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Goodbye 2019

January 2, 2020 am31 1:11 am

I could open with a lame resolution to write more. Writing, when you are in the habit, can become predictable. I am not going to pretend that a resolution will make any difference. Instead, I’d like to look back at the year that just passed. I think it marks part of an ongoing transition for me – from something – I could describe that – to something – I’m not sure I know what that will be.

How was 2019 a transition?

It was the first full year in which I gave no tests. I’ll write about that. It’s a big deal. A kid made a documentary film about it (small scale, just in the school).

I spoke about not giving tests at LImaçon in March – and math teachers at two other city schools showed interest. I spoke about it again at New3 (New Cubed)  at Siena in July.

It was a big year for union work for me – I lost a seat I had held on the UFT Exec Board for a decade. I’ve freed up some time, and reinvested it in some personal projects, and politics, and in school.

And I am slowly making my way closer to retirement.

In January we wore Red for Ed. I like wearing Red for Ed. But we need to think about doing more.

Hiked in Sterling Forest.

In February I suspended my attendance at caucus meetings.  A welcome break. Don’t know when I’ll go back. Hiked Cold Spring.

March was Limaçon. And I put on my third school play. Kind of produced. Really stayed out of the way so that the pros (kids) could do everything. I did book the theater. We went years without theater at my school. Someone had to get it started. Hiked Taurus

.

In April I helped organize my school’s 3rd annual career day. We went years without a career day…  Hiked part of Macedonia Brook State Park (Kent CT) Want to go back.

In May I got talked into not only visiting the Adirondacks, but at looking at land.  I’ll be spending more time up there, starting soon.

Hiked Schunnemunk.

In June I attended my last UFT Executive Board. I asked one more time about the School Diversity Advisory Group report. And I talked about leaders who only fight for members who are strong enough to fight for themselves. We need to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves. The weird thing was that was it. I sat down, then left. In June I hiked West Mountain, in Harriman. And to Pine Meadow Lake, in Harriman. And back in the Adirondacks I explored more. I went to Clara Hemphill’s retirement. And went to a celebration for one of our Peace Officers (recognized by the UFT). I watched a friend’s kids, and got them to eat sauerkraut, drink the sauce, and ask me to buy them more (Clearwater).

July was the math conference at Siena. And I visited Olanna Historic Site, which was fascinating. Protested ICE in Philly. Hiked Sleeping Giant with my sister. Walked through Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

Marched and shouted for Ricky to resign. Twice. And he did.

Scrambled around Great Barrington and Cornwall CT with my uncle and cousin.

And back to the Adirondacks.

Opened August with beautiful walks in Van Cortlandt, and back to Sleeping Giant with my sister.

 

And climbed a hill just south of East Rock with my aunt and uncle. And then… Road Trip with Alan! Eastern PA. Antietam. Harpers Ferry WV. The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. And then Kentucky. Louisville. A distillery. A horse farm. And the Mohammed Ali Center. Drove to a Reds game. Then southeast to the Cumberland Gap. Hike. Then Harlan County and Mingo County and finally east to Beckley (Coal Mine) and the New River Gorge. Last vacation day we caught the Pulaski Yankees of the Appalachian League.

                           

Got back. Hiked West Mountain again. Hiked further northeast in Harriman. Hiked to Pine Meadow Lake from the other side.

September school opened. Our push for Discovery has started to reintegrate our school. Very cool. We want to do more. It’s frustrating to get stonewalled by people who you think are allies. But we will keep going. I was back in Harriman, and back in the Adirondacks.

October brought another hike in Harriman. And another trip north.

And then a 14-hour emergency room visit (unrelated to hiking, and I’m ok).

And another Red for Ed day. Love those, but…

In November our after school program really got going. We do enrichment and test prep for 7th graders from local middle schools. Our students do the teaching, and with guidance, the planning. This year we more than doubled the program from about 25 to almost 60. (we run classes with 12 – 15 – no shortage of junior and senior volunteers. And yes, I went up to the Adirondacks. And back to Sleeping Giant with my sister and her husband and his bad knees (ouch).

In December I hiked with microspikes for the first time (Minnewaska).

And for the first time in my career I’m the target of some disciplinary something or other (I don’t know what, yet. I can’t imagine it’s horrible, but it sucks not knowing).

I got back to the Adirondacks.

And just 3 days ago, to close the month, to close the year, I saw my mother walk. Maybe fifty steps. No walker, no wheelchair, no cane. For the first time in over two years.

Your grade is based upon…

November 25, 2019 pm30 4:20 pm

What factors into the grades we give students?

I teach mathematics. High School mathematics. So that’s what I’m thinking about first. But it’s a question for all of us. All levels. All subjects.

What do you count? Tests? What else?

Quizzes?  Do you grade them like mini-tests? How do they differ from tests?

Participation? Do you try to quantify it? Give points for particular actions? Judge it qualitatively?

Homework? Do you grade the problems? Do you even collect homework? Do you spot check problems? Just check for completeness?

Papers?  Do you have kids write any sort of papers?  I guess in science classes, there are lab reports. In English, essays. In social studies, essays. Term papers? Research papers? Research papers in math or science? Investigations?

Projects? What sort? In what subjects do we do data collection?

Presentations? From power points, or from posters, or from notes?

I am assuming at this point that most of us do not directly assess attendance – but anyone?

Practical assessments (kid demonstrates that they have the skill) – are these just tests in a different form?

What else am I missing?

Which of these do you do? How?

In praise of Michael Bloomberg

November 24, 2019 pm30 7:37 pm

Nah, I’m not nuts. I’m not voting for the guy. Neither should you. I don’t support him. Never have, never will.

The worst thing about him? So many choices. But I focus on education. His legacy in education is disorganisation and destruction, and we are still suffering the consequences.

So, actually, this praise is very short. There’s just two things I will mention.

In 2012, while mayor, Bloomberg came to my high school’s graduation, and delivered an address.

Before I go further, you might be wondering, did I just sit back when Bloomberg invited himself to our graduation? Some days before graduation a Unity stalwart discussed the matter with me, and afraid I might disrupt the ceremony said “But Jonathan, you have to be reasonable” “No,” I replied “no I do not.” And that’s important. But I did not disrupt the ceremony, as good as that might have made me feel, because it would not have made the kids feel very good, and because it would have been an individualistic act. Teachers in my chapter proposed and produced UFT colored lapel stickers saying “Respect Teachers” which most of us wore (I know the two who did not), and which were clearly anti-Bloomberg, and which students and parents remarked on after the ceremony.

Back to Bloomberg’s address. Our valedictorian in 2012 was headed to Johns Hopkins. Bloomberg is an alumnus. He said something nice about our student, and about the institution, and then remarked “I won’t say how I did at Johns Hopkins, beyond mentioning that the top half of the class would not exist without students like me.”

Praise point #1 – Michael Bloomberg told a self-deprecating joke that was genuinely funny.

While mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg presided over a disgusting police program of randomly intimidating youth, especially Black and Hispanic boys. His Stop and Frisk policy targeted others, but the focus was clearly young Black men.

Last Sunday, Bloomberg apologized. The apology, some said, was late. It was almost – almost – beside the point. Maybe five million apologies, personally delivered to each of his victims – maybe that would cut it. But then he wouldn’t have time to run for president, which may be the only reason he apologized at all. Maybe some sort of reparations fund? I like that. He can afford it, and the precedent it would set…

For the last almost three years, racism has been getting worse in America. Trump has fomented it. Republican leaders have supported it, or remained criminally silent. No question.

But where’s Buttagieg’s apology for the events in South Bend? And let me keep going – we have Hillary’s apology for using the term “superpredator” – but how many Democrats have apologized for Clinton crime bill? (1994, that accelerated mass incarceration). Biden helped write the bill, and issued a non-specific semi-apology last January, but still defends the bill. Sanders voted for it, and defended his vote, but I heard that just last week Danny Glover, speaking as Bernie’s surrogate, said that he was ready to apologize for it. Here’s the clip (starts at 4:50) – it doesn’t sound to me like an apology is in the works. And hey, apologies are apologies, but where’s the repeal?

Trump’s presidency has been disastrous for hate crimes. Far right groups have become bolder. Roll back your memory to 2016. The Black Lives Matter movement had momentum. Shouldn’t we expect a leader of BLM on stage during the debates? Instead, I fear, momentum has been lost. The “moderate” candidates side-step the issues. I have been told on several occasions that defeating Trump is so important that race needs to take a back seat – as if they should not be tightly linked.  So here goes:

Praise point #2: Vile Michael Bloomberg, whom I would never support, put the mistreatment of young Black men front and center, if only for a moment, which is more than most of the “field” has done.

Just a thought

November 23, 2019 pm30 9:00 pm

I avoided watching the impeachment hearings. I’m not a big theater guy, especially boring theater. But I broke down today, sometimes watching, sometimes playing in the background, hearing after hearing. Left me thinking.

Both major US parties, and many individual US politicians have on many occasions bought, threatened, cajoled, broken foreign laws, subverted foreign governments, etc.

That others have committed crimes similar to Donald Trump’s crimes does not unmake his crimes.

If after they get Trump, they want to go after Biden, that’s fine with me.

I know many who react  “Corrupt?” “but not illegal” “so let’s move on” rather than “Corrupt?” “but not illegal” “let’s be outraged!”

And what wrong? As a minimum he has traded on an implicit promise of influence with a major US politician to gain positions for which he was otherwise unqualified.

The drive to bring down Trump for corruption is weaker when some of those leading it are ok with other corruption.

Eight years ago

October 26, 2019 am31 11:34 am

I was a high school representative on the United Federation of Teachers Executive Board from January 2009 to June 2019, just over 10 years.

The first resolution that I wrote, that passed, was “Dignity for All Teachers” – we were concerned that the campaign to marginalize teachers in excess (ATRs) was affecting how our members, CLs, and Reps were handling issues involving ATRs in schools. The resolution was edited down by the leadership, passed by the Exec Board in October 2011, and adopted by the Delegate Assembly that November. Over the years “Dignity for All Teachers” was reduced to “greet the ATRs in your school and make sure they have a bathroom key.” More recently it was removed from the UFT website.

The resolution (the adopted version comes first, followed, if you are interested, by the original) is worth a look, it is officially still UFT policy. If you don’t want to read so much, I like the last “Resolved” from the original version. The leadership did not include it in the final version

This is the version adopted by the UFT Delegate Assembly. It is still UFT Policy:

Dignity for all Teachers Resolution

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been subject to a campaign of media vilification, falsely claiming or implying that teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve are less able or are bad teachers, and intentionally conflating them with teachers facing disciplinary proceedings; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been targeted for layoff or termination several times over the last several years, including by the Department of Education during contract negotiations; the anti-union group Educators for Excellence in its seniority reform proposal last spring; and the Mayor during his campaign to undo Civil Service law in Albany last spring, thwarted each time by the United Federation of Teachers, and its leadership; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve often are made to feel like outsiders in the schools where they work; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve, in too many instances, are forced to perform inappropriate work in the schools where they work; and

WHEREAS, the UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve, to the extent they are made to feel like outsiders or feel vulnerable to being moved, are often reluctant to seek appropriate relief; and

WHEREAS, the new budget agreement allows UFT members in the Absent Teacher Reserve to be moved from school to school multiple times each term; and

WHEREAS, the United Federation of Teachers values the dignity of all our members; be it

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to reach out to members of the Absent Teacher Reserve who are assigned to their schools, to welcome them, and to support them; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT demand that the DOE create a protocol for Principals so that UFT members going into a school for the first time will be treated professionally and given the information for that particular school necessary to perform their duties; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will continue to educate Chapter Leaders about the rights of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, and continue to direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to proactively protect those rights, and to intervene if those rights are being infringed upon by administration, as the ATR may be justifiably reluctant or fearful of speaking up; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the New York Teacher will run an article on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, including how teachers became part of the ATR; and be it further

RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers has always and will always stand for the dignity of all UFT members.

This was my first draft – it was not adopted in this form:

Dignity for all Teachers – Resolution for the Exec Board

Whereas each year for the last several years a significant number of our members have been assigned to the Absent Teacher Reserve; and

Whereas most teachers who are in the Absent Teacher Reserve arrived there as their schools were shut down; and

Whereas the teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been subject to a campaign of media vilification, falsely claiming or implying that teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve are less able or are bad teachers, and intentionally conflating them with teachers facing disciplinary proceedings; and

Whereas the teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve have been targeted for layoff or termination several times over the last several years, including by the Department of Education during contract negotiations; the anti-union group Educators for Excellence in its seniority reform proposal this spring; and the Mayor during his campaign to undo Civil Service law in Albany earlier this spring, thwarted each time by the United Federation of Teachers, and its leadership; and

Whereas teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve often are made to feel like outsiders in the schools where they work; and

Whereas teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, in too many instances, are forced to perform inappropriate work in the schools where they work; and

Whereas teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, to the extent they are made to feel like outsiders or feel vulnerable to being moved, are often reluctant to seek appropriate relief; and

Whereas the new budget agreement allows teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve to be moved from school to school multiple times each term; and

Whereas the United Federation of Teachers values the dignity of all our members;

Be it resolved the United Federation of Teachers will direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to reach out to members of the Absent Teacher Reserve who are assigned to their schools, to welcome them, and to support them; and

Be it further resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will educate Chapter Leaders about the rights of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, and direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to proactively protect those rights, and to intervene if those rights are being infringed upon by administration, as the ATR may be justifiably reluctant or fearful of speaking up; and

Be it further resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will designate a representative or committee Centrally, or will designate a representative in each borough to handle Absent Teacher Reserve issues; and

Be it further resolved that the New York Teacher will run an article on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, including how teachers became part of the ATR; and

Be it further resolved that the United Federation of Teachers has always and will always stand for the dignity of all teachers, including our most vulnerable: probationers, teachers under investigation, and teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve.

 

Triple Digit Copay

October 21, 2019 pm31 9:48 pm

I’m ok. But I wasn’t sure this past Saturday.

I hadn’t eaten much, just snacked. Walked to a grocery store – long walk, 2 miles each way, for some exercise.  When I got there, I felt a twinge. Figured it was from not eating. Went away. I shopped. And going home the twinge was back, a bit more insistent.

Got home about 7:30. It was hurting. I ate, thinking it would clear itself up. But no. Badly upset stomach? But aside from the food I just had, my stomach was empty. I tried watching some tv to take my mind off. Couldn’t focus. Tried the bathroom – nothing was helping. Hospital? That’ll be $150, could be for nothing. I’ll wait an hour, I told myself, and if it doesn’t clear up – the hospital. Five minutes later I couldn’t wait, and walked up the street.

As I walked I made a mental note of all the extra steps that were being counted. The pain surged and ebbed. But now, at the low end, it was still a “5” on the 0 – 10 scale. And the high end was getting worse. Had I waited another half hour, I don’t think I could have made the walk.

The wait wasn’t too bad. There’s a process that kept engaging me with a new person every few minutes. Registration. Then a little wait. I couldn’t sit still. But my pacing was making people nervous. I stepped outside. Then I got called to triage (it had a different name). That was before going to the Emergency Room. Then another quick interview to put me in a category. I think mine was “abdominal pain.” Then a clerk with waivers. Four signatures. I had trouble signing.

And then the Nurse Practitioner, who was patient and kind. In the exam area she asked questions. I asked something I’ve never asked before – can I have something for the pain? It was spiking near a 9. I was nauseated. I almost passed out. I was breaking cold sweats. She put an IV in my arm, without drugs, so that it would be ready when they decided which pain med to give me. She also pretty quickly determined that I probably had a kidney stone.

The IV drip changed the night. It took only a few seconds to drop the pain, a few more to bring it to a 1, and then 0, and I was pain-free for the rest of my almost 14 hours in the ER. I waited patiently for a CAT scan. There was extra waiting, because they had scheduled “downtime” for their on-line system – somehow that makes sense to do, but I can’t see how.

And then it was 1:30. And I sat in the Emergency Room, and waited for results. I tried to drift off. But ER. Beeping. Noise. And now the guy who was moaning and screaming before (I was in too much pain in the previous paragraph to make a note) was playing music, loud music. I asked, not trying to look sad, but succeeding all the same, if there were somewhere, anywhere… And someone took pity (maybe the NP) and sent me to the exam area, where a curtain provided a modicum of a barrier but not much. But the exam table leaned back, and I used my jacket as a hood and a pillow, and got almost coach class quality sleep – maybe an hour and a half over the course of the next 2 and a half.

I came out. A nurse brought me two pills. I was confused. One was for prostate function, the other an anti-biotic. I took them, and was ready to look for the NP, when she found me first. The kidney stone was on the CAT, and small enough to pass, but was obstructing something, it looked like I had an infection. The “prostate” med was actually to flush the stone, and the antibiotic for the infection, but the stone might need to removed. That day. She took my weight, and asked about the last time I had eaten. This was for the anesthesiologist. They were serious.

Urology had some concerns. They were not positive. And they ordered more blood work (one number was way off when I came in). A urologist came down. She said it might be surgery, it might be another one of two uncomfortable sounding procedures. She was waiting for blood work. And she noted that I had not had a fever, and asked me to go back through some details. She noted that my pain had not returned. And then she left. I alerted some friends and relatives and work about what might be in the cards.

And I waited. The shift changed. I got on a stretcher, and got wheeled into a curtained bay. I saw a doctor. I told him what I was waiting for, but he already knew. And then he came back. The white blood cell count was better. He hadn’t seen the number. Urology was considering the non-surgical interventions. And maybe 45 minutes later he came back. The number was way down. Well within the normal range. I should take ibuprofen and lots of water and the two drugs I’d already started, and I could go. Home.

So it’s not done. I have to get rid of this stone. But I was being set free. Wait – ibuprofen? Will that do it?  Whatever was in the drip last night, that was great stuff, brought the pain from 9 to 0 in no time. Turns out, it was a close relative of ibuprofen. No more questions. I was ready to go.

Last stop, Discharge. Turns out, I have a copay. I knew it. If they admit you, the copay is waived. If they don’t, the copay’s a buck fifty. Why should NOT having surgery cost over one hundred dollars?

This is a “health care cost savings” agreed to by my union. The high ER copay supposedly is to discourage frivolous use. But you read my story. What was frivolous? Could TelMed have visualized the stone, or the build-up in the kidney? Where else could I have gone to get my abdomen examined? To rule out appendicitis? Should I have gone to Urgent Care (only $50, I think) to have my vitals taken? I almost passed out from pain. Saturday night. Could I have waited until Monday to call my regular doctor?

I only thought for one second about the copay. How about a beginning teacher, with debt? Is the copay high enough to discourage someone at the bottom of our pay scale from making a medically necessary trip to the Emergency Room?

How about we stop calling health care concessions “cost saving changes” and start calling them “life threatening changes”? And then how about we stop making them.

 

 

 

How many factor triples?

October 6, 2019 am31 8:56 am

At the New Cubed (NY, NJ, New England) math teachers summer conference that was held at Siena in July, a presenter posed a problem that required finding three numbers that multiplied to make 72. The list included 1, 8, 9 and 2, 2, 18 and 3, 4, 6 and several other triples (groups of three numbers).

So I wondered, could we look at 72 and see how many factor triples it has? In general, how many factor triples does a number have?

“How many factors” – I know that answer. Take the prime factorization, and increase each exponent by 1, and add them. I can explain.

  • If the number is prime, there are two factors, the number and itself. If the number is the square of a prime (eg 49), there are three factors, 1, 7, and 49. But after some fussing, we realize that 49 = 7^2, and that our 3 factors are 7^0, 7^1, and 7^2 – and extending that, if we have a prime to a power, n, that we have from 0 to n possibilities… which comes out to 0, 1, 2,… , n so n+1 in total.
  • If the number has several prime factors, such as 66, we get more factors. For 66, 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 22, 33, 66, or a total of 8 factors. By examining the prime factorization – 2 x 3 x 11 – we might observe that there are 2 choices for how many 2s (0 or 1), 2 choices for how many 3s (0 or 1), and 2 choices for how many 11s (0 or 1). And 2x2x2 = 8. Makes sense.
  • For numbers with more complicated prime factorizations, we combine these rules. 360 = 2^3 \times 3^2 \times 5^1, so we can include 0, 1, 2, or 3 factors of 2 (4 choices), times 3 choices for how many 3s, and two choices for how many fives. 4x3x2 = 24. Are there 24? 1, 2, 4, 8, 3, 6, 12, 24, 9, 18, 36, 72, 5, 10, 20, 40, 15, 30, 60, 120, 45, 90, 180, 360. Yup.

But how many factor triples? That’s a new question for me. If I try a prime, such as 2, there is only one: 1 x 1 x 2. A square of a prime gives two: 1 x 1 x 49, 1x7x7. A cube gives three: 1 x 1 x 1331, 1 x 11 x 121, 11 x 11 x 11. Pattern? Maybe. A prime to the fourth gives four: 1 x 1 x 16, 1 x 2 x 8, 1 x 4 x 4, 2 x 2 x 4. A prime to the fifth: 1 x 1 x 243, 1 x 3 x 81, 1 x 9 x 27, 3 x 3 x 27, 3 x 9 x 9. And a prime to the 6th: 1 x 1 x 15,625, 1 x 5 x 3125, 1 x 25 x 625, 1 x 125 x 125, 5 x 5 x 625, 5 x 25 x 125, 25 x 25 x 25. Looks good! Let’s generalize. p^3 can only be written as 1\times 1\times p^3 or 1\times p\times p^2 or p\times p\times p and wait just a minute – we could look at just the exponents – they have to add up to 3. And the answer for 7 will be… 0+0+7, 0+1+6, 0+2+5, 0+3+4, 1+1+5, 1+2+4, 1+3+3, 2+2+3. Eight. That pattern doesn’t work.

And there I leave you, with a bit of an exploration, and a false start.