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.