Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mr. Robinson

I just watched the season finally of a pretty awful show, Mr.Robinson, a bad show that I was somewhat fascinated by.  Mr Robinson is a musician who became a middle school teacher because he needed the money.

The characters on the show are pretty stupid and on the surface do not portray a very positive image of teachers.  But I realized today why I kept watching.  This immature, insane group of teachers and administrators love their students and care more about their success than anything.  In the last episode Mr. Robinson gives up a chance to tour with Earth, Wind and Fire because his kids needed him.

It was nice to see teachers and administrators working together and working over time with the only important thing being the welfare of the children in their charge.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Segregation In Integrated Schools

Yesterday's Daily News had a great opinion piece about how our schools are still segregated and unequal.  And, while this is true, I think we have to take a deeper look into schools that are integrated and see the racial make up of those classes.

From my experience at Packemin, I saw extreme segregation in classes. AP math classes were white, Asian and South East Asian.  There were a smattering of Hispanics but kids whose ethnicity showed only in their names.  In my last year I did a study to see why this happened.  I found many African American students entered the school with as good or better backgrounds than their peers yet they never made it to the advanced class.  On the other hand, if I looked at the slower algebra and geometry classes, I noticed too many dark faces.

My opinion and this is from my personal observations is that African American students did not get the same opportunities as their white and Asian peers.  If they messed up once, they were out of the path that led them to advanced classes where other races got second chances.  One year I met a young Black girl who wanted to take AP Calculus.  The chairperson said her grades weren't good enough but I picked up a transcript of a Chinese student with lower grades who was admitted to the class.  A back door got the girl in and she did well.  Lack of Black faces in my AP classes bothered me from the day I started teaching them in 1995 and nothing I did made a difference.  I don't know if things are any different now, I have been gone for 4 years.  I hope so.

We do need to integrate schools but we also must make sure that once schools are integrated classes are too and we need to make sure all students have the same opportunities regardless of their ethnic background.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Too Bad This Isn't Real

For all you teachers headed back to school, this is something you could really use for professional development and never ending meetings those first few days.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Wedding

She was a student of mine in AP calculus and I wrote all her recommendations and helped her get into the Time 2000 program at Queens College.  I helped her write lessons when she student taught at Packemin and lost touch with her after graduation.  Several years after student teaching I met her at the community college where she was working, first as an adjunct and then as a full time professor.  (The AP at Packemin did not think she was a good fit for that school.  The college loves her.)

Fast forward even a few more years.  The girl is a young woman and getting married.  I was honored to be invited and thrilled to witness the biggest event in her life.  Pictured above is the tea ceremony from her wedding.

No reward is better than the rewards I have gotten from my students and from knowing the positive influence I have had on their lives.  No negative words from any administrator can take that away.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Packemin Packs Them In

I know hardly anyone reads this blog anymore and I hardly ever write anything, let alone anything interesting yet all I have to do is mention PACKEMIN in the title, body or tag and I get a ton of hits.

People must love reading the dirt on that place and believe me, there is tons of it.  I don't write much of it because doing so would reveal my source.  Still, it is fun to know certain people are sweating just because the word came up in their reader.

Enjoy the Hagar cartoon.  Tell your students another reason they need math is so they can understand the funny pages.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Summer At A NYC High School

It used to be summer classes were provided to help students re mediate and then pass subjects they failed during the school year.

Summer school has a different purpose now and that purpose only involves statistics.  The kids go to school for a couple of hours and get credit for the course.

Fifty kids in a summer class is normal.  Schools like Packemin have no problem doing this in classes like math, English and history, subjects they need to graduate and need to learn to provide college background.

Packemin is rated one of the best neighborhood schools in the city.  How can any school with class size of 50 be rated well?  How can 50 kids packed in a room built for 34 be educated? How can a teacher be expected to help them all?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Fix That Started years Ago

Before there was a de Blasio and a Farina there were politicians like Bush and Obama and billionaires like Gates making school graduation rates a priority.  No one stopped to think about why all of a sudden schools had such tremendous growth in the number of graduates.

My former AP wanted everyone to set passing goals for their classes.  Since I usually ended up with the most at risk students my stats were usually lower than many others.  It did not bother the Principal since he understood the challenges I faced and respected the number I got through and how I was able to work with them but it bothered the hell out of my AP, a guy who only saw life in black and white.  I refused to give him a number.  When he pushed, I said my goal is 100% passing.  He told me that was unrealistic and wanted a number around 80%.  I finally told him I could not be comfortable with a goal of 20% failing.  Of course he mumbled something and I left with no goal set.

Other teachers were not as gutsy and he did get them to set goals.  If they did not meet these goals he badgered them and berated them in public (not by name but everyone knew who the senior teacher was  who taught geometry period 8).  Teachers were forced to stretch grades and give credit for names on papers.  No one would believe some of the regents answers that were given points.

Phony diplomas are not a new thing and they need to stop.  Maybe the Post's story will finally help to bring an end to this horrific problem.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Don't Wait For Tomorrow

One minute you are fine, the next minute you are in a hospital fighting for your life.

This is what happened to a friend of ours I will call Max, to protect his privacy.

Max was a vibrant, outgoing  69 year young man.  His only problem involved his hips which were successfully replaced a few months ago.  A month ago he developed a severe headache.  His wife brought him to the hospital. He was checked and released.  Several hours later the symptoms returned and his wife brought him back to the hospital.  At 4 in the morning she got a call telling her he has a massive stroke.  He is recovering but it is slow.  I spent the afternoon with him and wonder if he will ever be the same.

I won't go into details of his health here but I will say this.  Life is uncertain.  We don't know what tomorrow holds in store.  We don't know when our hearts will stop, when a car will plow into us or when an aneurysm will explode in our brains.  I want to enjoy every minute I have and not wait until tomorrow.

Prayers for a full recovery for Max and for strength and hope for his family.