Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silence for Sandy

Good and Evil

After lunch the afternoon resource room students file in.
The large glass windows, the over-sized radiator and partitions dividing an already divided classroom combine to make the space more suitable to growing tomatoes than teaching remedial academics.

But unlike many classes in the school, they all come everyday.
They are representative of the New York City School system, African American, Hispanic , Southeastern Indian descent via Central America and European descent via any number of earlier New York immigrant groups.  Two live with people other than their parents. One is the senior class president.

They bicker,  They touch each other when I say "keep your hands to yourselves."

But they are kind.  Really kind - to each other (and me).

When Nina has a social studies test- everyone pitches in with answers.  Okay- so technically that's cheating, but what's the point of a non-credited test preparation class, to fail a 16 year old dyslexic or master the material?

When Eva can't to do the math Laurence helps her, until he gets stuck, then Nina kicks in, 'cause dyslexics are good in math (Nina tells me).

And Bernie has Joy translates his Spanish homework, while Michael rereads Joy's essay in English.
Not all groups work out like this.  Okay- very few do.

But on good days I remember why I teach . .

Like last Friday, after lunch and a week of crack down on technology usage, which had basically kept  us all away from our Smart Phones and other electronic devices distributing the news,   we huddled in our room discussing what at that moment was the most significant event of the day.

The fight in the cafeteria.  Noteworthy because it involved a boy hitting a girl.

Michael says boys shouldn't hit girls.
Bernie agrees.  Nina says she's stronger than most boys, so if a boy hits her she'll hit him back.  Eva agrees with Nina's assessment of her strength and say if a boy hits her (meaning Eva) she's want's Nina to hit him back.

Then Laurence says that no one should hit anyone.  He's right of course and I make a big point of agreeing.  That no one should ever willing hurt another person.

But then I start to over think it- and feel like I have to modify the blanket statement with the amendment, that if someone was hurting my children, and I add, I consider all of them "my children",  I might have to do something.  I don't know what I would do - but I couldn't just let them get hurt.

Magnanimous of me.  (Though, I have physically inserted myself into school yard fights- thankfully I have never really had to test my verbal bravado).

But Friday's  instructional day ended, I pulled out my cell phone and the fight in the cafeteria faded to a very tiny spot in the scheme of violence of the day.  In thirty years, not all the groups have been like the one above.  I have had very disturbed young people come through my programs..  There are a few who I can imagine shooting up a classroom.  Were they evil incarnate?  I think they were sick. I think that just as I would not blame the diabetic young person for his pancreas' inability to manufacture insulin, I cannot blame the social deviant for the horrible voices in his head who tell him to hurt others.

But I blame the healthy individuals that sold his family the gun.I blame the forecasters of doom, who encourage people who live in suburban sub-developments, to arm themselves.  I blame the well sponsored gun lobbyist who hide behind a Constitution written at  a time when an "arm" required stuffing powder into a musket, not pulling a trigger enough times in a twenty minute period to destroy the future of twenty-six people many of whom had not reached their eighth birthday.And I blame the elected politicians so afraid of the NRA that they will not  pass real gun control laws. They are the evil incarnate.

I try to keep this blog away from the buzz of the social media world but the picture and story of Victoria Soto was all over my Facebook page.  According to the stories posted she hid her second graders, told the gunmen they were in the gym and was shot and killed.

Do I know if it really happened?
But I believe it.

I don't know if there is really a heaven, but if there is, the population increased by 26 Friday.
I do know that there is little chance sick people won't continue to want to do terrible things. The only way that we can limit the chance this will happen again  is a real change in the gun laws.

Rest in peace, Victoria, your coworkers and  the first graders of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Frustration and Cupcakes

I teach math.
Let me rephrase that in the pursuit of honest writing.
I am assigned two sections of a course called Algebra Prep.

Which means I have two classes comprised of students who fit the following criteria.
They were at some point in their school career designated as requiring a full time special education program. And they have yet to pass the all important New York State Algebra Regents.

I like my paycheck. It allows me to browse the Macy's website at 6:30 Thanksgiving Morning and if I clicked the correct button, four pretty sweaters should be lodged between my screen door and the front door early next week. I am not sure I hit the correct button. I did reveal the secret information about where my wedding reception, was held, but then things seemed to happened quickly and the page disappeared.
I got frustrated and moved on to making coffee.

Which is why I differentiate between teaching math and doing all the things that I call teaching math, like searching for appropriate tasks, trying to infuse meaning into sets of equations, tediously pulling apart problems from the exit exam and explaining them bit by bit (The educationalese word for that is scaffolding- not to be confused with the metal and wood structure outside the classroom window where the workman is jack-hammering while I do all those things)

After four long weeks of looking at the relationship between a linear equation and its graph I give a test.

Regina said it wasn't a real test because I didn't make them sit every other row. Then she asked wasn't I going to give them something it was the day before Thanksgiving.

“What is this first grade?” I ask, as I unwrap the last tray of cupcakes. The group in the Resource Room has polished off the last of the Hawaiian Punch the period before, so I figured I wouldn't have to collect red-soaked test papers.

Then Richard announces it was good I was giving out cupcakes because it was his eighteenth birthday.

And that got him thinking about how he was grown up and should be responsible for things. Like maybe get married and have kids.

But only two kids
by seven wives......

Wait!!!! (see why I don't really teach Algebra)
You can't have two kids by seven wives, what, each wife is going to be 2/7th pregnant?

Regina wants to know why I make everything math, Fred wants to know if you go up or down for a positive slope, Donny wants to know if he can borrow a pencil, Matthew is staring very hard at the paper and is deciding where he should write his name (on the line that says name would be my first choice.).

So Robert, who is in an introspective mood- says no what he really wants is one special 'ho.

He's the romantic type.

So I walk around and help people finish the test- Cheating I suppose. But it is a non-credit course and
the point is to convey some knowledge of algebra, maybe enough knowledge of algebra to pass the stupid regents.

Without getting too frustrated.
And then move on.

PS- I'm not sure what passing the Regents will allow them move onto , but dem's the rules. Mine is not to reason why, mine is just to do and give out cupcakes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reading the Met

Veteran's Day.  After  a post-tropical hurricane, and an early snowstorm, Mother Nature gives us a perfect autumn day.  We take the train to the city, walk through Central Park and land in a surprising empty Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We know some little known facts.  The suggested price of $25 admission- is just that- suggested..  And Monday the museum is closed- except if it is a holiday. For $5 each we have the museum almost to ourselves.

We go to the Andy Warhol exhibit.  By room 5 I begin to suffer museum fatigue and sit on the nicely polished wood bench smack in the middle of the room.  A young man and his mother circulate the room.  He reads the words on the explanation cards and those that are part of the pieces with ease and alacrity.  My bench mate is impressed.  "How well this little guy reads," he comments.

Yeah better then my tenth graders.

He reads the Richard Prince piece, “My father was never home, he was always drinking booze. He saw a sign saying ‘Drink Canada Dry.’ So he went up there.”

My bench mate and I compliment the mother.

"He's been reading since he's three," she tells us.  
And then, showing a great deal of reflection, adds, "figuring out what it says is one thing, understanding it is another."

"Like the Canada Dry joke?"  I ask. 

"And I didn't explain it to him either," she adds.

So some five year olds can breeze easily through multi-syllabic words, some tenth graders struggle terribly.

I will sit through another professional development on vocabulary development and literacy  today.  I will hear many good ideas.  But does anything work as well as good genes and landing in a family that knows the Met is free and open on holiday Mondays?

Maybe I should schedule a trip to Met?

I wonder if I could get it approved for vocabulary development?

I bet my tenth graders would get the Canada Dry joke.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


In first period English we read a poem, from the August Regents Exam

Home Techtonics
Our house is at the crest
of a mountain formed
by a fault line that’s still
doing its work. We’re up
over five thousand feet,
and probably, slowly, the spot
that we sit on is going
to get higher and higher.
So, at some point, the house
is coming down, shaken
to bits, I suppose, and what
we’re banking on is that
we’ve chosen the right moment
in geologic time, a sweet
spot between cataclysms.1
And that’s what Annie and I
hope for generally,
and what everyone seems
to want—some forgettable
moment between great wars
or typhoons or plagues—to have
timed it just right, so we’re
in just the right place between
what we read about in history
books and the moments after
which history won’t matter much.
John Brantingham
from Earthshine, November 2007–December 2009

Conan is worried about passing the exam.
He should be – I ask him what the poem is about
and he says something to do with plates.

So we read it many times. Conan is serious, he concentrates.
We talk about a lot. The exam says we should use the ideas from the poem to write a paragraph about uncertainty.

But Conan is confused. He writes that the poem is about a man who hopes his house does not fall down.

Which of course, it is, but unlike the campaign commercials that made me want to throw something at the tv (just how vulnerable are flat screens?-they probably don't break into the star-shaped shatter- so popular in the cartoons of my childhood,) the poems speaks to me more and more each time I read it It speaks to me.  I worry a lot..

And then Hurricane Sandy hits.
Neither Conan nor I suffer the terrible damage. The school community, so recently devastated by a automobile crash that killed four students, is spared the loss of life
But many have lost homes, and cars and the sense of well being.

On Monday when we return, I tell Conan I thought about him and the poem, during the week- at first he is not sure why, but Pablo  reminds him that a typhoon is like a hurricane.

Tuesday is Election Day.
Wednesday, a snowstorm only half as bad as the Hurricane hits. This time our home loses only half its electricity.

The Teacher's College Writer's project people, tell the story of the classroom and the first snow. The teacher invites the class to come to the window and observe the first flakes of the year. From the back, the cynic yells out, “Don't do it, she'll only make us write about it!”

We watch the snow and calculate how long the commute home will be. It's high school. We don't write about the first snow.

So it's not until the end of the week that I do make them read about the election.
We read Hope and Change Part 2 by Thomas Friedman.

We talk and talk about what it means.
I have been taking a lot of criticism in our small group professional learning community for suggesting that I use New York Times pieces with the student in the Resource Room. I am told over and over that the reading level is way too hard for them.
I am under no illusion that it isn't difficult reading with difficult vocabulary, but the material interests me and they are mad close to being fully grown adults, so I persist.

We slog or way through Friedman's analysis of what went wrong for the Republicans. And in the end Pablo says, “What if its just that Romnney had bad luck?”

Conan says elections don't have anything to do with luck. Obama was just the better choice.


Or maybe he was kind of lucky that Sandy hit and blew the campaign right off the front page of the paper and the nightly news.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Update

I have a distant memory of my first day of kindergarten being cancelled for a hurricane.
Although I suppose I could have looked at the New York Times archive to confirm it - I never did.

But it is true.  I've heard the storm reports and many mention that the last time NYC was so devastated by a natural disaster was Hurricane Donna in 1960, the year I started kindergarten.

The pictures have been awful,  flooded subways, tunnels-beach towns washed away or burnt to the ground.

And the toll on human life -horrific!
Three blocks away a large tree fell on a rooftop and killed a young man who used to wait at the same bus stop as my children.

A young teacher and her boyfriend walked their dog in the storm and were killed by a falling branch.  The dog was fine and waiting by their bodies when they were found the next day.

So I do not complain.  We, like six million others are without electricity and I type this at my sister's house and hope we get power back soon.

I am no longer cheering for hurricane days -which has turned into a hurricane week.  (Not so much fun in a cold dark house!)

Family, friends, coworkers and students have checked in. Many without power-otherwise fine.

I hope you are reading this in a warm dry place and are safe and well.

No school, nor school stories this week.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Day

Hurricane Sandy is heading directly at us.

The governor shut down the transportation system. The mayor had no choice but to close schools.


Friday I noticed a stack of cold cereal boxes by the principal's desk. He keeps them there for those days that stretch into night- it brought to mind a story from my early years.

I worked in a school that was the poster child for the devastation of the South Bronx.
Mrs.Nieves, the assistant teacher in my first grade class worked very hard surreptitiously collecting unopened cold cereal boxes in the cafeteria while supervising breakfast. She had to do it on the sly, the cafeteria staff chastised her when they caught her. They followed the rule- no food should ever be taken out of the lunchroom, unless it was inside a belly or a garbage bag.

Throughout the week she would stockpile the boxes in a closet in our classroom.
Friday she would take selected book bags from the wardrobe and stuff them with her hoarded boxes.

She knew which children would eat nothing but those boxes of cereal all weekend.

If you drive through the South Bronx today it looks nothing like it did when I worked there in 1978. The burnt out buildings have been replaced, the streets repaired and the stores occupied.

But I wonder, whether it is because of poverty, abuse or just dysfunctional family life how many children will not eat today because the schools are closed.

Schools closed.
Maybe, along as you ate something other than cold cereal all weekend.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Was Guinevere a Cheating Spouse?

Carmelo asked me if it was ever okay to not reject the advances of a married suitor.
He asked again.
I thought about it

“Nope,” I answered, “ it is never okay to help someone cheat. And anyway I'm married so it would be doubly bad.


“Because I go home to a house that is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, the refrigerator is full and the mortgage paid, and I'm not about to risk all that.  And anyway,” I asked, “why do you want to know?”

It was for his English homework, a set of preview questions before the senior class began reading the Tales of King Arthur.

I went home to the paid up house.

In 1976 I was an assistant teacher at preschool, the head teacher taught me how to be a non-sexist educator, how to make a wrong answer sound right ( What's red and round and grows on an apple tree, orange you say, yes an orange is also a fruit), and if you survive the week, Friday night is a night for beverages that don't come in collapsible pouches.

So, last Friday night, she and I polished off a couple of bottles of good wine and I told her the story.

Maybe it was all the wine, but her summation- my response did not make monogamous marriage sound like the most romantic thing in the whole world.

Perhaps, I needed something stronger in my cup than the coffee from the teacher's room when Carmelo asked me the question at 9:30 in the morning.

So what does cheating have to do with King Arthur?

The love of my life returned to the room with more wine, he and my old mentor both recalled that Sir Lancelot has a thing for Guinevere, King Arthur's wife.

How does this medieval soap opera play out?

I might never find out. Carmelo's group was taken out of my program.

But, thankfully, good friends and faithful husbands remain.
(good wine, as well)

Friday, October 19, 2012

A small encounter

I wait for a ride to work in front of the local elementary school. The block is filled with children. I perch on low brick fence and listen to the novel Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, on my MP3 player. A very young man holds the hand of an older woman. Within steps of me he trips and falls to the ground. He makes an elaborate showing on rubbing his knee as the woman helps him up.

He gets up, takes a few steps and pauses in front of me.
“Did you get a boo boo?” I ask
He nods, and asks, What are you listening to?'
It is a story of a Chinese family that comes to America, I tell him. I do not tell him that writer recounts the terrible prejudice they encounter,

He would like to stay and chat, but his escort thinks it is time to move on. I do not understand the Asian Language she speaks, but I can guess the words that come out of her mouth are instructions to say good morning, because at the end he turns to me, bows and says, “good morning.” She has not understood a word of our exchange.

They move on. My ride comes. I am off to school.
We are all off to school.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


The written word.
I've spent a lifetime in a relationship with it. The old library located underneath the bank that looked like Independence Hall was small enough that I thought I could read through all the books in the children's section.

I don't think I accomplished it. But I read a lot of good books trying.

Back on the public transportation today.
I take the train through the transportation center. As I leave the station the Mexican lady sells churros on the platform. Laden down with school bags and rushing to make the bus I do not stop. But by her knee a young girl kneels leaning against the pillar. Pencil in one hand, folder balanced on her knee she does her homework as the train roars into the station.

I transfer above ground.. The bus passes a stop where homeless people collect. The days have not yet chilled to the uncomfortable level, but still by the vent, a man wth a series of bags and mismatched clothes crouches over the warm air. The bus collects passengers but he doesn't get on. He's concentrating on the book propped up on the grid. The warm air makes the pages flutter.

The assistant principal gives me a new manual for a very old phonics program. I read the directions for the assessment piece. I give the assessment to the ninth grader in the ninth period resource room group.
“I'm going to do terribly,” he tells me.”
He does.

35/50 three letter words read correctly in one minute
I go to the manual. It says on page three if the student reads less than 37 words in a minute follow the directions on page four.

I turn the page. Page five. No page four..

I tell the assistant principal. She's happy I am using the program. She doesn't have page four. Its an old program. She's not sure what I should do.

I better figure something out.
If the churro seller's daughter and the homeless man read, there's no chance of success without mastery of the written word in this world.

Even if you don't want to read your way through the children's library.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The day is long.
The  rewards few and the goal line seemingly so far way.

Tenth period math class is not an easy thing to commit to.
Not if your taking algebra again because you haven't passed the test that allows you to graduate high school.

Fifth term of high school algebra.  Rule in this school- keep taking it until you pass the Regent exam, or get too old to go to public school.

And yet there are five of them who come every day. (or most of them anyway)

Theresa (the attendance  sheet has a difficult to pronounce foreign name, but she likes the American sounding one),  told  me she couldn't read the first day.  In my old life I would be thinking hard about what to do about that.  But here I only teach her math.

She copies the notes.  And then I see her doing the problems, ruin my routine?  Aren't I supposed to go over them and demonstrate the model first?

"Oh I see you know how to do proportions,"  I say."Did you learn that last year?"
"No, I followed your notes,"
I check.
She's three examples in and not a mistake.

Door opens, Jose breezes in.  The noise level triples, a steady stream of Spanish, English, Spanish, English, "I am not sure which language?"emerges,  but somewhere in the middle of the bilingual narrative and perpetual motion the work gets done.

Johnathan sucks down another can of grape soda. Johnathan is as wide as he is tall. I tell him he doesn't need to drink a can of sugared  soda.  Then I feel like I've offended him and tell him no one needs to drink a can of sugared soda.  I will eat all the chocolate cookies in the principal's office as soon as the period is over, but grape soda, seems like such a waste of calories.

Jonathan drinks grape soda, trades insults with Jose in two languages, and I  tell him he's not doing his work, but he swallows, holds up  his paper- its filled with work, and not a grape soda stain on it.

Martin is huddled in a corner away from the flurry of activity.  I pull a chair next to him.  I  guide him through the notes that worked so well for Theresa,  Its a much slower process but we get through.  Martin sets up the proper portion. Now all that's left is solving the on step equation. Martin has forgotten how to solve a simple equation.
We find the chart with instructions on solving one step equations.
We get through it and do it again.

The other Martin sits at the other end of the room. The paraprofessional helps him out.  I wrote about him yesterday.  He will never have to take the test, his IQ deemed to low.  But he's placed in the class and I'm not sure quite what to do with him. He does the worksheet with the paraprofessional.  I don't know what knowledge is imparted.

And then Jonathan tells us its 3 minutes to the final bell.  We pick up papers, place the folders in the shelves and get ready to go home.

Will any of the knowledge stick?  Will any of it be available on the day of the Regents? Will any of it help it them lead better lives.

Who can tell?
The bell rings.

They go home.
I go to where the chocolate is.

Another day in tenth period math.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Missing keys and magic standards

I sat across from the new ESL teacher at lunch in the Teachers cafeteria.
I was in the Teacher's cafeteria because I was locked out of the  Teacher's Center.
I wanted to go the Teacher's Center since I was locked out of the Resource Room.

The one everyone told me to just ask for the key.
Which I did.
Three times.  And complained to the principal, but still I have no key to the Resource Room and no key for the Teacher's Resource Center.  At least the teacher's cafeteria was open - or I would have been standing on the street.

Like I did- all second period, because although I don't officially begin my day until third period, the early session was in the middle of a fire drill and I couldn't get in the school

"How, are you?"  my uncle's family asked at the gathering last night,
"Can't complain,"  I respond, because they are very, very nice people who I only see once a year.
But apparently I can.

But I digress from the story of the new ESL teacher.
She's worried about the young man in her fifth period class.  She gave a test, an easy test, and he kind of just doodled all over it.

So I looked up his name in the IEP program and guess what?  He has a classification of intellectually disabled .  (That's what the program said, I didn't make it up)
He has an alternate assessment designation - which means somewhere, somehow, someone determined he had an IQ of less than 65.
The class is a general education high school English class.

"So what should  I do with him?"  New ESL teacher asks.
"Teach him English,"  Old jaded special ed teacher replies.

But I am being flippant.
I have a different student, with same classification in a self contained algebra class.
While the rest of the class struggles to line up the terms in the equation and distinguish 3x form 3 + x,  this young man stares at the worksheet.
He will never be registered to take the exam the class is  preparing for.  
And I'm not trying to teach him anything useful.  I'm too busy trying to get the rest of the class to squeak a passing grade on an exam in a subject that they've taken five times already. (true-not an exaggeration)

The day continued. 
I was locked out of the Resource Room again after lunch.  As soon as the ninth period group got comfortable in the nice airy English room, someone came down from the Special Ed office with a key, opened it and returned upstairs with the key. We all squeezed back into the green house,we use as a resource room. 

Because it was Monday  we ended the day with a department meeting.
We heard all about rigor and raising the standards and preparing our students for the twenty first century through the magic of Common Core Learning Standards.

Like that might be easier than getting my own key for the Resource Room.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Not about school

This post has nothing to do with my work life- but still  I wanted to write this story.

I ignored my better judgement and stopped at the ethnic supermarket to pick up the ingredients for the holiday meal.

It was crazy crowded, The lines were ridiculous. The parking lot,  woefully inadequate on a typical week day, was an exercise in collision avoidance greater than any video game I ever played.

I tried to load my car without getting run over or causing damage to another vehicles.

"So easy to buy the food, so difficult to get home,"  the woman next to me said with a heavy European accent.

And the elderly woman next to her replied, Baruch Hashem, Thank Godl

We have food, and we can celebrate any holiday we choose.

And she was right of course. For such blessings we should:
Thank God
and maybe Thomas Jefferson
(so maybe this post is just a tiny bit about school)

Why I was absent and did Thomas Jefferson really write the Bible?

Attendance is a problem at my new school.
Thousands of kids, no one person responsible for any one of them.

Without the designated advisor, the progressive form of a homeroom teacher- no one person is in charge of hauling your sorry ass into school everyday.

And if we can't get the attendance rate up the soda hating, teacher loathing, sore loser of our mayor is gonna close us down.

So I ask everyone who misses a day, why they were absent.

Some answers:
It's personal miss...
I've got problems miss...
I couldn't get up
I had a migraine
And today's favorite, from Stuart, who responded when asked twice in English and once in Spanish.
I was buying a book bag. (Stuart was absent three days last week, it was a very elusive book bag.)

The American History class is studying the Declaration of Independence.
Daisy had to write a paragraph on what was her favorite part of the Declaration of Independence,
(No I am not making that up,)

Someone suggested she write about the part where it guarantees all men human rights.
Except, of course, if you happen to be a person of color. Or a woman for that matter.

Student One:  That's why Abe Lincoln put the part about freeing the slaves in the Preamble.

Me  Nope- not born yet Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence
Jefferson wrote (even if he didn't really mean it) that all men are created equal.

Student Two:- He didn't write that, God did- its in the Bible

Me- Nope- that was Jefferson - Google it

And she did - guess what? she wasn't the first person to claim the all men created quote was from Bible- several websites addressed the issue.

She still doesn't believe it though- she's pretty sure its from the Bible.

Student Three- Daisy why don't you just say your favorite part is all the complaints against England?
So she would have, but the bell rang.

Maybe I should just buy a really elusive bookbag and take a couple of days.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Teaching (and a little small group learning community time))

I am wondering if I learned to keep my mouth shut.

Maybe's it temporary. I'm afraid my good sense will wear off.

I wrote in the last post my reasons for leaving my little pond and big fish title, for the current very big one.  I think I am officially a minnow.

No one asks me anything.

 I spend my days teaching,
Just teaching.

I have three Resource Rooms, Up to eight students, in four different grades. They appear in the back of a half size classroom with a large south facing window which currently would be more effectively used for growing tomatoes,  And I try to do something worthwhile while they're there..

Currently we have been reading an article Is Algebra Necessary? I hoped to spark some lively debate but mostly we just crowd around a table and I try hard to get anyone to say anything.  Yesterday one group had a lively discussion about Sponge Bob Square Pants, but it died when I tried to steer the conversation back to the article.

I'm not sure if its the oppressive heat, the incredibly crowded quarters or we're still in the process of sizing each other up.

My two other assigned periods are with a self contained special education math classes.  (See and here I thought in the 21st Century no one isolates learning disabled kids into a separate program all day long- shows you what I know)

Bailey told me three times today she hated this class.  The third time I gave her a calculator walked her through the first problem and she managed to do the second one (which was something like find the absolute value of x-(-6) when x=4). in the remaining fifteen minutes of the period.She didn't mentioning hating the class again,
Didn't do much work.
But didn't call me over to tell me she hated me and the class.

Kandi only went to the bathroom for twenty minutes, (he's been averaging 30) and Lenny told me he might be able to learn enough math to pass a regents.

So I can still teach isolated self contained classes. (Please, don't read this--- gods of Chaos, I know my mother would have been sure that just typing that sentence would ensure a chair flying through a window tomorrow, but I am bucking a long tradition of superstition and writing it anyway)

My last obligation of the day:
Attending a small learning community session.

Today's discussion, the uselessness of small learning community sessions.
My contribution.
I didn't say watching the video clip about good teaching practices on Tuesday  made me put a graphic organizer into Wednesday's plan.
Even though it did.
Who wants to be known as a suck up.

I said

Maybe, just maybe I've learned to keep my mouth shut!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Year New School

Six years ago I worked at a small recently  created  high school.   I was assigned the new math teacher to mentor.  Okay so I was a special education teacher.  But I felt I knew everything about everything and somehow mesmerized the principal to believing that.  I agreed to be his mentor.

The first time I observed him, I watched him the command the attention of thirty antsy eighth graders as he spent well on forty minutes speaking in his fine Jamaican lilt about the joys and foibles of equations.

No one moved.

In the feedback session I noted that I almost always told teachers to speak for no more than ten minutes or you are bound to lose attention.

"Yet you spoke for more than four times that amount,"  I reflected, "and no one moved.  You are like Castro!"

So the years roll by faster than summer vacation days and somehow, I convinced the not so new math teacher to apply to the fast track principal program.

And he did.
And I fulfilled the promise to go with him.
Not to the small new innovative high school I imagined him leading when I promised to come with him, but to a large troubled high school which the mayor threatens to close, daily.

Tuesday he spoke to a staff of over two hundred (the old school had less than fifty.) many of whom faced losing their jobs when they left in June only to be saved by a Union initiated contract arbitration at the last minute.
Forty five minutes later he had at least opened the door to the healing process.

"Good job, Fidel"  I texted him as he left the stage.

So here I am, as I enter my twenty-ninth September in hot sweaty building, unable to dissipate the the humidity the Atlantic hurricanes insist on pushing our way.

And so begins the next chapter.

(Scary note- this principal knows about this blog!  Good thing he will be too busy to read it )

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I want to learn how to play guitar this summer.

I wanted to lean since I was sixteen and bought a guitar.
But I still haven't mastered it.

Wait who am I kidding?  I still haven't  really begun to play.   (okay full disclaimer- I know a few chords and can accompany Kum-ba-ya and other campfire songs)- but I want to be at the place where I can pick up a guitar and dazzle  (not offend) the listener. Even just for a couple of measures.

The music teacher from school has been trying to teach me. I actually practice- something I refused to do when Eddie Simon, Paul Simon's brother tried to teach me a half century ago.
I'm getting it- slowly.

Here is what I know.  I have a decent ear- I can hear when a note is wrong. I just have a hard time making it right. I have absolutely no rhythm.  I can count to four-I just can't make the spaces between the numbers even.  And these old fingers don't always go where I will them to.

And the point?

I can declare loudly that I'm going to be a musician.  My teacher can reassure me over and over that we are a community of guitar learners. But this is hard for me.  Damn hard.

Yet I've eaten everyday for that last half century.  Without one musical bone in either my parent's, my husband's  or my body we've earned our living.  We've worked year in and year out for decent wages.

When I show the guitar teacher the piece at the end of the book, and make a vain stab at trying to figure it out- she 's says, "Not yet, you'll get there but you're not ready for that level just now," and turns back to the pages I can struggle through.

No one accuses her of not having high expectations.  No one says those early pieces are not rigorous.
Okay- so it's just me and her in the living room but if I'm willing to be her student I'm willing to trust her teaching decisions.

I'm lucky- I had the right match to the skills someone said were the one's I needed for college. Mastering guitar had nothing to do with my academic success. Mastering guitar had nothing to do with my earning success.

Mastering algebra did. Not that algebra is  more use to me today than guitar playing is.  I haven't ever had the desire to walk into someone's home, picked up an equation and dazzled the audience with my solution.

I was born in an age, in a society a culture where mathematical skills not musical ones were a ticket for success. That's why I'm lucky.

Not everyone is.  I'll end here.  The tips of my figures are kinda sore.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We Interrupt this summer vacation for a common core commercial

So I hit the wall and then school ended, graduation happened and I haven't blogged in a month.
I took pictures at graduation and I want to  post them, with some stories about the graduates but first I have to  alter them and that entails mastering the graphics program I bought for  $19.00  when I took a sick and tired day in April..

But I've been busy, sleeping late, fooling around with the guitar, cleaning closets and having every part of my body poked, prodded and scanned. Not sick- just suffering an advanced case of post fifty teacher- with -good -health insurance syndrome.

The last week of July arrived and I needed to  interrupt this vacation with a word from our sponsors.- our district offered  common core workshops.

It seemed like a great idea in May . The workshops, like the previews of the common core standards held promise.  Heralded as a way to bring a new approach to thinking about instruction- a structure of standards for the 21st Century, the century where every factoid is available in seconds on the smart phone everyone of us perches on our desk.

And there's also all the per session pay.

 But the week has been frustrating.  First  we looked at all these new reading and writing standards.  Then we discussed that no one actually knew how these standards would effect the assessments. And if there was any chance of forgetting the  all importance of success on the assessments - stories of  "I have my job, I don't have my job, I have my job again or maybe I'm in a real closing school  and really don't have a job," filled the room with a palpable tension as thick as the July humidity. (If you don't follow NYC teaching news, suffice it to say this has been a summer where over three thousand teachers were in jeopardy of being jostled out of positions due to the vagaries of the NCLB closing schools debacle.  In the end the the local justice system put brakes on the most outrageous scenarios, but those teachers in the schools that were scheduled for the  so called "closing of failing schools"  earlier in the  year found themselves in the ATR- the misplaced teacher pool anyway.)

We were broken up into groups to write curriculum maps.  One teacher in the room asked why the state, city, district wouldn't just provide a curriculum - like  in the good old days when teaching the history of the world was- well let's say planned out by people who knew what they were doing, (And probably paid for it too)

The answer was:
Because there is no curriculum
And the city was providing 20 hours of per session pay and all the bagels you could eat, for anyone who signed up for the week to write their own.

I sat at the wrong table.  I ended up with the kid my mother always wished on me, the one who (I greatly feared) was a  present day example of my former self.

She knew everything.  About everything.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise. All this in two years of teaching and before her twenty fifth birthday.

I wanted to punch her out.

In the end Ms Know It All and the third member of the group (younger and more inexperienced) plotted the history of the world ona  grid that included every factoid they could scrape out of an outdated scope and sequence  and outdid  each other with "Oh how cute activities" including those that involve sharing out M&Ms to represent Feudalism.and jumping around papers to represent the geography of Japan.

Then they looked at the common core standards and stuck an appropriate one on their adorably cute activities.

So much for developing a new curriculum to meet the needs of a world with information at our fingertips.

For me, the frustration of the week was summed up by the young man in the back who asked about how  students  by the end of grade 10 will read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9-10 text complexity based independently and proficiently(sic), when the could hardly read at all.  "Its like they're stuck in a revolving door to nowhere," he observed.

Tomorrow its over.
I'll sign my timesheet, visit my old paraprofessional, who lives right by the workshop

And return to summer vacation.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No more teachers no more ....

The year is spinning to an end.
I keep singing the that song from my childhood.
No more homework 
No more books
And then the question comes up- is the next line
No more teacher's dirty looks
Let the teacher's hang on hooks.

Both feel terribly archaic to me, the first because no one seems the least bit stymied by any look I might generate and the second because we don't seem to have any hooks anywhere.

Oh wait there is a hook in the lockers- but nobody wants to "rent" the lockers after the winter months so I haven't seen those hooks in ages.  And anyway those lockers are way too skinny to squeeze my big behind into.

Sixth grade social studies ended up being a cinematic tour of Africa. The last movie we watched is called The First Grader, I carefully researched so many movies about Africa, Netflix puts African dramas and documentaries first, for my preference.  But The First Grader, just came up in the new release stream.
The coach was covering my class yesterday (long, complicated Regents testing week) and I promised him I would leave the movie set up for him,

"Your going to show these sixth graders a little kid movie?" he asked
"Little kid movie? How old do you think the first grader of the movie name, is exactly?"
"Uh- six, maybe seven?"

"Nope- eighty four! Watch the movie coach!"
 It is a great movie of  a Kenya freedom fighter who learns to read at an advanced age.

Now if only Netflix would get Invictus.
It would end African movies 101- I'm afraid I might have to buy it from Amazon.

Maybe I should sing

No more homework 
No more movies
I don't know what rhymes with movies?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sarcasm Part II

We have killed Lord of the Flies.  No fair haired, spear wielding, pig killing, English school boys could have caused more damage than our tortured reading of the high school classic.

With nine days left of the school year we are nearing the end the end of the book..  Wednesday ELA switches with math (for reasons only the person who does our schedule could explain) and bright and early we opened the now very dog-eared copies of the paperbacks..  Then I got called out to discuss the stupid missing IPhone again.(It remains an unsolved case.)

Charlie was struggling through the chapter when I returned. "Oh read it- please-Teacherfish!" more than one person begged.  (It's an  inclusion class, there was a general ed teacher present- actually he might have been the loudest beggar).

So I did. And I got to the part where Ralph complains to Piggy “We might get taken prisoner by the Reds.”

"What does Ralph  mean when he say Reds?"  I asked.
No response
No help from the general ed teacher.
And I realized that I was the only soul in that classroom who lived and breathed when there was a still a cold war going on. 

:"Does he mean the Boston baseball team?"  I ask a room full of Yankee fans.

Dead silence.
Then Lamont calls out.  "Of course not - the Reds are from Cincinnati."

Okay- I lose- short explanation about Communism and I read on.  That end of the year is getting closer by the second.

A few pages later Ralph, the main character tries his hand at sarcasm. Piggy is getting on his last nerve, complaining that if they don't get rescued they'll all go crazy.
So Ralph tries to be funny:

“You write a letter to your auntie.”
Piggy considered this solemnly.
“I don’t know where she is now. And I haven’t got an envelope and a
stamp. An’ there isn’t a mailbox. Or a postman.”
Ralph isn't any more successful at sarcasm than me.  But he cracks himself up anyway.

And as I read Cameron is talking away to her neighbor.  So I insert her name in the middle of the sentence. Cause that's a trick they taught me in teacher school.

Lamont laughs loudly.  "Now that's a joke:

"What Lamont?  What's the joke?"

"You calling Cameron's name,  you know- cause like her last name is Post!"

Everyone thinks this is funny. Though maybe this time I'm the one who doesn't quite get the joke.

The bell rang.  Mercifully.  We were onto lunch.

Kill the beast.  The beast is dead.
What is the beast?
Perhaps it was my sense of humor!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You knows its a bad day when:

    • You have to think on the way to work. I left my MP3 player in school on Friday.  When your chauffeur wears a MTA uniform and you spend a lot time walking to the bus stop- the MP3 player becomes your "car" radio.  Like the cell phone I spent the first four decades of my life without one.  Now the morning commute alone with my thoughts is pretty scary.  I am a bad ponderer.
    • You get two phone calls from angry parents before 8 am..  Long time ago in a more optimistic time a young man I knew wrote a story about his sister's birthday party.  It touched me.  "Do think I can be a writer? He asked. I showed him how to focus a microscrope. The amoeba jumped into focus. “Do you think I can be scientist?” he asked . He drew a comic book frame by frame about the trials and tribulations of a middle schooler. “Do you think I could be an artist? He asked. Now high school graduations draws near. He is way short of credits. “Do you think he can graduate?” His parents ask. “Not this year.” I am a failed support provider.
    • You can't find the red IPhone. Romeo's IPhone is gone. I can picture it. It is red- lots of cell phones in school. Not many red one. I remember the incident when he was forced to surrender it. Rules say no cell phones in school Translation- you must do something really egregious before someone takes it away. Romeo did. I wasn't the someone. Now it is missing. Romeo's dad would like it back. I looked all day, couldn’t find it. I am a bad detective.
    • You can't open the weekly newsletter from the principal since your computer loads up slightly slower than the your Apple IIe did in 1988. So everyone on staff comes to complain that the principal said attendance at graduation was mandatory and you had to wear all white, even though the graduation was planned for the first day of summer vacation. I emailed my supervisor at the union who made me go talk to the principal so I told the principal that she had agreed that no one HAD to come to graduation after the school year ended and anyway I don't own any all white outfit except for my wedding dress which is 30 years and 40 pounds away from being wearable.. She said she knew no one HAD to come or wear white BUT- she had high expectations for her staff. I am a failed union leader.
    And my day didn't get much better from there.
    Enough complaining.

    Four weeks until summer vacation. I hope I make it.
    I am a bad anticipator.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Worst Teacher of the Year

The sixth grade social studies class was giving me a hard time.  On Tuesday I have them in the morning.  Usually mornings are better.  They're sleepier.  And if I have them second period after first period gym, they can barely move enough to poke each other with their pencils.

But I had this great idea we should write an argumentative essay.  Actually it is a common core great idea. That means we are all supposed to be getting this great idea to teach kids how to write arguments.
You would think they know a lot about arguments.

It worked out okay in the higher functioning sixth grade class so I thought I would try it.

You guessed it - it didn't go so well.

So I was hooting and hollering.

"That's why everyone hates you,"  Bethany told me. "Everyone hates social studies even the kids in the other class hate you."

I guess I shouldn't buy a new outfit for teacher of the year award dinner.

I know a little something about Bethany.  Last year a mother of a past student, who I was quite fond of, came up to me at orientation and told me she had adopted two foster kids.  "They had a rough start," she informed me, but I could call her anytime.

Sixth grade social studies ended and I had five more classes in a row after them.  By eighth period it was all I could do to summon the energy to pull the tab on the last Diet Coke from my secret stash, that everyone knows about and avails themselves to. (I heard a rumor the juniors needed soda cans for a physics project and that's why there was only one left- "We knew you wouldn't want us to fail physics.")

The phone rang.  The guidance counselor wanted to know if Bethany could come upstairs and talk to me. (Yeah- she could but I wasn't sharing my Diet Coke) And anyway second period was soooo long ago I had forgotten the whole incident.

Bethany apologized.  I wasn't really the WORST teacher in the whole school.

It had been a long hot day, and as usual more of my eye makeup was under my eyes than on it.

"Did you cry, Teacherfish?" Bethany asked.

"Yeah- a little"

:"I guess that means I can't  have a Diet Coke?"


I'll buy more tomorrow.  Other bloggers might be on the final count down.  This is New York. One more hot month to go.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Letters we get letters

Today was teacher appreciation day.  The assistant principal asked the students to write letters of appreciation to their (favorite) teacher at lunch.  Some people got many.

I got one.
Someone told me I was their favorite teacher, but forgot to sign his/her name.

We are on the process of pulling together our "dog and pony" show for the school wide review next week. I have been making a big fuss about not getting too excited about it all- but I am somewhat of a hypocrite so my sixth graders have been writing an argumentative essay.  That's the Common Core skill we are supposed to be focusing on.

Yesterday as I tried to get this brilliant piece of historical commentary going, Lawrence insisted on calling my attention.  He needed to tell me he needed a new folder because the old one had an itsy-bitsy tear and also I noted on his vacation project that he hadn't indicated the country in Africa his project was about.  The instruction said- use the map to locate the country.  So he did.  He didn't see why I expected him to color it on the map. The instructions didn't say that.

And I wouldn't call on him.  So he wrote me a letter.  (Correct format, neat handwriting)

Dear Teacherfish,

    I think you were very rude for ignoring me.  I had a valid question and you told me to put my hand down.  Also I did not appreciate that you  didn't want to discuss the grade on my vacation project.Please respond.
                                                                               Sincerely yours,

So I did.  I wrote:

Dear Lawrence,

   I am sorry you think I was rude.  Sometimes teaching is a hard job.  I wanted to get the class settled   and give general directions before I answered individual questions.  I am heartened by your ability to communicate your grievances in writing.  Please accept my apologies. I will come to your table during class for an individual conference.

                                                                         Sincerely yours,

I dropped it on his desk and snuck away.  From afar I watched him nod his head up and down as he read.  He carefully folded the letter and tucked it in his pocket. Later I gave him a new folder and upped his grade a point.

Oh and  I ran into Isiah bounding down the hall.  "How come you didn't write me a letter for teacher appreciation day?" I asked as he flew by.

"Nobody told me to write nothing," he answered. And as he receded down the hall, I heard,
"Anyway you already know you're my favorite teacher!"

PS:  The title Letters We Get Letters, is one of those things that dates me.  Perry Como used to sing it on his television show, when watching the black and white tv together was something families did for entertainment. I think he would read letters people sent him after singing it.  Dates back to the time Teacherfish was a very little guppy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Laws and logic

I think my career has been framed by two laws.  The first one Congress enacted  in 1975., the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142),  That enabled me to get a job in 1978 just a year after New York City was bankrupt and president Ford told New York City to drop dead.  That's probably more history than I meant to  put in this blog.  But when I was desperate for  a job, jobs as teachers of "handicapped children" were what was available. I had a vision  (as many Ms. America candidates do) of teaching "special children."  Life doesn't always work out as you imagine it to.

Several years ago we relocated our summer school program to a nearby high school complex, built within the last decade.  It was fully air conditioned and our building had no air conditioning.  It had elevators too. And also a program for students with the kind of disabilities I once imagined I would teach.
They needed  the elevators.
We just liked using elevators.

I was riding the elevator with three of my street smart, algebra not so smart students.  A teacher and a student with multiple disabilities joined us. The young man leaned into me and told me with great pride that he looked at inappropriate websites.  I expected loud guffaws from my company but instead, Jeremy said, "Hey, buddy, we do too, we just don't tell the teacher that."

The other group got off.
Then my students broke up. 

"Laugh if you must," I replied. "That's whom I thought I'd be teaching, in 1975."
"Instead you got us!"
"Just how old are you Teacherfish?"
"If you can't figure it out, I ain't gonna tell you!"

The second law that framed my career- No Child Left Behind.
No explanation needed here.  I (and just about every other blogger in the edublog world) have been complaining about testing this month.

Today Pepito was absent.  He got suspended last week.  He didn't wear his uniform so he got a one day suspension.  He was supposed to pick up his suspension letter in the office but when the administrator told him to get his letter from the table  he didn't want her to know that he couldn't read which one was his.  
So he threw a chair. 
Maybe she would think he was an angry young man instead of a stupid one.
Now Pepito is suspended for a week..

Today we were working on the courses for next year.  Pepito's teacher asked if  we would be offering functional math and life  sciences.

"No," the principal answered.  We would be offering geometry and chemistry for Pepito's grade.  The special ed teacher would be required to modify those courses  to his needs.

I guess we are not supposed to leave Pepito  behind.

Two laws frame my career.  
And the second cancels out all the good from the first.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tupac in May and more randomness

I read my work email. I think I was supposed to be working on an Individual Education Plan- I would do anything to procrastinate when I have to work on IEPs. I would have washed the floors- but I wasn't home.
And if you do that in school it pisses off the custodian.

 An organization associated with the school sent a request for blog entries about best practices in education.  I actually don't know much about best practices in education, but I know something about blog entries.

And I could win a Kindle.

So I sent in a revised version of Tupac in April and they published it.

Fifth period I was in the self-contained ninth grade class. When I got there, the main teacher was in the middle of long lecture about not getting into fights with the new kid.  Too many details for me to follow but there was a part about the new kid being crazy and sometimes you just can't see crazy- so if the my friends thought they were going to get into a fight with the new kid they should imagine a wheelchair on the new kid's  head, cause everyone knows you don't get into fights kids with wheelchairs.

And people think I say crazy things and get away with it.

I put Tupac's poem The Rose that Grew in Concrete,  on the board while I waited for the lecture to end. The organization that printed the blog, put a picture of a rose growing out of the concrete.  I showed the picture.

Someone asked me to read "my story."  So I did.

What did they think?

"Its a good story,"  Norton said.


"Really."  Norton replied.

And they liked the poem too.  Tupac does it again.

PS:  I didn't win the Kindle.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stupid Math

The question on the eighth grade test asked something like this.  Sarah's class is building a  model town.  If a car that measures 15 feet is represented with a 3 inch model, how large would the model of  building that is 35 feet tall, be?"

Pearl added 3 to 35 and wrote 38 (not inches or feet since I guess it was some combination of the both).
I said nothing
Hey!  It was the state exam- I didn't want to lose my hard earned  pension.  

Last week during final test week preparation, Pearl put her pencil down, sighed, and said,  "I hate this, I can't do it! I hate stupid math!"

Hardworking, pretty and the most good-natured of the eighth grade inclusion group, my first thought  was Pearl doesn't deserve this.  She comes into school everyday with a book bag full of supplies, an open mind and a desire to do well.

And what does she get.

Stupid math questions.

Not the one above.  The one above is good math question.  I want to build a model town in the classroom. I want students to figure out the scale of the model cars and the model buildings.  I want them to figure out where the buildings should go and how the town could be designed for less cars and more energy efficiency.  I want them to make decisions on where to build schools and theaters and sport stadiums.

Pearl would ponder all those things.  It would be hard for her. The world doesn't scale up or down easily in her mind.   To her reflecting an image means labeling it with backward letters.  If the shape reverses the letters should too!

She's a good girl.  And she wants to do the right thing.  She would work very hard at a good model town. She would work very hard at making good decisions for the model town.  And she might grow up to make good decisions about a real town.

But we don't really make model towns.  We factor polynomials and reflect irregular quadrilaterals around a coordinate grid, and  solve for x in a multi-term inequality.

Because all those things are rigorous tasks.

We don't build scale model towns in the back of our classrooms.  We build piles of test prep workbooks.

Pearl hates stupid math.
I hate stupid math tests.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Talking Pineapples and random thoughts.

I have a bunch of random thoughts tonight
My brain is  fried from the testing.

American Idol is on in the background and this fresh faced contestant is rocking out Fat Bottomed Girls, it's Queen Night on Idol.  Thank goodness the new school aide was replaced by a newer school aide.  Every time I passed the old, new school aide,  the above mentioned song stormed into my brain- it was only a matter of time until the sensors were overwhelmed- and it would burst out in the hallway.
The only good thing you can say about our hallway is the acoustics makes even my voice sound good.

From the Those who live in glass houses file:
I was verbally, shall we say encouraging, Pablo down the hall.  I walked behind him.  I walked next to him.  I walked in front of him.  And then I heard from behind me the refrain:
I like big butts and I cannot lie....

The New York Times featured our neighborhood in its real estate section.  It mentioned that some of the famous jazz greats once lived there.  I taught summer school one summer.  We read Master Harold and the Boys,  a play by the South African playwright Athol Fugard.  In the first act two characters discuss playing a Sarah Vaughn tune on the jukebox in a rainy tea room in Capetown. "Oh," said the assistant assigned to the room, I used to double date with Sarah Vaughn.  She lived in the neighborhood.  And then she brought us tapes of her songs. We played them in a rainy classroom in Queens.

We gave the English Language Arts Test last week.  The principal asked me what I thought, as I tried to get them packaged up and sent to the collection site.

"Okay," I guessed, "but there were some answers I didn't know."  Because I guess I am not smarter than an eighth grader.
And then the  Hare and the Pineapple story hit the paper
I was not alone.
Read it here.  Its a funny story.
Just unanswerable.
The very sad part.  Many teacher, including both Teacher Guppies  reported the students complained the story made no sense.

Not my students.  To them the whole test didn't make much sense.
I hate testing week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back from Vacation

We're back.

Uriah reported on his trip to the Bahamas.
I bought a new bronzer- that's some blush related powder targeted for a community of darker skins than mine.(There is a 24 hour drugstore between the morning bus stop and the school and I have the need to spend my money before 7:30 am)
Everyone told me how tan I looked- I took the compliment and attributed it to lying around my deck (why give away my beauty secrets?)

But Edison- he went to church, the dentist and his imagination.
And he showed us some pretty neat drawings.  It was a great vacation apparently.

And probably cheaper than my bronzer.

PS- after all that has been written recently about the awful consequences of accusations of verbal abuse bad the suffering it causes teachers,  I responded to Uriah's late afternoon boisterousness with the line
"I'm gonna kick you back to the Bahamas!"

Uriah's mouth dropped and then, "I would love for you to do that Ms. Teacherfish."

We're back.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

View from the Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn New York
Differentiated verticals:
pine trees
and a distant Empire State building.

Spring Break in New York City-

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Break

Here is my Oprah moment,
Things for my gratitude journal.

  • Holiday dinners that include people I worked with in 1978 as well as people I worked with hours before dinner is served. (This despite the fact that I thought I had invited one colleague for another day.  Note to self- when inviting people for Friday- state which Friday)
  • The sun streaming  through stained glass windows at the elevated subwaystation.  (an oxymoron if there ever was one)  Check out the "Redbird' subway cars- like the ones from my childhood, long since replaced with boring metal -colored ones.
I had thought about reporting a discussion from one of the holiday dinners discussing the role of parents in education- but I am just relaxing too seriously for that 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


One result of Open School night.
More students in the after school tutoring section.

I was surrounded by my ninth graders from the inclusion class. Two ninth graders sat down at the next table.  I didn't know them- they are not in the inclusion class and my foray into the sixth grade makes me less able to meet the other ninth grade students.

"So what kind of teacher are you?" one asked.

I was contemplating the answer when Uriah answered.

"She helps us- she just teaches you whatever you ask her to do.'

Good answer, Uriah, like the Passover song, it would have been enough, but then Uriah added.,

"And she helps the other teachers too, they go to her when they need help."

Not sure how Uriah knows this, but it made me think of the old song from Fiddler on the  Roof.

The husband asks his wife (who he met on his wedding day) if she loves him.  And when she answers affirmatively, his response::
It doesn't mean a thing, but even so
After 25 years
It's nice to know.