Monday, December 31, 2007

We're Back and They Aren't

The mystery neighbors are still no where in sight.

Their cars are still gone.

Wonder what is going on there?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Something Is Not Right

Something strange is going on with McMansion owners. They have been gone for almost two weeks. All three of their cars are missing. (One is a vehicle used to earn a living.) Yesterday and today a guy was standing outside the house for a few hours waiting for them. He looked like a process server, but I didn't speak to him, so I am not sure.

I suspect they are afraid of something and in hiding. While they were building they did lots of illegal things that caused us to threaten to call the police if they did not stop. They were terrified of the police. This surprised me since the police have no jurisdiction over building violations.

I'm not getting involved. I'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Seven Wierd and Wacky Things About Me

My Kilwin's bucket--from one of the best ice cream parlors ever. Their home made waffle cones are worth the trip to Delray Beach, Florida.
My son's x-rays. How many mothers have their son's x-rayed mouth displayed on a light board at home?
One of the ugliest gifts I have ever received.
One of the prettiest gifts I ever received and a flower vase frommy husband (he knows I love anything with a face.)
Some of my favorite beer bottles.
My favorite clock.(too bad I can never tell what time it is from this one.)
The door to the shrine--equipped with more of my junk including some of my truck pictures and mementos from trips abroad.
My mom's old typewriter. I used to love this as a kid and still love looking at it.
Deputy dog--a splurge for myself!
My African Man--it was love at first sight.

Everything about me is a little strange but I will try to stick to seven. I've been tagged by a few people and their blogs are on the side if you want to visit them.

1. I love Jamaica and Jamaicans. Although I have been to quite a few of the islands in the Carribean Jamaica keeps calling me back. I love the beaches, the weather but most of all I love the people. They are smart and warm and loving. A Jamaican will look you in the face, insult you and you will thank them. If there really is life after death, I want to come back as a Jamaican. NO PROBLEM MON!

2. I love big trucks. If I were to chose a second career it would be to drive eighteen wheelers. I love truck stops and I take pictures of my big rigs where ever we go.

3. I will never be able to drive a big rig. I don't like reverse and I don't like driving in tight spaces. In one of those, every spot is a tight spot.

4. I am cheating on my husband with my two daily minyon boyfriends. True, one is 75and the other is 95, but I do love their company and I love it when the 95 year old gets jealous every time I talk to another man. I even like the fact that he is jealous of my husband. When I was young and available I never had men fighting over me.

5. I'm a terrible grudge holder. If you do something to me, or someone I like, I never forget and I never forgive. This is probably my worst personality trait. I wish I could change it, but I can't. I still am angry at Suit for telling me, a few years ago, to transfer to a different school.

6. When my daughter moved out, we turned her room into a den. Actually, we have made it a shrine to her. The room is full of her pictures. Of course, I've added lots of other things. All the pictures above are from this room. I keep collecting and adding to the walls 9and ceilings.) The two concessions to my son in this room are his dental x-rays (before he had the surgery that let him open his mouth all the way) and his college diploma. When he was young, we never thought he would get out of third grade so we need to keep it where we can see it daily.

7. I am afraid to retire. I've been teaching for so long that I am afraid I will lose my identity if I give it up. I love the captive audience that is afraid not to laugh at my really bad jokes. I will miss the satisfaction I get when I get kids to finally succeed.

I know I am supposed to tag seven others. Most of the bloggers I would like to tag have already been tagged. Hopefully these have not been tagged. You can find their blogs on the side bar.

Justice Not Just Us
Enlarging the Mirage
Unaccountable Talk
Untamed Teacher
Its A Hard Knock Teacher's Life

Nothing Like a New Couch to Make You Feel Good

This is the old chair and couch from Principal Suit's office.
Here is another chair. It was nice of the school to put it next to the phone so we can comfortable make the phone calls we need to make.
Here is the cafeteria where the chairs are located. They are located in a nice quiet and private spot so if someone feels ill and needs to lie down and rest, privacy is assured.
Suit got a whole new office of some really nice leather furniture. This is not a picture of his office, but the furniture in this room is just as nice as his new stuff and his office is just as large. I bet Bloomberg is happy to see a good use for school money. (I assume the money for this furniture came out of some school budget but I don't know that for sure.)

Suit donated his old furniture to the teachers cafeteria. Believe it or not, this is the only comfortable furniture in the entire building available to teachers. Our school has no faculty lounge, unless you count the little room connected to the bathrooms(separate for men and women.) These rooms have the same chairs one would find in a classroom and one round table. Everything that goes on in the stalls is both smelt and heard in this room. But, teachers really don't need any comfort since we have no free time during the day to enjoy it.

My trailer still has no loudspeaker or fire bells. The paint on the walls is still mosaic style. Kids are still sitting on the floor when they have internship periods. Teachers are still tutoring in the halls, but he has a new office suite. I'm sure Suit and the DOE would have a great way to defend this.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Class Size

No matter what the Mayor says, small classes are the answer.

Last year 12 special education students were put in an inclusion class with 20 regular education students and a push in teacher. The kids were lost. The push in teacher worked non stop, giving up all her lunches and preps and got most of them to pass Math A and move on to Math B.

This year the push in teacher said she would be a push in no longer. She had the school create a Math B class exclusively for her special education students plus a few resource room kids. She goes as slow as she needs and gives her students exactly what they need now that she is in charge and not dealing with the Ms. Wannabe Suit that was the main teacher in the room last year. The kids, while all not passing, are doing much better.
A resource room kid was in my Math B class, a class with a register of 34. Although Boy was motivated, and working hard, he just could not get the hang of a proof. Push in and I worked together and got Boy transferred to her class. Boy just came to visit me to show me his latest test where he scored a 93. Boy is succeeding and feels good about himself.

So, the real question now is why is Boy doing so much better? Is Push in a better teacher than I am? She might be but she does not have my experience in either teaching or in math. Does she care more? I think we both care about the same (which is lots). Or, is it because her class has 15 kids in it as opposed to mine of 34? My guess is that class size is the answer.

Pissed off Mom goes on and on about class size and about how she had to pull her son out of a public school so he could get an education in small classes and how he could succeed now that class size was limited. Bloomberg and Klein say that a good teacher is more important than class size. Too bad he never met Boy or Pissed Off Mom's son.

Suit's Latest Broadcast

Attention all you lazy, incompetent teachers.

You all take off too often.

You should follow Ms. T's model. She had a baby last night after working a full day. She waited until her classes for the day were over so no one would have to cover for her. She came to work even though she was experiencing contractions all day. You lazy incompetents. You are always taking days off. It is disgraceful. Why can't you be more like her?

Of course, if she really wanted to do the right thing she would have crossed her legs and waited until Friday afternoon to have this baby. Now I will be forced to pay someone to cover her classes. Still, what she did is better than anything any of you have ever done. And, this my friends is the reason I want all of you old time teachers to retire.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

E-mail From A Former Student (who got a 1 on AP exam)

Dear Mrs POd,

I am pleased to announce that I have been doing GREAT at Baruch College's Pre Cal Course. Evidently, a lot of the stuff you taught us ended up appearing in the PreCal curriculum. I took my final this morning and my teacher notified me and told me that I received a perfect score and that I will be receiving an A for the class.. =D..

hope this made your day. or.. your night=)


PS.. I'll see you soon!


Recently I have become friendly with an ATR in my building. I guess my hostile, anti-social vibes attract other people feeling the same way. We tend to have free periods together and sit and bitch together. It is very enlightening.

I'm glad I got to know this woman. Without her, I would have no first hand knowledge of the plight of an ATR. This woman is in her position because her school was closed. HER SCHOOL WAS CLOSED! She did nothing wrong. SHE DID NOTHING WRONG This woman is a warm caring person. She is bright. She wants to teach. She wants to help kids. She is a good teacher.

When this ATR first showed up in our building the AP wanted to put her in a classroom. Principal Suit said NO. When a vacancy in her license appeared, this woman wanted it. Principal Suit brought in an inexperienced person to fill the position. He would not even allow her to teach a model lesson to audition for the job. This person would love to work with a regular class or with small groups of students to give them extra help in a subject that she knows well. Suit still says NO. And, so she goes from room to room, from class to class filling in for absent teachers. I am sure they are trying to get her to leave. She won't. She's smart. If they want to pay her to do nothing, she will have to come to terms with that to keep the checks coming. She doesn't think they can do anything about her or to her. I hope she is right.

I worry about this ATR and others in her position. I am willing to bet that Bloomberg and Klein are busy trying to figure out how they can get these people off the payroll. I know they can't get them on teaching, especially if the subject they are expected to teach is not in their license area. They will get them on classroom management. This ATR has been covering classes where there is no work for the kids to do. It is hard to keep kids behaved when there is nothing for them to do. Administrators are watching and criticizing. I don't think the union will protect these teachers.

The school system is spending a fortune on F status people yet, there are people in the building that are not being allowed to work. Some things just make no sense.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Love Lucy

My poor sick colleague missed an exciting faculty conference on Monday. I know he is considering coming back to work early, so I thought I should fill him in on all he missed.

The conference began with a short scene from an old I Love Lucy show. Lucy and Ethel were working on the assembly line of a candy factory. Their job was to wrap candy as it came by them. One missed candy and they would be fired. At first the candy came slow. They were able to do the job successfully. The candy started coming faster and faster and they could not keep up. They started eating the candy and storing it in all sorts of weird places to keep their jobs.

Principal Suit asked us why we were seeing this. My good friend R raised his hand to answer. Since R never speaks at any of these things Suit recognized him immediately. R said, with a straight face, "because the kids are selling candy." Suit didn't know what to say to this, didn't recognize the sarcasm, and brushed over this response and called on someone else. Suit finally said the point of all of this was to learn how to prioritize and how to manage all the extra work we are now expected to do.

The sad part of all this is that our working conditions are as ridiculous as the ones portrayed on an old situation comedy, only our working conditions are not comedic, they are sad. They are true. Our problems can't be solved by shoving a piece of candy under our hats or in our mouths. Our products are human beings that require real care, not cover ups. He wanted us to do all that was being sent to us to do, to do anything necessary to get the job done. He wanted us to come up with new ideas to get things done and to share these ideas with others. Me, I just want to get the hell out.

We also discussed the newest cohort that is going to get special watching--African American males in ninth and tenth grade, in the lowest one-third of the city. Finally he is acknowledging what many of us have been saying for years. In a predominately white/Asian middle class school, these kids get lost, they fall through the cracks. But, now that he is being judged by the success of this group, he wants to help them. He still won't give them small classes but he did set up an Inquiry team to "watch them", kind of like what we did with I Love Lucy.

The last part of the meeting, probably the most important part involved the chancellor's regulation on reporting child abuse. It is now the teacher's responsibility to report it. Although teachers are promised confidentiality, we are not anonymous and many of us fear reactions from crazy parents. From what we heard, nothing will be done to protect us. In the past, guidance had been permitted to make these reports.

When the bell finally rang, we all ran out of the auditorium as quick as we could. Nothing like having to stay late during the last week before vacation. And, he wonders why no one wants to go to the holiday party.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Community College

Tonight is my last college class until next semester. As much as I love this class am glad that it is over. I'm tired. The thought of being able to stay home in the evenings for the next 6 weeks is wonderful. Of course I have to get the final exams marked and grades done but that won't be too bad. The class only has 20 students.

My favorite thing about the college is the respect given to teachers (even adjuncts) by other teacher, secretaries, administrators and students. Our work is appreciated. We are helped. We are never looked down upon. We are treated like professionals and it is universally accepted that we know what we are doing. Every observation is filled with praise. No one feels the need to put us down to make themselves sound better. The evening supervisor just walked by and saw me on the computer while my class is taking the final. He didn't reprimand me or even comment. He knows that the class is being watched while I blog away. This would never be acceptable on the high school level.

One of the things I really dislike about the community college is the lack of continuity with the students. I teach a course for people that don't like math. It is a class for liberal arts majors and it is usually full of people ready to graduate, as most leave math for their last term. Once in a while a student returns for a recommendation or we run into one another in the supermarket. This is rare. I do have the son of a former student at the high school I teach in so I know how well she is doing.

One of the things that bothers me about the class I have this semester is the number of problems my students have. My class of twenty has three students with sick mothers (one car accident, one nursing home and one with some serious illness that I don't know much about.) I also have two students who have had surgery-one had to drop out and one returned after 2 weeks. A third student told me that she is going in for surgery in January. She forced herself to wait until the semester was over so she could finish up and graduate. A nineteen year old boy told me that he came home from work and found his apartment cleaned out. He suspects his girl friend. Why is a nineteen year old not living at home with mom and dad? (I did not ask.) It seems to me that 35% of a class should not be having such problems. The funny thing is that I believe all these problems are real. No one asked for any time extensions or made excuses. They just opened up and told me situations at home. I will never know how any of these things turn out for people that I have come to care about.

Next semester I am teaching a pre-calculus course. Hopefully the students will have stronger background and actually appreciate some of the beauty math has to offer. I look forward to this new class and to teaching a subject I have not taught for years.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Dad

My dad is a bright, successful man. However, my dad was never a good student. In fact, my dad hated school. He attended a vocational school for a while and then left to attend a neighborhood school. Academics was never his specialty. He had the ability but not the interest. In spite of this, he graduated high school, worked, got drafted, served in the army, came home, got married, attended and dropped out of college. Even older, education held no interest for him.

After the army, my dad got a job working for the Veteran's Association. He was not an accountant, but he ran the accounting department. He had many people working directly for him and was very successful. When he needed extra money to buy a car he took a part time job in Macy's. He sold children's shoes there for over 30 years and when he retired, he was earning $20 an hour plus commissions. For an uneducated guy, he did great. He supported a wife and two children and had built up a comfortable retirement fund.

So what brings this story up? NCLB!!!!! This law, along with all the testing would have been the ruination of my dad. He would not have put up with it and probably would never have graduated high school. By allowing him to go to a school where he could develop his own interests, he was able to succeed. Might he have done better had he been forced to learn some of these academic subjects? Maybe. Would he have been happy? Probably not. My guess is that he would have either dropped out or learned enough academics to do minimally well at all the jobs he has held.

My dad was a child of the 30's. Are the children of today all that different? Would we really be hurting them that much if instead of testing and teaching over their heads we taught them what they needed to succeed in life? Would it really hurt to say that it is okay if you can't solve an equation and that it is okay to go in for a career that does not require a college education?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Concave UP, OY!!!!!

We just finished graphing in my calculus class and spent Thursday reviewing for an exam. One of the kids was questioning concavity. I did my usual, explaining that concave up was like a happy face, you feel happy when you are up and concave down was the frown when you were sad. One kid said she remembered concave up because it began with a U like "up". We all agreed that was great. Another kid, a sweet, innocent (or so I thought) yelled out "concave up is like two legs in the air." Needless to say, we all started laughing. I don't know if I will ever be able to teach concavity again with a straight face.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Get Real--It Might Actually Acomplish Something

If you are not passing more than 65% of your students in a class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities. You are setting your students up for failure, which in turn limits your success as a professional.

I've done quite a bit of thinking since I read this quote in Thursday's Daily News, made by the Principal of Central Park East High School. Although I have never been, nor ever will be a fan of administrators, this comment really hit home and I made me see the situation from the principal's point of view.

Quite a few of my Math B students are not performing on level. I have tried tailoring the curriculum to their abilities, but for some, it is just not possible. The work is just too hard for them. If their math and reading levels equals that of a fifth grader (or even lower), the work they should be learning should be that of a fifth or sixth grader. They should not be expected to learn algebra and geometry. They should not be expected to read Shakespeare. And they certainly should have no expectations of being able to pass chemistry. In spite of all this, we are expected to teach these subjects to all our students. It doesn't really matter what they learn or if they learn as long as they are passing. Schools show "improvement". Report card grades go up. Principals and APs get to keep their jobs and get performance bonuses. My own AP is being forced to lower his standards this term (more about this another time). He is a new father and needs his job. Principal Suit, who I really dislike, also wants to hold onto his job. If these guys don't show results, they are worried that they will be out the door. What they are doing is not ethical. Perhaps they should rebel and do the right thing. I suppose they just want to hold on to their jobs.

Before anyone jumps on me for writing this, I want to say that these kids are not capable of learning this stuff now. They might be able to master these subjects some time in the future. They are just not ready to do so now. If a fifth grader had the ability to learn these subjects, these subjects would have been part of the fifth grade curriculum, not the high school curriculum. The principals today are given the impossible job of getting all children to succeed even though these children don't have the tools and skills needed to succeed. Maybe if the principals were just allowed to do their jobs without this pressure, they could run effective schools and get the kids to succeed. Raising a fifth grade level up to an eighth grade one is a monumental achievement. This is what should be encouraged in the schools.

It is time to start having realistic expectations for schools and maybe then principals can stop saying such dumb things and stop putting them in print.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Sweet Young Thing and Thirty Year Veteran have both been absent quite a few days lately. Thirty Plus' two year old son was hospitalized last week and had emergency surgery. She is a single parent. Sweet Young Thing lives at home with her parents. Neither one of these teachers had coverage material for their classes on the days they were out.

AP to Sweet Young Thing:

His Ms. Sweet. Welcome back. I hope you are feeling better. We all missed you. Don't worry about substitute work. Mr. Z will run stuff off for you.

AP about Thirty Year Veteran (she has not returned to work yet.) Rant was made in the office--full of kids and teachers.

I can't believe Thirty is still out. She takes off too much. She did not leave any work for her classes. I am going to put a letter in her file. I will not put up with this behavior from teachers in my department.

By the way, Thirty has quite a few sick days in her bank even though she had hip replacement surgery and was out eight weeks last year. She almost never takes a day off. She even arranged to give birth while on sabbatical.

Mr. AP is making his feelings about us veterans known. He is also making the veteran teachers resent the sweet young ones, which is sad. Most of them, including this one, are good, caring teachers. They don't want this special treatment. Overall they want to be treated like everyone else.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

White Flag

Some people that read this blog and read comments I write on other blogs label me as a burnt out, prejudiced teacher who has given up on children because I have written that there are kids that cannot learn. I have written that there are high school students with third grade reading and math levels that cannot compete and might never be able to.

I'm willing to admit I might be wrong about some of them. But, if these kids continue in a NYC school, they will never succeed. There is no way to help them, no matter what anyone says. It is impossible to differentiate learning when there are 34 kids in a class, many with attention deficits and learning disabilities. It is impossible to help them when they are required to pass algebra when they can barely add. I'll never forget the high school senior I taught years ago who could not count past 100 or the girl who asked her mother how much a nickel was worth when we were doing coin problems.

I know I am supposed to care. And, I do care, more than most. In a system like the one I work in, caring is not enough. In fact, caring does almost nothing. I've sat in on IEP conferences only to have my thoughts over ridden by a pompous psychologist who thought he knew everything. I've watched kids get programmed for special education and have seen how little those programs do to help the kids also. The special education classes are too big. Supposedly the curriculum is being taught differently, but it is the same curriculum nevertheless. Many of the special education teachers do not even know the material they are expected to teach as they have not been trained in the subject matter.

I have tried to institute tutoring programs where I team up an honor student with a struggling student. It has worked but the administration has done nothing to help. I requested a C-6 assignment that would allow me to run a program like this. I was turned down. The administration would rather have my name down as a library tutor. According to them, it is much better for me to give one kid one answer a period than to arrange for 10 or more kids to have a private tutor.

No one cares about kids. The administrators just care about collecting performance bonuses. They want to pass them along. It doesn't matter whether or not the kids know anything. The mayor and chancellor just want to be the big cheese and run everything although they know nothing about education. Then there are the teachers that don't care either. I tried to convince my AP that we needed honor classes in the new algebra class and in Math B 31. The really smart kids are being left behind in those classes. He said no. Some of my colleagues are opposed also. They don't want to be left with a class without these smart kids. They don't mind sacrificing the bright as long as their classes are still good. Even some of the blog commenters don't care. Sure they write like they do. They say every kid can be educated. I'd like to know what they are doing to promote education for all? Are they protesting for smaller class sizes? Are they trying to institute better remedial and tutoring programs? I bet they are just criticizing teachers and ranting that they teachers don't care.

I have been told by readers and commenters that instead of being pissed, I should try to change the system. I've tried. I've tried for over 30 years. I'm admitting defeat. The obstacles in my way are just too much for me to beat. I feel bad for the kids in my classes that cannot succeed but unless the system changes there is no hope for them.

Just like we can't all be beauty queens or great athletes or rock stars, we can't all be brilliant students. Even if the system changes, there will always be people out there that can't succeed. It is time to realize that and help them achieve in their own ways.

Good Old Days

Many years ago people realized that children were graduating from NYS schools with a very limited education. The RCTs were introduced in the 70's. Kids had to pass these tests if they could not pass a regents to graduate. These tests measured minimum competency.

The first year they were given I remember being recruited to help mark the writing section. I, along with a bunch of other math teachers complained that English was not our field. We were told to mark , so we did. We did not feel comfortable passing papers where the spelling and grammatical mistakes occurred so often that the ideas in the composition or the letters could not be understood. All our failing grades were overridden by the English chairman. The only good that came out of this is that we were never asked to mark these papers again.

The math exam was a little harder to get passing grades on. The math was either right or wrong. Since the entire test was short answer or multiple choice, there were no gray areas. Even though we had lots failures, people complained this test was too easy also.

To keep improving standards, RCTs were introduced in social studies and science. Again, the state decided that these exams were not good enough. Minimum competency was not competent enough.

Today everyone must pass a certain number of regents exams to graduate. First, the passing grade was 55, but scheduled to change to 65. Since too many kids were still failing, the 65 grade for passing was postponed. Kids can still get their diplomas with 55. Even 55 was too high a grade for some. The Board of Regents could not be wrong about this requirement so the standard needed to pass has been lowered and lowered and lowered. Now, almost everyone passes. Too bad passing doesn't mean anything.

To summarize--state exams were instituted to raise standards. The state exams did not measure a high enough level so they were done away with and everyone was required to pass Regents exams. The regents exams were too hard so the bar to pass the exam was lowered. Kids are now getting regents diplomas and know less than their counterparts with RCT diplomas. It is great to know that NO CHILD IS BEING LEFT BEHIND.

Monday, December 10, 2007


It seems that Principal Suit has decided that he is going to start putting letters in the files of teachers that have too many failing students. Never mind that these kids know little or nothing, do nothing in class, or cut, the teacher is responsible. There are classes that are made up primarily of these kids. One social studies teacher told me her class was made of up kids who scored 0 and 1 on eighth grade assessments. Now is she going to get a letter in her file because so many are failing?

My AP is scared. Last week he had standards. We were not supposed to pass anyone who could not do the work. This week the standards are gone. Next semester, all the repeaters will take M&C instead of the new algebra class they are currently failing. The theory is that they can be taught to pass the regents. Once they pass the regents, Suit will give them credit for four terms of math and move them ahead. More will graduate and Suit will get his bonus.

I feel terrible for the younger teachers that have to survive in this system. One minute they have to fail the kids, the next minute they have to pass the kids and no one in power cares whether they learn anything. The young teachers, the ones who entered the profession to make a difference will never be able to make this difference. They are just pawns of the administration and have no control over any of their moves.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Failing Schools

Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein are busy closing schools that have gotten failing grades and are not showing improvement. They are busy blaming the schools, the teachers and the principals at these institutions. They believe that sending these children to different schools will make a difference. It might make some difference, but it will not solve the problem.

I am a high school teacher in NYC. The school I teach in got a B on the report card and is considered well developed by the Quality Review team. We still have many students that scored 1’s on their eighth grade tests. A grade of 1 in reading means that the student cannot read and a grade of 1 in math means that the kids have no basic skills. These 1's are being required to take subjects that require reading skills on a high school level. The history courses they take require them to be able to read. Kids are learning about composition functions in math and ask things like "what do I do with the g?" They have no math skills. Some of these kids are good students and manage to reproduce what they are taught. Unfortunately, they have no understanding of what they are reproducing. Most cannot even do that.

So now, these failing schools, chocked full of these 1's (and lower) students are being closed. My school does not have as many of these kids or I am guessing we would be on the closing list too. The kids will be dispersed to other schools in the area. Classes will still be too large. Kids will still be unable to get any real help. The kids will still be failing only now they will be failing in a new location.

Way to go Klein and Bloomberg. Rearrange the furniture in the living room but it will still be the same old furniture. Put new slip covers on the couch and it might look better, but the cushions will still sag. The kids will still be ones, no matter where you put them.


How can I teach kids to appreciate literature and to want to write creatively when they cannot read or write a simple sentence?

How can I teach kids to solve algebra and geometry problems when they cannot understand simple arithmetic?

How can I be expected to do what eight years of education before me could not do? I am no better at teaching than the teachers that came before me. No one will ever convince me that these kids never had a good teacher. Not every teacher that came before me was bad.

I know it is politically incorrect to write what I am about to write.
I don't know how it can be determined who is capable and who is not. I just know that this disparity exists. While we are all born equal, we are not all born with equal abilities.
While I would agree that an elementary school student has not had sufficient time to reach their ceilings, many (of course not all) high school students have. It is time to face educational realistically. Giving a realistic education should be part of the NCLB law.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Trailer Conditions

NYC Ed is always complaining about trailer conditions. How many classrooms come with their own swimming pool like the one outside my trailer pictured above.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Report Cards

I hate making up grades, not because I don't want to do the work but because I hate to make decisions that have major effects on other people's lives. I spend a lot of time looking over exam grades, homework, attendance, etc and come to what I hope is a fair and reasonable grade. My students usually don't complain too much.

Yesterday I made the error of telling some of my kids their grades in advance. Of course the complaints started. One kid, with a 67 average got a 55 because he was missing 15 homeworks. "Miss, you didn't collect mine." I asked him, how did I missed his and got every other homework. He couldn't answer and walked away angry. He's not really a bad kid. Today he came in, "forgave" me for failing him but failed to hand in homework again. He told me that it was okay that he didn't pass. I said, "Joey, you are good! You know that I won't change the grade, you know that you deserved to fail, so you are justifying your grade in your own mind. Just do what is right and your grades will go up." He smiled and walked out. Hopefully he will improve. I had this kid last year and went through the same scenario then. He's bright, he just has to learn that he cannot get over on me.

My real problem with grading is the administration. They are not so easy to deal with. My AP complains if we pass too many and the principal complains if we pass too few. The principal thinks that if a kid gets a 55 the second marking period, he is going to pass the third one and programs the kid to move ahead. The only way we can guarantee that this won't happen is to give out grades of 40 and 45, something I hate to do. I don't want to pass someone that does not deserve to pass, but I don't want to destroy a kid's average either. It is much harder to recover from a 40 or a 45 than a 55. I would like to be able to just put down an F for kids that fail. Too bad the administration won't let us do that. I know there are teachers out there that love to give the "true average". This accomplishes nothing. I would rather put down a comment or make a phone call to let the parents know the true story.

Too bad I didn't pay attention as to when report cards will be issued. That would have been a good day to be out sick.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I'm not rich, but money has never been an issue in my life. I'm lucky, material things never mattered that much and thankfully, I've always been able to get what I needed and wanted.

I grew up in a working class family. We had an apartment in a city project in the Bronx. My dad worked two jobs so my mom could stay home and supervise their children. When the kids got old enough to be on their own a little, my mom started working part time.

We didn't have lots, but we had enough. My mom was an expert at finding bargains. She haunted the sales tables at Alexander's (on Fordham Rd and on Third Ave) and we always had new clothes that looked nice. We had toys. We went out on weekends. My parents knew all the tricks to entertain their kids without breaking the bank. We went to all the museums (free in those days). We went to the zoo and botanical gardens (also free). For real treats, we rode the Staten Island ferry ( only a nickel each way). We took vacations (not big ones). We went out to dinner. We were never deprived of anything.

I grew up with great values, which I thank my parents for. When I got married, I moved to an inexpensive apartment to save money to buy a house. I put no money into fixing up the apartment, since it was going to be temporary. I drove my car until it didn't drive anymore. I finished my master's degree and my plus thirty within three years of graduation and the start of my teaching career to maximize my salary. No one was giving me any money. I knew I had to work for what I wanted.

My husband and I bought a small house in Queens. It's a nice, old house in a great neighborhood but it is not fancy. We bought a house we could afford to pay for on his salary alone, so when the time came to have children, I could stay home with them if I so chose to (I stayed home for four years.)

We always talked about upgrading to a bigger house in a fancier neighborhood, but never did. I'm glad. My husband had a rough job and believe it or not, he was treated worse than many teachers are treated. At 53 years old, I told him to retire. Enough was enough. I could support us until his pension would kick in at age 55. Our income was more than cut in half with this move but, it was okay. We lived well within our means and have managed to save enough to keep living the same way we had always lived. We even bought him a new car as a retirement gift. We took a bunch of vacations (Italy, Eastern Europe, Jamaica, Alaska) and plan to keep on doing this as long as we are both healthy.

I never needed to buy the best. I never needed to buy the most. My vacations don't have to be at five star resorts. My cars don't have to be brand new. I've worked hard, but I've always lived well within my means. My parents taught me well. I think I have done the same with my children. My daughter bought her own house before she was 26 years old. We offered to help but she didn't need it. My son has more than enough money to buy one too, but he just has to decide where he wants to live.

I know things are different now than they were 30 years ago. Money doesn't go as far. But I don't think that people were as materialistic as they are now. I don't remember such emphasis on designer clothing. And, no cell phones sure meant no money on expensive I-phones. I think my parents were grounded enough to help me avoid these money pit items. I'm happy. I'm not rich in money but all my needs are being more than taken care of.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Calculator Dilemma

Technology is important. In fact, it is vital to the twenty first century. In spite of this, every day I grow more and more opposed to calculator use in the classroom.

My MB31 class spent the day proving that a quadrilateral is a trapezoid by showing, with coordinate geometry, that two sides were parallel and two sides were not parallel. The concept of the trapezoid did not give them any trouble, nor did the slope formula. We hit a wall when we got 4/8 for one slope and 8/16 for the other and these kids (not all of them, thankfully)did not recognize that the fractions were the same.

My MB31 kids all passed the Math A regents, most passed it the first time around. The majority of them are juniors. They are nice kids. They are kids that, for the most part do what they are told. Their basic skills are so lacking that I fear for their future success in the next two terms of Math B. How are these kids going to work with imaginary numbers when they can't even comprehend real ones? How will they simplify expressions involving trigonometric identities and fractions when they have no clue as to how to simplify numeric ones or even have no clue as to what a fraction means? More important, what am I teaching them when I get them to reproduce what I show them and they have no real understanding of what they have been taught? How will they go on to college and succeed when their foundations are so weak? I know there are people out there that do not agree with me on calculators. These people are not dealing with the kids of today and would find it incomprehensible that their rudimentary knowledge is so weak. A building will not stand unless the foundation is strong. Calculators are useless without this foundation.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I've been reading a lot of negative stuff about some of the newbie teachers and decided to post about one newbie in my school, Joyce.

Joyce, it turns out, went to elementary school with my son. I found this out quite by accident when she was relating the tale of an accident she had on the way to school. We chatted about the location, her age, her school years and determined that they were friends in another life. That, is not what makes Joyce special. But, if not for this connection, I might not have gotten to know her to find out how special she is.

First, I want to mention that Joyce is Asian, the same ethnic background as my AP, the same man that is making every senior teacher's life miserable. Joyce is nothing like him. He might have hired her because of her ethnicity, but she deserved to be hired and is doing a great job. Joyce really cares about the kids she is teaching. She comes in early and discusses her lessons with other teachers. She agonizes when they don't do well and never hesitates when it comes to putting in extra time to help them. Joyce agonizes over the fact that she considers herself a mediocre teacher, but that mediocrity is all that the system wants. This helps her to not worry about job security but encourages her to worry about the future of education.

Joyce and I share a C-6 assignment. Since math tutoring is a brutal assignment, the administration agreed that two teachers would be assigned to the same period, and those two teachers could do a 3/2 split any way they wanted. I took Monday and Wednesday and Joyce took Tuesday and Thursday. We alternate Fridays. If there is no school on one of our regular days, the person who only tutored once takes Friday. If one of us has something to do on our tutoring day, we switch. Joyce is easy to work with. She goes to the assignment cheery. She never minds a switch (nor do I) and she is just an easy person to work with. I've heard complaints from others in my department about their partners.

Another thing I really like about Joyce are her values. She just hooked up with her college sweetheart and the two of them are making plans for a life together. They just spent Thanksgiving apart, realizing that since they will be married next year, it was more important to enjoy their individual families alone. They are happy sitting home, watching a movie, cooking, playing a game or just talking. Joyce plans on being a stay at home mom and they will do whatever is necessary to insure that this is economically feasible.

I'm willing to be that there are lots of Joyce's out there. As I approach the end of my teaching career I'm happy that there are Joyce's out there to take over and carry on.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

One is Silver and the Other is Gold

I started teaching when I was twenty years old. My colleagues at that time were all in their young twenties. Most had been teaching a year or so longer than I was. We taught in a rough school. We had a miserable, mean AP. We all loved kids and we all loved teaching. I would never have survived teaching without my friend Phil. Over the years, we all got married, had children celebrated Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings (of our children) and deaths of our parents. We laughed together and cried together and now we are all growing old together. We no longer work in the same place and all but two of us are retired from the New York City school system. We still get together a few times a year and laugh and talk like we were still young. I just left this group of friends. We had a really expensive dinner in this nice place not too far from here that has a little room in the back for us to use. It was great catching up. We shared stories about our children and pictures of new grand children. We talked about trips and plans for the future. Our spouses all get along. A night like this rejuvenates.

I once tried to explain this friendship to a woman I now work with. She was offended when I told her that no friendships will ever be like these. They can't be. The history I have with these people cannot be replicated. Although I love my new friends, I wasn't there when their kids were born (and they weren't there for mine). We didn't know each other when we were getting married and mostly we did not learn to teach together. I have made many new friends over the years but my old friends are my gold.