Friday, June 21, 2019

Repost 1/17/16 A Visit to Pleasure Island HS

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Visit to Pleasure Island HS

  I'm in a new school. I keep thinking I'm in the old Disney movie 'Pinocchio'. One particular scene plays out in my unconscious - the kids visit to Pleasure Island. They visit the Rough
House, (I've been to that high school also), shoot pool, smoke, fight and get intoxicated. Those who run the island turn a blind eye and encourage the behavior. They go on to school and break all the windows. This fun goes on until a remarkable transformation happens - the kids all turn into jackasses. They are then removed from the island and forced into a life of horribly cruel conditions.

   It's time for a resurgence of discipline, order and civility in our schools - not for our benefit but for our students.

**** Update 6/21/18 - The new discipline code is no discipline code. We are the last bastion of hope for students and society. This will insure doom. Build more jails, make more guns and invest in funeral parlors and cemeteries because the DOE will turn a blind eye to criminality and academic fraud. (Perhaps the UFT can co-sponsor a prison or cemetery? They are equally to blame.)

Friday, June 14, 2019

Re-Post 8/14/18 - Thoughts on Entrance Exams

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Thoughts on Entrance Exams for Specialized High Schools

There is a lot controversy, as of late, over entrance exams for schools like Bronx Science. I believe the specialized schools are roses in our unfortunate field of weed(s). Students learn and succeed without all the drama, grade inflation and false diplomas that have become commonplace. It seems like a simple and attainable goal - study and pass the exam to get in. There are however, other facets to this simple premise.

A couple of years ago, I became friendly with a freshman student inside one of the small schools at the Columbus campus. 'Sandy' was lamenting the fact that she couldn't learn anything, because of all the new teachers, constant cellphone use and 'asshole' students. The number one reason that she was so unhappy, she told me, was that she had failed herself. Sandy went to one of the better middle schools in the Bronx and almost all of her closest friends and classmates had made Bronx Science. Sandy said many of them paid for tutors. Their families made large sacrifices and it paid off. Sandy had felt that she could do it on her own - and as the only child of a Puerto Rican mother, she didn't want to burden her mom further. She studied every night and every weekend. The big day came and she took the test.  She missed by two points. Now she was stuck 'in the sewer with the sewer rats', to use her words. She told me her life was basically over. "What college will accept me from here? What will become of me? Fast food or welfare?! You have to help me get out of here!" I'll be honest, Sandy's story was compelling and I was very troubled over it. There was a program I knew called the Macy program, at Clinton HS, for students that had missed Bronx Science by a few points. I called that school and no one knew what I was talking about - everyone seemed to have just been hired there. I went to the principal at the Columbus school and explained as diplomatically as possible Sandy's circumstances. She said she would make sure that Sandy wouldn't be left behind, but that all her students were going to get an education. The principal was a terrific person, but that didn't change the fact that she really couldn't help. I knew of an excellent school I had been placed in, and tried to get her transferred. The principal there said Sandy would have to wait until the next school year to switch and that it would still be difficult. November came along and it was time for me to leave. I don't know what became of Sandy. If I had to guess I'd say she's still in that school at Columbus.

What can be done to make sure more deserving students like Sandy get to attend schools like Bronx Science? First, there needs to better middle schools, like the one Sandy attended. Second, there has to be access to extra help or tutoring for all students that want it. Thirdly. there has to be better schools or programs for those students who just missed the mark and/or a second chance at entrance for those students. Lastly, and it goes almost without saying - all schools need to be greatly improved.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Repost - 6/8/18 Meandering Thoughts Before the Meteor Hits

Friday, June 8, 2018

Meandering Thoughts Before the Meteor Hits 

     It's almost the end. I've been contemplating that as basketballs whiz through the air en route to their expected target. Sometimes the orange projectile hits it's target and other times it doesn't. Last week I got hit so hard in the back of the head by a weighted (who knew such things existed!) basketball that I thought my teeth fell out. I don't wear dentures. I was furious, of course, but the kid didn't intend it for me and has to be the worst basketball player I've ever seen. He was aiming for the hoop and missed by a mile. He apologized profusely and I let it go. That's the thing - sometimes the aim is true and the target is reached. Janus is definitely aimed at unions and the protections they should offer. As such it is a meteor that can devastate a union. If I was a frail, sickly person  that basketball in the back of the head could have ended me. Being in relatively good shape (and having a hard head), and if I had known the kid was aiming for the hoop, I could have stayed out of the way or blocked it - and even though I didn't see it coming, I survived it. The UFT knows it's being aimed at by something much worse than a basketball. The question is, 'Is it a frail sickly organization or a strong one'? I believe it's about as sick and frail as a union can be and still call itself a union. Some say our contract was never printed, but it was and it puts Charmin to shame for its cottony softness and absorbency. The contract we have is being used by many principals as toilet paper. The protections that our contract are supposed to afford us are not being enforced and if I'm to be perfectly honest, most teachers don't know these protections exist. (This is the real reason veteran teachers are being kept out of the classroom.) These new teachers work extra periods, after school and weekends without extra compensation. Some have forty plus students in their classrooms. Some have been assaulted, robbed and even sexually harassed. This is nothing new. It was the same way twenty five years ago when I started. Yes, believe it or not things were horrible back then too. There is however one big difference. When I began and for most of my teaching career, the teacher could go to the UFT and get help. The principal and APs were straight out afraid. We considered an affront on one teacher to be an affront on us all and we stood up for one another. That recourse is no longer present in most schools. The teacher, apt to be untenured and new, is afraid and doing their best to survive. They don't know their rights and the UFT is not coming to anyone's rescue. They will however pick your pocket for $1400 in dues per year. The question you should ask yourself is - are you more afraid of the Koch brothers or surviving in a career, that has deteriorated so swiftly and markedly, that many teachers are just getting up and walking out never to return? The Koch brothers are a potential threat - whereas the complacent UFT is an immediate threat, that has allowed substantial, long term, avoidable suffering to continue unabated. It has the opportunity to change its course and block that meteor by fighting the good fight for its members. There are currently contract negotiations going on that can help us all. A fair buyout or a return to the classroom for ATRs (before any new hires), an end to Fair Student Funding, an S/U evaluation system, an end to the mindless PDs and paperwork, a fair discipline policy that will keep everyone safe, integrated schools, and a transparent UFT that actually works for their members. I remember the UFT the way it was - it still has the power to achieve its inherent greatness. That is the UFT I loved and profoundly miss. If it works towards that, Janus will turn from a meteor to a minor distraction and loyality will not be an issue. This has to be a fight for the respect of the teaching profession or it will no longer be a viable career and the poor children of this city will be relegated to a permanent underclass.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Will our Children Live as Well as we do?

There are many factors that make up one's life and well being. If you're like me, you may have teenage or adult sons and daughters or teach kids you want to to see live life to the fullest. Last night I read a sobering article called, 'America's toxic societal problems are crippling millenials' . The article puts the blame on increasing inequality economically and educationally which is correalated with home ownership decline and student loan debt. It also mentions the death rate for those between 25 to 34 is up 20%. The article is brief, but very important. It gives superficial reasons for what's happening but doesn't go deeper into what's really happening in our society.

Our society is more divided now than at any time in my life. There are deep divisions delineated by gender, race, political party, economics, ethnicity, nationality, religion, economics, education, age, sexual orientation and physical appearance. We are constantly being classified and classifying others. The recent nastiness concerning race and the chancellor is indicative of what's going on in society. The NYCDOE should not be staking its flag in any camp - it should strive to be above classifications that separate us. Even our beloved UFT denigrates itself and latches on to whatever is preceived as politically correct at the moment - be it radical political views or abortion - regardless of how it may marginalize and exclude wide swaths of the membership. (That part of the membership include some who voted Trump into office and is called the silent majority by many.) As young adults, millennials, may not have found their footing and are often above the fray. They have found their voice via AOC and Bernie. The older generation is both repelled and afraid by their choices. The number one fear of most of the camps is that the US will turn into Cuba. Unfortunately, the same people don't understand that young people are using pragmatism to view a deeply diminished society and the pathetic choices presented them.

Let's talk about education, as it was for millennials and is currently in NYC. If Sue Edelman wants a story, she should go to any NYCDOE high school graduation with some money and pay some grads to take a fifth grade reading or math test. If you're a teacher in the system you know what the results will be. There is massive fraud being committed on the graduates (and on the public) with not a word from the UFT. Many of those students will attend a community college and will be unable to graduate. Some will incur large debt from for profit schools. All will find themselves without a college degree and a meaningless high school diploma. Well why didn't they take vocational classes? Bloomberg closed virtually every vocational high school (and trade program) and they haven't been reintroduced. What kind of opportunities will present itself to those 2019 graduates? Perhaps retail, like fast food, or military service. Many NYC high school grads can't pass the military's basic entrance exam of basic reading and math - so that may be closed to them as well. What does that leave - crime or corrections. Many of our prisons have the same populations on both side of the bars - neighbors from the same block with the same abysmal choices.

Death rates for millennials is horrifying. What's happening? Many are looking for an escape and finding it via drugs. Opioids. The term is somewhat misleading. The term is used so as not to further upset large groups of our population who once saw this perennial nightmare as being solely in the realm of the poor and miniorities. It's heroin and fentynal.  Millennials are ODing. Most fentynal is coming from China and is hundreds of times stronger than heroin. Suicide is also up. Why? Depression, deminished choices and despair is every day life for many millenials.

What can we do as parents and teachers? I believe we have to start saying, No! No! to academic fraud, No! to identity politics, No! to those who don't represent us, No! to those that are destroying society and the planet and No! to our continued silence.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Meandering Thoughts, Spring 2019


      So many things seem to be on the cusp of change that I think it's important to look at where we are now and where things could go soon.

      DOE/UFT - Are they one and the same? The December 23rd debacle tells me they are. Mulgrew and the DOE collaborated on a new contract that was ratified. One of the many important aspects of this collaboration is the approval of the 2019-20 school calendar. This calendar was approved by the UFT. Either the UFT outrightly agreed to this or saw it and didn't care. Now Mr. Mulgrew is scratching his head and obfuscating. He figured the walking dead wouldn't notice until next fall. Oh, well - he'll make some motions, exclaim outrage and there will be school on December 23rd. This in and of itself is indicative of what the UFT has become - incompetent, indifferent and perhaps complicit in taking the side of the employer over the rank and file. Make no mistake, this is no minor faux pas. If the rank and file allow this and don't fight it - there will more than a day taken back in the future. Give an inch and they'll take a mile. You don't have to be psychic (or psycho) to see where this gradual acclamation  may lead - no more mid-winter break and/or shorter summer breaks.
     Janus - Will there be more teachers opting out this year? There were hundreds willing and ready to drop out last July, but they missed the deadline. A little knowledge goes a long way and the merry month of  May is about gone and June is almost upon us. Who is happy with the UFT? Newbies? No. Vets? No. ATRs? No. Discontinued teachers? No. CTE teachers? No. ESL teachers? No. Do you know anyone, other than those who work directly for the UFT, that are happy with the UFT? I don't and I believe there will be an uptick in those opting out this June - despite the ATR buyout and the new contract. I personally believe it your duty to withhold dues until the UFT start to represent all fairly. I also feel its important to put that money to the side and give it to the UFT when they change; and change they must.  People no longer have to scream into their pillow when they become frustrated with the invisible UFT - they can and will withhold dues. Unless the UFT becomes more transparent, democratic and responsive a flutter from a few butterflies wings will grow to become a hurricane.

   Lies My Union Told Me - I've heard some whoppers, (and most folks eat them right up), from the UFT. Let's clear them up. The UFT is not the provider of your healthcare. You don't lose your healthcare. You're still covered by the same  rules and regs, your pay won't be reduced to $25,000 a year and you can't legally be singled out for retribution by anyone. If your chapter leader, the one drinking champagne out of the principal's shoe, calls you a gink, fink or fool - she or he will become the ATR, if you  decide to report it to the DOE.

   Biden?! - Don’t listen to the nonsense coming out of the Democratic Party. The only person that has a shot of knocking Trump off his perch is Bernie. The Dems would prefer to back a loser and have Trump in office if the choice is Bernie. He scares the crap out of them. There is very little difference between the two major parties. The Dems are preparing their knives for Bernie’s back. The Dems will use everything at their disposal to keep the nomination from him - currently it’s a poll showing Biden is far ahead of Bernie in popularity.

Enjoy the last few weeks of spring.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Re-Post: UFT Meteor 5/27/17

     I am finally starting to detach myself from my almost thirty years of teaching in the Bronx. I’m teaching juniors and seniors a few days a week, outside of the NYC area. As a part time teacher, who’s retired, I’m trying to join the local teachers union. I have to say it is a real union - when teachers here need help - experienced or new - they get it. When I look at the NYC teacher blogs and the rationalizations (and anger), by some in the Unity cult, to the almost completely impotent UFT, I’m amazed. 

     I’m off tomorrow (and Monday) and just started my Memorial Day weekend. I looked back at this post from a couple of years ago, to compare it to today. My advice, after re- reading it, is to get out of the DOE/UFT (I can not distinguish between the two) ASAP. Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

UFT Meteor 

   First enjoy your weekend, but remember why we're off on Monday. Many people don't stop and give pause for all those who sacrificed for our ideals. Most teachers I meet seem to truly hate their jobs. Some were actually running to their cars this afternoon. It was like a meteor was about to hit the area and it was a matter of life or death to escape as quickly as possible. I never saw traffic like I did this afternoon - it took me one hour to go four miles. Unfortunately, for most of us, the thought of being off far outweighs the reality. Personally, I had a lot of fun with the kids this week. I had the same classes and was teaching literature. No excerpts, the entire book. I tricked the kids into learning, despite themselves. Old teaching tricks that I learned long ago. It hit me how much I miss teaching. Actually teaching classes, having kids listen and do work felt wonderful. When I teach, I get a feeling of elation that is unlike anything else. That that joy was taken from me, and so many others, for no other reason than we are at the higher end of the pay scale is maddening. The UFT has been more than disappointing, in that it doesn't seem to be willing to support us, even minimally. That it went so far as to agree to put in discriminatory provisions in the last contract (that have since expired) was a profound betrayal. It now openly lies and/or ignores us and tells us how lucky ATRs are to have a job. The truly fortunate group is the UFT. It is lucky that dues are still mandatory. Things may change for all of us. I will continue to support the UFT, despite my anger and disappointment, but I hope that the UFT starts to respect its veteran members. The UFT should carefully consider what it is agreeing to in its representation of us. It hasn't asked for our input. It hasn't informed us or kept us informed. That fact, at the very least, should imply strong representation on the part of the UFT. Let's hope that a darkly imagined meteor doesn't strike ATRs or the UFT.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Are You an Enabler?

    Every so often I'll watch Dr. Phil. Now Dr. Phil isn't a real doctor, he's just an average, albeit  charismatic guy with common sense. Lots of parents go on there and they all have the same problem. They are financially supporting a family member who shouldn't be supported. For instance, their twenty something year old isn't working, has a drug habit, keeps getting arrested, sneaks others in to have sex with and as a reward he/she gets a place to live, the car, money, and all their bills paid -including the phone. These parents don't know what to do and things are getting worse - the other siblings are horrified and losing respect for their parents; the parents are anxiety ridden and it's affecting their jobs and relationships with each other. Now it's common sense to know what to do - the problem is you have a life long relationship and deep loyality to this person, even though you're being used and manipulated. Actually doing the right thing isn't just right for you, but for the self destructing loved one. Unless you stop giving him/her what's wanted there is no reason for them to stop their behavior  - but this isn't enough, the person will more than likely have to be thrown out. This creates enormous guilt, but is nessesary for yourself, your beloved son/daughter and your family. It seems like every family in the country is going through this.

     Now this scenario seemed very familiar to me and it dawned on me that as a UFT member I was having a similar problem. I felt guilt in finally making the hard decision not to pay dues to an organization that has continually disrespected me over the past decade. They didn't even send me a ballot for the latest joke of an election. They lost my UFT retiree membership enrollment. Great news. Why did I even want to continue to give my money to this corrupt organization? Deep seated loyality and remembering the past when things were good. What motivation does the UFT have to change? None. What's going to happen if we continue to support the UFT? At best it will stay the same, but most likely the top down undemocratic actions of the UFT will get worse and not because of the Koch brothers or Gates - they have been on our backs for a long time (Gates' money incentivized Bloomy to close every large high school in the Bronx, with a completely impotent UFT watching on the sidelines). Don't rationalize the wrong decision to keep supporting Mulgrew and his cronies - they are using us and our money for their own self interests. They will cry Janus! from the rooftops. The real threat to the UFT is not from Janus - it's from the corrupt and deeply undemocratic Unity machine that strangles all legitimate dissent via rigged elections and completely silencing and/or assimilating their vocal critics. I could start a long egregious list of abysmal acts against the rank and file - ranging from A (for ATRs) to Z (for not backing Zephyr Teachout over Cuomo for governor), but if you're breathing you already know it all to well. They have absolutely no reason to change unless they are made to see what a truly f--ked up organization they are. I'll put my measly eight bucks in a jar and if the UFT ends the ATR pool, stops retirees from voting in elections, actively fights Fair Student Funding, actively speaks out against the Open Market, stop their loyality oaths, voting in blocks OR open their doors to any kind of inclusivity to those of us that are excluded, I'll rejoin and give them whatever is in the jar. You working stiffs will have to wait until June to opt out. I would have opted out last June, but James Eterno persuaded me to remain. Things haven’t become more democratic - it’s gotten worse - the few that were able to initiate positive change inside the snake pit are now newly elected Unity members. Maybe Mulgrew will see the writing on the wall before then and start representing those that need it most - veteran teachers, untenured teachers, ATRs and those teachers that have been targeted for exercising their well paid for rights. I see no other way.