Friday, October 30, 2015

Teacher Education

On Wednesday, October 24, the NY Daily News  ran an editorial:  Central challenge:  Teaching teachers.  The article talks about many of the controversies in education today but the part that interested me the most was the part about teacher education and the need for high quality teacher preparation programs.  And, while I agree this is important (I had a dynamite methods teacher and advisor when I student taught) it did not prepare me for what I faced in my own classroom.  The article recommends a year of paid clinical practice under the supervision of an experienced mentor.

This editorial brought me back to my first term teaching.  I was 21 years old, fresh out of college.  I walked into a classroom, green.  I expected things to flow, like they did when I student taught. I was heart broken when my lessons did not go over as I expected or when the kids did not listen.  I was blessed with the most wonderful teacher next door who took me under his wing and showed me what it was like to be in a classroom and how to get kids to listen and learn.  So many years later, we are still friends and he still never lets me forget that he was my savior.

The new teachers today are not going to get paid mentors.  The schools won't spend the money.  Besides, there are just too many new teachers.  And, there aren't enough experienced teachers left to help as all the veterans are being pushed out.  The article says that parents would always prefer a seasoned teacher to a rookie and I agree. What I disagree strongly with is the statement that there is a sharp increase in teacher effectiveness in year two and a small increase in year three with performances then leveling off after that.  A teacher learns more each day and while effectiveness will level off, it will take at least 5 years  and closer to 10 do this.

(Pictured above is a Jones Beach pigeon, very well fed)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How Not To Grade High Schools

Graduation isn't everythingWARGA, CRAIG NYDN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Graduation isn't everything

How not to grade high schools
Re the Daily News guide to New York’s best high schools: Graduation rates alone are not the only thing that makes a good school. In fact, as a former NYC high school teacher, I am very wary of schools with rates that are too high. I have seen students pushed through and graduated who can barely read and do arithmetic.
Regents exam scores are skewed so that a 65 on an Algebra test is the equivalent of 29 (or less) raw points out of 100. Students who don’t pass the first time have the option of doing a few online problems or going to a two-week after-school program to make up the course they missed. Teachers are pressured to pass everyone. People should wonder why specialneeds students with 70 IQs are suddenly getting Regents diplomas.
A better guide might be a look at courses offered and the number of students taking these courses. Of course college acceptance rates are important, but knowing if these students will have to take and retake remediation courses before they can begin a path to a degree is also important, probably more important. Linda Silverman
The above article was in the Voice Of The People in today's Daily News.  It was in response to a supplement to the paper announcing the 50 best high schools in New York City.  After years of teaching at Packemin, I know first hand how meaningless graduation rates are. Before I retired I administered a credit recovery program that began with very high requirements and ended up being a joke as the kids just did not do any work.  I was ashamed to have to sign off on it. I have heard of  students graduating with credits earned by having friends and teachers do assignments online for them.  I have heard of special education students who can barely read or do arithmetic getting regents diplomas and have heard of students simultaneously taking 2 courses-signing in for one and attending another, all with the APs approval.
Needless to say, I and most other teachers in the city that care about education were thrilled to see the above in the headline of today's Voice Of The People.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


While teaching my class last week, I told a corny joke which made my students laugh.  I told them I want them to be happy.  At first they didn't understand why, but then I explained:  If people are happy, they do better in life.  By liking the subject, they would spend more time working on it and in turn learn more and do better.  They agreed.

I love teaching and am so grateful that I have the college to continue the career I can no longer have at Packemin.  The AP there didn't appreciate what I did and made my life unhappy.  So glad that is no longer the case anymore.

(And thanks for retirement that gives me the opportunity to see and photograph beautiful animals like the swan above--picture taken at new and improved Oakland Lake -near Springfield and Northern Blvds.)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ineffective Rating

From the Webster Dictionary:

Full Definition of INEFFECTIVE

:  not producing an intended effect :  ineffectual <ineffective lighting>
:  not capable of performing efficiently or as expected :  incapable <an ineffective executive>

The teacher is in school every day.  Even when the weather is horrendous, he gets in his car and makes the dangerous commute.  He spends hours preparing lessons and exams.  His free time is spent tutoring his students.  The kids like him, some love him and for the most part, do well. Of course he is not reaching them all.  No one can unless, of course, the classes are stacked.  He is kind and caring and gives 100% of himself every day.  His AP doesn't like him  After 30+ years she has decided he is an ineffective teacher.  Two ineffectives are pushing him into retirement, something he is not ready for.

His students don't care if his questions are not phrased perfectly.  They understand what he is teaching and respond well in class.  He will be replaced by a newbie, someone hand picked by the AP, straight out of college.  Someone who might be an excellent teacher one day but lacks the experience of this teacher and the skill that comes from years of being in front of the classroom.  This teacher is far from ineffective according to the definition of ineffective.

The teacher was recently observed by an independent evaluator and the lesson went well.  The kids answered appropriately and worked well in groups.  The lesson went exactly as planned.  Will the evaluator be objective when the lesson is written up or is this independent person really not so independent at all?  The teacher felt good at the end but the person observing never bothered to say one word to him, good or bad, so he does not know what will happen.  Was this just another gotcha?  What is the purpose of torturing the teacher?

(Zebra from Bronx Zoo--no relevance to post)

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Lack of Discipline

The parents who do not discipline their child create an individual who is used to making the rules and getting what they want all the time.  The child will often react with temper tantrums if anyone does not do what the child desires.

Young teachers straight out of college have often been trained the same way.  Their administrators have set them up as gods and goddesses letting them make the rules and set the standards.  I know this is not true for all but it did happen in my former department.  It came as no surprise when the young teacher, not getting her way in a new environment had a melt down.  No one every said no to her before.

It is hard to blame the spoilt child although no one likes this individual.  The young teacher has been raised the same way.  I imagine she should not be blamed either.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Teflon Years

Once I hit the magic age of 55 I felt invincible at work.  I was Teflon.  Any letters to file or unsatisfactory ratings would never stick, I was free to teach the way I wanted to teach, and do what I believed was best for my students.

My former AP, once my friend turned against me in my last few years.  He had complaints about everything I did, things I had done for years and things he was always happy about.  He harassed me but I fought back.  There were many battles.  I often came away wounded but always the victor.

I know there are many senior teachers with APs like my former one.  Many have the years and the age to leave but don't want to.  And, they shouldn't have to leave until they are ready.  My advice to them is to remember they can't be hurt.  Even a teacher working on a third ineffective can walk out the door any time before the end of June.

I left teaching because I was tired of teaching full time in the high school and part time in the college and I was tired of the constant battles.  Although I always came out the victor, the wounds were starting to wear me down.  But, I left on my terms.

My advice to anyone in the position I was in is to stand strong and fight back.  Make that administrator more miserable than he or she is trying to make you.  You can leave whenever you want, even a day before ratings come out.  Don't let anyone hurt you!  Do your job, the job you love the way you know it should be done.  You have the ability to decide when the final battle will be.

(Picture from an old building at Fort Tilden, Breezy Point)

Thursday, October 01, 2015


Please is not a magical word that makes a statement less obnoxious than it was intended to be.

Please will not work to get the results wanted.

(check out spelling on sign in Fort Tilden - I was told this spelling is used in all national parks)