Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I resign....

I resigned my position as a teacher at a New York City Department of Education School. However, I have been promised a job for next year by International Recruitment of the New York City Department of Education.

Why did I resign my teaching position? Well it all started back last September 2004 when I started as a Reading Teacher at Channel View School for Research. As the Reading Teacher I was expected to assist level 1 and 2 readers improve their reading skills in order to pass the April 2005 reading test.

Not knowing the first thing about the position I asked for assistance and gratefully received it from the school’s part time “Staff Developer.” I took notes and she helped me put together a good reading program. I even laid out my plans to the Local Instructional Superintendent for the school. She seemed quite pleased as well.

I even talked to principal of the school to see if the school should be “double servicing” those identified for resource. The principal said “yes” in September. Then in the beginning of November the principal said to end the double servicing. So I did. I was then instructed to pick up some more students for reading if they were willing. I offered to take anyone interesting in increasing their reading skills. But who is willing to leave their Art or Gym classes which were really the only two classes I could remove students from to give them reading assistance.

Then in mid-November. I was asked to take over seventh grade class from a teacher who was leaving the school. This was the toughest grade seven class in the whole school and had been out of control behaviorally for quite some time. Shortly before the teacher leaving, my schedule had changed to team teach with this teacher in the hopes of turning this class around. I was also told by the principal to get the discipline problems out of the way first.

I was unsure and talked it over with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader at the school. I was a little uneasy about a first year teacher taking over a class in mid-November. I told the UFT chapter leader that an experienced teacher should be taking over. He said there was perhaps something coming in the next two weeks.

But, against my better judgment, I soldiered on. This class, in grade six had two teachers and I was now the second teacher in grade seven. Also, their second teacher in grade six had recommended the class be broken up. But apparently that advice was not listened to by the principal. I was able to teach Social Studies and English to mostly level one and two readers in that class. Sure there were stressful times.

Then something happened. The Assistant Principal gave me an Unsatisfactory rating one time on my formal teaching evaluation with this particular class. In one of them he said I should be working with the Dean of Discipline of the school and contacting the parents. I nearly went through the roof on this one. The Dean of Discipline had been pulling disruptive students out for quite some time. I also had been calling parents sometimes one or two times a week and had recorded these conversations in my own notebook and in the respective student’s disciplinary files in the Dean’s office. But I soldiered on.

Then at the end of March the school finally found another teacher for the class and I was removed and given a “Literacy” job as well as supervision of “In House Suspension.” My third class in with the worst eighth grade class in the school, I had another formal observation from the Assistant Principal. Of course I received another unsatisfactory rating. The Assistant Principal even noted that I did not have a “Do Now.” Why did I not use the “Do Now?” This was because I had previously taught the lesson before and the “Do Now” “stunk up the joint” with the students. I had also heard from the staff developer that “Do Nows” were not required by the workshop model. Thus, did I mention communication at this school is not top notch between people trying to help and the administration? More on that later.

Lets back up a bit again. About a week after taking over the Literacy job, and the Thursday before the long weekend associated with Easter, I received a letter calling me to a disciplinary hearing for that Monday. To say the least I had a sleepless long weekend.

In a nutshell the disciplinary hearing was because I was not using Finish Line Reading or Kaplan test preparation books for test preparation. Whats amusing about this is that the Kaplan test preparation books since had only been delivered the Thursday before I was pulled from that class. So I questioned how I could be held responsible for not using them.

At the hearing I was represented by the second UFT person at the school because the Chapter leader’s mother had passed away that weekend. The second UFT person was also the school’s Literacy Coach. During the hearing it came up that at the seventh grade team meeting to discuss literacy and math testing that I never heard we had to use Finish Line Reading. The UFT Person, and the school’s own Literacy Coach concurred on this matter with a “I don’t recall” statement when asked.

However, I still received a letter on my file I had [allegedly] violated the test preparation schedule policy as set down at a special meeting by not using Finish Line reading workbooks. This despite I had used both STARS a little more than Finish Line as well as questions to engage the student to investigate the book we were then reading. Both STARS and the reading investigation questions came from the region’s “Suggested” test preparation schedule. Thus, I can’t figure out this principal.

Further on the letter on my file, the principal rips apart my lesson plans even though I had been praised on my planning by the Assistant Principal for having well planned lessons. This is another thing I can’t figure out.

Last Thursday I had another “Formal Observation” by the Principal. I use the word in quotes in this case because I wouldn’t use the word “formal” at all. A formal observation, according to the contract, requires a pre-observation conference. I asked, at the post observation conference when the pre-observation conference occurred. The principal replied that with all the work I had done with the Assistant Principal and others that that would suffice as a pre-observation conference. I beg to differ. All in all I received another unsatisfactory rating and a threat that the district would come in to evaluate me. With the district coming to evaluate me I figured they were now gunning for my job. Thus, I resigned effective June 1st 2005. I sent in a resignation letter via express post to be at the school May 31st.

Why resign? In order to keep my teaching license for next year, it was recommended that I resign my position.

As for the lack of communication at the school. Consider that this school is supposed to be a “model school.” Being a “model school” means your school is looked over from top to bottom by principals from other schools, regional representatives, politicians, and every person who owns a clipboard in New York City. Now back to the communication problems. Usually we receive a list of what these people are looking for and have to run crazily around our own classrooms to fix things or add things. The problem is we have been improving our rooms all year at the last minute for quite some time. Why? Because the administration issues a list of things they people are looking for the day or two days before they come. Some things are totally new and need to be created. With such a short notice most of the new stuff they are looking for is done “on the fly.” The lack of communication comes with the question I have always had: “why were we not issued a list of things that had to be in the classroom for the year at the beginning of the year?” Surely every school in the region would require the same things we are supposed to be “modeling” in usage.

Did I mention that the school I resigned from was only in it’s first year in existence? First year schools should never be model schools. Why is that? This because first year schools need time to create and develop school policies in terms of proper orderly operation of the school. Everything from who needs to where do the children report to first thing in the morning to ensuring students are fed lunch properly all within an orderly manner needs to be tested and kinks ironed out. So imagine my surprise that we were a model school in our first year. So the entire year the administration and the staff have been scrambling to ensure the school is clean, orderly and new procedures issued at the last minute to memorize and adhere to. Sometimes the policies change.

Add to this the fact that most of the staff is in their first or second year of teaching, the teaching faculty are already stressed enough about what the heck is going on tomorrow. Thus, lesson planning and unit planning are also needed. On top of this being a new school presents challenges as well. The issue of storage had become a problem with unneeded furniture requiring a home that the school just doesn’t have.

On top of this bulletin boards in the hallways need to be changed on a monthly basis. This is not too bad as it sounds. Add to this the problem of getting good quality work from the students to fill a bulletin board can be a struggle. The students at this school believe doing a piece of writing is fine enough and we should move onto something else. They don’t even get the idea of the writing the rough draft then further refining it via the writing process. So the bulletin boards are time consuming for teachers who must call parents and chase students to hand in good copies. Add to this the principal prefers everything to be typed, and you just add to the issues.

School computers you say? The school got ninety laptops with wireless connection to both internet and a printer. Well everything seems peachy keen until you realize that in some rooms the internet doesn’t work and in most rooms the computers simply do not communicate with the printer. Thus the idea of typing good copies for the above bulletin boards can be even more frustrating if we try to use the school computers becomes a frustrating experience.

Sure the school has “I Macs”. But these computers are bolted to computer tables and need to be unbolted in order to have the keyboards, power cords and mice plugged in. The region technicians need a certain serial number of the computers themselves. However, you guessed it, the serial numbers are located under the bolted down piece. So many of these “I Macs” are sitting unused in the school by either the staff or students. Probably these “I Macs” are counted under the city’s computer to student ratio even though these particular computers are not currently being used.

The craziness doesn’t stop there. Under the New York City Department of Education’s best practices marking sheet which our school is marked under, there is supposed to be at least a “parental aide” as well as a regularly appointed teacher in the In House Suspension room. When I was supervising In House Suspension there was never a “parental aide” in the room. Add to this some teachers were not submitting work to me for students to do while on suspension meant that sometimes I had to keep these students busy all day. Somedays I would have ten to fifteen of these students in the suspension room. That doesn’t sound too bad. But imagine having fifteen of the worst students from the school in your classroom and you are expected to, by the principal, keep them under control and working for the six periods you are there. Impossible most days!

So I resigned my position. That was not before I sent off an eight and half page letter to International Recruitment Office explaining what was going on at my school. Here I was with very little assistance, (except for a great mentor!) expected to work magic after at least six schedule changes during not even one school year. The students in grade seven and eight thought I was worthless because of all the schedule changes. The problem was the principal moved me around too much because she wasn’t sure where I fit in and had issues that needed to be dealt with. So I am happy to be done with this school!

For now, I have the month of June ahead of totally wide open in New York City. I think I am going to enjoy the time off with no students and explore the city as well as search for a new job here in New York and in Canada. More on this in the days to come.

Monday, May 30, 2005

An afternoon at Coney Island

My roomate and I decided to head on down to the Coney Island (a section of Brooklyn on the Atlantic Ocean). We stood in line at McDonald's on the boardwalk on Coney Island (near Stillwell & Surf Avenues) to receive two Cokes with no ice cubes. In fact the sodas were not even refrigerated at all from the taste of them. These were perhaps the worst fountain sodas we have ever had! Well on with our afternoon adventures at Coney Island!

A look at Coney Island's busy board walk on Memorial Day.

Another look at Coney Island's busy boardwalk on Memorial Day.

a look at Coney Island's busy beach from the pier near Stillwell & Surf Avenues.

A look outside the other side of the Pier. This section of beach is not looked after by lifeguards this weekend. Roomer has it there is a shortage of city lifeguards again this summer.

From the end of the Pier looking back at Coney Island.

A look towards the east side of the pier and the Coney Island amusement park, Astroland.

A look at the pier itself. In the background is the Parachute Jump (red tower) and Keyspan Park (light standards), home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

A better view of the Parachute Jump and Keyspan Park from the Pier.

Keyspan Park and the Coney Island Beach.

Astroland Amusement Park from the beach. The Wonder Wheel is on the left. The famous "Cyclone Rollercoaster" is on the far right.

The Cyclone Rollercoaster.

A busy Surf Avenue on Coney Island. Surf Avenue is the closest street going east-west behind the beach (which also goes east west).

Carnegie Hall

Went back to Carnegie Hall today to see if I could get some pictures. If you have been reading a previous blog entry, the last time I went to Carnegie Hall and took pictures, the pictures didn't exactly turn out. Today, I am pleased to say, they turned out pretty well. See for yourself!

Carnegie Hall from the corner of 56th Street & 7th Avenue.

Carnegie Hall from 7th Avenue.

Carnegie Hall from 57th Street and 7th Avenue.

Carnegie Hall front doors.

Funny and Amusing signs...

Sometimes in New York City you find some interesting signs that are quite amusing for both their stupidity and/or for their amusement factor. I have posted on this topic before in another entry. So here again for amusement another installment:

A sign on the "3" Subway train that I always find hillarious. Why so funny? Consider that someone would actually have to try and ride on the outside of a train car for the MTA to actually think of having to advertise this as a bad idea.

This one is in Times Square. The billboard is about five to six stories tall over the Virgin Records store. When Kermit is involved...nuff said on why I find this amusing.

Dam Tourists!

Tourist Photos

I was out wandering around the internet killing off some time when I stumbled accross perhaps a new hobby I could employ. Tourist Photo taking. No I don't mean to run around New York City and other places to take pictures of skyscrapers and interesting sites (which I will continue to do anyway cause it's fun). I mean to take pictures of the tourists. Check out this blog for what I mean.

hmmmm...the possiblities.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Carnegie Hall

After coming home and blogging about Fleet Week on Staten Island and having a little dinner, I decide that it was still good enough outside that I should go and visit Carnegie Hall. Why? Cause I have never taken pictures of it yet and heck its there! So why not?

Carnegie Hall (57th Street & 7th Avenue in Manhattan).

Well, the rest of the pictures I took, because of the sunset, didn't turn out and since I am new at Picasa I couldn't give them the proper emergency care to resuscitate them.

Fleet Week in New York City 2005 (continued) -- the Staten Island edition.

I was off to Staten Island (via the Ferry from Manhatten in case your wondering) to visit the Stapleton Piers. I took the MTA Staten Island Railway to the Stapleton Station to visit the naval ships part of Fleet Week in New York City. As you can see from the pictures below it was a great day weatherwise! There were ships from Canada, United States, France and Pakistan at this area of the week long event. For some reason I mainly stuck to photographing the Canadian naval ships. Perhaps that is because once you have seen one of these it is like seeing them all. Any way, here are the pictures:

Fleet Week on Staten Island from the Stapleton MTA Staten Island Railway station.

The HMCS Saint John's (front), the HMCS Halifax (middle ship) and the HMCS Athabaskan.

The fronts of the HMCS Athabaskan (near ship) the HMCS Halifax and the HMCS St. John's (far ship).

The HMCS Athabascan.

Gangway to the HMCS Athabaskan.

A Sea King Helicopter on board the HMCS Halifax.

The Sea King Helicopter viewed from the HMCS St. John's. The Helicopter is onboard the HMCS Halifax.

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge from the rear of the HMCS St. John's.

The rear of the three Canadian ships. HMCS Athabaskan (near), HMCS Halifax, and HMCS St. John's (far).

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge from the rear of "the Meuse".

The rear of the HMCS Ville de Quebec.

Four Canadian Seamen (left in white) and one Canadian Airforceman (in blue to the right of the Canadian Seamen).

Three Canadian naval ships (HMCS Athabaskan, HMCS Halifax and HMCS St. John's from left to right).

White House's new man in Ottawa a Bridge Builder

Let's hope that the new Ambassador from the United States to Canada can help smooth things over in Ottawa between the United States and Canadian governments. For too long have the Canadian-American economic interests been swept under the rug in the name of security. Why do I put it this way? Because the only thing the two governments seem to have in common is a general interest in keeping North America safe and talking about the "Star Wars" missile defense system a possibility. Well at least George Bush wants to keep "Star Wars" as a talking point with Canada. Paul Martin on the other hand first says we'll keep investigating the issue with the United States then says no we won't do "Star Wars" because of his minority government. However, Martin has still left the door open. For this I am grateful because who knows what the future might hold.

However, back to the issue at hand. Canadian-American economic relations are slowly going into the dumper. First it was the softwood lumber dispute which the two countries' political heads haven't been able to come to an agreement. This hurts the Canadian logging industry. What both countries need to come up with is common rules for the logging industry in terms of what subsidies can be provided (if any) and what subsidies (if any) are not allowed by both governments. There needs to be compromise on both ends in order to strike an agreement.

Add to the fact the Mad Cow issue popping up every now and then in Canada, it only hurts both countries. Why does it hurt both countries? Consider that the United States beef chain needs to be supplemented with Canadian beef in order to maintain a market price for food consumers. The demand for beef in the United States is still there. Consider that there is almost a McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and beef steakhouse on every corner in the United States (at least from what I have seen) means lots of demand for beef still there. Add to this the reduction in beef because Canadian beef is not welcome in the United States for the most part. (Yes I know there is some Canadian beef allowed into the United States, but the rules are very stringent). What the United States and Canada needs to do is come to an agreement saying all beef coming to the United States from Canada needs to be inspected for Mad Cow disease. This would increase the amount of beef production in Canada and open new beef plants to handle the extra demand. As for live cattle crossing the border, that may take a while longer. Although I do suppose blood testing might be a possibility for all live cattle to detect the disease, but I am guessing this has already been proposed. (NOTE: Is blood testing able to detect mad cow disease? I am unsure, but considering blood testing works for just about everything else why not?). These are just but two possibilities to solve this issue.

What Ottawa-Washington needs is a bridge builder that will start with one issue and start to investigate the commonalities between the two countries and work on a compromise on things that aren't in common. As the Toronto Star points out in their article the new ambassador from the United States to Canada, David Wilkins, seems just to be that person to do the job. Hopefully Wilkins will be quickly acclimatized to life in Ottawa and start devling into the above two and other common economic interests between the two countries in a short amount of time. All Wilkins can do is start the process between the two countries of solving these issues. Consider him the "go between guy" between Prime Minister Martin and the Canadian government and President Bush and the American government. In other words Wilkins will need to be a bridge between the two governments.

Works Cited

Ross, Oakland. “New U.S. ambassador a bridge builder.” Toronto Star. 29 May 2005. Online. Internet. Available: http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1117317010265&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154&t=TS_Home&DPL=IvsNDS%2f7ChAX&tacodalogin=yes

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Don't breathe too deeply in the subways. It could be hazardous to your health - Elijah Bruce's Blog

Don't breathe too deeply in the subways. It could be hazardous to your health - Elijah Bruce's Blog: A Diary of a Madman and his pet grasshopper Larry - Lulu.com

This blogger has it right. Sometimes the New York City subway stations smell like sewage. Why? Perhaps it is all the litter and gunk still left on the tracks from days on end. Mix in a little mouse and rodent problem and PRESTO!, you have the smell of sewage!

There are other smells within the New York City subway system as well. Like urine, feet, and other smells you can name. However, the most frustrating smell is the smell of an unknown odour that you just can't put your finger on (or is that nose?).

Even worse is when the stench is on the subway train. The smell of rotting feet in the "are those still socks? socks" has to be the worst.

How can you tell the smell is going to hit you before the doors open at the station you are going to board the train from? Look to see if the car is nearly empty or full. If the train car is full of people, chances are its safe. If the car is near empty, then WATCH OUT! There might be a funky smell comin' your way.

That my friends, is a quick lesson on New York City Subway smells.

Fleet Week in New York City 2005

It is fleet week in New York City. This means large and small boats are docked near the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Aeronautical museum. It was quite neat to visit the USS John F. Kennedy and a Pakistani ship the PNS Tippu Sultan.

Below are some pictures I took of Fleet Week celebrations.

USS John F. Kennedy sailors band playing at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at Times Square.

The USS Intrepid docked as the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The USS Intrepid, another view.

The PNS Tippu Sultan docked in New York City.

The USS John F. Kennedy docked in New York.

The elevator of the USS John F. Kenndy. You see people right now, but at see I am guessing you might see airplanes and helicopters.

Inside the John F. Kennedy looking from the middle of the ship.

M-198 Howitzer in the USS John F. Kennedy.

The skyline of New Jersey from the deck of the USS John F. Kennedy.

The Queen Mary 2 viewed from the deck of the USS John F. Kennedy.

The USS Intrepid from the deck of the USS John F. Kennedy.

The Manhatten skyline from the furtherest point of the USS John F. Kennedy's flight deck. The deck is three football fields long.

The Command Tower of the USS John F. Kennedy.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Holy Lego Chubaka!

I ventured out this fine evening to Times Square in order to see if Ken Jennings, the world famous because he has won the most money on Jeopardy! ever. Jennings, according to the Daily News Jennings was at the Toys R Us store signing his new board game.

Well, I missed him. So I wondered around for absolutely no reason except that I might as well not waste my trip. While wandering around the toy store I came upon some interesting Lego buildings. Here is what I saw:

The Chrysler Building.

Statue of Liberty.

Empire State Building with King Kong.

Chubaka from Star Wars.

In other words, this place will leave you aw struck with what Lego can do!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Washington Square Park

An adventure to Washington Square Park today. Why Washington Square Park? Because I read in the newspaper it was due for renovations. When anything is due for renovation in New York City, you might as well go and see whatever it is before renovations because you never know when the renovations may be complete.

The Washington Arch, in commemoration of the presidency of George Washington, from the foot of 5th Avenue.

Washington Arch from the back.

Washington Arch overlooking the fountain.

Overall the park is a little different. There are quite a few of artists in the neighbourhood. This is evident with art abounding around one end of the park as well as the many musicians that call the park home. There was even some dancers near the fountain dancing to a drummer making use of empty white plastic pails.

As I said before, this park is due for renovation according to New York City Parks Department. The fountain is to be moved into a visually central location for the arch and some paths are going to be redone. Perhaps the biggest renovation will be the flattening of the ashphalt mounds. The mounds look like small mountains coated in ashphalt. Some of the locals want to keep these "mounds". I ask why bother considering they are more of a legal lawsuit waiting to happen against the city in terms of some kid killing himself by racing over these mounds on foot or on skateboard. Thank goodness these mounds are currently fenced off.

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