Sunday, November 23, 2014
Thursday, November 20, 2014
We have a teacher in the building, a 12 year-old math teacher who is a nephew of one of the men working in the guidance office. He was hired last year when there was a supposed freeze on teacher hiring! He had one music class which he did not have a license for. One of the teachers is working with him in the math department and told me today that he is working on his masters. We also have Sue in the building. She is a wonderful person, GREAT teacher...the kids and her co-teachers think she is WONDERFUL, however she is overweight, over 50 and is paid too high. I guess no one can look beyond all that because she has been an ATR for the past 5 years. Question: Why would this building be allowed to hire a newbie that is not tenured or fully certified but have an ATR who is working day to day? Do I really have to pay union dues to a union that closes it's eyes on its own members?
I am getting a bad taste in my mouth for the UFT...AFT and every union out there! HELP!!
Sunday, November 16, 2014
This guy always loved teaching. He loved helping students and rejoiced in their success. He came in early, stayed late and gave up prep and lunch periods to help them. He worked summers and after school programs for the money but never thought of this as work. It was a labor of love. He never takes a day off and has over 200 sick days in his bank.
Until recently, every administrator this teacher worked under valued his teaching skills and his dedication. He mentored new teachers. The Principal and APs even asked and took his advice on many matters. Things are different now. The AP is an incompetent bimbo who rules by terror and belittles good teachers as a way of trying to push them out. Their competence only emphasizes the AP's lack of ability. The Principal always takes the APs side.
Years ago I worked for a Principal who knew the best way to get teachers to work for the students was to respect them. Too bad individuals like this no longer exist. Too bad the only thing that matters are statistics. Lack of respect is the norm. No wonder the teachers that can are leaving and the others are dreading going in every day.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The school gave the boy a one day suspension and sent him back to class. The teacher filed a restraining order and the boy is now no longer allowed anywhere around him.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Wednesday, November 05, 2014
I go to say my last Kaddish tonight. I couldn't handle going twice a day and I only managed to get to temple 4 days a week, but still, I am glad I went. I decided to go when my mom died. I know people like me often pay more religious people to say the prayer for them but paying someone to do my praying just did not seem right. My mom and her family were religious and while there is no obligation for women to say Kaddish, I felt it was my obligation as there was no one else available to do it. Besides, I never bought into the idea of women being less than men and wanted to do my part. My dad wasn't as religious but he said Kaddish weekly for my mom (his temple did not have daily services) and I wanted to honor him the way I honored her. I started for them but ended up doing it for me. While I am not sure what I believe, I know being in the presence of people who do believe and were committed to what they believed felt good. Every night I was welcomed and made to feel a part of the community. It felt good to be "10" (10 people are needed for a minyon, the number of people needed for prayer). Orthodox only count men. My temple counts everyone.
Two weeks ago an elderly temple member lost his wife. His daughter brings him every evening. They walk in together, her arm around him. She gently helps him remove his coat and open his book to the correct page. She helps him stand and sit and assists him up the stairs when the service is over. Seeing them warms my heart and reminds me of the days I did this with my dad.
My son is getting married Sunday. There is nothing my dad (and mom) wanted more than to see him walk down the aisle. My dad loved his wife to be. He won't be there but I know he would be happy and thrilled to see her wearing my mom's ring.
I've lit his candle and leave in a little while. (This will be posted later this evening.) I've gotten so much from the daily service and intend to stay a part of it, although not daily.
A year has gone by. I don't know if there is any after life and I am not even sure what I believe happens after death. But if there is something, I hope it is a world filled with happiness and my parents found each other and are getting ready to celebrate their upcoming anniversary together.
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Van Buren HS is teaming up with Syracuse University to give students an opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school. Courses will be $100 a credit as opposed to $60,000 year tuition at the school.
Van Buren claims the kids will get a great experience and opportunity. I say BS! They will be sitting in glorified high school classes with teachers who are forced to lower standards to pass them. No AP tests might mean a grade doesn't depend on one class but no AP exam also means no standards.
The colleges get lots of $$$$ when high school kids take their classes off campus. The high schools get some prestige and get to be written up in the newspaper. The kids get a whole lot of nothing.
(source: Queens Chronicle October 30, 2014)
The colleges get lots of $$$$ when high school kids take their classes off campus. The high schools get some prestige and get to be written up in the newspaper. The kids get a whole lot of nothing.
(source: Queens Chronicle October 30, 2014)
Saturday, November 01, 2014
The next day the Principal asked teachers to write statements that would be used against the overwhelmed overworked frustrated teacher. While they sympathized they did as the Principal requested. They feared for their jobs and for their tenure. They claimed to dislike the overwhelmed overworked teacher even though he was one of them and his winning would only help them.
The Principal wants a staff divided and distrustful of each other. He wants total control and for some insane reason believes this is the best way to gain it. I wonder where the union is on all this?
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I recently had dinner with an old high school friend and we talked about the paths we took and the paths we did not take.
My friend started college with the intention of being an elementary school teacher. She, like me, had no college educated role models aside from our teachers and knew of no other jobs open to us after graduation. Unlike me, she decided not to go into teaching. She had a fear of not being a very good teacher and did not want to do a job she would not excel at. (She has since had second thoughts on the matter.) Instead, my friend majored in sociology and after several jobs ended up working in the human relations department of a major realty company. She worked there for 30 years, always received good reviews but was laid off anyway. Several people were laid off and while it appeared to be age discrimination, there was no proof. Now, in her 60's, she collects unemployment and does occasional freelance work (when she can get it) and sends out hundreds of resumes per week. After she told me her story, she asked about mine.
I went into teaching too because I knew no other job open to a college graduate with a major in math. I had no idea what anyone could possibly do with math, other than teach, and there was no one to guide me. She asked me if I was happy with my decision. Without hesitation I answered yes. Knowing myself now, I know I could never have been happy sitting behind a desk. (I don't do sedentary well.) Besides, I found I loved working with students and being the center of attention in a classroom. While I hated marking papers, writing tests, working endless hours at home and getting up early, the rewards I received being in the classroom more than made up for all the negative parts of the job. While there, I never thought of teaching as work, it was a labor of love, an activity that was more enjoyable than anything else.
Of course I had classes that were sometimes difficult and there were kids I wasn't always crazy about but less than a handful that I really did not like. And while administrators were never a favorite of mine, they pretty much left me alone (until the end) and I never feared for my job, even with the unexpected and sometimes non flattering observations.
I know things are different now and I am happy not to be part of the high school experience anymore. Teaching there is no longer pleasurable. I am blessed to be able to keep teaching in a local junior college where administration trusts teachers to do the right thing while in the classroom. I've been asked how long I will keep working, and my answer is simple. I will work until it stops being fun. The day that happens I finish the semester and walk out, not looking back and never to return.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Sunday, October 19, 2014
In order to boost its school's college ready index a local high school has decided to give many of its special education classes AP status. Since the students must take English and History, it costs nothing to add this designation. When the chairperson was called on the insanity of placing students with borderline IQs in advanced classes, the AP responded "We help the students out on all exams anyway so the only difference now will be my teachers will have to know more advanced questions. If the teachers want to keep their jobs they will see to it the kids pass." The AP went on to talk about the outstanding work that will be done in the department. Kids who could barely read, write and do arithmetic a year ago would now be taking and passing college level classes.
On the side the AP was overheard talking to the principal about the vacation that would be taken with the huge bonus because of these scores. Once the colleges realized how low functioning these kids really were, the AP would have a margarita in hand and a nice tan.
Friday, October 17, 2014
Wednesday, the Daily News ran an article highlighting the 60 best high schools in NYC. Read close and don't be too happy even if your school is mentioned, or even if it is in the top half.
Baruch College Campus Magnet is school number 19. It boasts of a 99% graduation rate but only has a 47.1% college readiness index. The school shows 96% of their students go on to post high school programs but there is no indication of what percent of this 96% actually succeed. Francis Lewis High School just makes the cut off for the top half at number 30. It boasts of an 86% graduation rate but only has 38.5% of their graduates college ready. While 77% go on to some sort of post secondary education, you have to wonder how many spend years in remediation and how many others just never finish. No one bothers with these stats. Once the kids are out the door, the high schools are finished.
I taught high school for over 30 years. The school I started in had a low graduation rate, but the students who graduated and went on the college succeeded. They got a real education, passing when they deserved to pass and failing and repeating when they didn't. The school offered alternative programs and no one got a free ride. While many did not go on to college, they learned the importance of working for what they received. Things are not the same now. High school education has become a joke. Kids pass because teachers are afraid to fail them. There is credit recovery and after school programs where credits are given for showing up a few times.I've even heard of APs encouraging special education teachers to coach their students while taking exams and APs translating questions into native languages but actually doing a lot more than just translating.
I teach at a local community college. Last night, during an exam, boy from one of these schools came up to me and said, "Professor, I don't know how to do this problem. Can you just give me the answer." He wasn't kidding. A former teacher from his school told me I shouldn't have been surprised. That is what happened there. Colleagues were talking about remedial classes where students don't do homework, don't buy books and sleep or text constantly in class. These kids are what made the best high schools what they are. These kids are not going to be successful. The whole thing is a sham and our kids are the biggest losers.
If the Daily News and other media really care about investigative reporting, they should look closer into what the statistics they posted actually mean.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Several years ago I proctored a PSAT exam. Things were hectic. We had a short time to set up the room and not much time to give out papers and instructions to the students. I explained to the group they had to stop at the end of each section. I told them they could not go on until I told them to. One girl in the room did not listen. Once, twice, three times I had to stop her. Finally I called an administrator and she was removed. It was only after the exam was over that I learned this poor child was only in the country a few weeks and spoke no English. I felt horrible about the way I treated her but even worse about her being subjected to a grueling exam for hours. The poor student was forced to look at page after page of what appeared to be nonsense. I can only imagine her frustration and then the humuilation she felt being removed.
I believe it is prestigious for the school to have a large number students take this test and they might even get money for each child doing so. How low we have become! This is just a legal form of prostitution and these kids are being made into slaves, forced to do their master's bidding.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Thursday, October 09, 2014
About half the class stayed. We had a wonderful lesson. The students were attentive, asked questions and worked hard. Several stopped by on their way out and thanked me for teaching them. These are the kids that belong in college. They will succeed. They make teaching fun.
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Of course the series in unrealistic. A police officer turned math teacher might have the desire but not the skills to do all he has done in such a short time. Not all teachers and school administrators are as dedicated as the teachers in this school although more are than the media leads us to believe and getting a major grant to have three adults working with ten students is probably not going to happen but the show is good. It shows what is possible, not for all, but for some, given the right situation and support.
Sunday, October 05, 2014
Thursday, October 02, 2014
I didn't know her as well as I knew him but whenever we passed she always had some nice words to say. She was bubbly and happy and so full of life.
Her mom was sad to say goodbye to a wonderful daughter but knew it was right. She had no quality of life, or any life for that matter. Life as a vegetable is no life at all.
I was going to skip the wake, but was glad I didn't. Her mom was so proud. She enjoyed hearing the words of praise everyone heaped on her departed child. It cost me so little time and meant so much.
Two deaths from one school in one week, so sad. Two people who spent a good part of their lives helping young people become productive adults.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
The first time I learned about his heart was when we were getting ready to enter report card grades. He showed me grades of a girl and asked if I would pass her. Just looking at the data I didn't think she should pass. He looked again and decided to pass her, based on classwork. I knew he was okay then.
I had the honor of sharing a room with him several terms. I saw the care he put into each lesson. I saw the special projects he had the students do to help them understand and I saw the special relationship he developed with them. He even got into a major fight with his AP when it came to finding books for his students to use. He never hesitated putting himself on the front to help them.
This man also loved a good ping pong game. He stayed late to supervise student games, giving them tips and beating them when he could. His only reward was the joy he got from being with them.
I really got to know this man when we both were assigned the job of scanning regents exams. We had a long wait and spent an entire day together. He taught me a bunch of Chinese proverbs, things he used to send our former AP to make a point. We laughed and had fun but also got the job done as efficiently as possible.
I remember discussing with him how different people were when they came from foreign lands and how their expectations and behavior towards others was often a product of their early environment. He told me he was now an American and adjusted to live and think like one. He had no respect for those who came here and could not break loose.
We met one night in the college and I told him about how difficult my students found factoring. He showed me a fool proof method I had never seen. To this day I use it is one I use and my students love.
This wonderful man only got to enjoy one year of retirement before passing on. Words can't express the sorrow in my heart knowing I will never get the benefit of his wisdom.
RIP. If there is an afterlife, you will have a great one to reward you for all the good you did here on earth. You will be sorely missed.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Dilbert explains why there are so many incompetent principals. They were put in place by an incompetent education mayor who chose an even more incompetent chancellor. And then these incompetent principals hired incompetent assistant principals, those people with no real experience in anything and they in turn hired teachers who had no idea how to teach.
Friday, September 26, 2014
Mary-Jane ( Mary the dash is not silent Jane)
Shampoo and Conditioner (Cousins)
BoyA and BoyB ( mom was too lazy to change the names on her twin boy's birth certificates)
Fuk (Father kept correcting teaching when she pronounced it Fuke until she explained the meaning of the pronunciation he wanted)
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Dilbert writes about engineers. It is also the way school administrators are chosen. How else would inexperienced APs be chosen to run a department of experienced teachers. On a recent retired teacher trip I heard of a 30 year veteran teacher saying her 29 year old supervisor asked who taught her how to teach reading. The 29 year old never taught 5th grade, the grade she was teaching. And then there is the former math teacher who took a few weekend courses and is now telling everyone in special education what they are doing wrong.
Eventually the shit will hit the fan in engineering and in education and everywhere else the wrong people are chosen for jobs. Think of how much will be lost in the interim.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Several years ago I was given a double class of seniors who had at most one math credit. The school needed them to graduate on time and it was my job to get them to pass. They were given two credits for the class. Many were taking the exact same class during the evening and in late afternoon school. (Multiple credit while learning nothing different.)
I spent the first semester trying to teach them math, along with how to answer the questions just using a calculator. The second semester I just concentrated on getting them to pass, emphasizing that I was not teaching them math, just skills to get through. I told them they would need remedial courses in college as they were learning little in class. Most didn't care. But, the regents exam is a joke and 27 out of 28 passed.
I occasionally run into these students at the community college. I am greeted warmly with much enthusiasm and I greet them the same way. When we talk I find out they are floundering in college. Math was not the only subject they got through knowing nothing.
Our A school kept their A that semester. We had a high graduation rate. No one cared that the kids were prepared for nothing. No one cared that these kids graduated with ruined lives. The school was highly rated, the admins got their bonuses and no one cared about anything else.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Just came back from seeing Black Angels Over Tuskegee at the Actor's Temple on Broadway and am speechless. The story of the Tuskegee airmen is something everyone should know about.
The play is written by the brilliant, award winning Layon Gray who has written many plays dealing with African American topics. He tells his stories in ways that are entertaining and informative and makes the history come alive.
If you have a chance, go see it. If you can, take your class to see it. It is much less expensive than a Broadway show and better than many. The actors are fantastic and the story is riveting.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
When a person is constantly put down, told they are no good, they begin to doubt themselves, even believe the things being said. Intellectually, you know the things being said about you are not true, but after hearing them so often you start to believe.
That is what happened to me and lots of others when we taught, and are still teaching high school. One teacher was yelled at when her students broke a window shade when she was absent. The AP claimed if she trained them better, it would not have happened. Another teacher was blamed when a student threw a water bottle out the window. Still another was blamed for unruliness of his students but the head of security told him every student had a file 5 inches thick and he called deans less often than anyone else. Newbies could got everyone to pass while veteran teachers did not. Our methods were just not good enough and we even began doubting our skills teaching.
I think this is one of the reasons I am having trouble giving up teaching at the college. Here I am respected and cherished for what I do in the classroom. The students are learning and happy. Even the ones who don't pass don't blame me. The administration thanks me for coming in. I am asked to cover classes because I am a "strong" teacher who knows the material and knows how to get it across.
The college, like the high school, is a city institution that has no control over the money I am paid. While they can't reward me financially, they reward me and other with kind words and words of appreciation. These words make me want to do more for my students and for all the students in the school.
It is too bad today's schools won't do the same. The kids wold benefit so much. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The almighty dollar sign is what rules schools today. The dollar sign is what put so many incompetent administrators in place, incompetent administrators who get rid of good teachers.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
When I went to school a zillion years ago, no one ever explained "why" either. We memorized the rules and "did". I never understood the reasoning behind choosing the proper signs when I factored or why the "a" in a quadratic equation could not equal zero or much of anything else. But, I was a good student. I studied, memorized the rules and did well. It wasn't until I had to teach someone how to factor that I grasped the "why" of the signs and understood the implications of "a" not equal to zero or even why I could not divide by zero. It suddenly became crystal clear and the factoring which I had previously been able to do with much trial and error was easy. Now, when I teach the topic, I make sure to make sure my students understand "why" each time.
My students do not all get this. I would be kidding myself if I believed I reached them all but I know I have succeeded with many. I love watching their faces as they look at examples, analyze the problem and successfully arrive at an answer they know is correct because they fully understand "why" they did what they did.
The math they learn in my classroom will probably be long forgotten by the time they graduate and go on to careers in their chosen areas (unless of course it is an area that requires math) but I am convinced the "why" will be a lesson never lost. Understanding reasoning is the first step in solving problems in any area, whether it be academics or life.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Tips For Fixing The Nation’s Education System
I knew I did a good job teaching a complex topic last night when I looked at the smiling faces of my students as they walked out the door. A particularly happy young man said he was smiling because he "got it" and was grateful that I made the topic easy to understand.
What this young man does not know is that teaching this topic was not always easy for me. When I first taught the course I spent hours making sure I mastered the topic and mostly taught with the method shown in the book. As I got more comfortable with the topic, I found better ways to teach the topic, ways to make understanding easy.
It takes years to become a good teacher. I feel sorry for all the students with brand new teachers in schools with only brand new teachers. These teachers need years to learn and they need experienced teachers to learn from. Oh don't get me wrong. Many of these new teachers are good. But, experience matters. No one would want a surgeon straight out of college operating on them. They at least want a seasoned doctor supervising the procedure. Teaching should be treated the same way.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I haven't reached them all, but I know I have been successful with many in the past. If I can do it again, I know my term will be successful. That is all I need to show me I am a highly effective teacher.
Sunday, September 07, 2014
I could be spending the dog days of summer in a sweltering classroom or in one with a loudly running air conditioner. I could be packing up my things every forty five minutes and moving to a new location to greet another group of kids who are tired and hot and not ready to be back in school. I could be waiting for the door to opened by a scowling administrator admonishing me because a kid is sleeping or one is 30 seconds late. I'm so happy this is all behind me. The beach is great and knowing what I would have been doing if I did not make the decision to retire makes it so much greater.
Saturday, September 06, 2014
One of the problems with my college students is that they don't do homework. They don't understand homework is designed to help them. They need the practice and the reinforcement. A 2.5 hour class twice a week is just not enough. Last term I promised to drop the lowest test grade for those who did homework. It didn't help. This term I decided to walk around the room and collect homework individually from each student. Those who did not have it had to give an immediate excuse. They did not like that. Last night I walked around again and gave back the assignment and requested it from those who did not hand it in the first night. I left with a full folder.
I don't know if this will last but I hope so. If I can get them to do homework, I can get more of them to pass. This is a pre-calculus class and the students should be doing homework without this much prodding. What should happen and what does happen are not the same. Hopefully they will do assignments, succeed, and learn to do homework in every class, whether it is collected or not. Hopefully they will now understand the value of doing it.
(Picture from Rockaway Beach-nothing to do with story but I thought this was a really pretty bird. I loved the red beak.)
Thursday, September 04, 2014
Too bad the administrators, the ones who will really benefit by having their stats improved did not bother to show up. They didn't appreciate the work both by the students and their teachers did to reach this pinnacle of education. They are probably just happy these kids are gone. They think-two less burdens to deal with.
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Imagine you are a 25 year veteran teacher who, until recently, has always been considered a very good teacher. Your inexperienced newbie of an administrator has decided to rate you ineffective. You need a plan if you are going to survive.
The incompetent administrator has handed you a plan to help you improve. She really does not know the first thing about teaching, especially teaching your subject, but is quite good at intimidation and has mastered the art of making people believe she knows what she is doing. Don't be fooled. Make her go over the plan with you. Insist she teach model lessons for you to observe. In other words, make her work for her money. And, most importantly, force her to show herself as the ineffective teacher she has accused you of being.
Friday, August 29, 2014
I thought I made up my mind to give up working in the college. There is so much I want to do and working even two nights a week stands in my way. I didn't want to go back but I was committed, my name was in the catalog and people registered for my class so I decided to stick it out.
Thursday was the first class. I went in a little early to fill out some paper work and pick up syllabus to distribute. A young man walked into the office to check on his class. I looked at my roster and found his name. He grinned from ear to ear when he heard I was his teacher. He made my night.
I wish he wasn't so happy to see me. I wish my first night didn't go so well. I love being in the classroom and am not sure I am ready to give it up for good.
On another note, I will keep working because here I am evaluated by what I do, not by scores. The college understands we have no control over who is in our class and whether they work or not. We teachers are respected and treated like the professionals we are.