A Phillie Teacher

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

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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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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 »

Laying Low for Now

Posted by aphillieteacher on February 26, 2011

I want to lay low for a while. Philadelphia Public Schools apparently do not like teachers to be outspoken. Even if I speak from my own experience, not talk about kids or never mention names, there’s a good chance they’d go after me and any other teacher who dared to criticize The District, its Queen Regent or any of her minions.

So here’s what’s going on in Philadelphia schools. I regret deeply that I couldn’t be at yesterday’s rally for Hope Moffett.
Fighting for a High School Community’s Right to be Heard

If you want to read my posts, leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you.

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | 5 Comments »

Who Are These People??

Posted by aphillieteacher on February 10, 2011

New People at New High School Back in September New High School got a new Assistant Principal. She was classy, smart and professional. Not only that, she was human. We teachers liked her.

The principal never introduced her to staff or students. We just kind of found out about her through the grape vine. Strange, no?

Even stranger was when this assistant principal disappeared sometime in December. Nothing was said about her continued absence: nothing about illness, nothing about job shifts . . nothing. Rumors were out that she and our Fearless Principal didn’t get along and when the new assistant principal disappeared, the principal said nothing. For all we know, the poor woman is locked in a dungeon under New High School’s gymnasium.

Weeks passed. I continued to email my lesson plans to the vanished a.p. because no one told me otherwise. There was never a response.

Finally, around the end of January our Fearless Principal got on the p.a. and to the complete surprise of staff and students, announced that we now had a new assistant principal and his name was >unintelligble<


We never got an introduction and none of us knew what the man looked like. Is he taking the place of our vanished assistant principal? we wondered.

Apparently that was none of our business. After 2 weeks of wondering, I asked a cafeteria aid to point out the New Assistant Principal. Aha! I walked up to the friendly looking man and introduced myself. Seems like a pleasant guy; professional. What must this man think, when a teacher walks up to him and says, “Hello. Welcome. No one knows who you are.”

Quite suddenly, this week we got wind of *another* assistant principal in the building. A woman who has no name, has appeared without fanfare or introduction. She is using the missing Assistant Principal’s office.

No introduction for her either.

I’m not sure how to summarize all this, but to my way of thinking, this principal thinks the teachers don’t matter enough to tell them who’s who. Shame on her to keep the staff and students in the dark like this.

And shame on her for not making the new people welcome with a simple walk through during common planning time to introduce them. If I was a new Assistant Principal, I’d wonder why the hell no one introduced me. Considering what happened to our missing Assistant Principal, it probably doesn’t bode well for their job security.

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | 2 Comments »

Amazing words on Gay Marriage

Posted by aphillieteacher on February 3, 2011

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | Leave a Comment »

A Horrible Sinking Feeling

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 25, 2011

A local Friends (Quaker) school has a job opening for an English teacher! oh boy oh boy, I thought with great excitement. A new job! A new start! kids that really *care* about learning.

Then I looked at their web site. And their curriculum – especially the elective courses. That’s when I got that horrible sinking feeling that told me You don’t know how to teach like that anymore. Heck, you don’t even know 2/3 of the books they’re using!

Working in an urban school, teaching the most fundamental skills over and over to kids who don’t care or don’t want to learn about the world has ruined me.

I don’t have the gloss and shine necessary to develop cool, exciting and innovative courses anymore. I’ve become a hack.

Think I’m over reacting? Check out this course description:

Throughout history, individual men and women have transcended the darkness of their age and proved
inspirational leaders, bringing about progress and change. Sometimes these individuals were kings or
politicians, other times they were citizens turned revolutionaries. We will look back over 2,500 years of
dramatic literature’s political masterworks and ask “what makes a great leader?” Is it easier for a king or
a revolutionary to enact change? What should be the relationship between faith and government? And
must our hero die to prove his worth and bring about progress? In this class we will read, recite and debate:
Euripides’s The Bacchae, Shakespeare’s Richard II , Schiller’s Don Carlos, Bruchner’s Danton’s Death , Shaw’s
St. Joan and Anouilh’s Beckett. Each student will be responsible for reading the plays and will be graded on
his or her ability to discuss and debate the plays in class. Additional assignments will include a weekly in
class essay regarding the play, a written biography of one of the playwrights and his work, and a final
assignment (written or graphic) in which the student will present how he or she would adapt one of the
plays for a contemporary audience.

I don’t think they would be tremendously impressed with my multiple hand-shaking styles or use of street slang at the interview. They would laugh at my world of graphic organizers, “chunking literature” and read-aloud for juniors and seniors in high school.

Woe is me. I will send the resume and cover letter but in my heart, I know I don’t stand a chance.

Posted in Education | 4 Comments »

Get Tested

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 24, 2011

Nothing to do with reading or thinking.

At New High School, entire English classes are sent to the auditorium to watch a brief video about STDs before then sent to the bathroom with a test kit. Whether they actually urinate in the cup and turn it in for testing is up to the kids. I saw a lot of the students nodding as the presenter ran through statistics and symptoms, so it’s very likely that many of them decided to go ahead and get tested.

I understand that every year they find multiple cases of diseases among the kids. How far they get with treatment, I can’t tell. But at least they’re getting informed.

When I was in high school, all we got was vision screening. I wonder if the suburbs have school-wide programs for STDs?

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | Leave a Comment »

How’s That Script Working Out?

Posted by aphillieteacher on January 17, 2011

About a month ago I posted my angry response to the district’s command: “Do not teach literature or critical thinking or anything to do with gaining knowledge or learning about the world. Certainly don’t let them discover the wonder and beauty of American writing.” Instead they mandate that every week

1. the kids read a non-fiction text selected by the district
2. write a 5 paragraph response to a canned prompt
3. track their scored “progress” on a district-made table

what our highly-paid experts in the district office forgot was allowing time to conference with our students and give them personal feedback.

What the kids get is a 14 point rubric sheet with four items checked off. I try to add comments or circle particular items that need attention but honestly, our kids zoom to their score and look at little else.

Result: they’re not making any progress. Week after week they enter nearly the same scores as the previous week, all because I never get the chance to say “Here’s what’s going wrong with your (topic sentences) (transitions) (conclusions)” And with 90 something of these to grade every week, I’m tired.

End Result: everyone is frustrated – me, helplessly watching my kids make the same errors every week, the kids because they don’t see any results and they’re damn tired of this nonsense and finally the District because there wasn’t any change in scores.

Obviously this will somehow be my fault.

Posted in Education, Philadelphia Schools | 4 Comments »