Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chapter Leader Speaks

Make It Fun And Give Them What They Can Do

(The soap dispenser in the trailer I covered a class in.  Most conditions are not as bad as they used to be, but other things  never change.)

The kids in the English class don't like school much and some can't read or write very well, but the teacher is great and is managing to make progress with them.  He read some def jam poetry with them, which the kids loved, and then had them write their own, focusing on the neighborhoods they live in.  He helped them clean up their spelling and their grammar (without losing integrity of their poem) and hung the poems in the classroom.  He found a fun way to get them to learn.

I covered an ESL class for a friend last week.  He told the kids to find a partner and pair up.  (The math teacher in me had to go through odd and even numbers and divisibility, giving them English terms for concepts they already knew.)  Their assignment was to create a dialog between a student and a teacher, where the student would be asking for a higher report card grade.  The kids seemed interested, but as soon as he left the room, they became kids again and tried to avoid the assignment.  I quickly picked up my camera and pointed it at the boy who thought he would be getting away with a card game.  I said, "I don't know your name, but the camera doesn't lie."  The cards went away and the work began.  I was in awe as I watched this group of ninth and tenth graders working together, looking up words and putting them down on paper.  I wondered why they never did the same during math.  And then it occurred to me, they were having fun!  

A writing assignment in an English class is something everyone can do.  There are no wrong answers.  While previous knowledge is required, it is knowledge they have.  You can't do this in math.  I'm not saying writing is easy, or that the work will be masterful, but it is approachable.

I heard the Principal say he needed to find out why some kids behave better in some classes than others.  I think I've stumbled upon an answer and that is the ability to have fun and succeed, to do both at the same time.  I've seen art projects kids do for English and I've heard about the movies they watch.  We can't do those things.  While math is fun for the teacher, and we try to make it fun for the kids, the bottom line is that it is work, work that cannot be disguised.  Math has no gray areas of right or wrong.  The misspelled word in an essay is not the same as a misplaced decimal point.

I should have been an English teacher.

Leonie Haimson

Class Size Matters

Nine kids showed up for tutoring this morning, not a big turnout, but a worthwhile one.  A group of ESL girls, girls who have only been in this country a little over a year showed up.  And, while I don't speak Chinese,  sitting with them, explaining with words and pictures and then letting them explain to each other made a big difference in what they knew coming in versus what they knew when they left.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking to Leonie Haimson from and I only thought about my lowest level kids and how smaller classes would benefit them.  Today I saw how smaller classes would really help all kids.

Millions of dollars are being spent on technology and methods to evaluate teachers.  Nothing is being spent to lower class size.  Thank goodness for people like Leonie who work non stop to try to get the children of NY what they really need.

Not On The List

Girl:  can I please have a metro card.  I've been coming to Saturday tutoring since it started and I can't afford to pay.

Administrator:  No, you are not on the list.

Michael Mulgrew At Rally

Friday, April 29, 2011

This Kid Knows

Save Our Schools

Francis Lewis Rally

Loved this sign.

Save Our Schools

Francis Lewis rally
April 29, 2011

Message To Bloomberg

Francis Lewis HS rally to save our schools  4/29/11

More pictures and lots of videos to come.

Spewing Venom

The teacher, so new to the field, has so little patience for kids who are not easy to deal with.  The animosity the teacher feels for these kids is obvious to everyone within earshot.  Yet, this teacher is considered a gem, a master teacher, someone every teacher should try to emulate.

G-d help the kids who have her now.  G-d help the ones who have her after she has been teaching for a few years and has a reason to feel this way.

Stone Soup

Stone Soup

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Plot

Read it here.

Will Personal Feelings Prevent This?

It's that time of year again when teachers are asked to nominate a student who has overcome major obstacles and moved ahead in math.  I nominated Inclusion Boy.  This kid persevered and took the geometry regents four times and passed.  He didn't need the credit, his parents let the decision to retake it be his and the school gave him no encouragement.  He did it because he knew he could, it was just a matter of getting what he knew from his brain to his hand.  His mouth had no problem solving difficult examples.

In the past, I have nominated many winning students.  In fact, I am often asked to nominate because I know the struggling students who have succeeded.  This year I have a feeling my nomination will be ignored.  The new memo  asked for additional nominations so the decision would not be made for one student.  (This never came out before.)  It is sad.  Personal feelings might deprive this young man of an award that he not only deserves, but that will do wonders for his self esteem.  I really hope and pray my feeling is wrong.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doing My Best

I am not a big fan of credit recovery but I have a soft spot in my heart for kids who are taking it seriously and are really trying to earn back the credits they need.  I've been talking to kids who need and want the help and have been giving as much as I can.

Maybe these kids should have done things differently in the beginning or maybe they just couldn't grasp the material.  Either way, I'm doing my best to turn this job I took for money into a meaningful experience for them and me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hope You Had A Good Vacation

I've sharpened my teeth so look out!

Another One

Pipe Lady sat at her desk, pipe in her mouth and smoked away.  The kids she was supposed to be teaching sat quietly at their desks.  She scared them.  She didn't need union protection.  No one came after her.

Stop Focusing On Stupidity

I'm not an Obama fan, but these headlines are ridiculous:

Monday, April 25, 2011


A rare picture of me taking a picture in the Planetarium

Strawberry Fields and Surrounding Area

 John Lennon wannabee

 The Dakota

Butterflies Are Free

But not at the American Museum of Natural History.  This exhibit was pricey, but nice, especially because my niece got us free passes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Never Get Tired Of This View

Manhattan skyline as seen from the Greenpoint Exit of the LIE on the way to the 59th St Bridge.
(Or should I say, the Ed Koch Bridge)

Happy Easter

Wishing everyone who celebrates a great day.


It's good to have an English teacher as a friend.  I always have someone to correct my grammar.

Money Saving Idea

Senior year is important to kids, all kids.  I heard someone suggest we do away with this year as a way to save money, but, I vehemently disagree with this penny pinching way to educate.

Pushing  graduation up a year would deprive some very hard working, deserving students of their best year in high school.  I teach three classes of seniors and I do see the deterioration of their work ethic as we approach graduation in June.  College choices have already been made and while a college may rescind its acceptance because of poor senior grades, this rarely happens.  If junior year became the new senior year, we would see a new disease "junioritis" replace "senioritis".

Senior year gives many kids one last chance to grow up and mature before facing the responsibilities of college.  Choosing a college is a big decision, one that has to be made with much care and thought.  What is right at sixteen might not be right a year later.   At this age, kids are not ready to live on their own, be responsible for their own meals and their own laundry.  Kids need to be kids and are entitled to that one extra year.  They need that extra year to grow up and mature.

Senior year is the year of the senior trip, the year book and the prom.  It is the culmination of all the years of childhood and the beginning of adulthood.  It is a special time and students need to embrace it and enjoy it before they are sent out into the world.  For many, it is the first time they relax and enjoy school without the worry of regents exams and report card grades.

And, with all this, let's not forget the education the kids get during this year.  Many take advanced placement classes and fourth and fifth years of math, science and foreign language, courses that will help them succeed in the future. 

Saving money is all well and good but saving it at the expense of children is not.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tweeting Your Way Through School

Another brilliant way to earn credits--Norm, over at ednotes is brilliant!



Without A Trace..

A rainy Saturday gave me time to clear away some papers I will never again need.

No Right Answers

Take money out?

Leave it in?

Protect husband by taking pop up?

Take the money now and invest it?

I'm so confused.  I have a headache.

Friday, April 22, 2011

She Should Have Done More

Ms. Caring gave up a day of her vacation and came to work to help her students prepare for the June regents.  While many kids showed up, none of the kids who needed the help cared enough to give up a day off to get it. 

Ms. Caring will be judged by her regents results.  I suppose that is a good thing. After all, she didn't hire a bus to pick them up and bring them in.

Something Is Wrong

Joseph, 7, a special education student at a Manhattan School, was handcuffed and taken away from school in an ambulance.
When a chancellor says there are times a 7-year old should be handcuffed.  While he will look into the matter, the Principal will not be removed.

Not saying she should be, but how can he make a blanket statement like that before looking into the incident.

NYC--we are in big trouble with people like this leading our education system.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bring Cash

I have an aversion to retirement parties, in fact, I've had this feeling for years.  It always bothered me coughing up $60 for some food I don't want to eat to celebrate the career of someone who will forget my existence as soon as she has one foot out the door.  Don't say this won't happen, because I know it does.  I felt guilty after I said no to one a few years ago and, at the last moment forked over the check.  Well, I was right.  That person, while keeping in touch with some people has had nothing to do with me.

Several years ago, a good friend refused to have a typical retirement party.  Instead, she invited friends to a party in her home, a party she paid for.  This seemed like a great idea at the time.  The hitch--every guest was asked (by another friend) to chalk up $50 to help pay for a watch she wanted.  So much for paying for your own party.

I have lots of reasons for not following the typical route, but the scenario above is my number one reason.  Anyone who cares about me can go out and have a drink (even a glass of juice if they don't imbibe) in my honor.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Real Value, Not That The Bloombergs Of The World Would Notice

It was a day in the middle of a vacation week.  The teacher was sitting in the middle of a group of students, all who had given up their day off to get some extra help.  (I was there to do some per session work I am getting paid for.)

The teacher was taken aback to see me.  He didn't want anyone to know what he was doing.  He swore me to secrecy, as if his actions were criminal.  I will keep his secret and not share his identity or even the subject he teaches.  But, I have to share his actions.  Here is a person who cares.  Here is a person whose value is more than a some data on a sheet of paper.  Here is a teacher of real value.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Little Math Humor

I don't teach to the test but I do teach test taking skills.  Although I want the kids to know and understand the math, the bottom line is all most care about is their grade.

We just finished a unit on differential equations and with every questions I stress the importance of "plus C", emphasizing that the readers will not even look at their work if they leave that out.  One of my kids just posted the following on our Facebook page.  I'm really going to miss this group.

Two math professors are sitting in a pub. 

"Isn't it disgusting", the first one complains, "how little the general public knows about mathematics?" 

"Well", his colleague replies, "you're perhaps a bit too pessimistic." 

"I don't think so", the first one replies. "And anyhow, I have to go to the washroom now." 

He goes off, and the other professor decides to use this opportunity to play a prank on his colleague. He makes a sign to the pretty, blonde waitress to come over. 

"When my friend comes back, I'll wave you over to our table, and I'll ask you a question. I would like you to answer: x to the third over three. Can you do that?" 

"Sure." The girl giggles and repeats several times: "x to the third over three, x to the third over three, x to the third over three..." 

When the first professor comes back from the washroom, his colleague says: "I still think, you're way too pessimistic. I'm sure the waitress knows a lot more about mathematics than you imagine." 

He makes her come over and asks her: "Can you tell us what the integral of x squared is?" 
She replies: "x to the third over three." 

The other professor's mouth drops wide open, and his colleague grins smugly when the waitress adds: " C."


 My son cooking the world's best matzoh brei.
My husband and children playing a card game on the dining room table.

Sharing My Pictures

Just download the pictures of our roof damage, which is worse than we thought, the inspector was just here and found a bunch of pictures I never downloaded from a crafts fair in Eisenhower Park.  This little beauty needs a home.  More pictures on Facebook but I warn you, most are of this cat.

Memories Of Cooking

It takes so long to make and then in gone in a matter of minutes.  Took some pictures, posted them here on facebook.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Don't Need The Aggravation

Saturday night, my new roof leaked buckets into the living room.

We called the contractor.  He said, "It's raining, that is what happens."

We said, "No, roofs are not supposed to leak."  He said he couldn't come Sunday because he had no crew  When we said unacceptable, he said it was a religious day.  We told him to come anyway. He called Sunday morning and said he couldn't come because he had a tummy ache.

He showed up today and is now trying to claim it is not his fault the roof is leaking.  He said we have holes under the aluminum siding.  Funny, its never been a problem before.

Insurance comes this week but we have a high deductible.  It's off to small claims court again.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy Passover

Bad Teachers--Part II

The series on Bad Teachers who didn't need union protection to keep their jobs continues here.

Zoo Keeper came to school every day smelling like the cages he cleaned early every morning.  His clothes not only smelled the part, they looked the part too.  One day he wore one with all the buttons missing.   I stapled it shut to hide the raggedy tee shirt he had underneath.  The term I had the misfortune of following him into a room had me carrying a can of air freshener.  The kids refused to enter until the air was cleared.

Smell was not Zoo Keeper's only fault.  He was a lazy bastard whose daily lesson consisted of ripping a page from a book, photocopying it and handing it to the kids to do.  The ones who didn't cut were afraid of him and sat quietly and worked, learning next to nothing.  The AP knew he was bad but was too afraid to start with him.  The principal, too, left him alone.

Zoo Keeper taught the lowest level classes in the department and for this, the other teachers were grateful.  They didn't have to deal with these children.  Zoo Keeper claimed he didn't know the higher level math and that was all he could handle.  Even when it came to marking regents, Zoo Keeper claimed ignorance and got away with doing nothing.

In addition to his smell and his lack of teaching, Zoo Keeper took a week off every year to go to Florida.  He always had some family member's funeral to attend to.  No one bothered to check whether this was true or not.  No one wanted to deal with his wrath.

One day, the big bad boys in Albany decided that high schools would no longer teach remedial math.  This  meant Zoo Keeper would have to start teaching.  There was only one thing left for him to do and that was retire.

The union didn't protect Zoo Keeper.  The administration did.  He got away with behavior like this his entire career.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Singing A Diiferent Tune

The state education commissioner David Steiner is sure singing a different tune now that he is giving up that title.  Speaking at Hofstra Friday, he said the state should consider a Regents exam in art and the importance of art and music in the school curriculum. 

He also said "The cheapest way to educate children is to plunk them down in front of a screen."  This is being done not only in NY, but all over the country.

Amazing how your tunes change when you are looking for a new job.

For Some Questions There Are No Answers

Kids can make up failed courses by answering a series of questions online.  One of my students, not one who failed, asked the perfect question:  "If they couldn't understand the material while they were taking the course, how can they be expected to do it now?"  I just shrugged my shoulders and began the lesson.

Stop Blaming Unions

In my over 35 years of teaching, I can remember three really bad teachers.  Were there more? Of course, but isn't it true that every profession has its share of bad workers.  The union's job is to make sure every members gets due process, but if a member commits something really egregious, no union should be able to save that person's job.  Here is the story of one.

XXX was a wild woman who marched to her own beat.  In the 70's, she was featured on the front page of a major New York newspaper, in the hot pants she taught in (she had a sensational body), walking down a major avenue in the city.  Everyone knew to stay away from room 223 in the morning because she was always in there having unbridled sex with her married boyfriend.  She showed up at work when she wanted to and left when she felt like it.  This activity went on for many years until there was a change in the administration and she was brought up on charges.  The CL went with her to the hearing, after all, that was his job.  As they got ready to go into the meeting she said, "You stay here, I can take care of this by myself."  Thirty minutes later, she emerged from the meeting, lipstick smudged, hair disheveled and smiling from ear to ear.  All charges had been dropped.

XXX eventually left teaching on her own accord.  She has gone on to do some pretty powerful things with her life and has even appeared on Oprah.  The union had nothing to do with her tenure in the classroom or her successes outside of it.

One Smart Kid

It's good to have my son home.  He is the only one who would think of looking for my lost cell phone in my husband's moccasin.