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Archive for October, 2009

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the Oct. 29 issue of New York Teacher:

The DOE’s new on-street parking placards for school staff, which will take effect on Nov. 1, will be given out using a new formula this year.

Teachers and other school staff should be among the groups given preference for
the swine flu vaccine if they want it, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

With the Nov. 3 election just days away, UFTers are coming out in force to support their union’s endorsed candidates.

Physical education teacher and swimming instructor Bill Payret has been working to make sure kids — and adults — in the Bronx learn how to swim.

From clothing to cupcakes, schools throughout the city went pink throughout the month of October to support a good cause: breast cancer awareness. More »

Capital Bully

An all-out labor mobilization is in effect against Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s layoff of hundreds of experienced teachers under the pretext of the budget as an immediate cause. These firings are the latest chapter in the chronicles of abuse that have been the standard operating procedure of her tenure in office. Her venal action defies civil service, age-discrimination and other laws of statue and decency.

It is easy to read between the lines of Rhee’s excuses but impossible to rise above the wounds and affronts she has afflicted. By trotting out a righteous-sounding and at first blush irrefutable “motive” (to manage the budget) she is trying to capitalize on a crisis in order to advance her agenda. That kind of trick was used against the public schools of New Orleans, courtesy of Hurricane Katrina and the kindred spirits of Rhee. More »

Goodbye “Faustie”: Theodore R. Sizer, 1932-2009

July 1998 marked the end of my two years teaching English and Drama at Tiger Kloof School in South Africa. Earlier that year and with little idea of what to do next, I made a short trip back to the States for some lightening networking, determined to secure a new professional adventure. By luck, one of the conversations was with Ted Sizer.

Ted visited Tiger Kloof years before, about the time that this celebrated school was reopening from forty years of closure by the Apartheid regime. He traded school lessons with David Matthews, Tiger Kloof’s visionary principal, and added to the school library a copy of Horace’s Compromise, marked with a thoughtful inscription.

David arranged for me to meet Ted, who was by then co-principal of Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, Massachusetts. At the time, I knew little about his work or the Coalition of Essential Schools. Nor could I explain the difference between a charter and district school.

But as far as Ted let on, this hardly mattered. More »

Ted Sizer: In Memorium

The UFT mourns the passing of a great progressive American educator, Ted Sizer. Many of the best New York City public schools have been inspired by and affiliated with the Coalition of Essential Schools founded by Sizer.

From the Coalition’s statement:

Ted’s personal style aligned perfectly with his approach to schools. He enjoyed the company of teachers, and listened to them with exquisite care. He respected them, and envisioned schools guided by their expertise, professional collegiality, and knowledge of their students. Ted’s own interest in the individual and particular experiences of young people guided the way he—and then we—saw schools. Ted wanted to hear directly from students—what was their sense of school and their lives? What excited them? What troubled them? What were they learning? How could they demonstrate their abilities in ways that would honor their progress and accomplishments, and shine a clear light on their future paths?

Shakespeare Caught Plagiarizing

by a professor using Turnitin software.

How Dumb Is That?

Yes, we know teachers are not supposed to use words like “dumb.”

But after we read this Huffington Post piece by Tom Carroll, aficionado of the far right who heads up the New York Charter School Association and graces the editorial pages of the New York Post on a regular basis, we are at a loss for any other word. More »

The Making of Americans

The Making of AmericansE.D. Hirsch Jr., who for many years has confounded and scattered his critics by not fitting cozily into any arbitrary educational camp of thought, has published a new book called The Making of Americans. It’s a fine “read” and an even better tonic, although, being a bitter pill for kneejerk “reformers” with overactive gag reflexes to swallow, it cannot cure hidden agendas

The self-styled, full-of-themselves fixers in the anti-establishment establishment love to hate iconic truth-hunters like Hirsch and Diane Ravitch (whose new book is due in the spring) but probably secretly revere them when the cameras and microphones are shut off, the think-tank ranting season is over and their grant deals have been consummated. More »

That Old Wal-Mart Religion

Only the Wal-Mart Professor of Education at the University of Arkansas, Jay Greene, could declare that Hawaii’s  8% reduction in teacher salaries was a great deal — for teachers.

Wage Theft And The NYC DoE

Wage Theft: that’s something we think happens to migrant labor and workers in low-paying service sector jobs. They do the work, but their unscrupulous employers rip them off, refusing to pay them for their labor.

But if you think wage theft won’t come to a school near you, think again. More »

Why Do Those Recorders Sound So Terrible?

Recorder[Editor’s note: Mr. Music Teacher is a second-year teacher in an elementary school on Staten Island.]

As a new teacher, I am constantly assessing and critiquing my teaching methods. My first year of teaching went really well and I was able to develop new skills and learn from techniques that were and weren’t so successful. There is one thing I definitely would have done differently last year, given the opportunity. This year I didn’t make the same mistake.

A big part of my job last year, as the only music teacher at the elementary school I worked at, was developing a band program. The school had plenty of instruments sitting in a closet for years and it was my job to put them to good use. I met with the principal over the summer to discuss how the program would run, the curriculum, programming and performances. We decided to start the band in third and fourth grade. This would allow for a senior band and a beginner band the following year. More »

The Outrage of Child Labor

Education knows no bounds and no boundaries. It cannot be contained in the vacuum of a classroom or confined by defined curriculum. Teaching is a futile enterprise unless it breaks down walls of ignorance, not merely in terms of academic deficiencies but also as reckoned by failure to work for justice in all precincts of the world. Learning that doesn’t admit of global perspective and duty is a fraud. More »

Charters: Charted Territory

On September 30, Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign announced a plan to create 100 new charter schools in the city.

This proposal is disturbing. Public school parents who are already bearing the brunt of the expansion are complaining and with good reason.  They have partnered with us for years in the fight to get more pre-K slots, to devise ways of creating space and seats for schools, obtain funding for them and to improve special education and services for English Language Learners.

Candidate Bloomberg supports these priorities and favors implementing them. Selectively.  Not for all public school kids. Just those in charter schools.

We oppose a two-tier system of support for kids. Unequal treatment is not an option. More »

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the Oct. 15 issue of New York Teacher:

Two hundred and sixty new chapter leaders spent the weekend of Oct. 2-4 in Princeton, N.J., being trained by UFT instructors on issues ranging from the grievance procedure to how to organize to increase teacher voice.

The UFT’s two endorsed candidates for citywide office, John Liu for city comptroller and Bill de Blasio for public advocate, easily defeated their opponents in the Democratic Party primary runoff election where the organization and enthusiasm of UFT members made a huge impact.

Forty-eight thousand retired and Tier I and II in-service UFT members will soon receive lump-sum payments now that the state Supreme Court has signed off on the $160 million settlement of the UFT’s recent pension lawsuit. More »


[Editor’s note: Kindergarten Correspondent is a third-year teacher in an elementary school in Brooklyn.]

Alex was a crier. From the very first day, he cried. Not just a few tears, sad-to-leave-his-mommy crying, but tear-soaked T-shirts, hold-him-tight-while-his-mom-ran-out-the-door crying. Every morning for the first three weeks of school, he cried. He cried for about 15 minutes by the door. Then he would slowly stop and make his way over to a chair near the carpet. Eventually, he joined us and was good to go. By noon, you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of the crowd. He thoroughly enjoyed himself all day long.

Still only four, he was the smallest boy in the class. When he smiled, his face lit up so much, you only half-noticed the decaying top front teeth. Every time you saw them, it reminded you that his home life was probably not very comfortable. But he loved his momma. One day when he saw her coming down the street he said, “There’s my mommy! Isn’t she beautiful?” That might have been the same day he announced to the class that his daddy was in jail for shooting someone. If you thought about it long enough, you might wonder how he stopped crying at all. More »

The Importance of Mentors

[Editor’s note: Kansan in the Bronx is a second-year teacher in a Bronx middle school.]

Something that got me through the first year was the ability to rely on veteran teachers to advise me on how to fix the problems I was experiencing. During the two weeks leading up to school I was still suffering from the syndrome that struck a lot of us at the School of Ed: a confusion between enthusiasm/knowledge of new education theories and experience in the field. I was also stricken with a bit of the assumption that being fresh out of college gave us unlimited advantages over our more senior colleagues.

After the shenanigans of the first day of school last year and a second day that wasn’t much better (including textbooks being thrown across the classroom), I trashed my carefully planned first unit and went on hands and knees to my mentor. I asked her to give me a lesson — any lesson that could possibly work in front of the students. I admitted for the first time perhaps in my entire life that I had absolutely no idea what to do to solve a problem. “Eating humble pie” seemed like an understatement. More »