Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29, 1980

Thirty three years ago today, I got the best gift in the world-my beautiful and brilliant daughter.  I also met a wonderful friend who delivered the same day.  I am blessed to have them all in my life.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Six Principals

Principal One never left her office on the first floor.  No one ever saw her do anything and, as new teachers, we all wondered what purpose, if any she served.  I was in the school with her 7 years and never spoke a single word to her, and maybe saw her 5 times in total.  She never even ran faculty conferences.

I only worked with Principal Two a few months.  He was a jovial guy who got along great with teachers.  In fact, he worked with the union rep to try to get rid of an awful AP.  The only contact I had with him was when I needed his permission to transfer and he refused to give it.  (I was caught in a political struggle between him and the awful AP.)

Principal Three was a very bright man who loved to hang out with tough boys from south Queens.  He walked the halls constantly and all the kids knew him well.  While I wasn't a fan, I respected his intelligence and cringed when he observed because I knew he knew a good lesson and a good teacher when he saw one.  One of the problems with him was the blatant favoritism he showed some of the staff.

Principal Four barely left her office.  I, along with others, believed she spent her days searching for another job.  She swore she would be there forever but as soon as she got an offer, she left.

Principal Five ran the school like he ran the summer camps he was in charge of.  He wanted all the classrooms set up in a horse shoe as that was the current trend.  He played annoying music between classes and loved the sound of his own voice over the PA system.  He loved being the center of attention so much he even made us sit through pictures of his summer vacation during a faculty conference.  He hated any kind of criticism and expected everyone to be subservient to him.

From reading this, you can imagine I didn't have any great expectations from Principal Six.  I figured he would either be another pompous ass full of ideas that were not educationally sound, someone who became an administrator because he didn't want to be in the classroom or someone who hid out in his office in front of the big screen television all day.

The first time I saw Principal Six he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and I believe I wrote he was so young he still had his mother's milk on his breath.  Imagine my embarrassment when he came up to me and asked if I was taking pictures for my blog.  He had been reading it for quite a while.  So now, he knew me and knew the disdain I had for administrators.  Over the years, I gradually started talking to him and came to respect some of his decisions.  Believe me, there were many I didn't agree with and I let him know.  I found he was someone I could talk to.  He even helped me deal with Mr. AP (although he did nothing lasting and I am still pissed at a grievance he denied.)

Principal Six has moved on to a new job.  He hopes to be able to make education better for kids today.  I wish him well, not only for him, but for the kids of NYC.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Staying Away

After many years of work, several of the dogs decided to retire.  They were tired.  They had worked their tails off for too many years.  At first they didn't mind.  They knew the work they were doing benefited many young pups and because of this work many went on to lead successful, productive lives.  The last few years were very stressful.  Somehow a chihuahua was put in charge, a snappy little know nothing animal who was closer to a rat than a canine.  The chihuahua yapped orders and made decisions that not only helped no one but hurt the pups she was in charge of.

Most of the dogs in the group were sad to see these colleagues leave.  They were a valuable group that could not easily be replaced.  The dogs decided to throw a party to honor the retirees.  The party was announced weeks in advance so everyone would be able to free their calendar and attend.  Several days before the party the chihuahua announced she could not attend.  Everyone believed chihuahua stayed away because she is not nice.  She does not like the retirees and is greatly intimidated by their intelligence.  Many thought her non attendance was deliberate. It was definitely a sign of disrespect, especially since their hard work is what got her to keep her job.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chihuahua's Lesson

It is June.  The pups must pass a paper training test in order to move on.  One little guy continually fails.  He just can't remember to go where he is supposed to go and he wets and defecates all over the place.  The chihuahua is not happy about this as the failing pup will hurt her statistics and keep her from moving ahead in the world.  But, chihuahua is not overly concerned.  She knows the little guy will have a chance to repeat the test in August.  

The little guy tries to master his paper training, but he just can't succeed.  In truth, he doesn't work that hard at it as he is easily distracted.  The chihuahua is not concerned.  She has found a way to get him to pass.  She has found a proctor who will put the little guy on his wee wee pad, sprinkle it with some urine and excrement and then quickly whisk him away, far away so he has no time to mess anywhere else.  The powers that be will be happy.  The little guy will pass.  He will now go out into the world and shit on anyone and everyone.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mix It Up

When I first started teaching, I taught the bottom levels.  I taught kids who couldn't make change and couldn't count past 100.  I found ways to engage them and break the math into steps they could understand. I didn't succeed with all, but I know many made progress.

After many years, I moved up in the world of education.  I gradually got to teach classes that were on track and even spent many years teaching AP calculus.  My years of teaching the lowest level helped me reach the brightest kids.  My years of teaching remediation had taught me that what was obvious to me was not obvious to them.  What interested me did not interest them.  I learned to break down difficult material for advanced students the same way I did for my strugglers.

While teaching advanced classes, I still had repeaters and slow learners in my other classes.  Teaching the top helped me raise the level I taught these difficult kids, the kids who repeatedly failed and who did not care for math or any school subjects. They needed to be taught on a level that showed I respected their intelligence and their ability to learn.

To be a good teacher one must teach all levels at some point in her career and should even go back and teach courses out of the norm to keep the brain alive and productive.  A good teacher must realize that there are students with many different learning levels. A teacher who never teaches an honor class might start to believe a mediocre student is brilliant while a teacher who only teaches the top might not have enough respect for the poor child who struggles with calculus.

Most teachers have 5 classes in a NYC high school.  Although I often had classes that were a challenge, I am glad I had them.  These classes made me a better teacher for the advanced classes.  The advanced classes motivated me to find higher levels to reach everyone.  Everyone should teach a mix.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Just In Time For The Holidays

Just in time for the holidays, a major toy company announced a brand new video game:


The goal of the game is to graduate as many students as possible.  The quality of education or the caliber of the graduates is inconsequential.  Numbers are all that count.  At the end of the game, the administrator with the best statistics will be given a pat on the bag, receive a bonus check for $10,000 and be Time Magazine's person of the year, complete with picture on the cover.

The player will assume the persona of a 30 something year old  teacher who has taken a few weekend and online courses and is now running a department in a public high school.  The teacher has barely taught any subject and may never have taught the subject he or she is supervising.  The qualifications for this job are  an ability to turn on a computer and type.  Having a heart and a brain is discouraged.  Having a nasty and mean streak is required.  Players can choose avatars with names like Ms. Nasty Pants, Mr. You All Suck, Mrs. I've Got Balls and Dr. I Am Going To Destroy You All.

The player will be given an office, a computer, an I-pad and a pair of sneakers to roam the halls of their schools to search out the teachers who will be most willing to go along with their unscrupulous plans.  The teacher must be willing to forgo any ideals about providing real educations and be willing to falsify credits, complete assignments for their students, supply answers to standardized tests while the tests are being taken and to change answers if necessary during the exam and while it is being graded.  The teacher must also sign a blood oath to never reveal doing this.  They must also squeal on any teacher who insists on doing the old fashion thing called teaching.

Special bonus points are given to players who assume the persona of special education administrators.  The job here will be to take students, some of whom have IQ's of 70 or less and convince the world they have passed regents exams and have earned high school diplomas.  To take this position, you must think and act like the ancient Romans who threw gladiators and others to the lions for sport as this is what will happen to students in your charge.  They will all graduate and go on to a college they have zero chance of succeeding in and will not be prepared for any jobs.

At the end of the game, players who have met and exceeded their school's AYP will get accolades and receive all the prizes mentioned above.  They will then qualify for such jobs as school principal, superintendent, chancellor and presidential cabinet member in charge of education.

There will be a rush for these popular games so put in your order early to be sure you won't be left out.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Caring Equals Success

When I walked into my Thursday evening class, I saw several students still working on an exam.  The teacher, who always vacates the room by 5:45 was still there at 6.  I told him I didn't mind if the students stayed and finished and told him I would leave the exams in his mail box.  He thanked me and said something I always felt.  "I teach kids math.  I know these kids have issues I never faced when I went to school-jobs and families.  They are out too often and have difficult times studying and doing homework.  I want them to succeed and am willing to do all to help.  I expect homework, but I accept it late.  I give them every chance but I don't give them anything for free."

I never spoke to this man except for a quick hello or goodbye before.  I realized at that minute I found a kindred spirit, someone who shared my values and feelings about education.

I know why the students I meet love the school so much.  While there are teachers than don't think like this guy, many of us do.  We might not ask the exact right questions in the exact right form, we might not get every student to speak in every class and at times, we might not use the best motivational question, but we have what it takes to get the kids to pass--we care.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Success Letter

 I got the following letter today from a student.  Statistically, she would count as a failure.  Read the letter.  I know I was a success.  Thankfully, the college does not only look at numbers.
Hi Professor 
You know was my pleasure to be in your class but I am gonna drop it. I just cannot do it. I have been at the hospital all day with one of the  developmentally disabled individuals I work with all day because of a self injurious behavior.  I will start fresh next semester because for one this job is consuming me and I have not been focused due to the constant headache for little pay. My first priority is to transfer to a site closer to home (Westchester) so that I will be less stressed, followed by transferring to a school closer to me such as Lehman.  Thank you for your flexibility and little life lessons you have offered me. You're a wonderful teacher. I will find out withdrawal date so I can bring you the slip to sign. Hopefully by next semester I will have a better job and be in a new school closer to home.-June 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Another Funeral

I worked with John at Packemin and now see him at the college.  When I saw him last week, I commented on not seeing him for a while.  He answered that his dad had been sick.  Tuesday he told me his dad was home. Thursday I gave him the information I had about home hospice.  Yesterday I got an e-mail saying his dad passed away.

I don't want to go to another funeral, especially one for a dad.  The memory of my dad's grave is still too fresh in my mind, but I am going anyway.  The love and support I got from people I worked with, people who I didn't even think liked me or thought about me was amazing and helpful and I want to do the same for John.

An orphan, whether at 6 or 60 hurts.  (Of course the younger you are the worse it is, no comparison.) If my presence even helps for a few minutes, I will be happy I went.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Billy Crystal

I saw Billy Crystal on Broadway Wednesday evening.  I knew my dad would have hated for me to waste the tickets and not go.  It would have hurt him to see $324 go in the trash.

The show was funny and sad.  It did exactly what it was supposed to do.  I know exactly how he felt when he said after his father died he went through life pushing a giant boulder in front of him.  I have rocks around my neck.  Oh, and his mom's passing, her stroke, was my dad's tumor.

I'm glad I went.  I wish I could reach out and thank him for the way he made me feel.

(Pictured is dad and his mom.  Photo chosen in honor of his service in WW II)

Friday, November 08, 2013

Home Town Tourist

I got off the subway this morning at 57th and 6th because there is nothing like a good walk in Manhattan to make me feel good.  As I walked towards my destination I overheard a fellow New Yorker look up and then say to his friend, "I feel like a tourist."

I knew exactly how he felt.  My destination was 49th and 5th.  I could have used a closer stop.  He and I had a brief conversation about the wonders of NYC and how I never got tired of playing tourist here.  I then left him to use the bathroom in the The Peninsula  Hotel, on 55th and 5th.  (I only pee in the best places.)

This is a picture of the Rockefeller Christmas tree being raised by a crane.  I've seen it decorated and being decorated but this was the first time I actually got to see them raising it.

My friends and I don't remember American flags around the tree.  I looked back at some old pictures and found this from 2008.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A New Kind Of Mentoring

The inexperienced no nothing AP is mentoring the young teacher who has had enough of the classroom and wants to move on to a position in administration.  Here is a copy of the letter the AP wrote her to cement their relationship.

Dear Young One, 
I was once a newbie like you.  After only a few years I too decided I wanted to be an administrator.  I could not see myself standing in front of a classroom and dealing with problem students for the rest of my career. Tough kids make me cry and they scare me quite a bit.  Now I can assign those kids to the teachers I don't like and hide out in my office whenever there is a problem.  I make sure I program myself for classes that require no work and I have even dismissed classes early.  I am in charge.  Who is going to tell on me? Besides, I love giving orders to others, especially those older and who think they are wiser than me.
Don't worry about not knowing much about a subject you are in charge of.  Look at me.  I knew nothing when I began this job and still know next to nothing.  I never make a decision and pawn work off on others. When I don't have an answer, I stare and get nasty to all around.  I can teach you to do all this and more.  I can help you get bonuses.
Young one, know this.  While I am mentoring you, you will be my slave.  You will do everything I tell you to do, including cleaning my house and babysitting my child.  You will write my observations and order my supplies.  Never forget I own you.  But, when it is all over, you will be able to own someone else.
Life is good when you are young and beautiful and know a little about technology.  Knowledge about anything else is totally irrelevant.
Sincerely yours,
Know Nothing and Proud of it Administrator 


Monday, November 04, 2013

New Blog

Blogging helped me cope with the emotions of teaching.  It was(and still is)  a way of getting it all out.  When my mom was dying, I started writing about all the things I was feeling.  For me, it was therapeutic.  I am now dealing with my dad's passing and trying to come to terms with all we went through these last six years when it was primarily just me and him, particularly these last few months as I watched his health steadily decline. 

Actually, I take that back.  I have been caring for my parents for years, worrying about how things would go since my mom was diagnosed with mylofibrosis about 5 years before she died.  It is strange not to be worrying about my parents anymore.  My fingers still itch to dial their phone and tell them about my latest bargain or to get a weather report from my dad.  I've started a new blog, I Miss My Dad.  I want to be able to write what I am feeling, share what I have learned about end life care and just vent.  The new blog will spare many from reading my sad tales.

I still plan to write here.  I have a few chihuahua stories to tell and lots of stories about Packemin and other schools.  No more Mr. AP stuff.  He came to my dad's funeral and to thank him I promise to never post anything that might make him look bad.

I would like to thank all my blogging buddies for their support and friendship. It is amazing how much the words of all you great people have helped.  And, I truly understand if you don't want to read the new blog.  I am mostly writing it for me.  I am selfish that way.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Park Ave Public Art

Trying to lift my funk, I took myself to Cold Water Creek to use the $25 coupon I got in mail yesterday.  I managed to score a $70 sweater for $8.  And, with the rain gone, I took a walk down Park Ave to the MOMA.  The public art along the way is wonderful.  Sorry, only so so pictures.  I didn't bring my good camera because of the rain.

More pics here.