Friday, June 30, 2006
There's a proposal to sell liquor near an elementary school! That's right, old demon alcohol. With a capitol D and that rhymes with P and that stands for polygamy.
Where? No place other than our nation's capital, Washington DC, that den of iniquity. It's widely believed that former president Bill Clinton had oral sex in that town.
Where in this evil town is this evil place? Well, it's in a vegetarian restaurant. That's right. A place where no one even eats steak. It's well-known that tofu and falafel do not constutute acceptable dietary fare for real Americans. So who eats there? Bolshviks and terrorists, probably.
Do you want your children eating that stuff? Do you want to see them drunk, running around vegetarian restaurants with communists?
Of course not. What's next? Opium dens? We must, in the name of all that's right and good in this country, put an immediate stop to this.
Massachusetts children will not be restricted from buying Fluffernutters at lunchtime. In case you don't know, Fluffernutters are sandwiches of peanut butter and some gooey marshmallow-flavored chemical and high-fructose corn syrup-based substance with on wholesome white bread, and there is no conclusive evidence they make you sterile
The kids can now eat them every day if they want to, enabling them to grow into fine, strapping Americans.
I'm certainly glad to see politicians are not restricting our precious constitutional freedoms. I was on the verge of calling the ACLU.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
...to the LA Times' School Me for considering NYC Educator in its Highly Coveted Teablog Awards. Though we're second place, we promise to try harder.
Thanks also to Get on the Bus, written by Scott Elliot of the Dayton Daily News, who rated NYC Educator among the best teacher blogs.
On behalf of all the Get on the Bus picks, we, the entire staff here at NYC Educator, would like to humbly request that Mr. Elliot come up with a cool graphic like the LA Times did, so that the beneficiaries of his excellent judgment can display it on their blogs (and point back to his, of course).
Well, we’ve gotten through another year, and it’s been a great one. What? Well, yes, except for that. But still, let’s not dwell on that.
Now let’s not spend all of our energy listening to the whiners, the moaners and the complainers. Yes, there was that thing that happened in April, and who knew it was gonna happen again in May, but we have some very encouraging things to report. What? Well of course I’m going to tell you what they are.
For example, last year the math figures were not all that great, I know. This year, our passing rate has increased by four percent. I think that represents a turning point. Over at Warren G. Harding High School, they actually went down by 2 percent. We’re catching up.
I was at a symposium last week with the chancellor, and he said to me—would you please stop booing? No I think that’s very rude. Would you like it if your students did that to you? Well, yes, I know they do, but that’s not the point. No, I wouldn’t. If your students treat you like that, write it up and send it to the dean, and we’ll—no we can’t just suspend everyone.
Anyway the chancellor—Jesus will you stop that already? He’s really not such a bad guy. He personally complimented me on my—yes you have to come back in August. But let’s not get all worked up about it. Look at the good side. Well, you can get your classrooms together. Come on, Ms. Fernandez, you know I can’t give you your own classroom. Well if I did it for you I’d have to do it for everyone, and then..
Mr. Nelson, please stop biting Ms. Jones right now. No I don’t care if she bit you first. Now please, we have just a few things we need to do, and I know Mr. Greenblatz wants to speak to you about the UFT luncheon…no I don’t know if they’re gonna have lox. Can we please get…oh yes, Mrs. Truncheon is going to retire…could you stand up Mrs. Truncheon? Mrs. Truncheon? MRS. TRUNCHEON? WE HEAR YOU’RE GOING TO RETIRE, MRS. TRUNCHEON? COULD YOU PLEASE STAND UP, MRS. TRUNCHEON?
What? You can’t wake her? She isn’t…no? Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, she’s not…no? She isn’t. Oh, thank God, thank God. I’ve gotta stop chewing that nicotine gum.
Oh my gosh, ok then, well, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy summer. You all deserve it. I’ll turn it over now to Mr. Greenblatz...Mr. Greenblatz?
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I always read The Chalkboard, a pro-charter blog written by Joe Williams. I have mixed feelings about charters, and each time I lean one way, something pushes me the other.
Today Joe writes about Nicole Byrne Lau, who used to work for Williamsburgh Charter School. Ms. Lau says she was fired for distributing info about how much UFT teachers make. The school claims they let her go because she's a child-hating racist.
That's an odd conclusion for them to have reached. As recently as May, her evaluation stated those kids she purportedly hates so much were "lucky to have you as their teacher."
Joe makes the valid point that charters may pay more than public schools, and that seeing the UFT pay chart might actually turn off some teachers from the notion of unionization. Of course, that being the case, why shouldn't Ms. Lau pass around the chart to her heart's content? Well, that's because the charter (which clearly must pay less than UFT schools) is an "at-will" employer, meaning they can terminate her for any reason, or indeed for no reason.
Too bad her colleagues haven't unionized. They should.
I gotta say the 5K above UFT scale Eva Moskowitz proposes to pay teachers would hardly induce me to work for her. Frankly, the prospect of being at her beck and call makes me want to retch. Aside from the additional time Mistress Eva would undoubtedly require, I also wonder whether or not employees of charters receive health benefits, the value of which far exceeds her apparent largesse.
Now regular readers of this blog may note that I occasionally criticize Unity, the monopoly party that rules the UFT, as its view of democracy and mine do not precisely concur. However, I'm absolutely cognizant of the fact that my 80,000 colleagues and I would be far, far worse off without a union.
All workers benefit from unionization. There's no way that my voice (however beautiful my mother may think it is) competes with that of 80,000 New York City teachers facing down Joel Klein's efforts to Walmartize education. When we work to improve the lots of working people, we work to help our kids too.
Let's take the gag off Ms. Lau and support unions, so as keep such implements far away from our children.
Update: You really ought to read what Leo Casey on Edwize has to say about this. Among other things, Ms. Lau has landed on her feet, with a job at Brooklyn Tech, and swears never to work another non-union job again.
The carnival is in town. Actually, this week, it's over here, at The Lilting House.
Melissa Wiley was lucky enough to have her 11-year-old homeschooled daughter help out (I hope she got extra credit).
Next week, the carnival returns here, and I'd ask that readers of NYC Educator make their submissions before 6 PM on Tuesday, the 4th of July.
You can click at upper-right to email, or send your contributions to nyceducatorATgmailDOTcom.
Thanks in advance.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Joe at The Chalkboard reports that the failed charter cap bill had a poison pill attached--to wit, a 25/55 retirement bill for NY State teachers. Had the cap been raised, Pataki would have approved it.
There is a separate bill for 25/55, but Governor Pataki has vetoed it before, being a tough anti-labor potential Republican presidential candidate (in his dreams).
You won't read about this on Edwize. There's been nothing there about Unity's changes to the contract, or the municipal coalition, or various other things which may affect working teachers. Modestly, Edwize did not even report Unity's great sacrifice--after they voted themselves a 15% raise, they selflessly agreed to keep the UFT office open an extra hour a week, so they could do even more of whatever it is they do in there.
However, when teachers approach me on the street and ask "Hey, NYC Educator, what does 6-figure Unity employeee Leo Casey think about Darfur and Wal-Mart?" I always tell them "Check out Edwize. They'll have the latest on that."
You can imagine how grateful they must be.
Let's say you're principal of one of the best high schools in the country, let alone the city. You manage to alienate your entire staff through your imperious attitude. You don't like the newspaper your brilliant (literally) students come up with, so you suppress it.
Let's say, despite your rigidly high standards for anyone unfortunate enough to be in your employ, you get caught sending your kid, illegally, to good NYC schools, depriving some real-live New York kid of the chance to do the same. Finally, the indifferent city administration has to do something, as you've become a public embarrassment, so they let you pay tuition and retire quietly.
Let's say it's later revealed, that rather than allow your low-income students to take tests for free, you allowed them to pay for the tests, and kept the fees for your school's general fund. Who knows what other surprises you've got up your sleeve?
And how on earth can you find another job as principal?
When things get that tough, you have to go to New Jersey.
Thanks to Schoolgal for the tip!
Monday, June 26, 2006
Remember the Faculty Conference Where They Put You in Groups to Figure Out What to Do About the Problem of Boys Not Learning as Well as Girls?
The NY Daily News is horrified that the NYS legislature seems to favor labor-friendly changes to the Taylor Law.
The legislature voted overwhelmingly, with only a single dissent, to penalize municipal employers who fail to bargain in good faith, specifically by raising salaries. They also voted to roll back the draconian 2-for-1 penalties. We'll see what happens in the Senate.
The News urges Pataki to veto the measure, but with margins like this, his veto would make little difference.
It's noteworthy that the News selected the UFT contract as a positive result of the government's ability to stall contract negotiations endlessly with no consequences whatsover on management's side. For those wondering just how badly Unity sold them out, this ought to answer loud and clear.
What do you do with teachers who can't or won't pass certification exams?
You fire them.
If mayors and chancellors who think uncertified teachers are good enough for their city's kids, they ought to lead by example by patronizing unlicensed doctors and lawyers. I'd also like them to try inexperienced campaign managers.
Saint Rudy never hesitated to retain unqualified teachers (at lower salaries, of course). In his frequent lawsuits, though, he never seemed to use 35-dollar-an-hour lawyers.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Should I Stay or Should I Go is the blog of a first year teacher who decided not to become a second-year teacher.
Here's another one who isn't gonna make it.
Chancellor Klein has concluded teachers leave because they get paid too much and work too little. This is highly welcome news to the union-busting local tabloids, which rarely hesitate to shout it from the rooftops. Unfortunately, perpetually tired and indifferent UFT leadership seems to agree, and pointedly persists in passionately propagandizing proposals reflecting more work and less pay. Personally, I'm perplexed it will not preclude this problem.
See also what's being said at Get on the Bus.
The Gambler of pop song fame knew when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, and when to run. Our union has more of a Right Place, Wrong Time philosophy. I love Dr. John, but we desperately need a new approach.
Perhaps the best idea the Unity patronage mill has run down the pike lately is that of a coalition of municipal workers. There's nothing quite like a united front to stare down union-busting, billionaire-welfare fan Mike Bloomberg, and his satanic cohort, Joel Klein.
However, when Unity finally unveiled it, there were some glaring flaws. It's great that they've managed to organize twenty unions. However, the list was more notable for those it excluded, like NYPD, FDNY, and perhaps most significantly, DC37, whose willingness to work for a pittance set the pattern in the last round of bargaining.
The gaping exclusion of DC37 means they're free, once again, to sell out the entire city, with the blessings of PERB, to whom UFT President Randi Weingarten has repeatedly turned when she couldn't manage to negotiate anything herself.
There are important alliances, like sanitation and 1199. Also included is CUNY's union (I work for CUNY), which has not yet been able to resolve the last round of bargaining, let alone the next. They make the sellouts at Unity look like seasoned pros.
Alas, perhaps that's how they made the list.
Correction: Jonathan informs me CUNY has reached a contract agreement.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The principal couldn't believe what had happened. He'd had that cheese film, and the cheese discussion coldly calculated to the last moment. Till that Tier One stood up.
That bastard! How could he just appear out of nowhere and upstage him like that? After all his planning! After he’d so cleverly placed Angie in front of the group! He was just about to convert the whole lot of them and that bastard Tier One had to stand up and ruin everything.
I mean, come on! All you had to do was look at the man to know he wasn’t serious. Those shorts, every day, even in the winter…and those horrible T-shirts! The man didn’t even have the decency to wear a collar! What does it take to toss on a shirt with a collar on it? Nothing, that’s what!
How could he lecture the staff to “dress for success” when Tier One kept coming in dressed for nothing but his own personal comfort? It was…it was selfish, that’s what it was!
And how could he get rid of Tier One? He’d probably been in the building since before it was built, and it was just hard to fire people like that. As if that weren’t enough, everyone said he was a good teacher, and he’d gotten letters from grateful parents whose kids never understood history until Tier One had taught them. It wasn’t fair!
Why couldn’t Tier One be like his good-for-nothing assistant principal of organization (APO), who didn’t do his job worth a damn, but wore a suit each and every day? Sure, it was irritating having him around the office, but he looked good. When people from the region came, they always commented on that.
The principal picked up the phone. “Seymour, get in here right away.”
30 seconds later, Seymour, APO, was standing before the principal, pen and pad in hand. Look at that. A tan suit, a cream-colored shirt, brown shoes, and an elegant tie that set off the whole outfit. Why on earth couldn’t Tier One dress like that? He probably got paid more than Seymour.
“Seymour, I want you to start building a file on Tier One.”
“I’ve been trying to. But everyone seems to like him.”
“Well, what can we do about that?”
“I-I don’t think there’s much we can do. His boss, on the other hand, is a member of your cabinet, and he doesn’t even wear a tie.”
“No tie?” The principal thought for a moment. “Does he wear a collar, at least?”
“Well, yes he does.”
“Let me think about this, OK, Seymour?”
“Yes sir!” Seymour scurried back to his cubicle.
Hmmm…that darn teachers’ union would make it almost impossible to get rid of Tier One. But his AP? Hadn’t he taken an awful lot of time off when his sister was sick with cancer? Had he cleared it with him? Perhaps. But this was just the sort of example that could get the school back in shipshape order.
With any luck, soon everyone would be wearing a tie. And he’d be superintendent in no time.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Let's Get it Right, the AFT Blog, reports today that the Department of Labor is trading documents with an anti-union group which mention their blog, the one you're reading, Edwize, This Week in Education, The Chalkboard, and the Education Wonks.
The documents were obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
John, who wrote the article, has determined we've finally hit the big time.
Hence, the cake.
He's clearly into fitness, and splashy summer colors.
Enquiring minds want to know. Actually, there's a lot of buzz on this topic. Take a look at his colleagues--Batwoman recently came out as a lesbian socialite. Peter Parker has been compelled by law to come out of the super-hero "closet" as Spiderman (Yes I know he married Mary Jane. But what does that prove nowadays?) .
How do you explain a man who's been dating Lois Lane over fifty years without any evidence of carnal activity?
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Mayor Bloomberg's buddy Rupert Murdoch is treating him as though he were a teacher or something. His paper, the New York Post has just revealed that New York on-time graduations rank an abysmal 48th out of the 50 largest US school districts.
Education Week says the true rate is only 38.9 percent. The state had contended it was 43.5% while Bloomberg's spinmeisters placed it at 53.2%.
Joel Klein's press secretary, in a nod to recent pronouncements about accountability, claimed it wasn't his fault. Early speculation suggests they plan to blame the UFT at their earliest convenience.
Meanwhile, in LA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wishes to follow in Mayor Bloomberg's footsteps. Mayor Villaigosa has determined the proud NYC tradition of penny-ante innovation (as opposed to emulating what works) has great potential for the west coast.
(With thanks to Schoolgal!)
It's been a tough couple of years for Unity. They had to arrange a contract, which entailed going to PERB, taking whatever the hell they proposed, and even making alterations after the fact, without consent of rank-and-file. They also had to sell version A to the membership. For this, they had to threaten rank-and-file with a strike, spend day after day propagandizing on Edwize, and blithely promise a 25/ 55 retirement plan (In the last issue of NY Teacher, UFT President Weingarten suggested such a plan might be mandatory for new enrollees and optional for those already in the system. Translation--it may not be financially feasible or worthwhile for those approaching 55).
Now teachers, being the complainers that they are, say they have longer days, three extra days of useless conferences, an extra class to teach, and an extra period of hall patrol, lunch patrol, potty patrol, or whatever. They whine and moan about getting 90-day unpaid suspensions based on unsubstantiated allegations. They cry about the loss of the transfer plan.
Do you know what Unity is going to have to do as a giveback for the 15% raise it just awarded itself? No?
According to the ICE-UFT blog, they're going to keep their office open one extra hour every week. A whole hour. Are teachers gonna do that? Of course not. They don't even have offices.
That's why Unity employees get two pensions, make way more that teachers, and will continue making even more than that. Suck it up, dues-payers.
You get what you vote for.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Our Congress, bless their hearts, is working hard to amend the constitution to outlaw flag-burning.
Now some of you ask what about the war, the lack of health care, education, the disappearance of New Orleans, and the disappearing middle-class? Well, sure those are problems.
But in England, where flag-burning is legal, baboons have begun stealing flags! Do you want that to happen here? I didn't think so.
So let's get with the program, folks.
In fact, Unity hacks will sell you all their entrenched, indifferent 50-years-in-power party has to offer. You don't find that attractive? Well, OK, maybe we can work out a special deal.
Let's say you start out as a gadfly, doing irritating things like getting ICE on the ballot for middle schools, or writing for seditious tomes like EdNotes. Then, the year before your retirement, you feign a change of heart, and find yourself passionately supporting the worst contract you or any of your colleagues have ever seen.
Unfortunately, due to your frequent comments on Edwize, everyone in the union has already got you pegged as an uncritical lapdog. So when they ask you to write a litany of misleading propaganda and half-truths pimping the contract how can they call you a voice "from the trenches?"
Simple. They change your name. Voila.
Word on the street is that Ron Isaacs, aka Redhog, aka "Irukandji", (appropriately enough, a jellyfish) has done his time, will retire, and is being sent out to pasture to write for NY Teacher.
The rest of us can continue to reap the benefits of the contract he and his Unity mates have cooked up for us.
Thanks, Ron! Enjoy your retirement. As lowly duespayers, it's our honor and privilege to fund your second pension via our forced contributions to the Unity patronage mill.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Monday, June 19, 2006
There's an interesting program going on which is giving some New Yorkers access to well-paying union jobs. While it's not nearly enough for a city of this size, it's a good start.
Note also that the unions are "reserving" slots for the applicants. This represents a huge distinction between these unions and the UFT. While we're regularly blamed for everything that ails the school system, the truth is we have no say whatsoever about who joins. That wouldn't be such a bad thing if anyone actually knew about it.
When NYC's mayor decides that people unable to meet rudimentary requirements are good enough to teach city kids, so be it. When the mayor decides to ship hundreds of people over, totally unfamiliar with our culture, who may or may not speak English, that's the way it's gonna be.
Then, the mayor gets on a local talk show and says the teachers "stink." NYC nods its head in agreement.
The NY Post runs an editorial about merit pay. The Daily News finds a newly-imported teacher who sacrifices live goats in front of his building, Randi Weingarten gets in a shouting match with a troglodyte teacher-basher, tripling his ratings, and Leo Casey writes a nasty column in Edwize about Eduwonk, comparing him to some obscure historical figure no one's ever heard of. Only Eduwonk actually reads the column (though Leo's family claim also to have done so), and the only others to hear about it are those who read Eduwonk's response.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
The Chancellor has decreed that students will be tested on literacy and math every six to eight weeks, beginning with kindergarten and lasting through 12th grade. Parents are up in arms over this, claiming it's so invasive as to preclude education. I've stated before that I'm not against testing, but this appears excessive to me.
Why is so much testing necessary? Well, if the scores are good, Klein and Bloomy can say they're doing a great job. If they're bad, they can blame the UFT, the principals, the big schools, and perhaps Willie Horton.
Should they focus on hiring quality teachers, reducing class size, and relieving the unconscionable conditions in the sardine cans that pass for high school? Forget it. Too expensive. Why should we waste time with costly programs just because they work everywhere else? Let's experiment instead.
Despite their talk about including parents, Klein and Bloomberg are also hanging tough on their highly unpopular plan to prohibit cellphones. Does anyone still believe these guys care what parents think? If they did, wouldn't they stop blocking the referendum on class size?
Thanks to Schoolgal.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Ms. Goodrich was adamant. “You’ve only returned 23 copies of Ethan Frome, so I’m only giving you 23 copies of Flowers for Algernon.”
“I can’t help it,” Richard protested. “Ms. Rong didn’t leave any book receipts, and the other kids say they never got the book.”
“It isn’t my fault if you can’t find the book receipts. Have you checked the closets?”
In fact he had. And if that weren’t enough, some freak had actually tampered with his lunch. Rather than simply stealing it, someone had reached in, taken a piece of cheese out, and left knuckle-prints all over the bread. It was gross. He was sorely tempted to eat the school lunch.
“It’s the lunch bandit,” said a nearby colleague, looking at the remains of Richard’s sandwich.
“He got me last week,” commented the woman sitting next to him. “Stuck his whole hand in my salad, and stole the top to make sure I knew.”
“I think it’s that sub who talks too much” said another.
“Larry?” asked the woman.
“I’ve never trusted that guy. On the other hand, he isn’t always here.”
Richard couldn’t believe such things went on. Lunch could wait, he decided.
As for class, he decided to distribute the 23 books he had, and have the students read them in class, in pairs. At the last department meeting Ms. Goodrich had extolled, at some length, the virtues of pair work. Here was a chance to put those great ideas into action.
Still, it seemed to Richard an enormous waste of time to have the kids sitting around reading in class when they could do so at home.
Later, an unexpected solution presented itself. Frankie, an outgoing but underachieving student, stopped Richard in the hall. “Pssst, Mr. C.”
“Hey Frankie, what’s up?”
“I hear you’re having problems getting the books you need.”
“Yeah, said Richard. “That’s true. Didn’t I just get through telling your class I could only get 23 copies of the new book?”
“Never mind that,” said Frankie. “How many more copies you want?”
“Where are you gonna get copies, Frankie?”
“Don’t ask too many questions, Mr. C. I can get into the bookroom whenever I want.” Frankie flashed Richard an “OK” signal.
“Really?” Could he pull this off? Frankie looked absolutely confident.
“Really, Mr. C. It’s no problem at all. Nobody needs to know nothin’, and we never talked about this. But what’s in it for me?”
“For you? What do you want?”
“Well, I could use some extra credit. My dad wants me to get an eighty average this semester.”
“So if I give you extra credit, you can get me 15 more books?”
“No prob, Mr. C.”
They sealed the deal with a handshake, and the next morning Richard unlocked the classroom door to find 15 brand new copies of Flowers for Algernon on the desk.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
"Commander in Chief" started like a bolt of lightning, and was a great hit for ABC. Geena Davis, who won a Golden Globe for her performance, was wonderful, as was her nemesis, played by Donald Sutherland.
Then "American Idol" came along and killed it. Rod Lurie, the show's creator, is supposedly negotiating a TV movie based on the show.
If you, like me, want to imagine what things might be like with a president who isn't insane, you can watch it from the beginning right here.
Way back yonder when I started, in the pioneer days of 1984, we used to fail kids for not showing up. There was a number--I don't remember what--but, say, you're absent 5 times in a marking period, or 10 in a semester, you fail. There was a code grade of 41 to indicate this.
Then, someone at the Board of Ed. got the notion that code grades were bad, so they were strictly prohibited. Later on, another New York City educational genius determined it was not fair to fail kids simply because their busy social lives precluded attending school.
Now, you can't fail a kid for not showing up. However, not showing up has the unfortunate effect of making kids do no work whatsoever, and kids who don't take tests are highly unlikely to pass them. So now, we're required to comment "lack of class participation" in addition to "excessive absence." You simply can't fail a kid for excessive absence. That's not fair.
So what I want to know if why do I have to keep coming in? Shouldn't they pay me even if I don't feel like coming to work? Why should I be penalized simply because I have priorities which make showing up inconvenient? It's not fair.
Actually, I do show up. I plan to continue doing so. My kid better do so as well, and so should the kids in my classes (once classes start again).
It's patently ridiculous to pretend that showing up is anything other than necessary. Let's fail kids who can't be bothered, let's tell them and their parents why we do so, and let's end this idiotic beating around the bushes about it.
...so let's shut them the hell up before they start anything, suggests Angelo Pokluda, principal of El Paso's Austin High School. Last March 29th, as immigrants were gearing up to march, he instructed one of his Spanish teachers not to discuss immigration. The teacher, Hilda Sotelo, tried to follow his edict, but those goshdarn kids, being immigrants and all, kept bringing up the subject.
The next day, seeing national walkouts on school TVs, 700 students followed suit and walked out. Naturally, Ms. Sotelo was blamed. It was she, apparently, who had started the national movement.
In France, and in Chile, young people are affecting changes for the better:
The last few weeks saw more than 600,000 school students skip classes in Chile to demand free public transport, lower fees for college entrance exams and greater participation in government. On all three counts they were at least partly successful. The recently elected socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, offered an extra £104m for transport, some free lunches, mostly free entrance exams and the renovation of dilapidated buildings. She also set aside 12 of 74 seats on an advisory panel on education. After initially rejecting the offer, the students accepted the deal on Friday.
Meanwhile in France, over the past six months, two episodes of revolt - one of minority youth in the inner cities and the other of students and youth in the city centres - produced concrete results. After the former, last November, the government unveiled a raft of measures to tackle inner-city deprivation. During the latter, which saw two-thirds of universities occupied, blockaded or closed, hundreds of schools taken over and between one million and 3 million people in the streets, the government retracted an unpopular employment law.
Perhaps we ought to have more faith in our bright young people. Many have got better ideas than the Bushies, and given half a chance, they could do no worse than endless, pointless war (against the American middle class, for one) and concurrent, unconscionable tax breaks for individuals who need them the least.
Principal Pokluda's suggestion that a bright, interesting teacher reduce her lessons to irrelevance is tantamount to asking the US populous to simply ignore what's going on in the country and watch Fox News.
Which is precisely what our national government's been doing these long, long six years, of course.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Do we need more testing? Do we need Klein's minions re-inventing the wheel in order to rationalize their obscene salaries? Do we need more conference days?
Or would you prefer more high-quality teachers?
Great teachers make great things happen in public schools.
Read about how one of them got an assortment of English language learners to perform The Wizard of Oz.
At the new Carnival of Education, hosted by the Science Goddess, no less.
Why pay forty bucks to party with that weird buck-toothed colleague with the arrested hygeine habits when you can go here for free? I guarantee you the teachers here all shower and visit dentists regularly.
Are they sober? You'll have to judge for yourself.
NYC Math Teacher writes:
I would be a little gun shy about taking away a phone for two reasons:
1. Expensive personal item
2. What if the kid comes into harm's way on the way home from school and the parent is a litigious sort.
Am I too cautious for my own good?
Dear NYC Math Teacher,
I think you are.
If you confiscate anything, and I would do so only as a last resort, but if you do, you leave it at the dean's office with a statement as to why it is there.
In fact, students are not permitted to carry cell phones in NYC schools. This has been on TV, and in every major newspaper (Most importantly, of course, it's been examined in some depth on NYC Educator).
In the highly unlikely event something untoward should happen to the kid on the way home, you were following DoE policy. That's your job, actually.
That's good enough for me (Note-NYC Educator is not a lawyer), and I wouldn't hesitate. There must be consequences for unacceptable behavior in your classes, and the whole world must know it. When they do, there will be far less unacceptable behavior.
I think a lot of your authority as a teacher (and as a parent) derives from your own attitude. I am the boss, that's it, and I will make it my mission in life to ensure everyone in that kid's home knows every gruesome detail of every atrocity the kid has committed since entering high school.
If you're wrong, of course, you have to admit it.
You seem a reasonable sort, so that probably won't happen much, and certainly not when a kid answers a cell in your class. If you let it pass, it will happen again, and again, and again.
And again. You get the idea.
Consider becoming more of a ruthless fascistic bastard, like me.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
On page 16 of this week's Unity propaganda rag, NY Teacher, the 190-day school schedule is laid out. August 31st, September 1st, and Election Day prepare yourself for more conferences. There, you will learn in great detail what an awful job you're doing, and how Klein's 23-year-old geniuses have superior plans (never mind that they've never been tried before and no studies anywhere substantiate them).
Unity is crying about how no city school will close for Veteran's Day, ignoring the fact that they failed to mention it in contract negotiations. They're also upset that Chancellor Klein wishes to extend the school year as long as he does. Apparently our crack team of negotiators thought our buddy Joel would just say "Sure guys! Take an extra week off and have a great time!" That must be why they didn't immortalize that request in the contract either.
Well, we've learned a hard lesson. "Come on" is not the most compelling of arguments, particularly after you've agreed to a contract guaranteeing more time, more work, more nonsense, and less pay. Who woulda thunk that's precisely what we'd get?
Not our crack negotiating team, that's for sure.
It's a neverending battle between youthful enthusiasm and well-aged treachery. I'm convinced, you'll be pleased to note, that we're currently winning the war. But the kids have developed a new weapon in their arsenal of fiendish deceptions.
It turns out there is a new ring tone that's imperceptable to the adult ear. Therefore, students can hear it, but teachers can't. What shall we do? Should we raise the white flag and scurry away like frightened rabbits?
Absolutely not, say I. Stand your ground with pride. Let them have their accursed victory, and let them snigger that you can't hear the tone. But if they dare take the electronic devices from their pockets or purses, pounce on them like mad dogs!
This is war, ladies and gentlemen, and we must yield not one inch of our precious authority.
Actually, I don't see what the fuss is all about. I have my phone on vibrate, and when it goes off no one knows about it but me. How many kids do the same? Who knows? Who cares?
As long as they don't interrupt my class, I'm fine with it.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Ex-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani is talking about buying the Chicago Cubs, despite his much-professed love for and allegiance to the New York Yankees. Oh Lord, how could our great hero betray us?
Rudy made Bill Clinton look like a choirboy--he not only cheated on his wife, but actually went to court to demand the right to bring his girlfriend to the home he shared with his wife and young children.
You may remember the spectacle of Mayor Giuliani announcing that he needed to defy the law and stay on beyond his term, ostensibly to boost the morale of NYPD and FDNY. He made this claim publicly, despite having denied them a contract for two years.
The truth is Rudy's forced retirement was what they needed for a morale boost. Shortly after the mayor's power-grab, I met a fireman who spit on the ground every time he heard Rudy's name. And NYPD, once a strong supporter of Rudy, had by then taken to public demonstrations against him. Lincoln and Roosevelt stood for re-election, but in Rudy's eyes, democracy, as a priority, was a far less important than appeasing his massive ego. Public sentiment put an end to this.
Perhaps you recall Rudy's proposal that welfare recipients be required to work in NYC public schools, as well as his charming accusation that those who opposed this plan were racist. Sure, people chronically unable to find work are adequate role models for NYC kids. His kids didn't attend public schools, so why should he care anyway?
In fact, if you live or work in the city, you may be a recipient of Rudy's legacy--his policy of reducing city education aid by precisely whatever amount the state increased it. Mayor Mike had to stop that to gain control, but has steadfastly refused to compensate for it, resulting in the still-stalled CFE case.
Few people benefited from 9/11--only Rudy and bin Laden come to mind. You notice how you never see the two of them in the same place?
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Last week, Chancellor Klein sent a letter to city parents about accountability. It's important, according to the chancellor, that schools, and even Klein himself be held accountable. I don't actually disagree with that, per se.
Of course, while Klein claimed he was accountable, he spelled out no consequences whatsoever for failure on his part. He'll remove principals and"close" schools (meaning rename them), but that's it, as far as viable consequences.
More importantly, it's preposterous to assume, as ever-pandering Klein did, that parents, and particularly students, bear no responsiblity whatsoever for academic progress, or lack thereof. And imagine my surprise when Schoolgal emailed me a link to a New York Post (!) editorial suggesting precisely the opposite. I have to agree.
If my kid doesn't do her schoolwork, I look to her, and yours truly to correct the situation. I'm her first, best, most reliable and loyal teacher, even if her schoolteachers are smarter, more competent, or even better-looking than I may be.
According to the editorial, kids who fail don't bother showing up for extra tutoring. Are you as shocked as I am (which is to say, not at all)?
There was a great episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show where an elderly man says something like "You know, there's a reason why kids don't do well in school, but nobody ever says it."
"What's that?" asks Mary.
"The kid could be stupid," says the old man.
Well, I don't know if the kids are stupid, but if they are lazy, or unmotivated, or both, they certainly won't show up. And many, if not most of the kids who fail my classes do so because they don't show up. After a kid has cut 40 or 50 times, I don't bother calling the home anymore.
It's hardly worth it.
I can't stop thinking about this story--the class president banned from his own graduation because of threats on his life. The Education Wonks blogged about it a few days back, which was where I first saw it.
Edwonk characterizes the banning as "letting the bad guys win," and I understand that point of view completely. Still, we're talking about a kid here. It's hard for me to see why he needs to risk his life proving a point. His mother disagrees, saying the threats against him are not credible.
I don't lay hands on my daughter, but I wouldn't hesitate to physically restrain her before I'd let her risk her life to speak at a graduation ceremony. Tyrone Lewis, the kid in question, has been shot at once, and it doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to envision it happening again, perhaps more successfully, and with thousands of innocent bystanders.
I think the police were absolutely right to preclude such a deadly incident, and if they erred on the side of caution, that's fine with me.
There are things worth risking your life for. Your high school graduation ceremony is not one of them.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Semesters of Our Lives is is a work of fiction. Names, characters, events and places are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Furthermore, any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, locales or incidents is purely coincidental.
Richard and Jennifer returned to the building to attend the post-conference conference in the student cafeteria. They joined a group including Tier One and a few others, ostensibly to discuss what they learned from the mice and the cheese. It was hard to concentrate because Tier One had fallen asleep on the table.
A corpulent math teacher was talking over a microphone. “What kind of cheese do you have? What color is it? Is it old and moldy? Is it green?” The math teacher kept giggling at himself, producing awful feedback, and was rapidly losing the crowd. This grieved him deeply. “Hey, ya know, I spent five days in the principal’s office preparing these remarks. I’m just trying to make some jokes and lighten it up around here, and you guys are paying no attention at all. You know, you wouldn’t like it if your students treated you like this.”
The principal glared at the audience, with little noticeable effect.
The math teacher lowered the microphone in defeat, the feedback subsided, and the only sound you could hear was Tier One snoring. A perky young teacher took over for her disappointed colleague.
“Hi, everyone! I’m Angie Wittner. I’m helping out today, and I’d like to get your comments. What did you learn from the film today?” She gave a practiced Disney World smile (She'd worked there for two years) and continued, “Wouldn’t it be nice if all of you could use the new techniques the chancellor has introduced in all your classrooms? Why are there so many gloomy Guses out there? Let's turn those frowns upside down!" She pranced around like a spokesmodel, thrusting the microphone at various random victims.
Jennifer and Richard listened as several teachers gave their impressions. After a few rounds of this, despite his very visible gesticulations of protest, she approached Richard with the mike. He was sadly trying to invent a genuine-sounding reaction when Tier One suddenly grabbed the mike from his hand and stood up.
Everyone shut up and looked. Richard wondered how Tier One could wear shorts on such a cool day. He wondered if wearing shorts to the classroom was grounds for dismissal. If so, how could Tier One wear them every day? And how many "TIER ONE" T-shirts could one man possibly own?
“You all know me," began Tier One, "so I’m not gonna introduce myself. I’ve heard a lot today about cheese. The new cheese, I guess, is supposed to be better than the old cheese. But you’re asking the wrong question. It doesn’t matter if the cheese is old or new. You should be asking if the cheese is good or bad.”
Tier One acknowledged the polite applause of his colleagues, and continued, “I’ve been here since before a lot of you were born, and every year there’s a new cheese. They say we have to use this cheese because it’s the best cheese ever. Then the next year, they tell us, no, that cheese was no good, and we have to use this one.”
“This year, they’re giving us the very same cheese they used twenty years ago, and giving it a new name. That doesn’t make it taste any better, though.”
“Now, my wife and I, we love cheese. In fact, we go to a special cheese store to buy it. We don’t eat that pasteurized processed American cheese-style food-product, and we don’t go for that cheese you spray out of a can and caulk your windows with.”
“Do you know what the secret of good cheese is? It’s the same as good wine, or brandy. The secret is age. In some societies, they think age brings wisdom. You guys think you can pay some twenty-two-year-old college graduate to write some cutesy curriculum and it’s gonna change the world.”
“You want good schools? Do what they do in Nassau. Excuse me, I gotta sit down because my cheese is just about grilled.”
The entire cafeteria rose and gave Tier One a thunderous ovation. Angie, unaccustomed to being upstaged, fought back tears while the principal wondered how much Maalox he still had in his refrigerator.
Next: Richard learns the fine art of negotiation
Friday, June 09, 2006
There were no students in attendance. No supervisors either. It turns out when you leave people without a contract for three years, they're not all that inclined to come in as a favor.
Schoolgal told me they could've made forty bucks an hour, or received an extra vacation day for coming in anyway. In my school, without exception, they stayed out on principle. Principle, however, had no effect on our principal.
What got me in was the contract that Klein and Weingarten shoved down our throats, punishing us with three days of nonsense, to wit, Brooklyn Queens Day, and August 30th and 31st. Like all my colleagues, I eagerly await coming in for two more non-attendance days for kids which promise to be as stimulating as yesterday.
It's interesting that, in New York City, where they faced a thirty-year teacher shortage, where half of all new teachers don't last five years, the only retention incentives Klein and Weingarten can muster are the most pointless and insipid meetings Tweed's 23-year-old "experts" could devise.
Me, I'd rather just teach.
I like the kids.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Another meeting. Why on earth were there so many meetings? No one seemed to have much new to say. At least this time they were showing a film. It was some cartoon about two mice and their cheese. Apparently cheese was an important thing.
Richard turned around.
“Hi. My name’s Jennifer.”
“What do you teach?”
“I teach English. How about you?”
“I teach Spa-neesh”
Spa-neesh. Richard realized at that very moment that he’d always needed to meet a Spa-neesh teacher.
“How long have you been here, Jennifer?”
“Not long," she answered. "But longer than you, I think.”
“I’m brand new," Richard admitted. "Do you know what those mice are talking about?”
“I have no idea. Who cares? Did you sign the attendance form?”
“Yeah, I did.”
Jennifer looked at him for a moment before speaking. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” That was the best idea Richard had heard in some time. He followed her, happily missing the rest of the cartoon.
Next: Tier One Takes a Stand
Those goshdarn New York City liberals are so unreasonable. I mean, here’s a disbarred New Jersey lawyer, who’s clearly got a great deal of life experience, who just wants to help the kids, and they not only fail to thank him, but they flat out give him the boot. Why?
Because the guy needs to go up the river to do a little stretch. So what? That’s just more life experience he can share with the kids. And really, what's it all about? So he bilked a few elderly women out of a million bucks. Honestly. What were they gonna use it for anyway?
I mean, how are we going to get teachers if we have these ridiculous standards? You gotta pass a test, you gotta take a course, you gotta have a clean criminal record, blah, blah, blah. Let’s stop depriving our kids of sorely-needed role models.
Like Nicholas Kristoff wrote, those and other troublesome regulations are the only things that stand in the way of Meryl Streep and Colin Powell teaching New York City kids. Obviously the multi-million dollar pay cut is neither here nor there.
Doubtless Mr. Kristof would quit his well-paid job at the Times and teach high school if it weren't for all that nasty red tape.
Thanks to Schoolgal.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
To commemorate the second year of this blog, I'm composing the world's very first educational soap opera. I realize it's a little short on romance, but please be patient. While I haven't posted them precisely in order, they are as follows:
Chapter One: Birth of a Teacher
Chapter Two: Meatballs
Chapter Three: Greatest Hits
Chapter Four: Perspicacity and the Sundance Kid
Chapter Five: Let's Do Lunch
Please watch this space for future installments. Your comments and suggestions are welcome, but I cannot promise I will not steal them.
Teachers steal everything, beginning with pencils. Teachers who write are even worse. If you have daughters, keep them far away from such individuals.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Today's NY Post reports that Mayor Bloomberg's cell-phone ban faces veto-proof opposition. City parents should be happy. There's nothing quite so inefficient as trying to get a message to a teacher, let alone a student, on DoE telephones.
The city council says kids may be required to leave phones at the door, but they must be given back. It's better to simply ban their use in school with confiscation as a result of abuses. After enough inconvenient school visits, parents will make sure their kids don't do it again.
And if you're a teacher, you better keep your eyes open.
Thanks to Schoolgal.
Who wears a bowtie anymore, wondered Richard. Just as he was thinking that, Harold Brown and his bowtie made a sudden sharp turn, walked twenty feet, and parked their styrofoam lunch tray directly in front of Richard’s brown paper bag.
Richard watched the tray hit the table, and was about to comment on the cockroach strolling through Harold’s string beans when Harold blurted out “I heard Goodrich observed you the other day.”
“Yup,” answered Richard. “You know, there’s a…”
“Don’t take it too hard, Carter,” smiled Harold. “I heard she invited you over for meatballs and you turned her down. Big mistake.”
“You think so?” Richard asked.
“I would’ve been over in a flash,” said Harold, while picking something from his teeth. “Of course, I’m the sort of teacher who doesn’t need to do those things. She’s observed me four times, and they’ve all been great. What happened in your class?”
“Harold, you ought to…”
“Don’t worry about me. I know what I’m doing. I was almost teacher of the year last year. I should have won, and I would have, to, if it hadn’t been for that woman getting pregnant again. How does that make her any better than me?”
Once again, Richard didn’t know what to say.
Luckily for Richard, Howard believed in leaving no pause unfilled. “Now you tell me what happened in your class, and I’ll tell you exactly what you did wrong. I’m really good at that, believe me”
Richard believed him. “OK, fine,” he replied. Richard looked down as Harold continued to gobble down the orange stuff on his tray. “Actually, Harold, I don’t remember what happened.”
“What do you mean? Are you on drugs or something?”
“Well, no. I was just tired, and I fell asleep.”
Harold’s eyes opened wide behind his flex-titanium glasses. “You fell asleep? While Goodrich was observing you?”
“No, Harold. I fell asleep second period, and she didn’t observe me till period three.”
“Oh my God. What did she say?”
“She told me I should fall asleep on my own time.”
“Wow. That’s bad. Very bad. You should have spoken to me. I would never…”
“I told her it was none of her damn business what I do on my own time.”
Harold almost spit out a mouthful of green beans. “You what? You couldn’t, I mean you didn’t…”
“I had to, Harold. She has no right telling me what to do in my free time. This is a free country.”
Harold swallowed the last of his green beans, wiped his mouth, adjusted his tie, and left the cafeteria.
An older teacher at the other end of the table waited a few moments and asked, “You didn’t really do that, did you?”
“Of course not,” said Richard.
“I didn’t think so. You seem like a bright kid.” The older teacher turned to Richard. Richard couldn’t help but notice his T-shirt, which said “TIER ONE” in large block letters.
“Why don’t you get out of this system now,” suggested Tier One, “and get a job in Long Island? You could make some real money out there, and you won’t have to deal with idiots like Harold anymore. Don’t wait till you’re my age.”
Monday, June 05, 2006
Actually, if you depend on it like I do, you can't find me. So just forget the whole thing.
In any case, Aphrikandreema maintains the world may just end tomorrow, 6/6/6, get it? 666?
So let's hope they fix it soon.
...and cane your students.
In Kenya, they can't seem to do without it. Despite the fact that some kids have had internal injuries, been hospitalized, and even died as a result, some miss it.
Many believe in the fabled "school of hard knocks."
Didja learn it yet?
How's about now?
I don't hit my child, ever. I wouldn't even consider hitting anyone else's. I'm far more evil than that.
Anyone who lacks the imagination to control kids without resorting to violence is unfit to teach.
In Kenya too.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
In an ongoing effort to characterize alleged events in Haditha and documented atrocities at Abu Ghraib as business as usual, Bill O' Reilly, has on at least two occasions blamed a Nazi WWII massacre on American troops.
That, perhaps, explains why the Fox motto "fair and balanced" makes no claims as to accuracy. And since accuracy is no longer an issue, it's easy to continue calling it "fair and balanced."
Note also that O'Reilly has stated that teacher unions are "not good Americans." Better we should cower at the mercy of lying anti-labor thugs like ex-US Education Secretary Rod Paige (The NEA is a "terrorist organization.") and hope for the best. O'Reilly supports "right to work" for teachers since unions have the inconvenient effect of amplifying the voices of working Americans.
Placing the blame is an important part of American culture, and we see it at work from the President on down. It's important to be the first to say "It's not my fault," which is why each one of my beginning ESL students can say this as readily as hello or goodbye. For the next level, we progress to "It's his/ her/ your/ Mayor Bloomberg's/ Unity's fault."
After that, of course, we move on to the tough part--giving viable reasons to support your contentions. That's called rationalization. Many school administrators have no need to bother going that distance, finding it easier to simply ignore problems altogether by conveniently pretending they never happened.
Every teacher in New York City knows that to be standard operating procedure, but it's apparently news to many. This includes readers of the Daily News, which informs us PS 611 failed to report disciplinary problems. According to the article, in-home suspension is illegal, and apparently every school in which I've ever worked has been breaking laws with impunity.
According to a Klein mouthpiece:
"We are required to give children and adolescents access to education - and to a quality education - whether or not they're behaving," she said. "It is not permitted under any circumstances for a principal or anyone else to send a child home."
Suspensions are supposed to be served in a classroom and run by a certified teacher.
I've never heard that before, and I've received dozens, if not hundreds of letters informing me that kids were to be suspended and that I was to send homework assignments for them. Kids under suspension are banned from coming to school, and I can't imagine they're supposed to be anywhere but home.
Perhaps this has never been a problem before. But an 8-year-old boy under home suspension got on a bus, released the emergency brake, and actually managed to kill another child.
Is that the fault of the school system?
Thanks to Schoolgal for the tip.
In Attendance: 32
Dear Mr. Carter:
This morning I observed your 3rd period English 5 class. On the positive side, you have a warm and engaging manner with the students.
However, I noted several disturbing trends in this class. Upon entering, I could not help but notice that several of the windows were open approximately 18 inches. Optimally, they should not be open more than 12 inches. Studies have shown this to be the case.
Furthermore, I observed no fewer than two (2) students wearing hats in the class. It is very difficult for learning to take place in such an atmosphere.
I urge you to be more heuristic in your approach to education. As pedagogues, it behooves us to endeavor to display the sort of perspicuity one would expect from a role model. Anything less betrays the high seriousness of our calling. It’s always necessary to keenly display the perspicacity demanded of those who form children—the living clay that will quite literally permeate the world of tomorrow.
As you know, we strive to have the students discover knowledge. Therefore, it is your duty to stimulate their existing schema so that it may flower into a virtual garden of enlightenment. Your lesson consisted largely of teacher-prepared discussion. While it may be of interest to explore, for example, the possibility of viewing a novel from the point of view of a particular character, it must be the students who initiate such suggestions in order to validate the topics.
There was a great deal of student-teacher interaction. A better method would be to limit your teaching to ten minutes, and then simply turn the class over to the students. They could work in groups or simply question one another about the things they feel to be important. This will enhance the validity of your lesson, and will further allow you to reap the benefits indigenous to our profession.
It is vital that we allow the students to explore their own learning styles and that is now thought to be impossible in an environment in which the teacher has central control. You must rid yourself of territorial impulses, relinquish any and all such archaic notions, and enthusiastically, even reverentially allow the young people to explore on their own. They must be given the freedom and liberty to discover.
I am afraid, as this is so absolutely pivotal, there can be no flexibility whatsoever on this point, and we must insist you adopt this paradigm as your sole methodology.
As you have failed to do so, I must deem this lesson unsatisfactory.
Assistant Principal, English Department