Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
I still have been given no information about my inclusion student. I know his needs are more extreme than the regular ISS kids but I don't know what these needs are. I don't even know what makes this young man different from the other kids. So far, he is great but, I feel there are things I should know. His mom didn't make it in for parent teacher conferences but he did tell me she wants to meet with me at some point. I'm guessing she will not react to positively to my lack of information. Oh well, I guess his special ed teacher will be catching some heat for this one.
I always said I wouldn't read IEPs but I was wrong. The more ISS kids I teach, the more I realize I have to learn to be able to help them. If these documents were accessible, I would definitely check them out.
I came dressed as a goal post. Mr. AP helped me figure out what to wear. Unfortunately, he just drove one of my poor colleagues to tears. This guy (with over 25 years in the system) actually spent three days working on goals, writing and rewriting them, trying to come up with something Mr. AP would approve of.
I know I can't win with him so I just decided to join him and face up to what I am. I might be 60% now but one thing I can guarantee is that I will never be average.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Of course I am exaggerating. No one cares if these kids get PhDs or even finish college. The only thing that matters is that they move through high school and keep those graduation statistics up. Assessment is just another word to make it look like the teacher is not doing his job.
Every teacher I have ever met assesses their students daily. They assess classwork, homework and exams. They assess body language and facial expressions. They know what their students comprehend and do not comprehend.
A good exam is one of the best ways to see what the student has learned. The teacher can not only check the answers but look at work and see they types of mistakes the student is making. Oh wait....our exams should be 70% multiple choice questions. Exams are supposed to mimic the regents exams from the first day of school. Almost everyone does this, partially out of fear and partially out of laziness. It is much easier to print and mark a few exam gen questions than to actually write your own questions and have to read over work and find the source of an error.
There are a few of us (very few) who disagree with this test model and we make our own exams, exams that cover what was taught and let us assess what was learned. When we mark papers we know exactly why the student is getting the question wrong and can work to correct the problem. We don't openly talk about these exams. We don't share them with others. But, we know what our students know without item analysis. We know what has to be retaught and what does not have to be retaught. Our regents stats might be lower but our students know more.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The sixty percent woman thought she was prepared. She asked other teachers how their goal setting activity went and no one seemed to have a problem. She was sure she could get in and out in a few minutes and keep her sanity and her beliefs.
Mr. AP quickly opened his computer and read off three questions for me to think about in terms of goals. The technology part was easy. I've already been using all that data doo doo and I had good responses as to how I will continue to use it. The other questions were not as easy.
Goals, according to Mr. AP have to be measurable and what better way to measure them is there than statistics. Since I only have one regents class this semester, it seemed obvious to him that my goal should be to do better than the sixty percent I did last year. Now, a smart person would have agreed to let him type this up and left, not me. I refused to tie my goals to a number. He tried to get me to agree to set my passing goal to the department average. Again, I refused. He got frustrated, I got mad and thankfully the bell rang so I could go to class without a conclusion to the discussion.
I've been thinking about this percentage goal all afternoon. Why would I set a goal for my classes that means 70% pass? This really means my goal is for 30% to fail. And, if the school passing average is 83% should I aim for a 17% failure rate? Whether it is worded positively or negatively, neither one of these sound good to me. Even a 95% passing goal would be equivalent to a 5% failing goal.
I can't do anymore than I already do. I am always tutoring. I have even come in weekends. I hook weak kids up with brighter kids to give them extra help. I prepare study guides. I call parents. I check all the data. Unless he comes up with a plan, there is nothing more I can do and putting a number on it won't change anything.
My real goal is the same goal I've had since I started teaching over 30 years ago. That goal is to have 100% pass. The 100% woman is so much better sounding than the average percent woman. Realistically, knowing the students I have and the ones I am sure will transfer in next semester, this is not possible. So, Mr. AP won't like this goal because my not meeting it will reflect on him. I don't care how the school looks. I don't care if Mr. AP, Principal Hula and all the other administrators get their performance bonuses. I'm here for the kids and the kids only. I won't compromise myself by putting my name to a number I don't believe in.
I hope I haven't just ended the cease fire that took so long to come by.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Your referral of SMITH JOHN to the Guidance Department has been received. The action taken to this point is as follows: --------------- I am sending for him today-he just had resource room added to his program and I will explain this to him, as well as the importance of taking advantage of it. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. --------------- Regards,
Our most vulnerable kids are being neglected. How many other kids like this one are out there that no one will pick up on?
The first thing I did was look up Mervin's record. I was surprised to see passing grades next to almost all his subjects after what he told me yesterday. So, the first thing I did today was confront him. He looked at me like I was hallucinating and told me he didn't pass anything last year. Another kid jumped in and said he didn't pass anything either, although his record shows passing grades. After some discussion the kids conceded that they might have passed the final marking period, but had failed all of the previous ones.
Now I am really confused. Are the kids lying because it is cool to fail? Are they wrong and think they failed when the didn't? Did someone change the grades along the way? (Of course not, that would be so illegal.) All this data stuff is just too complicated and not worth the effort. I only looked because I wanted the kids to know I cared and knew stuff about them. I feel I know less now than before I looked.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Mickey told me his big court day is tomorrow and if he makes it back, he would be ready to work again. He told me he has a 50-50 shot at being back.
I don't know what he did, or what he is accused of doing. All I know is that I have grown to love this crazy, dysfunctional kid and I believe I can get him to pass if I get a chance.
I wished him luck and he hugged me (I know Chaz, no hugs!) I know my life will be easier without this kid but I really hope he makes it back. He's only a ninth grader. I have to believe he can turn his life around.
I have been trying to be a twenty first century teacher and use my data and I have been checking records on ARIS (even though I found out Principals get a bonus if a certain percentage of teachers sign on to this system and I hate helping them get money this way) but ARIS has no eighth grade records to check. Eighty billion dollars and the damn computer cannot hold a child's entire school record, amazing!
Bloomberg claims to have stopped social promotion. If that is the case, why is this kid dancing in high school now?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I asked my calculus classes if they were free period nine and, if so, would they be willing to spend a day or two a week helping out in that class. I explained that the students were really weak and showed the class they type of problems we were working on. One boy said "boy,are they stupid." I jumped right in and corrected his language. I explained that just because kids were having trouble now does not mean they are stupid. I told him what he said was mean and uncalled for. I wanted my class to know that I didn't want anyone who felt like that to volunteer. Most of the kids were appalled by his words and the list I passed around looking for volunteers quickly filled up.
The most common question anyone asked me was "Do we have to tutor?" Of course, I said, "No, this is totally voluntary. Even if you sign up, and something comes up and you cannot make it, that is fine. You are doing me and my class a huge favor but never forget, you come first." The kids were shocked. The science department requires AP kids to tutor. The English teacher they had the previous year required them to tutor as well. I remember a geometry student, in desperate need of tutoring, could not meet with me because of her obligation to tutor someone for the English regents. I again emphasized that they were students first and their needs would always come first. I promised, as a reward, I would write them really great college recommendations and I would never be too busy to help them, even if it meant coming in at 6 in the morning or staying as late as necessary when my day ended.
Some kids had class the period I needed volunteers and wanted to know what other periods they could tutor. I just marked my geometry kids second exam. I am definitely going to pair some of these kids up with the calculus students.
Wow, I just came up with another goal for myself. But, I am sure it is one I would have missed giving to my AP.
My problem with goals is not the goal itself, but the premise that unless I state my goal, as a goal, I don't have one. I've been giving this issue a lot of thought and that is definitely not the case with me.
My ninth period class is a four term algebra class. These are kids that have already been through summer school and they are more surprised by a passing grade than a failing one. With few exceptions, they do not like school and like math less than any other subject they take. My unwritten goal for this class is to find a way to reach them and this is something I work towards every single day.
Like the hockey player trying to score, I practice. I try different strategies some work, some don't. Even the ones that work today might not work tomorrow and will probably not work next week. Like the hockey player, I am always trying to redefine my play to be able to score the goal that will win the game. Unlike the hockey player, there is no Stanley Cup possibility in my future, there is just the knowledge that I succeeded with my students and that is enough for me.
Now, back to this whole idea of goals. Almost every teacher I know feels the same as I do. We strive every day to do the best we can for our students. It is demeaning to be told we need to speak to a supervisor to explain these goals. Any teacher who does not feel as I do is probably not a very good teacher and should not be in a classroom. Writing a goal on a sheet of paper or discussing this goal with a supervisor is not going to change who this person is as a teacher. Some of the worst teachers around are probably some of the best goal setters, so what is the point? Why all of a sudden, after all these years is writing a goal so important? Can anyone really believe this one little word will change anything?
When the student does not succeed, the teacher's goals, or lack of goals can be held accountable. This is just another way to blame the teacher for all the ills of education.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I'm sick of NCLB and watching kids sit through classes that are way beyond their understanding and ability to comprehend and learn.
I'm starting to get sloppy and say things on this blog that should not be said.
I'm sick of everyone who think they know it all but know nothing.
Maybe the Jamaican sunshine and the ice cold Red Stripes will help. I really need that swim up bar. Winter break is too far away.
Maybe it is time for me to say goodbye. I don't want to be one of those old, senile teachers who should have quit 10 years ago. Am I still making a difference or will things be better if I turn the reins to a young newbie?
I give hard calculus tests, I want the kids to think and apply what they learned, not just memorize. It is stressful for them because no one ever made them think before. Being good students, they just memorized and spit back material. That is why letters like the one I got today make a difference to me.
It feels bad that after studying for a very long time, and finally understanding all of the material, I make silly mistakes. After leaving the classroom, I felt good until E asked me questions. She said that for the graph, where the function passes through the x-axis, you do not make the deivative pass through zero. I did. I should have followed my first instinct!! I just over thought it. Will I get the whole question wrong?
2nd thing: For the local linearity question part 2, I thought it was a separate question and so I used the value close to 10 which is 9. I did not notice that we had to go to the original question and say whether or not we can use the number 4 to determine the approximate value of 10. Will that question be considered all wrong?
But overall, your explanations and pace really helped me understand everything. And after sitting for a while studying, I feel much better about calculus. I actually think it's a lot of fun now!
And my answer to her:
I got home too late to concentrate on your questions. I make more silly mistakes than you do. Understanding is the key. Don't even think about grades--just enjoy learning. You'll see, it will all end up coming together for you.
I'll look at your questions and answer them tomorrow.
Thanks for the e-mail.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I know how she feels about being crapped on. As teachers, we are helpless when it comes to fighting the system both for ourselves and for our students. The frustrations we feel are overwhelming. I know, I started this blog as a place to vent my frustrations. The writing gave me an outlet to say things I could not say at work. I invented characters like Suit and Mr. AP to have people to attack and blame for the things happening in school. I sometimes exaggerated their flaws and in doing so made myself feel better. None of this was harmful to anyone else. The support I have gotten from fellow bloggers and commenters has been more than I could ever have hoped for and that has helped me push on, to continue doing a job I love to do.
No one should take the words of a blog like mine serious. Words written do not always convey the meaning they were meant to have. Very often they are misconstrued and interpreted in a manner far different than the writer intended. Blogs are just diaries, places where people can share anonymously (for the most part) their innermost and often darkest thoughts.
Before judging the blogger, look at the entire picture, try to understand what caused the words of anger to be put down. Don't throw away the blogger and all the good because of some meaningless words.
Be careful when reading a blog and think of the material as an interesting work of fiction meant to do no harm.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I will be lucky if I succeed with half of these kids. They know what I want them to do to help them pass. Calling these things goals is not going to change a thing.
Mickey update--he was back to his old self today. I have a feeling this kid might be on something. My hopes have been dashed. The G word did nothing for him today.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Dear Mrs. POd,
I am in the process of applying to Macaulay Honors Early Decision (deadline November 1st). I would like to know if you can please write me a recommendation. I am sorry that this is short notice. I am asking you at this moment because I am afraid that the other two teachers I asked will not get it done in time. (I am getting very paranoid!!!!). If there is anything that you need to write me a recommendation, I shall give it to you. If you chose to do it, I will send you an email through the application via my OTHER email address. (The recommendation is done electronically).
Thank you very much
These requests really piss me off, not because I don't want to write the recommendation but because other teachers are too damn lazy to write them. I only know this girl since September and while I can already see that she is pretty terrific, there have got to be teachers who know her longer and who can write better recommendations.
I want to say no, go ask someone else. I am going to strongly suggest that she ask someone else but I know, when it comes close to November 1, I will be writing this letter.
Clarification: The Queen of Hearts always threatened to behead her subjects when they did not do as she commanded.
From Wikipedia: The Queen of Hearts is a character from the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by the writer and mathematician Lewis Carroll. She is a foul-tempered monarch, that Carroll himself pictured as "a blind fury", and who is quick to decree death sentences at the slightest offense. Her most famous line, one which she repeats often, is "Off with their heads!"
Some math teachers still think that they are great explainers. At times, not knowing how little their students understand what is going on. At the end, these teachers tend to have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, passing percentages on the Regents exam. Then, they argue that just because their students fail the Regents exam, it does not suggest that the students do not know the math. They also argue that just because other teachers can get their students to pass the Regents exam, it does not mean that their students know the math. Unfortunately, no one uses Regents failing percentage to figure out how good a school is or how much students have learned.
If you are saying HUH after reading that, you are not alone. This is just a little piece of a memo sent out by Mr. AP.
Mr. AP was "beamed up" a while ago and when they "beamed" him back down they must have kept some vital brain matter if he believes that passing a regents exam means the student actually knows some math. Since when does less than 30 points out of a possible 87 equate to knowledge? The teachers with these lower passing rates, myself included, know exactly what our students know and do not know. The difference between us and the others is that we actually teach math. We give exams that require students to show what they understand. Mr. AP wants our exams to be 70% multiple choice. But, if I am only looking at answers, how can I possibly assess where the problems lie? There are major differences between a kid who accidentally leaves out a negative sign and one who has no clue as to how to approach the problem but a multiple choice answer will not show this.
If you are teaching MR21 or MR21R and you have sophomores or juniors who truly do not belong, I would like you to have a conversation with such students about moving to MM3G, particular if they have exam scores of 40 or below. I had a junior like that and I had her moved to MM3g. Of the 15 homework assignments I gave, she did not complete a single one correctly. Her exam grade was in the 40’s. When she told me x^2 + x = 3x, I had her moved. There is no way I can possibly fill the gaps in her math knowledge so that she can pass the Regents exam.
MR 21 is our school code for trigonometry. Kids can't get to trigonometry unless they passed the geometry and the algebra regents. So, this paragraph contradicts the first one. Passing a regents does not equate to knowledge.
The other part of this paragraph that bothers me is Mr. AP's admission of not being able to fill the gaps in this girl's education. I have to fill the gaps for my students but he doesn't. Also, is it right to move students so early in the semester? Maybe they need time to adjust. I know of kids who claimed they couldn't do the work just so they could take an easier route or escape a teacher they did not like.
We are supposed to be constantly assessing our students. Teachers like me have been doing this for years. No one ever told us to do it, or how to do it, we just did it naturally. Now we are using multiple choice tests and assessing to the point where kids are getting tracked in a way that allows no escape. And, once again, the teacher is being blamed.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Our school had their biannual blood drive today. I usually don't like to give at work. They suck out enough of my blood daily but time is tight these days and I was due for another donation, so I figured why not. Besides, I thought it would be good for the kids to see me giving. My seniors were working the drive and they were so nice, especially since I told them I have a tendency to pass out while donating. (Thankfully that did not happen today.) I wanted them to know that it is okay to feel sick, even faint, but the feeling passes. My mom would have died much sooner than she did if not for blood donors and that is the reason I give between 5 and 6 times annually and I encourage others to do the same. My ninth graders were curious about the bandage on my arm. They asked all kinds of questions which I readily answered. They wanted to know why I didn't go home. I explained that a blood donation is no big deal. It takes about twenty minutes and life resumes immediately afterwards. I wanted them to have good feelings about donating and to consider donating when they are old enough.
Well, I have to increase my liquid intake today. I hope beer is on the acceptable beverage list.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Many years ago, way before Mr. AP, when retirement was as distant to me as Jupiter is to Earth, I stood up to Ms Mustache AP when she told us we had to clean graffiti off of some old computers. I was a department union rep at the time and told her under no circumstances would any teacher use those chemicals. She went in her office, cried and had her husband come in the next day to help her do the dirty work. I also made her cry when I refused to proctor an exam that would have taken me away from a regents class. Making her cry was not my goal but that was what I had to do to succeed and succeed I did.
I had the same personality, even as a child. I remember being in the audience of Bozo the Clown (my friend's pump request reminded me of this.) I so wanted to be the child Bozo picked to taste the Bosco chocolate milk. All the kids claimed to love Bosco and I hated it. I wanted to be the first one to say this on television. Fortunately for them, I did not get picked.
Maybe I am just stupid because I never worry about the events that will follow my actions, not even after the actions are taken. I didn't think about them when I fought the mugger on Fordham Rd as a teenager and I did not think about them as words of anger spewed from my lips during the final battle of the war. I did not think of the dangerous path I might be heading out on when I spurned the conciliatory words of the Major Force. Right or wrong, I did and do what I feel is necessary to do. I don't know what makes me tick this way, I just do what I do, consequences be damned.
So, don't pass me in the hall and tell me you would do the same things I do if you could walk out like I can. We both know that is a lie. Face the truth. You are weak. You will find yourself easier to live with when you acknowledge this.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I am a NYC school teacher at Packemin HS in Queens. If you truly ended social promotion, why am I still finding ninth graders who cannot add 6 and 3 and get the correct answer? Why do the kids still not know their multiplication tables? Why are they clueless when it comes to fractions?
I also teach at a local Community College. Why are some of my students, graduates of NYC high schools, unable to solve a simple algebraic equation?
I realized there was a problem when my numbers did not come out the way I knew they should. Even though I am a math teacher, arithmetic is not my strong suit, I certainly know when a sum comes out way to low and that problem was apparent immediately. I checked my formulas and they were correct. I checked to make sure my columns were formatted as numbers, and that seemed correct to. My frustrations were building until I saw the little black mark in the corner of some of my cells and the light went on! These cells were write protected. All I had to do was figure out how to unprotect them and things would be good again. Lucky for me, my husband is really smart and very computer savvy and he solved my problem easily.
Although I didn't arrive at the solution, I still feel good about my efforts. I knew there was a problem, I diagnosed it and researched it and laid the groundwork for the problem solver. My computer skills might be shaky, but they are getting better. I'm not so bad for an old fart.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
E-mail from a friend: