Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cleaning and Remembering Dad

We've begun the process of clearing out my dad's house.  It is both physically and emotionally draining.  No one would believe how much can be collected while living in the same place for almost 45 years.  And, who knows how much he brought with him from a former apartment.  In addition to normal stuff, dad believed in keeping records.  He had copies of every letter he ever wrote, including the envelopes he mailed them in, every bill he ever paid, including copies of checks he wrote and papers galore documenting every person he ever spoke to, including the time of day.

Dad's coffee pot is pictured above.  He started every day with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, freshly brewed a night or two before and reheated.  He liked it to be ready in the morning.  Since he stopped working 30 years ago, I never caught on to why he had no time to make it when he got up, and he never caught on to why I refused to drink it.  The inside of the pot is quite black.  I bought him a new one several years ago.  It is sitting in the kitchen where he put it when I handed it to him.

Dad labeled everything. My husband got a charge out of this free Radio Shack battery he got in 1986.  I believe he would have tried to use it if he knew where it was.

The one thing this has taught me is that when I finish with his house, I better start on my own.  I don't want my children to have to spend months cleaning out my stuff, stuff they won't understand why I saved either.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teaching From The Heart

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When I was out last week I got an e-mail from the covering teacher telling me how awful and disrespectful my class was.  I was shocked.  This particular group is one of the best classes I have ever taught at the college.  Attendance is almost perfect with the only late comers being those who hit a traffic snarl coming from work.  They don't pack up early and cell phones are out of sight.  They do homework and participate well.  This class is every teacher's dream.

when I returned, I spoke to them about their behavior.  I told them disrespect was not an option.  They sat quietly and let me talk.  I told them I had covered many classes and had never been treated that way and did not expect my students to treat anyone so poorly.  They sat and took it and we went on with the lesson.

On the way out, several students stayed behind to talk.  They told me the sub went very fast and when they asked hIM to slow down, he refused.  They told me they asked for additional problems like the ones he had done and he said no.  He said their regular teacher was going too slow and that neither one of us cared whether they passed or not.  (My students know this is not true about me.)  He told them if they did not understand they should go back and retake the previous class.

I don't know for sure what led up to this and I have no idea whether these words from my students are even true, but what they felt was true.  (These were all good students.)  The students probably were not that eager in the beginning.  I know it takes a few minutes to get a class going when you are not the regular teacher.  But, I wonder if he gave up on them too easily.

Teaching has to come from the heart.  It doesn't matter if a question is not phrased perfectly or if a concept has to be checked.  Students learn best when they know their teacher cares.  When I cover a class, I let them know right from the start I am there because I love teaching and want to help them.  I try to adapt to the style of the person I am covering for while keeping my own style in check.  I know I am not even close to being a master teacher.  (What is a master teacher anyway?  I never even heard that expression until I started at Packemin in the mid '80s.)  But, what I lack in that discipline, I make up for by caring.

One of the best things about teaching at the college is the people in charge know everyone has a different method and teachers are encouraged to use what works best for them.  No one complains about chalk and talk.  As long as the students are engaged and learning, the teacher is doing a good job.   Everyone doesn't have to speak or go to the board.  Students don't have to work in groups or teach one another.  We are judged on a whole, not on a check list of meaningless items.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Racism or Making Money?

Skimming through today's Post while enjoying pizza and beer at my favorite place, I read the headline


It seems a group of highly compensated education consultants convinced the managers of a Portland Oregon schools that the peanut-butter sandwich is a potential tool  for racism as Hispanic and Somalian students don't eat sandwiches.  

If you don't believe this, here is one link to the story on the Huffington Post and if you search, you will find many more links.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Taking Responsibility

My friend's son did something hurtful.  Instead of letting it fester like I usually do, I sent him a message, explaining how I felt about what he did.  We went back and forth a few times and then he said he was wrong and he was sorry.  He didn't mean anything by this and did not realize the affect it would have on me.

I'm so glad we had this conversation.  I'm glad I opened the gate to the wall I usually build around myself.  I hope this teaches me a lesson for the future. I am so proud of him for apologizing instead of denying and making excuses.  It was a very mature and responsible thing to do.  He is way more responsible than many three times his age.  His mom should be proud of him.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


The selection posted above is a piece I read Thursday morning, after getting up from Shiva, before the rabbi came over and walked around the block with me.  This is the official ending of the Shiva period, the first time I set foot out of my home. A week is an arbitrary mourning time, but nevertheless, it sets some sort of boundary and is a way to cope with a loss.

 I am not especially religious and neither was my dad, but my mom was.  She would have liked me doing this.  I couldn't do it when she died as my dad was so distraught, caring for him became my only concern. Doing it for him also honored her.

We had a minion in my home every evening.  A minion is a group of at least ten Jews who gather and pray.  It is something my temple does for mourners.  Again, it was something I couldn't do for my mom as we sat in the Bronx so I am happy I was able to do it now.  Most of my friends are day people so it filled my heart with joy when people I barely knew from the congregation stopped by to help in my time of need.  I made a vow to be available to help others, a vow I intend to keep.

Friends and community came together to help me.  Words cannot express how much this meant to me.  I cried when I saw Mr. AP walk into the funeral chapel and hug me.  His words, that we were family in spite of our differences made the world of difference to me.  In spite of anything I have ever written, he showed he has a good heart.  There were others too. others who I won't mention here, others I would have thought forgot me, who showed care and concern by coming to the funeral and Shiva.  I have thanked them personally.

And now it is time to return to life.  I intend to continue saying Kaddish (prayer for dead) the full 11 months  (Parents are good and don't need the full year to get into heaven.)  I have hospital bed and oxygen tanks to return, phone calls to make and an apartment to empty.  Bless my wonderful husband for always being there, for being a son to my dad and helping me through this time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How Can This Be Good For Anyone?

The social studies AP, barely into his 30's, two years past his tenure date, stood in front of his department and told the teachers that many thought they were good but would soon learn the opposite was true.  He said there would be many unhappy people as observations and ratings were delivered but he wasn't there to make friends.

Teachers are upset.  Their work will suffer.  As a result, the kids will suffer.  But, he is the king.  This little inexperienced twerp will be hurting many until someone wakes up and realizes he is not the one who should be in charge.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Only My Dad

My dad was obsessed with family and with having his affairs in order. 

I just went through some of the papers I brought home.  Only my dad would have an enveloped labeled this way.  He wanted to make sure things would be easy for my sister and I when the time came.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dad's Honor Guard

My dad never liked to talk about his time in the army.  It was painful and he didn't want to inflict the memories on his family.  Mostly though, he thought of it as a job he had to do.

Dad was a medic who served on the front lines in Germany.  An aptitude test pointed to his ability in this field.  He amputated arms and legs and saved lives.  Dad was at the battle of the Bulge.  His whole unit was gone except for him and another medic.  He took off his red cross badge and picked up a gun.  He and his comrade held the enemy off until reinforcements arrived in the morning.

Dad got real lucky on two occasions.  One, a call of nature pulled him from the fox hole when a bomb exploded killing everyone inside.  The other was bad meat.  The bad case of hepatitis had him recuperating in a British hospital when the unit he was with was wiped out.  He recovered and was sent home.

Dad always got very upset when he saw us sending troops anywhere.  He knew what it was like to be in combat and he never wanted anyone else to go through what he went through.

I would like to thank my wonderful niece for taking these pictures.  This ceremony, with the taps is something I want to remember for a very long time.

People Needing People

Alone in a sea of people. You feel you don't belong. You feel others don't care if you are there or not. And then you experience a loss.  Suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork. Some do not surprise you. They have always been there. But, oh the others, the new, the casual, the ones who you thought did not know you exist and the ones you thought forgot you exist.  People streaming in and out and the phone ringing with voices from the past.

What a wonderful feeling to be loved. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Son's Tribute To His Grandpa

My son was not exactly a student when he was young.  My husband always wanted to wear a bag over his head at parent-teacher conferences, not wanting anyone to recognize him in case they overheard what the teacher said.  He didn't believe in homework or books.  Those spelling word sentence assignments were torture for both of us, but mostly me.

Well, things change.  Boys grow up.  My on is a wonderful success today, yet every time he does something wonderful, I still am in awe.  Can this really be coming from my little goof ball?  Friday morning he did it to me again when he read the most beautiful eulogy I have ever heard.  He might be pissed, but I am sharing it here.  My son and my dad share a birthday.  My son is the only boy (two daughters and three granddaughters.)  My dad and my son shared unconditional love.  My parents loved all their grandchildren equally but my kids always believed they were just a little more special, daughter for grandma and son for grandpa.
Over the past few days I have been trying to decide what I could say about grandpa and couldn't put anything coherent together. Last night as I went to sleep I decided to try to come up with one word to describe him and see if I could go from there. Quickly I decided the word is "duty".
Grandpa always did what was best for those around him, always putting everyone before him. Don't take that the wrong way. No one ever took advantage of him.
From as early as a teenager he worked to support his sister and mother. I am sure he gave back to those close to him long before that but the stories I know start there when he delivered telegraphs. Even singing ones. Anyone who knew my grandfather could tell you that going out in public and singing like that wouldn't have been his first choice of activities.

Later in the army he gave everything and risked everything anytime he heard the word "medic" shouted. For years after the war he didn't speak of the things he did and the lives he saved, not because he was traumatized or wanted to repress the memories but because he never saw himself as a hero. In his mind he was just doing what he was supposed to do and moved on with his life.

Years later my mother was born and then my aunt. As they grew up he work 2 job so my grandmother could stay home with them. Even when they got older and were in school he kept both jobs and gave grandma only 1 rule. She had to watch over them and be home to see who they spent time with. Make sure they didn't get into trouble or fall in with a bad crowd. Aunt Regina I am not sure how you snuck by. Or was aunt Terri really the bad one?

Grandpa would and did anything for his daughters. When Hula hoops were the big thing he got his hands on 2 and carried them home on the bus and subway. He was offered money for them, much more than they were worth. He wouldn't sell. No amount was worth more than the happiness of mom and aunt Iris.
At least not until Lisa was born, then my sister with me coming soon after and Ronnie the next year. I will never forget the smile that came to him every time we came over. No matter what else was going on when he saw us nothing else mattered and nothing could upset him. Not even how it would always rain immediately after he washed the car in our driveway. Or how Jenn and I would go down to our basement where he would be sleeping on the recliner and wake him up.

He would pretend to be annoyed but I know he always loved it. He would watch us play Nintendo or whatever other silly thing we were doing. He would even take his turn at Duck Hunt. I can't really call it a turn though. If he didn't have to stop to eat or go back home I think he would still be going. He sat as far back as the cord would let him and he never missed a shot.

Later grandma got sick and instead of working 2 jobs he changed career paths and become a care giver. Working 3 shifts. 24/7 doing everything for her. Not because she needed him to, although she did. He did it because it was the right thing to do. It was his duty. He loved our grandmother more then anyone has ever loved another person.
As grandpa got older and he was unable to take care of himself another amazing person entered his life. Effie his aide was with him constantly doing the things for him that he had always done for others. I use the term aid because I can't come up with the right words but she was much more then that to him. Even as he was unable to give to her in the ways he gave to others he still gave with compassion. Always looking out for her, worried about her getting home safely. Even those who were there to take care of him he would try to take care of. In his mind anyone in his life he had the duty to look out for.
I learned so much from him. I learned my first curse word,  "Macy's" and some great insults, like "Your mother wears army boots". He taught me valuable life lessons like to quit while I was behind. I can't count the number of times he told me that when I was misbehaving or goofing around. I knew when he said that to me that I had better stop what I was doing before I made a bad thing worse. Most importantly I learned the most important life lesson of all. It is better to give than to receive. The joy of giving far outweighs the joy of receiving.
Almost 90 years after he started giving he can finally stop giving and just enjoy. No more wars, no more long hours at 2 jobs, no more taking care of others or worrying about others. Just eternity back together with grandma.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dad, Today Is Your Big Day

The clock says it is 6:47,  around the time I called my dad every day for more than six years.  He had a fear of dying in his sleep with no one finding him for days.  The calls, lasting only seconds reassured him this would never happen.

I want to call and once again set his mind at ease.  I want to tell him all the people that are here to pay tribute and bring him to his final resting place.  All his grandchildren are here.  His great grandchildren are here. We are telling stories and looking at pictures of him and mom and wonder what their first conversation  will be about once they are reunited.  Will she ask about us or tell him he should have shaved and gotten a haircut?  For once she won't complain about the ragged clothes he always chose to wear (the new ones lay in their packages and stay on their hangers with the tags on) as he is in a shroud, meeting his maker and her the way holy men do.  I know they will hug and kiss and probably be dancing around, glad to be together again.

I want to call but I don't.  He is not there to answer.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013



It is 6:45.  I rush to the phone because dad goes to bed early and I never miss saying goodnight.  I take out my phone and then put it away.  He can't answer.  I'll never be able to say talk to you in the morning again.  I never thought this would be so hard.

It's Over

My dad's angel called at 12:21 last night.  I answered but she wouldn't talk to me, only my husband.  I knew though.  It was over.

We got dressed and went to his apartment, wondering where we would be able to park at 1:00 AM.  God was on our side and left a space right in front of his building.  Both aides greeted us at the door.  Only the male aide was supposed to be there but dad's angel knew his time was near and did not want him to go without her.  We waited for the hospice nurse to come and announce his passing and fill out paper work.  We waited for the funeral parlor to pick him up.  We cried.  The angel and I cleaned.  (The men sat.)

We drove those two wonderful people home and went home to get some sleep.  This morning we went back to dad's house to find his Tallis.  I want him to have an orthodox funeral, to present to God the way he lived, as a wonderful human being.  We sat with the funeral director and finalized arrangements.  I saw him, told him how much I love him and how much I miss him and cried.

My dad went peacefully in his sleep.  My husband and I spent his last day on earth talking and caring for him.  I know he is now in a better place.  By midday Friday he will be reunited with my mom, the love of his life.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Transition is the time between life and death, the body is giving up and is ready to pass on to the spirit world.  At this time the body gets either hot or cold.

My dad hates the cold.  I would hate to see him freezing.  I like to think the temperature he is now running is G-d's way of making this transition more comfortable for him.

Pat On The Head

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and moreThis cartoon made me think about all the Principals and Assistant Principals who have gotten big bonuses and better jobs because of the "work" they did improving graduation rates.  Of course, improving graduation rates had nothing to do with education.  Principals approve credits for breathing.  APs encourage teachers to give out answers during exams and pay per session so teachers can do on line assignments for their students.  When it comes to education, the pat on the head is money in the pocket to those on top.

By the way, I know there are some of you reading this that know this post is all about you.  I'll be laughing when the pat on the head turns into a kick in the butt for all the damage you have done to the students in your charge.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

He Should Just Stop Fighting and Go


When my mom died, my dad wanted to die too.  He talked constantly of ending his life.  I cried.  I wasn't ready to lose both my parents at the same time.  Thankfully, his will to live was stronger than his will to die.

It is now six years since my mom has passed away.  Dad's health both physically and mentally is gone.  He is in hospice care.  I love him so much, but it is his time.  No one should be suffering the way he is.  The life he has is no life at all.  I'm ready to let him go.  I want him to stop fighting and go.  I want him to find my mom and be at peace.  I love him so much I want to him to be free.

Why Geometry Is Important

Saturday, October 12, 2013

ATR Thrown Out In Favor of Newbie

The Principal called Mrs. ATR.  She said Mrs. ATR had a very impressive resume and requested her to come in the next day for an interview and a model lesson.  Mrs. ATR did that and was told by the teenage Principal the job was hers and she could start the next day.  Some of the classes would be out of license but she did not care.  She called friends, gathered material and came in prepared to work.

Mrs. ATR worked two days in this school and was then called to the teenager's office.  The Principal said her services were no longer needed.  Mrs. ATR was being replaced by a recent college grad, a young man with zero experience who had not been asked to interview or teach a demo lesson. 

Mrs. ATR is back in the pool, rotating from place to place.  She no longer cares about getting a permanent job.  She knows no one will hire her.  She knows her efforts and her expertise will not be valued or appreciated.  She plans on just collecting her check until retirement day comes.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How To Know If You Are Any Good


The students arrive in class early and ask questions about the homework, wanting to know why they couldn't get the exact answer that is in the back of the book.  During class they answer and ask and help one another.  They smile when they understand.  I know they know what is going on.  I know without them raising a left or right hand (the way my former AP insisted kids let us know when they get something.)  I can tell they are learning because they are happy.  Overall, students want to be taught and are not happy in classes where no education takes place and, no matter what they say, almost no one values that A that was not earned.

I meet former students on campus, on the bus, subway and restaurants.  They thank me for what I have taught them in the past.  They claim they would not be where they are today if not for me.  Whether that is true or not, is doubtful, but the fact they believe is what matters to me.

I don't need Danielson or a pisher AP to tell me if I taught a good lesson.  The kids I teach, and have taught, let me know all the time.

More Art Of The Brick pictures here.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Use Only One Square

Government employees back at work were issued one roll of toilet paper today and told to be frugal in its use as there would be no more until the shutdown is over. While there is money for people, there is no money for supplies of any kind.  (Use of soap is also limited.)


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Little Pisher


I  took a Yiddish class in my temple last night.  One of the words on the list we went over was

PISHER:  A bed wetter, a young inexperienced person, a person of no consequence. 

Lots of people had their own definitions of the words on the list. Of course, sitting in a group of teachers, the one that came to us was 21st century school administrator. Unfortunately, these no nothing pishers are the ones to determine who keeps their jobs and who does not.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Government Shutdown

Some government employees get to go back to work tomorrow.  They will get paid when all this budget stuff is settled.  Can they tell the gas stations they will pay for filling their cars when this is over?  Will the banks wait for mortgage payments? 

These employees are glad to be back.  But, they need their paychecks.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Back Door Opens

When I began my teaching career observations occurred three times a semester and they were always unannounced.  I taught in a dangerous school and we had to keep our doors locked (you never knew what a hall walker would decide to toss in a room) so, when we heard the turning of the key in the back door, we knew something was up.

I remember hating those observations, but, in retrospect, they were really the best.  My AP saw what I did on regular basis, not some random show I was putting on for her benefit.  And, while there were certain things she looked for and expected, I knew what these were and did my best to do them in every lesson.  Oh, Danielson hadn't written her framework and for all I know, she might not have even been born then, but this AP and her observations taught us all to be good teachers.  Even with the lowest level students, she insisted on mathematically  precise language (my former AP said he wasn't impressed with "fancy" words and wanted us to use baby words the kids could understand.)  She taught discipline and she helped with curriculum.  She knew who was good at their job and who was not and didn't need standardized tests to form her opinion. 

The best part of the unannounced observations was no sleepless night or extra long preparation the night before.  They weren't so bad at all.  And, unlike the observations of today, these were designed to help, not hurt.  The comments in the 3 - 5 page report were insightful and led to better teaching.  A special ed AP recently told her department that the new evaluations would help her get rid of teachers she did not like.  Since she is incompetent herself, she wouldn't know a good teacher if she observed one and if she did, she would not want him around and now she would could be as clueless as ever and just follow a meaningless rubic.  It is back door to the rescue of the AP.

(Picture from The Art Of The Brick--a Lego exhibit at Discovery times Square by Nathan Sawaya--amazing what this guy can do with Legos.  It is a good thing Danielson wasn't around when he went to school or his creativity might have been stifled.)


Friday, October 04, 2013

Babies and Old People


I remember holding my daughter for the first time and worrying about how I could possibly care for this little person who was totally dependent on me for everything.  I remember rushing her to the doctor two days after we brought her home because she was crying and I did not know what was wrong.  She could not express her needs, but, she was small and I could easily get medical help for anything bothering her.  Thankfully at that time there was nothing wrong with her and my breast in her mouth usually soothed the beast in her.

Now I am responsible for the well being of an 89 year old.  All of a sudden he can no longer express his needs or communicate what he needs and wants.  Like the baby who cries, he is frustrated and angry.  He refuses to leave the house and an ambulance to an emergency room is not an option.  I know he will never survive a hospital stay.  I am in the process of setting up a home hospice, but it is hard.  God bless his wonderful caretakers Effie and Nat. I do not know what I would do without them.  I can't soothe him and I can't take his pain away.  I hope somewhere deep within, he still knows how much I love him and pray for him to find peace.

Thursday, October 03, 2013


He gets up and then he sits down.  He repeats this activity for an hour.  The aide calls it calisthenics. He figures I won't get upset if he is exercising.  I know that is not what he is trying to do.  I am not sure he even knows what he is trying to do.  We both know he is not happy with what he is doing.

He walks until the walker hits a wall.  He gets frustrated and wants help.  He wants us to move the wall and gets angry when we say we can't.

It hurts so much to see his pain and no there is no way to relieve it.  He is a good man who led a good life.  He should not be suffering this way.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Trapped in a body that no longer does what you want it to do. 
Arms and back hurt all the time.
Legs don't do what your brain tells them to do.
Lips that cannot utter your thoughts and articulate your needs.  Lips that utter words I never heard you use before.  Language coming out you never would use, especially in front of your daughters.  You are angry and belligerent, and I am incapable of helping.
Watching your frustration is frustrating me as well.

I love you.  Seeing you suffer is ripping me apart.