Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Adam is back from suspension. I wrote about Adam before here
Adam had five good years and then Alvin got on his nerves. So he punched him. But first he put on a pair of gloves, because Adam doesn't like to touch other people. And then he knocked Alvin out cold.

Which landed Adam in jail and then at the suspension site. But he returned last week and today I caught him in the hall and asked him how his court date went.

Adam explained the details, he can't get in trouble, he can't talk to Alvin and if he does all that he the record will be sealed when he graduates. I said I was glad it went well.

And then Adam thanked me, and touched my forearm. Not quite a hug but a huge step for someone who can't stand touching or being touched.

Isiah and Miri are finished crying over the Regent Exam failures. The principal assigned them to another teacher for services. I guess I failed too.

They were hanging in my room seventh period anyway. Isiah told me I was the brightest teacher in the school. I don't know why, apparently not the opinion shared by the principal.

Louis finally got an appointment with the vocational office.

Juliss ended up actually passing the social studies exam, with a 55 (special ed students get a 10 point safety net). I suggested she also make an appointment with the vocational office, but the principal was horrified. In her second year as a senior she has barely passed three exams within the safety net range and only has two to go. The principal explained to her she could pass the remaining two and have a real diploma and go to college.

How can I argue that?

New semester starts tomorrow. i got assigned sixth grade social studies.

PS: i was determined to learn how to link to a previous post. It took me 16 tries- but I think I finally figured it out. Why give up after failing the English Regents three times?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What me worry?

Are you laughing?
I rarely stay up anywhere nearly late enough to watch Leno, but thanks to time-delayed-tv and YouTube I can always count on Jaywalking for a few laughs.

I need some laughs.
The Regents results -those- you can't get a high school diploma -tests if you don't pass-are in.

Between that and the stress of a "testing-reorganized" schedule brought to you by the "What me worry?" administration,* there was a lot of crying in my room this week.

I need to bring a new tissue box on Monday.

Ralf passed the English Regents. Last week, I risked my pension by locking him into an empty classroom to finish the practice essay, by himself. When I released him from solitary, he handed me a complete essay- and sheepishly asked me if I could lock him away for the real test.

I could not, but the stringent adherence to testing conditions which includes covering all the bulletin boards with monochromatic paper (because that's an important use of our supply money) was enough. Ralf concentrated and passed.

Isaiah did not. He got four out of the twenty five multiple choice questions correct. Miri did not. She wrote a perfect answer for the short essay about creativity but she substituted the word rely for regard in the interpret the quote essay- managing to squander all those points. Louis and his brother did not. Neither did Dorothee, who told me afterwards she couldn't figure out what envy or anxious meant. (Dorothee came from Haiti 4 years ago.)

And the week didn't get much better.
Louis couldn't answer from which direction does the sun appear to rise. Miri added 3 to $700 when asked what was the cost of the dress after a 3% discount- $703.. Juliss wrote that the similarity between Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther was that they were both African-Americans.

Now does that Jaywalking clip seem so funny?
But if you look carefully- no one looks like a bum in the video. Is it true you can lead a happy productive life without being smarter than a fifth grader?

What drives me to drink, (and you can check out the recycling bin in the driveway if you doubt the veracity of that statement) is that we hold my "poor brain celled deprived" students to a standard that, well just say Jay doesn't hold the tourists in Rockefeller Center to.

And then there's the complication that we insist on being a college preparatory school- since anyone can go to college if we are just good enough teachers. Maybe I could convince Louis that the sun appears to rise in the east if I had him for science rather than the chemistry teacher, maybe Miri doesn't need geometry.

I don't know.
I think the part in the constitution about all men being created equal was written by someone who never tried to teach quadratic equations to learning disabled students.

The Algebra Regents had a tortoise and a hare questions. The tortoise ran a 100 meter race at constant speed of 20 meters per minute. The hare ran 40 meters per minute for 50 meters, took a 3 minute break before completing the final 50 meters at the 40 meter per minute rate. Who won?**

What percentage of Jaywalker contestants could answer that?

In our Race to the Top we leave no tortoises or hare behind.

But my poor kids-
That's another story.

I'm off to buy more tissues.

* I used the "What me worry?" reference on the very smart and very young algebra teacher. She had no idea who Alfred E Newman or Mad Magazine were. "http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_E._Neuman"

** The tortoise won. At 20m/pm it took him 5 minutes to complete the race. The hare covered the first 50 meters in 1.25 minutes rested for 3 minutes then covered the last 50 meters in 1.25 minutes. for a total of 5.50 minutes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

Here's the thing about this time of year. When I leave home in the morning -it's dark out. And when I return it's dark. Daylight happens while I'm stuck inside.

Yesterday was the last day of the first semester. My back hurt. It was cold. I took the closer bus and when I changed for the second one, Elio was sitting at the very back. Elio is from the community of students who immigrated here from English speaking countries in the Caribbean and Central America. The ones who show all the features of an ESL student, weak educational background, lack of vocabulary that matches school success and then general appearance of being adrift in a school system which deems them ineligible for any special services since they are Native English speakers. Yet Elio is dedicated to success.

We wrote memoirs in the beginning of the semester and Elio after several redirections wrote about the time he was a hero because he caught a mouse and removed it from his baby sister's room. And the story ended with his father coming home and saying he was proud of him.

Like me, Elio shlepps across the borough on two buses, to get to school on time. And what's his reward?

I wobbled to the back of the bus, sat down next to him and went over the math test before the sun rose.

Elio didn't complain, he was happy for the help. He got the highest score on the math test. He makes his father proud.

Today the January Regents week began. The "raise the bar" set of exams that stands between our high school seniors and a high school diploma. The school custodian, was the only one left on the floor as I locked up the Regents at 6:30. He pointed out that when he graduated high school passing the Regents was optional. I have no idea if he could pass algebra or write a persuasive essay. I know he earns his paycheck. I know we really need him.

But since the custodian graduated, NCLB has "raised the bar", we expect everyone to be college material and I stood in the classroom and watched the sun set as my struggling seniors sat and wrote and wrote and wrote.

Ralf, Isiah, Miri, Louis and his brother filled the essay books with everything they knew or thought they knew about Of Mice and Men, Macbeth and The Bluest Eye. Six hours they stayed in that room. Did they pass?
Maybe not.

But they make me proud.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hallway Hell

The assistant principal's mentor was here this week. Another one of those open secret's; we are not supposed to know the administrator's have mentors. It's like farting, I suppose, when you bump into them, you politely pretend it really didn't happen.

I bumped into Mr.Mentor, waiting outside Ms. AP's office. I turned my attention to the trouble makers making trouble in the hallway ten minutes after the period started, and urged them to go to class.

Aria responded to my request in her usual fashion, something that had to do with her opinion that it was unfathomable, inappropriate and entirely unnecessary for me to consider interfering with her decision to malinger. However, she said that much more concisely than I just wrote it.

From the corner of my eye, I caught Mr. Mentor shaking his head and rolling his eyes as I opened the door and the verbal abuse got redirected to the classroom teacher who questioned Aria's lateness. I shut the door and continued on my way.

A half hour later I again passed Mr. Mentor in the hallway this time in deep discussion with his mentoree about the state of a bulletin board.

Later that day, the highly effective teacher who posted the bulletin board, found me to complain about the email he received about the bulletin board. Apparently it had been deemed not rigorous enough, and not sufficiently displaying student work.

A note here about highly effective teachers. The term and the process of teacher evaluations have been much in the news this week. Apparently the teacher's union,the governor and mayor as well as every newspaper in NY have has something to say about it. But whether you believe being highly effective is reflective of student's scores on standardized tests, or elements checked off a framework, the above teacher would meet the criteria of highly effective.

The teacher was upset.
Our hallways are a mess.
And its not the bulletin boards that are making our life hell.

What should the teacher do? he asked.
I gave him my best advice.
Politely ignore it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

New Year's Beads

"Mr. Jones is in the building," the public address announced.

Intruder alert- move all students inside classrooms and lock the doors. The Mr. Jones thing, is the secret code.

"Must be a fight downstairs, that's why the want us on lock down," the eighth grader I urged out of the hallway told me.

I didn't say we are very good at keeping secrets.

Chere and her friend were down by our resource room in the high school corridor. There was absolutely no reason for two seventh graders to be in the high school corridor. There was no time to get their lost behinds back to the middle school, so I told them to go in (which to my absolute amazement they did without one single word of profanity or her signature booty dance which makes Chere the poster child for crazy in the seventh grade group that daily puts the special back into special ed.)
Geez- and I tell Louis to keep his sentences short and simple.

For a brief moment the halls were deafeningly silent.

Then Mr. Jones left the building, the announcement said. And the AP said unlock the doors and let 'em out.

So the doors opened and within seconds we were a stream of adolescent humanity again.

And as the stream flowed by I caught a glimpse of shiny New Year necklaces. Just like the kind I got in the casino New Year's Eve. Just like the kind I hung up in the room since who needed more junk in my house.

"You take my necklaces?" I asked Chere and her friend when I caught up with them.

"Ms ESL teacher told us you said we could have them," she said

Wow -Ms. ESL and I must have some telepathic communication cause I was on one side of the door and she on the other door during the intruder alert and everyone knows the two way radios don't really work in the hs corridor.

My sister thought I should have made them give them back, or at least ask for them.

She's right of course.
But sometimes a string of New Years beads just isn't worth the morality lesson on January 13th.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Negatron Fairies

I dropped my computer.
I ran from Resource Room where four seniors worked on four different Regents (The negatron fairy keeps whispering in my ear, they're not going to pass, give it up Teacherfish, they're not going to pass.)
I swat the negatron fairy away like a pesky mosquito.

The principal says; Failure is not an option.

The Harvard professors say a good teacher is the difference between suceeding in life and not succeeding, getting a good job or bad one, becoming a teen mother or staving off teen pregnancy
NYTimes story on study
And the four worked diligently on Regents they know almost none of the material- despite taking the courses over and over

Except for Ralf- he sat with me and the testing coordinator and gave advice about how we should proceed in organizing the exams. (In a universe far, far away- the old administrator considered us support staff and we had an office and time to work on this kind of activity- but now we have been put into our place as regular teachers- so we work on schedules with students in the room)

For the record I offered Ralf my job numerous times, but he declined, like a typical administrator- he gives advice on something he has no idea how to do.

But we made a skeleton schedule,we will work on it over the week, with lots of other advice, from those more qualified on paper than Ralf, but equally unuseful.

And then the bell rang- I hustled over to the room across the hall where, the teacher keeps a projector locked up because, someday her Smartboard might not work properly,
wait for her to finish with her students cause she doesn't like to be interrupted, get the projector, explain to the principal on the fly how tomorrow I will get to the report the district office wants by Monday that they emailed to her but she doesn't know what it means and forgot that she scheduled me for all teaching periods, since in her words, teachers teach. run through the hallway of the school downstairs because I think it's a short cut and forgot they dismiss at this time, interrupt two students taking love jabs and each other, to open the stairwell door since my hand were full and collapse into the sixth grade classroom.

I am very careful with the projector.
So I drop the computer.

And the video won't load up.
And I make Bailey cry because I yell at the class.
Cause I was teaching in that class and then I wasn't and now I am again.
Bailey doesn't do well with change. Living in multiple foster homes will do that to you.

This has been a complaining post.
The negatron fairy must be back.
I need chocolate! I hear it wards off negatron fairies.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sick day and aggravation

Home sick today. Had a weekend of sneezing and wheezing and generally feeling like I was a germ manufacturing and distribution center all rolled up into one unit and the school might be better off if I actually used one of my 140 stored up sick days.

So I did.

I watched the morning news show. Found out white girls and skinny doctors can do double dutch. I'm not going to share that. Better everyone thinks my inability to do any physical activity that involves rhytmic intervals of lapses of gravity is due to pigmentation and not lack of coordination.

Then I thought I could do a small project for school on my couch while no one was around to interrupt me.

Sorting through the testing accommodations of 100 IEP students is not a small project. It took all day and three calls to the school secretary, the last of which consisted of her informing me that she needed to schedule a formal observation for me.

I have not been observed formally since 1993. (It's true I checked- I was looking for a form that said I went through some vaccination training, which I didn't find- but gave me a short "this is your educational life- tour of my career)

So I got aggravated.
And called the teacher who has a parallel job.
Who was out sick- because apparently my germ spreading capacity started last Friday.

Tomorrow back to school and pre-observation conference.
Pass the Nyquil.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Heart Hurts

Once I taught first grade.
I put a little boy with thick glasses, lots of home life problems and and an IQ about equal to my current age, in the time out corner.

He was hitting the girl next to him.

He wailed uncontrollably. I was okay, - he had to learn. We don't hit girls. We don't hit.

But the other adults in the room were less tough than my 22 year old self.
"It makes my heart hurt," my aide whispered.

High Schoolers may not be so cute-
But here's my account of today's senior English class.

Millie crumpled up about twenty papers trying to interpret a quote about whatever you get in life you end up paying for one way or another. In the end she turned out to be the only one in the class who diagreed with the quote( actually a valid option)- in a hundred discombobulated words she explained that sometimes life isn't fair some people suffer just because they were born a certain way. She was talking about Lennie in Of Mice and Men. I got it. I'm not sure anyone else would.

I got behind Isiah and prodded. "Get your tuchis" into English."
"What's a tuchis?"
It's your ass, stupid" -helpful volunteer explained.
Isiah wrote five carefully printed paragraphs, more English than Millie's, but he made me check every word as he wrote it.

Ralf watched flies in the room.
"Ralf, it's January - look at your paper."
"I'm writing, Teacherfish, I'm writing, just ....what was I saying?"

Louis, wrote something like - whatever you do in life, there are consequences. Had the page not been written in Louis's heiroglyphic like handwriting I would not believed it was Louis's paper.
But the good luck ran out- and he begged me what to write next.

Kenya didn't write anything. He's on suspension. He called Evan an asshole. I would call Evan an Asshole if I wasn't afraid of losing my pension. I would call Kenya an asshole. I told the friendly administrator last week he is a pain in the ass but he's my pain in the ass.

They make my heart hurt.
But they're not cute anymore.

It was thirtyfive years ago that first grader sobbed his eyes out on the timeout chair.
He made it out of time out in five minutes.
I wonder if he made it out in the world?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Advocacy and Diet Cokes

Kenya's mad. he failed two courses and can't play f----ing basketball. (No I am not quite sure how basketballs have sex and Kenya didn't find the question amusing).

Boring details.
Evan asked Kenya one day to name five NBA teams without first naming the city.
Kenya could name two- the Heat and the Knicks.
Ok- name the some cities and the teams- Kenya could come up with no more.
So I offered Chicago........, Indiana ........, Cleveland...........
Nope- Kenya could not come up with the names.
Now this six foot, seven thumb sucking center gets recruitment letters from colleges around the country.

My uncle had a joke about my aunt's bra size, that went something like when God was giving out tits my aunt didn't hear right and got on the ass line twice.

Kenya got on the height line while the brain cells were being distributed.

But does that keep us from assigning him chemistry and trigonometry?

So guess what Kenya failed?

I braved the displeasure of the guidance counselor, hooked the principal into the room and got Kenya rescheduled for inclusion geometry and science got put on hold for a year.

So is Kenya grateful? He's still not sure if he's back on the team.
And he needed to borrow a dollar to buy a drink. But in case the machine wasn't working he took one of my Diet Cokes and figured one thank you was enough for the advocacy, money and soda.

There- I blogged again!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Resolution

I watched the news yesterday-the most common New Year's Resolutions- Lose weight, save more, improve relationship. I'm okay with my relationship- so I swap relationships to blogging more. I keep thinking about trying to blog 100 words a day and not worry about making a work of literary genius.

First day back-
Period 1- called out of Algebra because of new admit in the self-contained class. Stood at algebra teacher's door until she let me back.
Period 2-Held back tears during Mice and Men movie, took shooting the dog part hard
Period 3- Chased Emeline out of the wrong advisory classroom- and got subjected to her sucking her teeth at me for the rest of the day. She needed to use my cell phone to call for a ride at the end of the day so I asked her why she was mean to me- too tired to be back in school (her comment, my sentiment)
Period 4- Chased my tail in ELA since nothing was planned by gen ed teacher
Period 5 -Planned something for tomorrow's ELA
Period 6- tried to catch up on paper work while the ESL class got scolded by the ESL teacher
Period 7- looked at our place in the universe with the 12th graders- drew targets with room 420 as the bullseye and subsequent layers leading up to the universe. I found out that Louis could identify countries and cities all over the world. Millie could not- but at least I didn't yell at her- she doesn't like when I yell. Louis still amazing with me his knowledge of things that I didn't know he knew- (and everyone else still thinks he doesn't) but still far away from that elusive diploma. Millie closer- but I still feel like I'm trying to pick up the prizes from the treasure box with a claw that grasps but does not hold. Does that make sense? It was my illustration for the word elusive in the 12th grade last chance ELA class. Miri claimed she could get the prize from the box- but can she get the diploma? Not on my register- not my problem. (Okay that was a little harsh, but in the new world order- no IEP- no say from me)
And 8th and 9th period happened too- but now I'm bored of my reporting.

So there - I blogged. I stayed on my diet. And the second bus came as I got off the first- no time for a detour into the supermarket. So I guess I saved some money too.
On to tomorrow