Saturday, March 29, 2014
I was sent to a vocational school in Western Queens and it was refreshing to be with a student body that was well behaved and respectful after my hellish experiences in Southeast Queens. Most of the students go to this school because they want to go into the trades such as plumbing, electrician, and for the girls business and cosmetology.
The school is over 90% Hispanic and while most of the students struggle academically, their engineering program attracts top-notch students who take Advanced Placement courses such as Physics, Calculus, and Statistics. Discipline issues are few and are handled very efficiently by the Deans. Students get to class on-time and few stragglers show up late. The Administration treated me well and accommodated my personal matters by adjusting my schedule after the first day. The teachers were friendly and helpful and the students, for the most part, did their assigned work and gave me little problem.
The downside of this school is parking. There is no parking in the area and if you are on late schedule, as all ATRs are, you cannot even get paid parking spaces! The administration has a cordial but not collaborative relationship with the staff. They suffer from the "top down mentality" that the DOE has instilled on their young principals. Interestingly, the principal hires all "newbie teachers" for all subjects except for Math. Apparently, she believes "newbie math teachers" are not the answer and has hired two experienced Math teachers in the last year.
I was treated well, shown respect, and allowed to go to Professional Development. The school is very nice but don't even bother to take your car there since you cannot find parking. . If only this school was in a more accessible location with parking. I would give the school a try if offered a position there.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Well, I found myself in another school in Southeast Queens and this school shares a building with their own middle school and another middle school. Its four stories and no elevator. The staff is fairly young with less than eight years of experience but were all quite friendly. On the other hand, the administration is lead by another "Leadership Academy Principal" who hid in her office during the week I was there. The hallways are narrow and crowded at the bell change and the odor from the students bathrooms into the hallways can make one gag.
The high school students are supposed to wear uniforms but few do and many of the boys display the "thuggish look" as they keep the pants down and show their underwear. School tone is poor as administrators don't handle the discipline problem like they need to do. Some classes are totally "out of control" while others were somewhat manageable. The "college and career readiness" scores are abysmal in the low single figures. Meaning few, get advanced Regents diplomas and online courses are needed for many of the students to graduate. A new state-of-the-art-science lab was essentially destroyed in two years and is barely useable.
The teachers room has no computers, and the administration walks in whenever they feel like. The school is 95% black and many of the students are in the halls, walking into other rooms, and are "unprepared to learn". Teacher morale is poor, primarily due to the many requirements that the administrators pile on the staff. Like many of the unscreened schools in Southeast Queens, the freshman class consists of "1's" and low "2's with behavioral issues and the staff has their work cut out with this grade. The 10th grade is little better.
This school suffers from all the maladies of the other schools in Southeast Queens, lack of academic tools, little student diversity, and administrators that blame teachers for the ills of the school. On the bright side, the school is easy to get to and parking is available with a block or two from the school. I wouldn't want a position there.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Well I lucked out as I was covering a class in my content area that already had seven teachers since the semester started and was told they might keep me until the original teacher either returns or tells them that he's not coming back. However, it seems the school's administration, led by another "Leadership Academy Principal" didn't bother to do the paperwork to retain me and thankfully, I'm on my way to another adventure. I feel sorry for the students as they are feeling betrayed as they have a new teacher weekly and are well behind academically . Passing the Regents is almost impossible but "its not about the children" to these "Leadership Academy Principals".
The school, that I was in is 85% black and 10% Hispanic. If you look at the unrealistic school progress report, the school is doing well. However, being there I experienced, first-hand the downside of the school. A general disrespect for authority, failure to get to their class on time despite the short distance between classes, and lack of manners by many of the students. The freshman classes in all the schools in this Southeast Queens school campus are the worst ever. Like all the schools in this campus, the quality of students are falling off rapidly and declining college readiness scores reflect it. The school is no longer attracting high quality students and are forced to accept lower performing students to keep their numbers up.
At one time few special education and English Language Learners were part of the student body as the school attracted many academically achieving students as they needed. Unfortunately, the school can no longer count on this and the influx of Special Education students has required the school to consider self-contained classes and to add a special education teacher to the staff.
The only good thing is that the school has its own parking area and the commute wasn't terrible.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Last week I found myself in a small transfer school that's located in a closed and decrepit Catholic school. The school has a student population of 165 but the school's lucky if 50% of them attend. Like all transfer schools the students have academic, behavioral, attendance, and family problems that resulted in them being "kicked out" of their previous school. In fact, one girl told me this was her sixth school and this was her last chance.
The Principal is your typical "Leadership Academy" graduate and requires the teachers to do lesson and unit planning and large amount of data mining. The teachers have little time for anything else. As a "push in teacher" I saw first hand what stress the teachers experience daily with these transfer students. The students are disinterested, distracting, and disrespectful. Many of the students are consistantly using their cellphones, playing music, sleeping, or simply ignoring the teacher as he tries to teach a lesson to no avail. Teaching with this student body is a disaster.
There is no teacher room or bathroom key as the bathroom is in the basement next to the cafeteria that doubles as a gym. Furthermore, the non-profit provides guidance counselors and some of them look as old as the students they service. Parking is difficult on Wednesday and Friday and one teacher parked almost a mile away! The main office treated me with indifference and made me feel like an intruder but that's the life of a traveling ATR.
Thank goodness I don't work there and would actually think of retireing if I did.