Friday, December 31, 2010

Hope for 2011 and Beyond

I officially endorsed Dennis Kucinich for president way back in August. Oddly, this has yet to create the groundswell of support I had hoped for. If, like me, you've watched in dismay as Obama supported the ed deformers and the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers, you may want to think about supporting Kucinich in 2012.

Watch the video below. Try to imagine this man supporting an extension of the Bush tax cuts. See if you can picture him cheering the firing of the staff of an entire school, appointing Wall Street bankers to his administration, or continuing the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are still some true progressives out there. Dennis is one.

Happy New Year, all.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Teachers to Blame for Snowmageddon, says Bloomie

Seeking to quell the rumor, started by fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, that the snow removal fiasco was the fault of a sanitation worker slowdown, Mayor Bloomberg today placed the blame for the snowy mess squarely at the feet of the teachers' union.

"As everyone knows, we never close the schools, no matter how much it snows," said the perpetually annoyed Bloomberg. "Had the schools been open, we would have moved heaven and earth, along with a lot of snow, to make sure that the roads were plowed. The UFT, of course, seeking to shortchange our schools, decided to go on winter break just as the storm hit, leaving sanitation workers little reason to clear the streets."

The mayor's comments come on the heels of Cathie Black's decision to open the schools in the midst of the snowstorm. Black betrayed her dismay that not a single teacher nor student showed up. "I mean, it's like, so frustrating, you know? If they worked for my magazines I could have had them flogged, or reamed them out in a meeting. But this union just gets my panties in a bunch. Oooo they make me so mad. Grrrr."

UFT president Michael Mulgrew responded angrily. "It's unbelievable that the city blames teachers for their fouls ups. Teachers are under no obligation to show up or shovel while on vacation. At least not until the new contract. Hey, did I say that out loud? I thought it was in my head!"

Meanwhile, after being cleared to become the chancellor in January, Cathie Black sought to quell rumors that she was the doppelganger of the Grinch. "It's utter nonsense," said Black, as she stood in the snow, tapping her pointy green shoe.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cut Mayor4Life a Break Already!

C'mon, people! I know that in a dire emergency, people feel the need to place blame somewhere. Almost all of the blame for Snowmageddon 2010 has gone to Mike Bloomberg, our hard working mayor. But really, what could he have done about it? This storm was not in his control, and he's a tad too old to get himself a shovel and help out, as his fellow mayor Cory Booker did in Newark. It's not his fault that his street was plowed out by 3PM Monday down to the blacktop, while many NYers, myself included, have yet to see a snow plow. Someone has got to get plowed first, and it just makes sense that it's the mayor instead of low life scum like you and me.

The truth is, no matter what you think of Bloomberg, it seems unfair that after 8 years as mayor he will be judged by this one measure, much of which was out of his control. Surely he has done some good in this city, his education policies notwithstanding. This Mini-Katrina, while bad, should not define his mayoralty, should it?

On an unrelated note, it's likely that we will have a ruling on the release of the Teacher Data Reports this week. For those unfamiliar with the TDRs, they attempt to rate the work a teacher has done for the entire year on the results of a single test. This is fair, because rating teachers on a single measure while most of the variables, such as poverty, homelessness, and truancy, are out of his or her control just makes sense.

While I wait for the ruling, I may go out and shovel some more in hopes of getting my car out some time in 2010.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Schools Open Today, "Chancellor" Announces

In her first major decision as presumptive "chancellor", Cathie Black announced today that despite the blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow on NYC, public schools would be open today.

When reminded that schools are closed until 1/3/11 for the holidays, Cathie Black snapped back, "New York City has a long history of keeping schools open despite blizzards. We're not going to let little things like the union contract and school calendars stand in the way of our children's education. It's all about the children. Well, not my children, of course, but you get the idea."

Contacted in his beach cabana in Bermuda for comment, Mayor Bloomberg slammed his coconut shell cocktail down on a table and fumed, "This is another example of teachers trying to do what's best for themselves rather than putting children first. I believe I have full legal authority to open the schools. Do I have mayoral control of the schools or not? If I can appoint a bimbo like Cathie as chancellor, I can open the schools when I want."

UFT president Michael Mulgrew voiced his displeasure with the unilateral decision. "I don't think it's right, but Ms. Black is the new chancellor and I have vowed to work with her despite her utter ignorance of the school system. Besides, the UFT has long fought for smaller class sizes, and I'm urging teachers to look at this as an opportunity to work one on one with kids. Literally."

In keeping with revised tenure rules, which call for new teachers to make "contributions to the school and community", untenured teachers will be called upon to dig out the cars of all the administrators in their respective schools in order to assure a smooth opening.

Asked whether she believes any students will actually show up, Cathie Black responded, "I certainly hope so. I'm looking at this blizzard as a teachable moment. Ooo...I love using education jargon! Anyway, you can bet the janitors at Hearst Publishing will be at work today or on the unemployment line tomorrow. Our students need to learn the harsh realities of the corporate world we are training them for."

To her credit, Ms. Black vowed not to repeat the mistake of her predecessor, Joel Klein, who bungled school bus routes so badly that many young children were stranded in the snow. "Rather than wait for buses that may never come, parents may call their child's school and request a piggy back ride to school for their children. Untenured teachers will be more than happy to oblige, unless they want to remain untenured, if you get my drift."

Michael Mulgrew initially expressed outrage at using new teachers as pack horses, but backed down when told that Ms. Black offered to increase next year's Teacher's Choice allocation by two dollars to a whopping $112 so that piggy backing teachers can buy an extra pair of wooly socks. "In these fiscal times, socks are nothing to sneeze at. This is a major win for the union!" Mulgrew announced.


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Farewell to the Grinch

Wishing all of you a happy holiday, here's a traditional Christmas rant that will be far outdated by next year with the advent of a new chancellor. So here's one last posting about Klein, as I wait for the door to hit him as he exits.





The Klein Who Stole Tenure

Align Left
Every teacher in Schoolville loved tenure a lot,
But the Klein, who worked in Tweed Courthouse, did not.
The Klein hated tenure! He thought it a cancer!
Now please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the answer.
It could be that a teacher once called HIM a dunce,
Or he got pelted with spitballs when he tried teaching once,
But I think the most likely reason of all,
May be that he knows nothing about teaching at all!

But whatever his reason for hating the teachers,
What he hated more, was one of the features,
Of the UFT contract that stood undiminished.
Despite 2005, he still wasn’t finished.
He knew the one hope, to which teachers could cling,
Could be dashed if he could destroy one more thing.
For every three years, despite all his jive,
Some teachers in Schoolville still managed to thrive.
And when they survived, it was tenure they got,
And this twisted the Klein’s BVDs in a knot!

“How COULD they get tenure?” Klein snarled with a sneer.
“After all I’ve thrown at them, why are they still here?
I don’t pay them enough and I make them feel small.
I’ve cut Teacher’s Choice down to nothing at all!
I give them lunch duty and potty patrol,
Sufficient to sear the hardiest soul!
And if that wasn’t enough to anger the staff,
I piled on thirty seven minutes—and a HALF!

They read to the children on germ-ridden rugs!
And share cafeterias with rodent-sized bugs!
Bulletin boards, walkthroughs, unsatisfactory ratings!
TAN notebooks, portfolios, PD unabating!
Acuity! ARIS! And monthly staff meetings!
Only a masochist smiles through such beatings!
Such horrible things! I don’t think I can top them!
Yet still they get tenure! Is there no way to stop them?”

And then he got an idea.
The Klein got a terrible, awful idea.
“I think,” the Klein chuckled, “I can end this whole mess,
If I can finagle support from the press!
But I’ll need an accomplice as heartless as me!”
So he called up his old bulldog pal from DC.
And together the Klein saddled up with the Rhee,
And declared war on tenure with malevolent glee.

Rhee’s taught for 2 years, and Klein less than one,
But has that stopped this duo? No, they’ve hardly begun!
Armed with three years of classroom experience between them.
They’ve set upon teachers, hell bent to demean them.
With data most spurious and a press most incurious,
The Klein and the Rhee hope to make parents furious,
So they’ll call for tenure to come to an end!
Are we going to allow this to happen, my friend?

I wish I could tell you the Klein’s heart has grown,
Or the Rhee’s tiny ticker was not made of stone,
Or the laughter of children would melt their exteriors,
Or the voters would finally boot their posteriors.
But unless the teachers in Schoolville take action,
And finally begin voicing their dissatisfaction,
The Kleins and the Rhees will most surely banish
Our tenure, and the last of our rights will just vanish.


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Friday, December 10, 2010

"Chancellor" Black and Blue


You might have read about the riot that occurred at Murry Bergtraum HS when a misguided principal decided to close the bathrooms in response to a fight. I'm not going to comment on the actions of the principal or the students. I would like to say that things like this are more common than the public realizes.

I've been teaching a while, and I've broken up my fair share of fights, much like my blogging pal Chaz. (Hint to newbies: Don't try this at home, or at work.) One time, a student shoved me into a chalkboard. Another time, I took a knife away from a student with nothing more than a stare. I don't expect kudos for these things; I'm simply stating that events like these are a fact of life in many public schools in NYC.

Michael Bloomberg and "Chancellor" Cathie Black would have it that teachers should be judged on Teacher Data Reports that allegedly take into account all kinds of factors. I don't know how they factor in working at a school in which the students riot, or carry knives, or beat each other, or curse out teachers, or kick them and cause miscarriages, but the city claims they can do it.

I'm more skeptical. Until you've worked in a dangerous school, you don't really know how difficult it is to teach in one. That's how I came up with the Bergtraum Solution as a way of settling, once and for all, whether those Teacher Data Reports should be released.

You see, Bergtraum is a high school for business careers. As such, handling the students there should be a piece of cake for someone as forceful as former business maven Cathie Black. So I propose that we ask Cathie to stand in the middle of the main floor of Bergtraum while the principal announces that they have decided to close the bathrooms permanently. She'll only have to stand there long enough for one change of classes to occur. She doesn't even have to teach anything. If she can do that, then we should stop opposing the release of the TDRs.

If, as I suspect, she runs out screaming as if her hair were on fire, or she's carried out on a stretcher, then she has to drop the TDR matter immediately and admit that there's more to teaching in NYC than any statistician could ever account for.

I suspect the "Chancellor" will find the Bergtraum Solution less than appealing. She doesn't even have the courage to face real reporters, much less the adolescents of the schools she'd like to shutter. I'm sure she'll stick to well managed elementary schools where she can comment on the cute "little people" there.

She'll never go a dangerous NYC school, lest she become the punchline to the joke, "What's Black, and white, and black and blue, and red all over?"

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cathie Black is the Head Cheese

In the classic Cheese Shop sketch by Monty Python, a hapless patron wants a bit of cheese. He asks the cheese shop owner, the jovial Mr. Wensleydale, whether he has any one of a staggering number of cheeses. Mr. Wensleydale doesn't have any. Then the duo conduct the following exchange (which you can catch at 4:30 of the video, although watching it all is a treat):

Patron: It's not much of a cheese shop, is it?
Mr. Wensleydale: Finest in the district, sir.
Patron: And what leads you to that conlusion?
Mr. Wensleydale: Well, it's so clean.
Patron: Well, it's certainly uncontaminated by cheese.




The joke, of course, is that the shop owner is covering up how worthless his store is by pointing out its cleanliness rather than its utility.

"Chancellor" Cathie Black is the Mr. Wensleydale of education. In an interview with the Daily News, "Chancellor" Black said she was "bowled over" by the cleanliness of the schools she visited. She is demonstrating, in no uncertain terms, how worthless her chancellorship will be. She could have talked about any one of the dozens of things that a person with a background in education would notice. Instead, here's how the interview with the "Chancellor" probably went:

Interviewer: Did you notice anything about curriculum?
Black: No.
Interviewer: Did you notice anything about learning environments?
Black: No..
Interviewer: Did you notice anything about the quality of instruction?
Black: Huh? Uh...no.
Interviewer: These school visits didn't teach you anything, did they?
Black: They were all wonderful schools!
Interviewer: And what leads you to that conclusion?
Black: Well, they're all so clean!

I don't know about clean, but they're certainly uncontaminated by chancellors who know what they hell they're doing.

And I won't even go into the incredibly condescending nature of her comments. What did Ms. Black think she was going to find in public schools? Landfills? Cooties?

Perhaps we should excuse her there. After all, she sent her own children to swanky private schools which were probably scrubbed clean by the kind of low wage workers she'd like to make out of the children of NYC. By firing experienced teachers, increasing class sizes, and doubling down on the failed Klein experiment, she'll have a virtually inexhaustible supply of menial workers for her rich friends.

But she still won't have any cheese.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thought for the Day

Despite the fact that Cathie Black, our new "chancellor", spent part of her first day on the job reading to a first grade class, she was still the person who had spent the least amount of time in a city classroom of anyone in the building.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Black is the New Green!

Perhaps it's my imagination, or perhaps it's because Cathie Black has obviously been called upon to be the hatchet person for Bloomberg, but lately I've had the nagging feeling that I've seen Ms. Black before. You be the judge:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rhee for Chancellor!

According to Norm, the UFT has wussied out on a resolution to urge David Steiner to refuse to grant a waiver to Cathie Black. Apparently, the Unity people have been whispering the R word in an effort to get people to fall in line, as in "Yes, Cathie Black may have no experience in education other than teaching couples potentially back-wrenching sex positions, but at least she's not...you know...the R word!"

What they mean, of course, it that as bad as Black may be, at least she's not Michelle Rhee. The thinking is that Rhee is the worst person possible for the job. I humbly disagree. I think that Rhee would be the best person possible for the job, and I urge Mayor4Life Bloomberg to reconsider the Black nomination and immediately recommend Rhee for chancellor of the NYC public schools.

And no, I'm not crazy. Does anyone believe, even for a minute, that Black was chosen because she'd be better for teachers than Rhee? In his application for a waiver for Ms. Black, Bloomberg comes right out and says that one of her scant qualifications for the job is her known ability to fire people left and right and layoff entire departments to save money. Isn't that where this is headed?

And Black is a fresh face. She looks about 100 times friendlier than Klein or Rhee. In other words, she could fires scads of teachers with a big smile on her face, and the local press would eat her up.

Rhee, on the other hand, is damaged goods, despite her ill-gotten celebrity. She's already been voted out of office by proxy from her DC job. She'd be as divisive and disliked here as she was in DC. And that's why I want her for chancellor.
Think about it. She might be the only person who could unify the UFT membership. She'd walk into town with her broom and apathetic teachers might finally decide to wake up and fight against the reform movement. Even Mulgrew and his cronies might decide that they needed to mix it up a bit with Rhee as chancellor. But can you even picture Mulgrew saying a mean word about Cathie Black, even as she sticks the layoff knife in our backs?

So, far from being afraid of Rhee should Black's waiver be denied, we should be clamoring for Rhee to take the reins. If that happened, maybe we could become a real union once more and fight these reform people, sending them back to hell where they belong.

All we'll get from Black is a smiley face as she plunges the knife in our backs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cathie Black: "Cheaper than a hooker"

Suppose you're a NYC teacher and you publicly support an IPhone app that teaches sex positions. Let's further suppose your comment is viewable by any of your students. And then, let's say that you tried to sell that app by claiming that at $2.99, it's "...cheaper than a hooker"? How long would it be before the Office of Special Investigations led you out of your classroom in handcuffs (which should not be confused with position #30 on the app)?

Never fear. Even if you lost your job because of your indiscretion, you'd be able to apply to be the Chancellor of the NYC public schools. Yes, Cathie Black made the above hooker comment with regard to the Cosmopolitan Sex Position of the Day App.

Now, there's nothing wrong with what she did if she wants to continue being the editor of Cosmo. But if she wants to lead 1.1 million schoolchildren, these things matter. When students Google her, they'll find that she supports an app that shows you how to do the "G-Spot Jiggy" and "Rock-a-Bye Booty."

I launched my own personal investigation into this app, and all I can tell you is that it isn't befitting a chancellor of the public schools. Although Mrs. Talk kind of liked the "Flip Side Boogie".
(Thanks, Cathie.)

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sign the Petition!

Sign the petition to deny a waiver to Cathleen Black. An email will be sent to David Steiner to show your disgust at a non-educator being put in charge of the largest school system in the nation.

Thanks to the indefatigable Leonie Haimson for the link.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Harbinger of a New Contract?

Could the Klein resignation be the harbinger of a new contract? I'm not sure, but it just may be.

Klein would not want to be the one to give in to any of the union's demands. Signing a new contract with Cathie Black at the helm would give her a leg up and allow Klein to slink away like the slug he is. It would also give Mayor4Life a way of justifying a pay hike because he needs to usher in a new era of (fake, of course) cooperation with teachers.

Speaking of that, it may just be that with Klein gone, the release of the TDRs may be a moot point. Ms. Black can swoop in, put the kibosh on that idea, and become an instant hero with the union and Mulgrew.

Of course, if she releases the data and holds the line on the contract, we'll know we got a new Klein in a Black sheep's clothing.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are You Teacher Material? Take the Quiz!!!

Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. This quiz is designed to help you decide whether you have “what it takes” to embark on the long, arduous road toward teacher certification. Take the quiz and discover whether a career in teaching is truly for you!

DIRECTIONS: Print a copy of the quiz below so that you can easily circle your answers. For each question, choose only the best answer. Circle the letter A, B, or C as appropriate, using only a #2 pencil. Do NOT use a pen. You have ten minutes to finish. The answers appear below the quiz. You may NOT look at the answers beforehand. Let’s begin! Good luck!


Question One. In your own school career, you mostly got:

  1. Placed on the Honor Roll
  2. Good grades
  3. Wedgies

Question Two. What’s your primary motivation for wanting to be a teacher?

  1. I enjoy working with children.
  2. I want to share my love of learning.
  3. I was kicked out of Charm School.

Question Three. Of these educational giants, who best represents your own philosophy towards teaching?

  1. Socrates.
  2. John Dewey.
  3. Mr. Kotter.

Question Four. What quality best describes your personality?

  1. Patient
  2. Caring
  3. Split

Question Five. A child begins projectile vomiting in the middle of your lesson. You immediately:

  1. Clear the area, open the windows, and notify the school nurse.
  2. Call the custodian to clean up the area so others won’t be infected.
  3. Join him.

Question Six. If you do opt for a career in teaching, where do you see yourself in ten years?

  1. Still in the classroom, reveling in the joys of my chosen profession
  2. In an administrative role, helping new teachers acquire the skills they need to succeed
  3. In a straitjacket, tearing at the straps with my teeth

SCORING THE QUIZ: Look at the answer sheet you printed when you began this quiz. If you bothered to print it, you are teacher material. You obviously enjoy doing pointless tasks at the behest of others. Your unquestioning nature makes you an ideal teaching candidate in today’s hostile educational environment. If you did not print the answer sheet, you clearly value your independence and would be better suited toward a career with fewer actual requirements, such as Secretary of Education or Senator.


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Monday, November 1, 2010

Special Radio Broadcast

Make every effort to catch tomorrow night's internet radio broadcast from South Bronx School. His VERY special guest is long time blogger Fidgety Teach, who has spent three years in the rubber room at the behest of Leadership (??) Academy Principal Mustillo, who I blogged about some time back.

To listen to the radio broadcast Tuesday night at 9PM, go here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Next Great Compromise

You can see it coming, can't you? The DOE has agreed to put off releasing the Teacher Data Reports until next month, when the case goes to court. BloomKlein has a history of doing whatever the hell they want, the law be damned (witness Bloomberg's shameless theft of a third term as mayor and his current assertion that the term limit extension should only apply to him). So why didn't they release the TDRs before the union had a chance to sue?

If you buy the argument by my fellow blogger Norm that the UFT is in league with the city, the answer is simple. The threatened release of the reports was just a head fake. If you recall, the city signed an agreement with the UFT saying that they would not disclose TDR information to the public. As such, they would most likely lose in court. At that point, the data would be sealed forever. What to do?

The city doesn't want to come off looking like the bad guys. They need the UFT to support them in releasing this data. So sometime between now and the court date in November, look for the DOE and the UFT to come to some sort of new "agreement". It will probably entail releasing the data some time down the road, perhaps in 2011 when the new evaluations are set to take place. The UFT will agree to release the TDR data as part of some "teacher report card" that includes the TDRs, plus evaluation data, etc. The UFT will claim that this system is fairer because it will give a "big picture" view of a teacher's performance rather than just the narrow TDR view.

By doing this, the UFT can continue to look like a friend of reform while still claiming to be protecting teachers. They'll be able to claim victory even as the reports come out.

Don't think this can happen? Think back to the many things the UFT has signed on to and claimed as a 'victory'. The 2005 contract. Loss of seniority. Changes in tenure evaluations. Race to the Top. The added 37.5 minutes in each school day. ALL of those were claimed as wins for the UFT while they were losses for the members.

Don't say I didn't warn you. TDRs, and along with them your privacy, are the next great compromise.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Caste System for Students and Teachers

I got a lot of interesting comments both on this blog and on Reddit concerning my post about my lousy Teacher Data Report, or TDR (I received many condescending comments, including some from people who may have actually used utensils before, about how I should have explained all the acronyms in my post, despite the fact that the majority of my regular readers are NY [New York] teachers who already know them. I stand corrected.) For those who don't know, TDRs are calculated using VAD (Value-Added Data) which most researchers have concluded is BS (Bull Shit).

One theme that emerged throughout the comments is that good teachers should be assigned to the good students, and bad teachers (like me, judging from my TDR) should be assigned the bad students. For too long, say these commenters, we, as a nation, have neglected the top echelon of students and concentrated most of our scant resources on the under-performing ones. It's high time, they say, that we worked on developing our brightest minds, so that the USA (United States of America) can once again lead the world in rocket science, computer science, and other technologies, and the Chinese, who are, after all, a bunch of Commies, can go back to manufacturing Kewpie dolls. I have to say, these commenters present a compelling argument.

The statistics in movies like Waiting for "Superman" support their position. Of the 793 countries that outperform the US (United States) in math and, surprisingly, even English, most of them tend to fudge their statistics. They do this by chucking bad students out of school at a young age so they can go to work in coal mines and have mistresses, like the guys in Chile. Their top students get blanketed with praise and attention, while the ones who don't do their homework get blanketed in anthracite ash. What could be fairer?

I'm proposing that Obama's DoE (Department of Education) mandate a similar caste system for all school systems across the nation, including the NYC (New York City) DoE (Department of Education, no relation). We need to give our top students only the very best teachers, who can catapult them (the students), figuratively we hope, into the educational stratosphere with countries like Finland, which has produced almost two Nobel Prize winners this century, compared with the dismal American education system that has produced just seventy-three.

Of course, some will say this system is unfair, as it will most likely result in a disproportionate number of minority students getting the worst teachers. To which I can only respond--so what? Chile isn't the only country that has coal mines, you know. These kids may end up with lung cancer, but at least a mistress will be awaiting them as they emerge from their collapsed mines.

Besides, it's time we stopped coddling children just because they come from extreme poverty, abusive households, or disinterested parents. With all that stacked against them, having a crummy teacher isn't going to make much difference, is it? And speaking of crummy teachers, why allow them to ruin the minds of our best and brightest when there are future miners to be educated?

As for the teachers with the lowest TDR scores, I think I have an equally satisfying solution. They claim to want to help children, so I say, let them. They can be the first into the coal mine to check for CO (carbon monoxide).

Think of all the money we'll save on canaries.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mr. Talk Goes Viral

No, I don't need any antibiotics. One of my posts has gone viral.

I wanted my post on the (un?)intended consequences of teacher data reports to get some attention, but who knew the thing would explode? I owe the debt to one 3v1|D4v3 on Reddit, who linked to this blog under the heading "Top Teacher is Asked to Take over the Challenged Kids Class. Find Out Why He Said No the Next Year."

For the record, I never claimed to be a top teacher, but I do lay claim to being a hard working one who always tries to improve. I've never shunned difficult students and I have a record of more than two decades of satisfactory performance. Make of that what you will.

I mention all this because of the astounding fact that this blog has received more than 100,000 hits in the last ten hours. On a normal day, I might get 200. There are more than 450 comment on Reddit. See for yourself.

This tells me that people do care about education. On a lovely Sunday afternoon, 100,000 people took the time to read about what's happening in NYC's schools. That is amazing to me.
Thanks to all who stopped by. I hope to see you again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

(Un)intended Consequences

After the DOE decided to ignore their agreement with the UFT to keep Teacher Data Reports confidential, the effect was immediate. But I'd like to start further back than that, and return to last year, when I first saw my stinky TDR.


The effect on me was immediate, because I knew why I'd gotten such a low score. Besides the fact that the formula is wildly unpredictable, I had the added disadvantage of teaching extremely needy kids in an otherwise excellent school. I have no one to blame for that but myself; when my AP asked whether I'd take on the most challenging students they had, I agreed. I had some crazy idea in my head that helping the students who needed it most was what a teacher should do. So I did it. I've done it most of my career.


Now, because my school is so good, it was compared to other schools that are equally good or better. And there is simply no way that the kids I had taken on could compare to the average child in a "comparable" school. It didn't matter that I got the average child in my class to read (and document the reading of) well over 30 books each. It didn't matter that I managed to get a bunch of unruly and disinterested children to follow routines and learn to respect both the learning process and each other. No, all that mattered, as far as the DOE was concerned, was that I could not bring these children as far along as kids without learning and behavioral problems.


So when I got my TDR last year, I did something I am still not proud of. I quit.


No, I didn't quit teaching. I just quit volunteering to teach the very children who needed me most. When my AP asked me to take them on again (which he would not do unless he knew I'd been successful), I said no. This year, those kids are with another teacher who has difficulty just getting them to sit in their seats. (This is not a knock on her. She is new and these are tough kids).


I sometimes regret my decision even though this year I have a group of motivated students who will no doubt vault me back into the rarefied air of the "excellent" teacher. I might have gone back to teaching the toughest kids next year, because I think teaching is all about reaching the toughest-to-reach children. That was before the DOE decided they wanted to release the TDRs to the public.


I have a family to support and they are my primary duty. I can not take a chance that I will lose my job over some erroneous data.


There are other consequences of the TDRs that became apparent to me immediately. I've had discussions with at least three excellent teachers who have told me that they are now planning on leaving the DOE for sure, because they can not see how they will ever be able to put in enough years to retire from this system. They feel everything is stacked against them. Because it is.


Another consequence is that no one wants to teach the grades or subjects that are targets of the reports. I have a feeling that a LOT of teachers are going to request K-2 assignments or look to leave middle school so they don't have to be subjected to public humiliation should their numbers not stack up with whatever new system the DOE devises.


Those are the unintended consequences of the TDRs. Or, I wonder, did the DOE know exactly what would happen? Could it be that they want teachers to leave and to feel under the gun at all times? Could it be that they want no one around long enough to collect those pesky pensions?


Perhaps these consequences aren't so unintended after all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Rant Against the DOE

I was going to post a long, angry rant against the DOE for their decision to trash hard working teachers by releasing the flawed Teacher Data Reports to the media. As readers of this blog may recall, I got a crappy score despite the hard work and care I put into my teaching. I'm sure I'm not alone.

What will the release of this data mean? Not much, other than a bunch of unhappy teachers and parents. It will do zero to improve education. It will create confusion and bad will in schools, which is precisely what Bloomberg and Klein want. Their only goal is the dismantling of public education and unionism as we know it. Bloomberg and Gates and Oprah and all their billionaire pals care nothing about education or teachers; their only concern is that they don't want their billions to help pay the cost of teacher salaries and pensions.

Not enough bad things can happen to these people, who think nothing of trying to wreck the lives and reputations of those who've dedicated their lives to educating children. They are reprehensible slugs and if they perished from the face of the earth tomorrow, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, due to the complicity of Randi and Mulgrew, who could have ousted Bloomberg in the last election when they had the chance, the only way we'll be rid of them is if they all fall off a cliff. Given the likelihood of that happening, I guess all we have to look forward to is the next Machiavellian scheme to destroy teachers that these bastards can devise.

I guess I wrote that rant after all.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Instant Pundits

I watched John Legend stick it to teachers once again on the Bill Maher show the other night. Bill, to his credit, refused to bite, stating (correctly) that most teachers go in it for the love of teaching and the bad ones are only a small part of larger societal and political problems facing the schools. Legend would have none of it. He stuck to his tired Superman stat of how only 1 in 2500 teachers loses their license, compared to something like 1 in 97 lawyers or something. Did it ever occur to Legend that that stat may be skewed due to the fact that almost half of all teachers are either fired or leave voluntarily before the end of five years? That's almost 1250 in 2500 teachers who either lose or give up their licenses. How many doctors and lawyers leave their professions?

Of course, we can't expect John Legend to think of everything. Despite a great public education that allowed him to graduate from high school at the age of 16 as salutatorian and subsequently go on to Harvard, Legend has decided that public schools stink. He has become a pundit on education. How did that happen? He sang a song in "Superman". By that reasoning, Elton John should be a pundit on the crisis in the Congo because he sang "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" in The Lion King.

It seems to me the bar has been set pretty low for pundits these days. If you have a little celebrity or a lot of cash, you can be an instant pundit, especially on education. Unfortunately, you also end up sounding like an idiot, but that doesn't faze most of them.

To be a real pundit, you used to have to actually have experience in a subject. For example, John Legend would have been an excellent pundit on how to look ridiculous in a cowboy hat.

In that spirit, I'd like to offer a few helpful suggestions to today's ed deformers as to what field of punditry they might enter based on their actual life experience and expertise:

Bill Gates:
  • being a dweeb
  • "borrowing" ideas from Steve Jobs
  • forming monopolies and crushing competition
Michelle Rhee:
  • getting engaged to an alleged pedophile
  • alienating entire communities
  • marrying guys named Kevin
Oprah Winfrey:
  • surviving on thigh fat alone for months at a stretch
  • pimping mostly crappy books
  • making middle class women squeal at the thought of maybe winning a toaster
Joel Klein:
  • inflating things, such as test scores and his own ego
  • scalp waxing
  • being a toadie for a billionaire
Michael Bloomberg:
  • controlling the lives of others, especially those on food stamps
  • settling harassment cases out of court
  • overturning laws he doesn't like, such as term limits
I'm working on a few others, such as Randi Weingarten on Fence Straddling and Davis Guggenheim on Weeping for Public School Children as You Drive Your Own Kids to Their Exclusive Private School in your Mercedes. Any other suggestions are welcome.


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Michelle Rhee Flies Out...


...on the same broom she rode in on.
Now that she'll no longer be chancellor, I wonder what her plans are for that broom? If anyone has a good idea what she can do with it, be sure to let her know!
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Superman Gets Riddled With Bullets

As I mentioned a while back, the Harlem Children's Zone schools didn't fare so well with the recalibrated ELA and math tests. They also didn't score well on the city's report card, with one school scoring a C and the other a B. Remember, these are the schools touted ad nauseum by Waiting for Superman and the Oprah show as the model we all should follow. Here's some reporting by the Times that makes the point a bit sharper:

But most of the seventh graders, now starting their third year in the school, are still struggling. Just 15 percent passed the 2010 state English test, a number that Mr. Canada said was “unacceptably low” but not out of line with the school’s experience in lifting student performance over time. Several teachers have been fired as a result of the low scores, and others were reassigned, he said.

Even more shocking than these pitiful results is the fact that these schools are blessed with advantages that city public school teachers can only dream of, to wit:

In the tiny high school of the zone’s Promise Academy I, which teaches 66 sophomores and 65 juniors (it grows by one grade per year), the average class size is under 15, generally with two licensed teachers in every room. There are three student advocates to provide guidance and advice, as well as a social worker, a guidance counselor and a college counselor, and one-on-one tutoring after school.

Are you kidding me? Two teachers in a class? Class sizes of 15? And you get those dismal results? This is a disgrace. THIS is the solution to all our educational problems? This is the model the entire nation is supposed to follow? And let's not forget that in order to get even these awful results, Canada dismissed an entire grade that wasn't meeting his "standards".

In my school, we have class sizes that range from 28 to 35, with just one teacher per room. We don't have any huge grants from billionaires or backing from Oprah, but our passing percentage was over four times higher than the results posted by the Times. And yes--we are those dreaded public school teachers who must be gotten rid of in favor of the charter school teachers that Mr. Canada prefers.



Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ed Deformers on Ice!

When I posted that I thought the ed deform movement had jumped the shark, I heard some rumblings. Then I started telling my fellow teachers how I felt, and there was talk of breaking out the strait jacket for me. But I don't think I'm crazy--or at least not for believing that the deform movement has run out of steam.

Think about it. The deformers have had a major documentary released from an Oscar winning director. They had two Oprah shows humping their cause. They had a week dedicated to them by MSNBC. They have Mark Zuckerberg tossing out 100 million dollar door prizes to cities that will do his bidding. They are backed by enough billionaires to start a softball team. Billionaire-owned newspapers have fallen all over themselves to get on the bandwagon. And yet...what has changed?

Not much, that I can see.

So, given that the ed deformers' media blitz has been a failure despite all the fanfare, what could the deformers possible do next to try to sway public opinion? Oprah and documentaries didn't work. What's next? Dancing with the Ed Deformers? America's Next Top Deformer? How about Ed Deformers on Ice?

The only tangible result of all fanfare is that Michelle Rhee got her ass voted off Survivor: DC.


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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Has the Reform Movement Jumped the Shark?

You might think it's just wishful thinking, but I believe the "reform" movement may have shot its bolt. There have been not one, but two, Oprah shows in one week lauding the deform movement. The long awaited (or dreaded) propaganda flick "Waiting for Superman" finally arrived in theaters, accompanied by countless sound bytes about how sad it all was on the nightly news. The Education Nation programming pimping the deform movement ran for a week on MSNBC, with follow-up shows on the Sunday news programs.

You'd think that with all the bad press teachers have gotten lately, we'd be sprinting down the streets a step ahead of angry mobs of parents with dripping knives. But for the most part, nothing has changed. Most people are still happy with their local schools. Voters in DC ousted Mayor Fenty, which virtually guarantees that Michelle Rhee will soon be picked up by the slack of her pants and sent skidding down the pavement by Vincent Gray. Charters have underperformed public schools both in NYC and nationally, and they even got lower scores on their progress reports despite the fact that Joel Klein, deformer extraordinaire, put his stamp of approval on those evaluations.

So, have the deformers jumped the shark? If Oprah, movies, unprecedented press coverage, and tens of millions of dollars haven't swayed public opinion, what will? The deformers have created a lot of sound and fury. Let's see whether it signifies anything.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ow, Canada

Charter schools are the answer. Joel Klein says so. Mayor4Life says so. Arne Duncan says so. Heck, even Oprah says so, so you know it must be true.

Except it isn't. Most charter schools fare about the same as public schools, and 37 percent of them are worse. Klein and Bloomberg have always wriggled around this statistic (didn't these guys used to love data?) by claiming that charters in NYC were a different story. When the revised test scores came out a while back, NYC charters dropped more than public schools. And now, charter schools have fared worse than public schools on the city's very own measure of quality--progress reports. It seems charters scored ten points lower than public schools on a scale of 100 points. It's going to be awfully hard for BloomKlein to put a positive spin on these numbers, considering they created the system themselves.

But surely there were bright lights among the charters, weren't there? Perhaps, but I decided to take a look at the Harlem Children's Zone schools, run by Geoffrey Canada, hero of the film Waiting for Superman. Surely these schools escaped the carnage, with their smaller class sizes and multi-million dollar facilities?

The Promise Academy Charter School got a B.
The Promise Academy II got a C.

My school got a A. And we're one of those nasty "traditional" public schools.

Ow, Canada.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Your Crazy Aunt and Charters

If you watched Education Nation at all, you heard the term "public school" bandied around quite a bit. Charter schools went to great lengths to say that they were, by golly, public schools after all. That they wanted the mantle of the word "public" but not the responsibility was implicit in their clear separation of charters and "traditional" public schools. They used the word "traditional" in the same way your family uses the word "special" to describe your crazy aunt who lives in the attic and thinks she's a goat.

Let's get it right. Charter schools are NOT public in any real sense. About the only way in which they could be considered public is the fact that they drain public money with their construction and lavish salaries for the likes of Eva Moskowitz.

Libraries are true public institutions. They are paid for by public monies, like charters, but that's where the similarities end. To get into a public library, you don't have to be selected in a lottery. Your mother doesn't have to apply. You don't even have to know how to read. Compare that to the Harlem Children's Zone, where you not only have to apply, but if you can't read well enough, they can kick out an entire grade.

Public buildings, like the stadiums Mayor4Life spent billions on (except not his billions) are more like charters. Take Citifield. It was paid for largely with public money. And while you have to win a lottery to get into a charter, you may need to win the lottery to afford a ticket to see the Mets. Yet, despite charging exorbitant rates, it is true that when you buy a ticket to see a ballgame, you are entitled to get in. It matters not whether you speak English, or whether you are considered disabled. That ticket guarantees you a spot.

Now for charters. They are paid for by public money, true, but most students can't get in. You can't buy a ticket to gain entrance. If you can't speak English or you have some learning disability, they rarely will take you. Imagine the lawsuit if the New York Public Library or Citifield refused entrance to non-English speakers or the learning disabled. People would be outraged if such a thing happened in a taxpayer supported institution. Nevertheless, charters manage to get away with such blatant discrimination.

I teach in a real public school. Students from everywhere are welcome regardless of what language they speak or what obstacles they face. No ticket needed. Not even a lottery ticket.

Perhaps it's time we started looking at charters as the "special" aunt of public education. But let's not tell them that they're not goats. We could use the milk.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Ex-Hooker Makes the Case for Tenure

By now you've probably read about Melissa Petro, the teacher who used to be a hooker. Mayor Bloomberg is trying to use this case as another opportunity to attack tenure by trying to yank it from this teacher. Oddly, he actually makes the case for tenure in doing so.

Most of us find prostitution morally wrong, and it certainly is illegal in New York. Still, here we have the case of a woman who climbed out of that sordid life and earned her way into the teaching profession. Nevertheless, Mayor4Life would seemingly prefer to fire her and perhaps cause her to return to that profession rather than starve. I'm sure the mayor feels she deserves it; after all, he himself has never done anything wrong. For example, when he was accused of sexual remarks toward a co-worker, he settled the suit without having to admit guilt, so we know his hands were clean even if his mouth may have needed washing out with soap. And of course, Bloomberg's company was accused of discriminating against 80 women as well, but none of that is his fault, either. Accountability is for the little folk.

What we have here is the case of a woman who had a sketchy past, but who managed to get her life together and turn in at least three satisfactory years for the DOE. As such, she earned tenure. Now Bloomberg wants to take it away. Let's imagine what will happen if he succeeds.

Have you ever smoked pot in the past? Had a beer while underage? Those things are just as illegal as prostitution, and if Bloomberg somehow gets the right to pull tenure from teachers who may have engaged in some illegal activity in the past, then the floodgates are open.

Where does it stop? Can you lose tenure because you once got a speeding ticket? How about if you got arrested at a peaceful protest of the Iraq war? Failed to curb your dog? Smoked a cigarette in a public place? Worn too short a skirt? Cheated on your third grade spelling test?

Without tenure, the mayor, chancellor, or your principal would be able to fire you for any of those reasons, or for no reason at all. That is why tenure is needed.

Ms. Petro was certainly unwise for letting her past become public. But if her tenure is taken away for her past behavior--if she is denied due process--then everyone becomes a target. Except the mayor, of course. He has the money to bury his past.

Let he who is without sin, or sexual harassment lawsuits, cast the first stone.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Other Shoes Drop

You saw this coming, didn't you? After a week long orgy of teacher bashing, including the Oprah show, Waiting for Superman, and the ridiculous Education Nation hate fest on MSNBC, the other shoes have finally dropped. Having made education a "crisis", politicians are salivating at the opportunity of turning all that ill will to their benefit.

Barack Obama announced his desire to extend the school year by a month. Then Mayor4Life Bloomberg, who doesn't believe in lifetime jobs except for himself, announced that he wants an end to seniority based layoffs and to make getting tenure tougher.

I have a few questions. First, for Obama: Extending the school year immediately adds an extra ten percent to the work year. Does you expect us to work for free, or will you take the money from food stamps like you did when funding Race to the Top?

Now for Bloomberg: You failed miserably last time when trying to change seniority rules, so what makes you think you'll succeed this time? And why all the posturing on tenure when you know damn well that untenured teachers can be fired for any reason as the system now stands?

Obama and Mayor4Life are trotting out the old shock doctrine again. They're trying to manufacture a crisis in education and then propose the "solutions" that they wanted in the first place. Bush used the shock doctrine after 9-11 to invade Iraq despite the fact that they had no WMDs. Now the president and the job-for-life mayor are using a phony educational crisis to implement the "reforms" they wanted all along.

This was predictable. They've used the shock doctrine against us before. See here, here, and here. Fortunately, it has been a failure in the case of seniority, and I think it will fail again.

But that's not enough. It's time to make politicians pay when they try to ruin careers. That includes any politician who would even consider a change to last in first out, as well as Obama himself when 2012 rolls around. We've seen what happens when the union stands on the sidelines as in the last mayoral election. The UFT should urge all teachers to stay home from the polls in 2012 if Obama doesn't change his tune pronto, and to actively oppose state legislators who support a change in either tenure or seniority.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stats on the Oprah Infomercials

If you watched the two Oprah infomercials for Waiting for Superman this week, you might have noticed the following stats. If not, I'll lay them out for you.
  • Total number of teachers on the panel: 0
  • Total number of public school parents on the panel: 0
  • Total number of billionaires on the panel: 3
  • Total number of billions of the panelists: 60
  • Total years of teaching experience of all the "experts": 2
  • Total minutes devoted to defending unions: 1
  • Total minutes devoted to humping charter schools: 119
I think that says it all.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Screw Teacher's Choice! Amazing New Funding Source Discovered!

Already spent your paltry $110 bucks from Teacher's Choice? Never fear! As always, Mr. Talk has the answer.

As you know, this blog and others have been urging you to boycott DonorsChoose for their shameless support of the film Waiting for Superman. They offered a five dollar bribe to anyone who pledged to see that POS movie, which could be donated to a teacher project of your choosing.

Now they've upped the ante. They are offering $15 for a ticket stub to WFS up to a maximum of four per person. Think about that a minute. The movie is donating more per ticket than the tickets themselves cost! Either they should be Waiting for an Accountant, or some big hedge fund people are dropping big bucks in the hopes that people will see this film.

So here's what you can do. Organize your own SuperStub party. Find out when WFS is playing at your local theater, and get all your friends and family members to show up at the theater when the movie lets out. Then ask people to donate their stubs to help support your local school (i.e., you). If you bring 20 people and each collects 4 stubs, you can earn $1200 in one fell swoop by having them donate all that swag to you! And the best part of it is that you don't even have to see the movie!

Of course, all this assumes that 80 people will show up to see this drek film at a single showing, which is unlikely. Still, whatever you may earn from this, you'll have the pleasure of knowing that you picked the pocket of an ed deformer, and you can't get that kind of satisfaction at your local teacher supply store.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

We Interrupt this Blog...

I apologize for letting the blog slide for a week. A lot of good stuff has been happening that merited mention, such as Mayor Fenty of DC getting the boot, with Michelle Rhee presumably to follow. I've seen a good number of ATRs get hired so I think that problem may ebb for a while and be off the table in contract negotiations this time around. I'm even optimistic that we will get a raise and a contract before long, thanks to a great post by Chaz regarding the city's need to follow the pattern.

So why the lack of posts? I started this blog almost two years ago as a way to stick it to Klein and the ed deformers who pretty much ran me out of my former school and damn near got me fired despite an exemplary record as a teacher. I made a very soft landing at a great school, unlike many of my now unemployed colleagues who went through the same hell I'd been through. After a few years at my school (I no longer refer to it as my "new" school), I finally feel like I belong. The administration likes and respects me and the feeling is mutual. I get a decent amount of leeway in creating the curriculum and in how I run my own classroom. My experience is valued and I am called upon to help new teachers get up to speed.

In short, I'm happy. I love my school and my job.

This is a great position for me personally as a teacher. However, for me as a blogger, the pickins are slim. I do my best writing here when I am pissed off about something, and I have nothing to be pissed off about at the moment.

Despite all my joy, I have not lost hope. This is, after all, the BloomKlein regime, and Mulgarten is still in firm control of the UFT. Surely something they do will set me off before long and I'll be back to my cranky, acerbic self.

So if you came here looking for a rant, I apologize, but I promise I will be with you shortly. After all, Waiting for Superman is about to be released.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tonight's Radio Cast

Be sure to catch South Bronx School's radio cast tonight at 9. The guest will be an ed-deformer! Call in or just listen in. It promises to be interesting. Click this link to get there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tom Friedman Gets it (Almost) Right

If you haven't read Tom Friedman's Op-Ed piece in today's Times, do yourself a favor and read it. He takes a piece about ed reform written by Robert Samuelson and extrapolates it to explain the general decline in America. Other than the fact that Friedman seems to imply we may need a longer school day or year, he's pretty much on target.

Then do yourself a favor and read Samuelson's original piece in the Washington Post. Although he is an economist, Samuelson take on school reform and the reasons it has failed. Here's a quote from the article that may pique your interest:

The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation. Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren't motivated, even capable teachers may fail.

Definitely worth a read.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

5 Tips for a Great School Year!

The coming school year is almost at our throats, so instead of being one of those Gloomy Gus teachers who bemoan the start of a brand new year, I thought I'd impart some wisdom to help you look forward to this wondrous adventure. Here are some tips guaranteed to make your school year a smashing success!

Tip #1: Make sure you work at a great school.
I can't tell you how many "newbies" overlook this one. I made the mistake of working at a crappy school for most of my teaching career, and boy, was it the wrong thing to do! The students were disrespectful and rarely worked hard. Then, after a couple of decades of teaching the toughest kids, I decided to "shift gears" and work at a great school! I can't tell you the difference it made in my professional career! Not only do the students learn more, but I no longer have to carry my wallet in my shoes!

Tip #2: Make sure you have a great principal. Now you might think this goes along with the first tip, but it doesn't always. There are a few great schools where the principals are horror shows, but not many. So how do you know whether the great school you've chosen to work at has a great leader? Simple! On the first day of school, walk right into the teachers' cafeteria and say in your cheeriest voice, "Hey, our principal is the greatest guy ever!" (If the principal is female, you may want to adapt the above). If you walk out of the cafeteria unscathed, you'll know your principal is a winner. If you walk out festooned in rancid cole slaw, you'll know a change is needed.

Tip #3: Made sure you have the best students. This is crucial. Just because you're in a great school with great leadership doesn't mean you have the best kids. You're going to be evaluated on the performance of your students, so you need to make sure you have only the best. Hop on over to ARIS and check to see how your prospective students did on the ELA and math exams last year. If their scores don't meet your expectations, be sure to speak up! March into your principal's office and say in a calm but assertive voice, "Hey, Mr. Principal! (Again, adjust for female principals). (Don't say what's in the parentheses). Did you even look at the drek rosters you gave me? How's about some smart kids? I mean, this is my career we're talking about here!" Your principal is sure to admire your initiative and reward you with the best program the school has to offer.

Tip #4: Use your preps wisely. You only have so much prep time per day, so you need to maximize its value. Lesson planning is a bore and will rarely help you advance, so make up your mind to spend those precious periods acting as a liaison for your principal. To do this, spend as much time as you can with your peers and listen to what they say. You'll be amazed at the things you'll hear. Then bring those tidbits to your principal. He (or she) will surely appreciate it, and reward you next year with the best classes (see Tip #3).

Tip #5: Ignore the latest trends. Trends can kill you! Some recent teacher books give you exactly the wrong advice! For example, the bestseller "Teach Like an Olympic Javelin Thrower" tells you to "stand next to students who are talking inappropriately and they will soon get the message." Yes, they sure will--the message that you're the enemy! Inner city teachers can be shot for breaking up conversations. That's why you should look for your teaching tips from a reliable source, such as yours truly. If you followed Tip #1, for example, your chances of getting shot for any reason are greatly reduced.

That's all you need to get started. Just follow my advice for a happy, productive, and relatively bullet-free school year!