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Thursday, October 28, 2010

An NYC Teacher's Diary - in 2015

October 2, 2015 (Friday)

Dear Diary,

Well, here I am again, back for the 2015/2016 school year with my fifth graders at P.S. 912. That’s P.S. for Public School, dearest diary. Maybe only half of NYC’s primary schools are still public, but those of us who are left are holding the fort pretty well, thank you. No thanks to our “shadow chancellor” Eva Moskowitz, though; I hear she’ll be up to fifty-two Apple Success charters before the year’s out. Look out, Newark!

Speaking of thank you’s! I met with Principal X two weeks before school started (on the sly, heh heh) to talk about the coming year. Now that President Obama’s 2011 Readiness for College and Work (RCW) Act has provided the cover for Mayor Bloomberg (geez, four terms now – hasn’t that guy gotten tired of City Hall’s crappy bathrooms yet?) and Chancellor-in-Perpetuity Klein to implement pay-for-performance and annual teacher evaluations based on EPMs (that's "Educational Progress Measurables to you, dear diary), I had to make sure my back was covered, and there’s only one way to do that any more. And she came through!

“I met with the Grade 4 teachers last year and went over their roll books,” I told Principal X. “I’ll take my fair share of weak ones, but there’s no way you’re giving me Brian Hawkins or Anthony Parker. I’m not watching my evaluation and salary get trashed over a couple of misfits. If I get them, I’ll just keep bouncing them out of my room for suspension until their parents finally put them somewhere else!” I know what you’re thinking, dear diary, but hey, it’s a freakin’ war out here now – dog eat dog, kill or be killed – and I ain’t gonnna be one of the ones left lying on the battlefield. No sir-eee!

“Also,” I continued with Principal X, “I don’t want too many kids from that first-year teacher last year, that Mr. Jonas guy who quit last June. His kids are going to be a mess to handle this year.” They have so little clue how to take these state exams, I feel a little sorry for the teacher who has to carry that load. Sure as hell it won’t be me, though. Not letting somebody else’s bad work drag me down.

I asked her for four or five hand-picked the ELL kids. Pick ‘em right, and your EPMs get a nice bounce. How do I know which ones? My little secret. (Hint, hint: I don’t sit in back at all those PTA meetings for nothing. Just watch for the parent regulars with fourth graders—they keep their kids noses to the grindstone.) As for the IEP kids, I said to please give me students, not the behavioral cases. Then again, I can always just bounce the bad ones if I really have to. After being called into the school eight or ten times, parents usually give up and look for another school.

Three weeks into the school year now, and things look like they’re working out okay . Principal X came through for me, as usual. Guess I just have to keep greasing those skids, huh? Well, whatever it takes. Just thank goodness for seniority and a long, “mutually supportive” relationship with my boss.

Hawkins and Parker and a few of the other hard cases are all together in Ms. Lamont’s class. Tough being the newbie, but those of us who’ve been around have families to worry about and mortgages to pay. That’s life – LOL. I hear Lamont’s already sent Hawkins to see X three times in two weeks, and now she’s got Parker’s folks coming in for a chat. Hmmm – maybe this Lamont girl is sharp enough to figure out how to play the system.

Perhaps it’s already time to see if she can use a little guidance. The good guy newbies can always use a little advice about how to “arrange things” when test time comes – how to seat the weaker kids next to the good ones, how to leave a few helpful posters up on the classroom walls, how to “cough” kids to the right answers or tell them to double-check a few questions with wrong answers, that sort of thing. Don’t smirk, dear diary. Hey, it’s the DOE or me, and it ain’t goin’ to be me! X knows it goes on, but the high-rated principals are smart enough not to see it. After all, what’s good for the sheep is good for the shepherd.

I heard yesterday that Ms. Andrevsky had gotten stuck with a handful of slow learners in her fourth grade class. Principal X explained to her that she was our last shot at getting them in some kind of shape for the following year’s Grade 5 exit exams. I like getting Andrevsky’s kids, but I guess she finally blew a gasket with X. I heard she said she was tired of being penalized for being a good teacher, tired of cleaning up everybody else’s messes and having to scramble to get her EPMs high enough to keep her job. Not only that, but she said it’s costing her like five thousand a year in lost bonuses. I heard she threatened to move to a charter school next year if it happens again. Oh well, she’d hardly be the first, not by a long shot.

This year, the fifth graders have state science exams in addition to the math and ELA, so I’ve already been busy big time trying to figure out how to prep my kids for that one. I heard that some PTA parents are already complaining about time taken away from recess, art, music, and social studies, and they still haven’t let up on the French program we killed two years ago. Well, boo hoo! Try working someplace where your job depends on three test scores of a bunch of kids whose home lives and nutrition and TV/video-game time limits and dental health you have no control over and see how long you keep your damned lefty ideas about liberal education, whatever the hell that is!

Gotta go now, diary. Time to get my fifth graders’ first practice exams ready for tomorrow! No such thing as too many practice tests, you know. Well, not for me and my EPMs, at least.