Monday, June 14, 2010

Catching Up

With the breaking news about Chicago (still little press coverage over a youthful caucus taking over the union in the heart of Daley/Obama/Duncan territory - the very people who confronted Duncan on a regular basis while the union leadership was mute) I've had trouble keeping up with events and news.

I spent last week up in Manchester, NH at meetings with the FIRST LEGO robotics crew. People come to these partner conferences from around the nation and even from other countries - New Zealand and Israel were in the house.

I drove up there with a bunch of people, including two teachers at some of the most elite NYC private schools. Their school year ended early last week. I always gain a lot of insights when I talk to private school teachers. One of them taught in a public school for a few years where I first met her through robotics. Her classroom was a wonderland. She left over high class size, a lack of resources and most interestingly, the arrival of a new principal, who no matter how good you were, wanted her own people. Since this principal has arrived many of the talented teachers there (I knew a whole bunch of them) have left.

So much for all the sturm und drang about giving principals the major role in deciding on teachers layoffs. This teacher and her colleagues would make a good poster for seniority.

By the way, these private school teachers, both fairly young are the people the DOE is supposedly looking for. Not. They have tremendous progressive educational concepts and would never tolerate the public school crap. Maybe that says something about a lot of things here in NYC (more than we like to think about).

They agree with much of what we all have been saying and if they were in the public schools they might very well be part of a movement to fight back against the ed deformers. But they just want to teach in a supportive educational environment. I know, I know, they are teaching kids of people who pay upwards of $30,000 a year. And they have small class sizes - the schools won't accept kids if they have to push beyond a certain number. And they do counsel kids out. They offer lots of scholarships - of course the parent has to apply. Hmmmm, looks like charter school-ville territory.

After burn

There were lots of highlights to my trip. I hung with a long-time buddy retired NYC high school robotics teacher, a retired engineer who taught for a few years. Also a current high school teacher who was given 2 days off to attend and an engineer for a major NYC company. Both volunteer a lot of time. On Weds, we were invited to the founder of FIRST's home for dinner. He is a major inventor whose house is as unique as can be. Level after level of interesting stuff. Chess playing machines and all sorts of goodies to explore. A media room, a full machine shop, a lighted baseball field outside - we couldn't take pictures so I can't share much. We had lobster dinners for over a hundred people in the helicopter hanger. I'm still wiping the lobster goo off myself. I've got to start using those bibs.

I've been involved with putting on these robotic events in NYC almost since the first day I retired in 2002. This program is worth every penny as a team concept beyond sports. I handle registration and team recruitment and can provide any info needed. If your school is interested in FIRST LEGO League robotics, registration is open at You can also check my robotics blog: Or contact me. Last year we had 150 teams in NYC from all parts of the city -public, private, community-based, home schooled. We hold an event in each borough in January, 80 teams make the finals at the Javits center in March and the champion is eligible to go to St. Louis for the World Festival in April.

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