Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Plan

Imagine you are a 25 year veteran teacher who, until recently, has always been considered a very good teacher.  Your inexperienced newbie of an administrator has decided to rate you ineffective.  You need a plan if you are going to survive.

The incompetent administrator has handed you a plan to help you improve.  She really does not know the first thing about teaching, especially teaching your subject, but is quite good at intimidation and has mastered the art of making people believe she knows what she is doing.  Don't be fooled.  Make her go over the plan with you.  Insist she teach model lessons for you to observe.  In other words, make her work for her money.  And, most importantly, force her to show herself as the ineffective teacher she has accused you of being.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Return To Work

 I thought I made up my mind to give up working in the college.  There is so much I want to do and working even two nights a week stands in my way.  I didn't want to go back but I was committed, my name was in the catalog and people registered for my class so I decided to stick it out.

Thursday was the first class.  I went in a little early to fill out some paper work and pick up syllabus to distribute.  A young man walked into the office to check on his class.  I looked at my roster and found his name.  He grinned from ear to ear when he heard I was his teacher.  He made my night.

I wish he wasn't so happy to see me.  I wish my first night didn't go so well.  I love being in the classroom and am not sure I am ready to give it up for good.

On another note, I will keep working because here I am evaluated by what I do, not by scores.  The college understands we have no control over who is in our class and whether they work or not.  We teachers are respected and treated like the professionals we are.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Dad

My dad loved order and he loved keeping his affairs in order.  He paid his phone and cable bills the minute they came in and he called the credit card company daily, kept track of every charge and had a check in the mail days before the actual bill arrived.  His rent was sent in on the first of the month even though there was no problem as long as payment was in by the 10th.  The first line of his will stipulated that all his debts be paid immediately upon his death.

Because of this I ordered the foot marker for his grave early on.  I contacted the government and made sure he got a veteran's plaque for the stone.  He earned it.  He served as a medic on the front line in Germany and France during WW II.

The cemetery where dad is buried has a nine month waiting period between burial and stone setting, something about the ground having to settle.  Well, the nine months passed and the stone is set.  The ivy has been planted.  Sunday was his unveiling.  (We uncover the stone and say some prayers.)  My dad was not a showy person so we kept the gathering small.  We prayed and cried and then went to a nearby diner to celebrate his life.  (Usually unveilings happen closer to a year from death.)

I still go say Kaddish (prayer for one who has died) several times a week.  There is no requirement for females to do this, but there is no one else.  I know some people hire a man to do this, but that doesn't feel right to me.  I can't do the required twice a day and I can't go every day, but I do the best I can.  It makes me feel good.  My dad wasn't overly religious but I like to think he would be proud of what I am doing for him as he was when I did same for my mom.

It is almost 10 months.  I know he is in a better place.  I still have the urge to call him all the time.  I still miss him.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

To All My Teacher Friends

Have a wonderful year.  I remember this feeling well.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Years Improve Everything Including Teaching

The big school complaint used to be that experienced teachers were at good schools and the bad schools were all staffed by newbies.  The complaint was all good teachers took transfers to better schools as soon as they had enough years.  Schools with the neediest populations always were the schools with the most teachers without tenure.

Things have changed.  And now these teachers with tenure and experience are considered the worst teachers.  How sad.  It takes a minimum of three years in the classroom to become a good teacher and the majority of teachers get better every year.  Teaching is a learning experience that never ends.

No one goes into teaching to get rich.  Very few stay past the minimum requirements for retirement just to build a pension.  I don't know about other states, but NY teachers don't need to do this.  Our pensions provide us with an income good enough to let us avoid the torture of a job we hate.  I know teachers including me, who worked non stop up until the day we retired, doing our best to help our students.  We did not sit on our haunches because we could.  Sure not every teacher is like this but there are bad apples in every profession, why single out teachers?  Why don't administrators use mechanisms in place to get rid of teachers who don't belong in the classroom?  (If these administrators did their jobs correctly, documented properly this would not be a problem.)

Tenure and experience is not and has never been the problem.  Schools never did well with only new teachers and they won't start doing well now.  Schools need a mix of old and new.  We both learn from each other all the time.  I personally do not know how I would have survived without the older, tenured teacher's help.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


From the official NYC website:

Am I the only one confused?

8/20/2014 12:00:00 PM
Fireworks - Boardwalk Beach 38th St, Far Rockaway - 8/22/14 (QN)
Notification issued 8/20/14 at 12:00 PM. There will be a fireworks display at 9 PM on Friday, 8/22 over the Boardwalk at Beach 38th St, Far Rockaway, Queens. In case of inclement weather, the display will occur at 9 PM on the previous evening, Thursday, 8/21.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

AP Office

This reminded me of my former AP's office door with its strict warnings to stay away when closed.

If someone needed him, too bad. Pity the student or teacher who dared to knock.

His office had the only window and air conditioner.  The rest of us stifled when the door was shut.

He needed quiet to work.  The rest of the staff and school, be damned!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Photo Shop

My husband introduced me to Topaz lab, part of Photo Shop program.  I am addicted.  It is amazing the details this little add-on brings out.  Following pictures were taken in Northport, LI on August 17, 2014 and edited today.

 (Actually this one was taken in Huntington)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Keeping The Stereotype Going

This 72 year old lady from Lebanon is fluent in Arabic and French and understands quite a bit of English, although she speaks it haltingly.  She has a PhD in pharmaceutical studies and has a wonderful sense of humor.  She enjoys traveling the world and meeting new people from all over.

This lady is a jewel and I was blessed with talking to her and laughing with her on my Celtic Highlight  tour.  My husband and I teased her about her smoking and told her stories about my mother-in-law's similar smoking habits, including a common brand.

The non-Lebanese people on our tour never gave themselves a chance to get to know this remarkable woman.  They bought into the "Arab-Muslim" stereotype perpetuated by our tour guide.  They lost out big time.

The more I think about the events of my trip and the marginalization of these people, the sicker I feel.  It scary how people will buy into stereotypes and cause a lot more danger than not speaking to people on a trip.  This how Nazis were put into power.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I never had an interest in Twitter until I heard it was a good way to get companies to listen to your complaints about them.

I don't know if it will help, but I have been tweeting about Globus  and their tour guide who could have been a taped program with a racist attitude.Globus

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tour Guide Blows It Bigtime

A tour directors job is to keep things going in an orderly fashion. He has to make arrangements and meet deadlines.  He should know his material and make things as interesting as possible.

We just finished a Celtic Highlight tour with the guide pictured above.  I know the description of him I am about to use is not nice, but "Hitler youth" would be the words I would use to describe him.  Punctuality was all he cared about and he never hesitated to threaten leaving people behind if they were 1 minute late returning to the bus after a stop.  On our first day out, a Lebanese woman was a few minutes late coming back.  He had words with her, she smiled and got back on the bus.  He said we would rotate seats every day, but "Lebanon" (a big group on the bus) did not have to rotate and they could stay in the back.  On day two a man was late.  The same woman said, "you will give me a minute to find him" and she left the bus.  He called his company to get permission to leave them both behind.  It turned out, the man waited in the wrong spot and the woman, whose first two languages are Arabic and French, chose poor words to express what needed to be said.  From then on, it was a head butting situation.  The tour was separated into two groups-us and them and it was painful.

Except for my husband and myself, everyone was from small town USA or a country with few Arab citizens. They easily followed his lead and marginalized these bright, educated, interesting people.  It wasn't until the end of the tour, when we were saying goodbye, that most realized how wrong they had been and how poorly the tour guide handled the situation.  

Yes, our tour guide was efficient.  We got to every place we were supposed to visit.  But, I believe, a good tour guide should be more than an efficiency expert.  He should at least pretend to care about the people he is showing around.  He should at least pretend to want them to have a good time.  He should speak slow so anyone who struggles with English can comprehend.  He should heal conflict, not encourage it.

Globus was the company we used.  I plan on writing them directly with my comments but I also plan on posting on Trip Advisor and other duties.  No one should use a company that hires someone like this and I want to do my part to spread the word.

More on tour and other problems later.  But, Scotland and Ireland were great and we loved both countries.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

We Lose

Today I spent quite a bit of time talking to a physics teacher from Lebanon.  He works 13 hours a week because he has many years experience.  New teachers work 20 hours a week.  His students stand when he enters the room and say "thank you sir for teaching us" when they leave.

Teachers are respected and graduation rates are high.  Students graduating are prepared for university study.  He could not believe the stories I told him about Packemin, especially when I told him it was one of the best in the city.  He could not imagine a school where students were pushed to use calculators and get answers by plugging multiple choices into calculator.  He was astonished to hear how kids with 70 IQ's were suddenly passing all their exams.

The  people in charge of education in the US should be ashamed.  We might be graduating more students now but our students can't compete with those in the rest of the world.  But, nothing matters except making sure schools keep improving test scores and administrators keep getting bonuses for doing this by any means possible.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Vacation On The Cheap V

Queens has some of the most beautiful parks in the world.  Take this one near 35th and Bell--Gold Pond.  There is fishing and hiking around the pond.  Cross the street for nice ball parks.  Climb the steps to a gazebo and more park land or go over the bridge to walk alongside the Cross Island Parkway and watch fishing and boating (or do those things) without spending a dime.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Vacations On The Cheap IV

Some people think you have to like paintings of black on black or white on white or other stuff that makes almost no sense to most of us to like modern art, but those people have no sense of what modern art really is.

Enjoy the impressionists like Monet, art of greats like Picasso and Munch, see great photo exhibits, furniture exhibits and other stuff at the MOMA in its great new building.  The museum is not cheap but Fridays, after 4, are free.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Vacation On The Cheap VI

Spend a day wandering the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.  The day I was there tulips and cherry blossoms were in full bloom.  There is a wonderful hot house and a cafeteria that looked pretty good too.  Check the website for free days.  The gardens are easily reached by subway or car.  If you drive, check out nearby neighborhood for free spots.  No need to spend $10 to park in their lot.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Vacation On The Cheap III

A good day out can be found on Governor's Island.  You can get there for free on early weekend ferries from Brooklyn and Manhattan, $2 round trip after or $6 each way on East River Ferry.  The island is federal park land and you can spend hours just walking or riding bike round the island.  There is lots of public art and many of the buildings house art galleries.  Often you can find artists at work along the way.  There are food trucks with lots of good, reasonably priced food, a really cool beach bar where they sell snacks.  It comes complete with palm trees, volley ball nets and kooz ball.  There are benches and tables and all weather couches.  You can even bring your own food and eat here or picnic anywhere.  If you are a history buff there are several tours, also free, of forts and island.

After a day in the sun, there are plenty of good reasonable dinner places in Brooklyn, lower Manhattan or anywhere ferry stops.  All you need is a metro card and some energy.