Tuesday, October 31, 2006

You Have Nothing to Fear

I don't understand what teachers are so afraid of. Big deal, the raters are coming. How does this really impact on me, a lowly classroom teacher? If by some miracle they see something they really like, my chairman and principal will get the credit and possibly a performance bonus. I might get a thumbs up in the weekly newsletter, although my principal does seem to forget to recognize anything I do correctly. Now let's suppose that they hate what they see in my classroom. My principal and chairman are also responsible. So they may get written up, and may lose their bonuses, but hey, that's not my problem. I vow that every day I come to work to do the best job I can for my students. I don't think the clothes I wear or the decorations I put on the walls affects their ability to learn.

Today, as I walked down the hall I heard tenured, experienced teachers worried about what the raters will find. Teachers are worried about putting on a show for them, trying to impress them. Teachers are afraid that classes will not be well behaved and they might look bad. Teachers are trembling with fear.

I say this kind of fear has to end. WE ARE GOOD TEACHERS. WE ARE DOING OUR BEST WITH WHAT WE ARE GIVEN. I didn't give birth to boy who cannot sit still. I've done all I can to keep him in his seat, but nothing works. I didn't buy the girl the cell phone that she insists on taking out all period, no matter how many times I ask her to put it away. We have got to stop being afraid and learn to stand up for ourselves. THERE IS NOTHING THEY CAN DO TO US!!! I've already taught the worst classes in the building. I've had late session and early session. I've taught 3 preps. I've taught in trailers and half rooms. I've been threatened with file letters (athough none have ever been written). It is this kind of fear that allows people like Klein an Bloomberg to walk all over us. It is this kind of fear that gets our unions to accept such awful contracts. WE MUST STOP BEING AFRAID. THERE IS NOTHING OUT THERE TO FEAR!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rating the Raters

Questions for the Raters:

1. How many years have you taught High School Mathematics?
2. What subjects in mathematics did you teach?
3. What school did you teach in? Where exactly is that school?
4. What was the perfomance level of your students?
5. How was the performance level of your classes determined?
6. How large were your classes?
7. Did your school provide extra help and provide a suitable spot for students to receive this help?
8. Were copy machines and decent text books always available?
9. Did you like being in the classroom?

Some more important questions:
10. How will these findings help my period 1 students get to school on time?
11. How will you get level 1 and level 2 students to read and do math?
12. How will all this money being spent on ratings make the school system and the education of our children any better?

After all, I think we should know something about the people that are going to rate us. In fact, maybe they should be rated!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dress For Success

Next Wednesday is Dress for Success Day. This is the shirt I will be wearing.

More Suit Wisdom's

All teachers are expected to teach from bell to bell. The bells are not working so synchronize your watch with the school clock.

Make sure you go into the halls a few minutes early. We want to keep kids moving, halls clear.

Before you begin teaching, make sure you pass around a garbage can and get the kids to pick up all paper on the floor.

Again, teach from bell to bell.

If the kids in your period one class are getting to school late, figure out a way to fix the problem.

Principal Suit Contributes

"My major contribution to this school has been placement of large garbage cans in the halls."

Principal Suit
Faculty Conference
October 27, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Some Parents Need Help

I have a severely learning disabled boy in one of my Math C classes. He gets extended time on exams and is allowed to finish his exams in resource room. Even with this extra aid, his highest grade has been a 20. His resource room teacher wants to help him, but he will not allow her too. I arranged for one of my advanced placement calculus kids to sit with him, tutor him and even look over his shoulder while he takes an exam. So far, there has been no improvement, although the boy that tutors him thinks he might be able to get the stuff in the end. I would also like to add that my class has 34 kids in it, some of them, slightly on the difficult side. Anyways, I'm not complaining about the kid. He is a good kid, tries, and I am hopeful that by the time the regents comes around he will able to learn enough to get a 55. The problem is his parents, or more precisely, his father. They came to see me this evening. They were obviously upset about his lack of progress in math. I explained the help he has been given and then told them I was at a loss as to how to help him. At this point, the father said "That is not the answer I want to hear" and got up to leave. I told him to go see my chairman, maybe he could offer advice. The father just kept walking never looking back. I like this kid. I would really like to see him succeed. I've gotten kids like him to succeed in the past. I've never had a parent treat me like this. I'm a big girl, though. I don't like being treated like this, but I can take it. I just hope he is not being verbally abusive to his son at the moment because of the boys deficits in mathematics.

Note from AP to Department

"Every teacher is expected to conduct bell-to-bell lessons, even though the bell is not working."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Death of a Program

Last semester I had some Math A students that were really struggling. They needed help, more help than I could possibly give them. I came up with an incredible idea. I paired one of my advanced placement calculus students with one math A students. The AP student became the private tutor of the math A student. The kids worked together all year, exchanging e-mail addresses and phone numbers and even ended up getting together to work on weekends. This went far beyond my expectations. It was a great program. The weak kids all ended up not only passing, but mastering the subject. The AP kids learned that everyone is not as smart as they are and felt rewarded every time one of their kids passed an exam. As far as I could see, it was a win-win situation for all. This semester I wanted to expand the program to include students that are not in my class, open up the tutoring to anyone who wanted to partake. Alas, the administration feels it is more important for me to sit in the overcrowded, noisy library every day and tutor one or two kids (if that many). This way, they can say that there is a teacher available every period in the library. I had to stop my peer tutoring program because of time limitations. I felt an obligation to my tutors. I wrote them glowing letters of recommendation for colleges and scholarships. I stayed late and gave up lunch time when they needed help, paying them back for the hours they gave up. I asked the administration for a flexible C-6 assignment, so I could keep the program alive. I WAS TOLD NO!!!!!!!! And so, the program is dying.


Our tech guy needed an office. A chunk of the clock room was walled off so he can have a space to work. A new social worker joined the staff. She too, was given an office. One of the special education teachers with a comp time job was displaced from her desk, so a new office space was carved out of an existing room for her. When I asked why a space cannot be created for tutoring, I was told to "Deal with it. This school is just too crowded. No space is available. The noisy library will just have to do." I have come to realize that teachers don't count for anything in this system, but I really wanted to believe that the kids do count. Our principal says he wants more kids to pass, but he will only provide lip service to tutoring. If he took the tutoring program seriously, he would set up a proper place for us to work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Suits Are Coming......

Principal Suit: Attention, attention! Next week we are going to be visited by the Suits from Planet X. They are going to see our classes in action and rate us. I will let you know exactly what they are looking for so you can plan accordingly.

Suitless One: But, Principal Suit, we are good teachers. We already plan what is best for our students.

Principal Suit: Lowly Stupid Suitless One! I don't care if what you are doing is helping your students. I don't care if you are finally getting them to come to class and to pass. I care about you making me look good so I can get another $20,000 performance bonus. DO AS I SAY!!!!!! And make sure you are dressed appropriately. I don't want the Suits from Plant X to see any teachers wearing shorts, jeans, tee-shirts or sweat pants.

Suitless One: Principal Suit, with all due respect, how do I personally gain if our school is given a good rating?

Principal Suit: Do a good job and I might give you a thumbs up in the weekly bulletin. Now, begone and speak no more!


Today I went to the library for my C-6 tutoring assignment, as usual. As usual, the library had more kids in it than is probably allowed by the fire department. The unusual was that there were no chairs. The school was having a blood drive and all the extra chairs were down at the drive. When I complained about no where to sit, one of the librarians told me there was plenty of floor space. Funny, but I've never seen him sitting on the floor to work. When I complained to the APO's secretary, she told me "Improvise, this school is too crowded. Tell the kids to sit on the floor so you can have a chair." This, from a woman, who actually has her own desk and chair. I would never tell a kid, or anyone else for that matter to sit on the floor. I told her I would improvise in the teacher's cafeteria and left. I wrote a long letter to the APO about the horrendous library conditions. I'm looking forward to hearing her lame brain excuse tomorrow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dr. Suit and the Cafeteria Lady

Dr. Suit: My little dog is raising money to send poor cats to a cat camp for the summer. I want to leave the collection can on your counter.

Cafeteria Lady: I'm sorry. I don't think you are allowed to do that. You will have to get permission from my supervisor.

Dr. Suit: Just ask her.

Cafeteria Lady: She is mean. You ask her. You are the one that wants to put it there.

Dr. Suit: You, a lowly cafeteria lady are making me ask? How dare you! And you forgot to bow when I walked in.

Cafteria Lady: Ask her yourself. I will not be bullied by a Suit!

(Dr. Suit asks the supervisor and is told that he can only leave the can on a windowsill. He is unhappy as no one is seeing it and the poor little dog is not raising enough money to send the poor little cat to camp. He defies all and places the can back on the counter)

Dr. Suit: No one is putting money in the can. Cafeteria Lady, I told you to tell your customers to leave their change in the can.

(Cafeteria lady picks up the can and slams it down on the nearby windowsill. Dr. Suit is so angry that the steam coming out of his ears is pressing his suit while he wears it.)

Dr. Suit: What did you do? How dare you do that to my can? I AM DR. SUIT! YOU MUST OBEY ME!!!!

Cafeteria Lady: You are wrong. My boss said it stays on the window and that is where it stays. She wears a suit too. And her SUIT is more powerful than your SUIT.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The New Business of Education

Now that business men are running our school system, teacher training will be reduced to this level more and more. The main difference will be that teachers do not even have a cubicle to sit in. I carry everything I need at work with me, all day long. I even have to carry my jacket and umbrella (on rainy days) because my classes are out in the trailer. The message in the next to last square is the message we are sending to our students when we force them to learn in bathrooms and hallways.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mr. Suit and the Staff Meeting

Mr. Suit holding a seminar on how to get teachers opinions on how to make the school a better place.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Joy In Learning Math?

A new study finds that there is no need for students to find math relevant to succeed in it. I having been teaching math for over 30 years and couldn't agree more highly with the finding that there is no need for math to be relevant to a student's life . There is no need to create such complex word problems, using ethnic names, that the purpose of the problem is lost in translation. Kids have to understand that everything they learn in school is learning for knowledge sake. Most of the things we learn in school have no relevance in our lives. I never enjoyed reading Shakespeare, found nothing important in what he wrote, but my education would have sorely been lacking had I not been exposed to his writings. Besides, how would anyone know what courses of study they should persue if they are not exposed to everything out there?

The new trend in education is to let the kids sit in a "horse shoe". This way, they can supposedly speak to each other easier, communicate better, be happier. I am willing to bet this is not being done in many of the countries whose math grades surpass ours.

While there is no need to relate math to students lives, there should be joy in learning mathematics. Teachers need to present material in an interesting fashion. They need to make the material as fascinating as possible, to make the students want to learn it and to make them believe they can succeed. Too many of our students today suffer from math phobias and fail because they believe they cannot pass. The joy of learning should be the feelings of success when a difficult topic, such as factoring is finally mastered. I have actually seen math phobic kids light up with joy when they finally understand what they have been taught.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Getting Over

A friend was recently working out at a nearby gym. It just so happens that one of the trainers is a former student of hers.

Trainer: Yo, Ms. Good, you are really looking good these days.

Teacher: Thanks. What are you up to since you graduated?

Trainer: I'm working here and going to Yo Yo College Part time. Ms. Good, I would never have graduated HS without your help and now my bro needs your help too.

Teacher: What do you mean? Would you like me to look over his senior thesis? Does he need help doing the research?

Trainer: No, Miss. I want you to hook him up with a paper. If you do that I can make sure you have muscles like these (points to his arms) and look as fine as that hot young mama on the treadmill.

Teacher: When you were in my class, you struggled, but you did the work. (At least I hope you did it by yourself. It was not done very well.)

Trainer: Come on Miss, you do for us and we do for you. You know we can help each other out. Cut my bro some slack!

Will It Ever Get Here?

Here is a teacher waiting for the same performance bonus the administrators in our school got.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Conversation with a Student

Student: Miss, Miss, are you going to pass me?

Teacher: You have a 34 average. Your highest grade was a 38.

Student: But don't you count homework and effort?

Teacher: You are missing 10 homeworks, handed in 5 homeworks that were incomplete and got 40's on both take home quizzes.

Student: But Miss, math is hard. I get nervous on tests. I think you should pass me because I come to class every day.

Teacher: Sorry.

Student: My parents will beat me and send me to AXEAEAB to live with my relatives there. I will have to work in a coal mine and will hardly get enough to eat.

Teacher: At least you won't have to worry about passing math there. Have a good trip.

A Fine Mess

My school is giving PSAT"s tomorrow. It is the first time they will be given on school time and proctored by teachers. My assignment starts at 8 but I am not due in until 8:45. Even though I pointed this out to the administration it has not been changed. Even teachers starting at 8:00 are due to come in the exact time the kids are supposed to be in their seats in their assigned rooms. A fine mess the school will be in. I feel an illness coming on. I feel so bad about having to taking a sick day tomorrow and missing all the excitement.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Good bye Tension, Hello Pension

Now that we are all doing an assigned professional period, I would like to know when we are expected to:
1. call parents
2. send letters to parents
3. speak to guidance about troubled kids
4. write college recommendation letters
5. fill out progress reports for our special education students
6. bring exams to resource room for our special education students
7. comfort or help a child who we find crying in the halls
8. provide tutoring to a child whose lunch or internship does not coincide with the period assigned for tutoring.
9. etc., etc., etc

Our days are so programmed now, there is no time to provide the human touch to education. I've just about had it and am almost ready to pack it in. "Goodbye tension, hello pension" seems more inviting every day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why Principals and Teachers Should Not Carry Weapons

Principal Who Shot Kittens Could Face Felony Charges

INDUS, Minn. (Oct. 15) - A school principal has resigned and could face felony firearm charges after he shot and killed two orphaned kittens on school property last month.

Wade Pilloud, who resigned as principal of the K-12 Indus school, 40 miles west of International Falls, said he shot the kittens to spare them from starving to death after their mother was killed in an animal trap.

Pilloud said the shooting, which occurred on school grounds, endangered no one.

"I have bred cats, and I currently own two myself,'' he wrote Friday in an e-mail to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I am not a cat hater. I did not want the animals to suffer.''

The incident happened Sept. 21, and several students still on the grounds for after-school activities heard the shots.

"There were parents who felt, apparently some rather strongly, that there were concerns about the safety of their children,'' said Joseph Flynn, an attorney for the South Koochiching/Rainy River School District. "The district's position is that safety was not compromised.''

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Great News for City Schools

Great news for every school. They are getting approximately $20,000 each for faculty furniture, copier machines and service contracts. Unfortunately, in my school, the only place to put furniture is in the halls. Every other space is taken up for classroom space. The copy machine in my department's office hasn't worked for over a month. Maybe now it can finally be fixed.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mr Shorts Gets A Letter from Principal Suit

Principal Suit must not be too busy these days. He just sent Mr. Shorts a letter addressing his school attire. It seems that the only thing Principal Suit is really concerned with is appearances. The fact that Mr. Shorts is one of the best teachers in the school never enters into the picture. It doesn't matter that the kids in Mr. Shorts' classes are actually learning or that they enjoy the class. It matters that Mr. Shorts will not conform to the image that Principal Suit has in mind of the way a teacher should dress. One of the new television shows this season has their own Principal Suit. Alec Baldwin plays this clueless guy who comes on board to fix a show that doesn't need fixing. He proceeds to do this by firing the producer (who dresses similarly to Mr. Shorts) and making the head writer don a fancy suit to go to a meeting. Of course, both the writer and the producer end up doing the right thing and save the show at the end, proving that Suits don't always know what they are doing.

Now, contractually, unlike the Alec Baldwin character, Principal Suit has no right to tell teachers how to dress. As long as the clothing is not showing off any unmentionable body parts, it can be worn. Principal Suit knows this. Instead, he attacks other things about Mr. Shorts. His latest letter rebuked him for drinking coffee in one of the offices while speaking to the secretary. Principal Suit claims that Mr. Shorts is disrupting work but everyone knows this is hogwash.

I say, Principal Suit, our school has real problems. We are extremely overcrowded. We have teachers sitting in the halls to tutor. We have classes with standing room only. We have copier machines that haven't worked in months. Don't you have better things to do with your time than to pick on poor Mr. Shorts?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Shocking Math Scores

What a shock? The results of a new set of New York State math exams show about two-thirds of students performing at grade level, with striking disparaties between rich and poor school district. Shocking that the number of students on grade level of in wealthy areas was more than twice the number as in impoverished urban area. The courts have ordered at least $4.7 billion more a year for city schools to help close the gap, but good old Richard Mills insists that money is not enough. Of course, why would the city schools need money? For tutoring? For smaller classes? Mills wants schools to review their programs. I think he is the one that created some of the new standards that teachers are being forced to teach to. He wants better teacher training. I vote for more staff development days being lead by the 20 something teachers, just out of college.

Aside from the issues of money, Mills fails to realize that there are major differences in students living in poor areas as opposed to living in wealthier ones. An affluent parent will easily pluck down $100+ an hour to provide their child with a tutor. There are kids in some parts of Long Island that have tutors in every subject, just as a precaution, in case they need help. No amount of state aid will ever be able to bridge this difference. And, although politically incorrect, I have to talk about differences between people in poor areas vs. affluent ones. Aren't poor neighborhoods often filled with recent immigrants? Can their childern't progress be compared to that of the doctor or lawyer's child? Although I hate to generalize, it true that people move away from the poor areas as their incomes increase. People left behind are struggling. Even if they are just as bright, parents are often working multiple jobs at long hours and are just not around to provide needed help.

If Klein is really serious about NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND he must provide smaller classes for city students. No one can expect him to do anything about socio-economic conditions, but he can at least make it feasible for children to get a good education and to get help in areas where they have deficits.

How the Grinch Stole Health Care

I need a certain medical test. Nothing life threatening. At least, not at the moment. My doctor wants me to take the test because she needs a baseline to go by so she can watch and see if there are any changes in the future. Unfortunately for me, and thousands like me, it is no longer a doctor's decision as to whether a patient needs a test. It is up to the insurance company. The insurance companies are now farming out all requests for tests to a company called CareCore whose only function at the moment is to reject the claim. Or rather, not reject it outright, but to demand more and more information in the hopes that the party involved will either give up and forgo the test or just pay for it without going through insurance. I guess the insurance companies think patients are going through these tests for fun, subjecting themselves to doses of radiation and the indignities of medicine just for the hell of it. I wonder who actually works for CareCore? Do they really have enough medical knowledge to make these decisions? It's sad that our lives are now being controlled by the insurance company.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jeb and George Strike Again

According to an article in Today's Newsday, both Jeb and George agree that the No Child Left Behind Act is not working the way it is written. Do not dispair! They have united to come up with a system that will work to improve our schools--CHANGE THE WAY THE SCHOOL'S ARE RATED!!!!!! Instead of fuzzy ratings like "needs improvement" the schools will now get letter grades ranging from A to F. This is a much better idea than reducing class size or changing curriculums to make work more relevant or even providing worthwhile remediation. The best thing about this plan is that millions of dollars will probably be given to some firm to come up with a rating system instead of wasting the money on our children's education. Let's give a big hand it to the Bush administration on their successful way of handling another problem.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Last week Bush signed a bill extending No Child Left Behind legislation. Even he admits that the law is not as successful as he would like it to be. For one thing, parents are not getting their children's grades in a timely fashion. Often by the time they get these grades, it is too late to change schools. Also, with good schools operating at 250% capacity, there is just no room to take these underachieving students. Even if they do make it into one of these schools, they cannot be properly serviced because of the overcrowding. With class sizes of 34 (many more than that since over sized classes are still prevelant) there is no way for even the best teacher to reach out to help these kids. Bush mentions tutoring, but only 19% of the students that are entitled to the tutoring are actually receiving it. Even if it were to be readily available, after a full day of school, how many kids will actually be able to absorb anymore?

One of the solutions Bush mentions is more testing. Aren't our kids tested enough? We spend so much time testing and preparing for testing that little teaching is being done. Even in a high school, regents preparation in a weak class takes the place of mastering a subject. I am ashamed to admit that I have taught kids how to pass an exam without actually knowing any mathematics. Besides, if its only improved test results that anyone wants, I am sure someone will find a way to either redesign the exam to make it easier to pass or to just change the scoring so a lower grade is needed to pass.

If we really don't want to leave any children behind we have to change the way we are teaching them. Elementary school teachers have to be allowed to go back to teaching the basics of arithmetic and reading. Some things just have to be learned by memory and rote practice. There is no way around this. High school students have to be taught courses more relevant to their interests. Forcing everyone to take college preparation courses and then head on to college is not the answer. The world needs hair dresses, car mechanics, and floor sweepers. We need to teach our students that everyone plays a valuable part of society and there is no shame in any kind of work. What's wrong with teaching kids to pass a civil service exam so they can work for the post office or the sanitation department. We will always need people to work in these fields. If someone has trouble reading, they cannot be expected to become a psychologist, nor can the kid who needs remedial math become an engineer.

I believe that no child should be left behind, but the way we are going about it now is all wrong and we are leaving more children behind now than ever before.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

NYC Failing Special Education Students

Albany is now saying that NYC is failing its special education students. Some schools have a graduation below 35% and above a 20% drop out rate for students with disabilities .

"Low performance in special education is not something that should be expected or accepted," Mills said. "Students with disabilities can perform at high levels." For example, in wealthier districts categorized as "low needs," 72 percent of students with disabilities graduated with a Regents or school diploma, while just 4.5 percent dropped out.

I don't think Mills has a clue as to the actual abilities of some of our special education students. I have a good friend who is an exceptional teacher. One of her classes is regents math. Some of the students in this class have reading and math levels equal to second and third graders. No matter what she does, they cannot master complex topics like factoring and quadratic equations. How can they be expected to graph a parabola when they can barely read the word? Now, lets suppose by some miracle the regents is made easy enough for these kids to pass (it does seem to get that way term after term). Now Mills can claim success! But what will these kids be qualified to do with the regents diploma?

Yes, some students with disabilities do get regents diplomas. We have to be realistic when we say this and look at the kind of disabilites that they have. I had two Advanced Placement Calculus students in this category. One was hearing impaired and the other had a writing disability. Both scored 4 (out of possible 5) on the AP exam. One graduated from Binghamton as a computer science major and is currently finishing an MBA in Boston while the other is a freshman at NYU. Should these disabilities be lumped together with learning disabilities and emotional handicaps? I THINK NOT! Yet, I am willing to bet that is exactly what Mills is doing when he sites these statistics.

I also think it is unfair to compare our large, overcrowded NYC schools to the wealthier suburbs. I have another friend who has an LD son. He is lucky to live in an affluent Long Island suburb. His teacher has much smaller classes and is able to keep in close contact with his mom. He has computers available to use, both in school and at home. Tutoring is easily accessible in his school. There is an online site, "School Island", where kids work on problems at home and submit work to teacher via internet. His family's affluence affords him the luxury of private tutors in math and English. Mill's should get real. Our schools cannot compete with this.

The article ended with a note saying that failure to increase graduation rates to 52% can lead to loss of federal money and more state control. What I would like to know is how less money and more control is going to make these kids do better?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Are We All Really Created the Same?

All people are not created with equal abilities. We are all good in different things. We all can't be doctors or lawyers or car mechanics. The only thing we can hope for is that we find something that we can be good at, enjoy doing that thing and find a way to make a living doing it. Everyone has different abilites and we all peak at different level, depending upon what that activity is. Unfortunately, this view is not shared by the people writing school curriculums now. Somewhere along the way someone decided that everyone should go to college. Kids, regardless of their abilities are being pushed into courses that they have no interest in and have no ability to understand. Because of this, they often act out and cause disturbances in class. Cutting class is the norm. They would rather fail because they don't want to pass than fail because they cannnot master the material.

While I am not happy about these kids, I am more concerned with the ones that come to class every day. They don't disrupt. They do all homework and participate in discussions. They still cannot pass because the work is way above their comprehension. I have been working on polynomial in my M&C class since the beginning of the school year. We've been factoring for over two weeks. I gave an exam today. I only looked at a few papers so far and while many were quite good, some of the answers I saw were quite disturbing. In fact, the answers were so off beat that I wonder if I am really teaching anything at all. Maybe I am speaking Russian and some of the kids are learning in Chinese?

I wish the powers that be would wake up and go back to the old diplomas, like when I went to school--Academic, Commercial and Gerneral. Kids took classes relevant to their interests and no matter what the statistics say (they can be made to say anything) I think most kids did better. My own mother got a general diploma years ago. She could never get a degree with today's standards, or, if she did get one, she would have a meaningless one. She would have had no training to go on and get a job to support herself and her family.

A friend of mine, an administrator in a different school told me that it was racist to track kids as to many minorities end up in the lower end of things. I find that hard to believe. I teach in a middle class Queens high school. The five lowest achievers in my class are Jewish, Irish, Chinese, Italian and Pakistani. I don't see how putting these kids in track classes is racist.

If we really care about children and really believe that no child should be left behind, we must change the curriculum. Teach kids things that are meaningful in their lives. If any of them decide that at a later time, they want to go to college, they can always make up the work they missed and attend.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Does the Suit Make the Teacher or Does the Teacher Make the Suit?

A few years ago my department had two teaching fellows. Both of them wore suits and ties every day. They looked good. They looked successful. They could have been cover boys for GQ. But, there were two major problems with them. Number 1, they could not teach and number 2, they could not control the kids in their classes. Their classrooms were regular three ring circuses. Luckily, even Principal Suit realized that the suit alone does not make the teacher and these two teaching fellows are no longer teaching. Interestingly though, we had a young man in our department who was an excellent teacher. His only problem was he didn't like to wear ties, let alone suits. It didn't matter that he could teach and control his classroom. It didn't matter that the kids liked him. Principal Suit scared him into wearing suitlike clothing every day. Unfortunately, this teacher has been excessed. I hope he is teaching somewhere in an environment where he will not be judged by the clothing he wears.

A Few Good Suits

I am sorry if I have given the impression that I hate all Suits. I really don't. In fact, there are a couple of good Suits in my school. One of them is an excellent teacher who really cares about the kids and the future of education. He wears a suit because he feels it gives him an aura of respect from the students. That is fine with me. He should be wearing the suit because he wants to. He is one of the best and would be respected, no matter what he wears, but if the suit makes him happy, I am all for it. Another good Suit just became the AP of a department. He is a real guy. He works with the teachers, treats them as equal partners. The kids love him. Again, he wears the suit but he doesn't need it either. Just being himself is more than enough to insure his job is well done. One of our paras also likes suits. He wears them on Wednesdays because dressing up helps him get through the week. The difference between these Suits and Dr. Suit and Principal Suit is that these guys are not Stuffed Suits. They just go about their day to day business of education without any airs or pretenses. Suits or no suits they are okay in my book and I am proud to call them colleagues.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I sat in the library today, as my C-6 position demands, ready, willing and able to tutor. No one showed up. Instead I marked some test papers. Some of my students really needed my help, but their lunch period is 7, not 5. I used to help them whenever they needed help. I didn't mind if I worked all three of my non teaching periods some days because there were other days that I didn't tutor at all. Now that I am being forced to be in the library period 5, my tutoring is restricted to that period and that period only. I know that my being in the library looks good on paper for the principal. He has tutoring available every period of the day. Too bad he never really bothered to see when it would be most beneficial to the students.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dr. Suit and the Student-Teacher-Parent Meeting

Dr. Suit: Welcome to our school, Mr. and Mrs. Suitfree. Thank you for coming. I know you are here to discuss your son's special needs. I would like to introduce you to Mrs. Suitless, little Billy's teacher, and Mr. Educational Evaluator Suit.

Mr. Suitfree: We are here today to reevaluate Billy's needs. I would like Billy to have a reader and a writer available for him. He understands everything but has trouble reading the words and taking notes.

Mrs. Suitless: I agree with Mr. Suitfree. Billy's classwork is wonderful, however, he falls apart on tests. I think a reader and a writer would make a world of difference.

Dr Suit: NO! NO! NO! I know you have been his teacher for 3 years, Mrs. Suitless and I know you, Mr. and Mrs. Suitfree have been his parents for many more years than that, but I wear a suit and know best. I spent 20 minutes with Billy and he doesn't need any special testing accomodations. What do you think Mr. Education Evaluator Suit?

Mr. Education Evaluator Suit: (Meekly lifting his head up from his knees). Oh, I agree with you, OLD GREAT AND WISE SUIT. Whatever you say should be the law.

Mrs. Suitless: Well Dr. Suit, I have spent much more time with little Billy than you have and I know him much better than you ever will. He needs the accomodations. I will not sit here and rubber stamp your recommendations. (Mrs. Suitless walks out of the room, slamming the door as she leaves.)

Footnote: After much arguing, Dr. Suit was forced to give in to the wishes of Billy's parents. He did not speak to Mrs. Suitless for 5 years and never asked her to attend a meeting again.

And The Program Changes Keep Coming

I got a new kid in my M&C class today. He was moved from M&A and is taking M&B simultaneously in afternoon school (although this hasn't started yet.) The poor kid has obviously had many problems with math along the way. He is now confronted with solving quadratic equations when he has never even factored an expression or heard of the term factor. When I told him he had to go to tutoring to catch up, I was told he goes 1 - 9 with no lunch and this doesn't count afternoon school. He has no time. Unfortunately, I don't see a way out of this for the poor kid and feel he is doomed to fail yet again.

Teacher Trainer Suit

Teacher Trainer Suit is holding court in the Teacher's Cafeteria. Teacher Trainer is sitting with her little laptop computer, looking all smug and sophisticated and dispensing advice to all who will listen. Teacher Trainer Suit was a teacher of a certain subject where the classes were very small before she retired. Although I am sure she was a master teacher, she was not a master teacher of every subject and her expertise in teaching does not transverse every field. Does this stop Teacher Trainer Suit? I think not. One day Suitless Teacher was sharing something she had written with an English Suitless teacher. Teacher Trainer Suit listened intently and then said "Wow, a suitless teacher that knows how to write. You can be an inspiration to all new teachers, both the teachers with and without suits." Suitless teacher, answered "not only can I write, but I can tie my own shoes and chew my own food." Teacher Trainer Suit realized that she had spoken too quickly and had insulted the Suitless one. It was too late. The damage had been done. Suit and Suitless will never get along.

WannaBe Suits

Give anyone a desk and a phone and right away they start acting like Suits. Take, for example, the secretary that would not give me a piece of scotchtape to hang a room change sign on my door, even though the room change was due to an error from her office. Today, a colleague had a run in with some School Aid Suits. Now, before I begin, I would like to say that I don't believe in a caste system and school aids perform jobs whose importance, although different from a teachers is still very important to the school. Well, my colleague needed a place to work for the period. This colleague was carrying two bags full of paper plus quite a few books. When she sat down at what she thought was an empty desk, WannaBe Suit yelled at her that the desk she was using was needed by Intern WannaBe Suits. When the teacher got up to leave and commented that she was just trying to find a spot to work in, WannaBe yelled, in a quite sarcastic tone "Good luck." WannaBe knew damn well that it was impossible to find a workspot in the building. The poor teacher meandered into the cafeteria where she sat down to work. Luckily, Dr. Suit was not there for the period so she didn't have to deal with his comments also.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Conversation with Dr. Suit

Dr. Suit: Mr. W, you must come to my office period 6 for a conference about little Joey.

Mr. W: I'm sorry Dr. Suit, but with my C-6 assignment that would mean I am going 7 periods without a break. I want to have lunch.

Dr. Suit: Too bad. I will have the principal, Mr. Suit, put a letter in your file if you don't show up. And don't be late. Besides, you are getting paid for being here. That extra $.32 will really make a difference in a teacher's paycheck.

Mr. W: Dr. Suit, I must stop in the bathroom first.

Dr. Suit: I said, DON'T BE LATE. My time is valuable. I will not wait for you! And make sure you bow to me when you enter the room!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

More On Dr. Suit

One day Dr. Suit was sitting with some teachers in the cafe when the school phone rang. It rang and rang and not one teacher got up to answer it. Finally, he got up to answer it himself. When he came back to the table, Dr. Suit began to berate every teacher at the table for not moving. What Dr. Suit failed to realize is that contractually teachers are entitled to a duty-free lunch. It is not their problem if someone needs something urgently at that moment. Furthermore, Dr. Suit failed to realize that lunch time is the only time of the day when most teachers get to sit. Teachers do not have Dr. Suit's luxury of sitting behind a desk all day and of having a secretary screen calls. Furthermore, teacher's do not usually get pesonal phone calls on the school phone--that is what cell phones are for. A call on the school phone can only mean something bad, like a coverage. I guess Dr. Suit is used to having people around him whose only function in life is to serve him. I know he is learning the hard way that this is not the case.