A Phillie Teacher

I was a starry-eyed teacher from New Jersey. Now I work for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Lost in the Mail?

Posted by aphillieteacher on July 24, 2011

My mail service is usually pretty good here in Philadelphia but I heard that President Obama recently hosted an education roundtable at the White House and I WASN’T INVITED! My invitation must have been lost in the mail!

Guess how many people at the education roundtable actually were educators. (Answer: zero)


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The New Guy (and Other Rumors)

Posted by aphillieteacher on July 24, 2011

It was a whirlwind spring. The end of school featured the usual exciting release of gossip and secrets; rumors were laid to rest  and new ones were started.

Rumor 1: Our principal will be reassigned. We’re getting someone new!
True. Follow up questions and rumors: Is a smaller school assignment a reward or a punishment? did the former principal lose face or get rewarded? Answer: The ways of the Philadelphia School District are mysterious and never revealed to common teachers.
Rumor 2: A new guy has been assigned as principal to finally bring order to our school.
We don’t know yet if the order part is true, but it would certainly be a relief to have a principal who backs up his teachers. If cell phones are forbidden, then don’t allow them into the building and don’t smile as kids pass you in the hallway openly talking on their phones. And oh yes, don’t threaten to write a teacher up because a student is seen in class with a cell phone. You were supposed to police cell phone possession, not us.

We’ll find out soon enough what this new guy is made of.
Where will I be teaching in September?
The question might be closer to *will* I be teaching in September. I was laid off on June 7 and reinstated 2 weeks later. Current rumors claim there will be more layoffs before mid August which may or may not include me.

Actually  don’t know if being laid off would be so bad; so far I’m having a wonderful summer just lazing around not writing lesson plans or pretending I don’t see waaaaay too much male underwear or listening to language that would embarrass a sailor.

I like not working. Too bad I also like  income.

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Save the date – July 30

Posted by aphillieteacher on April 18, 2011

Save our schools march on Washington


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How to Kill Education

Posted by aphillieteacher on April 16, 2011

How can anyone love learning or love teaching in a place like this?

I surely would quit if my district went that  far in hating their teachers.

(thanks to Ricochet who posted this link in her blog)

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Fighting becomes performance

Posted by aphillieteacher on April 14, 2011

Another fight at school today. From what I could see it involved two girls outside the cafeteria, right next to the main office.

It was quite a spectacle: close to a hundred kids must’ve gathered to get a better view.  One parent waiting to see the principal was treated to a front row seat through the office window.

Even after the security officers dragged the girls into the office they continued to lunge and kick at each other, spitting in each others’ faces and even at the officers.

Later in the day, kids replayed the video they had taken on their cell phones and critiqued the fighters’ methods.  “Why’d she put her head down? look. look at this! ” Over and over again.


How to stage your own
Fighting at Not-so-Wonderful High School has gone beyond a stupid way to an settle argument; it’s major entertainment. Someone “talks trash” and the next thing you know,  the kids have violent, graphic entertainment that will last for days.

Potential fighters text their friends about an impending battle; texts are sent to phones all over the building and in no time there’s an mob just dying to watch the mayhem. How great is that?

As an extra bonus, if you have the right Facebook friends, you can see the video again later and even add comments of your own. These are the latest edition of  high school memories.

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Honest question

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 28, 2011

Today was the usual “we’re so cool,  we’re juniors, we’re funny . . lalala” Come late to class, screw around as much as possible, absolutely don’t stop talking or playing music or whatever.

So finally I stopped the lesson cold in its tracks and asked an honest question: “Why are you here, when you have no intention of listening to what I have to say? Why don’t you just leave?  I don’t know why you’re here wasting my time.”


wide, surprised eyes.

(Not a bad reaction from smart-ass inner-city 17 year olds.)

Let’s see how long it lasts.

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Feelin’ the Burn

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 23, 2011

PSSAs ended on Monday. In reaction to sitting still and going for an hour at a time without electronic devices over the past 6 days, the juniors have uglier senioritis than the seniors themselves.

For them, it’s school’s out, leave us alone, you cannot possibly ask anymore of us. We just want to sit in class and uh. . . Talk and goof around.

(Really, kids? Really?? ’cause what’s it gonna be like when you go to college/ get a job, or try to do your own income taxes? )

The point of this post is not the kids feeling burned out; it’s ME.  The last three days have been spent trying to gently corral them back  and make them stay quiet all at the same time for just 5 minutes so I can tell them about their baby-easy research project or get them started on Realism so we can read a cool story called “The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” But as we used to say in NJ: Forgeddabout it. They don’t  want to hear anything.

Today I am toast. Tired, totally cranky and, let’s face it: FED UP.

As much as I dreadfully need a mental health day, I’m going to brave it out one more day so 1/ I can run off stuff for a sub tomorrow  2/take off Friday so I can have 3 blissful days without my beloved students while I regenerate.

I doubt they will even miss me.

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Why merit pay isn’t a motivater

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 20, 2011

I present two good examples of why merit pay for teachers isn’t a good idea.

First – A real quote by student taking her benchmark math test:

Miss, I don’t pay attention in class so I don’t know how they expect me to know this.*

Based on that statement and her less than wonderful score on benchmark tests, this girl’s math teacher should  be denied salary increments and/or bonus. She doesn’t pay attention in class. This is his fault. (yes of course I’m kidding)

Second: If notes from the field aren’t enough, how about some actual MIT research on rewards and human motivation:


Summary:  there will always be a few things standing in the way of teachers earning merit pay rewards

  • kids who have no intention of learning and are offended when held accountable
  • teachers being human, they react like other humans when it comes to high stake rewards (massively more bananas do not = massively better performance)

* I’m thinking of getting a tshirt saying that

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One body, two teachers! It makes perfect sense

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 17, 2011

One body, two teachers! I always suspected that the forms our administrators fill out with such wanton glee were pretty much meaningless. Just this week I got absolute proof that I was right.

We have a new Vice Principal. Like anybody new to a building, he started out gung-ho, getting those feedback forms to us teachers in record time.

I was a little taken aback when I saw lots of “almost meets standard” check marks on the lesson plan form I ‘d been using for over a year.

I cringed. This hurt! Crikee, thought I, I better make some changes!

But what? Things had always been ok in the past. Plus I had no idea what exactly was wrong with the last lesson plan. It’s not as if he gave me any advice. Just feedback.

So when it came time to write up the next week’s lesson plans, I changed . . . . nothing.

Weeks passed. I wasn’t getting feedback of any kind, so I kept writing lesson plans in the same old way. I was a little nervous about getting more of those “almost meets standard” check marks, but what the heck. Let’s see what happens, right?

You know what happened? Today I got my new feedback checklist and voila! all were “Satisfactory. Meets standards.

Two teachers! One good, one bad: same methods! By doing absolutely nothing I had turned my half-baked teaching performance around completely. Sure. It all makes perfect sense.

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | 11 Comments »

Yeah, I’m going

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 14, 2011

Rally at the District offices this afternoon (after school of course.) Be there, wear red. Booyah!

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