Friday, May 29, 2009


NYC Educator is four years old today. Here's the very first post, reflecting a viewpoint that sorely disappointed some of my friends at the Independent Community of Educators. I didn't get around to mentioning class size till post number two.

Here's one of my favorites, from a time before the 2005 contract shocked me. Here's an optimistic post about the advent of Edwize, something I thought would really help counter the nonsense on the tabloid op-ed pages.

Like many UFT members, I'd never have imagined they'd come up with such a stinker of a contract, or that any sentient being would actually support it. At that time, I'd written for NY Teacher on several occasions, and was in negotiations to begin writing for Edwize. I was going to fold this blog and do so. Curiously, when I began opposing the contract on a daily basis and leaving disparaging comments on Edwize, that invitation was unceremoniously withdrawn.

A few months ago, though, NY Teacher amazed me by reprinting a piece I'd posted about Michelle Rhee. My favorite stories are the ones about kids, and I stay anonymous so I can keep writing them.

I want to thank everyone who's read the blog, and everyone who's commented. Special thanks to Schoolgal, who fed me tips for the longest time and supported this blog when almost no one else was reading it. It's been a thrill to meet some of the people who've emailed me (I can't believe who some of them are) and to receive responses from some of the people I've emailed.

Thanks to all! It's been a thrill and an honor to write this blog, and I ain't finished yet. I've learned a lot, and I learn more every day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Teacher's Friend

Miss Cellania finds a computer that's truly user-friendly.

Keep a Good Thought

Frank McCourt, ex-NYC teacher and one of my very favorite writers, is being treated for cancer. On the brighter side, they say he's doing "pretty well."

What Makes Shelly Run?

God bless Democrats. If it weren't for Democrats, we'd have no one to blame but Republicans every time some bonehead went out and did something patently idiotic. Fortunately, we have politicians from both side of the aisle who are equally tone-deaf to the needs of the people. That's why NY Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver supports mayoral control, with a few superfluous revisions that will ultimately mean nothing whatsoever.

Silver's plan, presented along with Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens), would not mandate set terms for panel members...

So essentially, if any of his appointees were to disagree with Mayor-for-life Bloomberg, he could fire them before they actually voted. The big change Mr. Silver proposes is that two of the eight members the mayor would choose would have to be parents. Thus, if Mr. Bloomberg were to fire a parent, he'd have to replace that parent with another who agrees with him. Of course, the chancellor would no longer chair the PEP, so someone else would have to wield the rubber stamp.

And, of course, the chancellor would have some very demanding duties:

The schools chancellor...would be required to visit each school district every two years.

Boy, that will really burn the rubber off those limo tires. You mean the chancellor would have to visit the schools he adminsters once every two years? Or at least the districts they're in? Does that mean they can stop for sandwiches or do they actually have to set foot in a school? And what if there are no good sandwich places nearby?

Doubtless the chancellor is quaking in his Florsheims.

A better idea, of course, would be to have people like Mayor Bloomberg themselves compelled to patronize the schools they run--let's dump him and require the next mayor have kids in the schools. Let's require the next chancellor have kids in the schools.

Because until we do that, what we have is very much akin to a billionaire residing in California governing New York. Why should he give a damn about things happening so far away?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hard Times in the City

NYC Costco stores begin accepting food stamps.

If You Read One Thing Today... about Mayor Bloomberg's new governance plan over at NYC Parents Blog. Well, you've already read this, so perhaps it's two things. I'll stop now before things get more complicated.

The UFT Values Your Opinion

A teacher emailed me to tell me about a telephone call he got. Would he answer a few questions about politics and education? Of course he would, but who was calling, please?

It was some company from Arizona, and no, they couldn't provide any funding information. But the questions they asked made him suspect it wasn't Mayor Bloomberg's money machine after all:

How do you feel about Michael Mulgrew?

How do you feel about Leo Casey?

Could it be Randi Weingarten is contemplating giving up her part-time gig as leader of the largest teacher local in the country?

But then it got interesting.

How do you feel about paying for health care?

Perhaps if you pay 3% of your salary for health care, Ms. Weingarten and her crack negotiators could get us a 4% raise. Maybe if you give 4%, they could up the raise to five!

How do you feel about charter schools?

How do you feel about seniority?

If this doesn't give you an inkling what negotiations look like, I don't know what else to tell you. They also asked:

Would you like the UFT to settle before the election or after?

That's a tough question. Is it better to give up the ship now, or later? Hmmm...

Here are some questions they didn't ask:

Would you like to get back the August punishment days?

Are you tired of teaching the sixth class that is not a class?

Is potty patrol getting any less degrading?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Compliments, Offhand and Otherwise

"What's the matter, Mr. Educator?" asked one of my students.

"Well, I saw Francine before. She said hello to me and we talked a little. And look, now she's not in class."

"That's confidence," she said.


Another of my students was talking to his friend during a writing test.

"Are you crazy?" I asked. "You're supposed to be writing, and you're talking to him."

"Well, I was finished talking to him and ready to write, but now I'm talking to you."

I love the way any kid in the world can turn around any situation at all and make it the teacher's fault.


The best, though, was that while I was correcting a paper, a student walked up and wrote something on the board. Later I turned and looked.

It was a little smiley face, and next to it was written, "I love being in this class."

Monday, May 25, 2009

What's With All This Market and Money Stuff?

As a teacher, you've never had any money to speak of, so you have no idea. But fret not, as Trashman explains it all.

Mr. Bloomberg Gets All International

I'm just listening to Spanish TV, and Mayor Bloomberg is on. Now I'm a gringo who speaks Spanish with an American accent, but hizzoner really makes no effort whatsoever to sound the way the language does, and sounds ridiculous to even my less-than-perfect ear.

I should probably be more tolerant, like I am with my students. On the other hand, they're just kids trying to get by, while the mayor is an outrageous opportunist who's blatantly defying the twice-voiced will of the people.

It's not just his deliberate perversion of the term-limit referendum. Mayor Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat, ran as a Republican when he realized even all that money was not going to buy him the nomination eight years ago. Then, wanting to be President, he dropped his GOP registration, hoping to wrest the "maverick" designation from Johny McCain. When polls told him he had no shot at the presidency, he went back to the GOP, cash-filled hat in hand, and worked something out. The party bosses may have been in a snit, but there was no way they were going to advance another candidate with the remotest chance of winning.

So now Mayor Bloomberg is trying to convince Spanish speakers that he cares about them. I hope they aren't as gullible as we English speakers are. Unless you're a team owner or Eva Moskowitz, you and your kids have little chance of benefitting from his continued tenure as mayor.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mr. Klein Chooses a Staff Member

I've been forwarded the below message from Chancellor Klein. The person who sent it states that Santiago Tavares was not rehired by the Central Park East 1 community for a second year due to an inability to handle curriculum even with a great deal of support. So much for "accountability."

Still, it's good enough for the kids who trudge in the dark to trailers in Mayor Bloomberg's New York. And fortunately, it's only "Teaching and Learning," not sports stadiums or anything important.

Dear Colleagues,
I am writing to tell you that Dr. Marcia V. Lyles will be leaving the New York City Department of Education to become the Superintendent of Christina School District, the largest public school district in Delaware. Over the past two years, Dr. Lyles has applied her three decades of experience here in New York City to dramatically improve the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. Her work, especially with our middle schools, has been extraordinary. She is a fighter for equity and excellence in public education. I know we’ll all miss her here in New York, but I know that her talent and expertise will mean great things for the students of Delaware.

When Marcia leaves in June, Santiago (“Santi”) Taveras will become the interim-acting Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning. He is the right person to contin ue the work that Marcia has done so well. Santi began his career in New York City’s schools as a teacher at Central Park East I Elementary School. He is the founding principal of the Banana Kelly High School and the Urban Assembly Academy for Careers in Sports, both in the Bronx, and served as the Instructional Superintendent in Manhattan’s Region 9. He currently serves as the City’s Senior Supervising Superintendent, where he oversees the Department of Education’s community and high school superintendents.

Please join me in congratulating Marcia and welcoming Santi to his new role.

Joel I. Klein

The Even Odder Couple

It appears, despite the remarkably effective PR machine driven by Mayor Bloomberg, that parents are not persuaded he needs total control with no checks or balances. It's not all bad news for Mayor Mike, though, because he's now got Shelly Silver, Malcolm Smith and Randi Weingarten in his unusually deep pockets.

Call me cynical, but isn't it entirely possible that some backroom bargaining took place to enable that? I can't speculate on what Mayor Bloomberg may have offered Silver or Smith. But if we have indeed purchased a contract, and the mayor is not opposed by the UFT, we will have paid an extremely high price for something, given past history, we should be entitled to as a matter of course.

When we took zeroes, when we offered outlandish givebacks, when we gave up time, days, rights, perks, and whatever else Joel Klein wanted from us, we were told it was because there was a pattern. In fact, PERB said we had to take the pattern, that pattern bargaining was crucial, and that the world would more or less grind to a halt if we didn't take the pattern.

In fact, when we last took zeroes, the pattern was based on a fraudulent vote by DC37, one that sent its leaders to the hoosegow. No one raised a peep, and no one tried to renegotiate as city workers got nothing during the biggest economic boom in recent memory.

Now, there is a pattern--4% one year, and 4% the next, set as usual by DC37. So here's the question--do we follow the pattern when the city doesn't find it convenient? And if we do, does it come at the price of failing to oppose the most anti-teacher, anti-public education mayor we've seen in out careers?

Only Ms. Weingarten and Mr. Bloomberg know for sure.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mike Bloomberg, Truth Teller

Mayor Bloomberg has finally let parents know what they can do about his policies regarding the education of their children--they can back off and butt out. There's a big debate over mayoral control going on right now, and Mayor Mike wants parents to shut the hell up, leave him alone, and let him do whatever the hell he wants. That's fairly evident in the current setup, with an educational board in which he controls the majority and fires anyone who doesn't agree with him.

Parents. of course, are free to criticize the schools and teachers. That's fine. But criticizing the mayor's policies, which are perfect in every way, will not be tolerated. Teachers are accountable. Schools are accountable. But Michael Bloomberg, the richest man in New York City, can overturn the twice-affirmed will of city voters, and if they don't like it, they cannot even lump it.

Personally, I've always felt that was more or less Mayor Mike's attitude toward parents. I've long known it was his attitude toward teachers. But as a frequent critic, I have to give the mayor credit for letting parents know where they stand. Their opinions are unwelcome, their advice is unheeded, and the fact that a majority of them are unhappy with the current system is of no consequence whatsoever.

In Mayor Bloomberg's New York, if you have enough money, and enough PR, democracy simply does not apply.

To Serve You Better

Mayor Mike has decided to put 10 school construction projects on hold. After all, only 48% of schools are overcrowded, and statistics are important nowadays. Clearly Mayor Mike is looking to improve his score and will not act until 100% of schools are overcrowded and crumbling to the ground.

As usual, this mayor's quest for perfection is admirable.

Can You Live Without Cable?

This guy may have to--Comcast is suspending service unless he immediately pays $0.00, which the company claims is past due. Personally, I'd write a check.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Let's Ignore the Issues and Focus on Merit Pay

Apparently, merit pay is not going to save the world after all. It appears that it is not the way of the world, and that the overwhelming majority of working people don't actually get it. It also appears there are unintended consequences, but didn't we already know that?

I mean, if you're offering me ten thousand bucks for a ninety-percent passing rate, what are the chances some of my less productive students won't suddenly have flashes of genius that alter my worldview immediately? Is there anyone who really thinks that young music teacher who's been meeting the principal at the Comfort Inn on Tuesday afternoons isn't going to be rewarded?

Here's the thing, though--no one's actually offered ten grand, as far as I know. It's more like three grand. I once read an article by a merit pay supporter suggesting it ought to be the price of a used car. Personally, if I'm going to whore myself out, I'd like to be highly compensated, thank you very much.

The thing is--I'm not in this to whore myself out, and anyone who is is probably too stupid to teach in the first place. This is a great job, an exciting job, a job where I meet people I'm thrilled to know. If you don't feel that way, consider teaching ESL like me. You'll meet people from all over the world.

In any case, even if I were in it for the money, my big mouth (evident all over the blog) would preclude my receiving any. Anyone who tells you big cash payouts won't corrupt people is naive or lying. Sure, we didn't go into this to get rich. But we do have families, and we do need to support ourselves.

So please, Barack Obama, Randi Weingarten, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and all the various and sundry muckety-mucks who have a hand in the future of education, keep this in mind--

We need to be paid. If we wanted tips, we'd be working at the diner.

Thanks to Magical Mystical Teacher

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Well, Shazam!

Waddya know? Part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten supports continuation of mayoral control, as well as continued mayoral domination of PEP.

Well, come on. Someone has to stand up for the rights of billionaires with no regard for the will of the people. Why shouldn't it be the President of the UFT? What do you expect her to do, run around asking for more pay and better working conditions?

How is that going to get her huzzahs from Rod Paige?

Mike Bloomberg, Practical Guy

Mayor Mike is hopping mad that people are going to emergency rooms just because they may have contracted the swine flu. Why do they have to go to such extremes? Wouldn't it be easier, for example, to have their personal physicians visit their brownstones? Aren't they putting themselves at even more needless risk by sitting in crowds of people coughing?

As Mayor-for-life, Michael Bloomberg has learned a thing or two. In fact, the prudent thing might be to go to work, have custodial staff double up stocks of tissues and hand sanitizers, and simply close your office door. Be sure to use your private restroom in the inner office rather than those open to staff. Have the cleaning lady scrub it down hourly, rather than just 12 times a day. Make sure the chef places the silver cover over your meals personally, rather than delegating to mere kitchen staff.

In fact, rather than staying home, you could always have your secretary ring up your private physician and have him visit you in the office. If worse comes to worst and you are sick, you could always have the pair of SUVs that shuttle you from the brownstone to your favorite subway stop take you back home. Perhaps then, and only then, you should call your personal physician.

With just these few simple measures, you protect not only yourself, but also whoever you invite into your private office. Why on earth don't these pain-in-the-neck residents just think this stuff through? It's all clear to the mayor.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Better Sorry than Safe

That seems to be Mayor Mike's motto. After all, it's just 1.1 million kids, and few of them are rich. Why bother closing the schools and losing all that cool state money? One of the things I often hear from the Tweedies is that the schools are for the benefit of the kids, not the adults. Therefore, apparently, since it's a mere adult people are mourning at today's funeral, there's no reason for concern.

Still, in my classes, attendance was down 20% today. I saw one kid, who was absent yesterday, walking around in a face mask. He said he was sick. I told him if that was the case, he needed to go home. Apparently he did, because he didn't show up to my class. Another student of mine said she was sick on Monday. I forced her to go to the medical office, and she returned three minutes later. But she hasn't been back since.

Another of my students showed up late to class today. She said her teacher had been trying to compel a sick boy to go to the medical office, but he'd refused, much to the teacher's distress. Eventually someone from administration gave her some support and removed the boy.

On Monday, there was not only soap, but toilet paper and paper towels in the trailer bathroom. I thought this was a response to concerns about the flu. Alas, yesterday and today there was no more paper. So much for wishful thinking. I've also heard that kids prefer the disgusting trailer bathrooms to those in the main building which, incredibly, are even worse.

Mayor Bloomberg ought to close down the schools, if for no other reason, to clean the filthy buildings so patently unfit for schoolchildren, or anyone (even if they don't happen to have millions of dollars). Will he do the right thing?

You never know--it could be the exception that proves the rule.

Those Wacky Bankers

Banks, the backbone of our nation, those proud strong institutions that run up huge debts, take on tremendous risks, and let us bail them out when they fail are horrified that they might actually face regulation. I mean, jeez, usury is OK as long as you do it to people who couldn't afford it anyway. So what if a few college students jump from tall buildings because they're 50K in debt? And for goodness sakes, why shouldn't they make a few bucks from compulsive shoppers who aren't creditworthy in the first place?

But now, it looks like those darn Democrats are gonna pass bills restricting the ways they do business, and limiting the sorts of fees they can charge. What the hell happened to GW, who let them write their own bankruptcy bills? Anyway, the upshot is that they need to make as much money as they did in the past, so what they'll do is charge the so-called "good" cardholders interest immediately, and maybe give up those no-fee cards.

After all, you don't expect them to get by on just a portion of every purchase you make, and really, if they can't charge you 30 bucks for this and 50 bucks for that, and then charge 26% interest on it, well, how are they going to finance those chateaus for the shareholders? Wake up, America!

Personally, if it comes to that. I'll shred all my credit cards and pay cash. It won't be as convenient, but I didn't pay those fees before and I won't pay them now. Maybe I'm un-American.

I don't think so, though.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Darndest Things

Yesterday morning we were reviewing multiple choice questions and I called on a kid in the second row. Rather than respond, he gave me a look that indicated I had just fallen from the sky and he was not prepared to cope with that situation at this juncture. However, the young woman sitting next to him called out, "three," and he dutifully repeated it.

I asked him why he had chosen it. "Because Jessica said so," he replied.

Being a teacher, the next question was easy. "If Jessica told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you do it?"

"Yes," he declared, with no hesitation whatsoever.

"Well," I informed him, "That would leave you dead."

Jessica then interrupted again. "No it wouldn't, Mister. Bad people don't die very fast."

I wasn't sure I'd heard right. "What do you mean?"

"God doesn't let bad people die very fast so that they don't come to heaven. He doesn't want to be with them."

Where on earth do kids get ideas like that? Have you heard that concept before? Jessica swears she made it up on the spot.

Worse, for this young woman who has no regard for him whatsoever, my student was prepared to leap from a tall building. Judging from his expression for the rest of the class (and yes, I know it's less than scientific), he still is.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I Hate Subbing

Being a teacher is great. I like to work with kids, and it's an honor to even be around some of the great kids I get to work with. But man, do I hate when they send me to someone else's class where I don't know anyone from a hole in the wall. I guess it's kind of a nostalgic thrill for retired teachers to come and sub, but whenever I leave, I'm pretty sure I'll be gone for good. This is not to disparage subs in any way--I have great respect for people who are good at what I'm not.

The other day I got summoned to cover a class for someone. The class was fairly civilized. A few kids had earphones and cell phones, I asked them to put them away, and they did. One kid replaced them five minutes later. I went to step two, which is leave them on my desk until the period ends. But the kid declined. So, at stage 3, I picked it up and called the dean to take it.

When I went there, to make sure they didn't just give it back to him, the kid's mom was already there, and overheard me. She explained that her kid was a good kid, that the music player was for his enjoyment, and that she never, ever wanted her kid to be in my class (You can imagine how disappointed I must've been).

Nonetheless, I thought about what I'd have done if my kid had something confiscated. Wherever the device ended up, it would be a while before my kid saw it again. As for the music-lover in the class I covered, he probably called his mom on his cell, also prohibited for school use, in order for her to have gotten there that quickly. I'd be upset to even be contacted over such nonsense during a school day. Doubtless I'm an unfit parent.

But that's just me. Let others stand up for the freedom of their kids to expressly flaunt the rules and defy authority. Perhaps those kids are geniuses who will someday save the world and can't be bound by the conventions of this world.

On the other hand, simpler explanations often tend to be far more accurate.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm Tired Both Ways

So declared my newly teenage daughter around 7 AM. We're in a Hampton Inn in Darkest New Jersey, and I was about to sneak downstairs and grab some coffee. But she insisted I wait for her.

"I thought you were tired both ways," I pointed out.

"I'm hungry both ways too," said she.

Those Goshdarn Math Teachers...

...are at it again.

Related: The science teachers are at it too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Pivotal Issues

The internet is buzzing about how the President orders Dijon mustard on his burger. Why is that an issue? Unless he actually affected a British accent and borrowed Grey Poupon from a guy in back of a Rolls, it's a non-starter.

Still, I'd have questioned the judgment of anyone who orders a burger medium-well. Why not just order a hockey puck and put mustard on that?

Term Limits Are for the Little People

The New York Post reports Mayor Bloomberg has already spent over 18 million bucks to buy himself another term. Coffee for staff has run in excess of 18,000 clams, about one-fourth of the cash Mr. Bloomberg's closest rival has raised this filing period.

No trailers for them.

A Musical Interlude

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wanna See London?

Or how about Paris? Have you got 30 bucks? If you're a student or a teacher, this might be worth checking out.

Morning Comes Too Early Sometimes

Last night I dreamed about sleep. Then I realized it was because I'd hardly gotten any. I should take the day off and go to a clinic for the sleep-deprived or something. But it's Friday, and a few of my classes are reading Arsenic and Old Lace. I've got to see how they react when Mortimer finds the body in the window seat.

I was trying to explain to the kids what a farce is. Now if I were explaining to teachers, I could say, "It's when you have a union head like Randi Weingarten who partners with a charter chain that offers neither tenure nor seniority benefits." But that wouldn't work with my kids.

One asked, "Is it like Family Guy?"

It is, sort of. The broad comedy, the preposterous situations, Peter having colorful fights with that guy in the chicken suit--it would be a real coup if I could get the kids to like the play half as much as they like Family Guy.

I'm going to show them the film if we have time. It was toned down, unfortunately, to suit the stricter standards of the time it was made. But Cary Grant is very funny. If you don't have to go to work, like I do, I suggest you run out and rent it. I wish you well in either case, but the trailers beckon, and I must go.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

She's Got Rights

I was amazed to see, yesterday morning, some beauty queen on TV speaking about injustice and freedom of speech. After all, this is the USA, where you can pretty much say any fool thing that crosses your mind. I mean, look at some of the people we've sent to public office. How much more proof do you need? But alas, she's still Miss California, so what's the problem?

After all, California has the absolute right to be represented by whatever bigoted lunatic they see fit. It's their right. And it's her right to say that gay people don't deserve the same rights she has. And, I suppose it's the pageant director's right to step down if she doesn't want to be associated with the bigotry embraced by the empty-headed beauty.

Honestly, though, I can't see what Miss California is fretting over. If she wants to preserve marriage, she doesn't need to stop gay people. Let them get married, and if she doesn't like them, she shouldn't marry them.

People who want to preserve marriage ought to march for dire penalties for adultery and divorce--those are the things that threaten marriage. If they feel really strongly about it, they ought to lobby for stocks and scarlet letters and all those other wonderful things our forefathers had back in the good old days.

Abridging the rights of a certain group is nothing but bigotry and ignorance. And if that's the face this stupid beauty pageant wants to put forward, it's their absolute right. They let the Klan march in Skokie, so why not let this little girl march up the runway?

The thing is, though, it's not America telling her to shut up or not. It's the contract the pageant promoters had her sign:

The detailed document prohibits the titular Miss California from making personal appearances, giving interviews or making commercials without permission from pageant officials. In the last 10 days, Prejean has made televised appearances at her San Diego church and on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage.

And she broke it. So if they finally do dump her, she can still go out and utter as much idiotic bigoted nonsense as her shallow little heart desires. This is America.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Which My Neighbors Stage a Coup

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

That's what Mayor Bloomberg promises in his latest barrage of ads. It's all about jobs. That's why he's decided not to raise taxes on the rich. After all, they don't need jobs anyway. Better to raise sales taxes and make those who've never had any money in the first place pay. So what if that costs 1200 jobs? New York is number one, and it's about time we had the highest sales tax in the region.

New Yorkers are honest folk by and by, and it would never occur to a New Yorker to shop in nearby Nassau or Darkest New Jersey. Therefore no merchants will suffer, and no more shops will go out of business. Mayor Bloomberg knows a lot about money, since he's got more of it than anyone in the city.

Another way Mayor Bloomberg is creating jobs is by telling prospective new teachers they can't have any. While this, hopefully, will finally put ATR teachers to work, I'm not convinced they're going to fill the void left by departing teachers this year. I'm also certain Mayor Bloomberg, because he puts children first, will not hesitate to make up for absent teachers by raising class sizes. After all, what's another 200 papers to mark, when you get right down to it?

However, it's not going to get potential teachers jumping up and down about the prospect of working in fun city. Still, I'm sure Mayor Mike has lots of great jobs for working people. After all, those with money are gonna have to spend it somewhere, and they'll always need people to help them out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Class Project on a Budget?

Raise sea monkeys for only $2.31.

Loose Talk

Do you ever wonder what kids say when you aren't around? It might not be altogether complimentary. A kid blurted out yesterday, "My science teacher is a racist."

"Please don't talk in class about your other teachers," I told him. "If you want to complain about me, or if you want to talk privately, we can..."

"No, Mister, you don't understand. He's a racist. He hates everybody."

"Look I really don't want you talking about your other teachers in my class. But I have to tell you, you're not describing a racist."

"Why not?"

"A racist is someone who doesn't like you because of your skin color, your religion, or where you come from. If someone hates everyone, that person is equal opportunity, in a way."

"But Mister, he screams at everyone."

"Well, I scream at everyone too, and if you don't start writing, I'm going to scream at you pretty soon."

"No, Mister, you call my mom, and when you do, she screams at me."

"Are you calling your mom a racist?"

"No, I'm just..."

"Look, what would you like better--your science teacher screaming at you, or me calling your mom to say you don't do your classwork?"

"I'd rather the teacher scream at me."

"Well, there you have it. I'm worse than your science teacher, and worse things will happen to you if you give me a hard time. And I'm not a racist. Please be careful before you call people names like that."

I'm not at all sure the kid understands. I'll probably have to talk with him privately. But I could imagine a circumstance under which that science teacher gets sent to the rubber room, or is suspended without pay or medical benefits for 90 days or more for pretty much no reason at all. When you're a city teacher, especially after that 05 contract, you aren't necessarily innocent until proven guilty.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

As President Obama has stated repeatedly, he does not support vouchers. Sure he supports merit pay, charter schools, mayoral control, and his education secretary believes everything Mike Bloomberg says without question, but vouchers is where he draws the line. After all, there's no evidence they're effective, and one has to draw the line somewhere.

The only exception to the President's absolute opposition to vouchers is when he supports vouchers. But let's make it very clear, the President absolutely opposes vouchers except in cases when he supports them. So please respect the firm stand this President has taken.

After all, voters have repeatedly rejected vouchers all over the country, and the will of the voters is the heart of democracy, except when Mike Bloomberg thinks it isn't. So remember, President Barack Obama absolutely, positively opposes vouchers. Except when he doesn't.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maybe You Still Have Tenure...

...but don't think you can't be replaced by a robot.

You don't see them griping about class sizes, unconscionable overcrowding, or miserable facilities. More importantly, they can be programmed to support whatever Mayor Bloomberg says they should, just like Joel Klein and Al Sharpton do.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Dating Tips

I haven't dated for a long time. However, I've got a kid who will magically turn into a teenager next week, and Miss Cellania has just offered ten rules for dating her teenage daughter. They look good to me.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Beware of Charter Moguls Bearing Pizza

The New Yorker doesn't provide online access to its Green Dot article, but Susan Ohanian provides us with a few highlights. And they are indeed revealing. I didn't know, for example, that after Steve Barr served a few pizzas and persuaded the teachers at Locke High School to become a Green Dot school, he made them all reapply for their jobs. He then hired only 30% of the faculty back. This is the guy part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten saw fit to go into business with.

Barr's Green Dot is unionized, at least technically. Like us, its teachers are forbidden to strike. Unlike us, however, they don't have tenure or seniority rights. What they pay union dues for is a mystery to me.

Barr runs the only large charter organization in the country that has embraced unionized teachers and a collectively bargained contract--an unnecessary hassle, if his aim was to run a few schools, but a source of leverage for Green Dot's main purpose, which is to push for citywide change. "I don't see how you tip a system with a hundred per cent unionized labor without unionized labor," he said.

Note the use of language here--collective bargaining is "an unnecessary hassle." Barr is not out to embrace unionism, but to use it, in order to place his imprint on the "system." And under Barr's "embrace" of unionism, 70% of Locke's teachers are now working at Dunkin Donuts, hardly the sort of change working Americans need nowadays.

"You seem to have cracked the code," (US Secretary of Education Arne) Duncan told Barr.

He seems to have done that, which is why Mr. Duncan wishes to replicate Barr's faux-union schools on a national level. And Duncan's got big ideas:

Duncan asked Barr what it would take to break up and remake thousands of large failing schools. "One, you have to reconstitute," Barr told him--that is, fire everyone and make them reapply or transfer elsewhere in the district. "Arne didn't seem to flinch at that," he said. "Second, if we can figure out a national union partnership, we can take away some of the opposition." Duncan asked Barr if he could persuade Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers to support the idea. I'd love to do that," she told Barr, but she also expressed concerns. "She said, 'I can't be seen as coming in and firing all these teachers.'" So they talked about alternatives, like transferring teachers or using stimulus money for buyouts.

Note that Barr's priority, like that of all the "reformers," is firing teachers. That's step one. More disturbing than Barr, though, is the reaction of Randi Weingarten--she can't be seen as coming in and firing all these teachers. Perception is everything, and Ms. Weingarten raises no direct objection to firing teachers. She's preoccupied solely with her image.

Steve Barr's not the only one wheeling horses into the neighborhood.

Thanks to Norm

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What Dogs Hear

I've always loved this Far Side cartoon. When I was a kid, I used to watch Lassie. Timmy would look at that collie, and say, "What's that, Lassie? Mr. Wilson is stuck in the well? Get help?"

It never really made sense to me. I grew up around dogs, and could they really all be that stupid compared to the dog on TV? It just didn't seem possible. I mean, sure, they spent their days looking for the sunniest place in the house, finding a nice comfortable position and sleeping, but really, didn't that indicate they were smarter than we were?

Of course, in those days, the guy who lived across the street from me worked at the Taystee Bread factory, and managed to support himself, his wife, and five children on his salary. And he owned a home on that salary alone.

Now he'd be living in a tree, and doubtless a tree in an undesirable neighborhood. You can barely get by on a blue-collar job nowadays, and with one income, forget about owning your own home or spending any time with your family. And now the hedge-fund managers, the ones who contribute nothing whatsoever to society but live off those who produce something, want to bring their magic touch, the same touch that left our economy in the toilet, to education.

Honestly, I can't figure why people are saying, "Let's make things worse for teachers," instead of, "Let's make things better for ourselves and our children." But with billionaires declaring themselves education experts for no special reason, and with voices of support ranging from Barack Obama's to Randi Weingarten's chiming in with cheers, it looks like interesting times ahead for working Americans. When you look at the crap that passes for news in this country, it makes a little sense. Here are some doctored clips Fox saw fit to broadcast. Frankly, and particularly on education, I don't think the rest of MSM represents a substantive improvement.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thank You, Thank You Very Much

NYC Educator is included on this list of 100 most inspiring and innovative blogs for educators.

Well bless their hearts.

I Don't Understand Education, but I Know What I Like

I don't much read the Washington Post, but every now and then someone sends me or links to another Jay Matthews story and I marvel at how someone so uninformed can make a living writing about education. This week Jay is happy that unions are slowing their opposition to charters.

Perhaps no one told Jay that the UFT runs several charters. Perhaps no one mentioned to him that the UFT was actively partnered with Green Dot Schools, bringing one of its no-tenure, no-seniority rights sweat shops to the Big Apple. In that case, it's understandable that he can make the preposterous suppostion that part-time AFT President Randi Weingarten's openness to charters is something new.

Another thing that wowed Jay was the revalation that the union would associate with Eli Broad. Perhaps he's unaware that a few years back they made a deal on merit pay (the one the UFT claimed was not merit pay). Perhaps he's unaware that Broad gave UFT charter schools a million bucks the preceding year.

Certainly Jay's readers are unaware of all these things, as they make the egregious error of depending on him for information. Jay thinks Ms. Weingarten and the "reformers" are natural enemies. Odd, then, that they've been partying together for years.

Jay is highly impressed that Ms. Weingarten would take money from corporate billionaires, and well he should be. It's not easy to be an education columnist who knows so little about teachers and education. It certainly makes it easier when there are folks who know as little as he does tossing around billions to support their caprices.

More remarkable, though, is that in these times, Americans think folks like Matthews, who doesn't care for job protection, reasonable working hours or unions, know what's good for their children. Matthews can't be bothered to do the most perfunctory research on what he writes columns about. As long as Americans follow his lead, they'll find his ramblings utterly credible.

Still, you gotta give the guy credit for riding that gravy train while fools like us actually have to go to work.

Thanks to Norm

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Teacher of the Year

That would be former NYPD Captain Tony Mullen, who works with at-risk kids in Connecticut. Congratulations to Mr. Mullen for doing a tough job and being good at it. Most teachers are lucky to even get a coffee mug for their troubles.

President Obama has great plans for you and your kids. First, he's going to make sure teachers get merit pay. That, of course, is when the folks who selected all the teachers (including those who, we now discover to be without merit) get to decide who gets extra pay. For example, those who raised test scores might get it. Of course, most teachers aren't involved with test scores, so other factors come into play. For example, your daddy might be principal. Or you might have such a fetching smile the principal wants to be your daddy. Maybe you bake cakes for the principal, or type for the principal. Who knows? The possiblities are endless.

Also, to serve you better, President Obama wants no limits on charter schools. Why should taxpayers throw away valuable cash on protecting Mr. Mullen from vindictive small-minded supervisors with tenure when they can make him an "at-will" employee? Or, they can insert a "just-cause" clause instead of granting him seniority rights and fire him "just cause" they feel like it. Therefore, we need plenty of non-union charter schools to compete, and keep up the American tradition of working more hours than people in other industrialized countries.

Finally, since Mr. Mullen has nothing to do but work, and no need whatsoever for a personal life, President Obama thinks we need longer school days and longer school years. After all, if we're going to expect our children to work 70-hour weeks with no job protections, we'd better damn well get them used to it.

What does our part-time UFT President have to say about President Obama's program?

"We finally have an education president," said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers. "We really embrace the fact that he's talked about both shared responsibility and making sure there is a voice for teachers, something that was totally lacking in the last eight years."

Congratulations, Mr. Mullen. You've achieved a great deal, and these are certainly interesting times to be a teacher.

Monday, May 04, 2009

That Wascally Wavitch

Mayor-for-life Michael Bloomberg is clearly facing budget problems. Therefore, like any manager, he has to establish priorities. How can he raise money and cut spending? It's simplicity itself.

First of all, there have to be new taxes. Some suggest taxing the wealthy, but Mayor Bloomberg, being the wealthiest person in the city, well knows that wealthy people don't care for taxes. Therefore, he's raising the sales tax, so that those "lucky duckies" who makes $12,000 a year can carry the load, thus saving the poor rich people from too much strain.

And naturally, there will be cuts in personnel, as working people don't mind being unemployed at all. However, the police, firefighters and teachers will be exempt from such cuts. Rather than firing teachers, outgoing teachers will simply not be replaced, which part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten calls "thoughtful and responsible." After all, Ms. Weingarten, who neither teaches classes nor has kids in public schools, doesn't have to deal firsthand with the inevitable rise in class sizes that will arise from such a boneheaded move.

But the mayor has not cut important programs like the cloak and dagger Diane Ravitch watch, which compiles dossiers on the dangerous Ms. Ravitch, who dares to not only read the info put forth by the Tweedies, but to examine it as well. This has resulted in countless embarrassments for Mayor Mike and the gang, as they're accustomed to simply saying whatever the hell they feel like and having it reported as gospel by the NY Post and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

But alas, Ms. Ravitch not only continues to read and report on this stuff, but she does so in highly inconvenient venues like The New York Times. When things like this happens, the Chancellor himself has to take valuable time from gala luncheons and post a response. Naturally, the city pays someone to write something up. But then that goshdarn Ravitch actually reads what they wrote, and responds to it.

So there have to be priorities. Clearly someone needs to spend a half-mil to buy off this guy, and a half-mil to buy off that guy. But in the end, you cannot cut corners when sliming your critics. After all, ineffectual though the attacks may be, as long as they're uncritically reported by the local tabloids, what difference does it really make?

Thanks to David Bellel

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Happy 90th

American icon Pete Seegar turns 90 today.

They Don't Impeach You in Europe for Having a Mistress...

...but wives still don't much care for it.

Where Bernie Went Wrong

Michael Moore has a piece for Time this week, explaining the error of Madoff's ways--targeting the rich:

The rules of the money game on Park Avenue and Wall Street are comprised of things like charging the public 29% credit card interest, tricking people into taking out a second mortgage they can't afford, and concocting a student loan system that has graduates in hock for the next 20 years. Now that's smart business! And it's legal. That's where Bernie went wrong — his scheming, his trickery was an outrage both because it was illegal and because he preyed on his side of the tracks.

Makes sense to me. I'll never forget being absolutely broke after buying our house and walking into a Rent-A-Center, or whatever those places are called. We needed a new washer and dryer and I couldn't help but calculate they wanted to charge us several times what we'd have paid anywhere else. They made the 29% credit-card rate look like a bargain.

Now that's a real money maker. Bernie could've owned a whole chain of them and never broken the law.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Another Abstinence-only Sex Ed. Victim

It's the same old story. A young man walks into a pharmacy, nervously pages through the periodicals, and then musters up the courage to walk up to the counter.

"I'm, uh, going out on a date tonight, and I was hoping to get some, uh..."

"Protection?" asks the young woman at the counter.

"Yes," says the young man.

Well, what kind would you like?" asks the woman, showing him a display.

"I'll take these," says the young man, nervously grabbing the first package that catches his eye.

"OK," said the young woman, "that'll be $6.48 with tax."

"Tacks?" said the young man, horrified. "I thought they stayed on by themselves!"

He then turned tail, and ran right out of the pharmacy. If only he'd had real sex-education, this entire sordid incident could have been averted. If you want to do something about it, go to right now, and tell President Obama you don't want to put up with this nonsense anymore.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Where In The World Is Randi Weingarten?

by special guest Candi Peterson (AKA The Washington Teacher)

The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) General Vice President Nathan A. Saunders was ordered by DC’s Deputy School Chancellor, Kaya Henderson to return to the classroom or face immediate termination. Although an elected union official, Nathan Saunders reported to Eastern Senior High School this week.

Recently, I learned through a series of emails that our teachers’ union president, Mr. George Parker has yet to approve Mr. Saunders leave of absence application so that he can continue on in his elected role as the vice president of our union. What's interesting to note is that Parker, also an elected official like Mr. Saunders, approved leave of absences for himself and certain members of the WTU staff without notifying Saunders. As Gary Imhoff reported in his publication, The Mail: “It turns out that Parker, who has been feuding with Saunders, has discredited himself by refusing to sign Saunders' leave papers, giving his approval for the leave. In his E-mail, Parker taunts Saunders by laughably claiming to be too busy to “research” the application, and by claiming that he has to consult with the union's attorney before signing.”

Parker's delay tactic is not uncommon. He often fails to acknowledge union board members concerns unless we email American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. It is not uncommon for Parker to ignore constituents’ emails, or claim he is just so busy tending to union business that he is unavailable. Parker's latest act is unconscionable.

As a member of the union board of trustees and building representatives for teachers, I have seen first hand Parker's refusal to comply with motions passed by our executive board. He frequently fails to represent teachers in the media as required by the WTU Constitution, often doesn't make timely business decisions, fails to communicate, mismanages our union office, regularly cancels board and representative assembly meetings, excludes critical union stakeholders from having input and withholds portions of the truth from our membership.

As noted on The Washington Teacher blog earlier this year, members of our WTU Executive board passed a motion in spring 2008 to seek the assistance of the American Federation of Teachers due to board members concerns regarding Parker's management of our local. DC teachers continue to complain that our union office under the helm of Parker has been ill equipped to respond to members telephone calls, complaints and concerns. With an increase in teacher complaints due to Chancellor Michelle Rhee's 90-day-termination plans, Parker has been unwilling to compromise with board members requests that assistance is desperately needed for WTU field representatives. It is common knowledge that many who have been placed on 90-day termination plans here in D.C. still lack the required administrative supports. Little wonder why chief negotiator Parker hasn’t been able to negotiate a teachers union contract with Chancellor Rhee.

While it pains me to post negative information about my union local, I am more pained about the inaction from the American Federation of Teachers especially given that our parent organization has a contract with us. Several members of the Washington Teachers’ Union recently appealed to AFT President Randi Weingarten for assistance in getting our general vice president back to work representing teachers. Several members even recommended that mediation was necessary in a series of emails. Randi did report that while she did inquire about what was happening with Saunders leave of absence, presently she is preoccupied dealing with cases involving the swine flu virus.