Sunday, August 20, 2017

Another Reason to Turn Off Your TV

Put down those chocolate Easter eggs!

   (Written Easter Monday and today)  I've been enjoying this vacation and indulging in many of my favorite foods. Last night, after a feast of epic proportions (in which death by Cadbury chocolate was definitely a possibility) I sat down to watch the local news. I don't watch much TV and need to lose a few pounds. I was cured of both by Chris Christie. During the 30 minute program, he interrupted my visual and auditory senses 25 times for a dramatic thirty second commercial on the dangers of prescription medication. Christie is the most loathsome creature that has ever crawled his way up from the cesspool that is American politics. His underlings that enacted his vindictive orders are now looking at jail sentences. Trump is thousands of times better than Christie in every way possible. Yes, I would have actually moved to New Zealand if Christie became president. Why, oh, why was my peace of mind so persistently disturbed by Christie? Trump had to throw him a bone and realized the guy is HUGE turnoff and liability. So I guess Trump figured if Christie can turn so many people off, maybe he can get some heroin addicts to stop using, so Donald made him Opioid Guru. He certainly got me to put down my fork and turn off the television.

    The constant viewing of the commercial had me mentally rewriting it as a warning against overeating. I imagined Christie saying, 'It started out with a Happy Meal and now I'm Vladimir Harkonnen.' (I've been rereading the Dune series by Frank Herbert.) I'm not trying to trivialize the heroin epedemic, but Christie is trying to equate it with prescription opioids. (In my opinion by tightening the legal supply of prescription pills the government will cause more heroin addicts, not less.) Now you can't get a painkiller from a dentist after a tooth extraction. Much worse are the many people who are in severe pain that are unfairly being penalized because there is a preceived link between prescription pills and heroin. I recently went to the hospital to visit a dying friend. She was terminally ill and had less than two weeks left. She was in her hospital room, screaming in pain. I went to the nurse and told her to give her something. She told me she could have only a Tylenol and that she couldn't have anything stronger because it's being limited because of the opioid crisis. I was beyond outraged. Worse she had a smirk on her face, like she thought it was a big joke. I told her I would report the entire incident to the medical board and the NY Post. The nurse then gave her a morphine drip. I got hold of her doctor the next day and reported it. Every time I see that Christie commercial I get pissed off all over again. Christie isn't stopping anyone from using drugs. Watch him and realize how lucky we are to have Trump!  No more TV or chocolate for me.

    A few weeks ago I was covered in poison oak. I hadn't slept in a few days and went over to the ER. Some big tough looking guy came over to me and hugged me. He was my student from twenty years ago! I was admitted and met his wife, who going through heroin withdrawals. She was a vet whose meds were cut and started using heroin. Her husband told me the government is creating addicts by withholding meds which makes some people turn to heroin, which is much cheaper and easier to obtain. The big problem is these unfortunate people don't know what their taking - it can literally be rat poison. Real life Russian roulette curtesy of #45. Marijuana is an effective pain reliever - basically a weed that can be grown anywhere and is purposely being thwarted by the pharmacy companies because of the lower profit margin. It's time to make marijuana legal for those in pain and that are suffering.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Heat Bugs and Their Beautiful Song


   I was sitting outside at around six this morning with my sister's Italian Greyhound, Lorcan. Lorcan is an unusual creature. He seems to understand me when I speak to him. My sister has a family of feral cats that he protects and that live under the backyard deck. They completely trust him and seek him out, but have always stayed far away from me. He was recently hurt protecting them from a skunk and got sprayed in the mouth. His internal organs were hurt and it looked like he might have to be put down - put happily he made a complete recovery. I was sitting outside listening to heat bugs with Lorcan. Suddenly, all these kittens came out of nowhere to sit by my feet. I concentrated on the song of the heat bugs.  If you are a teacher you know this song. It's poignant for it is a song played at nature's prime. We know the end is near. August and the end of summer quickly approaching. It's always been such a sad song for me, but this year it was much more beautiful than anything I've ever heard before. Glorious in a multitude of ways. Realize everyday is a gift and make your own happiness. Be kind to one another, it costs nothing and will save your life. Enjoy these final days.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

'The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus'

'I could shoot someone on 5 Ave and not lose any voters.'
         I often feel the need to think about and talk about things that are going on in our world that I find disturbing. I have been avoiding most of the national news that seems to be revolving around Trump. I don't find it humorous anymore, I find it revolting. I think if the media starts to ignore the Donald, he may resign. The problem is that the media's ratings are skyhigh because of him. He says whatever he feels like saying at any moment, and then if it's a lie or an exaggeration - it's no big deal. He gets a pass. When he said he could walk down fifth Avenue, take out a gun and shoot somebody and nothing would happen to him, he was right. There is something profoundly wrong with that and even he himself knows it. That doesn't stop him from glorifying in himself and in his 'accomplishments' - such as they are. Let me also say I don't hate Trump or even dislike Trump. I actually feel he's in way over his head and may know it.      
I recently read Marlowe's play Dr. Faustus and I found myself thinking of Trump. Has he sold his soul to the devil for all he's ever wanted? Does it fulfill everything that he's always wanted? He has a beautiful wife and children, is rich, famous and powerful. Is there more to life? What is the meaning of life? For many of it is it is to help others and leave the world a better place than the one in which we entered it. It's my hope that Trump realizes that at some time during his presidency. The pursuit of the almighty dollar is not what this country is about. Americans come in all shapes, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. The typical American is no longer a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and neither are you Mr. Trump, as much as you may try to be. We are a nation of immigrants. Your mom was one. Your ancestors didn't come over on the Mayflower. You never mention your mother who came over here as a domestic servant and who's first language was Gaelic. we want people to like us so badly that we change our identities in order to be accepted? Are we all self- hating teachers, Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians, Blacks, Hispanics, Irishmen, Scots, and Italians because the media tells us that the stereotypes concerning us are the truth? Do we know our own history or do we accept what has been told to us from the media and history books?    
      Trump is our president and he should be called out on the things he says and the way he acts. He shouldn't be held to a lower standard - he should be held to a higher standard - he represents each and everyone of us throughout the world. I was on a plane recently sitting next to, lucky me, a German model, and we had a very long conversation on Trump. She was laughing her head off almost the whole long trip discussing the things he had said and the things he was doing. At first I couldn't help but laugh as well but after a while I started to feel a little upset. (That wasn't her intention, so I took no real offense to her remarks. I am upset that Trump is our president, but that doesn't delegitimize his presidency - he is our president.) We started comparing national leaders around the world to Donald Trump. He's at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. It was somewhat of an eye opener to hear her views on what others in the world feel about Trump and our country. She was very intelligent and and an excellent conversationalist. Her number one question, over and over again to me was how could Americans vote Trump into office. I had no real answer for her, other than to read Marlowe's, Dr. Faustus.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The End of Fair Student Funding?

   Last spring we got some tidbits of information concerning the ATR pool - first there was the announcement that Randy Asher would be overseeing its planned reduction in helping us back into the classroom. Then, there was Mulgrew's visit to Boca with a litany of potential woes (to open those wallets for COPE) in which he said,  "There will be no more ATRs as of September 1st. All ATRs will be placed". A 50K incentive was offered to ATRs and then extended. Then, there was the announcement Amy Arundel would no longer be the ATR rep for the UFT. (No replacement has been announced.) During the end of June it became painfully apparent that many individual school budgets had been cut again for next year. The announcement of next year's budget facilitated the excessing of many teachers into the ghost army of ATRs, classes that will now be combined and overcrowded, many teachers that will have to teach six classes, and the marked scarcity of viable (cheap and inexperienced) teachers available to fill the vacant teaching slots. There will of course be little or no per session and a lack of basic supplies. (That $250 Teachers Choice won't go far in this scenario.)

  All this while the City has a tremendous surplus and the CSA and UFT seem to strongly want an end to Fair Student Funding (aka, individualized school budgets) in order to run their schools to meet the needs of their students. I say this because every principal, UFT rep and even one former superintendent I've spoken to has told me so. Fair student funding has been a Bloomberg burden laden on the shoulders of schools, principals, and children for far too long. It's time it was thrown into the garbage heap with Klein's discarded toupee.

    As an individual example - at an ATR friend's school (which she left in June after a five month gig), four teachers were excessed; the staff were told they would all be teaching six periods next year; that next year's classes would be at full capacity; that three math teachers would have to be hired (but there were no funds to do so) and there would be no per session or money for after school clubs. The principal said he would gladly hire my friend if her salary came from central. This school is not unusual. How will these schools run with no money to pay for necessities and salaries? Why was an ATR incentive offered and then extended?

   I believe the city hoped to rid itself of the most expensive teachers possible before going back to centralized funding. I hope that the city will announce a return to centralized funding for the benefit of the schools and their students. This will allow principals to hire the best teaching candidates, diminish oversized classes and funnel funds into the neediest schools. It will allow for a much more efficient use of funds.

   Perhaps, it is just a pipe dream, but I see no other way for schools to meet their monetary     obligations  under the current accounting system. (Other than springing Bernie Madoff.) It is a win - win for everyone, especially students. Then the powers that be can proudly say, "Children first, always".

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Strong Response from Our Beloved Leader

Dear Media,
It's come to my attention that some of our smallest group of educators ( no more than a dozen or two), also known as ATRs, have been labeled drunks, perverts, peddlers, and lemons. I happen to know for a fact not one of them are lemons, vegetables or minerals. They are all human beings (to the best of my knowledge) with the same urges that may lurk in all of us. We no longer have teacher cafeterias -so alcohol is not openly served to the staff and is not an issue. Our discipline code has banned chains and whips. We are looking closely at handing out spinners to ATRs so their hands will be occupied and visable at all times. We are also asking them to refrain from wearing raincoats and use only umbrellas during raining days. As for peddlers, some teachers do opt to ride their bicycles to work. I don't know what your problem is with that! I strongly uphold their right to do so!  We are working hard to get these teachers back in the classroom, but in case we can't -we have a plan B. Our President, #45, is bringing back coal consumption. In order to show unity with our coal miner union brother and sisters we are re-retrofitting our boiler rooms for coal. Shoveling coal to keep our schools at a comfortable 99 degrees is an important and vital job. It will keep our ATRs in tip top shape in case a vacancy should open up.

So please show some respect, we are doing all we can to get rid of them. We've even offered them $50,000 to leave. Please, if you wonderful media folk decide to write any more about ATRs, please refrain from criticizing me in any way - as I find it very hurtful, unfair and upsetting. I'm sure the ATRs don't mind it at all.

Best Regards,

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chancellor Rosie O'Donnell?

     I wasn't always a fan of Rosie O'Donnell. I knew she had a tough upbringing and came out on top. She seemed to have always spoken her mind, even when it got her in trouble. I wasn't a true fan of Rosie until she came out of the closet. Prior to that time, my wife and all her friends would race home after dropping the kids off (this was before DVR). hang out and watch Rosie. Once a year they'd get tickets and go visit her show. I remember when she came out, there must have been some backlash, because her popularity seemed to take a nosedive and she seemed to take on a bit of a hard edge. My wife and friends remained loyal but she lost some fans. She did however gain others. Shortly after that initial coming out, I was in Nova Scotia on vacation. Rosie had her own cruise ship and was landing at the pier I was shopping at. I was talking with all the lady vendors there. Their main concern, and I'm not joking, was that she wouldn't romantically hit on any of them. I told them I thought Rosie was involved in a relationship and I didn't think they had to worry (most of them looked like Nanny McPhee). It made me realize that Rosie gave up a lot to be honest and true to herself. She may have also helped others - even those that weren't involved in issues related to her's.

    At around the same time I was watching Donald Trump on the original Apprentice. It was a great show and my poor opinion of him started to change and I began to like him. Then something happened that made me shake my head and realize there was something profoundly wrong with him. Rosie made fun of his hair style and he became so over the top nasty that I was speechless. I thought he'd laugh it off and say thanks Rosie, but he went for the jugular and didn't stop. He made himself look like a complete fool and I lost all respect for him.

   During the presidential election Trump brought up Rosie's name many times and it was often very mean spirited. I thought he might try to reach out to her and make friends, but, alas it didn't happen. It solidified his petty persona.   We now have Trump in office. He wants to dismantle public education, bring in charters, get rid of unions and have a right to work nation. How does our union president respond?  Mulgrew is afraid to utter Trump's name and refers to him as '45'. Rosie on the other hand has come out with a game in which the player can opt to have the Donald dropped over a cliff, into a volcano or eaten by a T-Rex.  (This has outraged some conservatives who may feel this may give some the idea to clone a T-Rex and threaten the president.) Who do you think Trump respects more? Who would he prefer to fight? Who would win? Rosie; and the more he opened his mouth the more he'd lose.

 There have been rumors that Chancellor Farina may be retiring soon. Perhaps Bill is actively seeking a successor? Bill has been very vocal and strong in standing up to Trump. My sugestion is that he considers Rosie O'Donnell for chancellor. She is strong, vocal and smart. She cares for kids, teachers, schools and is a New Yorker. Bill, if you're listening, consider Rosie O'Donnell. I am entirely serious. We need fighters like Rosie in office.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

ATRs Are Teachers

He's an ATR!

   First things first, I'm a teacher. A teacher who's status is currently 'ATR'.  I'm not a lemon, drunk, pervert or sub. I'm tenured, permanently licensed, respect everyone and respect myself. I love God, my family, my friends, the arts, the USA and children of all ages. When I say children, I'm referring to those that experience joy, sharing and laughing. I also include those that are wounded. I can experience just about any type of pain, but if my kids are in pain or serious trouble it is unbearable. Everytime I teach, I try to remember that. I want that student, even if he or she curses and threatens me, to succeed. Why? Well, in many ways he or she is my child. I want them to have a good life, hopefully even a better one than me. That's not to say I've had a bad life - I'm grateful for all of God's gifts. If I walk into a room and see a teacher that doesn't know the subject, I don't judge him or her, I try to help. Often, I'm shunned - even when placed with another teacher.

    Recently, I was in a class where the facts presented were completely incorrect concerning Judaism. When I tried to explain the concept privately (so as not to embarass or upset the teacher in front of the students), I was asked by the (12 year experienced) teacher how I could 'know so much being, an ATR' and not licensed in Social Studies. First, I politely asked what she thought of ATRs. She told me, 'really bad teachers that they weren't able to fire'. I explained that anyone could be brought up on charges, and that even if cleared they were turned into ATRs for life. I also explained that the group she referenced was only about 10 -15% and the rest of us were excessed, mostly from closed schools. She replied, 'if you guys were any good you would have been hired'. I then explained school budgeting vs. centralized budgeting and that most ATR salaries were too high for most individual school budgets. She looked at me like I was crazy. She then asked if I was Jewish (I'm not), because she didn't understand how I knew what I had explained to her. I was getting uncomfortable with the level of her ignorance, lack of social skills and stereotypes. This didn't stop me from trying to help her. In helping her, I was helping the kids and myself. You see, I believe we all have a calling. For me, and perhaps also for you, it may be teaching, and helping others. If I ran into this teacher in the hall, she wouldn't answer me if I said good morning, and often looked at me like something that had stuck to the bottom of her shoe. I've experienced this in many schools from staff and it doesn't really bother me anymore. It's being an ATR.

    The last week of school this particular teacher was excessed and turned into an ATR. Next year's school budget was cut and several teachers were excessed. Several teachers told me the teacher I referenced above was crying so badly they had to send her home. They asked me to go speak to her to let her know how great being an ATR was(!). I then asked them what they thought an ATR was. I got responses that basically boiled down to 'heaven on Earth'. I was incredulous. I said I'd be happy to speak to her about the reality of being an ATR, but that based on her reaction, she already had a good idea.

     One of the teachers actually congratulated her on the last day of school on becoming an ATR. She looked like she wanted to strangle him. She never did seek me out, but as of late I have seen many versions of her voiced opinions and those of other teachers published. Published by those that hate public education. There seems to be a marked indifference to these ATR stereotypes from teachers and the UFT. As a teacher do you realize you can become an ATR once your salary becomes prohibitive to a projected budget? What is the inference, when the UFT stays silent during these attacks? Does the UFT understand these attacks are in fact on all NYC public school teachers? It is high time for all teachers and the UFT to recognize that ATRs are teachers and should be afforded the same respect and rights as every other UFT public school teacher.