By Norman Scott
As I write this on the morning of the last day of the school year for teachers and students, I have no sense of joy at the days to come. I am not floating two feet above the ground. The chirping birds do not sound louder. And the roses do not smell any sweeter.
You see, I am a retired teacher and I no longer get to celebrate this wondrous day - my biggest regret at being retired. Though I may join still working friends later at The Wharf to help them celebrate and congratulate them on their 2-month annual retirement, I will have just a touch of sadness at not being able to truly share in the euphoria.
Now, don't get me wrong. I really liked teaching, especially the (close to) 20 years I spent teaching in the self-contained classroom. We were with the kids up to the last moments of the school year (high school teachers slap their foreheads in disbelief when they hear this) and it was sad having to say goodbye to the kids and the little community we had built over the year. But a few minutes after they were gone, followed by an hour or two cleaning up, there was the announcement "the checks are in" and I joined the snaking line of teachers (some had lined up the night before) turning in keys, roll books, boxed records and whatever other stuff we were asked to bring along before we could get our checks. And off we went for another summer of recuperation.
This column is clearly aimed at teachers, but those not in the profession who accidentally stop by, may scoff at this summer-off business. "Hey, we get two weeks vacation, four at most." Yeah! Well I won't go into the details, but think of teaching as being in a play that opens in September and closes in June, where the teacher is the actor, director, writer, custodian, ticket-taker, etc. No one resents actors taking a little time off between plays. 'Nuff said.
I did not dread going back to work in September. But the end of two months of freedom was a dreadful counterpart to the fabulous end of June. No matter how many years you taught, the butterflies were always there on the night before you saw the kids for the first time.
Come this September, there will be no twitch of sadness when the gang troops back to the trenches. I will get a double dose of the euphoria I am missing out on today.
This column completes my fourth year since taking over Howie Schwach's School Scope column. From my narrow point of view, The Wave is truly a bastion of the independent press, which unfortunately, has been disappearing from the American landscape. With former teachers like Schwach and I covering education, readers get a point of view on education they will not read in the mainstream press or other community newspapers. Teachers who are outraged at the way education is covered, especially by papers like Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, truly appreciate that The Wave gives them a fair shake.
I get asked questions about when Murdoch will be buying out The Wave. We read lead stories about his pending takeover of the Wall Street Journal - and no matter what deal is made to maintain editorial independence, there is no way Murdoch won't impose his point of view. (Read the New York Times' recent two-part article on how Murdoch operates.) What is not generally known is that Murdoch and other media moguls have been buying up chains of community press. Increasingly, the press in the boroughs, including Queens, is no longer independent. If Murdoch or his ilk were ever to own The Wave, Howie and I would be "toast" in a matter of minutes.
This column will take a hiatus for a few weeks, but I will report on any education news of interest. If you want to keep up with education news in the NYC area, check my EdNotes Online blog every few days: http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/
Here are some excerpts of stories the EdNotes online blog recently reported: I try to provide an in-depth analysis as to how BloomKlein use the small school movement to attack large schools in destructive ways. Their goal? While they claim "Children First," in reality they use statistics to favor small schools and attack (and close) large schools as a way to build a political case for themselves as reformers, dislocating thousands of students (and hundreds of teachers) in the process. But why quibble over a lost generation when it is necessary to create a campaign for president?
In light of the above, 75 parents, teachers and students attended a rally last Sunday at Canarsie High School to defend David Harris, their principal for the past year, against what they say is his unjust removal by Region 6 officials, especially since the Region and the people who made the decision will no longer be active in the affairs of Canarsie H.S. when all Regions will be abolished. Canarsie is the only large school left standing in southeast Brooklyn, after it was announced that Tilden, South Shore, Jefferson (sadly, my alma mater) and Wingate have, or are in the process, of being closed. It is expected that Canarsie will get many of the more at-risk students who will not be accepted to the new small schools being opened in these buildings.
The CEO of a Major Corporation decides he's had enough of being a captain of industry, so he does something meaningful with his life. He becomes a NYC Teaching Fellow. That is the fastest way to get into the classroom with certification. And get part of your Masters paid for.
He is assigned to a large high school where the notorious Mr. Ogre, renowned for his ability to humiliate and destroy teachers he doesn't care for, is principal.
A first-year teacher and Iraq War veteran at Brandeis High School, Karlo Sauer, was given a U-rating. Teachers rallied to his defense.
Another satirical gem from Jan Carr on the NYC Public School Parents blog. Some excerpts:
June 21, 2007 (Gadfly News) In a surprising twist in the city's increasingly tense struggle over the direction of its schools, a coalition of 313 New York City public school principals have banded together to offer Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein a schedule of cash payments if the two agree to rescind recent changes instituted by the Department of Education.
"We had no choice," said a principal of a Brooklyn elementary school who asked to remain anonymous. "The changes they were making were radical and extreme, but more than that, they were wrong-headed. It seemed as if they were deliberately designed to destabilize our schools. We've come to the conclusion that money is the only thing they understand."
"I feel as if I've been on a reality survival show all year," he said. "Every week the DOE has thrown a new 'challenge' at us, and now that it's the end of the year we'll have to look around and see which schools are still standing."
When apprised of this principal's comment, Chancellor Klein brightened. "A survival show?" he said. "Great idea! Who says we don't listen to our professional educators? I'm going to have my people investigate the possibility ASAP!" He peeled a bill out of the wad in his wallet. "The last principal standing will win a grand!" he said. Then, "Can somebody run this ten spot over to the principal who came up with the idea, as a little incentive along the way?"
The "spokes-principal" apologized for the low dollar amounts of their rewards. "We realize that these amounts might not be 'motivating' to a billionaire," she said, "but they were all we could raise in our bake sale." The group then announced the schedule of rewards as they had structured them. The schedule included:
+ Repealing the assessment tests: $100
+ Reinstatement of the district
+ Revoking mayoral control of
schools: Priceless Read the entire item and keep up with NYC Ed News related to parents at: http://nycpublicsch oolparents. blogsp ot.com/
Visit to Manchester
I was up in Manchester, New Hampshire last week for a meeting at FIRST HQ where people from all over the nation and from Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, and Denmark who are involved with robotics, gathered. The guys from Japan are running an Asian Open FIRST LEGO League tournament in Tokyo in April '08. I already signed up as a volunteer. Konichiwa to you.
We were with some NYC teachers who were released by their schools and some very interesting conversations took place between teachers in their 20's and us 60-somethings. We managed to solve most of the world's problems in just a few days. The whole gang gathered in front of the hotel to watch the shuttle and space station pass by one night. And we got to tool around in the parking lot on a Segway People Transporter, which was invented by FIRST founder, inventor Dean Kamen.
A rare treat was a visit to FIRST founder Dean Kamen's house for dinner - for 70. We ate in the helicopter hanger.
The rest of the house? Oy vey!