Sunday, August 28, 2016

Tech Gurus Do Not Send Their Kids to Schools That Allow Electronic Devices

   There's an interesting, somewhat frightening article in the NY Post concerning a parent who allowed her child early access to electronics.   It describes a child spiraling into what can only be described as addiction - with all that goes along with it. I felt for the parent because she bought into much of the nonsense that was being spouted, not so long ago, about how great it is for kids developmentally to have early access to electronic devices. Her child went from a healthy kid who liked playing baseball to something from a Stephen King novel.

   These devices are rewiring not only children's brains, but ours as well. The pleasure center of our brains light up when we turn on our electronic activity of choice. For the child in the article, it was Minecraft; for you it might be Facebook or Instagram. Sex and cocaine give the same rush.

    Dr. Kadaras, the author of the article writes, 'Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children that become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.' 

    It also appears that the people who make and sell these devices don't follow their own advice when it concerns their own children. Their children's schools ban electronic devices. My children went to and go to public Montessori schools. These devices were and have always been banned, as they should be in all schools.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Summertime Blues


     We have a week left; that's like a day during the summer. (After a few weeks of work, you'll be praying for a week off.) Have you done everything you planned to do this summer? I haven't. All those friends I was supposed to get together with, I didn't. It was to damn hot. I'm blaming it on global warming. They did predict that this summer would be the hottest on record (by 3 degrees) and I'm sure it's well on its way. Have you noticed no one wants to talk on the phone anymore? It's only texting.  If you leave voice mail, it's proof you're over sixty. Everyone is totally addicted to social media - Facebook, Instagram, etc., etc.. The art of conversation has taken a real hit. If trapped in a conversation they will talk over you, not make eye contact, pull out their phones or take a selfie - and those are the people that like me. Between being an ATR and all this non-stop technology BS, I feel like Rodney Dangerfield.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Best Commentary on Charter Schools Ever

  Today a bunch of us got together to hang out. We went to see Ben-Hur in 3D. The acting was poor and everyone had a British accent. Afterwards, we went over to one of my buddies and he put on John Oliver on HBO. I never heard of him, (I don't watch much TV other than tennis and art documentries), but was immediately irritated when I heard his British accent. I thought to myself another Brit commenting on American politics, in addition to them getting every role playing Americans to ancient Hebrews. I was shocked by the honesty that he exhibited in his show concerning charter schools. I didn't really find it funny because it was so truthful. It is simply the best thing I've ever seen, read or heard concerning charter schools. John Oliver, you da man!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Marijuana - Soma for the Poor

  For those of you who haven't read 'A Brave New World', by Aldous Huxley, Soma was a drug that was dispensed to the masses. It kept them passive, unquestioning and in a content state. Marijuana is quickly on its way to become just such a drug for the poor. THC is the component of Marijuana that gives euphoria to its users. That level, in the genetically modified Marijuana of today, is incredibly high (no pun intended). Different strains can give you different effects, but all guarantee bliss. There's an article in today's NY Post  that chronicles the effect this drug is having on the poor. It also notes that those who are pushing for legalization aren't really the ones using it. I don't believe people should be locked up for it, but I certainly do believe it shouldn't be legalized or its use tolerated with teenagers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Woodstock Generation and Today's Youth

     I watched the concert film Woodstock last night. A 45 years old concert that was in many ways the epitome of that era's ideals. I'm well acquainted with the film. When I was in college I managed a video store on 72nd and 2nd and I would play it every Sunday on all the screens simultaneously. All the former hippies in the neighborhood would come in and hang out with me. Most were at that time wealthy, living in luxury high rises, but still idealistic - looking back at their youth as if it were a fleeting dream. The views of  the Woodstock youth from just 15 years prior was remarkably different from my generation. We were all trying to get rich fast and there were no business ethics - just don't get caught. There was very little spirituality. (The hottest club at the time was the Limelight, which I wouldn't step foot in.) The Woodstock generation wanted change, a better life and harmony. The Civil Rights Movement was also an integral part of it.
    Today's youth wants a change. They are looking for someone to lead them. First Bernie and then the false prophet Trump. Bernie dropped out and Trump imploded. There is no leader for them and many are left feeling lost. They want a better life and a peaceful one. Black Lives Matter harkens back to the Civil Rights Movement, just as the Occupy Wall Street protests did to the many protests of the 1960s. Today's technology is changing our lives in a profound way. It's displacing many jobs, as are the cheap imports and unethical treatment of uneducated and/or foreign workers. Many people don't seem so apt to ignore abusive, selfish behavior - even though by speaking out it may get them hurt, arrested or killed. That young people have that kind of courage is a powerful impetus for change. This generation may come to the realization that it may never find a leader and will have to generate that change one person and one protest at a time.      

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pokemon Go - UFT Style

52 Broadway

George, Tony, Anne, and Shelby are all teachers in danger of losing their licenses. All have been on the hunt for advice and representation. George, a tech wiz, has customized a Pokemon Go App into a UFT Rep Go App. Each rep has a different point value based on their level, status and rarity in the UFT.

George: I got hold of a Chapter leader yesterday, but he refused to represent me because I'm an ATR.

Tony: Well, it's still a hundred points, try for borough rep - they're a thousand points.

Anne: Good luck!

Shelby: George, how does this work?

George: Delegates are a point a piece. Chapter leaders are 100 points. Borough reps are a thousand. Executive board delegates 5,000 points. Special representatives are 100,000 points and the president is a million points.

Anne: I'm going to get them all!

Tony: Yeah, and maybe one will help you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mulgrew Takes a Stand! Against Problem 6 and 7 Year Olds

For those of you who haven't heard, Mr. Mulgrew has taken a tough stand against Mayor deBlasio's new discipline policy banning suspensions of 1st and 2nd graders. This outrage has forced him to write a letter to the NY Daily News denouncing it. Not a word against the lifting of the cellphone ban, the defacto end of suspension for all students (except 1st and 2nd graders), the proposed removal of metal detectors, or a host of indignities heaped on educators and students alike that are simply too long to list. Why and why now? It's comical, in that it is the least egregious act from deBlasio in his well intentioned, ill devised discipline policies. We teachers are simply terrified of 6 year olds! Watching Problem Child sends shivers up the collective spines of all teachers. Mulgrew hears our cries and delivers for his members! Don't forget that and Bill please, please, please don't get too miffed by Mike.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Murphy's Law - The Man With the Gold Makes the Rules


I've just been reading how Facebook wunderkind Zuckerberg has instituted his new ideas and technology into the classroom yet again. (His iniatives failed in Newark.) Zuckerberg's plans are part and parcel of a large crazy quilt stitched by numerous well intentioned (?) billionaires  . Gates' wanting small schools; federal money from billionaires tied into testing; education corporations setting the dispersal of facts to be used in their subpar textbooks and setting the goals of professional development; and a billionaire mayor working for a single dollar facilitating those goals. Is it really philanthropy, if there are strings attached? Why should someone who has billions be given more credence than experts? Education is a public institution and should not be sold or tampered with, without any regard to the consequences. Murphy's law should not be applicable in regards to public education, but it most certainly is. Zuckerberg's iniatives are in charter schools for now, but I'm sure they will be making a visit to all of us in the near future.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Inexcusable Lack of Art Education in NYC Public Schools

What are the stakes?

During my prolonged odyssey around the Bronx as an ATR, I have been in many schools that offered no or very limited art classes. Most troubling, some of them had Art (in one of its varied forms) as its main focus (and often included in the name of the school) and was the reason many of the students enrolled there. I was recently in a school where I came across many such students. The kids were complaining about not being able to express themselves so I talked them into making a presentation to the principal for the creation of a mural. He agreed and the kids were happy. I brought in drawing lessons and we would work on drawing during their lunch period. Many of the students were eccentric, eccentrically attired, very attuned to the art world and I throughly enjoyed them. They were frustrated and angry at being lied to and being stuck there for the rest of the year . Many were discipline problems for their regular academic teachers, but not for me (Thank God). They were genuinely happy to have an artistic outlet. I was shocked at how talented many of them were, especially for being primarily self taught. It seems that Art is always considered the least important class and as such is cut for almost any reason. Budget constraints, lack of available room (because of a lack of space from co-locations - often from charter schools) and the prioritizing of academic subjects. I'm referring primarily to visual Art, but this also pertains to all the arts - Music, Dance, Theater, Film and even writing. We have some amazingly talented kids out there that are being thwarted in their desire to learn. Having these programs creates a positive outlet for adolescence and is uplifting to them and society. If we don't expose students to the cultural richness of our shared humanity, those cultural aspects that enrich us all will start to disappear. We have only one classical radio station left on the radio, no more NYS opera, and a lack of art galleries and museums in many areas. It's time to change this. I can't find up to date stats on this problem. This is the most recent I could find - . Let's all push for change  - tell your UFT reps, write emails and support the arts where and whenever you can.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Back to School Supplies


    Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for our annual notice and celebratory letter from LeRoy touting our victorious Teacher's Choice amount. They're not sure how much it is this year, but you can bet it will be less than the $250 a year we used to get. The city has a surplus, but hey that's not for our Teacher's Choice or the money owed to us from the last contract or health care or smaller class sizes. I digress. The mayor has just recently down graded the suspension policy again - no suspension for first or second graders and principal's can ask for the removal of metal detector's at their discretion.  I don't really have a problem with not suspending first or second graders, why should they be the only ones in NYC public schools being suspended? My problem is with metal detectors being pulled out of schools. Would a principal be so naive as to make that request? Would the city honor that request? Come to your own conclusions and preview Gregory Floyd's, the head of the Safety Officers union, remark in the above referenced article : “Unfortunately this is going to lead to more children bringing weapons to schools,” Floyd said. “There could be a mass shooting. The mayor is making schools less safe.”
    The first item on your Teacher's Choice list should be a bullet proof vest. They are perfectly legal to own, but are usually quite expensive, but look at the alternative - how much is your life worth? The cheapest I could find is BulletSafe at $299                           
That leaves nothing for actual supplies, so perhaps the UFT could waive a couple of months of union dues to make up for the deficit?