27 June 2006


Thanks for switching over from the old place.

All of the old posts are here, with none of the comments. I'll move those over when and as I can.

22 June 2006

Most of the reactions from fellow teachers have focused on the pay increase I will experience.

21 June 2006

Steinhardt update

I'm baffled and frustrated.

After receiving a letter from the Admissions Director explaining that the Steinhardt admissions process is rigorous, and that my credentials don't warrant my admission, and that because of the number of appplicants there is no way for them to explain on a case by case basis why an applicant was rejected I appealed to the Dean one more time. I asked for a meeting so we could discuss the logic of the admissions department's decision. I see it as a failure on their part of some kind that I am allowed to TEACH STEINHARDT'S STUDENTS but CAN'T BE ONE.

She promptly replied, "Dear Mr F, I have reviewed your application and see no reason to change it. I do not think it would serve a purpose for us to meet. I wish you the best in all your pursuits.

Mary M. B, Ph.D.
New York University
Steinhardt School of Education

So now I am wondering what to do next.

I have 18 credits or so from College of St Rose, which is upstate. They offer discounted correspondence classes to UFT members. Very soon I will no longer be a UFT member (thankfully).

And I have three credits from Brooklyn College.

I have nine credits from NYU completed and have another nine credits coming because of the last three student teachers (Cooperating teachers earn three credits as compensation for hosting).

Because of the 18 credits I will have completed at NYU I want to get an NYU English Ed Masters - transfer all my credits in to NYU and finish the degree requirements there. NYU has a great reputation. And I'm so nearly done anyway. (In fact, by the time I am accepted I may be able to petition for graduation right away. Weird.)

Possible options I have considered:

Writing to the President of the University

Writing to the NYU school newspaper

Shutting up and writing an overwhelming application next time (letters of recommendation from all six of my former student teachers (seven if you count the one from Hofstra), my principals, assistant principals, the guys I worked with at NYU coordinating the student teaching, Gallatin and School of Ed professors I have taken class with, C-SPAN, Ralph Nader, parents of my students, etc.

Saying fuggit and skipping over the Eng Ed Masters and getting a PhD in something.

19 June 2006

10. Victory: An Island Tale by Joseph Conrad

First let me quote about what Jack London said about the book: "I am glad I am alive, if, for no other reason, because of the joy of reading this book."

And in my estimation, this is an understatement. This is a fine fine book and will be read again.

The book, finished in 1914 and is set in the 1890s, is divided into four parts.

In the first we see our hero Axel Heyst, a Swedish baron and drifter-gentleman drifting through the South Pacific. Soon he meets up with an English trader (remember we are in the era of imperialism) who was come on hard times. Morrison's brig has been impounded in Delli, a city in East Timor, by some shady Portuguese customs officials and unless he can pay the fines, Morrison is going to lose his ship. The fine is ridiculously small, and the Portuguese are just trying to get his boat for cheap. Everyone knows Morrison is broke because he trades with the natives for credit, always vowing to squeeze the native villages "next time." Morrison, all hang-dog, meets up with Heyst and Heyst, in a decision he doesn't even reflect on, offers to loan Morrison the money. Heyst realizes that he isn't going to see any money back, and Morrison is so thankful for Heyst's miracle act of salvation that he acts with super/hyper gratefulness to Heyst. They have quite a scene on board the ship and in order to get Morrison to stop crying, and to get the relationship a little more balanced, Heyst and Morrison decide to team up on a coal mining operation on the island of Samburan. They find backers, set up operations, and even manage to get a little coal out of the island. Morrison goes home to England to get some more backers, but while he is there catches a bad cold and dies. The news gets back to Sourabaya, the headquarters for the white traders in the book, and the hotel manager, this German named Schomberg, begins gossiping about Heyst and how he managed to get Morrison's money and send him back to England to die. All he does all day is work on Heyst and how the Swede manipulated Morrison, etc. He's a bully.

In Book 2 Heyst appears at Schomberg's hotel. Since Morrison died the coal mining operation has been liquidated and Heyst has been living on Samburan by himself, which everyone in Sourabaya thinks is weird, especially Schomberg, of course. Schomberg hates Heyst for some reason, and has got himself into the habit of turning every tidbit about Heyst into something terrible and revealing Heyst as a devil/user/manipulator/etc. Most of the traders staying at the hotel are content to leave the business in the past, but Schomberg keeps the Heyst/Morrison scandal in everyone's ear.

As entertainment, Schomberg has hired the Zangiacomo Ladies Orchestra. Heyst comes in and is basically swept away by one of the girls, Alma. Of course the girl is also Schomberg's favorite, too. She is a lost soul, and grew up poor in England. When her father was put in the invalid home she shipped off with the music tour. She has no idea where on the globe she is and has basically died inside. Until she meets Heyst, who decides to "steal" her from the orchestra. Unfortunately for Heyst, the girl is Schomberg's new toy - he hasn't tried anything yet, but the pressure has been building, and the time for Schomberg to make his move is nigh. And, unfortunately for Schomberg, he is married to a woman who Conrad's narrator describes as, "the most unattractive object in existence - miserable, insignificant, faded, crushed, old." And this is one of the flattering descriptions of her. So when Heyst steals her, Schomberg doesn't even have a good case for being usurped. Heyst and Alma get away to Samburan, Heyst's old coal mining headquarters.

In Book 3, two strangers show up at Schomberg's hotel. Almost immediately they get hold of Schomberg and set up a illegal gambling operation in the dance hall where the Ladies Orchestra used to play. Schomberg is beside himself with misery: a terrible wife, would-be girlfriend stolen (by the abominable Heyst no less!), and these two hooligans bullying him and running his hotel. And no end in sight to any of his misery.

Book 4 is set up when Schomberg gets the ear of one of the bandits and describes the riches that Heyst must have hidden on his island hideaway. I'm not even going to speak about the conclusion. Even the back cover gives too much away.

Critics, or so says the editor's introduction, consider Victory to be Conrad's worst book. It was the first book he wrote after his first big commercial success, the novel Chance, and they feel like it was a bit too commercial for an artist like Conrad. But even the editor confesses that the major critics admit that Victory has "great aesthetic and intellectual value."

Bob Dylan so loved the book he put a picture of Joseph Conrad on the back of the album cover for Desire and wrote a song titled Black Diamond Bay which is the name of the bay on Samburan where Morrison and Heyst planned to have their coal operation. The lyrics have nothing to do with the book, so don't try to glean anything from the song.

The book was awesome! The scene when Heyst saves Morrison is described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read it. The scene when Heyst and Alma meet is described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read it. The ruffians who take over Schomberg's hotel are described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read about them (it's a study in creating NPCs). And the conclusion of the novel is plotted and described so well and so cleanly I feel lucky to be alive to have read it. I'm not kidding.

new boat + new job = new apt

I got a new apartment!

It's a 1BR in West Babylon, which is a hair closer to where the boat will be than where the job will be, but it's all so close it doesn't really matter. The whole trip from school to the boat is 12 miles, so we aren't talking about a big difference.

Right by the apartment I have two giant LI-sized supermarkets, an IHOP, and a 7-11. Behind the back yard (yes!) is a parking lot for what has to be one of the last independent music stores in the Northeast. Across the street is a 7-11 (handy for beer runs).

The bedroom is the same size as the living room, about 20x20. The living room is slightly bigger because it also shares the kitchen. Overall the place is excellent for what I need - enough space and a god price. I'll include some pictures here, but the dude who is living there now doesn't have much of his stuff packed up.

14 June 2006

I can host and teach Steinhardt's students but I am not allowed to be one...

John M and Dean B,

I am writing to appeal my rejection to the Steinhardt School of Education for the Fall 2006 semester.

On May 16th I received the rejection letter from the admissions department. On May 24th I wrote Mr. M to ask why I was rejected. Two weeks later, on June 7th, he returned my email, saying that he was looking into it and would respond shortly. I write now because I fear the summer slipping away without response or resolution.

I feel that I have a very strong case for admission to the School of Education and I would ask that you consider my appeal.

Before I present that evidence, I feel that I must address an issue that may have prevented my application from receiving a full and fair examination. On my resume I inadvertently cited that I was pursuing my Masters in English Ed at NYU since 2003. When Associate Dean VB called to fact-check that citation, I realized what I had done and corrected the entry with her and on my resume. What I meant was that I had been pursuing my Masters since 2003 (I have about 18 credits from College of St Rose, three from Brooklyn College and now nine from NYU). I was not trying to "put one over," nor was I trying to claim something that was wholly unfounded, but anticipating my admission to Steinhardt and eventual graduation.

I have been teaching in my own classroom for the past six years. I was able to get my teaching position with a Temporary License. Jumping from one type of temporary license to another I was able to take enough classes, workshops, and exams to obtain my Provisional License.

I have a strong desire to be and remain an educator. This desire was first born while I was a student at Gallatin and worked in the School of Education (as DW's assistant at the Newsletter). I was also an America Reads tutor. In fact, I was included in one of the articles featuring the program in the School of Education Newsletter (around Spring of 1999).

More compelling, I feel, is the fact that I have invited six Steinhardt student teachers into my classroom - four of them have since been hired. Two of them just graduated. Please look up their evaluations of me, or ask Lana McG, who was an advisor for five of them. She continues to urge her advisees to come to my classroom for Student Teaching and observing. If you would like to contact them, please let me know and I will pass along their information.

Am I to believe that I can host and teach Steinhardt's students but I am not allowed to be one?

One of my responsibilities at my school, the ICE, is the Student Teacher Coordinator. Our school, in the past year alone, has placed eight student teachers in the English and Social Studies departments. And we have placed nearly that many in the Math and Science departments. Not to mention the countless observers who have made progress toward their own licensing requirements at ICE. And because our school is small (380 kids, 28 teachers), this represents a large percentage of our faculty. I feel that student teachers benefit from the small setting because they have such a huge presence in the school and impact on the learning environment. Please contact Mr. L or Mr. H for a review of my professionalism and attention to detail.

Recently ICE was notified by Associate Dean LW that we were awarded a grant/stipend from the Teaching and Learning program because of our continued support of the Steinhardt SOE and our placement of your students as observers.

I am sure I will be able to maintain excellent academic progress because of my prior teaching experience and because, in the three NYU Steinhardt classes that I have taken already, I have earned three As.

Finally, I must mention that I have been awarded a Teaching Fellowship at C-SPAN for the upcoming summer. I will be working in their education department creating lesson plans and materials for their C-SPAN Classroom website. The site is used by teachers across the country to create lessons and units for their classrooms. I was just about to send the C-SPAN press release to Debra for the Steinhardt Newsletter and to Gallatin for their Alumni Newlsetter.

Considering my qualifications, and my relationship with Steinhardt, you can imagine my profound disappointment about not being invited back to Steinhardt community. I would ask that you please reconsider my rejection and allow me to finish my Master's degree at NYU.

Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you very soon.


12 June 2006

9. The Hound of the Baskervilles by A.C. Doyle

Great book!

I hadn't read any of the Sherlock Holmes books yet, so when I stumbled upon this one in my classroom bookshelf I thought I'd give it a try.

A brief summary of the plot, first: After his uncle dies (under mysterious circumstances) Sir Henry Baskerville returns from North America to assume leadership/control of his family's ancestral estate. As soon as he gets to town he is given repeated warnings to go leave as soon as possible lest he succumb to the same fate as his uncle. Seems the family is cursed by a great hound, a big dog that lives on the moor near the house. Enter Sherlock Holmes and his pal Watson. They are called upon by Uncle Baskerville's friend Dr. Mortimer, who feels the uncle's death was suspicious and want some of the loose strings to be gathered up.

I found the style of writing to be very compelling, each chapter pushing me into the next. I was reminded of episodic Tale of Two Cities/Dickens. I was also pleased that the clues to the mystery were given to us as they were revealed, as in, the investigators shared what they knew with the reader right away. None of this Murder She Wrote surprise reveals at the end when all the information, motive, alibi, evidence is dropped in on us so we can see how diabolical the crime and how savvy the detectives. Here you had a fighting chance to make connections and riddle things out for yourself. Not to say there weren't a few surprises - maybe I'm a bit if a dunce, but I had no idea who the Man on the Tor was...

Definitely read this book - it's well-written and entertaining. I'm definitely going to read more Sherlock Holmes (I read the first page of Study in Scarlet in the bookshop the other day and I was simply shocked to find Holmes abusing cocaine!)

07 June 2006

8. Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

For a long time I have been a fan of the band Blues Traveler. I got into them courtesy of my brother KC who has a bunch of their albums, including some of their live stuff (there is even more in the Live Music Archive). One of my favorite songs of theirs is called "Bagheera." It's about the Black Panther from the Jungle Book who serves as one of Mowgli's tutor's.

I recently read the Jungle Book to get a sense of how true the song's lyrics were and what the context was.

The first three stories in the Jungle Book are about Mowgli, the Man-cub who is raised by a bunch of Wolves of the Free People's tribes. Because he is a Man and has fewer skills it is considered unsportsmanlike for creatures of the Jungle to kill him, though he is still at great risk of the dangers of living in the Jungle. So he gets some extra instruction from his tutor Baloo, the Bear. He is given the secret languages of the Jungle so he can claim protection no matter where he goes, and learns all the various subtleties of Jungle Law.

In the first story we see how the baby Mowgli runs from the scene of a tiger attack right into the den of Father and Mother Wolf. Hot on his trail is Shere Khan, the lame but terrible tiger who attacked Mowgli's village. Shere Khan attacks cows and humans because he has a bad foot, injured at birth, and is not capable of catching bigger game. The tiger demands the Man-cub as part of the reward for his hunt, but Mother and Father Wolf tell him that he is not to have the Man-cub and has to wait until the tribe speaks.

At the next Tribal Council the Mother Wolf asks if she can adopt Mowgli. Baloo, the teacher of Jungle Law, who is allowed at the meetings because he eats only nuts and roots and wild honey, quickly volunteers to tutor Mowgli. The leader of the tribe, Akela, agrees to let Raksha, the Mother Wolf, adopt Mowgli if a second will stand in for him.

"A black shadow dropped down into the circle. It was Bagheera the Black Panther, inky black all over, but with the panther markings showing up in certain lights like the pattern of watered silk. Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant. But he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin softer than down.

'O Akela, and ye the Free People,' he purred, 'I have no right in your assembly, but the Law of the Jungle says that if there is a doubt which is not a killing matter in regard to a new cub, the life of that cub may be bought at a price. And the Law does not say who may or may not pay that price.

To kill a naked cub is shame. Besides, he may make better sport for you when he is grown. Baloo has spoken in his behalf. Now to Baloo’s word I will add one bull, and a fat one, newly killed, not half a mile from here, if ye will accept the man's cub according to the Law. Is it difficult?'"

The next two stories trace Mowgli's expulsions from the tribe and the consequences of that decision for the Tribe, Mowgli, and the rest of the Jungle.

There are a few more stories, all with animals- one about a mongoose, one about a white seal, and one about animals in the service of the British Empire. All of them were quite good.

06 June 2006


So, NY Harbor School called on Friday afternoon to offer me a job. We finally spoke, after a weekend of phone tag, about what they want me to do there.

In the course of the conversation the principal said, "we had a lot of great candidates for the English position, so we want you to teach SS." Ouch!

I taught Humanities, SS, and politics here at ICE, and I don't want to teach it anymore - one of the sundry reasons I am leaving the school. I want to teach literature! The Harbor School has asked that I become a lead teacher in their weak SS dept, teaching all 11th grade American History or some kind of a mix of 10th Global and 11th American. Such a bummer!

01 June 2006

7. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

A sad little tale.

I had never read it before and only did so because I had to a demo lesson on yesterday.

(The lesson went well enough that I was immediately shuttled in to talk to the Asst Supt of Personnel for the High School. And my AP just told me they called to check references already.)

I expected the play to be about a failure of the American Dream, but what I got was a lesson on the consequences of seeking yourself outside of yourself. And I was stunned to read that Willy had an affair, because this never makes it into the reviews or write-ups about the play and it seems to be a pretty important detail to leave out considering how the discovery of the act pretty much sets up the main conflcit in the story.

I recommend you read it if nothing else to fill in the blank of the American canon.

6. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

An excellent little book.

The book starts out with the Mole getting a feeling that he has to get out of his hole and get outside (a metaphorical birthing). He wanders around and meets up with Water Rat. The two of them go on a boating adventure on the River.

This is the chapter with the ever so famous passage regarding "messing about in boats."

The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. "Lean on that!" he said. "Now then, step lively!" and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

"This has been a wonderful day!" said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. "Do you know, I've never been in a boat before in all my life."

"What?" cried the Rat, open-mouthed: "Never been in a—you never— well I—what have you been doing, then?"

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

"Nice? It's the ONLY thing," said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing," he went on dreamily: "messing— about—in—boats; messing——"

"Look ahead, Rat!" cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

"—about in boats—or WITH boats," the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. "In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not. Look here! If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?"

After that they meet with Toad, who is an arrogant, reckless gentleman bachelor who lives in a magnificent mansion on the hill. He is the guy who rushes headlong into the abyss, first getting deeply into all things boats. But when the Rat and Mole meet up with him he is going on a trip in a camper towed by a horse.

Rat resists going on the trip, preferring to stay home and hang out on the River. But Mole seems excited and Rat doesn't like to disappoint anyone, so down the road the three of them go.

But then they get run off the road by a motor car and Toad gets all wild-eyed and obsessed with cars and going as fast as he possibly can. This leads to a whole mess of other adventures, including Toad's arrest and trial for stealing a car.

The stories have a loose connection with each other, and about half way through the book I was wondering if they were just single-standing narrative sketches. But slowly the thread comes together with a satisfying end.

Some of the individual chapters are quite deep. In one of them a Traveling Rat bumps into Water Rat and they get into a conversation about whether it's better to stay home or go on many travels. In another Otter's son is missing and Rat and Mole go looking for him and meet Friend and Helper himself.

All of the writing is beautiful. Really vivid descriptions, and each word seems to be chosen specifically for the flavor it gives, and how it affects the taste of the entire stew. I found myself not wanting the stories to end just so I could keep reading the delicious words. It was that good.

The line of the horizon was clear and hard against the sky, and in one particular quarter it showed black against a silvery climbing phosphorescence that grew and grew. At last, over the rim of the waiting earth the moon lifted with slow majesty till it swung clear of the horizon and rode off, free of moorings; and once more they began to see surfaces—meadows wide-spread, and quiet gardens, and the river itself from bank to bank, all softly disclosed, all washed clean of mystery and terror, all radiant again as by day, but with a difference that was tremendous. Their old haunts greeted them again in other raiment, as if they had slipped away and put on this pure new apparel and come quietly back, smiling as they shyly waited to see if they would be recognised again under it.

Fastening their boat to a willow, the friends landed in this silent, silver kingdom, and patiently explored the hedges, the hollow trees, the runnels and their little culverts, the ditches and dry water-ways. Embarking again and crossing over, they worked their way up the stream in this manner, while the moon, serene and detached in a cloudless sky, did what she could, though so far off, to help them in their quest; till her hour came and she sank earthwards reluctantly, and left them, and mystery once more held field and river.

Then a change began slowly to declare itself. The horizon became clearer, field and tree came more into sight, and somehow with a different look; the mystery began to drop away from them. A bird piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Rat, who was in the stern of the boat, while Mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listened with a passionate intentness. Mole, who with gentle strokes was just keeping the boat moving while he scanned the banks with care, looked at him with curiosity.

'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. 'So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.

It's definitely a story I will read at bedtime to the nephews and nieces.

You can read an online copy here.