Tuesday, May 03, 2016


I never taught to the test. I never used pre-made curricula. Even though I relied heavily on the internet and print media and other sources for authentic materials I always made anything I found my own. I created my own curricula for whatever classes I taught - I was rarely, if ever handed any real curricula - and that included general art, fine art, art history, advertising, cartooning, painting, drawing, and photography (without cameras - you figure it out), as well as - out of license - music appreciation, technology, video, and health. (Math too but I would like to pretend that never happened because the last person you’d ever want your child to learn math from would be me.)

The teachers who presented pre-digested power points every class period were the same teachers who were disgusted when their students handed in heavily cut-and-pasted term papers  and projects, or copied off one another in Regents exams. What would you expect when all you were handing them was something YOU cut, copied and pasted, without any of your own input? As a student my memory is of teachers who taught us in their own words, even if they were reading them from little bits of yellow paper, at breakneck speed, as we took notes. The act of listening and then writing was the key to our learning, even if it was mainly to ingest facts that we would then be able to regurgitate at a 3-hour state test required for a high school diploma. Most of our classes were not taught for the sake of passing a high-stakes exam, but we still had to learn - we were expected to listen, read, write, and respond to our teachers. 

I believe that teachers turn key not only what but how they were taught, the voices still in their head of the gifted teachers who taught them. This was verified to me in a recent conversation with a fellow Cooper art school grad who related how he teaches his college level art students using the same pedagogy as our mutual art professor used with him as a student. I can speak for myself that I taught my students in elementary, intermediate, and high school in the same manner, although of course everything was adjusted to meet the appropriate emotional, mental, physical, age, and experiential level of the students (I taught many students with disabilities including Down’s Syndrome, autism, deaf and hard of hearing, in wheelchairs, on crutches, legally blind, learning disabled, and mild to severely emotionally disturbed, as well as the “general” population, including english language learners, the post-incarcerated, and recent immigrants with little to no prior formal education, who often displayed many of these disabilities as well).

I would “crit” their projects, and speak to them as individuals, giving them feedback and taking them seriously, even if for them art was a total mystery or contained little to no importance for them or their families. I taught concepts, basic principles of art and design, and art appreciation by exposing them to the works of artists, and asking them to respond to the art. I rarely presented my students with a template unless if was something for the younger students that would allow them to make it their own. I learned that all students needed a jumping off point, and a little push, and time to explore and do their thing. When supervisors, who’d left me pretty much alone most of my teaching career over several years at various schools suddenly were mandated to find something wrong with everything I was doing - after years producing bonafide student “product” e.g. the original student art works displayed in the classroom, on the bulletin boards in the hallway, and in the semi-annual end of term art shows - teaching stopped being what it was supposed to be. 

Students as well as teachers cannot function under scrutiny. Even though I rolled with every punch, and pushed back as well, and fought for myself and for other teachers, it seemed that whatever I was doing was never going to be understood or appreciated, except by a few caring students who did not run with the crowd mentality that school and teachers were “wack”. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A vos amies...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Betsy Combier is accusing UFT Solidarity Caucus of “mobbing”, and on her online blog has characterized certain members individually, and collectively, myself included, as a “mob” and as “terrorists” without substantiation or proof of such.

The question one might ask is, really? Why?

On the closed Facebook ATR Support Group, unprovoked by any member of that group or by any member of UFT Solidarity, Betsy posted an allegation stating, to paraphrase, that anyone associated with UFT Solidarity is in danger of being targeted by the DOE. 

When challenged to prove these allegations, a groundswell of online flaming arose on that thread in the closed ATR Support Group. 

At no time did the author of this posting, Betsy, respond to or answer any requests for her to substantiate these allegations. 

In the meantime the administrator of the group piled on and when Francesco Portelos responded to the allegations, all hell broke loose.

Anyone associated with Solidarity, posting a refutation of, or challenging the allegations, was removed from this closed group.

A new ATR Alliance closed group was formed. 

At this point one would imagine this would all die down. Tempers flared, people said their piece, and there was a parting of the ways.

ATR Support Group, and ATR Alliance, serve differing, albeit overlapping, concerns and interests.

There is no problem with multiple groups deciding how they wish to communicate, share, and support their respective members.

Unfortunately, Betsy Combier, who is neither a teacher, an ATR, a UFT member, a lawyer, or to our knowledge, a bonafide paralegal, has taken it upon herself to attack UFT Solidarity on her blog and on Facebook.

She is accusing UFT Solidarity of “mobbing” when any of us have responded to her blog post and have asked her to cease and desist, which is ironic, as the “mobbing” has and continues to occur from her end along with those who are in agreement with and loyal to her.

She uses her influence, connections with Randi Weingarten, and her knowledge of individuals’ confidential information to control, manipulate, and threaten teachers who are vulnerable and at risk of losing their professions.

I ask at this time that Betsy Combier stop her accusations and threats of legal action against individual members of UFT Solidarity, and of the Caucus as a group, who have neither attacked nor provoked these threats nor are libel for any supposed “damages” to her “profession”.

I ask that she remove our images, names, and unproven allegations citing us individually and collectively, from her blog post(s) and to cease and desist from future blog postings that name any of us, use our images, accuse us or allege unproven malfeasance, or threaten legal action(s) against any of us, individually or collectively. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I (STILL) hope he rots in hell.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vi copio incollo mail appena arrivata!!



from flickr:
"Italian students, researchers, workers and Dutch activists will meet up on Friday 14 in front of the Italian Consulate in Amsterdam to support the General Strike that takes place in Italy on the same day. On Friday the whole nation will be blocked by demonstrations against the approval of "Legge Gelmini", a law that seriously cuts down on public funding of education.

"We won't pay for your crisis": is the slogan shouted by protesters against Berlusconi governement's choices to destroy public education system. Not only in Italy. In Bruxelles, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Copenhagen students are demonstrating against the neoliberal agenda for the financial crisis diverting money from the public sector to private banks.

A tactical action will take place on Friday to reach also Dutch people, keeping them updated on what's going on in Italy and in Europe in these days.

We call students, researchers, teachers, activists and sensitive people in Amsterdam to join us to protect knowledge as a common good.

Friday 14 th, 2008
H 10.00
Italian Consolate, Vijzelstraat 79, Amsterdam

European Anomalous Wave, Amsterdam"