extended hopefulness

one of the three showed up.

then three more appeared on the roster, ones who attend resource room while their class has tech, so three i've never met before. it does make sense that i'd work with them to boost their ELA skills though, for sure.

wednesdays are my excessively long days. 6 teaching periods, plus extended day, homeroom duties, one lunch and one prep. somehow i still found time to hound the union guy about what exactly 'mandatory lunchtime meetings' mean in terms of the contract. i don't know why i bother.

the positive is that every student in four 8th grade classes now have their own blog to use in social studies and ELA. teachers are excited, kids are excited, i think it's a good thing.

i'm hopeful for the future, but i'm not counting any chickens yet.


don't lie to me

over the weekend i had the opportunity to have an amazing discussion with a woman who happens to be an AP at an elementary school in east new york. she was more than willing to discuss problems that school administrators deal with, including the current removal process for an incompetent teacher in her school. speaking with her, i began to hate her, but then felt an odd kinship, an understanding that we were both doing what we had to do, me, trying to make meaning in the world for kids, and her, trying to perpetuate a system that prefers kids to be robots. i could never do what she does, i have no idea why anyone would want to be a school administrator, and if i had no door on my classroom, i would never have lasted this long in the public schools.


i received my roster today for extended time. 3 students, all 8th graders who are failing ELA. i checked in with their ELA teacher and asked for any materials that they could use to improve their failing grades. i requested materials from the F-status (part time) literacy/teachers college liaison, as specified by scarecrow. i checked in with scarecrow to say i'd done these things, and that while my students were not in this morning, could i expect them tomorrow. scarecrow said the students would be informed today of their new morning class and would be expected to show up tomorrow.

interestingly, and randomly, two of the students happened to stop by my room at the end of the day, after dismissal. i asked them if they'd received scarecrow's message about the new morning session. they hadn't, though they did recall seeing scarecrow in the hallway "8" (they seriously said 8) times today. scarecrow did not speak to them at all today. the students seemed understandably disappointed that they'd need to get to school 40 minutes earlier than usual to study ELA with their computer teacher. i promised to make it fun, with some online literacy games. if you know of any good ones, please share.

on my way downstairs, i stopped into scarecrow's office for the 2nd time today. i asked scarecrow if there had been time enough in the day to inform the students on my roster of their new morning program. scarecrow said they'd all be personally notified, and hopefully they'll show up tomorrow.

scarecrow has no idea who those three students are, and never told them anything. i wonder if they'll show tomorrow.


a meeting? how revolutionary of you to suggest

staff meeting at 8am today, held in my room, of course. last year i requested that staff meetings (and things like baby showers, surprise parties, and locks for love hair cutting events) not take place in my room due to the food-eating (and hair everywhere) nature of these types of events in the proximity to computers. logical to me, not so much to P.S.Q.

AP Scarecrow (if i only had a brain) stood watch at the door with a clipboard to see which poor saps would walk in 20 seconds after the 8:00 gong, and be faced with a letter in their file. terrifying.

it opened with PSQ discussing role models, and finding the professional you admire and making every effort you can to see and model your life after that person. charlie manson came to mind, briefly, but i knew that if i ever requested to attend a PD with any of the ed tech specialists i look up to, i'd be denied.

after the meeting, which included a gruff "AM extended day is NOT working and everyone may need to work PM" even though the numbers are equally as abysmal as the PM extended day, and we have an SBO vote that gives us the option to choose AM or PM, i was approached by AP Scarecrow and told it would be in our best interest to meet at lunch with PSQ to discuss my extended day role.

have i explained the debacle that has been my extended day role? i was told i would not have a roster of kids because i would spend the 40 minutes 4 days a week doing repairs around the building and training teachers. then i was told the lab needs to stay open, so i kept it open and tried to do both repairs and have an open lab. then the progress report debacle, which has been a complete failure since i haven't stood at the helm this year, and now the meeting.

preps periods 1 and 2 afforded me the opportunity to make a spreadsheet with all of the tech repairs i've done all year, which totalled 5 pages of requests. i gathered the sheet that listed all staff assigned extended day duties, which excluded my name, and the email exchange AP Scarecrow and i have had. i taught periods 3 and 4, and by the beginning of 5 was starting to panic.

UFT boy had said the only thing they have on me is possible insuboridnation. (only!?) because i did not begin doing my extended day in the afternoons this week as the email from scarecrow had requested, but continued on in the morning. he said grievance is a last resort, but certainly an option if necessary. we'd see what they were putting on the table first.

i hadn't eaten all morning, was too nervous. went into the meeting carrying my folder of files, heart pounding hard. scarecrow had a large binder, and PSQ mumbled something about closing her door for this meeting, and did so with a fell swoosh.

scarecrow started babbling about extended day not having as high a turnout as hoped. of course not. teachers don't want to spend an additonal 150 minutes a week doing test prep, and neither do low-performing kids. there's no chancellor mandate or consequence for non-attendance, so kids don't show. whose job it is to call parents on this is very unclear. why we don't offer exciting morning programs like dance, tech, drama, freakin comic book writing, music, and sports is beyond me.

uft boy wanted to know what the morning % was compared to the afternoon. scarecrow flipped through this huge binder but didn't turn up any relevant data on the subject. only photocopies of my hand written rosters of students who'd signed into the lab during my extended day mornings, and copies of the post its containing tech requests. photocopies - really.

psq said the extended day time is to be used for improving learning, meeting our learners' needs, and instruction, not tech support. if kids were not coming to tech in the am, they would come in the pm. um.... i don't have a roster. kids have never been told to come in the first place. all this will be changing though.

the meeting ended with scarecrow saying that for monday i'd have a roster of students to do ELA work with. (i'm so not an ELA teacher, but i'll find a way) and with me setting the expectation that 12 minutes of AM homeroom and 5 minutes of PM would not be sufficient time to provide adequate tech support to the school and that staff should be made clear on the new timing expectations and should feel free to contact central helpdesk if they don't want to wait for my visit. scarecrow agreed staff should receive communication. psq agreed. scarecrow asked me how i would communicate. i said i could send a memo, or email, or discuss on an as-need basis, whatever is preferred by administration. scarecrow agreed. psq looked out the window, bored, chewing on a hangnail or something. nothing was solidified regarding the best communication method.

the phone rang, psq got up, scarecrow did too, and so did uft boy, so i followed suit and made for the door. uft boy is willing to take this to grievance level if need be, as am i, but i'd prefer not to have to stand alone. luckily there are a few other teachers catching some flack for low attendance during AM extended day. interestingly they are 8th grade teachers. i wonder if 8th graders just don't want to attend extended day. maybe someone ought to ask them. the people whose extended day classes fail to show up in PM ext day don't suffer any repercurssion. that's likely b/c PSQ books out the door at 3pm sharp and isn't aware.

And my head I'd be scratchin' while
my thoughts were busy hatchin'


why standards?

there are a few videos that have caught my attention recently. i'll post them at the end of this post so if you'd like to see them, you can. i highly recommend them.

kids born after 1990 are very different than every other generation to walk the earth. they are the digital natives. they are the ones who don't know life without the internet. they are the ones who were raised with google as a verb. they are the ones who will have jobs doing things that haven't even been invented yet.

i know the behemoth that is the national educational structure (and even international, as so many countries stupidly rely on our model to guide their own) is not built for change, but this model is not helping the kids of today. the school/classroom/teacher led/content based system is not helping kids to think deeper about the world, it's problems, and ways to make things better. the simplest example i can think of is, why do we need to teach the facts about any particular era of history? all of that knowledge, all of (just about) any knowledge exists in truth somewhere on the Internet. wouldn't it be more useful to teach (albeit more daunting) how to locate that information and validate its integrity by verifying the source than to expect rote memorization? much of the content taught today is integral to the larger consciousness...making students aware citizens, informed members of society, encouraging an interest in our history and culture...but as teachers continue to prove time and time again, the most meaningful learnings take place when the child is growing their knowledge about a self-chosen topic. i don't mean we should let kids research their favorite video games and celebrities all the time. but isn't it time to really evaluate what the national, state, and city standards are doing for our kids, and how we could better serve them to meet the expectations of the future?

sorry for the vagueness.

here are those videos:




great idea, boss.

what does it mean when your supervisor complements you publicly for a project successfully launched and completed last year, and then privately comes to tell you the process of said project is 'tedious' and 'unsmart', and that there is a 'better', 'faster', and 'smarter' way to do this, it will just take some research and testing?


no teacher left behind

this is my 6th year.

my first year, as all first year teachers are, i was assigned a mentor from the dept of ed, who would visit my school weekly and meet to discuss my progress, achievements, and challenges, all based off of this strange and foreign-sounding workbook filled with pages that offered graphic organizers for things like 'differentiated goal planning' and 'measurement and assessment' that folded up neatly into this zippable black nylon briefcase. i'll never forget that year, 12 different classes, attempting to maintain differentiated curricula for the lower level 6th and 7th grades and an entirely different set of projects for the higher level classes, all while trying to do upkeep on a lab that had been left to rot for 2 years, running windows 98 in 2004, attempting to upgrade each computer after it was returned from helpdesk repairs to the overheated fans, motherboards, and blown out hard drives.

my mentor, having taught elementary school social studies for over 30 years, and having retired 5 years prior to becoming a mentor, had never heard of utilizing technology in her classroom. in fact, she told me that she had an old black screened computer that had green writing on it, and she used it to store papers. a glorified paperweight. i remember her commenting during our infrequent meetings that the phone in the office she'd been given didn't work, and asked me if i would be able to fix it during one of our meetings. unfortunately, telephony wasn't my technical skill of expertise. one of her suggestions to make my room more visually appealing was to buy several tubes of 'glitter glue' and have kids make bright and colorful posters. i thought authentic student writing about technology security issues in college might be more interesting for visitors who might be inclined to look. the best thing she did for me was recommend a gynecologist (tmi?). having just relocated from boston, i was seeking out a network of new york doctors and this referral turned out to be the best thing my mentor did for me.

when i speak to newer teachers, some as new (or as old) as i am, and some who are in their first few years, i ask them about their mentor experience. i'm very curious. it seems that overall new teachers feel they received a lot of support, tools, strategies, techniques, lesson ideas, and feedback from their mentors. most of them did not, however, receive a gynecologist referral.


from the mouths of babes

i verified with the chapter leader today,

i am, indeed, being targeted as the unsavory teacher this year.

last years target had a rough go of it, but did find a new job at another school.

the best thing to do, i'm told, is to ride it out, keep low on the radar, and not do anything that would raise any flags.

i wonder if acquiring 10 brand new video cameras will count for or against me.

ray of hope

the first good news of the year - the grant i wrote last spring was funded!

my kids will be able to work in groups of 3 to record, edit, and produce their own films.

i'm so incredibly excited about this, it almost makes me forget about all the other stuff going on.


don't answer this

don't even think about the answer.

and definitely don't ever repeat this question out loud to anyone, especially if they work in a school, unless you have enough material on them to do some serious blackmailing with.

what percent of your "all" (your "all" being every ounce of strength, capacity, endurance, ability, desire, will, concern, interest, and attentiveness you hold within yourself) would you say you put into your teaching job on a day-to-day basis?

100%? 90%? 85%? 60%?

like i said, don't answer this.

contractual obligations

don't make me spell out which article, subsection, and line it's on.

we voted, last spring.

the vote passed.

i have a choice.

this is why it's called a "School Based Option".

you can not tell me i must be here at x, when i have chosen y.


mediocrity + incompetence = enragement

an open and pissed off letter to the leaders of my school:

i hate to be the teacher that points to the UFT contract every time something is asked of them, but are we forgetting, dear principal status quo and ap clarification needs, (yes, we need shorter nicknames), that you assigned me a 25 period/week teaching schedule. yes, that means that my preps are used, by me, for "preparing for my classes" and my lunches are used by me for "eating foods". this means, that i am not required to spend those precious 40 minute breaks between double and triple blocks of teaching doing things such as preparing web based progress reports for 500 someodd students, and assigning permission to 40 someodd teachers, or printing said reports. nor am i required to spend those precious 'preps' and 'lunches' repairing broken equipment, writing or delivering trainings for people who are not students, or distributing equipment to people.

some teachers may choose, out of the kindness of their hearts, to stay late, offer their time and service for free, and complete tasks because they want to. if time allotted, i would consider, but i have many out-of-school responsibilities and obligations that i am committed to, including a shoulder injury requiring therapy and full-time graduate program, amongst many others. if can finish my contractual duties by 3pm, then surely, i am free to go.

additionally, if i provide my professional opinion regarding the amount of time a particular project will take, please do not expect it to be 100% completed when you've only offered 1/5 of the amount of time stated. oh, and yes, it's true, i don't have a homeroom, but during the 12 minutes of morning homeroom, and 5 minutes of afternoon homeroom, i'd venture it's safe to say that not a whole lot of administrative work gets done, but i'll be damn sure to try.




the first weeks back

it feels like my first year all over again.
walking on eggshells, not knowing who to trust and who not to, so trusting no one, keeping my head down and trying not to cause any problems or make any noise. so much for the high ground i thought i'd gained by doing a good job last year. i've been knocked down from that pedestal this year and it's been made abundantly clear to me.

18 classes a week. the entire school. nearly 500 students a week. 25 teaching periods, and no group during extended day, just the mandate to fix all technology. what about the teachers who have new equipment this year and have no idea how to use it? no collaboration periods, training time, or push-in periods. we're all on our own. the priorities are unclear, but we know what they are not.

and my friend, a veteran teacher, experienced and so close to retirement - she's got the same 25 resource room periods with the low-performing kids. last year she worked with the 3's and 4's too, reading with them, boosting them. this year Principal Status Quo just wants to raise up the 1's. forget about the smart ones, they're fine where they are. IEPs are not in order, CTT classrooms with only one teacher, brand new teachers all over the place. oh, and teacher's college PD just for the 3 favorite ELA teachers - nobody else. we need to save budget dollars, you know.

and need i mention the new TFA hire? not even a year of experience, but somehow a better match than any one of those hundreds of ATRs who could bring so much to the school. but those people know their rights and won't be pushed around the way PSQ can with the newbies.

some equipment in the lab is malfunctioning. it's not under warranty, and is at least 5 years old, so i asked for some replacements and have so far been ignored.

i'm looking outside the system.

i've tried and i don't think i can take another 9 months.



i thought it was going to be 12, the whole 7th and 8th grade, each class twice a week.

but i was surprised.

she gave me 6th too!

so now i've got the whole 8th twice a week, the whole 7th once a week, and the whole 6th once a week, equaling 24 teaching periods plus one friday afternoon 'club' period of my choosing. any ideas?

i feel badly for the teachers coming to me for help setting up their wireless, their email, their printers, and to sign out equipment. i keep turning them away, telling them i'm not responsible for that stuff this year, and they keep coming back.

pretty soon something's going to give. i hope i can learn 578 names in 3 weeks. if i do it'll be a new record.



to tomorrow being a day filled with warm welcomes and pleasant surprises.

that's about all the positivity i can muster for this post.


kickoff to 09/10

this will be my 6th year teaching.
3rd school, 2nd year.
patterning says i'll leave after this year.
i'm sure the patterns don't lie, and we're already off to a rocky start.

last year didn't wrap up on the high note i'd come to expect.

during the last week of school i asked my principal if she had any idea how many classes i might be teaching next year and whether or not she would need me teaching full time or if she would leave technology administrative periods in my schedule. since scheduling was not yet (started) complete, she screamed at me to expect 12 classes twice a week. ok, so 24 teaching periods, approximately 350 students. good to know.

the very last day, while turning in my keys, i inquired about the letter that had been placed in my file for showing up 4 minutes late to a poorly communicated staff meeting (no staff-wide email sent, and the notice stayed up on the memo board from 9am until 3pm, so if you didn't make it to the office during those hours, you didn't know about the meeting). of course, reminding the admins that i walked in 4 minutes late to applause for work i had done on getting our progress report system online was not noted in the letter. only the 4 minutes lateness. with no warning, just a letter. and the uft rep promised the letter would be removed on june 26. but on that fine day the principal decided she ought to hang onto it, if for no other reason than to confer with the AP the circumstances surrounding its placement.

this week, i went in tuesday, wednesday, and friday, to arrange the classroom and begin setting up for the year. i found much of my classroom furniture in the surrounding classrooms, and managed to move the 4 drawer file cabinet down the hall by myself, managed to drag the 6 seater table with now 2 broken legs out to the hallway myself, and got all of my tables and computer desks arranged how i'd left them in june from their scattered, post-floor polishing state. the custodians were not shy about letting me know their displeasure with the scuffs i left in the newly waxed floors.

i asked the principal if schedules were available. not till tuesday. how many classes? i don't know yet, we'll know on Tuesday. everyone will. is this fair?

i went in today to clean up some of the laptops and print up some surveys and contact sheets to make copies over the weekend. one of the computer tables from my classroom had been moved across the hall. the computer that was previously situated on that particular table had been moved to a different computer table, cables and all, squashed between two other computers where clearly there was not enough space. suspicious. i understand that none of the furniture is 'mine', but do we really need to scavenge an already set-up room?

the year is off to a killer start.

i suspect i'll be sharing more this year.

i think i liked it better when the abuse came from the students.

hope your first weeks are pleasant, your students motivated and polite, and your admins agreeable.


leaving for GVA

in 3 days, on Friday evening, i'll depart the good ole USA for my new home in Geneva, Switzerland for 3 weeks. I haven't traveled outside of the country in years, since 1998, unless you count the tiny islands off Puerto Rico, back in 2005, but that's still a commonwealth of the USA.

the program that i'm participating in is called the Global Program and i'll be getting a 2nd masters in education with a concentration in global education technology. right up my alley. i'll get to visit the United Nations and people from the International Labor Organization, Red Cross, and so on.

there are 18 other students in my class. i'm nervous, excited, scared, and amazed all at once.

and d got me an awesome new camera to take really really sweet photos with.



current events

looks like mr. mulgrew might have some competition. eterno sounds like a good guy, not content with the status quo. it will be interesting to see if he can gain some recognition and rise up from underdog status. i'm willing to help.

another noteworthy piece about nyc schools losing out on federal funding because teacher tenure is not based on students' academic performance. and we all thought obama was a liberal in terms of education. makes me pine for kucinich.

where's the island of the hippies i'm so depserately seeking?


summer in the city

now that summer is officially here, and the rain seems to have trickled off for a few days, the insomnia has not kicked in yet, and i have gathered most of my thoughts to regurgitate here.

1. i moved to a new email address. makes logging in here kind of annoying, dealing with heaps of spam to delete, though i could just ignore it, i feel like some type of maintenance is obligatory. let me know if you'd like the new one.

2. the statement, 'less is more' does not ring true for me. i believe more is more. and adversely, less is well, less.

3. i'm leaving the country for 3 weeks in 10 days. first time out in many, many years. will be based in geneva, but hopefully will be able to explore a bit of france, spain, germany, and/or italy.

4. found out i will be teaching 24 periods a week next year. i know, the sarcastic 'poor baby' is playing through your mind right now, but it basically means all of the other tech things that were formerly done in 7 periods a week will now be squeezed into two. inventory, repairs, trainings, collaboration, tech requests, equipment updates, the yearbook, open lab hours, will no longer happen in timely manner, all for the sake of not hiring a drama teacher. i don't mind to teach more, that's why i'm there, but if administration thinks i can do what i did in 280 minutes a week in 80, they're going to learn pretty quick that i don't work that way. i was shouted at when i pointed this out in an informal meeting.

5. an old colleague pointed out to me that my position is posted on the open market. i verified, and indeed it is. after a few nervous hours, i got in touch with the payroll secretary and found out that it's all a glitch due to someone's maternity leave paperwork getting screwed up. i'll admit i was imagining what it would be like to be excessed, having to report to some central facility each day, until a position becomes available. i like my classroom though, and i wouldn't want to be away from it.

6. i'm planning on building a reward center this year, which will include beanbag chairs, or some type of cushioney space on the floor where kids can do their work from when they show that they've been focused and productive. it might become unmanageable with 12 different classes though. i'll have to figure out how to introduce it and structure the system.

7. even though mayoral control expired, everything is still pretty much the same as before. we now have a board of ed, like old times, and it's looking like with the departure of uft leader, randi, we'll be looking at some stalematery in terms of a new contract. we did just get back our pre-labor day days, which was nice, and they cut a day off the kids' calendar by putting them back in school a day later, but it's looking like the teachers' union will follow suit with the police, and lower the starting salary and benefits for incoming new teachers so that the older ones can continue to receive the same benefits we've been getting. nothing is certain until it is, and i'm sure there'll be huge headlines about all that.

8. i'm headed off to geneva to take 3 more classes towards my 2nd masters. i'm thinking a lot about what i'll do with it, and if i want to continue teaching in the city after i'm done. i keep thinking about DC, philly, the pacific northwest, canada, europe, and israel. maybe in august i'll have a better sense of the future.

that's it for now.


picked on

i've never worked for a school where i was targeted by administration.

i'm not quite sure what it is that i've done to make myself a target, but it was definitely something.

maybe that whole kids in the hall thing. that might have done it.

in the past two weeks, i've been completely disrespected by the boss.

it's a full-on display of power.

and i am the small woman who will be ground down and put in her place.

my my, the computer lab is a lovely place to throw luncheons, baby showers, and 8th grade breakfasts.

i love spilled sodas, overflowing tiny trash bins, and pancake fights over the imacs any day.


the pros, the cons, the indecision

it went fine, secret interdecoderview.
so fine, that i've since received 3 emails and 4 phone calls requesting my presence at a demo lesson in two days from now.
the train ride took about 50 minutes, and it was empty.
the walk was about 15.
the school is on the 4th floor with no elevator.
there is no lab.
the position may (or may not) be split with another unnamed school, 3 days/2 days.
the few teachers i saw there did not seem terribly thrilled.
the interviewer was awkward.
i did not meet the principal.
highly rated or not, none of these things are worth giving up my 10 minute commute, spacious lab, and no-questions-asked current situation, even if it means an additional 5 teaching periods a week plus a lunch duty.

right now i have 7 periods a week to take care of the tech around the building. apparently next year, we don't care if printers don't print, laptops don't project, projectors burn out, yearbooks don't get made, graduation programs aren't printed. and we also don't care if the same kids who received tech 4 periods a week get it again, while other kids don't get it at all.

no, we don't care.

but we're also not sure how to graciously let the other school down.


decoder ring

i have an interview tomorrow.
at a school which just might have high expectations for teaching and learning.
wish me luck.


the things that keep me up at night

at most middle schools here in the city, we use a report card system which consists of bubble sheets, numerical codes for grades, performance standards, and teacher comments. the system is mostly effective, but very impersonal, and it is very hard to remember which comment was given to which kid without referencing the report card and/or gradebook to say, oh yes, now i remember.....

there are a few occasions where the bubbles don't work for a kid. b is a smart, motivated, responsible kid, who is new to brooklyn this year from mexico, tracked into a mid-level class. b's mother visits the school at least monthly, checking in with the parent coordinator for updates in spanish on his progress.

for the first and second marking period i only saw b once a week, though his class came to the lab twice a week for tech. the reason was that b receives ESL services and could only be seen by the ESL teacher during his wednesday tech time. this is not unusual for kids receiving ESL services, or speech services, or counseling, or any other variety of services their iep's require. i have always graded these kids based on the work they complete in the time they are in tech, and make allowances for them because they have other obligations. i would never fail a child because they could not complete a project because they are only in class once a week instead of twice.

sometime in the beginning of the 3rd marking period, b's ESL schedule changed, and he was pulled from tech twice a week to prepare for the nyseslat, a standardized ESL exam. the bubble sheets allow teachers to denote absences from class in a variety of ways. m = medically excused, x=excessive absences, z=non medically excused, r=recent admit, etc.

for the 3rd marking period i coded b as a z, non medically excused. i had not seen him all marking period due to his scheudule change, and had no work from him to grade him on. a grade of a 90 wouldn't be rational, but neither would a 60.

b's mother visited this week, and the parent coordinator in turn visited me, inquiring about the 65 on b's 3rd marking period report card. i couldn't recall b being present in class during that time, had no records in my attendance or gradebook of him, so i went to the business manager to check the status of his z. turns out, when you list a student as a z, it means an automatic 65 on their report card. how unfair.

soon after the the 4th marking period began, b's ESL schedule lightened up and he is back in class once a week. unfortunately, between my bicycle accident (a post for another time) and surgery (same thing), i haven't seen him, more than about 5 times this marking period. but when grades were due this past monday, (monday! there's still another month of school!) i certainly wasn't going to screw him over as i unknowingly did last marking period. no, b earned a much higher grade, inflated due to my mistake from last marking period, a peace offering, not so high as to garner attention from the office, and not so low his mother may question me on his progress, a 90.


consistent angry dwellings

5th year teaching, 3rd school, same issues:

an administration who does not concern itself with the abundance of mediocrity in the classroom.

academic rigor and a challenging environment look great on paper and are easy to write but not enforce in practice.

administrators who haven't taught in years, and when they did, were mediocre, at best, themselves.

administrators who just don't see or just don't care that their attitudes, presence (or lack thereof), apathy, and overall demeanor set the tone for the entire school.

administrators who make vague sweeping statements regarding upcoming change, leaving some frightened, unsure of their futures, and feeling expendable.

teachers, underdeveloped, untrained, unsupported, unrecognized, unnurtured, overwhelmed, overworked, overtaken.

apathy. everywhere. in the support offices. from disciplinarians. from kids. worst of all (for the kids) from the teachers (can you blame them?)

my theory of the week, the solution to the epidemic that is public education, which isn't a complete solution, yet, but maybe someday... hire devoted leaders. leaders devoted to educational success. leaders who truly have vision to inspire. leaders come in many shapes and sizes, and klein's cookie cutter school template will not fit all the molds. devoted leaders will make it a point to only hire devoted staff. devoted leaders will lead by example, by their presence, by their values, their experience, and their passion.

teaching is about more than motivating, it's about inspiring. how can you ask a teacher to inspire their classes, if they're allowed to stagnate in the fumes of mediocrity?

inspire change.


the letters, they keep on coming

this one isn't a letter in my file, yet.

hand delivered in person by the payroll secretary after i dismissed a class today.

twice yesterday, a school aide and a secretary, sent by the principal status quo herself, came to my doorway to tell me that students can not be in the hall. they're recording their voices into the computers. they're doing their work. my door is open, i'm checking on them, and they're not being noisy.

there's a parent workshop going on.

i'm sorry, is this a school for students or for parents? why can't the parent workshop close their door?

and so today, after 4 pairs of students were in the hallway, quietly recording their podcasts, the script written previously, anticipating uploading the completed file to itunes tomorrow, the letter arrives.

dear appple a day:

effective immediately, no student is to be out in the hallway. you are a technology instructor and these students need to be with you in a classroom.

failure to adhere to this will result in a letter to your file.

thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

principal status quo

and, my emailed response:

Hello principal status quo,

Regarding students in the hallway outside of my room, my classes are learning how to make a podcast. A podcast is like an informative radio show, recorded on a computer, then shared on the Internet. Students must first develop a script with their partner, then record their voices reading the script onto the computer. The students who were in the hallway were recording their podcasts. The hallway was a quieter space to record than in the classroom where other students were still collaborating on their scripts. I understand the need for quiet hallways, and was only hoping to offer these students a quieter space to record in. I apologize for the disruption that this independent work created.


appple a day

because we are not supposed to engage our students in any sort of creative, nonstandard, exciting curriculum, which might lead them to require a quiet environment to independently work on a project. it would be better if they were meaninglessly surfing the web in the classroom. at least the hallways would be quiet.

it's my 3rd school in 5 years.
is there one out there that embraces creativity and nontraditional teaching practices, where i can teach what i consider to be unique and important skills without fear of ticking off the administration? it's not like they're even inquiring about content, or making alternate suggestions.

when i tell the kids tomorrow that they all have to record in the classroom they're going to freak. you can't tell 30 kids to quietly record their own voices. this blows.


breaking news

two events of rather large proportion occurred between last thursday and friday.

thursday's events included a certain former principal of a certain school slated to be closed in june and reopened in september under a new name with new management being removed from her post as principal under allegations that she doctored high school students transcripts among other things. great discussion found over here.

and friday, i received my very first letter in my file. for being 7 minutes late to a staff meeting. a staff meeting i didn't know about until 630 the morning of, because no announcement was made, and i did not have the opportunity to check the office whiteboard during the 6 hour timeframe that the information was posted. the letter did not come as a surprise, but as a kick in the ass, considering i'd received no warning, had never been late to a meeting before, and walked in to find staff applauding me for the job i'd done on electronifying the progress reports online. i must say, it was certainly a great way for AP to throw her weight around. if she didn't have my respect before, she's certainly gone and outdone herself on trying to earn it by unfairly reprimanding me. my response letter was snarky and insulting enough to garner a mild response of avoidance from her. i'm sure i'll hear more tomorrow on whether the letter will stick or not. i'll fight it all the way if i have to.


financial crisis

so daunting, so dooming, so looming and inevitable.
we're hearing mixed messages, that's for sure.
it all makes me really angry.
15,000 new teachers could be laid off by next year.
that would mean every teacher with less than 3 years of experience.
which would mean i'm safe, but since i'm so far out of license, i could be a candidate for excessing. the uft is shirking me around, not returning my calls, and it's a waiting game with albany. i can't seem to get a straight answer from the state or the doe regarding whether or not my 2nd masters program will be an acceptable means of educational technology certification.

and holy jeez, they're talking about bumping class size up again. i read today that by increasing class size by just 2, we would save 187 million a year.

and then we can buy two more editions of aris with the savings.

seriously, please.

who is making the decisions in this city?

when is education going to be taken seriously in the country?

why are we bailing out banks and people who overspent on a house they couldn't afford?

why are three important teachers from my school sitting in a room somewhere for the past month grading state assessments that they don't believe in? albany demands the assessments, then schools should not have to give up valuable resources to grade those exams. we now have every child who receives mandate ESL services getting shafted because their teachers are grading tests. and students who receive extra reading help are not getting their help because their teacher is grading tests. who makes these rules? and why are things done like this? uggggg.

in other world news, i've finished up the typing/data analysis/graphing unit and we've moved into blogging for the 3rd marking period. my kids don't have this url, but i'm parallel blogging over at http://apfelteachestech.blogspot.com/. feel free to check it out.



it's been a while, yes, i know.

here we are, wrapping up the 2nd marking period, and i can safely say that at least 50%, if not more, of my students will fail this semester. two assignments comprised the grade, classwork weighing it at 60% and homework at 40. at my insistence, the classwork was completed by at least 98% of my students. the homework, an independent research project on the topic of their own choice, excluding celebrities, bands, and video games, was completed by somewhere in the vicinity of 35-40% of students. and of that, only about 30% actually met the requirements. the learning i'm taking away from this is that 8th graders do not know how to research a topic. they do not understand the consequences of plagiarism, they did not pay attention when i taught them to validate their information online and cross check their facts. they did not listen when i taught them to document their resources. they reverted back to their copy and paste methods, and i caught them, and they will fail. my favorite thing to do is print up the wikipedia or ehow or yahoo answers or howstuffworks article they used and staple it to their report, highlighting the identical paragraphs in coordinating colors. and they just don't get it. they think this is ok. next up, a lesson on the consequences of plagiarism at the high school and college level.

i'm attempting to make the upcoming 3rd marking period more fun for my students, which, much to their dismay does not include turning my classroom into an arcade hall, but giving them some options about what to learn next. one class seems particularly bent on making their own web pages, while another wants to make podcasts to play for each other. the web page thing should be easy, i'm actually going to lead them through blogs first, then get them into google sites probably, or knol, unless anyone has any alternative suggestions or recommendations. as for the podcasting, we'll do that in garage band, which they've got some minimal exposure to, and i need some brushing up on myself.

there's much to do in the upcoming days and weeks to get ready for this, but i think it may actually make my experience and my students' more meaningful and engaging.

speaking of which, my sister got engaged over christmas and i'm going to boston the weekend after next to meet the machatunim. ok, they're not really my machatunim but i couldn't resist using the word.