Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Anal Retentive Control Freak


I thought I had seen it all.  But, this guy, Mr. Anal Retentive Control Freak really takes the cake.  This thing is really beyond belief. 

Remind You Of Anyone?

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Reminds me how much I don't miss departmental conferences at Packemin!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sham We Call High School


Roy was faced with a dilemma in high school.  He could continue taking pre calculus or stay on the baseball team.  The team was a priority, studying wasn't.  Roy could have managed both but there was a strong negative correlation between the length of the season and his grades.

Roy wasn't thinking about college and his future when he made the decision to drop math.  The prom was coming up and the school would not let him attend if he failed math.  He decided he was too borderline to stay and did the only logical thing a teen could do.  He opted out of the difficult situation.  The school did not object.  With Roy gone, the probability of higher stats was inevitable.

Fast forward five years and Roy is now a college student.  He regrets his high school decision and is angry at the adults that went along with his choice.  He realizes now what a sham high school was and knows he was cheated out of a real education.   Roy is luckier than most.  He is bright and has a strong work ethic.  Baseball, once important has no relevance in his life today.  He doesn't even play anymore.  It might take him longer, but he will make it.  Others won't have his success.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Small Class Size

With 18 students I can:

1.  Get to know every one's strengths and weaknesses.

2.  Make sure everyone is doing assignments.

3.  Spend a lot of time checking homework and exams.

4.  Focus on the individual and any questions or misunderstandings a student might have.

5,  Get them to succeed.

(18 is the size of my college class this semester.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thumb Trouble

I-Pad thumb--what you get for spending too much time using your I-pad.  There is no cure for that big fat appendage

Hidden Treasure


I haven't written about NYC in a while, that doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying my own city.

I am embarrassed to write that I finally got to PS 1 and 5 Pointz yesterday, for the first time.  Long Island City, right in my own bag yard, is almost as foreign to me as Artic Circle.

First off, 5 Points has some of the most wonderful graffiti anyone will every see.  The buildings are truly works of art.  I'm only sorry I didn't bring my good camera. (The PS 1 website said no photos inside so I didn't bother.)  These paintings alone are worth the trip to the area.

I was not expecting much from PS 1, an annex of the MOMA, but I was sure wrong.  It is great to see this old school building put to use.  Aside from all the workshops and lectures going on, the artwork is great.  There is a fantastic exhibit by African American artists from the '60s and '70s on the ground floor and the upper levels also have some pretty interesting sculptures and artworks.  I would hope every school in the city brings their students here to see what can be done with materials at hand, particularly things others consider junk and garbage.  I am sure my husband is glad I never taught art because I know I would have a full house of this stuff.  Even without talent, I have an urge to start creating after this trip.

(above is my husband's favorite picture)

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Three classes--all the same professor.

Class 1:  Pre-calculus, 9:00 AM Friday morning. 

Students bright, motivated, engaged.  Eager for the lesson and eager to see and start practice sheet teacher left for upcoming exam.  Several asked me to stay when class ended to answer questions.

Class 2:  Remedial, 12:10 Friday afternoon. 

Students wanted to know if attendance would be taken.  Several wandered in a half hour late. Several more tried to sneak out once attendance was taken.  When informed they would be marked absent if they left, they announced their names and walked out.  They did not wait for practice sheet for upcoming exam.  One needed a pen.  Two had to be told to open notebooks.  Ten minutes before the class was scheduled to end, most had "finished" the long practice sheet, packed up and left.

Class 3:  Algebra, 2:10 Friday afternoon.

Students had to wait for security to open the door.  They filed in, opened books and got ready to work.  They asked good questions.  Many were repeaters and did not want to repeat again.  They diligently worked on practice sheet and helped one another.  All were there until the bitter end.

Above describes my Friday.  I subbed in the college for an absent colleague.  Subbing there is my favorite!  While I work hard, I get to meet lots of new students, teach a variety of subjects and get rewarded both financially and emotionally (appreciation from both students and staff, including administration.)  

Three classes, same teacher, completely different.

(Pictured above is a group of young boys changing after their swimming lesson.  The bus was waiting to take them back to school.  Nice break from test prep.  More Aruba photos here, in updated album.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

When This Is All You've Got

Small, uneducated, inexperienced, the only thing she knew was barking and biting.  She knew she could never garner respect on her own attibutes.  Instilling fear was the only thing she had going for her.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Let's Send Everyone To College

Boy misses first night of class.
Shows up second night.
Shows up third night 10 minutes late.
Shows up fourth night on time.
Hands in an almost blank take-home exam on fifth night.
Gets 21 on in class exam, also on fifth night.
Shows up 6th night and tell professor he must leave for a family function, doesn't understand why she won't mark him present for class.  Promises to e-mail for assignment.
Day of 7th class professor is still looking for the e-mail

Boy is in pre-calculus.  You have to wonder how he made it this far, and more importantly, why is he even bothering.  Thankfully there is no VAM in college yet because the goats pictured above have equal chances of passing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Evaluations That Mean Something

E4E is running commercials telling the public how much they want a new evaluation system so they know how they are doing and how they can improve. 

Anyone who needs this sort of evaluation to know how their doing is not doing very well and has no business in the classroom.

I recently cleaned out a drawer full of old observation reports, reports done by an experienced assistant principal, a master teacher.  I remembered the way my heart dropped through the floor when I heard her keys jingling in the back door and the sick feelings I used to get when I met with her after the lesson.  I remember carefully reading every word of  the three pages she handed me summarizing my lesson, mentioning both strengths and weaknesses and only breathing a sigh of relief when I saw the word satisfactory  The words this woman both wrote and spoke were the words that helped me become the teacher I am.  They had nothing to do with test scores or data.  She knew we taught an at risk population, made sure we did everything possible to help them succeed and used her superior knowledge to help us be the best teachers possible. 

Today's administrators need test scores because they lack knowledge and skill.  Getting a degree from a weekend course, using borrowed papers and then supervising a department never taught in does not a master teacher make and do nothing to create even barely competent teachers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Test Prep Break

Kids taking time from their busy test prep schedule to learn to swim!!!  What a novel idea, something practical.

 More Aruba pictures here.

Colbert's Take On State Of Union Address

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,Video Archive

 Loved the minimum wage part. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Harm Of A School's Standardized Test


Students entering Packemin take a standardized test. prepared by the math chairman, to try to insure they are in the right class.  (Actually, I believe they are designed to keep kids in lower level classes so regents scores will be higher, but I have no proof.)  Alex, Nick and Ronald took this exam when they were incoming ninth graders.  These three young boys were more interested in having fun than in doing well on a math exam they considered stupid.  Their goal, taking the exam, was to see how many different four letter combinations they could create going down the column while bubbling their answers.

Needless to say this practice did not bode well for their scores. And, because of these low scores, all three were put in a slow sequence algebra class.  All three played around in class due to boredom and did not do as well as they should have done.

All three began their high school career with a teacher fresh out of college.  Inexperience prevented the teacher from recognizing their potential.  Finally, they landed in a class with a seasoned educator who recognized their potential and pushed them forward.  All ended up with advanced regents diplomas.  Alex graduated college with a degree in electrical engineering.

The standardized exam these boys took was a high stakes exam for them, no teachers were harmed in its administration, but kids were harmed and that sucks.

While I was still at Packemin, beginning algebra students were given another standardized test to see if they belonged in the two or four term track.  The exam was made of of random regents questions put together by a fairly young teacher.  The kids were told not to worry, as it did not count (false information since it counted quite a bit in their future.)  They didn't take it seriously.  Many got pushed back into the slower track, ruining any chance they had to take advanced math in high school.  Regents stats for the school were better but these standard tests hurt the kids and that sucked as well.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Conversation With A Parent

An e-mail from a friend:
Parent to me, me to parent.

Parent: Hello ,I am a little concerned as to why you graded a paper from the log quiz when se (sic) was out for 3 days and doesn't know how to do it . Also , the m3 mid test , is that the one she hasn't finished from last week ? She cannot be expected to take a test over something she wasn't there to even learn

Please she's (sic) some light on this .

Thank you,

My answer: It is up to Tiffany to ask for help - she has not. She could ask her R time teacher to allow her to come to mine and I could help her during school. If she does that tomorrow she could get some assistance before finishing the test after school.

She is going to finish the test tomorrow - or that is what she said. At that point I will change the grade. That is what she has right now. This is the same as the last time she missed a test.

I have told the students that they are responsible for what I teach whether they are here or not. If they miss time, it is up to them to get the assistance that they need. Before school, R time, after school or during work time in class. She is in my largest class and the one with the most attendance issues.

On any given day I have at least 10 students missing. I have four different preps. I cannot possibly know who was here on what day, whether they did the class work or not, what they understand - unless they help by saying something. There are two teachers in her class. Has she asked Mr. Cook for help? He has not said anything either.

You know I will work with her. Please ask her to help me help her.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

E-Mail From A Friend

A good one to remember for later on

As we Silver Surfers know, sometimes we have trouble with our computers.

I had a problem yesterday, so I called Eric, the 13 year old next door, whose bedroom looks like Mission Control, and asked him to come over.

Eric clicked a couple of buttons and solved the problem.
As he was walking away, I called after him, 'So, what was wrong?

He replied, 'It was an ID ten T error.'
I didn't want to appear stupid, but nonetheless inquired,

'An, ID ten T error? What's that? In case I need to fix it again.'
Eric grinned.... 'Haven't you ever heard of an ID ten T error before?
'No,' I replied.

'Write it down,' he said, 'and I think you'll figure it out.'
So I wrote down:


I used to like Eric, the little bastard.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why Teaching Is Important

A woman in college class I was covering said, "I am retarded when it comes to math."  It was the first class and I only knew her for twenty minutes when she made this comment while struggling with finding common denominators for three fractions.  That comment stopped me in my tracks.  Don't ever say something like that was what I said immediately.  Just because you struggle to learn something doesn't mean there is something wrong with you.  Maybe it was the way you were taught, maybe you had to hear something multiple times or maybe you were just never taught correctly the first time.  You wouldn't be here if you couldn't handle the work.  With that, she followed what I had shown her and successfully completed the problem she was currently working on and many others.

Teaching not only involves academics, it involves self confidence and self esteem.  Teaching people to believe in themselves is something everyone needs to be successful.  And, this is why teaching is important to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Beating The System


Teachers were no longer grading their own regents exams and APs were worried their numbers would go down.  They had good reason to.  At least one had been known to magically raise failing grades to passing ones and all that was needed was a weekend in between the grading and the recording of the grades. Now that power had been taken away. 

I've heard rumors that those proctoring these students were hand picked from a group of teachers willing to supply answers during the exam.  The AP might have found a way to beat the system after all.  I wonder if this is something being taught in the "buy your adminsitrative degree" program.  If it is, this administrator has learned well and gotten value for the money spent. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Is A Teacher?

While cleaning up some old papers, I found this letter from a former calculus student.  This is what teaching has always been about for me.  This is why I was so angry about being forced out.  Of course he didn't keep in touch.  They almost never do, but that is fine.  They do what we prepared them for, college, careers and lives far away from high school.  I did just sent him an e-mail.  I don't know if the address is still valid, or if he will even remember me but I wanted to try to return the smile he gave me today.
(cut out from the top line is my Hebrew name, my first name and of course my last name.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Self Confidence


I had the pleasure of spending the day with a good friend and her beautiful 7 year old twins.  When we picked them up after school, she took the bus home with her little boy while her daughter and I opted to walk.

Jill grabbed my hand and started talking as we proceeded down Lexington Ave.  In fact, she talked non stop until we reached her apartment building.  She stopped at every store and admired the flashy, sequency clothes.  She told me about he golden retriever she is going to get when  she turns 12.  She told me about the city she is building--Jill Ville and how she is going to have a mansion in it just for her.  Her plan includes a bed with an open ceiling and an elevator to reach it, just for her.  When Jill stopped talking about her dream land, she reminded me about the clay she wants for her birthday.  She wants lots of it because she is going to create a sculpture that looks exactly like her.  She is going to be looking in a big mirror as she scupts so she won't make any mistakes.

When we got to her apartment she proudly pointed and exclaimed 9J, J for Jill.  I had to laugh.  This wonderful 7 year old girl loves herself and is full of self confidence.  He mom is doing a great job raising her.  She is as special as she believes she is.  Thsi lucky little girl is attending a private school where children, not testing is a priority.  Her school supports the self esteem her upbringing has given her.  Too bad everyone can't get what she is getting.

(Sorry, I don't fee comfortable sharingher beautiful face here so it is blurred.)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Handling An Administrator

Writing about Mr. Bob reminded me of my first observation from Mrs. Oola.  Although it was satisfactory, she didn't have much good to say.  Even back then, new to the department (not new to teaching) I knew I had to do something or the rest of my tenure at Packemin was not going to be easy.

I listened to her comments during our post observation conference and then asked if I could observe her since she was teaching the same prep during one of my free periods.  She stammered a little but had to say yes, after all, she was the master teacher, the one hired to make us all better teachers.  I knew the class she was teaching was a difficult group and making her as uncomfortable as possible was my goal.  I told her I looked forward to learning from her and meeting again after the observation.

Several days later, unannounced, I walked in and sat in the back.  I brought a big yellow pad and as she taught, I wrote.  Every time she looked at me, my head and pen went down.  Mostly I was doodling, but she didn't know that.  I watched the little beads of sweat forming over her eye brows and laughed inside.  When the bell rang, I thanked her and left.  I told her I looked forward to discussing the lesson with her.

Long story short, the post observation conference never happened.  Mrs. Oola never brought up the class and neither did I.  She also never had a negative word to say to me again.

Little Dog/Big Dog

 The little one is biting.  Beware.  This dog might be small in size but its evilness has no bounds.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rough Job, Rougher Treatment

Being a school aide is rough.  The pay sucks and the respect given to the men and women (mostly women) is non existent.

To save money schools are now cutting school aide hours.  Cutting an hour might save the school a whole $13.  Imagine how much the school could do with this money!!!

To make matters worse, the cuts have nothing to do with seniority.  The administration has the power to do whatever they want to these hard working men and women (did I mention they are mostly women?)  And, you would think the aides with the most hours would get cut first, but this has not happened either.  Some are working six hours a day while others are only given four and a half hours.

School aides are the backbone of the school.  They work hard and get shitted on from all ends.  Teachers and admins look down their noses at these men and women (mostly women).  Kids feel free to say and do whatever they want to their faces.

The schools can't control the hourly wage but it can control the way hours are doled out.  And, most importantly, they can set the tone by respecting these people and hopefully everyone else will follow their lead.

Keeping The Shred Machine Working


I've been good about holding on to old tax returns.  But, I've been a little too good.  I just started shredding ones that go back to 1990.  I should have realized this when the drawer I keep them in no longer closed.

New policy--each time a new one goes in, an old one goes out.

Yuck!  Thanks Nemo for canceling my flight and giving me time to do this.  Aruba here we come tomorrow.  Better late than never.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Probationary Report

Cleaning up some old papers, I came across lots of old observation reports (ranging from minimally satisfactory to excellent, letters from supervisors (all good) and the above report for when I completed probation.  The report covers all matters that concern teacher competence.  Note that there is no column for percent passing or VAM.

This method seemed like a good way to know whether a teacher should be granted tenure or not.  It still seems like a good way.  A young man I know is now in his fifth year of teaching.  His school still will not give him tenure because the subject he teaches has no standardized exams and thus there is no data to evaluate him.  I don't know what he is like in the classroom, but 5 years seems long enough for a Principal to know whether he should stay or leave.  If he is not good, why keep him all these years?  And, he teaches Saturday classes, so why give him extra when the administration hasn't deemed him good enough to be permanent yet?

(I had a great time putting most of these papers in the shredder, just keeping a few out as a reminder of my years in the system.)

Friday, February 08, 2013

Face It

Poverty, while a cause of some educational woes, is something that can be overcome, if the desire is there.  Just look at the number of people who grew up poor, worked days and went to school at night.  Things were hard but there was something inside them that made them persevere and succeed. 

Let's face it.  Some people don't want to learn or can't.  Education is not for everyone. 

(Picture from 2010 snow storm)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Is Proofreading A Dead Art?

By the way, I heard this sign was finally taken down.  I wonder why it finally became the AP's responsibility to remove it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

New Improved Memo

Dear Colleagues,

I have been told that the tone of some of my previous memos has not been very professional so I will do my best to improve on this one.  You will all be happy to learn that I can convey the same message in a nicer way.  I can improve my grammar, not speak in circles and hopefully you will understand my message better.

Now, it has come to my attention that some of you scumbags have gone behind my back to remove failing students from your classes.  You know this is totally unacceptable. I am the only one who should be removing anyone.  I will choose the teachers I want to have the best statistics and that is the way it will be.  I am the king and never forget that.

Right now, because we need change to make it look like we are trying to help students (you know we aren't doing a damn thing), we have annualized classes.  Only students who are failing certain classes will be moved.  We will move two term students into four term classes.  While many might pass at the end, we can keep our stats up by moving them now.  Sacrificing their education and their chances to take advanced classes is necessary for the good of the department.  Also, those failing  will be moved into pre subject classes.  Too bad if they will now need remedial classes in college.  At least our numbers will be high in June.

Lastly, I would like to thank all of you who not only called parents during school hours, but called them late in the evening, early mornings and tracked them down at work and at home.  You gave up sleep and family time plus all recreation to do this.  We all know that you are the only ones who can get these kids back in class.  Please let me know if you need my help doing this.  Unfortunately, talking to a  parent doesn't even help.  I will leave you with something to look forward to at the next department meeting--a story where this happened.

I look forward to sharing a wonderful term with you and now, that my memos are nice, and in English, people reading them on the Internet will see that I really am the best AP in the city.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Monday, February 04, 2013

APs Who Care About Education LOL

Two APs were told about the spelling error in this sign.  One said it wasn't her problem because she did not hang it up.  The other just shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
Way to go!  These APs might know about data but they know nothing about education.  This is not the example to set for students. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Education On The Cheap


Read the above quote on a friend's blog.  It came from the TV show Gray's Anatomy and was made by a young, hip surgeon in answer to an older surgeon wanting to use a tried true method.

My friend pointed out the same thing is happening in education.  She hates being part of a system where she can't do what is right, only what is cheap and what will get results.  She would love to leave but knows she needs to stay to pay her bills.  She reminds me of how happy I am to be out of it.

Early Bitterness

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

When I started teaching in the '70s, things weren't easy.  The school I was in was rough.  (I got lucky.  It was in a safe neighborhood.) In fact, it was one of the first schools closed down in the mid 80s.  My AP was a nightmare.  In spite of this, no one talked about retirement and getting out.  We worked hard and worked together.  Our goal was to help our students and to have fun while we were doing it.  The group I started with is mostly retired now (we are old) and we succeeded in what we set out to do.

When I used to sit around the math office at Packemin, (only when I was running off copies, otherwise I avoided it like the plague) I heard young teachers talking non stop about the envy the felt when one of us seniors left and how they couldn't wait until the day they too could leave.  It was sad seeing young people who seemed doomed to go through the next 20 or so years hating their jobs.  I thought about them when I read this Dilbert cartoon while drinking my morning coffee. How sad that the system has destroyed so many young teachers, teachers who should be happy they are working in a good school, located in a safe neighborhood, teachers with the ability to help so many.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Appropriate Setting For The Call

The weather when I was in Texas was pretty bad but, as I have a hard time staying in I checked Yelp when my sister's friend thought a trip to Trader Joe's would be exciting.  Being as we were in a small suburban community we didn't really have many options but when I came across the Funeral Museum I knew it would be a great place to spend a rainy day.  Everyone else made a face, but went to humor me.  Well, it was great, very interesting and worth the trip and the cost.

Funny thing, I got a call while walking around which led me to write this and reminded me of this.
The call was appropriately timed since education is in the process of dying.

More Funeral museum pictures here, on facebook.