Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Whatever It Takes--A Review

Exhausted from two seders, I laid down last night to watch Whatever It Takes, a PBS documentary on another super human being who takes a group of poor, under performing NYC school kids and propels them to success. I have to admit, that I did sleep through parts, but I saw enough to know that it was just another propaganda piece.

Ed Tom, the principal, gets his teaching certification and a job in three days. If three days are enough to teach a teacher to teach, why do we need all these expensive ed classes? Why even bother going for a masters degree? I'm not sure whether I slept through the part showing how he made his transition from teacher to principal, or it just wasn't shown, so I can't comment about any of that. The beginning of the program shows him greeting every student by name. His school had 108 students. I have more than 108 on my roster. Because of the small size, he intimately gets to know his students. No one I know would ever argue with the merits of that. Unfortunately, one of the problems with small schools (not mentioned here or anywhere else) is that they have to limit the types of courses they teach. There are fewer advanced placement classes and electives. Also, no matter how wonderful a teacher might be, there will always be conflicts between certain students and that teacher and a small school offers very few alternatives.

The documentary did show a boy who didn't make it, but it focused on two girls that did. In any school, even a school as large as Packemin, there will be kids who beat the odds and succeed, so the fact that he managed to reach two is not exactly a major accomplishment. Also, focusing on a girl who easily passed an algebra regents, an exam that only requires 34% knowledge is not exactly a call to start saving for an Ivy League education.

At the end, the documentary mentioned that Tom is planning on opening up three more small schools in the south Bronx, so much for his dedication to the school he started. This piece followed him around for one year. Is that really enough time to even judge the success or failure of his program?

In conclusion, I watched it and all I can say is that I should have gone to bed earlier.

True Story

Michelle Rhee walked into a Washington DC class of middle school social studies class as the class was studying surveys and their meaning. It just so happened that the teacher, a long time veteran, was in the process of discussing Rhee's decline in the polls. The teacher, undeterred by Rhee's presence, kept the discussion going. At the end of the class, Rhee walked over to a young student and asked the child why she thought the polls were showing her in such disfavor. The child looked at her and said, "That's easy. You fired all our teachers."

(story told to me by a young DC teacher)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Taking a break from seder preparations, blogging, minding my own business, the ceiling came tumbling down. Thank goodness the kids were out and my dad was in the living room. The tiles missed me by inches.

This room used to be my daughter's room and she had a favorite ceiling tile, one she called her "friend" and talked to all the time while growing up. She managed to salvage it and lovingly packed it up to take home with her. She's planning on mounting it in a frame and hanging it on a wall, something I would definitely do. Boy, do I love that girl!


The head of fresh horse radish--bitter tasting and extremely ugly. Remind anyone of the head of anything else in NYC?

A Hero

I can't mention names, or any details, but the person who this post is directed at will know who s/he is.

I would like to publicly thank and show my appreciation for this individual who had the conviction, the intelligence and the morality to stand up to certain authorities and speak the truth, loudly and clearly. This individual knew how to answer questions correctly, making his/her points without incriminating anyone or drawing attention to anything unrelated to the subject at hand. This person had nothing personal to gain by any of things going on.

Although this person and I are on opposite sides of the UFT election, I wish him/her well and I am sorry I did not think about splitting my ticket to vote for him/her. Teachers need people like him/her willing to stand up for us, to be fearless in the face of controversy, to brave the worst possible adversaries.

I was not personally involved in this controversy, but from the teachers that were and for all teachers who will benefit from what you did, I extend a tremendous thanks.

The Grass Is Always Greener

(My son, making homemade horse radish. Once you try it, you will never enjoy the jar stuff again.)

Unlike most of my friends, I was not in any big hurry to have children. In fact, for years I wasn't even sure I wanted to any. But, on the eve (actually a few years before that) of turning 30 and hitting a decade of marriage, I decided to go for it. In less than two years, I had two of them.

Now, I would love to be able to write that being a mother to two small children was a dream come true, but my kids will be the first ones to tell you that while I love them more than life itself and more than anything or anyone in the entire world, being a mother was not my forte. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't abusive or anything. The worst thing I ever did to them was to turn the clocks ahead a couple of hours so I could put them to bed early. (My precocious daughter could read numbers before she turned a year old.) And, I spent plenty of time taking them to museums, cultural events, doing homework, and generally enjoying them and caring for them. But, I also missed my sleep and my freedom and as much as I didn't want to wish my life away, I looked forward to the day I would get my life back.

My kids are both grown now, and both have careers in places that are far, far away. I miss them so much, it hurts. I now want the life back that involves having my children around.

Both my children, plus one are home for the holidays. The house is a mess, noise abounds, but so does happiness. The other night, my daughter yelled "hello mom" while her boyfriend was talking to his mom on the phone. The jealous monster took hold of me and I wanted to cry. I know my kids spend more time with her than they do with me (they both live in the same city) and I am happy about that, but I don't want to share the name.

Everyone leaves tonight after the seder. The house will go back to normal. I'm starting to feel sad already.

Why Some School Administrators Are Hired

Monday, March 29, 2010


They were not represented at the ARISTA installation.

They are not represented in AP math and science classes.

We all know they exist, so where are they?

I'm not talking about Larry.

Zisen Pesach

Table is set with the "good china and crystal". After cooking all day, I am too tired to even think about any dishes except the disposable ones.

21st Century Nazis

Once again, the NY Post is spreading evil propoganda about teachers being responsible for all that ails the public school system.

The Nazi's did it. Innocent people suffered and died but there was no end to the problems.
Write to them, let your voices be heard. I just e-mailed my letter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

And It Is Red

I just had to stop cooking to see this car in my neighbor's driveway. It has got to be the coolest car I have ever seen.

Rate My Teacher

A teacher friend of mine was upset about a negative comment someone wrote about her on rate my teacher. She is a good teacher, a very caring person and very sensitive.

I know I shouldn't have done it, but I did it anyway. I went to the site and rated her every day until she ended up being portrayed as the teacher she is. What I did might not be ethical, but I don't care. I eased the hurt of a wonderful person. Besides, if the site takes anonymous ratings that are bad, it might as well take the ones that are good too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Practical Math

Book mixing math and crochet wins UK 'odd' prize

Mar 26, 11:36 AM (ET)


LONDON (AP) - A book charting the frontier between handicrafts and geometry on Friday won Britain's quirkiest literary award, the Diagram Prize for year's oddest book title.

"Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes" by mathematician Daina Taimina beat runners-up "What Kind of Bean is This Chihuahua?" and "Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich."
Prize overseer Horace Bent said "the public proclivity towards non-Euclidian needlework" proved too strong for the competition.

"I've never won any prizes before. This is my first prize and it's wonderful," said Taimina, an adjunct associate professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The winning book's title may be odd, but the subject is serious. Taimina uses crochet to create hyperbolic planes, surfaces on which lines curve away from each other instead of running parallel, as on a flat plane, or converging, as on a sphere.

Her creations, which resemble complex coral formations, have been included in art shows and hailed by academics for making tactile concepts in geometry that can be hard to visualize.

"These are two-dimensional objects which you can see only in three dimensions," Taimina said. "If you want to see three-dimensional hyperbolic space you can't because you have to be in four dimensions

"Understanding these hyperbolic planes, you understand just the first step."

Founded in 1978, the Diagram Prize is run by trade magazine The Bookseller. Its rules say the books must be serious and their titles not merely a gimmick.

The winner is decided by public vote.

The other finalists were "Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter,""Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots" and "The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease."

Previous champions include "Bombproof Your Horse" and "Living With Crazy Buttocks."


And Then There Are Kids Like This...

Hi Ms. POd,

Since it is spring break starting today, I just wanted to wish you a Happy Passover for next week. And I also wanted tell you how much I appreciate you for coming in during your vacation
just for our AP practice. I cannot express in words how grateful I am towards you for the extra help you are providing the class.
Thank you for being such a loving and great teacher. I know our class sometimes...actually everyday cause you frustration, but I hope we will one day be able to match your sincerity for teaching with our sincerity for learning.

Thank you Ms. POd
Your grateful student :)

Weird E-mail

(Picture has nothing to do with the post-- A whole bunch of people were walking around Times Square selling Obama, Palin, McCain, Woods, etc, condoms. I found this very amusing.)

I get all kinds of weird e-mails and spam. This one is one of the best:

We request able and certified teacher


In order to be considered for this position, you must meet all
requirements which including:

Must be at least 18 years old with High School diploma or equivalent.
Previous Child Care experience preferred

Has anyone ever heard of a certified teacher who is not at least 18 and does not have a high school diploma?

(on a break from my Passover cleaning--expect lots of little posts today. I have severe attention deficits when it comes to cleaning.)

Way To End The Week

Mr. Porno came back today with a "ha ha" attitude. He got rid of the evidence before the deans showed up so they couldn't charge him with anything. He was arrogant, accused me of lying and was generally disruptive. I called Mr. AP to remove him.

Fifteen minutes before the bell rang to end the period, Mr. AP arrived with his little computer in hand. Yes, Mr. AP arrived to do his little snap shot observation at the end of the period, late in the day and on a day before a holiday. He came into a class he just removed a student from.

The class was relatively quiet as most of these kids take off the day before any vacation. I could say the few that were left were in vacation mode, but that would give the impression that today was different from any other day, so I won't say that. The kids were working on a practice sheet when he walked in. Junior had his feet up in the air and even though he announced loudly, "Mr. AP is here," he didn't start working. The first problem on the sheet happened to be one that was on the board but he couldn't even copy that down. Juni was busy putting on her make up. I guess she wanted to look pretty for him. Mike was staring off in space as he always does, although I have been contacting everyone imaginable to try to get him some help since October. Ozzie, a recent admit, was doing nothing, which was better than his usual disrupting and keeping others from working. Believe it or not, eight were actually working hard.

I don't know what he will say about this class. And, for once, I don't care. I can't do any more than I do with them and while it isn't enough, it is the best I can do. To top it off, I got three new admits to that group this week. One is a sweet kid, new to this country and the other two are kids dumped from other places. The third one is one I haven't met yet. I got an e-mail about her from some administrator telling me the girl has an IEP and some issues and due to programming problems would now be in my class. (Probably some other teacher got rid of her or she was scheduled for a regents that everyone expects her to fail). This is really a good place to put a kid with attendance and other issues. I would run from it as fast as I could and I imagine a child would do the same. Principal Hula promised to put her somewhere else.

I happened to be sitting in the math office after that class, tutoring one of my calculus kids. I expected Mr. AP to have some comments. But, my day was over and I was ready to tell him the comments would have to wait until next week. Thankfully, he was busy and didn't even notice me being there.

Now, to enjoy the vacation and the week and a half off, which began last night with a blast from the past, from the days a high school diploma meant something, Hair.


Pay For Scores

Let's suppose merit pay somehow passes but only the teachers with the top scoring students will get the extra money. Let's suppose that not only will there not be merit pay, there won't even be jobs for the teachers with the lowest scoring students.

Let's suppose I am teaching one of these regents classes. I spend hours tutoring my students because I need the money and want to keep my job. Mr. T is not interested in the extra money and doesn't even care about keeping his job because he is moving out of state at the end of the term. Mr. T's students come to me and ask me for help. Do I

1. Help them and risk his class getting better scores than my class? (my job and my career are at stake.) or

2. Ignore them and leave them to their own devices. Their failure is not my problem but their success could cause me major problems.

Does merit pay and pay for good grades sound so great right now?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Woof Woof

Woof woof was so happy today. She had lunch with all her little friends. Her tail did not stop wagging for a minute.

F*cked Up Class

I hate starting a post like this, but that is the only way I can even begin to talk about my ninth period today. Not all of them are so f*cked up, but just enough of them are to make teaching almost impossible.

Today started with Yeni walking into the room, going to the back, and slamming herself into a chair. She was crying. The kids gathered around and she told her tale of an incident that occurred yesterday. While I didn't hear the whole story, I got the gist of it. It seems she had an argument with some boy which almost escalated into a fight. Her friends gathered around but did nothing to help her. His friends gathered around and ganged up on her. This was all after school and nothing happened because he ended up jumping on a bus and going home. Yeni is afraid to tell her mom because her mom has anger issues and she doesn't want mom involved. Yeni did get the deans involved but I don't know the end result. After about 10 minutes, she did settle down and most of the class began some work, albeit very noisily.

Next, Trigger went to the bathroom. When she returned, she told the class that a teacher down the hall said I was too noisy. I told the class they were now disturbing others and Trigger replied, "No, Ms, you are being too noisy. But don't worry. I've got your back. It's this class, not your fault." At this point, they all jumped in, defending me and wanting to go talk to the other teacher.

Then, I handed out a worksheet and tried to get them working individually. There is a handful of them who work well together and there are quite a few that do nothing. Rob was sitting and drawings pictures with a sharpie, but he was quiet for once so I let him be. Unfortunately, the pictures he was drawing turned out to be pornographic ones and Nick decided to take the picture and walk around the room, showing it to the girls. At this point, I asked for the paper, which he refused to give me. I called security. When they arrived, the porno drawing was no where to be seen. They ended up removing him from the room and I had to go to the dean's office and write my statement, thus extending my already long day.

I'm sorry. I know its politically incorrect to say this, but I am saying it anyway. These kids are f*cked up big time. They probably have lots of good inside them and for all I know might be very bright, but I don't have the skills necessary to handle them. Call me weak, ineffective, anything you want, I can't do it.

The saddest part of it all is that some of these kids are older students, behind in credits and light years from graduation. But, with credit recovery, boot camp and other programs, not only will they end up graduating, they will end up graduating early. The boys in this group know it. These kids know how to play the game that will get them the diploma with the least amount of effort.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Year

Another year, and another Arista installation. This year several kids invited me so I didn't have the same anxiety attack I had last year. I even figured out a way to beat the alphabetical seating so I could sit with my good buddy and catch up on life. Our conflicting schedules don't give us any free time together.

I love Arista installation. It is a joy to see the kids all dressed up and marching across the stage and receiving their certificates and pins. Many of my seniors have a bad case of senioritis so it was especially wonderful to see how well they have done in the past, to let them know that I know there is more to them than what I see in the classroom.

Nights like these help me put what I go through with my crazy ninth period class in perspective. My husband keeps telling me not to let one group of kids end a career I love. Maybe he's right.


I might be quibbling about nothing, but getting a diploma and earning a diploma are not the same thing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh Well

I'm really attempting to be IEP good and IEP supportive so when I got an e-mail telling me one of my students was being evaluated and my input was needed, I immediately went to my mail box to retrieve the form. Surprise, surprise, it was not there, although the e-mail I got said it had been delivered. Really trying to do the right thing, I fired off an e-mail about the missing paper. A week passed and the form did not show up. I saw the person in charge and asked for the form. I was told it had not been done yet. I said I would need a few days to get it ready and asked that it be delivered soon. S/he shrugged her/his shoulders and said nothing.

I'm still waiting for the form.

BTW, I saw mom on parent teacher day and she knew nothing about this evaluation. I'm new to this IEP stuff but I always thought the parents were supposed to be involved.

The Dumping Has Begun Again

Better Than Every Other High School is starting to worry about regents grades this year. The school is worried about a high failure rate on the algebra and trigonometry regents and the possible loss of their status. BTEO HS has decided to implement Plan D immediately. Kids in trig are being removed from that class and dumped in another class that has no regents requirement, or even worse, a class that only requires seat time. (These kids have already fulfilled their regents requirement in math.) Two term algebra students are also being removed from their classes and dumped into four term classes in an effort to postpone the inevitable failing grade.

BTEO HS has used this plan many times before. Ms. H, was lauded as the best regents teacher in the school but the reality was every failing student was always removed from her class before the exam and then added to someone other teacher's roster. It was never a mystery as to why her stats were always great.

Here are some things I would like to know before I even look at the statistics:
1. How many of the students began the course in September and are still taking the course?
2. What happened to the kids who are no longer taking the course?

3. Which teachers had the biggest loss of failing students?
4. What measures were taken to help turn failing students around?
5. Are we giving up on these kids only because of the numbers?
6. What is wrong with allowing a kid to fail and then retake a course? Sometimes the second time around is the charm and even in failing, the student might learn some valuable material that will help them later on in life.

Just remember, when you are looking at statistics things are not always what they appear to be. Numbers not only lie but can be used to show almost any result desired.

Inclusion Classes

Inclusion classes neglect students' needs.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Censoring Myself

It sucks not being able to write what I really want to write here. This blog was much more fun when it was totally anonymous.

We had an exec board meeting today and one of the topics brought up is quite controversial. In fact, it is one of my pet peeves at the moment. We did vote to question this thing with the administration. What shocked me the most was that some of my colleagues (it was a minority of them) not only agreed with this thing but thought it was a good thing. While they did not necessarily agree with the admins reason for doing this, they liked the end product. People actually agreed that this thing was good even though it is educationally unsound.

I know this post is confusing. I'm sorry about that. If you want more information, you will need access to Packemin HS.

Sweat and Double Standards

Certain events are leading me to believe he will be very disappointed in some things this semester. Accountability might be an issue. The excuses are already being made and written in memos. I love seeing the sweat on his brow.

Too bad worry for him has nothing to do with double standards for others. It's fine to make some sweat it out.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Just Call Me Sucker

Hi Mrs.POd,

sorry for this late message :(
I'm applying for the college now scholarship, and i didnt know we needed a teacher's recommendation 'till today!

I thought they only wanted a letter from our volunteering place, so i wrote my essay and everything too.

And this is due on Monday the 22nd....ehh :'(
Can you please write a recommendation letter for me?


I so wanted to ignore this e-mail, but she is such a great kid. Guess what I did this afternoon?

Lion's Den

My buddy Ricochet says:

Powersthatbe sent out an email at the end of last week stating that new teachers (in the first three years of teaching) should not be left alone to fail.

While her post is really much more than this statement. This sentence alone got me thinking of another school, and especially a department in that school, that I know well. The AP in charge loves the young teachers she has hired. They are ready and willing to obey her every edict and would never think of questioning her authority, so who could blame her? She even refers to herself as mother to command respect. In order to make sure these young ones succeed, the most difficult children are often removed from their classes. I don't have to write where they are put, anyone reading this can figure it out for themselves. Newbies are also given the best classes while old times are teaching the dumping ground groups. Newbies have smart boards. Old timers are lucky to have chalk.

Believe me, I am in favor of helping the young ones. A few years ago I had a double period class of difficult kids and I made a point of telling my supervisor to try to keep kids like those away from the new teachers if he wanted them to remain in the profession. But, don't criticize, write up and harass the experienced teacher who has taken on the challenge. Don't throw us to the lions either.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Back To Blogging

Fidgety is back online. Go over and offer her support. I now have 22 reason for being pissed.

Top Ten Reasons For Being Pissed

1. I am pissed that people think I have a superiority complex because I am pissed. Anyone who knows me knows I could be the picture going with the words inferiority complex on Wikipedia.

2. I am pissed that people think I should be able to find the solutions to the problems I write about. I never claimed to be anything more than a lowly math teacher. Problem solving, unless it is a mathematical problem is not my area of strength. There are many mathematical problems I can't solve either.

3. I am pissed that people like Obama, Duncan, Bloomberg, Klein, Rhee and even Gates, are now making decisions about education although they know nothing about education and the people they go to for advice probably know less than they know.

4. I am pissed that teachers are becoming the scapegoats for all that ails education.

5. I am pissed that education is taking a big hit because no one can do anything about the main problems this country is having, like a war on two fronts and a crappy economy. Teachers are being picked on as a diversion from the real issue.

6. I am pissed that people write comments on this blog, insulting me, when they don't even know me. I am not pissed when I get to delete them so no one else will be able to read them.

7. I am pissed that there are people walking around with clip boards, writing teachers up for things they know nothing about. I am pissed about the way administrators are chosen to do the jobs and the power that they are given. (It's happening all over the city, Packemin included. Read about two other schools here and here.)

8. I am pissed about schools that are so overcrowded teachers have to sit in hallways to work.

9. I am pissed about kids who want and need help but have overworked and incompetent guidance counselors who do nothing to help them. I am pissed that kids that could possibly be saved are falling through the cracks daily.

10. I am pissed about kids who fart twice and are given four credits towards graduation and graduate early. I am pissed at a system that supports a slam-bam-thank-you-mam education.

11. I am pissed about a government that not only supports, but encourages the
slam-bam-thank-you-mam education.

12. I am pissed at a union that does not support and represent its members.

13. I am pissed at a government that is trying to do away with unions. As a colleague of mine always says, "instead of asking why teachers have certain benefits, why not ask the reason they don't have them?'

14. I am pissed about innocent teachers sitting in a rubber room for years, teachers who have been vindicated but are still being punished.

15. I am pissed about guilty teachers sitting in a rubber room and getting pay checks. Why doesn't the city do what is necessary to get rid of them after due process?

16. I am pissed because even when I have an answer, no one wants to hear it.

17. I am pissed that kids who can't read or do basic math are forced to take high school level courses. I am pissed that they made it this far without any interventions.

18. I am pissed that there is no real help for kids who can't read, write and do basic math.

19. I am pissed that there are no programs available to help kids who are not academic.

20. I am pissed about the way money is wasted in this city and around the country, money that could be used to make a real difference.

21. I am pissed because this was supposed to be a top 10 list but it went on and on and would prbably keep growing if it was not so nice out today.

Message To Jia

Jia said... (see comment section)
Hi, PO'ed.

Would you have any words of advice for a freshman student at Townsend Harris High School who is failing geometry despite tutoring from her teacher?

My best words of advice for someone taking geometry is to look at the words for clues. Unlike other fields of mathematics, the answers will be right in front of you if you know where to look. Let me give you an example. Suppose you see the word perpendicular. The first thing that should come to mind is a right angle or an angle that contains 90 degrees. If you are doing a proof, you've now found two angles that are congruent and if you are doing an algebraic expression, you know the equation to write. We just finished a unit on circles. When you see diameter, think semi circle, or 180 degrees. While the measure of the central angle is equal to the measure of its intercepted arc, all other angles are half of something. Common sense should tell you the further from the center you go, the smaller the angle is , so inscribed angles are measured by half their intercepted arcs and angles outside the circle are measured by half the difference of their intercepted arcs. Angles formed by two chords are vertical angles so it makes sense to find their measure by finding the average of their intercepted arcs.

When tackling a proof, always use colored pens to mark your diagrams. Start from the beginning and do as much as you can, going down. When you can't do anymore, go the the bottom (what you have to prove) and work your way back up. You will end up meeting almost in the middle and at most miss one step.

I hope these words help. It is hard giving advice in writing. You are a student at Townsend Harris High School, one of the most selective schools in the city. You must be extremely bright or they would have never allowed you to become part of their student body. Stop stressing about what you don't know and start concentrating on what you do know. Think of the math words as the word you are learning in your Latin or Greek class. I'm sure once you stop agonizing things will get better. Good luck.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sense Of Humor

I needed this

To get myself to sit through this. (Details here.)

Spring afternoon parent teacher conferences are nice and light so parents and teachers have a chance to really talk. They are so much better than the rush, rush atmosphere of the night before.

This year, I have the younger brother of a former student. Both boys are great kids, but very different. It is hard to believe they have the same genetic makeup and live in the same house, but they do. The older one is quiet and reserved and does all that is asked of him and more. The younger one is outgoing but quite lazy. Mom said the older one is much easier to deal with in school but the younger one is easier at home. She said he never even cried as a baby. I told her the reason for that was simple. Crying required effort and he was just not going to exert himself. It was much easier to sleep. Luckily, for me, she has a good sense of humor and just started laughing. Anyone know where I can buy a good verbal filter?

Don't Forget To Vote

Don't Forget To Vote by Arthur Goldstein

Leaving His Mark

This little creature peed on some envelopes in my friend's house. I guess he was just marking his territory.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Diploma Mills

The union newspaper published an article bragging about increased graduation rates. I can't stand it. Kids are no longer earning diplomas, they are being handed the diploma. Breathing for some, is the only price they pay.

(Continue reading here)

Parent Teacher Conference

I think I sent out too many letters. Tonight's parent-teacher conference was nothing like the one that took place last year. I'm tired.

Another Example Of Why You Should Vote ICE

The last contract empowered Principals. It gave them the ability to run schools as they see fit, teachers be damned. Just look at all the teachers sitting in the rubber room on trumped up charges, if you doubt what I am writing. And, its not just the rubber room that is the problem. Look at what Ms. Brave's principal did to her and the teachers of her school this week. UNITY sold us the contract that gave the principals this tyrannical power. It is up to us to stop them.

A teacher I know filed a grievance against her principal. She claims one thing and he claims another. The union agreed to take her grievance to arbitration but ended up throwing out the grievance before she was even allowed to present her case. This makes us all wonder about the deals being struck with the union and the arbitrator and the UNITY rep who offered no protest on her behalf.

Next, the teacher found a higher authority in the union to write to. This person agreed that the teacher had a case and promised to look into it. But, someone even higher put a stop to this too. She just got an e-mail telling her the principal is correct, and she is not, while clearly she has evidence in her defense.

Let me be perfectly clear here. I'm not stating here that the principal is wrong and the teacher is right. It does not matter what I personally believe. I'm stating that our union, the one we pay almost $100 a month to did nothing to stand up for her. Our union did not even bother to properly research and present her case. Our union sold her out.

Take your pink envelopes and put a big X in the ICE box. New Action supports UNITY and UNITY must go. I'm going to be retired soon but most of you will hopefully have long careers in the field of education. You need protection and to get it, you need a change. ICE is that change.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Christmas Shopping

Martha never liked to shop. For years, she never went into a store. But then, the store decided it really needed her business so the manager called her up and said, "Martha, come back please. If you do, you will be given free lunch daily. Everything will be on sale so cheap that it will feel like you are getting it for free. In fact, for every one thing you want, we will give you two."

Martha did not believe her ears. At first, she was resistant and only went to the store sporadically. But, as time passed, she started enjoying the camaraderie of the shop keeper and her fellow shoppers and she started shopping more often. Soon, even this bargain was too much for Martha to pay for and she wanted to stop shopping. The shop keeper said "Do not worry. If you just show up and fart, my store will look busy and I will give you what you need."

And this is how Martha completed her Christmas shopping in March.

(For more on this bargain click here.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Checkin' Up

JoBo got tossed out of a prestigious high school for cutting and ended up at Packemin. He's a nice kid, very bright, but obviously does not want to be in school. I've already caught him missing without an excuse and promised to let his mom know whenever he is not in class.

Today was one such day. I got suspicious when JoBo's friend announced, "You don't have to worry about JoBo. His mom picked him up early." Well, I'm not too proud to say that my suspicions were wrong. I just got off the phone with JoBo's mom and he really is home sick.

I'm not sorry I called. Now he really knows that I am checking up on him and hopefully the only time he will be out from now on will be with parental approval.

Beating A Dead Horse

I know these things drive me crazy but I've learned to sit with my mouth shut and count the seconds until they are over. Even my mother, the queen harper of all, knew enough to stop beating a dead horse. But here, the lecturing and the demeaning goes on and on.

Today's cafeteria conversations confirmed my feelings. Everyone feels the same way. Nothing was learned amd the only thing accomplished was that we are all 45 minutes closer to the end of our careers.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mallard Fillmore

Obama Spend Our Money Wisely

The hands of one of our star Robotic Team members. He's not a shining star in calculus but I know his interest in robotics and engineering will more than make up for this. My money is on him to be a big success.
Look at the intensity on the face of the younger boy as he competes in the Lego competition.

This Lego Robot automatically took a picture. It was fascinating to watch.

The competition.

This teacher gave up his weekend to work with his young students.

President Obama is promising parents and their kids that his administration will help them have better teachers in improved schools so U.S. students can make up for lost ground against youngsters in foreign countries. Once again, he is saying teachers are the only variable in failing schools. He is calling for states to adopt standards the ensure students are ready for college or a career, rather than the grade-level proficiency which is the focus of the current law.

Before he starts writing all these new fancy standards, he needs to take a look at where kids are now. High school students that can barely read or do arithmetic are graduating and going on to college. If he really wants to fix these things he needs to begin by talking to the teachers who are out in the field every day.

Today, I had the privilege of attending the Robotics competition at Javitz Center. I watch children from elementary school through high school intently solving problems, and working as a part of a team with their machines and their Lego's. My school had received donations from various organizations such as NASA, to complete their work, but the money they were given was not enough. Instead of spending all this money on writing standards, I propose giving the money to schools to allow the youngsters to develop a real hands on interest in the field of engineering. These kids need to see a reason for learning math and learning science, the reason only this hands on activity can provide. Use this money to pay the dedicated teachers who work with them. The teachers in my school got paid for 20 hours but they put in close to 200 hours helping our Robotics team succeed. As I walked around the room, I saw many teachers like ours, working just as hard or harder.


The storm killed the power in half the house--the part that controls the refrigerator and the computer. We solved the refrigerator problem early by running a long extension chord to a part of the house that still has electric.

At first, two dumb college graduates couldn't figure out what to do about the Internet. I hoped my lap top would find a neighbor's modem so I could stop my shakes and get on line. And then, it hit me! I could run another chord from the modem to a working outlet. As you can see, that worked. My body has calmed down. I'm online again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

ICE/TJC Announce Presidential Candidate for UFT Elections in 2010

The Independent Community of Educators (ICE) and Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) have chosen James Eterno, chapter leader of Jamaica HS in Queens, as their candidate for president of the UFT in the elections to take place in 2010. He will oppose the Unity Caucus candidate, expected to be Michael Mulgrew, who will be taking over for Randi Weingarten.

Eterno has been a Social Studies Teacher Jamaica High School for 23 years. For the past 13 years he has been the Chapter Leader at Jamaica High School.

He spent 10 years on the UFT Executive Board as one of the few members of the opposition caucuses.

He was one of the leaders in the fight against the draconian givebacks in the 2005 Contract.

James organized a successful rally in 2008 at the Panel for Educational Policy where 89 people from the Jamaica High School family went to the PEP to advocate for Jamaica High School, pointing out that the school was suffering from academic apartheid due to the unequal tre atment Jamaica was getting in comparison to the small schools being installed. His blog piece on the subject (Stop Academic Apartheid) received wide notice.

He authored a resolution to the State Education Commissioner calling for the empowerment of teachers, parents and students on School Leadership Teams and wrote many other resolutions, including one calling for more protections for teachers accused of corporal punishment.

He led the Jamaica High School Chapter in a 50-person grievance at the Region 3 office to have the time schedule changed in 2003 and was a winner of the UFT’s Trachtenberg Award in 2000.

James, along with ICE’s Jeff Kaufman, has co-authored the influential ICE blog, which analyzes on the activities of the UFT leadership. James has become one of the leading experts on the UFT contract and has assisted numerous teachers throughout the city who have not been ably assisted by the UFT.

He is married to Camille Eterno, a former chapter leader currently a teacher at Humanities and the Arts High School in Queens. The Eternos first child, Kara, was born July 17th.
JOIN NOW! Download an ICE Membership Application

Bloomberg, I Hope You Don't Need Help

A huge branch was blocking the westbound lanes of Pelham Parkway tonight. Visibility was limited and I worried some other driver might not see it in time so I called 911. The phone was answered with the usual stuff about holding on for emergencies and dialing 311 for non emergencies and I even got treated to the shrill ringings that were for deaf callers. After all this, the phone rang again and I got to hear the same announcements over and over. After being on hold for more than five minutes, I hung up. I tried to call 311 to report the tree but could not get through there either.

I get it. The weather was awful and the system was inundated with calls. My call might not have been an emergency but what if it had been? Suppose there was a fire? Bloomberg stated years ago that there was no need for fire call boxes because everyone had a cell phone. I guess he never imagined the city not being able to respond to a call. Calling for an ambulance would have been impossible.

There is no excuse for a system like 911 to fail. Since Bloomberg is in charge, he should be accountable. I bet he will have some lame brain excuse and has already picked out the person to blame.

Vote ICE

We need a change. We need union leaders who will represent us, not the Mayor., Arthur Goldstein, a good friend of mine, is one such person. It is important to vote for him but more important to vote the entire ICE ticket.

Thank you for reading this.

Dear Colleagues,

I’m running with ICE/TJC for the UFT High School Executive Board, and I’m asking for your vote. Given events of the last few years, like the disastrous 2005 contract, the union’s support of mayoral control, the erosion of seniority rights, the advent of perpetual lunch duty and hall patrol, and the inability to grieve letters in a file simply for their being incorrect, I’ve determined there’s a need for a new voice in the UFT.

I’d like to be that voice.

Unity is an invitation-only caucus that’s controlled the UFT since its inception. When people join, they agree not to vary from Unity positions in public. Whatever Unity tells them to say, they say. Essentially, it’s a loyalty oath. In recent times, many of Unity’s decisions, like those listed above, have not benefit ted working teachers.

There is another caucus called New Action. It supports the top of the Unity ticket, pretty much guaranteeing more of the same. It was once an opposition party, but in 2003 Randi Weingarten bought them off with patronage jobs and a few seats on the UFT Executive Board. With your help ICE/ TJC can claim those seats and bring real independent voices and thoughts to our union leadership.

If elected, I will be your voice not only here, but also on the UFT. I will not support measures that hurt working teachers, or any UFT members. I will vigorously oppose measures that appease Bloomberg and Klein with vague promises of benefits to come. Such measures have not served us well.

I will fight for a fair contract, for professional treatment, the retention of tenure, and the concept that a raise means more pay for doing the same job—not for extra time, extra duties, and fewer benefits and privileges.
Please check ICE/TJC on your ballot. Vote for a change in the UFT.
After 50 years, it’s time.

Best regards,
Arthur Goldstein, UFT Chapter Leader

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rant Continued

She doesn't want him to have a reader or even take academic subjects. She doesn't understand why his mom insists he go for a regents diploma. Having a student studying the subjects a regular education student studies takes her out of her comfort zone and she is not happy.

He's lucky. He has a mom who is smart and is not afraid to advocate for him. How many kids out there don't have a mother like this. How many kids are being sacrificed to keep their teacher happy?

Rant Of All Rants

Okay boys and girls, sit tight and get ready for one of the biggest rants I have let loose in a long time, or skip this post. I've been trying to be good and post stuff like this on Packemin HS but this needs to come out here. If I try to contain it, I will explode.

I broke a cardinal rule today by attending an IEP conference. I hate those things. The few I went to years ago just wanted the general ed teacher to sit there quietly and sign. Since I am no ones rubber stamp, I opened my mouth, argued when necessary and eventually no one asked me to attend anymore, which was good.

My inclusion boy had his conference today and he, along with his mom asked me to be there. They even arranged the conference around my schedule so I could attend. The conference began with introductions and Ms. Inclusion Teacher (forever more to be known as Ms IT) reading from the IEP and announcing several changes she wanted to implement. When she announced removing the reader from his exams, I spoke up. Inclusion Boy doesn't need the reader for everything, but, when some of his exams are read to him, he does better. Leaving the reader in place on the IEP will give him options. His mom agreed. His sister pointed out that since he will be going to college eventually, it was better to leave the IEP as it stood. Ms. Inclusion teacher had to change what she wrote. Already, she was unhappy.

Next we got to Inclusion Boy's schedule for next year. Ms IT didn't see any need for him to take trigonometry but once again, I butted in and backed by the sister, won. Then we got to science. Chemistry was an option. Ms. IT didn't even know if Inclusion Boy needed another lab science or not but after some discussion, it was decided he didn't. She wanted to put him in a general science class and once again, I objected. Those general classes are full of kids with behavioral problems and not the right environment for a child like him. I suggested forensics. Mom and sister agreed. Inclusion Boy agreed. Ms IT tried to shoot it down but was once again unsuccessful.

I brought up the fact that inclusion students are not included on my ARIS class list, something I have been asking for since the beginning of the year. Once again, excuses were made, others were blamed, even Principal Hula was blamed for the over sight although I know for a fact he has no control over this program and he did attempt to get those kids on ARIS. Instead of trying to fix the problem, I was told I am the only teacher who has a problem with this, so the problem must be me, not them. Not wanting to let this rest, I spoke to a few other teachers of inclusion kids and hopefully they will start making waves about this problem as well.

I asked if Inclusion Boy's teachers were hand picked, because they should be. Not every teacher has the temperament to work with a child like him and some I know would chew him up and spit him out. Of course Ms IT said this was impossible. When she left the room, I told mom and sis that if Inclusion Boy had a problem, he could always find him. I tend to be just annoying enough to get my way and in the past I have been able to get kids into classes that no one else can get them in to. Ms Condescending Guidance Counselor did not like that at all. She made a big point of trying to make it look like I thought I was the only one who cared. Luckily mom and sis knew how wrong she was and how right I was and defended me. I just got up and walked out, came home and wrote the mom a long e-mail apologizing for abruptly leaving the meeting and not saying goodbye.

On my way home today, I ran into another one of Inclusion Boy's teachers. This teacher adores him as much as I do and also goes out of her way to do everything possible to help him and make sure he is becoming all that he can. She was sorry she did not know about he meeting because she too would have attended and brought up many of the same issues I did.

Inclusion Boy has come a long way in the short time he has been at Packemin. When he first started doing well, instead of praising him, Ms Condescending and Ms IT questioned the integrity of his teachers.

I am sure Ms IT and Ms Condescending have nothing against this child. In fact, I am willing to bet they like him as much or even more than I do. But, when it comes to going to extra mile to give him the help he needs, they are out of gas. The jealousy they felt and showed when they saw how the family felt about my concern for him was unreal.

Educating kids like Inclusion Boy properly is not an easy thing to do. I don't have all the answers. In fact, I have very few of the answers. I went to the conference to try to learn some but no information was forthcoming. I heard the same crap over and over again. "Most of the kids are not gen ed kids like this one. The teacher that was here a few years ago dealt with a different population. Why are you the only one making an issue out of this? We have four kids to take care of."

One thing I learned from all of this is that I still want to avoid IEP conferences. As far as inclusion goes, it will probably be a cold day in hell before Ms. IT puts one in any of my classes again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Graduation Does Not Equal Knowledge

If you are teaching Math XXX, please use the graphing calculators on a regular basis. Most of the students who are failing have no skills. And probably do not belong in the class, but they are in the class now. We have fairly good attendance, but the failure rate is extremely high. I have on average 85% attendance but the passing percentage is no where close with the help of the calculator. It is still not too late. I taught a number of students how to solve a system of equations by the graphing calculator. The students and I agreed that without the graphing calculator, we can forget about solving those systems.

(For more information, click here. I take no responsibility for the grammar in the above statement.)

We might be graduating them, but we are not educating them.

It Hurts

The college course I teach does not permit calculators. It hurts to see these young adults struggling with including basic simple arithmetic operations, fractions, decimals and percents.

These students are unprepared for college and when I go back to the high school, I understand why.

I recently finished a section on percents both in the high school and the college. In both places, I stressed using the words to solve the problem. Both groups struggled. The high school group got off easy. All they had to do was set up the problem, plug a few numbers into their calculators, and presto, their answer appeared. In the college, they began the process the same way but had the tedious process of actually doing the computations. Some were able, many were not. One woman struggled to get 8 when she divided 160 by 20.

Since I have begun teaching this class, I cringe every time I show a high school student how to use the fraction button on their calculator. I know they will be able to pass the regents this way but they haven't mastered the math. They aren't prepared to go on to college.

NYS is talking about doing away with regents exams. This would be great if we could then do what our students need us to do, TEACH. I doubt that would happen. Everyone is so worried about statistics and graduation rates, merit pay and keeping schools open to keep their jobs that education is on the back burner. I wonder if there will ever be a return to real education in this country.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Weird Dream Number 2

The group assembled and waited for her to arrive. They had decided to give her another 5 minutes and then they would leave, with or without her.

As the decision was made, they turned and saw her approaching, riding atop a bright red baby elephant. She didn't apologize for being late and she didn't even say a word to the crowd. She just opened a special compartment in the back of her beige car, lifting the elephant in, then got in the driver's seat. She told everyone else where to sit and then drove away.

Some one asked her why she had an elephant? She said "Why not? I always wanted one and I have room for it. Discussion closed"

I don't know why I am having these dreams. This person is someone I used to be friendly but lately she has gotten high and mighty and is not friendly at all. More importantly, why am I recalling in such detail these whacked out fantasies of the night?

Funny Picture

This picture reminded me of someone I know. It made me laugh.