Wednesday, March 22, 2017

If Trump is the Number 45, What is Mulgrew?




   I was astonished and struck by the surreal absurdity that 'our' UFT president, Michael Mulgrew, is using the number 45 to refer to Donald Trump. At first I thought it was a hidden joke thrown in by blogger and HS Executive Board member Arthur Goldstein on his recent blog http://nyceducator.com/2017/03/uft-executive-board-march-20-2017.html . (45 is actually an auspicious number http://www.ridingthebeast.com/numbers/nu45.php  )  It was not. It got me thinking about what it means to be a leader, what it says about our union and our country. This is the United States of America, not a dictatorship. We have a democracy in which Trump - love him, hate him or don't care - was elected president. Get over it, he's the president. (We have a voice and many ways to use it. Fixation on his legitimacy is ridiculous.) The same can be said about Mulgrew's election as UFT president. (We had to get over that as well.) A union exists for many subtle reasons, but its main focus should be on its members and elevating the profession. A leader needs those goals to direct his or her members, otherwise you just have a large group of unfocused people that can quickly become a mob - although I highly doubt it with our demoralized rank and file. A leader, especially under these circumstances, shouldn't be so afraid that he won't utter the name of the person who intends to end his members jobs and severely curtail the profession as a whole. It's not leadership. It's indicative of everything that's wrong with the UFT. Fear, apathy, and yet another embarrassing incident that is unintentionally humorous to the objective observer. If Trump is even aware of it, I'm sure he's laughing himself off his golden toilet seat - not quivering with fear.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow



You could have had this feeling for four years!


    I don't know if it's the full moon, the agony of staff development or simply mass exhaustion, but it was like the whole school (kids and staff) hit the lottery today. I haven't seen this much hysteria since I was a teen and Led Zeppelin announced a concert date. (My old fart friends recently reacted similarly when Barbara Streisand announced a concert. They called me frantically, but I demurred at $600 a ticket.) DeBlasio got everyone's vote today, some were a little worried that Carmen might think tomorrow would be a beautiful day. No worries, Carmen- now it really is!
    Enjoy the snow!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Where are the Americans on the List for Global Teacher Prize?




   I recently wrote about the emphasis on testing and graduation rates that have resulted in micromanagement from administrators and misery from teachers. Those statistics are used to judge teachers, administrators, students and schools. Everyone's focus has been so compartmentalized that we seem to be missing the big picture - the well being of students and staff. That means having students graduate high school who can enter the workforce or are prepared to take college classes. That means having young adults enter society that know right from wrong and will have compassion for others. That means having a happy teaching staff that isn't fixated on their next observation, so maybe they can view their students as more than just another OSIS number.
  It would have been nice to see an American teacher on the list for Global Teacher prize. Unfortunately, we are too busy covering our collective butts, in a very anti-teacher society. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-39040476

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Brevity, the Soul of Wit? Or is it being Intentionally Oblique?


Several neurotic,  nervous ATRs I've come across have hijacked my ear to express their frustrations concerning their overall anxiety. I replied that we all feel this to some degree, but that we have no control over what may or may not be happening. Their legitimate complaint is that we aren't being informed and that rumors seem to be par for the course when it comes to ATR issues. We do have ATR liaisons. Here are some recent calls that have been relayed to me:

ATR#1: Is the ATR rotation still in effect?        
UFT: Most likely.

ATR#2: Are we still ATRs?
UFT: Yes

ATR#3: Will we be placed permanently?
UFT: Very doubtful.

ATR#4: Will things change this year?
UFT: Ask again later.

It dawned on me the UFT is using another high tech device for our benefit - the Magic 8 Ball.
Save yourself a call and pick one up at Toys R Us. Keep the receipt, you maybe able to use it for next years teachers' choice.








Saturday, February 25, 2017

What the UFT Should be Doing

Say hello to your new chancellor!


  Last week I wrote an abbreviated version of my conversation with Niles. He asked me to post the rest.

Niles: Tell me how you think the UFT should be doing things.
Atlas: You know how I feel. It should be democratic and inclusive. What do you think?
Niles: It desperately needs change. If that change means me opting out of paying union dues so be it!
Atlas: How do you think that will help?
Niles: It'll force them to work for the money! A type of artificial competition via economic incentive.
Atlas: You have a point, but you know how cheap teachers are. Many would want something for nothing, especially if someone else is paying. The people paying -
Niles: Like you!
Atlas: Yes, like me, may end up feeling like fools. But I think it would be a disaster. The UFT has to come off its high horse and help everyone paying dues, right now.
Niles: What do you mean?
Atlas: I mean the newbie who's on his fifth year of probation with five different preps, the ATRs that want a permanent position, the targeted teachers, and quality of life issues.
Niles: You mean like cellphones, parking, no cafeterias.
Atlas: Yes. Would that make you reconsider paying dues?
Niles: Yes, it might. But they'll never do it. Look how they just gave the endorsement to deBlasio. They learned nothing from the Hillary endorsement debacle.
Atlas: Endorsing deBlasio is nessesary. He will be the next mayor, in good part because of Randi's endorsement of Hillary over Bernie that put Trump in the White House.
Niles: They should have gotten some concessions - not the bullshit I heard that they forced the hand of the mayor to let Farina retire in June.
Atlas: That is BS. She was retiring anyway.
Niles: What the f-ing UFT should be doing is hand picking the next chancellor.
Atlas: I agree, but remember the UFT loved Farina.
Niles: Mulgrew would have loved Atilla the Hun after twelve years of Bloomberg!
Atlas: True, but the bloom is off the rose with Carmen.
Niles: Is it? Is it really? Let's hope the UFT does something right and help pick the best person for the job.
Atlas: Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why is the Teacher Always Blamed?

   
  I had a lengthy conversation today with an old friend, let's call him Niles. He a quiet, dignified intellectual. He's also a completely demoralized high school teacher.
Niles: Atlas, the students are beyond vile. The administration is clueless. The staffs are clueless.
Atlas: You must never blame the students, Niles. It's completely verboten.
Niles: Why and when did it all start?
Atlas: I distinctly remember it first being said during a staff meeting right after Bush, Jr. signed in the No Child Left Behind Act. The principal said that the Quality Reviewers were coming in to interview everyone and would be asking for input into how to improve the schools, and that under no circumstances were we to mention the students or their parents being at fault. The QR people had relayed this to the principal, as had the chancellor and the UFT. The chapter leader then got up after many of us vocalized outrage. We were told we simply could not do this as it would jeopardize our funding as a school and ultimately our jobs. 
Niles: Yes, that was the start of it, but how did everything become the teachers fault?
Atlas: Well, that didn't start right away. At first, we told the QR people that we need to take out more of the bad eggs from the school population and get better students.
Niles: How did that go over?!
Atlas: Not well, as you can imagine. We had another staff meeting in which we were told there were no more zoned schools and that we couldn't get rid of any kid, regardless of their lack of desire to be in a vocational school. Also there would be no more tracking and special Ed would be a service rather than a place. Tracking would not be allowed and multiple lesson plans would have to be developed for each class to meet the needs of the varied students. The start of differentiation!
Niles: Yes, I remember the teachers balked.
Atlas: Of course, but the by product of all this was plummeting statistics on every level. So someone had to be blamed. The students and their parents were off limits. So teachers were the default scapegoats. This was right around the time Bloomberg went into office. He upped the ante by using the media and the UFT's naïveté.
Niles: What do you mean?
Atlas: Guiliani didn't give us a raise, so people were eager for one. Bloomberg made a Faustian deal with us via Randi and it was all downhill from there. Bloomy stigmatized the veteran teachers as being subpar, closed the schools and turned most of us into ATRs. 
Niles: And by controlling the individual school's population he skewed the statistics to show marked improvement.
Atlas: Exactly. But the UFT never pushed back effectively after having that 2005 contract passed. Mulgrew said teachers weren't to blame, but he bought into the 'never blame students or parents' directive.
Niles: The UFT should have been screaming from the rooftops! Students actions or inactions are on them! If a parent doesn't parent their children, that's on the parent! 
Atlas: True , but I think Mulgrew's well meaning response was 'Well, we shouldn't play the blame game, and if Bloomberg keeps blaming us through his and his friends media outlets, we'll just ignore it.'
Niles: The result being that we are to blame for everything wrong with public schools and the public response was schadenfreude because of our preceived short work day and time off.
Atlas: Yes, it really comes down to a lack of leadership. No one wants to be the sole guy to stand up and scream from the rooftop. That's what we have leaders for. 
Niles: I blame the UFT for all it. Our sole focus was on pedagogy and the UFT's focus should have been on us.
Atlas: Niles, we have to remember our worth as teachers and people, even if those around us don't. Try to have a relaxing vacation! 


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Misery, Thy Name is Teacher


I love my toadies!


    I have never, ever seen so many miserable teachers in school after school, as I have this year.
At first it was a bit of a mystery to me as the kids and administration have seemed pleasant in some of these schools. I've talked at length with several teachers in these schools and the common thread that connects them is administrative micromanagement. (The absurdity of staying until 4PM on Mondays and Tuesdays for meaningless PD cannot be mitigated. For many it's  simply torturous and seems to be 'the straw that broke the camel's back'. Some would give a monetary giveback or a pint of blood weekly to get out at 2:30 or 3 PM again.) If the King or Queen of the school is beneficent, there is happiness in the kingdom. On the other hand if you have an insecure, inexperienced and/or arrogant individual, life in the kingdom will be miserable. These individuals seem to exact much more discipline from their staffs than from their students. I was in one school where the kids left and  returned constantly all day (stoned, of course), phones weren't collected, but the staff had to sign out for lunch or a cup of coffee. Another school's administration publicly berated their staff for any preceived infractions - lateness, absenteeism, etc. These same things were completely ignored if committed by students. Add to this the lack of space, and the staffs' reluctancy to go outside to the only personal space available for them to eat their lunch - their cars. Some of these schools have no teacher lounges, libraries or any common spaces for teachers. (The kids in one place had a large room they would pick up free condoms though - we all tried not to slip on them as they were all opened and scattered throughout the hallways and stairwells - the NYC equivalent of the banana peel.) The teachers or royal subjects were forced to meet in a designated classroom or in the principal's massive office that was lavishly decorated (in the ostentatious Trump style) with a private restroom (no one even dared thought about using it). If the Royal Family of Administration liked you, you were fine - if they didn't, your life could be very difficult. (Needless to say, the UFT was basically nonexistent. I have yet to meet or have a chapter leader introduce themselves to me this school year or last.)
   This is all a legacy of the Bloomberg regime and it simply shouldn't still be with us. That said, students and staff should be treated with respect. Schools are not individual fiefdoms to be run as unsuccessful fast food restaurants. The students need discipline for their well being as students and future productive members of society. We are the last bastion before these students are released into society. I personally believe this preparation is more important than most of the information they are expected to learn and will never again use. Who do you want to be on the train with - the guy who can't remember his geometry proofs or the guy that will set you on fire, film it and laugh his ass off? http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/teen-sets-sleeping-stranger-fire-aboard-queens-subway-article-1.2951214 Life skills, vocational skills, and basic academics for the average student. Much, much more (than what is currently being offered) for those who have the aptitude and drive.
    Happy Presidents' week and good riddance Andy Puzder!