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Saturday’s Demonstration #BlackLivesMatter Was Really Something

December 15, 2014 am31 8:09 am

Nothing profound to say here. I was feeling fluish, but would have been embarrassed not to at least take a peek, seeing as I was already downtown for an AM movie. Had a bowl of mushroom dumpling soup on Second Avenue, and wandered over to Washington Square a little before 2, expecting to see a fun but ragtag group scattering in. Nope. The park was packed.

I forged into the thick of it, and then out along the edge, and back in, hoping to run into a familiar face. But the crowd was already in the thousands, and luck wasn’t with me. It started to move. Waves of chants flowed. Signs were everywhere – homemade, and distributed on the spot.
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We shuffled forward, unevenly. Marching was out of the question. But the voices were powerful. Here and there small groups fell back, or surged forward, all being carried in the broad Fifth Avenue river.
As we slowly advanced, I checked my phone. Twitter wasn’t accepting posts, and my connection was bad for Facebook. I noticed others glancing into their palms as well. Video cameras darted around us. On corners, at lightpoles, boys and girls took pictures from their perches. I thought about finding a pole of my own. But I let the crowd carry me forward.
I tried to see ahead of me. I don’t know if I could have seen the front, even if I were taller. I tried to look back. That was more difficult. I was surrounded by a flowing stream of Black and white, mostly young, but some old, some chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” others with their hands up. The energy and power were intense. I thought it might carry me to the end.

At Herald Square we turned, and I saw the Manhattan Mall. Bathroom. Across the street I saw Duane Reade. Sudafed. And back across the street I saw the D train. Home.

I’m a fan

December 5, 2014 pm31 12:50 pm

…. of my students.

Yesterday, the fourth day of a dress up week, was “Spirit Day.” (Pajama Day, School Spirit Day, and Twin Day were earlier)

Students were asked to wear clothing to support their favorite team (Yankees, Rangers, even Red Sox…)

But many of my students wore a piece of paper over their tops, like a runner’s number. The papers looked like this:

Not a Fan

Of course they were not all the same. Some of my students are not fans of chokeholds, or people being targeted for their race.

But there were a lot of protesters, more than half of some of my classes. And they were clever, and got their message across, and I’m a fan.

Getting Back in the Swing (Sabbatical’s really over)

October 10, 2014 am31 6:09 am

Six weeks in, and I’m back in the swing.

I could write “it feels like I never left” but that wouldn’t be true. I’m calmer, feel better. Leave aside that I’ve studied a lot and seen a lot, been to a lot of cool places, made new friends… And I have continued life without an alarm clock. I hope to never use one again.

But the first couple of weeks – and I’m not asking for sympathy, since I deserve none – I was tired each evening by 7, sometimes earlier. I can write a lesson, and manage a classroom, all that good stuff, but physically I was a first year teacher all over again.

But here I am, finishing up my first “interim reports,” giving my second round of tests (in the courses where I test, more about that another time), collecting my first rounds of projects… Back in the swing.

This week three classes solved “How many three digit numbers are there?” (one class found six ways to count them) and “In a 73 player single elimination tournament, how many matches are played?” and wrote up their process.

Another class, that’s been getting a quickly paced diet of algebra review (trinomial factoring with two and three digit coefficients, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing algebraic fractions, polynomial long division) oohed and aahed when they learned that for \frac{10}{27} \div \frac{2}{3} they could divide straight across.

And my seniors, they completed a four equations, four unknowns project, and turned in mostly clean, well-annotated work, and then had what I thought was a really good talk about keeping the stress level down during the next few months of college applications.

The only thing missing now is blogging…

Teachout for Governor, Robert Jackson for State Senate

September 9, 2014 am30 7:43 am

In the first UFT Executive Board of the year, New Action moved the endorsement of Zephyr Teachout for Governor. The motion was debated (2 speakers for, 3 against) and overwhelmingly defeated. Yet it was important that the issue came forward, and that opposition to Cuomo was acknowledged.

I spoke about Robert Jackson during the question period. Given the NYSUT endorsement of the other guy, a motion seemed besides the point. But what does Jackson have to do – Hero of Public Education, Dewey Award Winner (UFT), Lion for the Children of NY – to earn the UFT’s support?

Fuller report is at the New Action website.

Sabbatical – last 48 hours of freedom

September 2, 2014 am30 7:15 am

Summer Vacation 2013. Then a study sabbatical 2013-14. Then Summer Vacation 2014. And now, after 14 months out of school with very few exceptions, there’s one more hour until I’m going back.

The last 48 hours:

Sunday, 8AM Answer e-mails, read news, light breakfast in room, stretch, pack.

Sunday, noon. Check out. Check bag. Walk down University towards the Rogers Centre.

Sunday, 12:30. Front Street by the Rogers Centre and the Metro Toronto Convention Center are adjacent. Yankees fans, Jays fans, and Fan Expo Canada all mixed together, dressed like their favorite character, be they the Riddler, Jeter, or Lind. Who looks silliest?

Sunday, 1PM. Jeter Ceremony. They gave him a trip to Banff.

Sunday, 3:30. Quick game. Yankees lose 4-3.

Sunday, 4:30. Pho Orchid for a bowl of soup. (rare beef). Then cafe sua da, or whatever it’s called. Vietnamese iced coffee. Sweet. I spent myself down to about C$4.

Sunday, 5:30. Express bus to the airport.

Sunday, 6:45. Arrive Pearson.

Boarding Pass TorontoSunday, 7PM. I learned that that nifty passport card, good for Canada and Mexico, is only valid for LAND and SEA, not AIR travel. I get a confused agent at pre-security. Then an explanation at Passport Control, and a folder to carry, which they take at Customs and send me into an office, where I get a “talking to” and they stamp my entry stamp on my boarding pass. Then a confused flight attendant looks at my passport card. But I’m good.

Sunday, 10PM. On curb, LaGuardia. Wait half an hour for the M60. Not reasonable at that hour. Bus is packed. Woman blocks access to the center aisle with an empty stroller. Driver announces last stop is Steinway. Then repeats herself, “last stop in Queens…”

Sunday, 11:30. Home. I binge watch House (Season 6, 3 episodes) and go to sleep.

Monday, 9:30. Katie arrives. Pack a little. We drive to a deli, get trail snacks, and a sandwich for me. Pick up Adil and Meryem.

Monday, 11:30. Storm King. Beautiful weather, skies clear for us, storms must be to our south.

Monday, 4:30. Home. We did a shorter loop.

Monday, 6PM. Walk to Garden Gourmet (about 2 miles). Shop. Walk home.

Monday, 7:30. Phone calls.

Monday, 8:30. Binge watch House. Season 6, three episodes.

Monday, 11:30PM, last sleep before work.

Tuesday, 5:30AM… you know… but without an alarm

Tuesday, 7, coffee in hand, write blog post.

Tuesday, 7:15 (right now). Finish post, shower. And the first walk to work…

Unjust, unfair firing of probationary teachers – give them a second chance.

August 30, 2014 am31 9:52 am


NEWS RELEASE   Contact: Greg Distefano    August 28, 2014     Phone: 718 757 4552

Unjust, unfair firing of probationary teachers – give them a second chance.

Press conference
Tuesday, September 2, 4:30 PM
in front of the Department of Education (Tweed), 52 Chambers Street.

Stephanie (Barchitta) Casertano  PS3 Staten Island and
Dana Parisi PS253 Brooklyn,
both discontinued,  will speak briefly, will deliver their appeals to Carmen Fariña, and will be available for interview.
Others may join them.

Under the Bloomberg / Klein administration, many principals were hired based on management, not educational/pedagogical skill. While some grew to be fine principals, hundreds remained incompetent and became abusive. And as probationers can be fired without cause, hundreds of probationary teachers were unjustly discontinued and prohibited from working anywhere in the NYC Department of Education.

The teachers here today could work elsewhere in the system – other principals want them. They spent many years of college preparation, and were fired without being given proper support. But they are unfairly barred. They are asking the Chancellor to review their discontinuances. And we urge the Chancellor to review all the discontinuances of incompetent principals.

New Action is a caucus within the United Federation of Teachers.

Frustrating Endorsements

August 22, 2014 pm31 11:55 pm

State Senate
11 – UFT ally, John Liu, against Tony Avella who once challenged Bloomberg, but more recently joined the IDC to help Klein and the Republicans steal back the senate that they’d lost
31 – long time friend of public education and the UFT Robert Jackson, against Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat was not supposed to be in this race, but his primary challenge to Charlie Rangel failed
34 – Jeff Klein, head of the IDC, is finally facing a primary

Oliver Koppell vs Jeff Klein (NY State Senate 34. Klein led the IDC)
NYSUT – Klein
AFL/CIO – Klein
de Blasio – Klein
WFP – none

John Liu vs Tony Avella (NY State Senate 11, Avella joined the IDC)
NYSUT – no endorsement
de Blasio – Avella
WFP – none

Robert Jackson vs Adriano Espaillat (NY State Senate 31, Espaillat ran because he lost to Rangel in the primary)
NYSUT – Espaillat
AFL/CIO – no endorsement
de Blasio – not sure – probably no endorsement
WFP – Espaillat

Cuomo vs Teachout
NYSUT – no endorsement
AFL/CIO – no endorsement
de Blasio – Cuomo
WFP – Cuomo



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