Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Right Decision For Me

I recently had dinner with an old high school friend and we talked about the paths we took and the paths we did not take.

My friend started college with the intention of being an elementary school teacher.  She, like me, had no college educated role models aside from our teachers and knew of no other jobs open to us after graduation.  Unlike me, she decided not to go into teaching.  She had a fear of not being a very good teacher and did not want to do a job she would not excel at.  (She has since had second thoughts on the matter.)  Instead, my friend majored in sociology and after several jobs ended up working in the human relations department of a major realty company.  She worked there for 30 years, always received good reviews but was laid off anyway.  Several people were laid off and while it appeared to be age discrimination, there was no proof.  Now, in her 60's, she collects unemployment and does occasional freelance work (when she can get it) and sends out hundreds of resumes per week.  After she told me her story, she asked about mine.

I went into teaching too because I knew no other job open to a college graduate with a major in math.  I had no idea what anyone could possibly do with math, other than teach, and there was no one to guide me.  She asked me if I was happy with my decision.  Without hesitation I answered yes.  Knowing myself now, I know I could never have been happy sitting behind a desk.  (I don't do sedentary well.)  Besides, I found I loved working with students and being the center of attention in a classroom.  While I hated marking papers, writing tests, working endless hours at home and getting up early, the rewards I received being in the classroom more than made up for all the negative parts of the job.  While there, I never thought of teaching as work, it was a labor of love, an activity that was more enjoyable than anything else.

Of course I had classes that were sometimes difficult and there were kids I wasn't always crazy about but less than a handful that I really did not like.  And while administrators were never a favorite of mine, they pretty much left me alone (until the end) and I never feared for my job, even with the unexpected and sometimes non flattering observations.

I know things are different now and I am happy not to be part of the high school experience anymore.  Teaching there is no longer pleasurable.  I am blessed to be able to keep teaching in a local junior college where administration trusts teachers to do the right thing while in the classroom.  I've been asked how long I will keep working, and my answer is simple. I will work until it stops being fun.  The day that happens I finish the semester and walk out, not looking back and never to return.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Line From Madame Secretary

Lately when I see Blake he shakes like a chihuahua who just peed on the carpet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Miracle of Photo Shop





Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Just In

In order to boost its school's college ready index a local high school has decided to give many of its special education classes AP status.  Since the students must take English and History, it costs nothing to add this designation.  When the chairperson was called on the insanity of placing students with borderline IQs in advanced classes, the AP responded "We help the students out on all exams anyway so the only difference now will be my teachers will have to know more advanced questions.  If the teachers want to keep their jobs they will see to it the kids pass."  The AP went on to talk about the outstanding work that will be done in the department.  Kids who could barely read, write and do arithmetic a year ago would now be taking and passing college level classes.

On the side the AP was overheard talking to the principal about the vacation that would be taken with the huge bonus because of these scores.  Once the colleges realized how low functioning these kids really were, the AP would have a margarita in hand and a nice tan.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top 60 Schools In NYC

Wednesday, the Daily News ran an article highlighting the 60 best high schools in NYC.  Read close and don't be too happy even if your school is mentioned, or even if it is in the top half.

Baruch College Campus Magnet is school number 19.  It boasts of a 99% graduation rate but only has a 47.1% college readiness index.  The school shows 96% of their students go on to post high school programs but there is no indication of what percent of this 96% actually succeed.  Francis Lewis High School just makes the cut off for the top half at number 30.  It boasts of an 86% graduation rate but only has 38.5% of their graduates college ready.  While 77% go on to some sort of post secondary education, you have to wonder how many spend years in remediation and how many others just never finish.  No one bothers with these stats.  Once the kids are out the door, the high schools are finished.

I taught high school for over 30 years.  The school I started in had a low graduation rate, but the students who graduated and went on the college succeeded.   They got a real education, passing when they deserved to pass and failing and repeating when they didn't.  The school offered alternative programs and no one got a free ride.  While many did not go on to college, they learned the importance of working for what they received.   Things are not the same now.  High school education has become a joke.  Kids pass because teachers are afraid to fail them.  There is credit recovery and after school programs where credits are given for showing up a few times.I've even heard of APs encouraging special education teachers to coach their students while taking exams and APs translating questions into native languages but actually doing a lot more than just translating.

I teach at a local community college.  Last night, during an exam,  boy from one of these schools came up to me and said, "Professor, I don't know how to do this problem.  Can you just give me the answer."  He wasn't kidding.  A former teacher from his school told me I shouldn't have been surprised.  That is what happened there.  Colleagues were talking about remedial classes where students don't do homework, don't buy books and sleep or text constantly in class.  These kids are what made the best high schools what they are.  These kids are not going to be successful.  The whole thing is a sham and our kids are the biggest losers.

If the Daily News and other media really care about investigative reporting, they should look closer into what  the statistics they posted actually mean.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Several years ago I proctored a PSAT exam.  Things were hectic.  We had a short time to set up the room and not much time to give out papers and instructions to the students.  I explained to the group they had to stop at the end of each section.  I told them they could not go on until I told them to.  One girl in the room did not listen.  Once, twice, three times I had to stop her.  Finally I called an administrator and she was removed.  It was only after the exam was over that I learned this poor child was only in the country a few weeks and spoke no English.  I felt horrible about the way I treated her but even worse about her being subjected to a grueling exam for hours.  The poor student was forced to look at page after page of what appeared to be nonsense.  I can only imagine her frustration and then the humuilation she felt being removed.

I believe it is prestigious for the school to have a large number students take this test and they might even get money for each child doing so.  How low we have become!  This is just a legal form of prostitution and these kids are being made into slaves, forced to do their master's bidding.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Photo Class

Photo class trip to the zoo.  Hands on learning is the best.  Here is my first attempt at a panorama.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Making Of A Successful Student

I covered a pre-calculus class in the college today.  You'd think students at this level would care about learning and some do.  I was shocked when several got up and walked out after attendance was taken.Crossing names off the list didn't stop several more from leaving even though they knew they were responsible for the chapter being taught.

About half the class stayed.  We had a wonderful lesson.  The students were attentive, asked questions and worked hard.  Several stopped by on their way out and thanked me for teaching them.  These are the kids that belong in college.  They will succeed.  They make teaching fun.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Wire-Season 4

We've been watching season 4 of The Wire, a season that deals with police work and problems in an inner city middle school in Baltimore.  It  amazes me how a television series gets what kids and teachers are going through and the people who make school policy don't.  The writers understand that good test scores don't mean kids are learning.  They understand you have to make kids like school first and to sometimes trick them into learning. They understand juking test scores is all test prep is doing.  They know removing a group of hardened, disruptive kids will help others succeed.  They know that first you must civilize and teach relevance before you can educate.  They also know that new books and computers sitting unused in a book room do nothing to enhance learning.

Of course the series in unrealistic.  A police officer turned math teacher might have the desire but not the skills to do all he has done in such a short time.  Not all teachers and school administrators are as dedicated as the teachers in this school although more are than the media leads us to believe and getting a major grant to have three adults working with ten students is probably not going to happen but the show is good.  It shows what is possible, not for all, but for some, given the right situation and support.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Another Death

I  didn't know her as well as I knew him but whenever we passed she always had some nice words to say.  She was bubbly and happy and so full of life.

Her mom was sad to say goodbye to a wonderful daughter but knew it was right.  She had no quality of life, or any life for that matter.  Life as a vegetable is no life at all.

I was going to skip the wake, but was glad I didn't.  Her mom was so proud.  She enjoyed hearing the words of praise everyone heaped on her departed child.  It cost me so little time and meant so much.

Two deaths from one school in one week, so sad.  Two people who spent a good part of their lives helping young people become productive adults.