Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Thankless Job?

So Cathie Black, to no one's surprise, has been granted the necessary waiver to serve as Chancellor. I stand by my position that I'm attempting to reserve judgment until she actually does something, but in the meantime, I'm going to continue to speculate about the situation, since it's all anyone is talking about anyway. Who wants to think about anything else with eighteen long school days remaining until the holiday break?

Like many people, I wonder, still, why Black wants this job. No one, herself included, is pretending that she has some kind of lifelong passion for education of any kind, public or otherwise. The public disapproves of the appointment, with many believing she's being brought on primarily to "right-size" the DOE. The highest echelons of state education administration have expressed serious reservations about her ability to do the job, such that they have insisted that she take on a specific deputy, Shael Polakow-Suransky, to serve as a Chief Academic Officer.

I think, if Ms. Black was a teacher, those around her would quietly begin to discuss the "counseling out" process. A lot of teachers don't make it, a fact that's well-known and silly not to talk about. The job is not right for everyone. That's not an admission of general incompetence, lack of intelligence, or lack of compassion; it's a simple statement of fact that not everyone makes it because it is not the right fit for everyone, even those who are well-qualified on paper or even lovely people with many lovely qualities in real life. It just doesn't work for everyone. Nothing you can do.

At this point, is this job a good fit for Ms. Black? Given a host of other choices, anyone from Michelle Rhee to Jesus Christ or anyone in between, would anyone who is not Mayor Bloomberg or one of his sycophants actually choose her, on purpose? And what is she going to get accomplished with this serious lack of support?

If I were Ms. Black, I would have graciously stepped aside weeks ago, saying that, after careful reconsideration, I found the job to not be a good fit and would have offered my support to a different candidate. Ms. Black could still do that, pointing to the excellent (or at least better) qualifications of Mr. Polakow-Suransky and expressing confidence in his ability to take on the job solo.

Why does she want this thankless job at this point? Seriously. I'm wondering.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

There Are 19 School Days Until the Holiday Break


Hope you all enjoyed the all-too-short Thanksgiving break. I know I could have used one more day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Miss Eyre Gets Schooled on Reality Television

STUDENT 1: "Miss Eyre, this girl Violet acts like she is on Bad Girls' Club."

ME: "Bad Girls' Club?"

STUDENT 2: "Aw yeah! Like that one where the one is all up in other's face and they were like dragging each other around by the hair?"

STUDENT 1: "Ohhhh yeah."

ME: "I'm sorry, is this a reality show or something?"

STUDENT 1: "Oh, Miss Eyre, you never saw Bad Girls' Club?"

ME "Um, no."

STUDENT 2: "You HAVE to! It would, like, help you understand Violet."

STUDENT 1: "These girls have, like, issues. And they're all angry and stuff and have all these fights and they have to live in a house together."

STUDENT 2: "I would not want to live with Violet."

Friday, November 5, 2010


STUDENT #1: Damn, girl, pull up your camisole! Don't nobody need to see all that!

STUDENT #2: Aight, I got you! Jeez! **pulls up camisole**

STUDENT #1: Look at Miss Eyre! She can wear a tank top without showing all that business! You can too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Best of Days, the Worst of Days

Did I have a great day or a terrible day? It's after 7 p.m. and I'm still wondering. Let's look at the evidence from the text:
  • One of my advisees got into a truly dirrrrty girl fight today, and because I happened to be in the hallway, I got to babysit the girl she fought while waiting for a dean to pick her up because the two girls needed to be separated (obviously).
  • Two kids openly complained about their grades.
  • My lesson totally fell flat.
On the other hand:
  • One of the kids who complained about his grade actually came back after school and had a heart-to-heart with me about how he could do better.
  • The girl I babysat was in tears and I might have actually gotten her to calm down before she gave her statement.
  • Another student came by after school to help me organize my classroom library, and along with a couple of her friends, we ended up having a really nice chat. She even told me that I was her favorite teacher so far this year.
So: great day or horrible day?

Is it corny if I say that I secretly think it was great?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Sports for You

Really? Yes, really. The principal of Martin Van Buren High School is trying to drive sports out of the school. Rather than share a reaction that ought to be obvious, I'm going to share a rebutting anecdote instead.

I have a student this year, "Jonathan," who seems so far to be a bright and good-hearted kid. But he has issues, for sure--anger issues, home issues, friend issues. He's in counseling already, thanks to a quick and concerned counselor at my school who jumped right in when I alerted her to Jonathan's problems. I checked in with her the other day about Jonathan's progress.

"His attendance is better, right?" she asked.

"It is," I said. "He's been in school every day, and he's been late less."

"Good," she said, nodding. "He wants to go out for baseball and there's batting practice after school every day, so he's getting here. That should help."

Sports are important to Jonathan, important enough that he'll overcome his aversion to school to play baseball. And if we can get him there for baseball, the academics will begin to sink in, at least somewhat. And then Jonathan will have options other than baseball, too.

Sure, it doesn't work that way for every kid. But it works for an awful lot. Because student athletes have to get through a physical, pass every subject, and be present on game days, you're also promoting health, scholarship (at least a minimal standard), and attendance. Maybe Ms. Shevell will save a few bucks, or get a few distracted athletes graduated because of her new policy. But I wonder if she won't also see a drop in attendance and a bigger drop in graduation rates as kids who were drawn in by sports find one less reason to show up every day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Let Me Get Right on That

Like many of us, I am working on finalizing grades for the first round of report cards. (ALREADY? ALREADY. I know. I can't believe it.) On the last day of the marking period, I was on my way back to my classroom after a visit to the supply closet a little while after the end of the last class of the day.

"Miss Eyre," I heard a voice call. It was one of my students, "Lee."

"Hi, Lee," I said. "What's up?"

"Um, you got any extra credit I could do to bring my grade up?"

"You're kidding, right?" I said, incredulously.

"No. I want to bring my grade up."

"Lee," I said, "I had two make-up periods earlier this week. The days and times were posted on the board all week. I didn't see you at either of them."

"Well," he said, "I was failing science."

"Then you made your choice, right?" I asked.

"But I want to bring my grade up," he protested.

I made the outlandish suggestion that he should do more homework and studying and come to see me before 4:00 p.m. on the last day of the marking period next time.

He walked off in a huff.