Sunday, May 22, 2011

The end of the world as we know it

Okay so it is May 22, and I am still here.

I took the bus home from a meeting late into the evening one night last week.
Nonetheless, the bus was crowded even though it was past 9pm. The man standing in front of me was bedecked from head to toe in clothing that admonished; Repent- Rapture is coming May 21, 2011.

That particular bus heads straight into the heart of the Observant Jewish section of Queens. All around me the pious (wow -three vowels in a row- got to remember that word for scrabble game) were deeply absorbed in well worn books printed in both Hebrew and English.

"They live their live's as if the Messiah will arrive any day," my husband explained when I related the story.

And the bus moved silently towards everyone's home.

Me- I played games on the new phone the whole way.

If the world ended yesterday-I'd not being going anywhere good.

I suppose I need to write lessons for the week to come.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A leap of faith

The world of New York City Schools used to be organized geographically. A school was located physically and administratively in a district with neighboring schools.

No more.

For reasons only Bloomberg could begin to explain, the current organization of schools revolves around networks. The workshop leader today asked what network each of us belonged to - I could give the network leader's name but not the number. I wrote it down when she told me.

I have forgotten it already.

But because the network we belong to is based in the Bronx, I got to take two buses, through today's monsoon (presenter's word-not mine) to a workshop in the Bronx.. The good news- ride too long to return to school for the afternoon.

And I got to eat lunch at the Arthur Avenue Market.

I took the picture of the market while perched on the narrow stairway, hesitating to make the final step after shooting the photo. The man waiting to enter encouraged me to, "take a leap of faith."

So what was so important that I had to brave the torrential rains, cross the river and check the Hop Stop directions on the phone, 50 times?

Information on how to write an IEP that meets the state requirements for transition.

Now I wouldn't doubt for a second that that transition for a student with special needs is of the upmost importance. And I wouldn't doubt that a genuinely appropriate IEP for a student with a third grade reading level would address the real vocational as well as academic needs of such student.

And that is why all the exemplars we looked at had programs that offered specific courses for specific interests and training, courses like keyboarding and real math for the real world, cooking and welding.

But this is New York City. Almost everyone at the workshop was from the small high schools- where everyone is "college bound."

Can't subtract without a calculator? No problem, we have high expectations for you so take Algebra II (yeah, yeah so you didn't pass Algebra I - get over it). Want to be beautician, take college bound chemistry- why? See above.

So three hours of transition IEP writing later - I was back into the storm, literally and figuratively.

Will I write IEPs that are genuine and appropriate and meet the transition needs of Kenya and Elma and the like?

I'm gonna have to try. The state might audit us.

I need to take a leap of faith!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Smart Phone Dumb Teacher

Okay I was tired of Kenya making fun of my $19 phone. I know the teacher's contract. I know by virtue of my age and tenacity I make the most money of anyone in the school,(except the principal and custodian).

But I had the cheapest phone. I wanted a Smart phone. I didn't need a smart phone. I figure it this way. I spent the first 70% of my life with a phone that went brrrinnggg, brrrinngg. It was attached to a wall in the foyer of our four room apartment. I put my jacket on my head when I didn't want my mother to hear what I was saying. She probably heard anyway- truth to be told I had a very boring adolescence. The only secrets were in my head- I didn't do anything she couldn't have listened in on. The next 25% percent of my life I spent with a continuing progression of basic cell phones, almost all of which came to untimely ends.(Which is a very good incentive to buy the cheapest model available.)

But everyone else had a sexy phone. And I wanted one too. So we spent a sum total of 10 hours at various cell phone outfitters until my husband got the best deal. In his opinion. The argument that I made the most and had the least- phonewise anyway- didn't inspire him to open his wallet any wider.

Okay so by Tuesday- I had my smart phone. I did miss a few phone calls because I didn't quite know how to answer it fast enough. I couldn't get my voice messages since on Wednesday night a parent called to tell me her son was missing and in a panic (mine as well as hers) I entered some password into the voicemail set up that I could not replicate ever again. I couldn't get the phone service to reset the phone since I could not answer the question- what was my husband's nickname as a child.
The name I did give the not-so-helpful assistant on the help line- was something that started with a verb that referred to fornication and ended with the noun that describes the exit organ of the digestive system. And there were quite a few adjectives in between.

Oh yeah- missing child, not really missing- just detoured in the pizza store on the way home from after-school.
And my husband reset my password using some secret 7 digit password.(Due to anonymous nature of this blog- I will reveal that the very secret password is the number 1 through 7 in consecutive order- had I known that earlier the not-so helpful-assistant might have continued to think that I was respectable lady)

Wednesday was the administration of the State Tests. Lots of blogs I browsed this week, talk about the aggravation, the futility, the burden of the ridiculous pressure the whole education community suffers from high stakes testing.

Those blogs expressed that point far better then any attempt I could make to do so. My comment on the high stake tests- Teachers as well as students suffer greatly from the enforced abstention of texting during the hours of the test.

And me did I abstain?

Actually if I learned anything this week it was that no one texts me.
(Not even my husband, who upon hearing we had free texting and I that I am the only breathing soul in the school who receives no text messages all day long, promised to text me he loves me at least twice a day)
No such text received yet.

So here's how all the above fits in with Teacherfish blog.

I decided that I would use my new smart phone, to capture pithy observations as I flitted through my day sans computer but with cell phone in hand. I downloaded a notepad app, practiced swyping and made this valuable observation while riding to school on Thursday:

17 minutes A day.that's the amount of time the average hhigh school student spends actually reading. Ij heard that statistic when I was in graduate school. That was more than three decades ago. But I thought of it yesterday when I was rewarding with wilma and kenya.s group.
I gave up. I gave up on english class. They weren't reading seventeen minutes, they weren't reading seventeen seconds. So I took them out. And now w read. Maunder bort seventeen committees worth, but everyone reserves every everyday.

I was thinking about that because I berated a story on the need

Gourd that reason I started taking the ki,.<

I think I heard a story on NPR about the irrelevancy of teacher education programs and actually teaching. I think I was trying to make the point that I still was affected and made decisions based upon the very excellent training I received 35 years ago

What I do actually know was that I missed my stop and had to walk back quite a bit to school.

Oh and Kenya was only slightly impressed by my new Smart phone. Apparently my husband's choice of the budget service did not make his cut.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tupac and April

The poetry unit got off to a bad start. The tenth grade English class didn't respond any better to the poetry in the English text book, than they did to Romeo and Juliet. And they didn't like Romeo and Juliet.

Poor Romeo, all he wants to do is get laid and it costs him his life, I told them. But if it ignited a glimmer of interest we soon ran a muck in Shakespearean language, and the questions at the end of the unit and even Leonardo DiCaprio's impassioned plea on Venice Beach, "I am fortune's fool" did not rouse a love of the bard.

Onto April and poetry. Pablo Neruda told us how poetry changed his life as a teenager.We listened Lil Wade use the F word repeatedly in some rap song - everyone knew well except me.

No dice.

Kenya had his head down, Elma told me repeatedly it was the most boring thing we ever did.(Hard to get under the bar, the Romeo and Juliet unit set)
The dean was making frequent and more frequent visits to room. (We have a low keyed- talky dean who had group gripe sessions similar to the ones I remember as a teenager in the socialist camp my parents sent me to)

It didn't help.

And then I rode the bus home with math teacher.
Yeah I said math teacher. Long story worthy of its own blog entry.

In his sonorous deep Jamaican voice he suggested I look at Tupac -The rose that grew in concrete.

Now if this was a Hollywood movie- or if I was young skinny ingénue blown into the English class to save the world- that would have been the moment that changed everything.

But I am a chubby middle-age woman who looks a lot (or it least I think I do) like the the "overpaid" senior teacher who is under attack by our mayor and anti-union politicians around the country.

But Tupac, he did change everything. I was the cause of much mirth throughout the unit since I never did figure out how to say his name quite the right way.

The dean still needed to make frequent visits.

The room still looked like a war zone when the period was over.

But Elma and Kenya and 80 other adolescents (my class and 2 others) read and wrote poetry.
And talked about it. Sometimes even in the cafeteria.

Maybe April really isn't the cruelest month.