Saturday, August 30, 2008

mod speak

I just love when forum mods use their positions to empower themselves and speak in trite commands. "Carry on" is one nauseating command. Or: "Posts deleted. Get back on topic and stay there."
The mods at forums remind me of dog trainers. They could apply for jobs at obedience schools where dogs are trained with reinforcement and corrections. "Proper training opens up the lines of communication between you and your pet. It also establishes the natural role of dominant owner and subordinate – not submissive – pet. Dogs are communal animals that historically lived in packs with a clear social hierarchy. Without establishing yourself as the leader of the pack, your dog may not take you or your commands seriously, which only leads to power struggles and headaches. Obedience training will make life more enjoyable for both you and your dog. Fido will feel more confident without the frustration and confusion of misunderstanding his owner. You will have a well-behaved dog that sits to greet you and comes when called. Whether you have a new puppy or are having problems with your adult dog, obedience training is the perfect solution. And contrary to popular belief, with enough patience, you can teach an old dog new tricks!"
And like excellent dog owners who follow the guidelines of the school, mods can reach entelechy!

two doozies

Please click on both photocopies to enlarge for easy reading...
from 1998:

I was proactive! I stood in front of the door to prevent a student from running out of the classroom in anger. I spoke softly and gave a calm verbal direction and then I spoke more strongly using firm tones. The student almost knocked me over as he flung open the door to run out of the room. My left hip was side-swiped. Maybe I should have pushed "the panic button."
from 1994:

I had read in the newspapers of teachers who physically intervened and broke up fights and they were charged with assault. So we gave loud verbal directions to "stop fighting." A few teachers were brought up on charges because "yelling is corporal punishment." These were what you might call classic no-win situations.

"not with a bang, but a whimper"

Sometimes major cases end not with a bang, but with a whimper. Let's go back to June 1988... the documentation reveals the long story. The letters posted below brought sweet and satisfying closure to a series of "grievances" I initiated against a principal in June 1988. Just as my case was about to go to Step IV (arbitration) in October 1989, the principal backed down and withdrew the unfair letters from my file. The fight along the way was not easy and it was filled with obstacles even from within the UFT. The district representative did not want to take my grievance to step 3 and I had to appeal his decision. I won my appeal, and after losing at step 3 I received the letter for which I was hoping. The UFT was prepared to take my case all the way to the final step: arbitration. I was elated because very few cases get that far. I knew if I won at that level my case would set into place union contractual bylaws. But it never went to arbitration because the letters were quietly removed by the principal. So my case ended not with a bang, but with a mere and quiet whimper.
In October of 1989 I was no longer teaching in that school because after my sabbatical from September 1988 to June 1989, I elected to transfer to a school in another district. I had no idea that the administrative script would remain the same and only the players' names would change.
So many teachers in NYC have had similar struggles because in NYC the administration treats teachers like the enemy. It's a "gotcha" mentality and supervisors are primed and coached in ways to "go after" teachers and build cases. It's really a shame. And it is time to shine a bright light on what goes on. I was strong and able to fight this bizarre and widespread administrative agenda. There is not anything that happens within the school for which the teacher will not be blamed.

hoisted on their own petards, Dec. 2001!

The semester right before I retired there unfolded quite a saga. The assistant principal came into my classroom and tried to support and reinforce the principal's "U" evaluation. Two administrative matched opinions can be quite solid, daunting, and damaging. She came in with a transparent agenda and I knew she had predetermined to find fault with the lesson she observed. She was reaching... but she lettered me up and in her report she states: "I distinctly remember discussing homework as separate from the block periods during the professional development day which focused on the math block given in our library earlier this year. It also does not appear in any of the sample formats for the balanced math block, which you received on that day and on another occasion afterwards."
Oh, really? I saved all the curriculm hand-outs and I went immediately to my professional file and retrieved the "Math Block." There it is right there: "Review of Math Homework" is very clear in italics print and highlighted in yellow marker for this blog post. What a jerk! I can say it now... I shake my head in total disbelief. I heard through the grapevine that the AP who wrote that letter was rubber-roomed herself a few years after I left the school. I guess contriving cases and fabricating charges of incompetence eventually backfires and results in being hoisted on your own petard. It was a fitting final chapter to that nightmare. And indeed, revenge is best served cold.
Did I ever tell you the story of the principal who was escorted out of the school in handcuffs? Soon I will write about that satisfying tale.
(please click on above documents to enlarge)

Friday, August 29, 2008

oh, dear!

The principal was foolish enough to indicate and reveal her plan to my students, who all thought I was a great teacher! That same day, a few of my students tried to give me a kind "head's up." I appreciated their loyalty and soon thereafter the principal's pre-meditated scenario to get me "fired" unfolded and was carried out according to the script she had pre-written.

The principal observed a math lesson and rated it "unsatisfactory." Good grief! We all caught a whiff of something unsavory in the air. I was strong and confident in my competence. I began the last fight of my teaching career, and gathered my documentation.

I retired after 34 long years of teaching and continued this process. After a few months of hearings, I WON my grievance against her and the evaluation of that lesson was discarded based on the fact that before she even entered the room to do her observation, her preplanned agenda was to rate that lesson "U."

I stood like "Rocky:" frozen in a victorious freeze frame.  

My Finest Hour

The math lesson was "not satisfactory?" Excuse me? Shall I scan more samples of the test based on the material taught in that math lesson?

Standardized testing throughout history was always a measure of students' achievement and progress in the subject matter. Tests were never used as a tool to determine the effectiveness of a teacher for some obtuse "accountability." There are many factors that are part of how well a student does in school. If a student pays attention in class, does his homework, and studies the material... he will probably perform well on a test.
When I was in school, I always did poorly on language tests because the subject matter was difficult and hard for me to understand and learn. On a language mid-term, I received a 41 on the test. The student next to me scored a 96. It would seem that if tests are any measure of teachers' competence, all students in a class should perform relatively the same on tests. They don't. I "Speakout"
Let's make it a bit clearer. At NYU Law School, if all law students do not pass the Bar exam does anybody believe that the professors at the university should be held "accountable?" Why do some students "flunk out" of med school? Are the teachers responsible for their failures? I never heard of the professors discussed as part of the equation when students drop-out of college.
In any class there will be some students who ace tests and do well and some who just cannot cut it and choke on tests. Some pass, some don't... and that's how it goes in school. "Merit pay" is an absurd idea because there are too many variables that filter in to what a student learns and how well he does in school.
There is a learning model in place in the NYC elementary schools that teachers are mandated to follow. There are many educational components that have been designed to achieve excellent results. With this scripted "Stepford teacher" approach, test results should be almost consistent across the board. They are not. So the denouement kills the philosophy. "Accountability" is absurd in an environment where teachers are not permitted to craft what they believe might be more excellent lessons.
In what became the last month of my teaching career, I was rated "U" for a "teacher-directed" math lesson. I was told I could not teach "math applications." The students were directed to sit in groups to discuss strategies for solving math word problems. I was named the "facilitator." And as "facilitator," I was a witness to the end of good education and I was helpless. I retired before I could be stuck in a straight-jacket and carted off by the DOE's Ministry of the Interior. I thwarted the administration's attempt to possibly have me "rubber-roomed" for failure to have morphed into a lemming. After I retired, I completed my "grievance" for the lesson that was rated "unsatisfactory" and I had that "U" over-turned and removed from my file. I produced the class test based on the material I taught during that "U" rated lesson. And almost all the students received 100% on that test. The principal was not able to substantiate her "U." But I was able to show that the "U" was applied for a transparent insidious and hidden agenda. I won my case!
My case is just one example of hundreds. I had my excellent documentation to prove this goes on. And the principal who rated me "U" is still at that school doing her thing. The teachers drink her special blend of Kool-Aid and time marches on.

(please enlarge the above principal's evaluation letter and the test samples posted)

The infamous NYC DOE's "rubber room"

Get real. NYC teachers know this BS deal. The NYC DOE is infamous for shipping off to the rubber room "whistle blowers." They trump up charges and make a 3020a case when a teacher is a threatening presence by vocally calling attention to problems or issues in the school.
Here are the stories of four:
Josh Gutterman (not "rubber roomed," just tormented)
Kimani Brown
Michael Thomas
David Pakter
Please read their stories and take a minute to learn and understand how vile this NYC Department of Education practice is. It is easy to have a long career in teaching in NYC if you are a lemming and a good toches lekker. And it helps to be a good spy and rat out teachers who are simply in their conversation implying the school is anything less than excellent. And make sure your room is decorated like a super sweet 16 party. But, if an excellent teacher is vocally critical about school policy or the administration... she is vulnerable for the "rubber room." And a mediocre teacher who, when asked how the school is, replies: "It's good," will be nominated for "Teacher of the Year." It's time to shine a light on this vile and wisepread agenda and expose it once and for all. All you need to succeed in teaching in NYC is evidence of a shiny brown nose.
“In the Soviet Union, the government silenced dissidents by placing them in psychiatric institutions; in New York City, the Department of Education silences teachers by placing them in ‘rubber rooms.’ I am fortunate that students and teachers speak for me.” — Michael Thomas
I applaud you Michael Thomas and I am proud to side with you, support you, and you are a role model for all who out of fear have as their mantra: "I don't want to get involved." Get involved. You go UFT! UFT forever! Randi Weingarten rocks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Housecoat

I finally did it. I succombed. Recently, I drove to the Newport Center Mall and walked through the mall past Victoria's Secret and Frederick's of Hollywood (not that at my age and with my body I would even give consideration to walking into those stores). I knew where I was going. I had direction and I was on a mission. I headed to JC Penney to check out the housecoats, or as they are sometimes called: "dusters."
I am of that age now when I want to be able to sit around my apartment in a housecoat and be able to wear it to both leave the apartment to throw out the garbage and to go down to do the laundry.
I did not like the selection in JC Penney because they were all only hand washable and I must be able to machine wash my clothes. So, I headed over to Macy's, but they had nothing.
I decided to stop at the Food Court. I dined at Burger King and washed my lunch down with a McDonalds's chocolate shake. Then I noticed a new ice cream joint in the corner by Kohl's and I went in to look at the flavors. They had blue ice cream! It looked unappealing, so I settled for a medium dish of toffee. I was sitting on the bench and was feeling very relaxed. I got a text message from this guy William who I don't even know but he keeps text messaging me about nonsense. I deleted the message and went into Kohl's. I ran out because they had nothing larger than a size 12.
I headed to Sears. Wow! I loved their large collection of beautiful dusters. I got three: one in red plaid, one with blue flowers, and one with pink stripes. I was delighted!
I came home and washed them because I always wash before wearing. Today, I am sitting here at the computer and I am wearing the red one. It is very comfortable and it should serve me well since I live in an apartment house. I can wear it in the hall and feel quite appropriately attired with proper decorum.
Little finds can bring such joy into a day. And it is very important to be mentally ready and prepared to pass through life's stages in terms of dress. One day you can be all sexed out in black lace lingerie from Victoria's Secret and the next day you can be a fat slob in a red plaid housecoat from Sears.
It's all good. I compliment the look with two rollers in the top of my hair (for height). I found my smile.

I find the perfect "do"

it's all about the height, and the hair here: teased to complete perfection... I was happy.

two examples of "fashion-forward"

in Puerto Rico, 1965
in my own backyard, 1967

a foot in the mouth

When my beloved David lived across the hall the parties were never-ending. I usually attended with my de rigueur Louis Vuitton bag and snapped the photos. When David said something silly, he never put his own foot in his mouth... he put Bobby's. It looks like Bobby should have done laundry more often or used bleach on his socks. Those were the days of much carefree fun. It was 1976, right before the AIDS devastation. We lost over 20 men to AIDS in my apartment building. There is a sadness I carry with me and a terrific longing for those wonderful days of silliness and laughs. When David moved away, I knew living in this building would change forever. (The bottom photo is David as "Barbra.")

mirror, mirror, on the wall

Who is the most over-invested of all? Forget that sh*t. I had a lovely day at the rooftop pool. The view (from the 44th floor) of the Hudson River and Central Park is simply divine. I can see all the way west to New Jersey and all the way east to Queens. I recline on the shady and cool terrace and read. I wander into the sauna and sometimes the steam room. I sip my Snapple and drink in the shades of the technicolor sky. I admire the glorious sunsets from a place so high up that I feel like I am flying. It really is my oasis. Then I take the swift elevator down to the ground floor and the noisy city startles me into a reality check. The photo below was taken in January 1976. David was looking into his own mirror. He lived as a creative inspiration and he is greatly missed.

in memory

... and the audience still is not sure if Barbra was really there.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

with make-up, without make-up

it's the same ball of wax... harsh man, harsh!

Monday, August 25, 2008

two stars

Here is another photo of two stars taken during the 60s. Don't they both look terrific? Neil Klugman: "Brenda, I'd like to talk to you about nothing."

guess who?

This photo was taken in the 60s as a Broadway star exited a taxi and entered the stage door of the theater for her show. The picture is blurry. Please E-mail or leave a comment if you want to guess the performer in the photo. There is a prize for the winner. What's the prize? You have a choice. I will treat you to a dinner at Le Zie, you can be a guest at my pool, or you can place mittens on my hands after I sign-on.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

esoteric choices

Chelsea Classics
MoMA film screenings
Cabaret Cinema at the Rubin Museum of Art
Today, I saw "Rear Window" at MoMA. Sure, I have seen it many times. But, there is something so special and soothing and comforting about seeing a classic film in a movie theater... especially in a NYC theater where the whole audience shares the experience and finds humor in the predictible. It's as satisfying as an ice cream Dixie Cup.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"yelling" is corporal punishment

In today's New York Post, Michelle Malkin published a piece titled: "Classroom Chaos, Corporal punishment is not the problem." Ms. Malkin says: "America's problem isn't that we're too tough and cruel in the classroom. It's that we've become too soft and placative, too ashamed and timid to assert authority and take unilateral action to guarantee a secure environment. Exactly where the human rights groups want us."
Has she even read the NYC Chancellor's Regulations A-420 and A-421? What planet is she living on? In NYC, yelling at students is now considered corporal punishment. What teacher will risk being "rubber-roomed" in a learning environment where even raising your voice is a basis and grounds for charges?
I am so sorry, Michelle Malkin. Teachers will follow the Chancellor's regulations and carefully choose their words and speak in a soft and measured tone of voice when speaking to students. Anything more can result in a 3020-a. The road to being fired is not pleasant. And even if the laws changed and were more flexible as you appear to be suggesting, no teachers would engage in any form of corporal punishment and risk having their own beating by students videotaped and being shown on YouTube.

up on the roof, July 1975

oh, those joyous carefree days of summer; "tar beach" was open!

Friday, August 22, 2008

shades of Jack Torrance

TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned meTWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned meTWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned meTWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me TWoP banned me

I was not banned here.

oye, vut a migraine that ban gave me!

tidbits through time

This is a copy of the press listing for our comedy show at Trubbles. RIP, dear Trubbles. For years, we knocked it out of the park twice a week. Every female comic brought to the show her total 'A' game. We all were sad to see the demise of the restaurant and room. The other photo is a cast picture from "Mishkin's Paradise," September 2002. There I am, the second from the left... basking in the joy of the great reviews of our play.
I now appear in stand-up comedy shows at The Comic Strip. Please E-mail for details. Time marches on. Indeed, "smart women don't retire." They join MOMA, The NY Historical Society, and a pool and health club on the 44th floor of a building overlooking the Hudson River and Central Park. Today's lunch at the Union Square Cafe was marvelous.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


"She's going to use a peer group meeting with "bright, accomplished women" to talk about how she spends all day bellyaching about a ban from Twop?" (sic, I prefer TWoP)
uh.... you got that right, cyber-dude. (I would say cyber-putz, but I reserve that nomenclature for the more familiar)
It seems a bit less obtuse than many young incognitos who spend so much of their good time talking about and cyber-analyzing and assigning a personna to an old lady who bellyaches all day about a ban from TWoP...
He continues: "Heh, you guys talk as though you think marge (sic, Marge) ever leaves the house." This schmuck has created quite a dactylogram for me to suit his agenda. Now he has diagnosed me as an agoraphobic. I wonder why my fixation with my own TWoP ban sticks in his dopey craw? He calls me "dense" and "thick" and he never even met me.
Here is a poem to validate him for a Thursday afternoon:
Roses are red and violets are blue,
I don't get any comments: boo-hoo-hoo-hoo!
addendum: Please form the correct possessive for a proper noun ending in 's.' Talk about "wrong-headed...."
case in point: It is not "Barnes' blog." It is "Barnes's blog." Go find a Katherine Heigl lookalike and go on a date instead of analyzing what an old lady sticks in her blog, lmao.

to all who "sweat" me:

Maybe I will blog endlessly later about some cyber-phantom named who? Robert Blue? lmao redux, I think not!
Forget him; he is OUT and I am IN! Make me your: TOPIC! Now. Rule of thumb: if it is about ME, I read it. If it is about anybody else, I dismiss it. Now, off to the pool!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

me, in sepia tones

Ah, the sweet "olden days." I often wonder: if the internet had been around when I was in my youth would I have wasted one minute of my sweet and precious time at a computer? I think not. It was always about the night and NYC fun. I would not have taken any time away from strutting my stuff at Studio 54 and mingling with Bianca, Andy, Truman, and Halston. I carried on at Les Mouches till dawn. I would never interact with or write my opinions about total strangers on the internet. I was self-involved. It was always so all about me.

in ages and stages

This was taken after a comedy show, as I was chasing off the paparazzi. I had more attitude than Courtney Cox on: “Dirt.”
The bottom photo shows me as I turned 60 in January 2007 at: The Water Club. I love The Water Club's website because the music really creates the elegant atmosphere of what the restaurant is all about.

flashforward, flashback

top photo: taken at Le Cirque after I turned 60; and the food, sublime!
bottom photo: taken during the 70s, as I entered the PS schoolyard to pick up my 6th grade class after that lunch at a local diner. That was the last fur coat I ever wore. It's so tacky and a real played out look. We can all have our eyes opened, be made aware, and live and learn. PETA

Say See Bone redux (hungry)

... 'twas a long shoot; a girl's gotta eat!

Say See Bone (hooked on phonics)

'nuff said

the view, looking north

... this was taken at dusk, "on the street where I live."
The Empire State Building is seen in the distance decorated in Autumn colors.

grey skies

This was taken in front of my apartment house in about 1977. It was the middle of the afternoon and the streets were empty, except for two solitary bike riders. In the distance the Empire State Building is visible. It is now dwarfed by tall and taller buildings. And the pedestrian congestion is unbearable. The sky was grey and it was a bleak day. Chelsea was still an undiscovered enclave... a ghost town.

a ghost town?

Is this a photo of a ghost town? No. It was taken at about 3:00 PM on an overcast Sunday in about 1977. The view is of Seventh Avenue facing West 18th Street, which is the area known as Chelsea. There is not a person to be seen. Today, if you visit Chelsea... the streets are very congested with traffic, and you can hardly walk without bumping into people. The sidewalks are peppered with outdoor cafes.
The old building on the left was once a horse stable and in the 80s through the 90s it was Le Madri restaurant. There was a big fight over landmarking that building on the left, but now it is becoming "The Yves." I live right across the street, and I am watching it going up. It's all blue-tinted sculptured glass, with a rooftop pool, and apartments that are going for up to six million dollars. I will share the same neighborhood, same view... and the irony is that we will all go down to the same street and smell the same garbage and dog poop. Welcome to the neighborhood!
fancy schmancy
West 18th Street in 1906

I Speakout!

On the NYC DOE's accountability: here
I sigh with exasperation when I read editorial pieces in newspapers which promote the concept of evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students. The writers have no understanding of what is happening in the classrooms.
It is ludicrous to speak about “accountability” when there is what the New York City Department of Education believes to be an excellently designed model in place that teachers are mandated to follow. Teachers are now required to follow a very rigid and almost scripted daily plan. Teachers attend workshops during which they receive instruction on how to effectively implement the model. One would think that since the teachers receive a “roadmap” regarding exactly what to say during their lessons that all the students would perform well on tests. It’s a “Stepford teacher” approach and test scores should be consistent.
It is absurd that teachers should be held “accountable” for the test results from a method they never even chose in the first place. We can only discuss the subject of accountability if teachers are allowed to craft what they might consider more effective and creative lessons. Without that flexibility, we are evaluating teachers who have been reduced to robots. “Accountability” becomes too absurd in the present scenario to even continue a dialogue. I can only prove my worth if you allow me to teach you with my own techniques. If you give me a recipe, please do not evaluate my ability to bake a great cake.
I failed science in the 9th grade. It was not because my teacher did not know how to craft excellent and effective lessons. The student sitting next to me in that science class received very high grades. My test scores had nothing to do with the principal or which politician was in control of the schools. My sister, who had the same set of parents, did very well in school and was an honor student.
I did not pay attention in class, did not carefully do my homework and did not study for exams. As a matter of fact, I did very poorly in high school and had nobody to blame but myself! It was not until college that I realized the value of education and the true importance of study. I was then able to develop a seriousness of purpose and succeed in classes and I finally performed well on tests. I would feel bad for my science teacher if he was held accountable for my failure.
I was a 5th- and 6th-grade teacher in the New York City public schools from 1968 to 2002 and I am now retired. During the last few years of my career, the learning model in the schools completely changed. I was no longer allowed to keep my students seated in rows during “teacher-directed” lessons at the chalkboard. I was not permitted to teach “math applications” and my role was reduced to that of “facilitator.” Children were placed in groups to discuss strategies for solving math word problems.
Students no longer learned to read with a basal reader and a comprehension workbook. Phonics, which is the basic building block for reading instruction because it teaches the sounds the symbols make, had been reduced to a watered-down approach called “phonemic awareness.” Students were choosing “just-right books” from classroom leveled libraries with books grouped by genre. In many schools today, students do not even have textbooks in the basic subject areas.
At the end of my career, a principal came into my room and told me she wanted more “productive noise.” I knew it would soon be time to exit the system when I went from group to group and heard the students not discussing literature or the books they selected, but their plans for Saturday!
Here’s a “tip” from me: Get the schools back to strong and solid basics and stop the nonsense already. Quiet classrooms, textbooks and structure is what it’s all about. The rest is a total sham. I am glad I am retired.

It was a very good year...

"When I was twenty-one
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stair
With all that perfumed hair
And it came undone
When I was twenty-one..."
-- Ervin Drake