!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mainstreaming Is Not For Everyone

I just read NYC parents blog post is mainstreaming ISS kids. While I never taught an ICT class, I have taught many ISS kids in mainstream courses and have had very mixed experiences with these children. Some thrive in this environment while others flounder.

Placing a child with special needs in a mainstream class has to be more than a random placement from a computer.  While it is not politically correct, I am going to say it anyway--some teachers work better with these students than others.  These kids need teachers with more patience and understanding, teachers that will be willing to bend the rules slightly when the change will help the child succeed. The teacher needs to understand that these children might not process information the same way they do and they have to be willing to find ways to get the material across.  Now, with 34 kids in a class, even two teachers wil find this an impossible feat to  accomplish.  I've watched ISS teachers spend every free second with their students doing all they can to help these kids succeed and often it is not enough.  And, it is not fair to the teacher who must sacrifice all lunch and prep periods to offer this extra assistance.

For the placement to be successful the student must have some ability to succeed in that area.  I remember many years ago before mainstreaming was even popular placing several of my students in mainstream math classes.  Both made it through algebra and geometry because math was an area of strength for them. 

Lastly, the student must not have emotional problems that will prevent him from sitting in class and paying attention and not being disruptive.  I had a student one year who had no self control, said whatever he thought and disrupted the class continuously.  He had no compunction about locking himself in the bathroom the entire period to talk on his phone.  Although he had a para with him, she did nothing to monitor his behavior.  I've had others no one would ever know was an ISS student.

I've taught ISS students who could not pass a regents but learned quite a bit in the classroom and, in spite of what their test grades showed, I know they got more out of my class than they would have gotten in an ISS class.  If they are going to be mainstreamed, there has to be a way to grade and take their special needs into consideration.

Mainstreaming is a good thing.  But, it is not for everyone.  It is certainly not for the student with a 70 IQ.  And, it certainly should not be used as a way to save money and increase the school's AYP reports.


Although on sabbatical, the ATR religiously checks her DOE e-mail once a day, applies for jobs and goes on as many interviews as possible.  However, when she checked last week at 9:20 AM she noticed she was already five minutes late for the interview scheduled that day.  She quickly sent out an e-mail, explaining her status and giving the days and times she is available for interviews.  She "cc'd" the union.

It is pretty obvious that this ATR is not wanted at this school.  If she was, she would have been given more notice and a courtesy phone call.
I told her to go to the interview in her old sweats, rinse her mouth out with beer and be sure to dribble some on her clothes too.  That way they wouldn't have to lie about not wanting her.  The ATR said no.  She said, "I have class."  I hope some Principal out there is smart enough to give her 5 classes permanently in September.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Inner Ugly

I dreamt I was back in the classroom.  I was teaching a pretty nice bunch of kids but then something happened to the room.  At first there were no desks and chairs and then the room turned into a big mess of chairs and desks everywhere.  The kids were unruly and there was no way I could get them under control.  I didn't even have a board to write on.  Not knowing what else to do I went to the closest supervisor for help.  I hadn't seen this woman for a while but remembered she was young and pretty and very incompetent.  (She got her certification in a buy-your-credit program using papers others wrote.) As soon as I walked in, I saw she had changed.  She shrunk vertically several inches but more than made up for this loss horizontally.  Her hair was died a very yellow blond and the brown roots were prominent. Her face was blown up like she was on steroids and her face was covered with acne.

I wanted to ask her why she traded her looks for a job.  I wanted to ask why she let her ugly inside come out.  Instead, I insisted she come up with a solution to my problem.  She did nothing.  It was typical of all her actions.

(The dream was probably due to a conversation I had earlier in the evening with a former colleague.)

Saturday, June 09, 2012

From A Student's Facebook Page

Here in math class... 10 years gone by and im still trying to find X. No offense waldo, but you aint got shit on this one.

I'll Get you, My Pretty

My buddy Chaz wrote an excellent post about the DOE's weakening the disciplinary powers of the teacher.  He makes wonderful points about how we are harming the student by not correcting the behavior and how allowing it to continue will leave the student unprepared for college and careers. 

I have only one thing to add to this terrific post.  These disruptive students will remain in the classroom and keep others from learning.  Protecting, as the DOE calls it, the rights of a few will destroy the majority. No one can learn in a room full of noise and chaos.

Thinking about this brings a sinister thought to mind.  Is the DOE destroying classroom management tools as another way to get back at teachers?  Leaving these kids in the room will prevent learning,  test scores will go down and there will be more evidence to show a teacher is incompetent.  Sounds too evil to be true?  I don't think so.  Look at all that has been done to the school system since Bloomberg took over.  This goes right along with everything else he has done.

Trip Cancelled

Still can't walk.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Destroying The Will To Teach

Gina has been an ATR since the beginning of ATRS. She was a highly respected teacher at a school that was closed down. The school wasn't closed because of its failure rate. It was closed because the city decided the services offered to students there were no longer necessary. Needless to say, something very valuable to the students of NYC was lost. Gina felt sad as she packed her books and lessons and left the place she called home. She knew she would miss this population and she knew they would miss her, a caring adult who filled both an educational and an emotional void in their lives. She didn't think she would have any problem finding a new position. She had impeccable references. She was 40 years old and had been teaching for 14 years.

The first school Gina was assigned to had an opening in her license area. The AP of the department offered her the job. Before she had a chance to accept the Principal pulled back the offer. She spent the year there as a highly paid sub and spent many hours in the cafeteria reading and playing on the school's computer. Although Gina was a sub, she developed a strong relationship with many of the students and was able to help many navigate through difficult situations.

Year 2 had a similar start. Several months into the semester she got an offer to teach at another school in the district. She jumped at the chance to be a real teacher again. Unfortunately the Principal didn't see her as a permanent member of the department and requested she sign a provisional employee statement. At first she refused. This act of defiance put her on the shit list. In June she got a letter stating there would be no job for her in September. The Principal also sent her off with a U rating although the AP of the department wrote excellent observations every time he saw her teach.

Year 3 began in a brand new school where everyone, even the Principal was under 30. She was assigned one regular class and subbed other periods. She got to know the kids and developed strong attachments to them. A month into the semester she moved to another school in hope of getting a permanent job. The new school turned out to be more difficult than she anticipated. It was a school slated for closure. The Principal was a Leadership Academy graduate with no experience and the kids ran rampant. In spite of all this, she loved her students and made a difference in their lives. She was not hired back for year 4.

Year 4 has Gina going to a different school every two weeks. At first she enthusiastically went on interviews, determined still to find a permanent position. School after school let her know they didn't want her, some after a three minute interview. She has now given up all hope of ever being in the classroom.  She has changed her mindset and no longer frets about not teaching.  She happily accepts the bimonthly checks while doing little.  The system destroyed a good teacher.  The kids took a major hit because no one would give her a chance.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Will It Hurt?

Cortisone shot. I don't care if it hurts as long as it helps.

Missing All The Fun

It is 9:30 in the morning.  I am sitting at the kitchen table, nursing my coffee and thinking about all the fun PD activities I am missing today. 

1.  The long line for coffee and cold mini bagels
2.  The hard, backless benches in the student cafeteria.
3.  The race to the auditorium to see who can get the most inconspicuous seats.
4.  Watching the suck ups acting like they really care about what is going on.
5.  Straining to hear those never ending data reports in a room with the world's worst sound system.
6.  Pretending to be listening to the information being imparted while playing WWF, texting, reading a magazine or, more commonly, marking finals.
7.  Deciding which PD will be the least painful when signing up for smaller sessions.
8.  Listening to Mr. AP's incoherent ramblings where he:   
     a)   Talks smack about retired teachers   
     b)   Berates teachers whose stats might have fallen a percentage or two below the department average.
    c)  Complaining that someone moved his papers and then waiting while he frantically runs around looking for them or running off new ones.
   d)  Begs a marker from someone in the room as he is never prepared for anything except berating the teacher who needed a marker in class one day.  
   e)  Pushing some ridiculous method of solving equations, a method that does not do anything special in the short run and is harmful in the long run and then threatening teachers who don't use his method.
   f) Trying to follow his spoken words which are more difficult to follow than his written ones.  (search department memos on this blog if you don't know what I am referring to.)
9.  Watching some poor teacher present a workshop on a  topic not thoroughly thought out either because they wanted to make brownie points with the administration or were just plain afraid to refuse to do.

I'm missing a day packed full of fun things.  I've had my share.  I'm happy to pass the torch to others so they too may experience the wonders of PD day in the beginning of June.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Sitting Still Not For Me

Have to keep off the leg to get it in shape for Iceland.  Sitting still is not something I do well, so I spent some time fixing up and posting Florida pictures

No Iceland pictures until we get home.  I'm not taking lap top this time.  My husband just bought me an I-Pad, much easier to travel with.


Dear Mrs. Teacher,

 How kind of you giving 100 questions for Castle Learning to your students.  I mean its not like you're putting more stress on your students, its not like we don't have other finals coming up and regents to take.  No, no nothing like that...... =.= gosh i hate the subject you teach!!!!! D:

I read the above comment on a former student's Facebook page.  The girl who wrote this is as hard working as they come.  She does everything required and more.  She is one of the kids I from last year I really miss.

I felt her anguish as I read her comment.  I know where her teacher is coming from assigning these problems.  The teacher fears the kids in her class will not pass the upcoming regents and she will be called on the carpet for their lack of success.  What teachers like her fail  to understand is that the kids who aren't studying, and not taking assignments seriously will get nothing out of an assignment like this.  Some will blow it off because of the length.  Others will have friends give them answers or find someone willing to do it for them. Others will start and then just burn out before the end and learn nothing along the way.  The only one benefitting will be the person counting statistics on the number of questions being answered.

I took two independent study courses while on sabbatical several years ago.  These were courses I cared about and was determined to learn. At first I was told to do every fourth problem at the end of certain chapters.  When I explained how this made no sense (some problems couldn't be done unless the one immediately preceding it was also done), he got annoyed.  When I insisted on doing the odd problems so I could at least check my answers and see that I was on the correct path, he relented but was not pleased.  I ended up doing much more than required and learned quite a bit.  This mentor was not happy having a student shape the course and as punishment he assigned over 100 questions for a final.  Anyone who has taken an advanced calculus class or a discrete math class knows the inordinate time this takes.  I ended up filling the pages with junk, stuff I knew he would never look at and my education ended.  If the final had been reasonable, I would have completed it properly and gotten something out of it.  He would have seen all I accomplished.

Imagine if every teacher gave their students 100 questions.  Even at only five academic classes, this is 500 questions.  Kids still have papers and other assignments to complete and things to study that aren't on Castle Learning.  If we want kids to learn and be successful, we have to keep assignments reasonable.  When I was teaching, I did every homework assignment myself before I gave it out.  If it took me more than 10 minutes (15 in calculus), it was too long and I shortened it.  It is important to show respect for a student by respecting their time and the work they must do for other courses.  It is also important to remember that they are young and should have some fun time programmed into their day.  I'm not talking about an evening on Facebook, but 30 minutes of that or television or some other relaxation is important to their well being.

To the young woman who wrote that note:  I hope your teacher(s) see this and reconsider over the top assignments in the future.  I know you will do well on your exam. You are smart.  You always do well.  I'm glad I got to know you last year and can follow your activities on Facebook now that I am no longer in the classroom.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Time To Smell The Flowers

It is that time of the year again, the time when abused senior teachers must weigh the maltreatment against the feelings of accomplishment and success derived from being In the classroom. I know that feeling well. It took me too many years to make the move, a move I will be eternally grateful to the miserable AP who was my supervisor.

There are no words to describe the wonder of rolling over at 5:30 and going back to sleep after the cat woke you up by dropping toys on your head. Going to the theater in the middle of the week is another plus. There is no more rushing home after school to quickly prepare the following days lesson before going out. It is wonderful to be able to take advantage of cheap air flights and rental cars by traveling during non peak times. Supermarkets have lighter lines. Best sellers can be read before they become classics and it is easy so much easier to get doctor appointments when the day is yours. 

The city is full of museums and parks.  There are wonderful courses to take.  There are even other jobs, jobs where abuse is not something one must endure.  The best part for all you Tier I teachers (others benefit too, but we do the best) is that there is more money in retirement check than in a pay check.

Leaving is hard.  I cried handing in my papers but I have no regrets. Teaching, especially when you have been doing it for more than half your life is a big part of who you are, but it is not all you are.

If you are torn, make a list of pros and cons for staying.  Sleep on it.  Give it careful thought and then follow your heart.  If you decide to stay, enjoy your last years.  Do the job you know you do well and let the administrators be damned.  They can't hurt you anymore so don't let them bother you.  And, if you decide to leave, go knowing there is a whole new world waiting for you.  It is okay to feel sad.  I did.  I promise you will get over it sooner than you think possible.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Real Life Math

From a friend's facebook page.

Faces Of The City

What did people do before cell phones?  Almost everyone is using one.  More pictures here, on Facebook.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Inactivity Is Not My Cup Of Tea

I have to rest my hurt leg.

Having to sit is killing me.

Not being able to walk run around is worse than the worst PD.

Seeing the chiropractor tomorrow.  Hope she can help.

I've Got To Learn To Read

Looking for weekend entertainment I hit the Internet to check out the street fair I thought I remembered siding in Port Washington. I even asked good friends to join us. Nothing was going on when we got there so we drove through town searching for the event. I finally decided I better Google it to find the exact location which was Main Street, Port Washington, WISCONSIN. I will never live this one down so I decided to share it here to take the sting out of stories that will be told.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Not Worth The Effort

I'm sitting on the airport floor (I-pad is charging), gazing out at the rain and thinking about Ms. Eyre's post, the one on the effort it takes to get students to show up, work and pass. I know that feeling as I put in over 30 years doing the exact same thing. I'm sitting on the other side of the fence now, teaching the students that somehow managed to pull through at the last minute. Seeing the results of this intense push from the college side makes me regret having done it.  Stats didn't matter way back then and we all thought we were doing what was best for the student and maybe because seeing kids pass boosted our self esteem. Teachers have to get them to pass now. The future be damned.

I can't even recall how many times my former AP threw statistics in our faces and berated teachers for being as little as 2  per cent below a colleague. I know Ms. Eyre and the teachers today have no choice. They have to get these kids to pass or they will be on an unemployment line. I feel sad reading her post, knowing how hard she is working and achieving a goal that is worthless and possibly harmful to the students she is doing her darnedest to help succeed.

Teachers like Ms. Eyre are forced to spend time pushing kids who don't deserve to credit get credit.  This time and effort could be put to a much better use.  Too bad   the system doesn't allow this to happen.