Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Here's one of the best ideas I've seen in a long time. While Joe Williams of The Chalkboard has a marginally different interpretation, I think it's an excellent idea that legislators be compelled to send their kids to the public schools they administrate.
If the schools are bad, they will, for once, have a viable incentive to improve them.
If Saint Rudy'd had to send his kids to public school, do you think he'd have suggested welfare recipients be compelled to work in public schools? For your kids and mine, Rudy thought, people chronically unable to find work are adequate role models. But Rudy's kids went to private schools, so why the hell should he worry?
Do you think it was a good idea to reduce city aid by precisely whatever amount the state increased it, whenever the state increased it? Rudy did. And why the hell not? His kids were in private school. If the public schools were a bunch of overcrowded danderous hellholes, he didn't have to worry about it.
Was it a productive for Mayor Bloomberg to fight tooth and nail in order to avoid paying any part of the CFE lawsuit, which focuses on quality teachers and class sizes more in line with the rest of the state?
Do you think it's wise, in order to artificially depress salaries, to hire any teacher you can muster through job fairs, massive publicity campaigns, 800 numbers and intergalactic recruitment?
Well, Rudy and Mike are fine with it. So is Chancellor Klein. Have any of their kids seen the inside of a public school?
Not on your life.
If their kids had to attend the schools they administrated, they'd think twice before offering low-rent, cut-rate, band-aid solutions for New York City's 1.1 million children.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
No one, if you believe the front page of today's NY Times. Equivalencies? Nope. Ya don't need them either.
Who's moving on without the fancy paper sheepskin?
They are students like April Pointer, 23, of New City, N.Y., a part-time telemarketer who majors in psychology at Rockland Community College, whose main campus is in Suffern, N.Y. Ms. Pointer failed science her senior year of high school and did not finish summer school.
But to her father's amazement, last year she was accepted at Rockland, part of the State University of New York.
"He asked, 'Don't you have to have a high school diploma to go to college?' " she said. "I was like, 'No, not anymore.' "
There are nearly 400,000 students like Ms. Pointer nationwide, accounting for 2 percent of all college students, 3 percent at community colleges and 4 percent at commercial, or profit-making, colleges, according to a survey by the United States Education Department in 2003-4.
Governor Pataki wanted to withdraw tuition grants for students who hadn't finished high school but the legislature didn't buy that idea.
So the next time kids asks what they need your class for, you may be at a loss. Or will you?
Today's Daily News tells the sad story of Alba Somoza, granddaughter of charming ex-Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, whose twin sister demanded on national television that President Clinton help her attain placement in regular classes. Apparently, that request was granted, although with questionable results:
Although Alba read at a fourth-grade level, she graduated from the School of the Future with Regents honors, because, her petition claims, the Education Department "fabricated transcripts to show grades at a high level," including an 85 in English and a 90 in math.
In 2003, when it became clear that Alba was unprepared for the classes in which she had enrolled at Queens College, the department agreed to cover three years of extra services at a cost of $1.2million to get her up to speed, the documents say.
So it can be costly when the kids don't learn. Lying about it after the fact doesn't help much either.
Alba and her twin, Anastasia, were born with quadriplegia and cerebral palsy. Their plight inspired Clinton to strengthen the equal education rights of disabled children.
Anastasia just completed her junior year as a political science major at Georgetown University in Washington.
Alba cannot speak. She communicates by tapping her chin on a computerized device. She needs two more years of school to improve her literacy enough to hold a job, said Mary Somoza, who lives with Alba in Manhattan.
It sounds like she needed help. Too bad New York City was unable to distinguish between the real kind and the pretend kind.
Who needs them, asks Mayor Bloomberg. We'll do what I want, how I want, when I want.
New Yorkers, however, are beginning to question this approach.
The criticisms about Bloomberg's control are many, including micromanagement and a disregard for the opinions of parents and teachers. Mainly, though, critics complain there are no checks and balances on the mayor. Teachers say their bulletin boards have been monitored; parent groups can't even convince the mayor to ease a ban on student cell phones.
"Mayoral control was supposed to get the politics out of school decision-making. It was supposed to be about what is in the best interest of the kids," said teachers union president Randi Weingarten, who backed the idea when it was signed into law in June 2002. "What has happened instead is that if you agree with the mayor it's fantastic. But all those parents who disagree with the mayor, they get left out in the cold, and the same in respect to teachers."
Too bad Randi, as always, was outmaneuvered by sweet-talking Joel Klein and City Hall. Ms. Weingarten was so keen on Mayor Bloomberg's reforms she enthusiastically championed a contract that denied teachers the right of presumed innocence.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Bloomberg and Klein will be gone in three years. Their "reforms" may very well follow.
In 2007, the UFT has a chance to send Ms. Weingarten and the Unity patronage mill packing. Let's do that, so Mayor Bloomberg knows where he can go too.
(Thanks again to Schoolgal for another tip!)
Monday, May 29, 2006
To ensure that New York City teachers work a full week longer than their better-paid suburban counterparts, Mayor Bloomberg is insisting city schools not observe Veterans' Day this year.
Oddly, the city is giving civil servants off November 10th, as is the Federal government, but hizzoner demands schools stay open. I'll bet you dimes to dollars my kid's school is closed.
As you can imagine, veterans are not happy with this, according to none other than the wacky left-wing New York Post.
Mayor Bloomberg, seen here explaining his policy to an unidentified schoolchild, was on his private jet bound for an undisclosed location, and could not be reached for comment.
Thanks to Schoolgal for the tip!
Here's an article that a new commenter, Mexx, pointed to.
It discusses the elusive rewards and various pitfalls of teaching, from the point of view of the author's wife, who's retiring after 31 years service.
Here are a few tips she offers:
• Never let them see you cry.
• Always follow through; always do what you say you're going to do.
• Always put it on them. She asks a hard student, "On a scale of one to 10, where do we stand on what it's going to take for us to survive together in this classroom?" She said the child invariably answers, "Six or seven." And then she asks, "What can I do to make that a 10?"
It's gratifying to have a teacher who takes an interest in your survival.
Don't miss reading the whole article.
The Mercury was a monster. It was so big that no matter how much you filled it, it was thirsty an hour later. Also, it burned almost as much oil as it did gasoline. Nonetheless, it got you were you were going. Still, Richard had nowhere to go.
That didn’t matter much because his license had expired. While he was in Europe, the date just came and went, and there was nothing he could do about it. It was time to bite the bullet. He would have to go to Jamaica, wait on line, take the eye test, and renew his license.
Several hours later, as he was taking the subway back, a poster caught his eye. There were happy people all over it. There were happy white people, happy black people, and happy Asian people. Why were these people so happy? Having just passed the eye test, he read the ad:
If you have a college degree, New York City needs you. Be a teacher.
Wow. Richard had never considered that before. Teachers were clearly happy. They had jobs, they came in all colors, and they probably had apartments instead of Mercuries.
It seemed like a great idea.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
That's what I had to write about on the NTE, the teacher competency test that I was required to take to fulfill the terms of my New York certification. This is the story I told:
In 1986, I was working in a very large Bronx high school. One morning, as I was getting off an escalator, I saw two girls involved in the most vicious fight I'd ever seen. I could see tufts of bloody hair scattered over the floor.
The smaller of the two girls was on top. I decided the easiest thing to do would be to pick her up off of the other girl. But when I did that, they both came up, and as the girl I was holding had only her waist restrained, the fight continued unabated, although in a new location.
A small crowd had already gathered, and was slowly increasing. I noticed a very large boy and asked for his assistance. The boy obliged and approached us, but somehow, the small girl I was holding kicked the guy, who fell on his ass and went sliding across the floor.
This was when security arrived, and several guards broke the War of the Worlds into two distinct entities.
I was called to the principal, who, having no recollection who I was, introduced himself to me for the fourth or fifth time. He then sternly warned me that I should never break up a fight, because neither the Board of Education nor my health insurance would take any responsibility for the injuries that may ensue.
I passed the test.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
I missed this while I was preparing the carnival, but Newsday, on May 23, 2006, pointed out that school violence was being underreported. Thanks to the Education Wonks for pointing us to this story.
I learned of this practice very shortly after I started teaching in October 1984, and I can only conjecture that increased accountability has worsened the problem. I'd be very interested in hearing from NYC teachers who aren't already aware.
However, there are well-established precedents for fudging educational statistics.
Many forget non-educator US Education Secreatary Rod Paige, who came into prominence via overseeing the "Texas Miracle," in which the dropout rate miraculously dissipated to vitually nothing. This was accomplished through the time-honored practice of cooking the books, and its reputed success helped President Bush to nearly defeat Al Gore in the 2000 election. Among Mr. Paige's other accomplishments are paying off journalists to shill for his programs and declaring the NEA a "terrorist organization."
So why are the Gloomy Guses at Newsday suddenly begrudging our principals a few helpful falsehoods?
Friday, May 26, 2006
The principal saw a kid breathlessly running to Ms. C's class, and not for the first time. He wondered why so many students were constantly doing this, while scores of of others strolled lackadaisically to their classes, with no regard whatsoever for time.
He stopped the student, and asked, "Why does everyone run so fast to get to Ms. C's class?"
The kid looked at the principal as though he'd just fallen off the turnip truck. "Because Ms. C. smack you if you're late."
That afternoon, the principal called Ms. C. to his office.
"Ms. C., I hope you're not going to tell me that you're striking the students."
"OK," she said. "I won't tell you."
He gave her his stern look, which he'd been practicing, to great effect, in the office mirror . "You're not going to tell me you've been hitting the kids."
"Of course not," she replied. "You just asked me not to, so I won't. Excuse me, but I have to go pick up my daughter."
Ms. C. grabbed her bag and ran out. The principal went back to the mirror to practice his look, which clearly needed work.
I occasionally get students from China who tell me they were taught long length makes for good writing. This does not conform with my views on good writing, and sometimes creates conflict.
One student in a Chinese university has taken this to the extreme, producing a 100 page, 100,000 word resume.
One of the many perks of not being management is not having to read such documents.
It's Open School Night. With his son right beside him, a father said to my colleague, "Could you just give my son a 65? He's not very smart."
The teacher then asked, "Have you seen his report card?"
"Well, I've been a little busy."
"I gave your son an eighty," said the teacher. "Would you like me to change it?"
"No, that's OK" replied father-of-the-year, and walked out, his thoroughly humiliated child following closely behind him.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Eva Moskowitz, yet another in the new breed of "progressive" self-styled education experts, is working hard to eviscerate unionism. What Reagan started in the 80s, demagogues like Moskowitz hope to complete.
Listening to Eva, who seems never to have crossed the Nassau border, you'd think there's just one way to build good schools--the wholesale destruction of teacher unions, one of the last bastions of vibrant, active organized labor.
You may recall her from her one-sided harangues against teachers back when she was a mere political hack, before her aspirations were rejected by city voters (the same ones that have now been deemed unfit to decide whether they want lower class size).
Eva supported Klein's 8-page contract, which increased hours, did not increase pay, eliminated all workers' rights, and, for the kids, struck down all limits on class size. Despite the fact that no union could have voted for such a contract, she chastised Klein for not insisting on it.
She then composed a one page contract for her city-supported charter giving herself the right to fire anyone, at any time, for any reason. Why? Because she, apparently, has such poor instinct in hiring, she feels it's the only way she can keep her job.
Since NYC has not seen fit to pay a competitive wage since well before they hired me, I've worked as an adjunct for CUNY for the last 16 years. While they do occasionally make errors and fire people, they at least grant us contracts each semester. Anyone who signs Eva's one-sided"contract" is too stupid to teach.
Unions are the only viable protection for working people. This country, with idiotic, self-destructive "right to work" laws blanketing the red states, is moving ever closer toward the oligarchy we'd find, say, in Mexico. Perhaps we don't need immigration legislation--soon it may not be much worth it for Mexicans to cross our borders anyway.
It's preposterous to heap blame for the state of NYC education solely on working people. To do that, you have to ignore the city's thirty-year policy of hiring virtually anyone with a pulse, and granting tenure based on the ability to continue breathing.
That's precisely what Moskowitz did in her kangaroo-court style hearings, so celebrated by the virulently anti-labor, teacher-bashing New York City tabloids.
We don't need Eva Moskowitz to demonstrate that schools can be run Wal-Mart style. For those who'd make the ridiculous argument that efforts to better conditions for working people ignore the needs of kids, I must point out that said kids must grow up in the society we create for them. My kid, ten years old, sometimes speaks of being a teacher. I think she'd be a good one, and I'd like the job to still be worth doing if she decides to follow up.
Cross the Nassau border and you'll see scores of well-run union schools. In fact, we used to have them in New York City before various administrations determined hiring on the cheap was more important than seeking quality teachers.
If this is what charters are all about, you can keep them. Where I live, we have good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities. No one even discusses charters because we don't need them.
And, like all working people, we don't need the likes of Eva Moskowitz either.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Oh boy! It’s prom day for Mr. Lawrence.
This Week in Education fills us in on NSA spying and sexy pictures. If that doesn’t turn you on, check out the speed stacking.
Lennie poses two questions--what could possibly be in these books that makes someone want to ban them? And could these folks be praying the ban succeeds?
Over at Chaz's School Days he’s talking Boys and Pencils, and we’ll leave it at that (this is a family blog).
Why are all those teachers so happy (and so hungry)? The Education Wonks will fill you in on their little secret. And what on earth has US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings been taking that's inhibiting her mathematical skills?
Rock and Roll
You might not believe who the new school bullies are. Get on the Bus with Scott Elliot, and while you’re riding, examine whether a historic 1923 school is worth saving.
Nick at Punny Money offers suggestions on how you can go to college without incurring those nasty student loans.
Edpol tells us about Applying Decision Models to School Budgeting.
Like all of us (who drive), Miss Cellenia is feeling gas pains.
Go on, admit it. That’s why you got into teaching. Polski fears nothing, reveals all, and does so with bilingual flair.
I was just putting the finishing touches on my latest post, Parental Involvement is the Cure for Our Educational Woes, and now this. Ken from DE-D Reckoning points out parental involvement is not a cure for our educational woes after all.
Ms. Frizzle is so horrendously busy she's finding very little time for the little things, like having a life.
Considering Ms. Frizzle’s trials and tribulations, is this job worth it? I think so.
Don’t ever forget to read Mamacita at
A favorite of mine, Graycie at
The Daily Grind ponders late work here, here, and here.
Doctoral candidate and always thoughtful Jenny D. has a serious question for choice advocates.
Truth and Justice
Chemjerk brings us a true tale of how science can be used for catching evildoers who cheat on tests.
The Cranky Taxpayer says Virginia is enabling Richmond’s violations for truancy laws.
Schoolme, the LA Times’ new education blog, wonders whether $57 and 20 hours of community service is a tad harsh for tardiness. Don’t miss the twist at the end. And check out Alexander Russo’s interview with Schoolme’s Bob Sipchen.
High school student
Brad of the HUNblog gets on his soapbox with an impassioned plea for early childhood education, as well as the unsettling suggestion the good old days were not all they're cracked up to be.
Greg at Rhymes with Right worries about schools arbitrarily determining what is “inappropriate” behavior on the net.
Does Size Matter?
Joe Williams at The Chalkboard seems to think it does.
These folks think so too.
But not everyone agrees.
And A History Teacher wonders, whatever the size may be, where can you put it?
The math world is all abuzz about integrated math, much maligned, but is it working? Matt from Scholar's Notebook gives us the lowdown.
While we’re discussing numbers, hop over to Kitchen Table Math and take the very cool Executive Function Self Test. Delve more deeply here.
Darren and his math class demonstrate once and for all how multiculturalist lefties are destroying the world.
Speaking of which, here’s Mr. Radical himself, JD2718
The Super has a creative solution—funding schools via selling the lottery to the highest bidder.
Spinmile at EdzUp introduces a fresh feature: the New Teacher Diaries.
Reality-based educator gives us the good news—yet another turning point in Iraq.
Ever wonder how to create a science fair project?
When are you gonna get a life, anyway?
Do early academics help kids?
From your friendly neighborhood elementary history teacher—who was our first President? It’s not who you think.
And when are we gonna learn, as The Art of Getting By so ably points out, that it's “not whether you win or lose, it's how you avoid playing the game.”
Learning to Teach
Ms. W. can’t decide whether or not to stick with teaching. Run, don’t walk, visit her and offer some encouragement.
Mrs. Bog blogs from the bog, with a few Thoughts and Questions on Student Teaching.
Laura Huertero shows us how to utilize a six line review to help kids write.
And Let’s Get it Right has an interview with E.D. Hirsch.
Teaching to Learn
Going to the Mat suggests we can prepare kids better for inevitable hours of high-stakes testing.
Me-Ander, meandering all the way from Israel, is happy to take a break.
The Nerd Family wonders whether testing is necessary.
The Wandering Visitor, a real, live medical doctor, chimes in with a post called Always Learning, which suggests that the student-teacher relationship depends largely on the enthusiasm of the student.
Some people grow attached to boxes. Others sit in them, seal them with packing tape, and ship themselves off to exotic places. But of all the boxes in all the gin joints in all the world, there are simply no boxes like Drop Down Boxes. Why? Marcia Adair reveals all.
Sandra tells us about a pilot program in Tennessee.
One Very Special Teacher
HuffEnglish tells us about a teacher who’s retiring after 69 years. Let’s wish her well.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
There's a heavy turnover among New York City principals, and they're becoming younger each year, with less classroom experience.
NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defends this practice:
Mr. Klein said the school system was simply catching up to the private sector in making room for talent of all ages, and noted Bill Gates's youth when he started Microsoft.
"Nobody said he was too young for the job," Mr. Klein said. "If you put artificial restrictions on human resources, you're going to lose good people who are up for the job."
Let's ignore the fact that Bill did not, in fact, apply for the job of running his own company. Let's just take a look at Bill. First, he got into Harvard. How many of Klein's principals have? Second, he dropped out of college. Does the chancellor advise his children to do such things?
Does the titular head of the largest school system in the country expect us to conclude that dropping out of college will lead most people to found revolutionary, multi-million dollar corporations?
Let's follow the chancellor's logic a little further. Look at Keith Richard. I doubt he finished high school. Yet he joined a rock and roll band and made millions of dollars. Should we urge our kids to drop out and join bands? By Chancellor Klein's model, it's a fine idea.
A few weeks ago, Keith fell out of a tree. Now he's OK.
But I wonder if he didn't perhaps collide with the chancellor on his way down.
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Carnival of Education will be visiting NYC Educator very shortly. Regular lurkers on this site are strongly encouraged to contribute.
I don't wanna hafta come looking for you.
Submissions should arrive by 10 PM Eastern time Tuesday night.
Click the link on the upper right to email me--or just write to nyceducatorATgmailDOTcom.
Congratulations, NYC Teachers! You now work more days (190) than any of your neighbors!
Perhaps you pride yourself in devoting extra time to your students. But that's not what you'll be doing.
You'll be spending those extra days, including two in August, hearing all about whatever new changes Joel Klein and Co. have planned for the captive audience of New York City's 1.1 million children. Imagine, sitting for hours, for days, and hearing about what a great job they do from his six-figure flunkies.
Personally, I can't wait. Once again, thanks to Unity for negotiating this great deal, and accepting less than cost of living for it.
(And thanks to Schoolgal for the suggestion.)
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Starting a quagmire of a war? 246 billion and thousands of lives.
Polling fraud? A few bucks and a few fewer polling points.
Failure to adequately fund levees? One American city.
Tax cuts for your buddies? The budget surplus, 8 trillion dollars and counting.
Phony education program? Increased property taxes for the strapped middle class.
Illegal wiretaps ? Personal privacy and various constitutional amendments.
Signing statements indicating you won't obey laws? Checks and balances on power.
Saber-rattling in Iran? 3-dollar-a-gallon gasoline.
Blaming it all on Mexicans? Priceless.
Let's say you've been working on your degree for 12 years, but you've never studied abroad.
Naturally, you've got to rectify that.
Everyone needs a well-balanced education. Why leave just because you're getting a little long in the tooth, when the only penalty for being a perpetual student is paying double tuition?
Perhaps if President Bush had traveled more before getting his job, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now. Regardless, learning never ends, and there's no doubt many would extend their college careers, given their druthers.
Beats working, I guess.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Here's an interesting discovery, courtesy of the New York Times:
When local districts spend more money on schools, their students tend to graduate at higher rates, according to a report released on Thursday by an education advocacy group. ..
School districts with a graduation rate of 90 percent spend an average of about $18,500 per student, while districts with a graduation rate of less than 50 percent spend about $13,600, the analysis found.
Let's see if I can get my mind around that--if we spend more money, we might get better results. Could that mean that it's been an error for NYC to spend thirty years dedicating itself to acquiring the cheapest teachers possible by any and all means? Does that mean it was not wise of us to recruit through job fairs, subway and bus ads, gimmicky signing bonuses and intergalactic searches?
Nearby suburban schools do none of those things. Rather, they pay teachers better, receive hundreds of applications for each job, interview and audition potential candidates, dump those who don't work out, and provide quality education for kids. Since they started doing that, and we commenced our more creative approach, they've gotten much better, while we've been gliding downhill.
I'm certainly glad we have the Times to bring us those updates. Too bad they didn't warn us back in 1976.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Joe Williams over at The Chalkboard has a group of interesting posts. The one I liked the most was the one criticizing those who accuse others of "playing politics." That, I've long thought, is a simply idiotic accusation. Everyone has some sort of cause. Otherwise, why don't we all just sit in comfortable chairs and watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show?
Joe's other post suggests teachers love charters, because the UFT received 750 applications for 12 openings at its charter school. I'd say teachers love this charter because it comes with all the protections and perks of union membership. As bad as the contract is, relatively speaking, it beats the hell out of working without it, as Klein would like us to do. The volume of applications suggests that the UFT school will have great teachers, will be a great school, and will become a very good argument for union membership in charters.
The prevailing American ethic of screwing workers is good for no one, including our children, whatever schools they may attend. There is simply no better protection for working people than union membership.
Do you want your school to be the best? Really the best, like cover of Newsweek best?
Cheer up, it's easier than you think. All you need to do is get everyone, and I do mean everyone, to take the College Board Advanced Placement Test. Don't worry about whether or not they pass. Just get them there.
Because the thing is this--the highest percentage of people taking the test, according to Newsweek, is what makes the best school. That's the sole criterion.
Trying to score brownie points with your principal? Just bring this idea and organize a participation drive. If they don't speak English, can't read, think, or write, who cares? Just make sure they take that test.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Cheating is no longer the cottage industry is used to be. It's gone high-tech. Why look at the paper next to you? For all you know, your neighbor is a moron.
Better to photograph the entire test with your cell phone, email it to a resourceful buddy, and get the correct answers emailed back to you.
And who knows? Maybe you could recycle the test answers by selling them to your friends and acquaintances. Supply and demand.
It's the American way.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
A young colleague of mine just had an interesting experience with one of our new security guards. For the first ten years I worked in this building, we had a core group of guards, all of whom we knew by name. Two of them, however, were removed for reasons unknown to us. When we complained about their absence, The DoE (or perhaps the NYPD) removed our entire security staff. That would show us.
In any case, my inexperienced colleague found two kids fighting in the hall and endeavored to break it up. As he was doing so, a member of our crack new security staff observed impassively, being otherwise occupied drinking a can of soda. The young teacher, after writing up the incident, was then lectured by administration that neither the school nor his insurance would cover any injuries he suffered while breaking up fights.
What on earth could he have been thinking? Everyone knows that's a job for the security guards. Or the deans. Or somebody.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Out in Penn Hills, PA, they suspended 14 elementary school students for playing with fake drugs, a mixture of Kool-Aid and sugar. Don't laugh. Playing with fake drugs might lead to playing with fake guns.
You scoff at that? Well, Penn Hills knows better. In fact, they expelled a 10-year-old boy who brought an orange water pistol to school.
Don't mess with Penn Hills. And don't show this to Mayor Bloomberg--he might get ideas.
Monday, May 15, 2006
This is Teacher Appreciation Week, a time for us to reflect on the important job you do each and every day, now including two days in August.
I'm always hearing about the little extra things you do for our students that are not yet required contractually. Some of you hitchhiked and crawled through the ice to school during the transit strike. Others spend your vacation time helping students for free, and call students for hours before school every single morning. To show my appreciation, I plan to require all teachers to do these things when contract time rolls around next year.
However, my appreciation goes beyond that. Sure I propose contracts that eviscerate your rights and eliminate limits on class size. But I can't tell you how much I appreciate your work. That's why I rarely, if ever, bother to do so. And sure, I fight tooth and nail against pay raises, despite the incredible spike in energy rates and obscene prices of NYC real estate.
Still, I want to extend to all of you a figurative hearty handclasp. And if any of you should see me exiting a limo or gala luncheon, and are somehow able to penetrate my retinue of sycophants and bodyguards, I may even give you a literal hearty handclasp as soon as my bodyguards finish working you over.
That's the kind of guy I am.
So please, let's keep working together. Mayor Bloomberg and I appreciate that you soldier on with the highest class loads and lowest salaries in the area, and you can rest assured we're doing everything in our power to keep it that way.
Mayor Bloomberg is hanging tough, displaying his characteristic disregard for common sense. His random searches have thus far produced a handful of knives and box cutters, and hundreds of cell phones. Angry parents will pick them up, but the kids will bring them back anyway.
If Mayor Bloomberg didn't like snow, he'd pass a law against it.
When he wanted a west side stadium, he did not present a referendum to the voters. He knew he would lose.
When the voters wanted small-class sizes, he singlehandedly killed the ballot. He knew he would lose. When a member of his school council appeared about to exercise free choice, he replaced her. Otherwise, he would have lost.
With Mayor Bloomberg, it's not about doing the right thing. It's his way or the highway, and the will of the people be damned.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
...because this is the last production year for the Hummer H1. You can still grab one for 106K before supplies dwindle, and they get an impressive 10 mpg, though I'm not sure if that's highway or city.
All the hip people are driving them.
And you NYC teachers have that big raise coming up in October. C'mon. Screw the kids' college fund! You need this thing.
Last week I pushed the play button on my answering machine, and was surprised to hear a taped message from my Congressman, Peter King. Congressman King has been in office for many years, and has never, to my knowledge, deemed such a message necessary before.
I want you to know that I will not support amnesty for immigrants!
Boy, was that a load off my mind. Those day laborers over at Dunkin Donuts frighten the heck out of me, what with their speaking Spanish and who knows what else all the time. It's good to know that by this time next year, they'll still be illegal, and I'll still be able to have them paint my house for 50 bucks a day.
Furthermore, the Star Spangled Banner should only be sung in English!
Finally, some relief, after all the sleepless nights I'd spent worrying about which language people might sing that song in.
We're blessed to have representatives who fight for the things that really matter.
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.
As a result, it appears all previous comments have been lost. Feel free to re-register all your complaints.
On the bright side, I have paid off Haloscan, and the annoying little ads on the comment page should disappear shortly. Any feedback on the new commenting system is welcome.
Personally, I was getting tired of trying to read those oddly-shaped letters in order to comment.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Florida legislators, Republican and Democratic, have placed their collective index finger into the air and determined not to support Kingmaker/ Governor Jeb Bush.
Governor Bush had been battling to overturn the Supreme Court's ban on vouchers. He'd also been fighting for increased class size, despite the fact that voters had demanded otherwise (if you believe Florida voting results).
The two amendments were at the heart of Mr. Bush's efforts to reduce the influence of teachers' unions and to allow private schools to become a more accessible alternative to those run by the state.
Make no mistake--politicians like Jeb don't just want to "reduce the influence" of teachers' unions. They want to eliminate it, along with that of other unions, so that the only voices heard in the media will be those of corporations. As regular readers of this blog know, I'm not a huge fan of corrupt, entrenched union leadership. But before the UFT, adjusted for inflation, NYC teachers earned well less than half what they do now.
Without unions, we'd be sleeping on couches in parents' living rooms. and living in trees, parks, and classroom closets. Perhaps we'd have other jobs that allowed us to support ourselves, or perhaps there wouldn't even be any. Unions are our best and only protection against the likes of Jeb Bush and Joel Klein, who'd gleefully reduce us to the status of Wal-Mart associates, and eliminate public schools altogether to reduce Steve Forbes' tax bill.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Dear UFT Members:
As you know, we've finally achieved salary parity with the suburbs. Now, some of you will ask, why did Nassau teachers make tens of thousands more than us in January 05 for teaching considerably fewer students? And why are they making even more now, while we don't actually reach the 33% increase I love to talk about till October?
Well, let me ask you this--have you ever counted every student in Nassau County classrooms? Have you ever counted every dollar a Nassau teacher makes? How do you know it isn't an optical illusion? Those salaries that NYSUT posts could be sheer lies, for all you know. Jeez, did you read about that crappy ING plan they were pushing? Now let's get down to brass tacks.
In the last two contracts, as I may have mentioned, teacher pay has risen 33%. Sure, you're working 10% more time, and some would say that means it's only risen 23%. And sure, inflation probably chips away another 20 or 25 points. And sure, you're not actually seeing that money yet. Still, it beats the hell out of working in Wal-Mart, as your colleagues in Newark may soon be doing.
Now I've received comments that many of you are sorely disappointed to be working in August. Let me say one thing right now--you will not be working. You will be sitting in auditoriums and classrooms and learning about all the wonderful things Chancellor Klein is doing (better bring a book).
Here's the thing--we've decided that we are not going to give back any more time. Sure, you say, we gave back time in the last contract, and even more in the one before that. So, you ask, why should you believe us when me say no more time? Good question.
Why? Because we're experts in giving up time. Have our opponents ever given back time? What the hell does Jeff Kaufman know about giving up time? Do you ever see me give up time at the DA? Of course not. I talk as much as I want and never give up time to anyone. I know about time, and I know about Newsweek too. Don't mess with me.
Now a lot of you are bellyaching we just buckled in and gave the Mayor whatever the hell he wanted in the last contract. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here's the situation--After DC37 took 4% for three years, with one more in undetermined givebacks, we were faced with a problem.
Should we fight? Or should we go to PERB, which had endorsed pattern bargaining, and would insist in givebacks for anything above 4% over three years? We decided to go to PERB. So I reiterate--we did not give the Mayor whatever the hell he wanted. We gave PERB whatever the hell they wanted. There's a significant difference.
So remember we will not give back any time. We'll stand fast. If need be, we'll back down even faster. Just don't expect any money in this round. We already got you 33%! Jeez, what more do you guys want?
Next week I'll tell you about how we plan to let teachers teach (when they aren't doing potty patrol, walking the halls, or dodging burgers in the cafeteria).
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
While perusing The Chalkboard, I noticed a comment about Cory Booker, the newly-elected Newark mayor, and “school choice.” That got me suspicious and curious, and a Google search led me to a point of view the NY Times had neglected to share.
Cory Booker is back – like a recurring disease. The former one-term city councilman whose wholly unproductive career has been artificially sustained by Black America’s worst enemies has amassed bundles of rightwing cash for his second assault on Newark city hall. Booker’s stealth mission on behalf of the far-right Bradley and Walton Family (Wal-Mart) Foundations, under the tutelage of the hyper-racist Manhattan Institute, once again threatens to provide the Right with a long-coveted showcase for privatization and capitalism in-the-raw in urban America.
Now I don't know about you, but to me, that doesn’t sound all that promising. This guy is backed by, of all people, the anti-labor, union-busting Walton-Wal-Mart family? Is there anyone besides John Stossel who thinks they mean to help working people? Does Stossel even believe that stuff?
Cory Booker, however, could just be the crest of a new wave. The Black Commentator goes on to speak of Democrat-in-name Booker’s background, as well as his support for vouchers:
The Black Commentator is proud of the role we played in exposing Cory Booker’s true political and financial backers, in 2002. The Cover Story of our inaugural issue, “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree,” April 5, 2002, was the first published revelation anywhere of Booker's political genesis in the bowels of Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation – George Bush’s favorite foundation, the outfit that birthed a fully financed Black school voucher “movement” out of thin air and hard cash. As an original board member of the Bradley-created (and now Bush-financed) Black Alliance for Educational Options, and a co-founder of the Newark voucher outfit Excellent Education for Everyone (E-3), Booker worked his way ever deeper into the Right labyrinth of mega-money, media manipulation, and raw corporate power...
Booker’s benefactors, the Walton Family and Bradley Foundations and the rest of the rightwing constellation in which he travels, are unalterably committed to wholesale privatization of education and everything else in the public sector they can lay their hands on. That’s what Booker doesn’t want the Black public to know.
It’s an uphill battle when you’re up against right-wing millions in a city that’s been rife with corruption forever. But despite the apparently new direction, Newark appears bound for more of the same, with a new anti-worker, union-busting flavor. Last I heard, Newark was one of the very few locales that paid less than NYC for teachers. When you have to worry about your staff defecting to fun city, aside from the cesspool of corruption that's plagued your own city forever, hopes for decent public education are not likely to materialize into anything worthwhile.
Have you ever noticed how it's free to get into Jersey but they charge you eight bucks to get out? Everyone complains, but in the end they always reach for their wallets, realizing it will be well worth it. Some things you just have to pay for. To my mind, good teachers are a high priority--even higher than escaping New Jersey (Now I kid about Jersey, but I also work there often, and guess which nearby location is the target of their jokes?).
More frightening than Jersey, though, is this precedent--if Republicans screw up the country so badly that no one can support them or their policies, they can simply back Democrats who will serve up the same "death to the middle-class" policies GW and his rubber-stamp Congress have been dispensing for five years. Now, instead of wasting time with smokescreens like gay marriage, they can just smile and say "We're Democrats."
Apparently, it can work.
Not in this school. It's the first of its kind--an online high school.
Give each kid a laptop, a printer, and net access. Then, let them choose their courses. They could take virtual tests that are corrected by virtual teachers.
No more problems with oversized classes or rundown facilities. We could take all those obsolete school buildings and use them for something productive. I'm thinking sweatshops.
Call me a Luddite, but that's not the school for my kid.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
NY Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, in his capacity as the leading democratic candidate for Governor of NY, cancelled plans to appear at a function to receive NYSUT's endorsement. Spitzer said this was because he'd been investigating ING's cozy relationship with the union
ING pays NYSUT 3 million dollars annually to push a fund that produces a 1.6% annual return for the lucky teachers who participate.
But if Spitzer'd been investigating for months, why'd he only cancel with a day's notice? He says it's because the charges were made public. So apparently, if no one knew about the investigation, there would be no problem.
Ethics, in the hands of politicians, are curious creatures indeed.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Over on Edwize, the inimitable Leo Casey is once again pontificating about democracy. I posted a response, but it did not appear. I suppose they are moderating posts, or banning the opposition, so that UFT members, who pay the salaries of Unity writers, moderators, propagandists, and censors don't say anything too dangerous on the blog (which we also pay for).
God forbid anything should interfere with Leo's personal war of words with Eduwonk, every moment of which is supported by our union dues.
Before too soon there will be calls for a republican form of government!
Gadzooks, Leo! Does that mean UFT high school teachers will actually get to vote for their own vice-president? Does it mean nasty union members who question the value of contracts proposing more work and less pay will get access to member mailboxes? What would happen if too many UFT members found out what was actually in the contract?
Between us and that stand Leo Casey and Unity, champions of democracy.
Enough with this myth of democratic voice...
It's refreshing to see Leo Casey voicing his true philosophy, even if he's yet to acknowledge it to himself.
So what do all of Klein's overpaid sycophants do all day? One thing on the agenda, clearly, is how to squeeze every last buck out of NY State taxpayers, whether they need to or not.
Do we need better teachers?
Do we need smaller classes?
Do we need safe, clean facilities?
Yes, these are vital priorities, but only if the state picks up the tab. Otherwise, we'll plod on with what we have and save up to build a stadium for some billionaire.
According to colleagues of mine who attended department meetings today, there's a new scheme to squeeze a few extra bucks from the state. On July 14th, NY State high schools are slated to give the Regents exam in Global Studies. This would generally preclude having students in attendance.
Under the new paradigm, in my school at least, students will attend periods 2 and 9 so as to have their official attendance recorded.
How many students will actually show up? If this doesn't work out, what will be the consequences for the geniuses who planned it?
There are reasons why dodos are extinct. Tweedie birds, however, seem fated to survive at least another 3 years.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Well, it's 2006, but Mayor Bloomberg has decided to stand fast on his largely unenforceable cell phone ban. Teachers and parents know there's nothing quite like setting rules no one will follow. That's a sure-fire method to command no respect whatsoever.
Every kid will be able to plainly see when "random searches" are in effect before setting foot in their schools, and every kid will know not to bring cellphones on those days. Naturally, others will also know not to bring guns on those days.
Planning to re-enact Colombine on Tuesday? Due to Mayor Bloomberg's innovative initiative, you may have to put it off till Wednesday. Another great victory for mayoral control.
Mayor Bloomberg has publicly declared, however, that if he fails to confiscate a single gun, that will prove the program is working. That's like a teacher declaring "If I fail to pass a single student, that will conclusively demonstrate my approach to teaching is excellent."
Chancellor Klein, who signaled a willingness to compromise the day before the announcement, is suddenly firmly behind this idea. Since the chancellor is now no more than a pawn of the mayor, why is he even needed? Both the Daily News and the New York Post can vilify teachers at least as well as Klein, and virtually anyone could throw together a hodge-podge of odd untested methods and call it a curriculum.
The teachers' union urged that students be allowed to carry phones in school, but not use them...
The mayor was dismissive of the teachers' union. "You wonder sometimes whether they're stopping to think," he said yesterday. "I think most teachers would argue that there should not be any of these devices."
On this astral plane, more teachers will wonder how, since Mayor Bloomberg never, ever consults them about anything at all, he would have the remotest inkling what any of them are thinking.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Mr. Lawrence asked if I thought people with doctorates might be mentally "above" the students. I think there are people who feel that way, but I can't blame it on their doctorates. If you think you're "above" kids, you shouldn't be teaching them.
One of my very brightest students, one of the brightest kids I've ever met, said something about me being smarter than her a few weeks ago. I asked her why she thought that, and she said it was because I was the teacher.
I told her I didn't need to be smarter than her. I just needed to know my subject better than she did (I'm grateful for that). Granted, she's from Korea, where television, apparently, has thus far failed to convince all teenagers they're already smarter than their teachers (and parents).
Can you imagine what life would be like if you had to be smarter than every kid you ever taught? What are the chances you'd succeed, even with a doctorate? As Jerry Seinfeld says, "They're here to replace us."
Now, are any of my students as unscrupulous, manipulative and devious as I am? Perhaps. But they're few and far between. I'm a firm believer in the adage "Old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm every time."
As for Mr. Lawrence, he's very smart, and very funny too. That's why I always read his blog. But I'll bet dimes to dollars he communicates well with kids, and even likes doing so most of the time. People who are "above" communicating with kids, mentally or otherwise, not only shouldn't teach, they shouldn't have kids of their own either.
Friday, May 05, 2006
That's what we're teaching 6-year-olds to say to their teachers, according to Bill O'Reilly.
For example, there are in New York City public schools, 6-year-olds going, "F you, you mother-F'er," in school, in the hallway. And the teachers are instructed not to say a word. You aware of that?
LIS WIEHL [Fox News legal analyst]: I wasn't aware of that.
O'REILLY: OK. That happens every day, all day in the public schools here in New York City.
Wow. My job must be worse than I thought. Media Matters gives chapter and verse of actual NYC regs that contradict Bill. I know a lot of people will say kids get away with that, and they're right--but that's only if they have teachers who tolerate it.
Any kid in my class who talks like that will live to regret it.
A few weeks ago I watched a kid blow a whistle in the hall, turn off a light switch, then saunter on down the hall as though he owned the place. I followed him into his classroom, got his name from his teacher, and confiscated his whistle. Then the kid called me a "f**king faggot." At that point, I wrote him up. The principal had just given a lecture about how he'd like us contributing to school tone, so my referral concluded "If there are not significant consequences for this, I will assume my involvement in these matters is no longer desired."
The kid defended himself by stating he hadn't called me a "f**king faggot," but a "f**king retard."
The charming young man was suspended for five days, and the next kid I see pulling that crap in the hall will learn there are consequences.