Sunday, February 29, 2004

From a student's lab report on density:

"1. Measure the mass of beaker.

2. You feel the beaker up and measure it with the triple beam balance..."


This is why I read first drafts!

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Just Going Through My Inbox...

Got an extra $5000 lying around? Already thinking about next year's tax breaks?

You could sponsor a Teach For America teacher. (Or you could send the money directly to me, but there won't be any tax breaks... sorry).

Here is a description of how the program blossomed in NYC this year, straight from the TFA Newsletter:

As part of the campaign, sponsors contribute $5,000 toward the cost of recruiting, training, and providing ongoing support for one Teach For America corps member teaching in New York City. In addition, sponsors are invited to develop relationships with sponsored corps members, and to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing students in some of our city's most under-resourced schools.

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, Teach For America was able to place close to 350 new teachers in New York City public schools this year, bringing the total number of corps members here to nearly 500. As a result, Teach For America corps members are now teaching in 120 of the city's hardest-to-staff schools across the Bronx, Harlem, and Washington Heights (up from 80 the year prior), reaching more than 45,000 students.

Corps members have offered sponsors a glimpse into their worlds, including both the challenges facing their students, and the tremendous potential their students have demonstrated. Sponsors have provided corps members a family away from home, home-cooked meals, and badly needed classroom resources.

And here's an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer describing some of the pros & cons of Teach For America.


Teachers Count(!) is, well, here's how they describe themselves:

TeachersCount is a national, independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for educators. Our goal is to recognize and reward the people who use their skills to motivate and empower our children. TeachersCount seeks to improve the quality of life for our teachers and to repay them for their dedication.

To achieve this goal, we offer teachers services that are tailored to the teaching profession, including a website and a discount purchase program through our subsidiary TeachersDisCount, which offers membership at no cost for teachers.

In addition, TeachersCount has partnered with Time Inc., to create an initiative that raises national awareness about the teaching profession, leading to improvements in retention, recruitment and compensation of teachers.

They seem to have lots of good links; I will be exploring their grant listings. And they are putting together a discount program for teachers to save money at stores from Barnes and Noble to Kinkos and more.


This one's for you, Chett!

The National Center for Educational Accountability and bring you the Best Practices of High-Performing School Systems. Too bad their interface is so... complicated. It seems that they have links to studies at the national and state level of best practices, a series of quizzes you can take to assess where your classroom, school, or district stands in regard to best practices, and, probably, more. (Maybe someone can help me figure out how to get to the meat of this website?).


More than Super Tuesday...

March 2nd is also Read Across America Day, scheduled to coincide with what would be the 100th birthday of much-beloved Dr. Seuss. Brought to you by everyone's favorite terrorist organization.


Pros & Cons of NCLB "Success"

Time Magazine wrote what I see as a fairly balanced article on one school's success in raising test scores high enough to get off the "failing schools" list. Clearly, Garfield/Franklin Elementary (in Iowa) had some serious problems that were not getting addressed before NCLB served a wake-up call:
  • a widespread attitude of accepting poor performance, especially from Hispanic children and children from low-income families

  • a math curriculum with a lot of gaps which no one had noticed

  • a lack of attention to the art & science of teaching reading effectively

  • a lack of attention to absences and no-shows

Finding themselves on the NCLB list of failing schools, Garfield/Franklin came together to address these issues, and made immense progress.

While proud of their accomplishments, teachers at Garfield/Franklin feel they - and their students - have lost other important things:
  • time in the curriculum for creative writing (resulting in a decline in writing skills overall)

  • social studies, including geography and civics

  • teacher autonomy

  • field trips

  • two recesses per day (don't dismiss the importance of giving children time for play and for everything they've learned to consolidate)

I hope that the sense of teamwork, attention to detail, and pride that this school (seems to have) gained can be used to address the problems that teachers have identified. Garfield/Franklin would be an example for us all if they could find ways to maintain their gains while bringing back the things they miss.


"Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself."
--Henry Ward Beecher


Chattanooga Experiments with Incentives

Here's the website of the Community Education Alliance, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, which offers a variety of incentives for teachers identified as "high-performing" to transfer to high-need schools. Incentives include $5000 bonuses, $10,000 home loans, help paying for a master's degree, and much more.

Friday, February 27, 2004


Sometimes, all that is necessary for change is for someone courageous to take action, much like Mayor Newsom did in San Francisco when he allowed City Hall to start marrying gay and lesbian couples. The issue has changed completely! It is now possible for other leaders to consider Just Doing It - like the mayor of the village of New Paltz, NY. Imagine if other cities and towns follow suit...

Mrs. Chew at a schoolyard blog wants schools to take courageous action in resisting the standardized-testing regime. I was so excited when kids in Massachusetts boycotted that state's MCAS back in 2000. I know that the potential is there to change the whole testing conversation by taking action, like San Francisco's actions changed the whole conversation about gay & lesbian marriage.

I guess, honestly, the reason I don't do something - like some of the teachers in Massachusetts did - is that I'm afraid, and I'm uncertain.

I'm afraid for my own job. I'm afraid for the reaction of my colleagues. I'm afraid they'd shut down our school - and I KNOW that would be bad for my students.

I'm uncertain about tests. I used to be against them in my gut, and I still am, for the most part. I'm definitely against yearly testing, which I think is needless and stressful. But there are things about New York's state exams - given in 4th and 8th grade - that I think are okay. The Intermediate Level Science Exam's performance test, for example, is totally reasonable and motivates schools to make sure their kids learn to use real science equipment. I'm sure there are other ways to motivate schools in this way, but the fact is that many schools cut stuff like hands-on science any time the budget gets tight. I dislike the multiple choice section of the test, though, because I would rather teach several important and complex topics well than every single sub-topic of Science shallowly, and I think the multiple choice section flies in the face of this. There are also many questions in the multiple choice section which I know will trip up my students because of the way they are written, even though my kids know the science behind them. Same thing with some of the diagrams. I know that my kids know a lot of science when they leave my class - I know because this year they make connections to what we learned last year, and because former students have told me that what we learned is helping them in ninth grade. But I am truly afraid that this knowledge will somehow not show up on the test, especially the multiple choice part.

I have so much admiration for people who stand up and do what they think is right, despite their fear and even their uncertainty. I will have to think more about this one.

Chosen as columnist...

and all I have to do is just keep on blogging! I am an Education Columnist at the World Star Gazette, a new blog-newspaper. The funny thing is, I discovered this a week before they officially notified me (which they did yesterday, by email). Other bloggers submit individual stories for the front page - which, right now, has a feel similar to the Onion except not as funny. I think this could be a good way for people to discover blogs on topics they don't normally think about much - I might look at artists' blogs, while a religion blogger might notice my education site. Hey, I'm addicted to my sitemeter, so anything that makes the numbers go up... LOL.

Days Until Science Expo: 25

But I'm home sick. Flu hit yesterday night. Still feeling achy & weak, but after sleeping from 9 pm last night until noon today, I'm finally up and about. From what I hear, this is pretty mild as far as the flu goes this year. Last night's piercing stomach pains gave me panicky thoughts about what a child might have put in my water bottle yesterday... but I don't think any of my kids want to kill me (even if they could get their hands on poison). Then the achiness and fever hit and I started thinking about how quickly meningitis can kill you... quick web search revealed that my symptoms were a much better match for the flu than for meningitis. Hypochondria, anyone?

The last two nights have been busy ones, hence the lack of updates.

Wednesday night, my school hosted a meeting with several other similar schools to discuss integration of laptops into our curricula. As one of the more frequent laptop users in my school, I moderated the "Pedagogy" break-out group along with two colleagues. Moderated might be the wrong word, since the discussion was rapidly hijacked by a teacher from another school with an axe to grind: He thinks laptops are a waste of time and money and stand in the way of educational progress, and he thinks most teachers agree with him.

This teacher had some valid concerns; no one at the table completely disagreed with him. Nevertheless, I am bone-tired of meetings that turn into complaint sessions - I much prefer to identify the problem and then look for solutions! (I know, I know, it's a radical idea!). I tried - I really tried - to steer the discussion in the direction of, "Okay, so we've had hundreds of years to make print and the pen and paper effective tools for education, but we've only had about 15-20 (at the most) to make computers effective tools for education. What does seem to work? Where we can we go from here? What would help us find new ways of using the laptops for efficient and effective education?"

Back to the old axe-grinding. This teacher just doesn't think his students are going very far in life - maybe one or two will get interested in Science and go to college and study it more, but most won't even go to college. I don't even think he's statistically correct about rates of college attendance, given that he teaches at a school that is rapidly becoming one of the best public middle schools on the Upper West Side, but even if he were technically realistic in his assessment of his students' future paths, it seems like a lousy attitude and a good way to start closing doors for kids.

The whole conversation made me realize that we are probably right about at the point in society when computer knowledge is on the verge of going from a nice thing to know to an essential thing to know, when it changes from an enriching aspect of a curriculum to a necessary aspect of a curriculum. At some point in the last few hundred years in the US and much of the rest of the world, knowing how to read and write shifted from being a luxury that only some people got, while most others "wouldn't really use it anyway" to a necessity for all. I think computer knowledge is reaching that point here in the US. When I was a child, there really were people who didn't have to know how to use a computer. I don't think it is or should be a luxury any more. Of course, just because something is now necessary to include in the curriculum doesn't mean it should push out something else that is also essential. Replacing cursive writing with typing is fine with me, but replacing the ability to read a regular thermometer with knowing how to use a temperature probe is not fine, nor is replacing the ability to make a graph by hand with the ability to make a graph in Excel (BOTH are important). Nor should time spent learning how to use a computer replace time spent learning to read or compute or do research in books!

Where does that leave us? Basically, computers need to be used in classrooms as a tool, just like pen and paper and books are classroom tools. But we are in the infancy of knowing how to do that in a way that is as effective - or more effective - than using traditional tools. I don' t think that means we shouldn't try! We need more opportunities for teachers to share methods that they discover with other teachers. We need leadership in our schools that encourages use of computers when appropriate, but doesn't demand that every lesson involve a computer.

Overall, the meeting went well. Other break-out groups found that all of our schools are dealing with similar issues regarding acquisition and maintenance of technology, the need for extra support staff without spending lots of money, and the need for professional development. I created a list-serv for us to continue the conversation, and we are looking into setting up an internship program with some of the local technical colleges so that we can have computer maintenance experts on-hand without burning out teachers. We are also going to consider setting up a summer professional development opportunity for teachers from all of our schools.

Last night - despite stomach ache - I went to a career fair to recruit teachers for our school. I met a lot of teachers, all very reasonable candidates with certification and experience. Excellent. Incidentally, Social Studies teachers are a dime-a-dozen; we must have 25 candidates for a single position! I met only one Science teacher the whole evening.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Days Until Science Expo: 27

Today has been a long day - taught all day, then taught afterschool, then helped moderate a dinner-networking-meeting about laptops in schools. So I'll just leave you with this fun tidbit (I loved this book, so I'm a fan of the quiz):

You're One Hundred Years of Solitude!

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Lonely and struggling, you've been around for a very long time.
Conflict has filled most of your life and torn apart nearly everyone you know. Yet there
is something majestic and even epic about your presence in the world. You love life all
the more for having seen its decimation. After all, it takes a village.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

(Thanks to Green Gourd's Garden for the quiz link).

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Good Test Scores!

Recognition is a beautiful thing, so go look at the lists of most improved schools on the 4th & 8th grade state reading & math tests. Note that the improvement is over a five-year period, not just a single year. If you're pro-testing (or even if you're not), send a letter to these schools congratulating them on their hard work. And send a copy to the newspaper!

Some reflections:

A few of the schools in the Bronx that showed improvement in Math send kids our way... a test of what the state math exam really means will be whether our students, over the next few years, really are better prepared in math.

Let no statistic go unquestioned. Some of the schools - such as Jacob A. Riis, which is not far from my apartment - may show increased test scores because the neighborhoods where they are located have drastically changed in demographics in the last five years. Some Manhattan neighborhoods have changed a lot since 1999 - meaning that the average income of residents and educational attainment of parents has increased - and so the increase in test scores might be due to a different population rather than better education. Or it might not! I certainly hope that most of these increases reflect schools educating the same kids better.

Sad to note: Look how few schools made the 8th grade list. Not a single Bronx school for Math or English Language Arts.

Days Until Science Expo: 28

The Science Expo - the event formerly known as the Science Fair - is coming up. My students have divided up into groups of 2 or 3.* Over the next month, they have to develop their own experiments - choose a Question, write a Procedure, gather Materials, write a Hypothesis, identify the Independent and Dependent Variables, carry out the experiment, collect Data, interpret their Data, draw Conclusions, do Background Research, identify Sources of Error, think of a few New Questions.

We got off to a slightly rocky start thanks to late notice from the Region, followed by today's revelation: We are not, as a school, on the list of Regional Science Expo participants! My principal showed me a memo (dated Feb. 6th, but that's another whole post) stating that our Region will have three spring celebrations, the Science Expo in March, the Literacy Fair in May (don't ask, I have no idea), and the Arts Fair in June. Each school is to participate in one of the three celebrations, and do all three over the next three years. Fine. Page two? Assignments! Yes, each school was assigned, using heaven-knows-what-criteria, to participate in one of the three celebrations. Were we - the Region's Math, Science, & Technology Magnet School - assigned to the Science Expo? Of course not. That would be logical! No, we are signed up for the Literacy Fair. So, I telephoned the Regional Science Office and left a message asking - soooo politely - for permission to participate; whatever happens, our school will have a Science Expo - I just hope we get to send our best exhibits to the Regional Expo!

Today, I started to get excited! Sure, we're a little short on time. But the kids are psyched, which is infectious. Some of them have already started gathering their materials, recruiting human subjects (mostly for psych experiments), etc. We have started new classroom routines. Vocabulary warm-ups and alternate-week quizzes are out; opening announcements and end-of-class accomplishments/goals journals are in. I don't walk around the room as much as I did before. Now, I sit at my desk and call students up when they raise their hands to indicate that they have a question or need advice or have something to turn in.

By the end of tomorrow, each group will have a question, hypothesis, materials list, and procedure, and they will have identified their variables. Some of these things inevitably will need work, but it's a start.

Here is my favorite question so far: Which kind of soda makes kids burp the most?

One group of really nice seventh graders wanted to study whether a child's home life affects his or her behavior in school. I told them it was a really, really important question - one that means a lot in the real world - but a very sensitive one. They wanted to interview classmates about their home lives, then rate their in-class behavior. I advised them that this might lead to hurt feelings... kids might not want to share that kind of information with them. I told them to hold onto that question, though, until they were in college, when it might start to be possible to research it. I steered them towards surveying students on their TV habits, then comparing hours of TV per day to grades - I said I would fill in the students' grades and make the whole thing anonymous so that even the student-researchers would not know their friends' grades. That should work (I hope).

Another group brought in slices of different kinds of bread and put them in plastic bags in the back of the room. They want to know which kind of bread will mold fastest. I freak out whenever I find sour milk or moldy anything in my fridge, but I think mold makes a GREAT subject for Science class! Visible, smelly, colorful, gross, interesting under a microscope, real-world relevance, oh the wonders of mold! Another group is also growing mold, to see how different chemicals (acids, detergents, etc.) affect it.

I'm also enthusiastic about a group of two seventh grade boys who want to swab kids' feet and see whether boys or girls have more bacteria on their feet. One of the boys rushed up to me yesterday, a few periods after Science class.

"Ms. Frizzle! We have a problem!"


"No one will volunteer to be in our experiment!"

"It's okay, I'll make sure you have subjects when the time comes..."

I've got plenty of experiments with plants - plants watered with different liquids, plants "listening" to different kinds of music, plants with different amounts of fertilizer. Thank god for Wisconsin Fast Plants! The seventh graders are all enthusiastic about psych experiments - whether music helps or hurts concentration, if listening to a recording while you sleep helps you learn, whether violent movies affect people's moods, and so on. I've had to do some steering to help them find ways to measure these intangibles. My favorite psych experiment - in part because the girls involved are really smart and spunky - is trying to find a link between personality type and snack preferences. They will, at the very least, get some practice using surveys...

*Tip for teachers out there: I force them to choose groups of two at the start, then let things shake out over the first week or so. Inevitably, one or two groups in each class melts down, and I give those students the option of choosing to join an existing pair to form a group of three. For the first time this year, I am allowing one student to work by himself, because he is really psyched about his project, but was not getting along at all with his partner. You'll hear more about that one in the next few weeks, I'm sure!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Days until Science Expo: 29

Let the countdown begin!

Love, Honor, & Disobey

I had a fantastic vacation.

I flew out to San Francisco with plans to visit certain friends but few specific ideas of what we'd do once I got there. That all changed on Wednesday night, when my friend Elly called to tell me she was getting married at City Hall on Thursday to her long-time girlfriend, Janelle. (And, could I stay with another friend Thursday night, as it would be her wedding night?). The next morning, as my friend J. and I were finishing breakfast, the phone rang: Elly & Janelle were next in line to get their license, could we be there in twenty minutes for the wedding?

We threw on clothes and hopped into the car. We flew up the stairs to City Hall, in the door, and breathlessly dropped our belongings into a basket to go through security. "We're late for a wedding!"

The guard grinned. "You already have an appointment?"

"Not OUR wedding!"

She let us hurry through to the rotunda, which is lovely... I imagine few City Halls across the country would have made such graceful and elegant settings for weddings.

We hugged Elly and Janelle and Elly's parents and our other friends from college who had been able to make it. Then we waited for N., a friend of Elly's to get deputized to perform the ceremony... In the end, N. was not able to be deputized, but since she worked in City Hall with the man who was to perform the ceremony, he generously allowed her to do most of it.

While we waited, we watched many other couples get married. Awww.

Finally, the moment came. We stood around E. & J. in a circle. Several people held out cell phones, so that distant relatives could hear, or trying to record the ceremony onto answering machine tapes at home. Several of us snapped photographs. Several reporters got really into their wedding because it was very emotional, we had a large group of friends and family, and just because E. & J. are both so beautiful and special (it shows!).

They had written and mostly memorized their own vows, which were intense and beautiful. Tears came to my eyes, and many others were outright crying. Elly started out by telling Janelle, "Since we are here in an act of civil disobedience, I first promise to love, honor, and disobey you." The vows were a true expression of love and commitment. It was by far the most beautiful wedding I've attended (apologies to anyone reading this whose wedding I have attended...). After exchanging rings and vows, E. & J. embraced for several long, quiet minutes.

Here are some photos that made it into the press:

Yahoo News (see the slideshow, it was picture #28 last I checked)

E.'s mom is quoted at the end of this article.

Okay, so, that wasn't all. I also threw a dinner party for some old friends, went to the Exploratorium, bought a cool glow-in-the-dark Periodic Table of the Elements T-shirt (so I can emulate my alter ego), saw a play (don't bother), ate some awesome Mexican food, read a terrific novel (Stones From the River, by Ursula Hegi) and a hilarious non-fiction book (Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, by Olivia Judson).

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Dear Brian Lehrer,

I was listening to your show this morning, and heard that you will be taking calls from teachers in NYC about the changes to the school system made by Chancellor Klein. I would love to call in, but I'm going out of town for the rest of the week, so I thought I'd send an email instead.

I imagine you'll get a lot of phone calls from teachers who are angry and upset:
  • they feel the new curriculum limits their ability to use professional judgment about how best to present material.

  • the lower grades teachers hate the new reading rugs, are afraid they are health hazards, and don't want to spend their afternoons vacuuming.

  • they are frustrated by administrators who micromanage stuff like bulletin board displays.

I am fed up by such conversations. They tend to polarize the issue, presenting it as either you love Klein & Bloomberg, are pro-change, and are anti-teacher and anti-union, or you hate Klein & Bloomberg, are anti-change, and are pro-teacher and pro-union. To me, the issues are so much more complex.

The NYC school system has thousands of teachers. In the four years that I've worked in public schools in the Bronx, I've met a few excellent teachers, a few terrible teachers, and many who were neither excellent nor terrible, but struggling to do their best and grow as professionals. I would put myself in the last category.

I believe that excellent teachers, and many good teachers, can take almost any curriculum and adapt it to fit the needs of their students. To do so, they need supportive administrators who focus on the spirit of new policies rather than the letter: principals who can observe a lesson and see the ways that it follows the new curriculum and the ways in which the teacher has adapted it for his or her particular students, and above all, the ways that it does and does not help the students learn. This kind of leader can distinguish between what is important in the new policies, and what is open to adaptation. A micromanaging principal, on the other hand, cannot distinguish between what matters and what is less important. This kind of principal might observe a lesson and comment only on a petty aspect of the bulletin boards, or some other item on a checklist.

I would say to many of the teachers out there: Your complaints are aimed in the wrong place! You ought to be complaining about principals who are not good leaders, who are in it for the money, who can't see the forest for the trees. And keep in mind that every policy passes through several levels of bureaucracy before reaching the teachers, so it is possible that your principal is nitpicking because his or her instructional superintendent or even regional superintendent is setting an example of petty, punitive enforcement of policies rather than open-minded, supportive leadership.

Furthermore, I don't see how we will ever know whether a certain curriculum is a good idea or not until we give it an honest chance to work. Teachers, that means doing your best to put the spirit of the new curriculum to work in your classroom. Administrators, that means supporting teachers rather than punishing them, and focusing on the big picture. Politicians, that means leaving well enough alone for at least two or three years before sweeping in with the next big change, providing the money to actually implement programs completely and successfully, and collecting data on the new curriculum to look at before making changes.

Let's talk about money. A great deal of money is wasted every time a new mayor gets elected, a new superintendent gets appointed, a new principal starts working, and new programs are purchased. It seems like every time we turn around, someone has bought a new set of test prep books or basal readers or classroom libraries, while the old ones rot in closets. Please give policies and curricula enough time to really be evaluated on their merits before throwing them out the back door and spending more money on the next new thing.

Let's talk some more about money. A single adult can certainly do fine on a beginning teacher's salary in New York City. She will have much more difficulty if she's a single mom or has student loans to pay. The starting salary is at least reasonably competitive to attract well-educated people (especially in a slow economy - not so much in the boom times). The longer a teacher works in the system, however, the worse her financial situation becomes. To increase her salary, she has to go back to school. The best master's programs cost a lot, out-of-pocket; lower-tier programs are often paid for by the city or state. After the first ten years, salary increases based on experience are few and far-between. Just at the time when most people are thinking of starting a family, buying a home, etc., salaries start to look really bad compared with what a well-educated person with comparable experience could be making in another profession. Again, think of that single mother, or two teachers trying to raise kids in the metropolitan area on teaching salaries. And think about graduates from the best universities in the country - Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc. - who have their pick of careers. Why would they ever choose a profession where after getting a Ph.D. or two master's degrees, and working for twenty years, they are making only about double their starting salary? By that point, they could be millionaires if they went into banking, full professors in academia, established doctors or lawyers... you get the picture. Money isn't everything, but it's not nothing, either!

And have you ever spent the two days before you start a new job on your hands and knees, scrubbing dirt out of the corners of your office? Didn't think so. Teachers do this all the time in New York! Working conditions stink. Classrooms are too hot or too cold, get repainted only every five years, and get mopped once every couple of months. Those teachers who are vacuuming rugs are right: that's not their job. Don't blame the rugs, though, blame the city for not planning ahead and negotiating with the custodians to include vacuuming rugs in their contract.

Anyway, many teachers go into administration to increase their salaries. Administration is not an advanced form of teaching; while some teachers instantly become great administrators, many do not. Klein would do well to focus efforts on recruiting and "growing" great administrators who will be true leaders in our schools. (ALong these lines, I think he already has a summer Principal's Institute).

Furthermore, I'd love to see my union and the Dept. of Education negotiate a contract with increased salaries at the later steps in the salary schedule, and some kind of significant merit pay system. Teachers who get National Board Certification should get a significant increase in pay, to the tune of at least $10,000 a year. Other forms of merit pay could be piloted on a voluntary basis until a workable system emerges. And the most talented teachers - not just those who've been in the system longest - should get released from half their teaching duties to mentor new teachers. New teachers should get released from half their teaching duties to observe their mentors, meet with them regularly, and fulfill certification requirements. I think this kind of system would improve recruitment of talented professionals, retention of great teachers, and would balance the incentives to stay in teaching versus going into administration. (Don't get me wrong; becoming a principal is a great and important thing. My dad's a principal! But do it because you want to, not for the cash).

Anyway, there's plenty more I could say, but I have papers to grade. If there's one thing I want you to take away from this letter, it's the importance of good, well-educated people, as teachers, as principals, as regional administrators. We need to find those people and support them, recruit more of them, and give everyone opportunities to grow and mature as professional educators.

Ms. Frizzle

Monday, February 16, 2004


Marriage - black, white, Asian, interracial, old, young, middle-aged, punk, goth, prep, femme, butch, transgender, male, female, planned for years, spur of the moment, parents, children... these are the faces of gay marriage.

My only fear is the tremendous let-down for many of these couples should their marriages be declared illegal and void at some point down the road. But if I've thought about it, I'm sure they have, and have decided not to let it hold them back.

"Just think of him as bug spray."

Another day, another movie recommendation. This time, you'll have to rent: Raising Victor Vargas. The characters are so real - these could be my students. It's a small story of three children growing up in Manhattan with their Dominican grandmother, who is doing her best to raise them well. It's also the story of Victor's romantic pursuit of Judy, and how Judy and her best friend (whose name I forget) deal with being teenage girls in a world of interested boys... One fun thing about this movie is that it was shot in my own neighborhood, and the stars are kids from NYC performing arts high schools (possibly why they sound so authentic). Anyway, it's hilarious and very sweet.

Today: WNYC (local NPR station), grading papers, playing with Valentine, and cleaning my room. Oh my god did my bedroom ever need to be cleaned! I have about three pounds of dust to take out with the garbage. Valentine is a little disgruntled over the moving of furniture, wetting of floors, and rustling up of dust that accompanied the cleaning.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


Our kitten is a little girl named Valentine, orange and small and delicate in features... she came from a friend of a friend who is a pet sitter and had Valentine basically dumped on her, when her owners just left her and disappeared. Much as she is an animal lover, she can't keep every single cat that someone irresponsibly leaves behind. So, we are adopting this little kitty.

V. saw Triplets of Belleville a couple of months ago, when it first came out, while I was out of town. When he told me he'd seen "an animated adult movie" called Triplets of Belleville you can guess what I imagined.... I saw it Friday night. For the uninitiated, Triplets is an animated feature about a Tour de France cyclist, his grandmother, his sweet-loving dog, the cabaret-singing triplets, and how they join forces to outsmart the French-wine-mafia... It has very little dialogue, some catchy tunes in gibberishe, and is a smart, funny look at a world just slightly off-kilter from ours. My burning question for those who have seen the movie: Did the animators intend the smoke stacks on the ship to look like the Twin Towers? Similarly, did anyone catch the letters "WTC" on the keys which Grandma steals from the mobster?

Anyway, Triplets of Belleville has now been nominated for an Oscar, so it is likely to show on a few more screens than it otherwise would have. I highly recommend seeing it when you get the chance!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

New York, New York

(see, I'm relaxed already!)

Went ice skating today in Prospect Park with V. He's never been ice skating before, but ended up enjoying himself. I haven't skated in a long time, so I was a touch wobbly myself. Luckily for both of us, we rollerblade regularly during the summer! I am one of those Manhattanites who treats Brooklyn like another country (what?! you don't have to go through customs to get there?!), I hate to admit it, but I am. So, today is a rare day indeed: Two trips to Brooklyn! One for the ice skating, one for a lovely French dinner in a few hours.

In other news, my roommate, a former citizen of Brooklyn, is on her way there now to pick up a little red kitten that we are going to adopt. Miles was just too much for us, I'm afraid.

The other day - I meant to post this then - I passed a mosque in the East Village. A muezzin was singing at the front door, I guess calling people to pray. Traffic flowed past along the Avenue. Across the intersection, a man stood on the corner, holding up his cellphone so his friend could hear the eerie and beautiful song... or maybe he was recording it. East meets West? Or just two different sides of the West?

Friday, February 13, 2004

There's nothing more gratifying...

than hearing "Oh goody, a lab report!" as you're handing out an assignment sheet...

Post Script

The boy who brought in the knife was back in school today, due to one of those incredible twists of bureaucratic organization... In order to get a Superintendent's Suspension, he cannot get a Principal's Suspension, which means he has to be in school until the Superintendent's Suspension gets processed. Now, he's not a scary kid, at least, we're not afraid of him on a day-to-day basis, he is mean to his classmates, but usually only at the level of threats and intimidation. So, it's not like it's physically dangerous to have him in school. The problem is the message it sends to the other kids to have a boy bring a knife to school, and have him back in the building two days later!


Vacation. At last. (And no, I'm not gloating about it, just appreciating it!). One week... I plan to have fun this weekend, work Monday and Tuesday (grade papers, plan lessons, etc.), then visit friends in San Francisco Wednesday-Sunday. I'm going to read a new novel I picked up at Barnes & Noble, called Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (anyone read it?). I'm going to try to start doing yoga every night for 30 minutes. I'm going to spend time outdoors soaking up some much-needed sunlight. But mostly, I plan to relax and try to do a little attitude adjustment, 'cause lately MY attitude needs more adjusting than any of the kids'!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

No, your teachers do not sleep at school...

Another day of afterschool, so back to the Shandi conversations. Apparently, Shandi has some drug abuse in her past and is the "black sheep" in her family. A whole new set of questions for me today:

"Do you go to clubs?"

"That's getting a little personal."

"Well, do your friends go to clubs?"

"If I answered that, wouldn't I really be answering your first question?"

"Well, do you go to parties?"

"Everyone goes to parties, but my idea of a party might be different from what you're imagining when you say party... that's why I don't like this kind of question."

Little did my interrogator imagine that this very night ALL her teachers were going out to the G-Bar, a new Bronx hot spot, recently profiled in the NY Times......

So here I am, several glasses of wine and an enormous amount of so-so (er, mezzo-mezzo?) Italian food later... with a quiz to write, not to mention a vacation homework assignment to prepare.

Interesting day... Thursday is supposed to be my light teaching day, but I covered two periods for other teachers since my principal had to attend a regional conference in the morning and another teacher was handling the suspension & expulsion of the boy who brought in the knife... I kept calm and relaxed and felt much more mature... the last few days I've felt like I was spiraling out of control, like I couldn't really handle my emotions, so much frustration and anger kept rising up within me. Today, I pulled it all back together again, who knows why? but I did.

People develop & change - physically, emotionally, spiritually - throughout their lives. The (child) development classes we take to become teachers stop after adolescence, or briefly brush by adulthood to old age. It's easy to forget that I am a developing, changing person first, a teacher second. I know what I want to be. I know teachers who are more like the teacher I want to be. I know people who are more like the person I want to be. I also see ways in which they are still developing... or ways that I want to be different from them. This last week has been rough - I have felt so far from the person, the teacher whom I wish to be.

If I made a list of the characteristics I strive to embody, it would sound like a prescription for sainthood, too! Dear god, I am nowhere close to being as patient, as understanding, as good a listener, as true to my teaching philosophy, as responsible as I hope to be... but I think that without that goal, I would rapidly become mired in excuses. Our world today, we are up to our ears in excuses. Too few people (politicians, parents, teachers, business people...) have any sort of real vision for the kind of world they would like to live in. When someone else presents them with a radical, inspiring, provocative picture of a different kind of world, most people just flail this way and that and get sucked deeper into the muck of excuses...

Okay, I'm rambling, I'm a little drunk, and I have work to do... I fear I may not be making any sense... Overuse of ellipses (...) is always a bad sign in one's writing....

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


if yesterday's post turned anyone off teaching! That was not the intention... Anyway, today was not any better - you might want to stop reading if you're getting discouraged by my recent posts...

A boy that we have had a lot of trouble with brought a knife to school and stabbed another boy in the leg. The wound was fairly minor, but this is by far the worst student behavior we've ever had in our 1.5 years of existence... by far. Apparently, the boy showed off the knife to classmates throughout the day - even in Science class, unbeknownst to me! - but the kids didn't say a word to any of us. I asked some of them about it in afterschool today... they said they were scared, and one boy said he'd tried to tell another teacher about it, but the teacher told him to go to class. I told him sometimes you just have to put on your most serious voice and insist that you get heard. Anyway, this kid is a handful, bullying, disrespectful, etc. but I never would've imagined him bringing to school and actually USING a knife against a classmate... The other boy's mother doesn't want the headache of pressing charges, which is fine for her, but is going to make it harder to expel the boy. Expulsion from our school is probably not what's long-term best for the boy with the knife, but this has gone too far! Best of all, the boy's father tried to somehow shift the blame to us, telling my principal that we are just trying to kick him out... hello? Your son brought a knife to school and actually injured another student with it!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

It feels like a winter machine...

I've been a little depressed for the last few days... I guess I really only took one day off from blogging, but it feels like a week has gone by. This is a difficult time of year for everyone - teachers included - thanks to the gloomy weather and endless cold (though it's amazing how downright balmy 36F feels after you've been staring down the barrel of 10F for a few weeks). Our seventh graders have been a difficult group to deal with for a few weeks now... we sense a general erosion of behavior. I spotted the word F--- scrawled on my wall this morning, down low near the radiator - it will have to be washed off tomorrow. A lot of the students have been talking back. The ones who are always a handful seem to be more of a handful than ever. We had another fight today, leading to our first ever district suspension (one of the boys involved was also involved in the fight on Friday). On top of that is the hour or so a day I spend downloading and printing resumes, which was exciting at first but now just feels like work.

We sent our sixth graders to Albany today for Student Lobby Day - we have a wonderful school health clinic in our building, with an on-site psychiatrist and several nurses, but they always risk budget cuts.

We took advantage of the resulting schedule changes to have a staff-student discussion with one of the seventh grade classes, about why they are so frequent absent, not doing homework, coming in late, etc. I doubt it will change anything radically as far as the kids' behavior is concerned - a few will take home some things to think about - but it helped both teachers and students to get things off our chests. I taught that class last period today and felt a little more "centered" and able to be patient, to pause and ask them if I needed to explain anything again, to see the good things happening rather than just the bad. We'll see.

I mentor two first-year TFA teachers. This just started a few weeks ago, so we are still getting to know one another and figure out what the mentor-mentee relationship will be. I spent Saturday afternoon grading papers and chatting with one woman, C. She has also been struggling with depression lately, in part because a student attacked her in the classroom. And by attacked, I mean shoved, scratched, threatened with a chair over her head, tried to poke out her eyes... Apparently, this student has pushed her before, and has disrupted her classes in other violent ways, and she has reported the incidents to her administration, but no action was taken. C finally told her principal in no uncertain terms that she will not enter the classroom with this girl present. So far, the girl has not returned. Hearing C's description of her school - which is a new, small school, beginner principal, and completely chaotic - only made me sadder. My original TFA placement was not a perfect place, by any means, but if a student had ever physically pushed me, he or she would have been at the very least removed from my classes. If I had been placed in a school like C's, I doubt I would still be teaching.

Hearing C's story made me tired and sad. And then I read Mrs. Chew's response to the teacher-bashing over at Joanne Jacobs, and that made me tired and sad, too. My favorite posture in yoga is "child" - sit on your knees, shift your weight backwards, lean forward so you rest your forehead on the floor, extend your arms in front of you or by your sides, relax, breathe into your lower back. It is extraordinarily calming; once you try it, you'll know why it's called "child." I am only 25 years old, and I have this enormous responsibility to the children in my school, and sometimes, I still feel like a child myself.

I was terribly, terribly depressed my first year and a half of teaching - Zoloft-taking, therapist-seeing, barely-getting-out-of-bed depressed. Once I started the Zoloft and opened up about it to a few other TFA friends, I realized that at least two other teachers (out of about 5 that I was close friends with) were also taking anti-depressants, and those are the just ones who got medication... I know there are many out there who struggle with the ups and downs of it all but find other ways to cope, or no way to cope. One of my roommates during that first year quit after only a few weeks because she was spiralling into deep depression, partly because teaching brought up some painful things from her own childhood.

Teach For America probably has a lot of depressed corps members because the organization actively seeks intensely-committed perfectionists who have never really failed at anything (that they couldn't turn into a success in an essay...). Then they take us, move us away from our friends, family, and other support networks, and give us a brand-new, incredibly complex job working in some of the most difficult schools in the US, where every single student is very needy in some way....

But I also imagine that many teachers, not just Teach For America, struggle with job-related anger, sadness, stress, anxiety, depression...

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Harry Potter FanFic Helps Kids Learn to Write

I wasn't going to blog today (really, I wasn't!), but then I saw this on Boing Boing Blog: Why Heather Can Write.

Through online discussions of fan writing, the teen writers develop a vocabulary for talking about writing and they learn strategies for rewriting and improving their own work. When they talk about the books themselves, the teens make comparisons with other literary works or draw connections with philosophical and theological traditions; they debate gender stereotyping in the female characters; they cite interviews with the writer or read critiques of the works; they use analytic concepts they probably wouldn't encounter until they reached the advanced undergraduate classroom.

It's a good thing I have to go meet with my mentee (it's easier to get grading done in a cafe), or I'd probably spend the rest of the day reading the fan-fic sites, responding here, and thinking about how this could interface with the classroom (if it could). I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to let you all read the article and ponder it for yourselves!

I highly recommend that you take a look at The Daily Prophet, Heather's on-line Hogwarts newspaper. She's starting to franchise the paper - letting other kids become professors (editors) of their own branches of the paper - so that more kids can participate.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

If I didn't have this blog...

I would probably practice yoga regularly, run daily, know how to play the guitar, finish the sweater I've been knitting (for six years...), and get more sleep.

But I would not know how to align text and images to the right in html, a skill obtained in the last ten minutes of fiddling with my new blogchalk.

I am starting to think about my re-design* - scheduled for late June. I have exciting ideas! My other summer computer project will be to learn enough computer programming (probably visual basic) to make a class/teacher scheduling program for my school.

*I realize that the word "re-design" implies that there was an initial design process besides "eenie-meenie-minie-mo" among the blogger templates...

Let's talk about resumes...

Being the contact person for my school's teacher recruitment process, I see all the cover letters and resumes before anyone else does. After reading so many applications, I should sell my services as a resume consultant - but I'm gonna give away my advice for free!

1. Length does matter. Single-page resumes really ARE best; 2 page resumes are okay; more than that shows a lack of ability to decide what's important. Whatever you do, don't go on to a second page for only a few extra lines or for your high school summer jobs!

2. Find the most anal person you know and have them copy edit your work. Then have the next most anal person you know do it again. I am the most anal person I know. Spelling and grammar errors stand out off the page for me; they are the first thing I see. (I know, I know: I've made my share of mistakes in this blog... but this is a hobby, not a job application). One little typo won't knock you out of consideration with me, but believe me, I will see it. More than one will start to reflect badly on your standards of work. Grammar errors are even worse than typos, because I don't want to hire anyone to teach my kids who doesn't have excellent written communication skills. Teaching is all about communication, after all!

3. Make your objective concise and precise, or excise it from your resume! And for heaven's sake, let me know what position you are interested in, even if only one position is open. Do not waste my time with "to obtain a position where I can use my skills, grow as a person, and help people" - that's what everyone wants! I'd much rather read "To obtain a position teaching Physical Science" - this tells me something I don't already know. Furthermore, it reflects on you: a vague objective makes you seem flaky, while a specific objective makes you seem goal-oriented. Best of all: "To obtain an Earth Science teaching position where I can share my passion for plate tectonics, astronomy, and climate science with middle school students."

4. Sell yourself. Do not apologize for anything in your cover letter or resume. Use a confident, but not over-confident, tone in your writing. Think about what I'm looking for (read the job posting closely!), think about what you have to offer (even if you're fresh out of college or new to the profession), and write a cover letter that emphasizes why I need what you have. Trust me, I will notice any gaps in experience without you pointing them out to me! I want to know why you think you should get this job. I will give you a chance to explain any problems in your interview, but only if you get an interview - and for that, you need to make a powerful case for yourself. But don't write fiction.

5. Customize your cover letter (and possibly your resume) for the position. That doesn't mean you have to write a brand new letter for every job, but make sure you don't send me a letter addressed to someone else, or seeking a babysitting or tutoring position when I'm looking for a teacher... Take an extra 10 minutes or hour to tailor your application to this particular job. That's really just another aspect of #4, selling yourself well.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Entire School Gets Up on Wrong Side of Bed

Man, was everyone grouchy today. The kids would not respond to anything I did and were irritable with each other; this annoyed me, so I got grouchy, which just made them grouchier. Vicious circle. I get into this circle every once in a while and always feel bad about it. It helped when I realized that all the kids, in all the classes, were just grumpy today, and will probably be fine again on Monday. Maybe it was the freezing rain and dark skies. Maybe it was one more winter Friday. The day ended with a fight between two of our boys in front of our exit... we only have three fights a year, so this proved to me that something was just not right with the world today.

On the bright side, I posted our teacher recruitment ad in a few places on-line and resumes have been pouring in! I was a little concerned that we would have trouble finding people since we have so many positions open... but it looks like that won't be a problem.

Off to see Big Fish...

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Good News!

My school got a great review from Inside Schools, a website which reviews the NYC schools. Their review process is pretty good - they visit, look around for a day, interview students, teachers, and administrators, and then write up what they observed. They also allow paents, students, teachers, and others to leave comments, which are posted at the bottom of the review. Our school was marked as "noteworthy" - not bad for our first two years!

America's Next Top Model

A few days ago, a boy raised his hand in the middle of class and asked, "Do you watch 'America's Next Top Model?'"

"No." I said it with the finality of a teacher who knows that when this particular boy asks a question like that in the middle of a science lesson, it can lead to nothing good.

That was the end of it.... I thought.

Today, during the snack period before afterschool started, a group of students came up to me and asked, "You know that show, 'America's Next Top Model?'"

"I never, ever watch t.v.," I said, taking advantage of the opportunity to model for them the fact that one can live a full life without television. "So, no."

"You don't watch ANY t.v.?" Incredulity. "What do you DO?"

We talk briefly about Other Stuff People Do: read, check email, grade papers, talk on the phone, cook dinner.... I act as though it is completely normal to turn on your television less than once a month. (I am aware that it is not, in fact, completely normal...).

But I smell a rat.

"So, why does everyone want to know if I watch 'America's Next Top Model?'" I ask.


"You look JUST like this girl, Shandi, Ms. Frizzle!"

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

They fill in a few details for me.

I spend way too much of the rest of afterschool fielding How-Much-Is-Ms.-Frizzle-Like-Shandi questions: Do you have a car? Do you live in Manhattan? Do you care about your appearance? I mean, do you wear, like, whatever you want to, even if it's from the seventies or something?

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean, would you wear go-go boots?"

"Um, not too often."

The thing about it is, I DO look like Shandi! I see what the kids see. My hair's much shorter than hers, but I look about halfway between the old, gawky Shandi and the new "top model" Shandi (check out the photo gallery).

So now you know.

I couldn't make this stuff up....

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Yeah, I grew up in New England...


Seven hundred visitors a day and it takes more than a week for someone to mention that my archives are broken?!? (Thanks, E.!)

300,000 bottles of soda in the room... 299,999 bottles of soda...

One of my seventh grade classes is ahead of the other, so I gave them a challenge activity today: Figure out the volume of our classroom in liters. The ceilings in my school are incredibly high, so figuring out the height of the room required estimation. Some groups decided that the ceiling is 2 1/2 times the height of the door, and used that to estimate; others did tricky things with window panes, closets, chalkboard, etc. We also pretended that the room was a smooth, empty rectangular prism, rather than trying to account for the random ceiling beams and closets that decrease the volume of the room. Each group wrote out the steps they followed on chart paper, along with their final answer. Although some kids definitely did more work than others, they enjoyed this task a lot and engaged in it quite actively. All the estimates came out between 200,000-300,000 liters, which I think is fine considering the amount of estimation required. At the end of class, they shared their estimates, and I held up a one liter bottle and asked them to imagine 200,000 bottles just like that one.

For those grappling with the "Workshop Model" which the Dept. of Ed. wants us to implement in all our lessons, please note that this activity fit the model very well: a brief mini-lesson on converting cubic centimeters to milliliters, followed by a group activity applying that knowledge, followed by the sharing of results. Don't believe anyone who tells you that using the Workshop Model requires you to drastically change how you teach; most lessons can easily be adapted if they do not initially fit this model. I do hope they realize that some activities take more than one period, thus the mini-lesson-activity-sharing sequence might be expanded to cover three periods on consecutive days rather than fit in just one period.

And speaking of the Dept. of Ed. ... yesterday, a teacher from the school with which we share our building came to drop off a packet from the monthly regional science meeting. I can never attend these, since we are so small and it's not easy to cover classes when a teacher is absent. Anyway, this teacher is really helpful and always picks up an extra packet for me. Yesterday, she said, "And, the Region has decided to hold the Science Expo on March 25th." I just stood there, open-mouthed in... well, not in disbelief, because they do this kind of thing all the time, but still open-mouthed. Barely 6 weeks from now, we have to have finished our school Science Expo and be ready to present at the Regional Expo. Fantastic. I guess I should just be grateful they gave us this much warning, since 6 weeks is sort of generous compared to previous debacles. But I feel disrespected by this decision. Teachers plan. We plan and plan and PLAN. Plan, teacher, plan. So if I have a yearly plan - however rough - it seems very disrespectful of my professionalism to tell me out of the blue: Drop everything and start working on the science fair. Sure, I can do it. I can push the next unit to April and re-organize things. But it's still disrespectful. Furthermore, last year's Regional Science Expo was in late May or early June, so I had reason to assume that this year's would be as well. If they're going to change something like that, I feel they should decide by September on at least the month it will take place, so that I can incorporate it into my planning.

And speaking of the Region... I learned at my staff meeting on Monday that the Region is pushing for extra periods of Math and Communication Arts in all schools. This always comes at the expense of Social Studies and Science, because stuff like Art, Phys. Ed., and Health have already been squeezed out in most schools. I am teaching only 4 periods of science per week to my seventh graders this year, and I don't like it. The week is over almost as soon as it starts! With a quiz every second Friday, I feel like I hardly have time to review and help the kids who are struggling. In some schools, the kids get only 1 period of science per week! I guess I have been lucky; 4 is the fewest periods I've encountered personally. This is incredibly short-sighted and again, disrespectful of the work I do. It is short-sighted because, starting this year, the eighth graders have to take the state Intermediate Level Science Exam, and it COUNTS. The last few years were for practice, but from now on, it's the Real Thing. So, sacrifice science to raise those reading and math scores... but what are you going to do when the science and social studies scores stink??? And what are you going to do when a bunch of high school students fail their Regents exams because their teachers can't start with high school science, they have to start with all the stuff the kids missed in middle school and elementary school??? It's disrespectful because I put a lot of effort (as you may have noticed from the last few weeks' posts) into incorporating math and reading into my science lessons... but I get very little credit for that. Also, I don't know how they think they will recruit qualified science teachers if the message is that science is expendable!

And think about it from a student's perspective for a moment: You're a struggling reader or a struggling math student, and now, instead of 1 period a day of the class that stresses you out the most, you get two! Often two in a row, with the same teacher. And at the expense of the things that might well be your only enjoyable moments in school: art, music, science, phys. ed, etc. ... I realize kids need extra attention where they are having trouble, but there has to be a limit, and it can't be at the cost of other important things. If 5 periods a week isn't working, is 6 going to make the difference? That depends on what happens during the sixth hour... more of the same with the same teacher (who is, in all likelihood, ready to see some new faces by this point) and the same classmates... that doesn't seem like a recipe for success to me. Here's someone who agrees with me.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Another Opinion

From Burning Inferno:

hey grundle, have you checked out any of these other blogs? it looks like the people that do this shit are almost as fucked up as you are. chekc out this one mr frizzle.

what a treehugger. she's probably one of those people who wears socks and sandals and sells burritos to fix her van. ooooooh look at me. i am a white woman teaching at a dangerous school. i grew up rich. i am earning my place in heaven. damn hippie. take a shower.

Reality check: Sort of a treehugger. Don't wear socks with sandals, though I know people who do. School isn't dangerous. Couldn't make a burrito if you paid me! No van (too much of a treehugger to own a car of any kind, actually). Grew up decidedly middle class (Dad's a public school principal), which might have looked rich to some.

Okay, so it seems that two different people post to Burning Inferno - the one who posted that little piece about me doesn't give much detail about HIS life, job, etc. But this is what his friend says: jobs. If I had any clue what I actually wanted to do with my life I suppose I would probably have something tangible to complain about. But, I really don't have a clue what I want to do. So I'm just bitter about the fact that I work 70 hours a week at a newspaper (sports....fucking sports) and a hospital (accounting stuff...fucking accounting stuff).

I've got a BA in journ. with a minor in English, and I've always loved books. (note to anyone who may actually read this trash: if you work in publishing at a semi respectable firm/house - hell I don't care if it's even respectable at this point - give me a holler. I have no problem being your bitch. none.)

Ever thought about teaching? If you don't like your current job, and you don't like the fact that a lot of teachers in inner-city schools are white hippie(?) women from rich(?) backgrounds, then why not step up to the plate yourself? With the journalism BA I'm guessing you're not anti-education, though you might have issues with how schools operate today. Teach English, or high school journalism, or social studies.

This is the bottom line: New York City's public schools need thousands of teachers. There just aren't enough teachers from minority backgrounds becoming teachers and teaching in the city.* I'm sure it WOULD be better for the kids if more of their teachers shared their background and experiences. But right at the moment, there are barely enough people of any background coming to teach in the city! So, it's pointless to criticize unless you're either a teacher yourself or on your way to becoming one or doing something else to change the situation.

*NYC has a higher proportion of non-white teachers than most parts of the United States.