Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chapter 36: English by Numbers

Chapter 36: Division by Zero

Response to Jan. 10, 2013 Meeting with Clarke / X – FOR DOE FILE #xxxxxx

Date:            Jan. 10, 2013; 6th period
Place:           Clarke’s office, B47, Taft / JLHS
Present:        David Haverstock, ELA Teacher
                    Erica Clarke, A.P. of Instruction
                    Ms. X, A.P. of Special Ed.; A.P. of Security
                     Ms. Y, Clarke’s secretary (at desk by door)
Re:              “Pre-observation” meeting (as described in the letter sent from Clarke)

To:               A.P. Clarke

As requested, I attended the meeting with A.P. Clarke in her office as described above.  Unexpectedly, A.P. X was also present. [1]  The purported purpose of this meeting was a “pre-observation” meeting, as described in the letter handed to me by Ms. Clarke’s secretary, Ms. Y, during 4th period on Jan. 8, 2013.  As per her custom with all teachers, Ms. Clarke had her secretary interrupt my class (room 115) in order to hand me the envelope containing this letter rather than simply putting it into my mailbox.  After all it wasn’t a subpoena.  At the very least, she might have handed it to me outside of class.
This behavior is reminiscent of Ms. Clarke’s treatment of a probationary teacher in June of 2005.  Ms. Clarke herself interrupted that teacher’s class with an end-of-year rating form that rated that teacher “unsatisfactory” and recommended “termination”.  Ms. Clarke demanded that the teacher sign the form there in front of her students, which caused that teacher to break down right there in the classroom and begin to sob.  When I entered that very classroom the following period, I found many students in tears over this incident. [2]  As I was consoling the weeping children, Ms. Clarke entered the room again and provided them with an encore, this time in my name.
This behavior, at best insensitive, at worst malicious and certainly unprofessional, resulted in a petition signed by most of the faculty demanding that disciplinary action be taken toward Ms. Clarke.  As a result of this petition, a meeting took place in the school on Friday, June 17, 2005.  At that meeting the teachers were assured by Mr. Hoxha, principal, that he had told Ms. Clarke that if she ever treated a teacher again the way Ms. Clarke had treated that probationary teacher, Ms. Clarke “would be fired.”  (Those are Principal Hoxha’s words though few in the room believed them.)  Ms. Clarke expressed no remorse for her actions at that meeting.  Unfortunately, Ms. Clarke has not been fired although similar behavior has been in evidence ever since without Mr. Hoxha’s keeping his promise. [3]
Back to the present: although this meeting of Jan. 10, 2013 was described as a “pre-observation” meeting, it was nothing of the kind.  We did not discuss any specific lesson to be taught other than for Ms. Clarke to demand that every lesson I teach be structured according to the “gradual release” model.  When I asked when she might come in to observe me, Ms. Clarke replied that she would not tell me that.  The purpose of this meeting, therefore, was something other than what Ms. Clarke claimed it was. [4]
Ms. Clarke demanded that every lesson I teach be a “gradual release” lesson.  This she had written in her post-observation report dated Dec. 7, 2012 (which see in this file along with my response).  As I informed her, the lesson she had observed had been structured according to the gradual release model, though she could not recognize that because the “I” part of the model had been done in September while the “you” part would not be done until the following January or February.  Ms. Clarke observed the “we” stage of the model but could not recognize it as such.  As is commonly understood by educators but not by Ms. Clarke, “[The gradual release model] will look different in each lesson depending on the lesson and your students.” [5]  This is but one example of Ms. Clarke’s misunderstanding of my lesson, both unwitting and deliberate.   It is “unwitting” because Ms. Clarke is a former math teacher with no expertise in the teaching of English and unaware that math, English and social studies for that matter require different teaching methods.  For these reasons Ms. Clarke should not be in a position to observe and evaluate English or social studies teachers.  It is “deliberate” because, as I said, the purpose of this meeting, whatever it was, had nothing to do with teaching a lesson of any sort.
Therefore, Ms. Clarke demanded that I stop using the gradual release model and instead use the gradual release model.  This is the tenor of many conversations with Ms. Clarke.  As I said in my blog, “One monkey with one typewriter could make more sense.”  See chapter 34. [6]
Is it impossible or simply nonsense, I ask rhetorically, to replace what you’re doing with what you’re doing? [7]  I’ll call it impossible for now.  It is equally impossible to write a formulaic “gradual release” lesson plan for each day of the week.  Many lessons take more than a single day.  It takes on average 2 – 3 days simply for low-level 9th grade students to read one of the selections in the Pearson / Prentice Hall anthology.  Not only will the “gradual release” model look different from class to class, teacher to teacher, subject to subject, it is not always appropriate for a given lesson.  This is another thing well understood by educators but which eludes Ms. Clarke’s ability to apprehend.
It is equally impossible to write a formulaic “gradual release” lesson plan for every exercise suggested by Pearson, including vocabulary study, literary analysis of poetry, creative writing, reading with purpose, reading strategies, responding to an “essential question”, open discussion, etc.  At the post-observation meeting, which took place on Dec. 7, 2012 for the lesson observed almost 2 months earlier on Oct. 16, 2012, I was instructed by Ms. Clarke to use nothing but Pearson materials in my classes.  I was even instructed to say nothing other than what is outlined in the margins of the teacher’s edition.  This is as absurd as it is impossible.
The gradual release model is best suited for teaching a skill.  The teacher models the skill as students watch.  The teacher then models again with students imitating.  The teacher then watches as students attempt to replicate the skill.  In the end students are expected to demonstrate mastery of the skill on their own.  This is now called the “gradual release” model but math was taught in this exact way when I was in high school in the 1960s.  It’s nothing new.  The gradual release method is best suited for teaching math skills.  In fact, it is difficult to teach a math skill to a group of students without using the “gradual release” model.  Obviously, the expert first demonstrates the skill and then helps the students imitate it until they can do it by themselves.  I guess university education departments have to keep changing the names of things in order to justify themselves or pretend they’ve come up with something new.
There are certain ELA skills, of course, that lend themselves to this format in an English class, such as writing the introduction to an expository essay, which usually takes more than one day for 9th grade students, or using the text to support answers to multiple choice questions, which occurs only over time and which I was modeling in the “we” stage when I was observed by Ms. Clarke on Oct. 16, 2012.  This format, however, is not appropriate for content courses, which English often is and which history and social studies are almost exclusively.  It is not only impossible, therefore, to write the “gradual release” lessons for English classes as instructed by Ms. Clarke in this Jan. 10, 2013 meeting, it is also inappropriate.
In essence, I have been told to teach English as if it were math.  I have been told this by a former math teacher who has not been in the classroom in more than a decade.  I am an English teacher supervised by a former math teacher who has little knowledge and less understanding of how English is taught.
Therefore, although I was instructed by A.P. Clarke (at the Jan. 10, 2013 meeting to which this is a response and with Ms. X as a witness) to submit 5 “gradual release” model lessons for the week of Jan. 14 – 18, 2013, I submit no such plans.  I cannot do the impossible.  It would also be irresponsible for me as an English teacher to subject my ELA students to lessons twisted into a form that might make sense if I were teaching 5 separate math skills, which is never done within a five-day period either.
If this is insubordination, Ms. Clarke, then I suggest that you charge me now with 5 counts, Monday through Friday, so that I can get a hearing on this subject beyond you and your principal, Mr. Hoxha.  Your incompetence at JLHS must be exposed.  I have no doubt that anyone with even the slightest knowledge of how to teach English will acknowledge the value of the lesson you observed and rated “unsatisfactory”.  For that reason I attached examples of student work to my response to your absurd document, the one where you have me addressing students who don’t even exist (see chapter 35 of my blog). [8]  Although you had this student work in your possession, Ms. Clarke, you failed to include it with your lengthy post-observation document.  The reason for this failure is obvious.  The quality of the work done by the “real” students during that lesson is unmistakable and exposes the fact that you rated that lesson “unsatisfactory” for reasons having nothing to do with the lesson itself.
I also have no doubt that anyone with even the slightest knowledge of how to teach English will view your demands as both impossible and nonsensical. [9]  Once upon a time there was a school system in which experts in their fields led their departments.  I fondly recall a time when a person with experience and expertise in the teaching of English was head of the English department and in a position to evaluate, assist and guide English teachers in doing their jobs.  In the era of the small Bloomberg reform school, however, such responsible educational practice has been flushed down the toilet.  We now have supervisors supervising subjects foreign to them.  This is as much a disservice to the teachers as it is to the students.  It is a phenomenal waste of talent, time and taxpayer’s money.

(signed)  ______________________                (date)  _______________
                  Walter David Haverstock

Cc:      Mr. Hoxha, Principal
            Ms. X, A.P. of Securty and Special Ed. / witness
            UFT Chapter Leader
            UFT Chapter Delegate

Notes made by me during / just after meeting:

Jan. 10, 2013
Clarke, X present in B47 6th period
1.     Lesson plan
a.      Gradual release
b.     Weekly
2.     I tell them that Clarke observed the gradual release but didn’t know it
3.     I tell them that I showed her write up to the CUNY and she said it was as ridiculous as I said
4.     Said I can’t change to gradual release when it already is the gradual release
5.     Clarke asked to see today’s lesson – B50B 1/8/13 – cause & effect
a.      Clarke wants to see the gradual release in the lesson
b.     I show her lesson, explain the gradual release; Clarke is unable to see it because it is slightly different from teacher manual
c.      Clarke says teacher manual is a “guideline”
d.     I say that I used it as a guideline – it is there in my aim, etc.
e.      Gradual release meant for math
f.      Clarke demands a week of lessons all showing gradual release – not possible
6.     Give her my response for file
7.     Gift old text book to a kid with a Prentice Hall book receipt
a.      Hand out new version of Prentice Hall book receipt
b.     Return book receipts to Clarke
8.     Showed parent log; discussed [student name]
9.     Change grading policy in grade book – I complain about having to use the same grading police as math and other departments; X insists that it is the school policy
10.   I ask Clarke to tell me which class she will observe – Clarke says she won’t tell me
11.   Email grade book and lesson plan for week
12.   Gave in goals – when Clarke began to tell me that they were not as she had requested, I interrupted her and said that I wouldn’t change them because they were my goals, not hers/theirs: “I will not argue with you,” Clarke replied immediately, parroting someone’s instructions.

[1] Ms. Clarke claimed that Ms. X was present because Ms. X would be taking over Ms. Clarke’s duties during an upcoming medical leave of absence.  However, on Fri., Dec. 14, 2012 I met with Ms. Clarke in Mr. Z’s office with Mr. Z present.  At that time and in the presence of Ms. A, union delegate, Ms. Clarke claimed that Mr. Z would be taking over her duties during this medical leave of absence.
[2] Many of those students, incidentally, thought that this young woman was an excellent math teacher.
[3] One might wonder if this isn’t harassment but I am only writing here an objective, low-inference and non-judgmental description of events that I have personally observed.
[4] Ibid.
[7] Note that Word underlines this last “doing”.  Word considers it nonsense, which, of course it is.
[8] One might think that an administrator would do some basic fact checking before submitting such shoddy work for the record.  A competent administrator, of course, would do that.  A competent administrator would be aware that there is no “Daisy” or “Diane” in her school.
[9] Again, one might suggest that all of this is harassment but I will restrict my comments to objective observations made by me personally and leave the value judgments to those meant to make such judgments at a future date, at which time I will submit exhaustive “data”.


  1. I really admire you taking a stand against the nonsense that has become the school system. Administrators are steeped in jargon but lacking in actual knowledge or experience. Your case seems worse than most! Bloomberg should be charged with educational neglect of the kids of this city. And with mismanagement of public funds. When you think about the money that is wasted on things like Danielson's rubric and consultants, and new standards, and training for new standards, and dividing all these big schools into small schools with the extra salaries for extra administrators, etc... You think they could've invested some money into improving the schools they had - arts and vocational programs, intense remediation for our lowest functioning students and enrichment for our brightest. But since students aren't the focus and money is.....

    1. Thanks for paying attention, Ms. Faugno. Maybe I've gone too far in naming the principal and his A.P. by name in this blog. There is much more to the story that I cannot blog ... yet. If they tell me that I'm doing something illegal, I'll correct it but this is just a personal blog and we are all public employees working for the public. I am not attempting to capitalize on it in any monetary way. The public has a right to know what they are getting for their tax dollars. I've posted only documents that have gone into my DOE file. In future I may have to change the names to protect the guilty.

  2. mr haverstock, dont let the bloomterds of the world change us

  3. your blogs are right on and its a shame that more nyc teachers educators cannot read this,,,not sure about your traffic here...but you are to be commended for exposing these phony's who are invading our livelihoods but the truth will prevail

    1. Thanks for paying attention, Mr. Taylor. We teachers spend our days trying to help kids learn. The bureaucrats spend their days pretending they're reforming education and trying to convince the public that the people who are doing the real work - teachers - are the problem. "Phony" is an excellent description of them.