Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Passing Lie

I had a conference with one of my students today. We’ll call him Nathan. Our conversation went something like this:

MS UNTAMED: Nathan, you’ve been acting out in class lately and doing no work at all. You did some good work at the beginning of the marking period, and then you started slacking off. What’s going on?

Nathan: I dunno.

MS UNTAMED: You’re falling right back into the same old pattern you had last year. And what happened? You failed science and math. Do you want to spend next summer in summer school like you did last summer?

Nathan: I didn’t go to summer school last summer.

MS UNTAMED: What? How could you be in eighth grade if you failed two major classes and didn’t go to summer school?

Nathan: No answer.

MS UNTAMED: What did you do last summer, if you weren’t in summer school?

Nathan: I went to D.R. with my parents.

MS UNTAMED: Well, if I failed you last year and your math teacher failed you too, and nothing happened, then why should you do any work this year?

Nathan: No answer.

MS UNTAMED: That’s the message you’re being sent. Play all day, you’ll pass anyway. Well, let me tell you something. Last year the whole class learned science while you played, and this year won’t be any different. Even though it looks to you like you’re getting away with something, you’re not. You snooze, you lose. You’re not learning anything. Principal S.T. might give you the diploma, but she can’t give you the knowledge. Only you can do that.
What do you say?

Nathan: No answer.

MS UNTAMED: Ok, Nathan, think about it. I’ll see you tomorrow.

OK, OK. I probably could have been a little nicer to the poor misunderstood child—but I went into shock when I realized that the principal had changed my grades. I don’t fail many students. Last year I failed four out of 150. They did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING all- year- long--180 days---No work-- At all--NADA.

Yes, I called parents. Yes, I talked to guidance. Yes I wrote referrals. Yes, I “differentiated”. Yes, I gave them positive reinforcement.

Nathan passed. MS UNTAMED failed. MS UNTAMED got an UNsatisfactory rating. And so did the math teacher, who is no longer in the school. She made some kind of deal—if she agreed to move on to another school, the principal would give her a Satisfactory. Maybe the math teacher also agreed to change Nathan's 55 to a 65.

At Bloomberg and Company, it’s the teacher’s fault if a student fails.

I am really shaken by this, and I am trying to figure out why. This is nothing new. It happens all the time. It happened before Bloomberg. They just passed kids on without justification. Diplomas meant nothing.

But“NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND” was supposed to fix that, wasn’t it? We have STANDARDS now, don’t we?






Friday, October 19, 2007

Meet Me Afterschool


Principal S.T.: When I walked into your classroom on Oct 5, I asked you for a lesson plan and you said it was on your website. So then I walked around and saw that the children were working on their projects. I asked them about your website and they told me that you did have a website, so I took down the email address and that night I went on your website, but I did not see the lesson that you were teaching that day. You did hand in a lesson plan to Mr. Z. later, but you didn’t have the lesson plan available immediately on your website.

MS UNTAMED: I thought you said you went on my website that night.

P: Well, later that evening.

UNTAMED: Well, at night I work on the website. So I take things down and move things around.

P: But you said it was on the website and it wasn’t.

UNTAMED: Yes, but that was once I was home and working on it.

P: It wasn’t that late. It must have been 5:30 or 6:00.

UNTAMED: But at 3:00 as we were leaving, I gave Mr. Z. a written lesson plan that I took off the website. Sometimes, especially on weekends, I change the website after I go home,

P: The lesson plan you taught that day was not the lesson plan that was on the website..

UNTAMED: It was on the website at the moment you were in the classroom. Later that evening I was working on the website.

P: But that lesson plan that you gave me on Monday was not on the website on Friday.

UNTAMED: It was available when you came in the classroom that Friday, and it was available by the end of the weekend.

P: Between 3:00 and 6:00 you moved it off the website?

UNTAMED: Yes, because I gave it to Mr. Z. before I left the building. You had it .

P: You did not have a lesson plan available when I asked for it.

UNTAMED: It was available at that moment. It was available on the website when you came in.
When I go home, I can move things around so it might not be on the website two or three hours later because I am home working on it.

P: I have said this over and over again. You must have a lesson plan on your desk available to me when I come into your classroom.

UNTAMED: I understand that you say that, but what is the difference between having the lesson plan at the exact moment you walk into the classroom, or five minutes later, or an hour later?

P: The difference is that I can read the lesson. I can ask questions. As I’m looking around I can make sure that it matches up with what you are doing.

UNTAMED: That is why I have the website. You can look at the lesson plans before you even come in.

P: You told me that your lesson plan was on the computer and to go check. Why would you take it off?

UNTAMED: Because you already had it—I gave it to Mr. Z. before I left. On weekends, I go home and work on the website for the next week.

P; I went on again and couldn’t find it.

UNTAMED: Would you like to go on now?

P: No,

UNTAMED: Why not? Because I might be proved right?

P: No, because I’m not asking if it’s there now. Lesson plans need to be available when I come in.

UNTAMED: I made this website specifically so that you can go look at my plans before you come in and be familiar with what is going on.

P: Those lesson plans are not dated, they don’t go for the week. They are not in detail. Those lesson plans, I looked at them. They are not thorough. They do not go from day to day.

UNTAMED: (To the UFT representative) Now what do we do?

UFT Representative: At this point, lesson plans don’t need to be dated.

P: So then, have the lesson plan for the day available. Then it doesn’t have to be dated.
Her lesson plans are very general and broad. There wasn’t a lesson plan for that day. I couldn’t find it.

UNTAMED: I have proved that I have detailed lesson plans. My website is proof of that. The fact that I can’t provide it for you while I’m teaching in the classroom. I don’t think that should be a problem. I put everything on the website so that you and Mr. Z. can be familiar with what I am doing.

P: You are going to have to print out your lesson plan because I am not going to go to a website to look at it. That is not my rule. That is the Chancellor’s.

UNTAMED: Did they say I have to print out the lesson plan?

UFT Rep; I don’t think there is a precedent for lesson plans being on line and accessible to any administrator.

P: There is a precedent that says you must have a lesson plan and you must give it to an administrator when asked. There should be a lesson plan on the desk so that I don’t interrupt. And that’s it. I’m ending it.

UFT Rep: Ok if you’re ending it that’s fine. I’m going to do some research into this because the Regulations say nothing about a website, and I’m going to take the opinion that if the website is there, the lesson plans are there, and I think it is a wonderful idea, and I think that being on the website could work out well for everybody.

P: Not if I don’t have it.

UFT Rep: I think it could work out well for everybody. Let me try to find a way of making it work well for everybody,

P: That’s the end of it. MS UNTAMED, you’ll be getting a letter for your file.

UFT Rep: We’ll talk about it later.

P: No we won’t talk about it later.

UFT Rep: We’ll talk later and find a way of making it work.

The meeting ended.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


My homeroom is an 8th grade honors class. They all have high scores on the statewide reading and math tests (4's). They are also extremely well-behaved. They were all sitting in their seats engaging in polite conversation in low voices while I took attendance. Suddenly, Principal S.T.  appeared in the doorway and yelled at the kids because they weren't doing silent reading. Then, she went back to her office and got on the loud speaker and began a tirade about how Ms. Untamed's homeroom class was the WORST CLASS in the school when it came to silent reading. She had been walking around the school and she had seen a lot of classes where at least SOME students were doing silent reading as they should, but in Untamed's homeroom class there wasn't even ONE student doing silent reading. NOT ONE. And that was in UNTAMED'S class.

She repeated my name three or four more times emphasizing how my class of all the classes in the school was the absolute worst. She didn't mention the name of the class, 802. It was UNTAMED'S CLASS.

All day long teacher's came up to me and asked if I had been able to count exactly how many times she repeated my name over the loud speaker.

My union representative stopped by and told me to "write it down" because what she had done was harrassment without a doubt.

So write it down I have.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Crime and Punishment

Well it didn't take long. Last Friday, Principal S.T. did a "walk through" with an assistant principal. Today, the following Friday, I received this letter in my mailbox just before I left for the weekend. The letter reads as follows:

October 12, 2007

Dear Ms. Untamed,

I have scheduled an appointment for you to meet with me in my office on October 18, 2007 at 3:00 PM to discuss your lesson plan.

This conference may lead to disciplinary action. Please bring a union representative.


Ms. S.T.,Principal

Cc: Mr. P.B.,Union Representative

Now, please don't hold it against if I take a few seconds to GLOAT.


Sorry about that, I couldn't help myself.

It's the heady power of prediction. Last weekend I wrote down every detail of last Friday's lesson.

I can't tell you how many of these meetings I have attended "with my union representative" and how frustrating and depressing they always were. Now everything is different, because I can see her coming a mile away. I know what she is going to say ahead of time. I will take incredible delight in describing every detail of the meeting on this blog and in as many other public venues as I can find. I am soooo glad I took the trouble to write everything down as soon as she came into my classroom a week ago. I can now enjoy this weekend without wasting a minute of my time thinking about her.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Scooping the Principal

If you look back through my posts, you’ll see that I only write in response to written attacks. They write me a letter, I write them one back. Now, I’m about to change my strategy. Principal P and Co. have established a pattern that has become fairly easy to predict.

On Friday, October 5, Principal P. and Assistant Principal Z. both came into my classroom and walked around for about ten minutes asking students questions and writing things on little note pads. This is what I predict will happen next. They will wait for at least a month and a half and then hit me out of nowhere with a letter describing what a terrible lesson they saw. They will make sure to give me this letter just before a vacation or long weekend. By my calculations, that should be Thanksgiving weekend. So during my whole Thanksgiving Vacation, I will by trying unsuccessfully not to think about what they said. The following Monday, I will be faced with having to respond to a letter about something that happened six weeks in the past.

So instead, I am going to write that letter now. I am going to scoop them. Unfortunately, I have to use some of my Columbus Day weekend to do that, but I’m better off taking the initiative while the lesson is still fresh in my mind. By Thanksgiving, it will simply be a matter of cut and paste.

Dear Ms. P and Mr. Z.,

Thank you for visiting my classroom on Friday, October 5, 2007. You picked a great day to do so, because as you saw for yourselves, my students were working independently to complete their September Almanac Badge. This year I have designed an incentive program in which students will be awarded “badges” for accomplishing specific tasks. I call them badges because I got the idea from the badges that are awarded in the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America.

As I am sure you discovered in your conversations with my students, they had been working on the Almanac Badge since the beginning of school. On Friday, they were working in pairs to evaluate the assignments and then complete the badge by organizing and placing all the tasks in a folder to be turned in by the end of the period. I saw a student show you the list assignments which read as follows.

1. Make a Solar Calendar.
Trace the movement of Earth as it moves around the sun.
2. Make a table of the times of sunrise and sunset for one week.
3. Use the table to make a graph of the times of sunrise and sunset.
4. Make a table of the time of moonrise and moonset for one week.
5. Use the table to make a graph of the times of moonrise and moonset.
6. Write a data analysis that compares and contrasts the two graphs.
7.Make a graph of the times of moonrise and moonset for Sept. 18 through 30.
8. Write a paragraph about the patterns you see in the graph.
9. Write a report of information about solstices and equinoxes.
10. Explain the term: Harvest moon.
11. Write September Sky Events

1. Write your favorite weather proverb.
2 Draw or print an image of each of these clouds types: cirrus, cumulus,
3. Write a description of cirrus, cumulus and stratus clouds tell how to use
them to predict the weather.

Write some interesting facts about pets.

Write some interesting facts about the outdoors.

Reference: Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids at almanac4kids.com

I am sure that you took the time to admire at least one example of each of these assignments and to let the students know how impressed you were by their work.

The list of September Almanac assignments also appears on my website, moriahisagoodteacher.com. My website has pages dedicated to each badge. There is also a homework page which reminds students of daily, weekly, and long term assignments. I have also included a separate web page with my lesson plans. I believe that this and other information available on the site can help students and parents understand exactly must be done to pass my class with a good grade. Teachers of other subject areas can also access the site to see what their students are doing in Science.
In the near future, I hope to publish examples of the students’ work.

Badges do not carry a grade, but I do assign number grades 1,2,3, or 4 to the individual assignments. An assignment must carry a grade of 2 or more to qualify for the badge. As I have informed my students, successful completion of all required badges guarantees a grade of at least 65 to 75.

The assignments are a mixture of work we did in class and work that students did independently at home. Some students do not have computers or an internet connection. In that case, I referred them to the local library or supplied them with supplemental materials.

In the coming month of October, we will be working on the October Almanac Badge and the Navigator Badge.

I am attaching a “Certificate of Achievement” for the September Almanac Badge which basically lists the tasks and certifies that they have been successfully completed. I need 160 copies of the certificate. This is all I can give my students for now, but I would like to investigate other possible rewards. If you have any ideas on this subject, I would be happy to hear them.
I am also attaching my lesson plan for Friday. Although I already made one available to you on Friday, I do not usually include the full New York State Science Standards with my in-class lesson plans.

Lesson Plan for October 5, 2007


Time: 1 or more periods

Materials: Textbooks, reference books, teacher generated materials, information researched by students etc.


1. Students choose one or more of the tasks that must be completed in order to get a badge.
2. Students work together with partners or groups to evaluate and complete all tasks.
3. Students occasionally use the teacher as a consultant, but generally work on their own to complete the badge.
4. Those who finish early can complete an additional task for extra credit.

NYS Standards for Lesson Plan for October 5,2007

Standard 1

Mathematical Analysis
Key Idea #2 M21a, M21b
Scientific Inquiry
Key Idea #1 S1.1, S1.2, S1.3 S1.4
Key Idea #3 S3.1, S3.2, S3.3

Standard 4 The Physical Setting
Key Idea #1 The Earth and celestial phenomena can be described by principles of relative motion and
perspective. PS 1.1e-j

Standard 6--Interconnectedness
Key Idea #5 Patterns of Change

Standard 7—Interdisciplinary Problem Solving
Key Idea #2 Solving interdisciplinary problems involves a variety of skills and strategies, including effective
work habits; gathering and processing information; generating and analyzing ideas; realizing ideas;
making connections among the common themes of mathematics, science and technology; and
presenting results.

Accounting Minutes

On October 1, 2007 I received this letter in my mailbox.

September 25, 2007

Dear Ms. Moriah:

The following is an accounting of the times that you have arrived late to work since August 30, 2007:

September 25, 2007 1 Minute Late
September 27, 2007 3 Minutes Late

Total 4 Minutes

As you know the school day begins at 8:00 a.m. It is imperative that you report to work on time each day so that students can have the availability of your services. Also, your lateness place as a burden on your colleagues.

When your lateness totals 3 hours and 20 minutes the EIS system will automatically deduct 1 full day from your CAR.

If this pattern continues, a letter will be placed in your file and further disciplinary action may be taken.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.


Principal P.

Moriah's Comment: This letter does not deserve a comment. I'm just posting it so that everyone can see what I have to put up with.