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New York TeacherNovember 5, 2015

Volume LVII, Number 3

Cover Stories

Rita McClinton uses the washer and dryer at PS 15. She shares her three-bedroom

Families find a haven on the Lower East Side

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Karen Miller knows what to do when one of her 22 kindergarten students at PS 15 on the Lower East Side comes in sleepy. “I let the child take a nap,” she says. A hungry child can grab a “Breakfast to Go” bag from the cafeteria if he arrives late.

Miller knows the fatigue and hunger she sees in her students is only the tip of the iceberg of a community in crisis. Manhattan rents are out of reach for many families who send their children to PS 15 on East 4th Street near Avenue D: 48 percent of its 190 students are living in shelters or doubled up with family or friends. Some are fleeing domestic violence.

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Supreme battle

Supreme battle

A case before the U.S. Supreme Court this year could pose the gravest threat to unions in the history of the modern U.S. labor movement, labor experts say. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association challenges the “fair share” requirement that public-sector workers in unionized jobs who choose not to join their union must still pay their fair share of the cost of union representation and services.

Chapter Leader Duvalle Dache (standing), a paraprofessional, talks to members du

More paras elected chapter leaders

Eighteen paraprofessionals are now serving as chapter leaders, triple the number in 2012, the year of the last chapter leader elections.

Latest News

Teamsters pension fund moves to slash benefits

One of the Teamsters’ largest pension funds, the decades-old Central States Pension Fund, has told more than 400,000 workers and retirees that it must slash their benefits, in some cases by 50 percent or more.

Ex-Chicago schools chief to plead guilty to fraud

Former Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett will plead guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud in a case involving $23 million in no-bid school contracts, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon announced on Oct. 8.

Ohio passes new charter school reform law

Ohio lawmakers on Oct. 7 overwhelmingly passed a charter school reform law that will overhaul the state’s embattled charter sector.

East St. Louis teacher strike enters fourth full week

Teachers in East St. Louis entered their fourth full week on strike at the end of October as their union and the school district continue difficult negotiations for a new contract.

Duncan out, King in as national education chief

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on Oct. 2 that he intends to step down from his position by the end of the year, when he will be replaced by John B. King Jr., currently the deputy secretary of education and New York State’s former education commissioner.

Feature Stories

The mural on the third-floor stairwell begins to take shape.

Leaving their mark

Twice each year — for one day in the fall and a week every spring — the students at Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School officially make like their school’s namesake and dedicate themselves to various forms of community service.

“This is a starting point, a stepping stone,” said teacher Elizabeth Kramer, the event coordinator. “For some students, it’s the first time they are doing something like this. They have fun doing it and see the difference it makes.”

On the morning of Oct. 16, the 2015 Day of Service, the school’s 460 students were involved in more than a dozen activities throughout the school and at other sites, from planting flowers to reading to younger children.

Rosemary Gaynor McCown, an assistant to the secretary of education under President Bill Clinton, dedicated her life to improving public education in the United States. She remained involved in community service until her life was cut short by cancer in 2005 at age 45.

The focus at the school named for her is on project-based undert…

Math teachers at Lyons Community School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, discuss ways

Maximizing the benefits of a 6–12 school with PROSE

Teachers at Lyons Community School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn maximize the benefits of their 6-12 school with PROSE.
A student displays his completed terrarium.

Planting seeds of learning

The 1st-graders from PS 166 in Astoria played in the dirt, squished the loamy soil through their fingers and grabbed handfuls of gravel as they set about creating individual terrariums. The fun was all part of a class trip to the Voelker Orth Museum, a bird sanctuary and Victorian home and garden in Flushing.

Member Spotlight

What I Do
Valerie O'Grady

What I Do: Valerie O'Grady, hospital teacher

For three years, Valerie O'Grady has worked at the hospital school at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she teaches grades pre-K–12 at the bedside of burn-unit patients and grades 6–12 in a hospital classroom.

Around the UFT

Meet-and-greet with nurses

UFT Vice President for Non-DOE Members Anne Goldman met with about 35 new nurses from Lutheran Medical Center at a meet-and-greet held at the Military Ocean Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, on Oct. 21.

Andrea Gomes (left) and Carmela McCann at the bank’s coin machine.

American Cancer Society dime drive at PS 198, Brooklyn

Third-graders in room 205 at PS 198 in East Flatbush especially relished their pizza party on Oct. 23 because it was a celebration marking their achievement of collecting the most dimes — $152.10 worth — in the school’s drive to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
Markee Fullwood and his daughter Ashante, a 9th-grader, listen to the speakers.

Dads event at Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts, Harlem

At Dads Take Your Child to School day at Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts, 150 parents — mostly fathers and father figures — and their teenagers listened to poetry, music and a motivational speaker, while enjoying breakfast and precious time together.
Scott Krivitsky

Daily News Hometown Heroes in Education Awards

Six UFT members, including an elementary school teacher who created a robotics program and a physical therapist who builds custom furniture for disabled students, were among the honorees in the 3rd annual Daily News Hometown Heroes in Education Awards.

The president visits PS 230, Brooklyn

UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Oct. 6 visited with UFT members at PS 230, a pre-K–5 school in Kensington, Brooklyn.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Rights
Piles of paperwork stacked

Reducing unnecessary paperwork

When educators are bogged down with unnecessary and duplicative paperwork, it takes valuable time away from the work of educating and supporting our students. For that reason, the UFT negotiated a contractual clause in the 2014 contract that is designed to reduce and eliminate unnecessary paperwork.

Your Well-being
Your well being - logo

Cultural competence in the workplace

To do their jobs well, educators need to understand their students’ lives and cultures. This involves skills we often downplay in Western culture: the art of listening and asking questions with humility. 

You Should Know

Secure Your Future
A powerful way to build a secure retirement

A powerful way to build a secure retirement

Did you know that more than 70 percent of Teachers’ Retirement System members participate in the Tax-Deferred Annuity program? The TDA is designed to help TRS members build a more secure retirement while at the same time reducing what they have to pay in taxes each year.


President's Perspective
Michael Mulgrew listing image Headshot

Getting standards right

There is a place in education for standards and standardized exams aligned to them. The problem is that they have been used improperly, not just in New York but all across our nation.

US Supreme Court

Unify to face Supreme Court threat

Our need for unity has rarely been more important. The U.S. labor movement — including the UFT — is under concerted attack from far-right conservatives who have as their end goal the destruction of unions and the rights we defend.


Receivership not the answer

Anyone who believes that closing schools or firing teachers will solve the problem is not serious about finding a solution. As Janella Hinds, the UFT vice president for academic high schools recently testified at a hearing in Albany, “Receivership dances around the root of the problem."

Schools as a solution

New York City is in the midst of two new standoffs over school rezoning that stir the embers of race and class. In successful rezoning, schools can be the place where we find out how we can all get along.

Teaching Resources

Teacher to Teacher

Helping students express themselves in math

Mathematics is a difficult subject to teach. But every one of our students is capable of jaywalking. They are capable of determining how far they should risk going into the ocean. It’s just that sometimes they don’t know how to express it or they haven’t had the opportunity to express it in a way that makes sense to them.

Linking to Learning

Alternatives to PowerPoint

We’ve come to rely on PowerPoint to present information to our students, but more often than not these presentations can be lackluster, with little interaction. Here are some methods to avoid PowerPoint altogether.

Research shows

Teacher demos best for math instruction

When it comes to teaching math in the early grades, teacher-directed instruction increases student achievement more than the use of less traditional teaching practices such as games, music or student-centered activities, according to new research in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. These results are particularly true for struggling math students.

Building Your Career

Building Your Career

Color-coding notebooks

Here is a picture of my students’ science notebooks. I color code the side of each notebook and assign a color to each table.
New Teacher Articles

Tips for reaching all learners

As a new teacher, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the wide range of abilities and learning styles you face in your classroom. Because you know that one size doesn’t fit all, you will want to differentiate your instruction to address all your learners. But how?

Retired Teachers News

Member Fanny Cohen asks a question.

Labor must press forward

Labor gains and labor losses are most often incremental and these days successes and failures can go in both directions at the same time.

At the turn of the last century, the American Federation of Labor — unlike its “pie in the sky” predecessor, the Knights of Labor — agitated for limited, achievable, immediate goals rather than trying to transform the economic landscape all at once. The 14-hour day became the 10-hour and then the eight-hour day; demands for a six-day week led to a five-and-a-half and then a five-day week, and then we had the weekend.

The UFT collective bargaining negotiations with the city during our in-service days achieved economic and professional dignity in small or large steps depending on the administration and circumstances of the day. So many metaphors or aphorisms could be used to characterize this dynamic: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single…