Monday, November 23, 2015

FIT-Fashion Underground

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ineffective Teacher

Two months have passed since the independent evaluator observed the "ineffective teacher."  The teacher said the lesson went well but she has not receive any feedback.  Her livelihood depends on this and still, nothing.

What's going on?  If the evaluator truly believes the teacher is ineffective, she should be out the door.  I know the teacher.  She is far from ineffective.  Could it be this evaluator is not as independent as claimed?  Could he be in cahoots with the administrator who does not like the teacher and wants her gone?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Teacher Demos Best For Math

The latest issue of the UFT newspaper had an article by Rhonda Rosenberg with the title "Teacher demos best for math instruction."  The research is based on 1st graders and it was found that teacher directed instruction was much more effective than student centered lessons, group work and incorporation of music and movement.

I taught high school for years and have been teaching college for over 10 years and have found this to be true for older students as well.  Time is used more effectively when the teacher demonstrates.  The work is presented in a clearer manner and the students have a good model to follow on their own when they leave the classroom.

I remember talking to an English teacher.  She and I were both laughing at the rave review the Principal had given us when he walked in to the room and saw the kids working in groups.  What he didn't see was the kids fooling around and doing nothing until he appeared.  He didn't see us walking around from group to group getting them to put away their phones and get back on target.  He didn't see the 20 minutes of real instruction prior to his visit.  I guess that was a good thing.  He wouldn't have liked the chalk and talk that was going on.  He wouldn't have liked the kids not talking.  He wouldn't have realized that was where the learning was taking place.

(picture from Canstruction exhibit at Brookfield Place.  Wonderful sculptures made of food cans which are donated to food pantries before Thanksgiving)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Subway Art Tour

Another benefit of retirement--UFT subway art tour with

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Prospect Park

Not having to work on a 70 degree day in November is wonderful.  

Monday, November 02, 2015

Comparing Apples and Oranges

Several months ago, while at a fair at Flushing Meadow Park, I signed up for a year subscription to the NY Daily News, a paper I had not read for years.  The paper came with a really cute umbrella that I wanted and 4 tickets to a wrestling event at Citifield that I wasn't particularly interested it but I did want to see the new stadium and since I don't like baseball, this was a good opportunity.  (We were already parked and the stadium was just a short walk from where we were.)  The paper was only $98 for the year and came with a $50 gift card so I figured this was a winning proposition.

The beauty of retirement is that I have time to read the paper daily and get pissed off by the often obnoxious editorials, primarily those about education.  Saturday had one titled "The real moral duty of charter schools."  The writer, Michael Petrilli talks about how parents want the discipline of charter schools, how kids can't learn in disorderly classrooms and strongly suggests public schools start following the model of charter schools in regard to discipline.  No one would argue with this need.  but, I would like to know what Mr. Petrilli would do with these serial disruptors, a term he uses to describe these challenging students.  Unlike charter schools, these students cannot be counseled out.

If I were the parent of a young child, I might want my student in one of these charter schools, in a safer environment.  I don't blame the parents.  And maybe he is right, we shouldn't pile disruptive kids and kids with learning problems into these schools but then we have to stop comparing charter schools which educate the select to public schools which educate them all.  We have to find a way to educate everyone and charter school selection is not going to do this.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Teacher Education

On Wednesday, October 24, the NY Daily News  ran an editorial:  Central challenge:  Teaching teachers.  The article talks about many of the controversies in education today but the part that interested me the most was the part about teacher education and the need for high quality teacher preparation programs.  And, while I agree this is important (I had a dynamite methods teacher and advisor when I student taught) it did not prepare me for what I faced in my own classroom.  The article recommends a year of paid clinical practice under the supervision of an experienced mentor.

This editorial brought me back to my first term teaching.  I was 21 years old, fresh out of college.  I walked into a classroom, green.  I expected things to flow, like they did when I student taught. I was heart broken when my lessons did not go over as I expected or when the kids did not listen.  I was blessed with the most wonderful teacher next door who took me under his wing and showed me what it was like to be in a classroom and how to get kids to listen and learn.  So many years later, we are still friends and he still never lets me forget that he was my savior.

The new teachers today are not going to get paid mentors.  The schools won't spend the money.  Besides, there are just too many new teachers.  And, there aren't enough experienced teachers left to help as all the veterans are being pushed out.  The article says that parents would always prefer a seasoned teacher to a rookie and I agree. What I disagree strongly with is the statement that there is a sharp increase in teacher effectiveness in year two and a small increase in year three with performances then leveling off after that.  A teacher learns more each day and while effectiveness will level off, it will take at least 5 years  and closer to 10 do this.

(Pictured above is a Jones Beach pigeon, very well fed)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How Not To Grade High Schools

Graduation isn't everythingWARGA, CRAIG NYDN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Graduation isn't everything

How not to grade high schools
Re the Daily News guide to New York’s best high schools: Graduation rates alone are not the only thing that makes a good school. In fact, as a former NYC high school teacher, I am very wary of schools with rates that are too high. I have seen students pushed through and graduated who can barely read and do arithmetic.
Regents exam scores are skewed so that a 65 on an Algebra test is the equivalent of 29 (or less) raw points out of 100. Students who don’t pass the first time have the option of doing a few online problems or going to a two-week after-school program to make up the course they missed. Teachers are pressured to pass everyone. People should wonder why specialneeds students with 70 IQs are suddenly getting Regents diplomas.
A better guide might be a look at courses offered and the number of students taking these courses. Of course college acceptance rates are important, but knowing if these students will have to take and retake remediation courses before they can begin a path to a degree is also important, probably more important. Linda Silverman
The above article was in the Voice Of The People in today's Daily News.  It was in response to a supplement to the paper announcing the 50 best high schools in New York City.  After years of teaching at Packemin, I know first hand how meaningless graduation rates are. Before I retired I administered a credit recovery program that began with very high requirements and ended up being a joke as the kids just did not do any work.  I was ashamed to have to sign off on it. I have heard of  students graduating with credits earned by having friends and teachers do assignments online for them.  I have heard of special education students who can barely read or do arithmetic getting regents diplomas and have heard of students simultaneously taking 2 courses-signing in for one and attending another, all with the APs approval.
Needless to say, I and most other teachers in the city that care about education were thrilled to see the above in the headline of today's Voice Of The People.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


While teaching my class last week, I told a corny joke which made my students laugh.  I told them I want them to be happy.  At first they didn't understand why, but then I explained:  If people are happy, they do better in life.  By liking the subject, they would spend more time working on it and in turn learn more and do better.  They agreed.

I love teaching and am so grateful that I have the college to continue the career I can no longer have at Packemin.  The AP there didn't appreciate what I did and made my life unhappy.  So glad that is no longer the case anymore.

(And thanks for retirement that gives me the opportunity to see and photograph beautiful animals like the swan above--picture taken at new and improved Oakland Lake -near Springfield and Northern Blvds.)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ineffective Rating

From the Webster Dictionary:

Full Definition of INEFFECTIVE

:  not producing an intended effect :  ineffectual <ineffective lighting>
:  not capable of performing efficiently or as expected :  incapable <an ineffective executive>

The teacher is in school every day.  Even when the weather is horrendous, he gets in his car and makes the dangerous commute.  He spends hours preparing lessons and exams.  His free time is spent tutoring his students.  The kids like him, some love him and for the most part, do well. Of course he is not reaching them all.  No one can unless, of course, the classes are stacked.  He is kind and caring and gives 100% of himself every day.  His AP doesn't like him  After 30+ years she has decided he is an ineffective teacher.  Two ineffectives are pushing him into retirement, something he is not ready for.

His students don't care if his questions are not phrased perfectly.  They understand what he is teaching and respond well in class.  He will be replaced by a newbie, someone hand picked by the AP, straight out of college.  Someone who might be an excellent teacher one day but lacks the experience of this teacher and the skill that comes from years of being in front of the classroom.  This teacher is far from ineffective according to the definition of ineffective.

The teacher was recently observed by an independent evaluator and the lesson went well.  The kids answered appropriately and worked well in groups.  The lesson went exactly as planned.  Will the evaluator be objective when the lesson is written up or is this independent person really not so independent at all?  The teacher felt good at the end but the person observing never bothered to say one word to him, good or bad, so he does not know what will happen.  Was this just another gotcha?  What is the purpose of torturing the teacher?

(Zebra from Bronx Zoo--no relevance to post)

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Lack of Discipline

The parents who do not discipline their child create an individual who is used to making the rules and getting what they want all the time.  The child will often react with temper tantrums if anyone does not do what the child desires.

Young teachers straight out of college have often been trained the same way.  Their administrators have set them up as gods and goddesses letting them make the rules and set the standards.  I know this is not true for all but it did happen in my former department.  It came as no surprise when the young teacher, not getting her way in a new environment had a melt down.  No one every said no to her before.

It is hard to blame the spoilt child although no one likes this individual.  The young teacher has been raised the same way.  I imagine she should not be blamed either.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Teflon Years

Once I hit the magic age of 55 I felt invincible at work.  I was Teflon.  Any letters to file or unsatisfactory ratings would never stick, I was free to teach the way I wanted to teach, and do what I believed was best for my students.

My former AP, once my friend turned against me in my last few years.  He had complaints about everything I did, things I had done for years and things he was always happy about.  He harassed me but I fought back.  There were many battles.  I often came away wounded but always the victor.

I know there are many senior teachers with APs like my former one.  Many have the years and the age to leave but don't want to.  And, they shouldn't have to leave until they are ready.  My advice to them is to remember they can't be hurt.  Even a teacher working on a third ineffective can walk out the door any time before the end of June.

I left teaching because I was tired of teaching full time in the high school and part time in the college and I was tired of the constant battles.  Although I always came out the victor, the wounds were starting to wear me down.  But, I left on my terms.

My advice to anyone in the position I was in is to stand strong and fight back.  Make that administrator more miserable than he or she is trying to make you.  You can leave whenever you want, even a day before ratings come out.  Don't let anyone hurt you!  Do your job, the job you love the way you know it should be done.  You have the ability to decide when the final battle will be.

(Picture from an old building at Fort Tilden, Breezy Point)

Thursday, October 01, 2015


Please is not a magical word that makes a statement less obnoxious than it was intended to be.

Please will not work to get the results wanted.

(check out spelling on sign in Fort Tilden - I was told this spelling is used in all national parks)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Nice Guy

I don't understand why people are so down on Donald Trump.  He was nice to lend his hair to this alpaca at the Long Island Fair in the Bethpage Restoration Village today.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The AP Does It Again

The AP stood in front of the entire department and told them the worst room, the one with no ventilation, was going to be assigned to the teachers he did not like.  Many smiled in relief but there were a few whose stomach dropped to the floor.  They knew he didn't like them.  They were not shocked when assignments were given out and they were assigned to that room.

Every knows this, but, did he have to say it?  Where is the Principal?  Why does he let this guy get away with saying this crap?  Why hasn't the union even objected to a room that violates OSHA regulations?

I'm so lucky to not be part of this system anymore and they are lucky I am not part of their staff.  I would take pictures and send them to every newspaper.  I would have a recording of the AP's speech to send to the union.  I would not sit back and take this crap. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Don't Tell Anyone-Angy Rivera

Don't Tell Anyone--immigrant activist and advice columnist Angy Rivera reveals her experiences of being undocumented and sexually abused.

This remarkable young woman is a Francis Lewis 2009 graduate.

The show is on PBS now and will run after on the web. (

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Please Tell Me This Is Not True

Someone told me that two book rooms at Packemin have been turned into a classroom for 34 students.  The room has no windows.  The only air comes from a fan.


I remember those book rooms.  They were claustrophobic.  I know teachers who used to work in there because it was the only quiet spot, but it was gross.  I can't imagine children being forced to learn in that environment and a teacher being forced to work there.

I know the school is overcrowded, but still.  What happened to OSHA rules about healthy work places?  There is a requirement to provide outside ventilation.  If this was true, the union would surely intervene.  What happened to caring administrators?  The Principal has a huge office with an even larger conference area and the secretaries have a pretty nice space too.  This story has to be false.  No caring administrator would keep a comfortable, extra large work space while forcing children into such an educationally unsound place.  No, two book rooms could not have been combined into an airless classroom for 34 students.

If all this is true, maybe classes will be in here soon.

Friday, September 18, 2015


Anyone who reads this blog knows what I think of chihuahuas.

When I saw this on a friend's Facebook page, I could not resist posting it here.

There are lots of things chihuahuas are ruining.

Equity in Education

I was sitting and listening to parts of DeBlasio's speech on the benefits of Renewal Schools and how well students are doing in them.  He ended the speech by pushing AP classes in all schools.  He wants all kids to have computer science

I've taught AP and I teach in college.  While these initiatives are great, he needs to address the basics.  Students are graduating without basic skills in math, reading and writing.  Studying is non existent.  I'm not just referring to low income schools.  I've seen students from Francis Lewis HS, Cardozo HS, Bayside HS and more, all top level schools who lack basics.  They have gone through 12 years of school doing nothing and expect the same in the future.  DeBlasio sounds good but he still has no idea of what is going on in today's schools.  Nothing changes.

DeBlasio is ending by saying he wants kids to have hope and to believe in themselves.  He needs to start doing this with a work ethic and a solid foundation of math, reading and writing.  He wants to raise the graduation rate from 68,4% to 80% but this will only work if the diploma received is a real diploma, not a diploma like the ones given out today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dilbert Does It Again

I saw this cartoon and thought about a supervisor who had know idea about anything she was supervising.  She picked the brains of the experienced and knowledgeable and then tossed them aside when there was nothing left to gnaw off.

You young ones beware.  She hired you because you are smarter than she is and you make her look good but she will toss you aside too once she has extracted all the good you have.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


This is my 5th year free from returning to work after the summer but those memories are still clear.  I was sad to see my days of lingering in bed and having lots of free time end but I was also excited about the new year, seeing colleagues and former students and meeting new ones.  Oh, don't get me wrong even after 30+ years I still got butterflies in my stomach and didn't sleep much the night before but walking in that door the first day was a high I will never forget.

I am blessed because I still get that feeling the first day of classes in the college and whenever I get a call to cover another class.  I won't say I don't enjoy the money because it is very nice but I wouldn't work if being there didn't make me feel so good.  (Thank you pension for providing me with the means not to work, the pension that cost me blood, sweat and tears.)

I listen to teachers who went back this week who dreaded going back.  They knew no matter what they did the year would not go well.  Supervisors who had been gunning for them last year have already written up this year's review.  Their fate has been predetermined.

Principals and assistant Principals are supposed to care about the students in their charge.  They are supposed to want the best for them but how can this be when they make the people in their immediate care so miserable?  How can a teacher be expected to do a great job when their is someone pointing a smoking gun at their head?

All you incompetent, miserable APs and Principals, you guys know exactly who I am talking about.  You, with little or no experience.  You, who took licensing exams multiple times.  You are getting your kicks now but your time will come.  May you have as many sleepless nights and stomach problems as the ones you are perpetuating on good, caring teachers.

Monday, September 07, 2015

New Principal-Same Crap Administrator

The new Principal came up through the ranks.  He understood what went into making a good teacher and he really wanted to be an effective administrator.  I so wanted to believe him and then he told me about his school.

The first thing the Principal told me was that 87% of his staff was rated either effective or highly effective.  And, although he knew how these ratings were arrived at,, he didn't seem to care.  He talked about the 62% graduation rate at his school and gave me the impression he would do whatever was necessary to raise this statistic.

I felt discouraged after my meeting with this Principal.  He worked his way up in the system but he was still a Leadership Academy graduate.  Stats were all that mattered

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Welcome Back Message From An AP

Welcome back losers teachers.  I hope you all had restful productive summers because there is a lot of work ahead of you now.

First I would like to address all the teachers who don't have tenure.  You NEWBIES better listen carefully.  When I say jump, you ask HOW HIGH FATHER?  I will answer once and you must remember and then jump higher every time.  I have the power to give you an Ineffective rating and take away your license.  I will not hesitate to use this power on anyone who displeases me.  I expect 100% passing in all your classes.  Anything less is not satisfactory.  And please don't tell me you are working hard.  If you do your job correctly you won't have to work hard at all.

Second, I would like to address those of you in your late 20's to mid 30's.  A few years ago you were the sweethearts of the department.  I coddled you, made sure you only had good students in your classes and gave you good programs.  I made older, more experienced teachers observe you, not because you were good, but because it humiliated them. Well, guess what?  You guys are no longer the chosen ones.  Look around you and see those straight out of college.  They are the new, good teachers.  You have moved down on the ladder so watch out.  There is a chance I might be coming for you soon.

Lastly we have a few seasoned teachers around.  Those working so many years that they are beginning to stink.  I know you were once considered to be good.  You always had good results and could handle difficult students but like the litter in my cat box, it is time for you to go.  You think I can't do anything to you but I can.  I've already stacked your classes with the most difficult students in the school and have written up all your observations, all of them totally unsatisfactory.  Your union is useless when it comes to stopping me.  I will hound you day and night, make you dread coming to school .  I will make you so sick you will be forced to retire.  I've done it to others and I will do it to you.  You guys in that second group beware.  Most of you will not make it here.

Now don't try to go against me.  Even the Principal has my back on this issue.

Now that we got all the ugly business out of the way, let's all get busy and have a productive year.  After all, we all want what is best for our students.

(Picture is a real cocktail bar at a street fair in Brussel's Belgium taken this summer-change duck to teacher and you can get this AP's message.)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ineffective Rating

The most ineffective Assistant Principals have no problem rating competent, experienced teachers ineffective.  And, the ineffective administrators are supported by even more ineffective Principals.

So sad to see what education has become.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

What's Wrong With This Principal?

Everyone knows that schools do better with experienced staff.  Even a teacher with only three years under her belt will do better than a newbie straight from college.  And, even experienced teachers transferring in need a bit of time to learn the procedures of a different school.

So now I'm starting to wonder what is wrong with one particular Principal.  The school is in a great neighborhood with easy parking and access to public transportation.  The students are relatively good, no gang violence or any real problems of any kind.  Heck, there is even a great teacher's cafeteria, something very few schools have now a days but teachers are still leaving in groves.

I've heard that 10 teachers (I might be wrong on the exact number) walked out of one department this year, a department with very needy students.  Now I am not around but I am guessing that 10 teachers from one department can only mean there is something wrong with the supervisor.  Does this person know how to be a supervisor?  How does this AP do when it comes to training and helping teachers?  Can the AP deal successfully with problems that arise?  Does the AP treat all teachers fairly and equally?  I've heard stories (count them as stories as I am not giving any proof) of shenanigans with grades and credit recovery and with regents proctors who supply answers during exams.  Can it be the teachers don't want to participate in this cheating scheme?

Now back to the title of this post.  Shouldn't a Principal notice something is wrong when so many teachers walk out the door year after year?  Or, maybe the Principal doesn't care.  Maybe this Principal approves of this behavior.  After all, the school's statistics are still good and the school is still one of the highest rated in the city.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mr. Robinson

I just watched the season finally of a pretty awful show, Mr.Robinson, a bad show that I was somewhat fascinated by.  Mr Robinson is a musician who became a middle school teacher because he needed the money.

The characters on the show are pretty stupid and on the surface do not portray a very positive image of teachers.  But I realized today why I kept watching.  This immature, insane group of teachers and administrators love their students and care more about their success than anything.  In the last episode Mr. Robinson gives up a chance to tour with Earth, Wind and Fire because his kids needed him.

It was nice to see teachers and administrators working together and working over time with the only important thing being the welfare of the children in their charge.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Segregation In Integrated Schools

Yesterday's Daily News had a great opinion piece about how our schools are still segregated and unequal.  And, while this is true, I think we have to take a deeper look into schools that are integrated and see the racial make up of those classes.

From my experience at Packemin, I saw extreme segregation in classes. AP math classes were white, Asian and South East Asian.  There were a smattering of Hispanics but kids whose ethnicity showed only in their names.  In my last year I did a study to see why this happened.  I found many African American students entered the school with as good or better backgrounds than their peers yet they never made it to the advanced class.  On the other hand, if I looked at the slower algebra and geometry classes, I noticed too many dark faces.

My opinion and this is from my personal observations is that African American students did not get the same opportunities as their white and Asian peers.  If they messed up once, they were out of the path that led them to advanced classes where other races got second chances.  One year I met a young Black girl who wanted to take AP Calculus.  The chairperson said her grades weren't good enough but I picked up a transcript of a Chinese student with lower grades who was admitted to the class.  A back door got the girl in and she did well.  Lack of Black faces in my AP classes bothered me from the day I started teaching them in 1995 and nothing I did made a difference.  I don't know if things are any different now, I have been gone for 4 years.  I hope so.

We do need to integrate schools but we also must make sure that once schools are integrated classes are too and we need to make sure all students have the same opportunities regardless of their ethnic background.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Too Bad This Isn't Real

For all you teachers headed back to school, this is something you could really use for professional development and never ending meetings those first few days.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Wedding

She was a student of mine in AP calculus and I wrote all her recommendations and helped her get into the Time 2000 program at Queens College.  I helped her write lessons when she student taught at Packemin and lost touch with her after graduation.  Several years after student teaching I met her at the community college where she was working, first as an adjunct and then as a full time professor.  (The AP at Packemin did not think she was a good fit for that school.  The college loves her.)

Fast forward even a few more years.  The girl is a young woman and getting married.  I was honored to be invited and thrilled to witness the biggest event in her life.  Pictured above is the tea ceremony from her wedding.

No reward is better than the rewards I have gotten from my students and from knowing the positive influence I have had on their lives.  No negative words from any administrator can take that away.