Bloomberg is closing 25 public schools…what is wrong with this picture?????

Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC DOE in their infinite wisdom have placed 25 public schools on the chopping block! I know this is not supposed to be a political blog but on this issue I can find no middle ground. The bottom line is this: it is 110% wrong! I would also like to give due props to the NY1 news teams for their in-depth coverage on this important story. They have had a feature story each morning on all the schools. It’s a wonderful 180 from their policy of the past, when they dared not say anything negative about the Mayor.

In every single one of these stories, there has been outrage and noise made by students, parents, teachers, and principals, wholeheartedly against these forced closings! To even consider proceeding with these closures is absolute lunacy! If there is so much passion for a school that is more than enough reason to not close its’ doors! If people love a school, then it can be improved, and it should be saved. There should be no debate about this!

Let’s take one example to look at further: Jamaica High School‘s door will be closing soon despite many protests! Parents, students, and teachers tried to have a judge put a stop to the closure, but to no avail! So, what have they done with this beautiful building that is perfect for a school? They have made four of these “small schools.” So you ask what does that mean? It means that for max 1000 kids there are four people earning a full principals salary! Meanwhile, Francis Lewis High School, has 1500 students and only one principal! Please tell me what is wrong with this picture? Supposedly, the education system is broke and yet we have the money to pay for four principals!?!?!? It’s absolutely ludicrous!

You may ask, what kind of schools are being forced to shut their doors? How about a school that caters to pregnant teens or teens with babies? Where else will these children be able to turn for, where they can get an education and have free childcare? Where will these, mostly minority students end up? Several technical schools are also on the chopping block. The bottom line is that college is not for everyone and these technical schools offer a viable alternative.

The bottom line is that for once, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC DOE need to put our children first! I implore you, please do not close even one of these schools!

How to Encourage Good Study Habits and a Life Long Love of Learning????

I was inspired to write this post after a tutoring session with one of my new clients. She is a high school sophomore, who has really been struggling with Chemistry. Thus far, she has failed the vast majority of her tests. Her father employed me a week ago to help improve her grades. Unfortunately, we were only able to work together twice before her Chemistry midterm. Consequently, she only earned a 65 on her Chemistry midterm and in fact, the same low-grade on her Global midterm. (I was actually unaware that she was struggling so much with Global as well.)

As is often the case, she likes her Global teacher, but does not feel the Chemistry teacher has taught her anything the entire year. I do not believe in putting down other teachers, so I will not do so here. I do know that she had little to no understanding of the topics in Chemistry she should have mastered by now and will definitely need to know for the upcoming Regents Examinations. When asked to show how to write electron configuration, she had absolutely no idea how to proceed. Even basic things like the meaning of atomic number and atomic weight, she was struggling with! In the four hours we worked together before the midterm, I showed her a systematic way to solve electron configuration based on the way I learned. I taught her the meanings of each Quantum Number: N l ML and Ms and showed her how to make a table that would make it a lot easier to write a full-out electron configuration for each element.

She knew how to do it, but as often happens when a student knows the material, but is not 100% comfortable with the methods, she answered the exact questions she got right with me, incorrectly on her midterm! Even during our next session when I asked her the same questions, she was able to answer them correctly. So, what was the problem on the midterm? She did not follow the prescribed steps we had gone over to arrive at the correct answer. Particularly, with the Sciences, it is essential to find a method that works and most importantly, to use it each and every single time!

So onto the main point of this post….needless to say, my student’s father was EXTREMELY unhappy with his daughter’s midterm grades! I was really pleased to hear him tell her that: “in our house, lower than an 85 is failing!” He then proceeded to strip her of her phone, laptop privileges, and all after school extracurricular activities! As expected, she was pretty angry with the situation, but I was ecstatic! It always makes me happy, when parents act like parents, and demand the most of their children. The bottom line is that not all students are A students, but this particular girl is very bright, and she should be an A student! Her parents know this and are pushing for her to realize it as well!

At home is where good study habits and a lifelong passion and love for learning develop. It is our parents who first model for us what it means to be a student. It is essential for parents to constantly be learning themselves, to always have reading material around the home. Also, make sure even at the young age of 1-year-old, a child should be taken to the public library, in my opinion, at least once a week. As a child, I knew every librarian’s first name and they all knew me. Consequently, the Brooklyn Public Library is still one of my most favorite places in the world and I still go there at least once a week!

If you start your children off on the right path, they will develop an insatiable thirst for knowledge, which will always serve them well, in school, college, work, and beyond! In short, it will make them a better human being and we all owe our children that!

What do you think? How else can we inspire our children to become lifelong learners?


How did I end up here? My Educational Journey..Bonus: How to Succeed in College and Earn As!!!!

I have spent much of my adult life in college. I completed the traditional track, finishing my BA in History Minor in African American Ethnic Studies from Adelphi University at the age of 21. I loved Adelphi so much, that I stayed on another two years to complete my Master’s in Secondary Social Studies Education in 2009. As you may or may not know, from 2009 until the present, has to be one of the worst times in history to try to land a job in the education system! So I bounced around, worked retail and a telephone sales job at a Manhattan IT school which I absolutely abhorred! So after endless resumes sent out, applications, and countless interviews. I started to search for another answer. I knew what I wanted, I want a career, I do not need to be rich but my husband and I would eventually like a family and a house one day and I would like to be able to afford both. (We are sick of paying the absolutely ridiculous rental rates in Brooklyn!) Equally important, I needed a job that would be intellectually stimulating, offer excitement, variety, and NOT be in a cubicle! I started to research which sectors of the economy were still hiring even in the recession.

A little research revealed, that the Health Care industry was one of the few sectors that had still shown significant growth in the past few years. I knew I was not ready for the seven year commitment required to complete an MD. So, I looked for another answer, I attended an information session about the Physician Assistant Program at Pace University. I was thrilled, it was a perfect fit and it would only take 27 months to complete! As I did not have any science courses yet under my belt, I did have a significant amount of prerequisites to complete before being eligible to even apply. So I came to a crossroad, I did not know what to do. I had already dedicated a significant amount of time and accrued significant student debt, that I had yet to pay, did it make sense to go back to school, for something entirely different? It was a huge dilemma for me but with the support of my husband and family, I decided to take the plunge!

I enrolled at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, mainly because of the affordable cost of the CUNY system and it is relatively close to our apartment. I was pretty terrified I had not taken any Biology or Chemistry courses in ten years….what if I was terrible at it?!?!?! I graduated with a 3.67 in my BA and 3.881 in my MA so I have always been an excellent student, but would I have the same success in science???? So it was with equal parts trepidation and excitement, that I found myself sitting in my first class at Medgar Evers College: Anatomy and Physiology, Part I. To my delight, I loved all my courses! It was A LOT of work but I was earning good grades! On a side note, I cannot more enthusiastically endorse Medgar Evers College, my experiences there have been absolutely amazing! All of my professors have been Ph.Ds and really know their topic area. Equally important, they always have an office door open for extra help and questions. I have also made some amazing new friends. If considering CUNY, please look into Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, you will not be disappointed, I can promise you that! At a total cost of $5000.00 per a year, you simply cannot go wrong!

The irony here is that all through high school if anyone asked, my career goals, I told them I was going to become a pediatrician! So it’s almost as if I have come full circle. If I have said it once, I have said it a million times: “Life makes its’ own plans…you never know how things will turn out!” I am optimistic though. My only worry now, is that I will complete all my prerequisites and not get into any programs! I have almost a 3.8 (all As but one C in a summer chemistry course is killing me!) If God forbid, I do not get in anywhere, these past two years will basically be for naught! So please, keep your fingers crossed for me!!!

So, now on to the second point of this post, my thoughts on succeeding in college. I was prompted to write this post after something my professor said in my Anatomy and Physiology course this past term. I had done really well on a test, that a majority of the class had failed, so to my embarrassment (I blush a bright red very easily!), Dr. Stoddart announced to the class: “study with Kirsten!” So, after class, another student came up to me and asked me how I studied and what advice I could offer. I looked at her and said verbatim “I read the book.” That is the key, there are no gimmicks to earning good grades, just read your textbook! I was, and still am shocked, at the number of college students who do not read the textbook for the course! I know texts are ridiculously expensive, especially for the sciences, but every college library has all the textbooks on reserve for students, so, there are no excuses! The other key, is do not attempt to study the night before the exam! College work requires constant effort, reading, notes, and practice problems! I have found the rule for every hour of class, you should be putting in about 2.5 hours of reading at home! Ideally, the night before an exam should be spent on a short review, a good dinner, and most importantly, a full night’s sleep! That’s it, the key to good grades, it is as simple at that!!!

I have found I have difficulty getting studying done in my apartment. Between my hubby, TV, and housework there’s just way too many distractions! I have to place myself into an environment where there is absolutely nothing else I could be doing, except eating books! For me, this is the library, find a place that works for you!. I have also found that I must listen to either classical music or instrumental jazz like Miles Davis or Charles Mingus to really concentrate. Flashcards have also been immeasurably helpful to me, as a commuter on the NYC Public Transit System, whether waiting on the train or bus, or sitting on one of the two, I always have time to study my flashcards. I usually make them myself, but for Anatomy and Physiology, I finally broke down and purchased a set last term from Barnes and Noble. There are from Mosebly and I have found them to be extremely useful. The only complaint I have is that they do not list functions, so I have taken to writing directly on the cards themselves. They were about $30.00 and well worth it! Find something that works for you. What study tools have been worthwhile for you?

Can anyone relate to my story? What study tips can you offer?

Best of luck and Happy Studying!!! 🙂

“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.” ~Warren G. Bennis

How do I know it’s time to hire a tutor!?!?!?

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”~Albert Einstein

So, how do I know it is time for me to hire a tutor? As soon as you realize the student is struggling and having difficulty grasping the concepts and completing assignments it is time to hire a professional tutor. DO NOT wait until the student is earning failing grades!!! A tutor should be utilized to push a student from a D to a B, a C to a B, and a B to an A+!!! Also, please, please, please keep in mind that a tutor is not Anne Sullivan, ie a miracle worker! I cannot tell you how many times I have received a call for tutoring two weeks or even a week before the SAT, SHSAT, ELA, Regents, Midterms or Finals! If a student is taking a test like the SAT or ACT which can help him or her earn important college scholarships, a tutor should be hired at least six months in advance, end of story. That being said, better late than never! Albeit late, some help is a million times better than no help! Please keep this in mind. A student does not fall behind over night, and it will take some time for them to catch up!

A tutor should have a lot of different kinds of teaching experience. Equally important is that they have a firm grasp of all intricacies inherent to the subject matter.The tutor you hire is someone the student should be 100% comfortable with. A tutor should always be punctual and open to suggestions. Another important point is that they are able to tailor the lesson to each students unique learning style.

Next step, I have hired a tutor, now what? Well, I must have given these speeches a million times and will likely continue to do so in the future: “you get out of life what you put in” and another classic jewel of mine is: “I cannot do everything all by myself, you will have to meet me halfway” and of course, I can not forget “Two hours with me a week is simply not going to cover it, you must be doing problems and work on your own, and have all your questions ready to go before I even get here!” Often I come across students who’s life motto is: “!?” and this applies to school work! They seem to be coasting through their studies, not willing to dedicate the time and work required. While there is definitely something to be said, for not letting life stress you out, that does not mean there are not somethings in life that deserve some stress, sweat, blood and tears. Sometimes those things can be academic in nature!

The last decision is, how long should each session be and how many sessions do I need a week? For any student under the age of seven, I think one hour sessions are best, anymore and the student will be unable to focus. For ages eight and above, I believe a two hour session is best. In two hours, A LOT can be covered and accomplished. In terms of how many sessions to book a week, frankly that really depends on your finances and schedule. Obviously, the more tutoring sessions the student participates in the more prepared they will be.

A final thought, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, NEVER EVER hesitate to bring it to the tutor’s attention immediately! Likely, they are not even aware of your concerns.

Happy Searching!!!

“Education is the transmission of civilization.” ~Will Durant