A Phillie Teacher

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

Archive for March, 2011

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.


Posted in Philadelphia Schools | 2 Comments »

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.

Posted in Philadelphia Schools | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

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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Sad News

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 10, 2011

“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin.”

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Flash Forward

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 8, 2011

What will it be like after teacher unions are outlawed, school districts decide Teach for America is the best way to go and data is king?

Flash forward to the future (5 years from now maybe)

  • Certified teachers have fled the profession. They are happy and working in places that encourage them.
  • TFA has increased training to 7.5 weeks a year to prepare their candidates for 65-student class sizes.
  • TFA’ers don’t flinch at huge classes. Now that every lesson is scripted and all assessment is multiple choice and electronically scored, there’s no extra work!
  • Building administrators have been laid off and replaced by data-entry clerks.
  • There are no more troublesome students. 10 months a year of test prep has beaten all resistance out of them. They have become empty husks.
  • Bill Gates and the other megla-millionaires are satisfied because . . I guess because everyone did what they told them to do.
  • The US has given up on  exciting entrepreneurship, but their citizens make great factory workers: unquestioning lovers of cogs and repetition.
  • No Child Left Behind has a new definition. All children with dreams of creativity are sought out and forced to join the lockstep educational system (for their own good.) Resistance is futile!  They will be assimilated.
  • Finally, somewhere, and dimly at first, people will realize that art class was fun and poetry was more than just fodder for  Constructed Responses. People will want to go back to the old days when children worked on strange and exhilarating activities that came from something called “Project Based Learning.”
  • Someday they’ll want the teachers back, doing what they do best.  They’ll want Learning back in the classroom too.People may not realize it yet but eventually that day will come.

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I <3 Diane Ravitch

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 6, 2011

and Jon Stewart.

Here they discuss how teachers have been singled out in what amounts to an education witch hunt. (I wish they’d let me do a direct embed :/

I hope they’re available to come over my house for dinner. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have as guests.

Posted in Education | 2 Comments »

This Math hurts the kids

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 1, 2011

Disclaimer: Everything in this post is public knowledge; all information has been previously published in newspapers or online.

Arlene Ackerman is one of the highest paid superintendents in the country. Her salary is $348,000 a year – more than the mayor of Philadelphia and the governor of Pennsylvania combined.

She is also entitled to huge bonuses. Last year it was a $65,000 gift. The reason for the bonus has been hidden from the public. This year she could have gotten $100,000 just for hanging on until the end of the school year. Dr. Ackerman has deferred taking that bonus but don’t worry, Philly. You might still end up paying it since she hasn’t declined it entirely.

Our district could have a shortfall of 400-500 million dollars for the coming school year.

Dr. Ackerman’s plans to cut costs?
Ackerman said the belt tightening will start close to home.

“The first thing we are starting with is anything that appears to be redundancy in services, programs, and people,” she said.

Sell the schools, cram some more desks, layoff a lot of teachers and support staff and voila! Budget magic!

Too bad about the kids. And now I hear that Ackerman’s contract has been renewed.

Like I said: too bad about the kids.

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | Leave a Comment »