Friday, May 29, 2015

Child Reaction Services

The little girl came from a troubled background.  The school knew this and had her meeting with the social worker weekly.  For 5 months the girl and her case worker got together and talked about feelings and other things that bothered the girl.  And then, the girl refused to meet the counselor.  She claimed she was afraid of the counselor but everyone knew her counselor was a young vibrant woman loved by all and feared by none.  The counselor worried something else was amiss.  In their weekly sessions the girl talked about not wanting to visit her father.  The teacher thinks the father is the one who is stopping the counseling.  The counselor fears there is something going on the father does not want to come to surface.

The social worker called Child Protective Services and told them what she felt was going on.  They replied there is nothing they can do about the situation as nothing has happened yet.  The social worker told them she fears there are drugs in the home and the girl is not safe\=-.  The CPS worker said "sorry, we can't do anything until something happens.  The girl is not taking drugs so there is nothing we can do."  The social worker has faxed in her findings and is planning on going to the top of CPS.  She wants to protect the child.

We all want to know how an agency whose job it is to protect the child can fail to investigate a case like this.  Reacting to bad situations seems to be more important than protecting.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Phony Education

The woman stood at the cash register and called us over to her empty line.  She rang up $2.13, the price of my diet Coke, tax included,  My husband handed her a ten-dollar bill while I tried to fish out the change.  I handed her $.15 but quickly realized she  didn't understand what to do with the coins which were in addition to the amount on her screen and I took them back and she proceeded to count my change.  She got the bills okay but the coins flustered her.  She could not count $.87 without help from us.  It was painful to watch.

We walked away feeling sorry for the woman.  It was obvious she was severely mentally disabled and was doing her best.  She probably has a great personality and walked into the job interview proudly waving her high school diploma, a diploma she got because high schools graduate everyone nowadays.

A Principal once told me giving these diplomas was helping kids but I see it as only hurting them.  This woman has been sent into the world to fail at a her job.  She is not even able to make change and will not even properly be able to shop.  Many years ago I had a special education student who was afraid to take a bus because she couldn't count the quarters she needed to pay her fair.  The schools were different then.  As her math teacher, I was able to work with her on money skills.  Another teacher took a group of students like her to a nursing home where they learned skills they needed to survive.  She didn't get a diploma but she did get to graduate.  I don't know what happened to her but I know she is not standing behind a cash register being abused by people who don't understand her disability.

I watched a special education supervisor do credit recovery problems for her student.  I know of one (there are many more) who only lets teachers who give out answers proctor exams.  Learning disabilities are a real thing.  Covering them up helps no one.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

No Wonder They Know Nothing

A friend who teaches evening school in Brooklyn just sent me this academic policy.  The teachers are being told to pass everyone.

Just show up, or not, it doesn't matter.  Make up the assignments or don't even bother.  Teachers need to hold on to their jobs so tests showing mastery of  material will be dummied down.

No wonder that college professor had to read the riot act to his students. They got out of high school knowing nothing and barely showing up.  Why should this be any different?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sometimes The Ones Who Care The Most Look Like The Most Heartless

A college professor met his freshman class and gave them a pretty harsh lecture about the realities of college versus high school.  He made a special effort to point out his pay check did not depend on their success or failure and their success was up to them alone.

Speaking as an adjunct who has been teaching in a junior college I concur totally with his sentiments. Even as recently as ten years ago, most students came to college knowing something.  They bought books, did homework, attended classes and studied.  They knew college was a privilege, not a right and they did what they had to do to succeed or dropped out.

Ten years ago high schools were different.  There were no credit recovery programs or three week summer school classes.  There was no ranking of teachers based on their students passing rate.  If a student earned a high school diploma he knew something.  Things are different today.  Teachers are under extreme pressure to pass everyone.  A teacher I know was reprimanded because 4 out of 30 students in her class failed the Geometry Regents last year.  Another was rated ineffective because she failed to call on 2 out of 29 students during an observation.  Teachers are held accountable for attendance, lateness and a million other things.  They have to pass kids if they want to keep their jobs.

The professor was right on target.  The students have to know they can't wait until Thanksgiving to start studying.  They have to know every grade from the beginning counts.  There is no extra credit or second, third, tenth chances.

Anyone who has not  taught college freshman for years might think this professor is heartless, but I disagree.  He is laying the foundation for success.  If he didn't care, he wouldn't say all of this.  His message should be spread to every freshman everywhere.

Friday, May 15, 2015

This Is What It Is All About

I just got this Facebook message from a former student.  This is what counts, not test scores or opinions of no nothing supervisors and principals.  This is what made working at Packemin worthwhile.
Hi Ms. POd, 
I just wanted to thank you for everything!  you believed in me back when I was in high school and wrote me a recommendation which helped me get into college.  Today I am a few days away from graduating with a Master's in Accounting.  It wouldn't have been possible without your help and support for that I sincerely want to thank you!  I look forward to working hard and making you proud.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


When my former AP had a problem with something, we would meet, he would babble, I would say fine but he kept going and going. He knew I thought he was full of crap but fine was the only word I ever used.  He wanted an argument and I refused to give him one.

I know he was never happy at the end of a meeting.  I, on the other hand left feeling fine.  Scott Adams knows plenty of bosses like him to be able to put this in a cartoon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunday In The City

A walk across the RFK Bridge gave a great view of Astoria Park, East River and led to Randall's Island.

I love NYC, especially in the springtime.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

This beautiful little girl was trying to fall asleep on her mom's leg.  Epitome of love.

I promised the mom I would not show her face.

(Randall's Island)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Bronx Zoo Photo Class Trip

Two camera batteries, both almost dead because my charger broke.  So happy I still managed to get some pictures on our photo class trip to the zoo.  I am happy today, the new charger arrived.  It was only two days late.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

When All Else Fails

The AP did her best to get the teacher to retire.  But he was stubborn.  He liked teaching and knew he was good at it.  He knew he was better than the AP whose teaching strategy followed whatever the special of the day was.  He knew he could reach kids others couldn't.  Besides, he was not ready to put away the chalk.

Finally the AP hit on an idea.  She decided to use humiliation.  She began observing and criticizing.  If 30 students answered questioned, she wondered why there were 2 student never called on.  If the kids worked in groups she complained they were too noisy.  If they listened quietly, she complained they were not involved.  It got to the point the teacher believed the observations were written up the night before the AP actually saw what was going on in the class.  The humiliation didn't stop there.  The AP made a point of talking about the teacher in front of others every chance she got.  She filled up department conferences with references to the teacher.  She got up and spoke about him during faculty conferences and she loudly berated him in an office full of people.

The teacher has decided to retire.  The AP has won.  After a 40 year career, the once beloved, highly regarded teacher was leaving.  What a crime, not for the teacher for he will make out very well with a pension and a job in a local junior college but for the high school kids who will no longer learn from this wonderful teacher who knew how to make the subject come alive and be crystal clear to all.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Losing Your Best Friend

You know death is imminent.  Daily you see her sleeping more.  First, it is difficulty with the stairs.  Then, it is out of breath on little walks even to the bathroom.  You gradually watch oxygen use increase, the single tank goes to double tanks and finally to a huge unit permanently in place.  You see the hospital bed take the place of the couch and then the commode and then a second commode for night use.  You hear her request diapers for night time.  You hear the bed sores are starting to form and pneumonia has set in.  You hear the constant coughing, see her unable to catch her breath, too weak to bathe herself or open her own medicine bottle.  Your head tells you to prepare, death will be here soon.  Your heart doesn't believe.  She half sits in bed and nods and attempts, between coughs to hold up her part of the conversation.   She smiles through her pain because she does not want you to get upset and cry.  Your heart says she can't be that sick and by next summer she will be back to her old self.

 But, your heart lies.  The cancer has taken over and it is only a matter of days, weeks, months if she is lucky or unlucky because those of us who love her don't want her to suffer anymore.  The end came in weeks.  I held her hand as she pleaded for help, "I can't breathe, help me, help me."  Always polite, worried because she could not remember the nurse's name, "I can't breathe."  They helped.  They increased the morphine and slowly she fell asleep, like she often did as we sat and watched television together.  Surrounded by family and friends she left this world.  It hurts.  It hurts more than when I lost my parents for she was my friend, my sister, not by blood but by choice.

We met in Julia Richman HS where I had been teaching and she had been transferred.  It was the '70s and many teachers moved from school to school.  We grew close when she met her husband and moved into the neighborhood.  From sharing lessons we went to sharing babysitting and then back to lessons.  We loved walking, theater, museums, travel, everything the same.  Teaching AP calculus was both our passions, she at one school, me at another.  We went to conferences all over the city and state together.  We helped each other when stuck on problems.  We even helped our friend technically impaired friend learn to use his calculator and find his dots.  My kids were her kids and hers were and still are mine.  My husband was her friend and hers was and still is mine and they are friends too.

She's gone and I feel like a part of me is gone as well.  If I could have shared the years I have left with her I would have done so without hesitation.

I am sitting and writing my love and happy she knew how much I, my family, and everyone around loved her.  She died surrounded by devotion and will never be forgotten.  She died too young but she left a tremendous mark on the world, bettering the lives of everyone she came in contact with.

I now understand what it means when someone looks at you and says "you look like you lost your best friend."