Friday, October 28, 2011
After the horror show of my last school, I was placed in a very nice neighborhood small school. The school was carved out of thier middle school and the vast majority of students come from the middle school. The school is out-of-the-way from most other areas of Queens and there appears to be some selective weeding of out of the neighborhood students who have discipline or academic issues.
The students are well behaved and have been trained in the middle school to not enter a classroom until the teacher gives them permission to do so. The halls are clear of wandering students and the hallway Dean looks bored to death. They are very respectful to the teachers and the school's Administration praises the teachers publicly for their efforts. The respectful nature of the students and supportive Administration is a breath of fresh air after surviving the previous school. Better yet, there is available parking near the school and the rooms are loaded with technology. What was most impressive was that the students never took out their cellphones or ipads during my week there. Furthermore, no hats, hoodies, or sagging pants. Wow!
There are some downsides to the school. The Principal, who really is a good person, has gently encouraged teachers to have at least a 90% passing percentage otherwise he might make more frequent visits to the teacher's class, not nice. Moreover, he just loves technology and some teachers are questioning whether too much technology is a crutch and not an aid to student learning. He also demands that the classes do a pretest before giving the actual test. Many teachers are uncomfortable with the pretest issue since it results in grade inflation and doesn't contribute to student learning as it substitutes more test preparation at the expense of student understanding of the subject.
Overall this is a good school and I would gladly work there. However, if you take mass transit, good luck getting there.
Friday, October 21, 2011
I just finished my weekly sentence in a large comprehensive High School targeted by the DOE for failure. This school is one of the 33 schools who are required to use the "teacher evaluation metric". This school has been getting an increasingly larger population of low achieving students who were not selected by other High Schools. Some of these students travel up to three hours, round trip, to go to this school since no other school will accept them. Many of these low achieving students are quite disruptive and the Deans have their hands full keeping the hallways quiet. In addition, every student has cellphones and do not hesitate to take them out and ignore the lesson or the teacher for that matter. Worse of all, the students look and act "ghetto", with saggy paints, underwear showing and wearing hats and hoodies Student disrespect is a very common problem in the school and adds to the low teacher morale. It is very obvious the DOE is targeting this school for closing in the near future.
Teacher morale is terrible as many as half of the teachers in the school have expressed a desire to leave the school for a more academic and safer learning environment. To make matters worse, quite a few teachers have already received their first "ineffective" observation, based upon the new "teacher evaluation matrix". A few told me how lucky I am that being an ATR and that I will be gone from the school next week. I guess it is "the grass is greener on the other side" syndrome. Of course, being in the school for a week is a week too long.
The Principal is not well though of and blames teachers for the many ills of the school. There is talk that the school is being set up to fail with an increasingly low achieving population and a demoralized teaching staff, it certainly looks that way. Thank goodness I am not teaching there on a permanent basis.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Well, I just finished another week of visiting another High School and found myself teaching in a subject area that I am not certified to teach in. I had five freshman classes who still have not had a regular teacher since the school year started and no one certified in their subject area. I really feel sorry for these students since they are already a month and a half behind their peers. However, more about that later in this post.
The school I was sent to was one of those small themed schools that now inhabit a building that once housed a large comprehensive school that was closed down. The staff was fine and the teachers were welcoming but the Administration had some issues and were usually unavailable to teacher needs and had a reputation as not addressing teacher complaints. The school had too many students roaming the halls during class time and because I was a substitute, some of the less than stellar students would see a friend in the hallway and get out of their seats to open the door to greet them. Classroom management was an ongoing problem and getting these Freshmen to do meaningful work was like pulling teeth. I asked a teacher " is the hallway always this crowded with students during class time"? His response was yes, the Administration hides in their offices all day. The students rule the school. Only the Dean scares the students and he can only be at one place at one time. By Friday, I was quite happy to say goodbye to the school and their undisciplined student body.
The Freshman class I had has four words that they use throughout their vocabulary. For the boys the "n" and "f" words are common adjectives and for the girls it is the "b" word that most invades their flowery language. They even call the boys the "b" word!. Many of the Freshman refused to make an effort to learn and work. When I asked them to make an effort I was met with either an icy glare or simply ignored. Some of the worst would say "You are not our teacher and we don't have to do anything you say". How common that was, especially by the girls. Some of the boys would simply put their heads down and go to sleep. The funny thing is that some of the worst students said they were sorry to see me go because I really tried to connect with them. Of course the real reason they wanted to keep me is that they could simply ignore me and not have any consequences for misbehaving and not doing work.
Well, I must end this post as I prepare to go to another High School in my excursion through the Queens High Schools and experience more examples of the DOE's "children last" policy in action.
GRADE "C -"
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
My first assignment as an ATR this year was a five week placement in a specialized school who, by the way, didn't even have my subject area in their curriculum! Yes, you heard right the much vaulted DOE algorithm placed me in a school that had no use for me!
For the five weeks I was there the school staff, especially the teachers, treated me with respect and sympathized with me and the other ATR which also taught a subject that the school didn't have in their curriculum. Another shining example of the DOE algorithm not worth the money used to develop it. Both of us were treated well be the Administration and in my case the Principal tried to find a vacancy for me but to no avail. I also must say that the students were wonderful and well-behavd as well as smart. It was a pleasure to teach them. If all my weekly assignments were this good, I might learn to like it. However, I do expect that since the DOE wants the ATRs to quit, I look forward to the difficult challenges in store for me as I cruise the various High Schools in Queens.
What are my concerns as I start this journey into the "black hole" of the DOE algorithm? Here are just some.
- Who is going to rate me at the end of the year?
- Where do I get my pay stubs?
- Is there parking available?
- Can I get a bathroom and room key?
- Will the union ensure I am given teacher and not clerical work?