Thursday, May 23, 2019

Re-Post: UFT Meteor 5/27/17

     I am finally starting to detach myself from my almost thirty years of teaching in the Bronx. I’m teaching juniors and seniors a few days a week, outside of the NYC area. As a part time teacher, who’s retired, I’m trying to join the local teachers union. I have to say it is a real union - when teachers here need help - experienced or new - they get it. When I look at the NYC teacher blogs and the rationalizations (and anger), by some in the Unity cult, to the almost completely impotent UFT, I’m amazed. 

     I’m off tomorrow (and Monday) and just started my Memorial Day weekend. I looked back at this post from a couple of years ago, to compare it to today. My advice, after re- reading it, is to get out of the DOE/UFT (I can not distinguish between the two) ASAP. Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

UFT Meteor 

   First enjoy your weekend, but remember why we're off on Monday. Many people don't stop and give pause for all those who sacrificed for our ideals. Most teachers I meet seem to truly hate their jobs. Some were actually running to their cars this afternoon. It was like a meteor was about to hit the area and it was a matter of life or death to escape as quickly as possible. I never saw traffic like I did this afternoon - it took me one hour to go four miles. Unfortunately, for most of us, the thought of being off far outweighs the reality. Personally, I had a lot of fun with the kids this week. I had the same classes and was teaching literature. No excerpts, the entire book. I tricked the kids into learning, despite themselves. Old teaching tricks that I learned long ago. It hit me how much I miss teaching. Actually teaching classes, having kids listen and do work felt wonderful. When I teach, I get a feeling of elation that is unlike anything else. That that joy was taken from me, and so many others, for no other reason than we are at the higher end of the pay scale is maddening. The UFT has been more than disappointing, in that it doesn't seem to be willing to support us, even minimally. That it went so far as to agree to put in discriminatory provisions in the last contract (that have since expired) was a profound betrayal. It now openly lies and/or ignores us and tells us how lucky ATRs are to have a job. The truly fortunate group is the UFT. It is lucky that dues are still mandatory. Things may change for all of us. I will continue to support the UFT, despite my anger and disappointment, but I hope that the UFT starts to respect its veteran members. The UFT should carefully consider what it is agreeing to in its representation of us. It hasn't asked for our input. It hasn't informed us or kept us informed. That fact, at the very least, should imply strong representation on the part of the UFT. Let's hope that a darkly imagined meteor doesn't strike ATRs or the UFT.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Are You an Enabler?

    Every so often I'll watch Dr. Phil. Now Dr. Phil isn't a real doctor, he's just an average, albeit  charismatic guy with common sense. Lots of parents go on there and they all have the same problem. They are financially supporting a family member who shouldn't be supported. For instance, their twenty something year old isn't working, has a drug habit, keeps getting arrested, sneaks others in to have sex with and as a reward he/she gets a place to live, the car, money, and all their bills paid -including the phone. These parents don't know what to do and things are getting worse - the other siblings are horrified and losing respect for their parents; the parents are anxiety ridden and it's affecting their jobs and relationships with each other. Now it's common sense to know what to do - the problem is you have a life long relationship and deep loyality to this person, even though you're being used and manipulated. Actually doing the right thing isn't just right for you, but for the self destructing loved one. Unless you stop giving him/her what's wanted there is no reason for them to stop their behavior  - but this isn't enough, the person will more than likely have to be thrown out. This creates enormous guilt, but is nessesary for yourself, your beloved son/daughter and your family. It seems like every family in the country is going through this.

     Now this scenario seemed very familiar to me and it dawned on me that as a UFT member I was having a similar problem. I felt guilt in finally making the hard decision not to pay dues to an organization that has continually disrespected me over the past decade. They didn't even send me a ballot for the latest joke of an election. They lost my UFT retiree membership enrollment. Great news. Why did I even want to continue to give my money to this corrupt organization? Deep seated loyality and remembering the past when things were good. What motivation does the UFT have to change? None. What's going to happen if we continue to support the UFT? At best it will stay the same, but most likely the top down undemocratic actions of the UFT will get worse and not because of the Koch brothers or Gates - they have been on our backs for a long time (Gates' money incentivized Bloomy to close every large high school in the Bronx, with a completely impotent UFT watching on the sidelines). Don't rationalize the wrong decision to keep supporting Mulgrew and his cronies - they are using us and our money for their own self interests. They will cry Janus! from the rooftops. The real threat to the UFT is not from Janus - it's from the corrupt and deeply undemocratic Unity machine that strangles all legitimate dissent via rigged elections and completely silencing and/or assimilating their vocal critics. I could start a long egregious list of abysmal acts against the rank and file - ranging from A (for ATRs) to Z (for not backing Zephyr Teachout over Cuomo for governor), but if you're breathing you already know it all to well. They have absolutely no reason to change unless they are made to see what a truly f--ked up organization they are. I'll put my measly eight bucks in a jar and if the UFT ends the ATR pool, stops retirees from voting in elections, actively fights Fair Student Funding, actively speaks out against the Open Market, stop their loyality oaths, voting in blocks OR open their doors to any kind of inclusivity to those of us that are excluded, I'll rejoin and give them whatever is in the jar. You working stiffs will have to wait until June to opt out. I would have opted out last June, but James Eterno persuaded me to remain. Things haven’t become more democratic - it’s gotten worse - the few that were able to initiate positive change inside the snake pit are now newly elected Unity members. Maybe Mulgrew will see the writing on the wall before then and start representing those that need it most - veteran teachers, untenured teachers, ATRs and those teachers that have been targeted for exercising their well paid for rights. I see no other way.


Friday, April 19, 2019

RePost 5/28/16 - Why Bother with an Election? Is Anyone Surprised?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

All Hail the King!

Dear friends,
The inevitable has happened! I was reelected once again. Never fear, Mike is here! I am working hard to increase Teacher's Choice, (this year we may include toilet paper and bulletproof vests as reimbursable items).
I am also securing your right to become an ATR after finishing your first decade of teaching. The city is broke (ignore all those lies about a six billion dollar surplus) and you may have to cough up a little extra cash to see a doctor - nothing more than a $50 co-pay. Also don't worry, our wonderful evaluation system is still in effect - so your job is as secure as our fabulous mayor's! In closing, I want to say I love the environment and look forward to passing many motions on climate change with the newly elected malcontents. I may even have vegan buffets!

Monday, April 1, 2019

I Won't be Voting for Unity and This is Why

   Until fairly recently, for the last 5 1/2 years, I have been a wandering vilified piñata of a teacher/ATR. I have been to 75 different Bronx high schools without a bulletproof vest. Who do I have to blame for this? My school was closed via Bloomberg. How was Bloomberg allowed to do this? Randi Weingarten sold us a bill of goods and we bought it. This is of course old news. It’s pertinent in that it is still affecting many  people. There is the accounting game called Fair Student Funding that discriminates against veteran teachers based on individual salaries connected to individual school budgets. In the old days, budgets were centralized. Unity and it’s  aristocracy are aware of the unfairness of the situation and have done nothing to stop it. It allows for new teachers to be hired, who will hopefully pay dues, and the wandering labeled Lemons (ATRs) to continue to pay dues as well. That’s my reason for why I will never vote for Unity.
    That not withstanding, I am sure there are some good people in Unity, just as there may have been good people in the Nazi party. Could I vote for them? That’s a big NO. It’s an unbelievable rationalization that people who were deeply opposed to Unity and did great work are now for pragmatic reasons joining the ‘party’. 

    I had a conversation, and a minor epiphany recently with my daughter over a statue on Queens Boulevard called Civic Virtue that was quietly moved in the middle of the night to a cemetery, because it was deemed politically incorrect in its portrayal of the naked sirens of temptation. The statue was inaugurated in the 1920s. It represents civic virtue and the temptations that must be overcome. My daughter and I got into it deep conversation concerning it and it spring-boarded into American pragmatism and ethics. My contention was that pragmatism often trumps principles. We went back-and-forth from the decision to drop the bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to rationalizing bad and/or criminal behavior from those with mitigating circumstances. We really didn’t come to a agreement, but it changed my view on voting for individuals I think are doing a good job and running with Unity. I cannot vote for them.
      If we continually compromise our values and principles just because someone or some party does something good, even major, like parental leave - but also discriminate (and allow for the continued humiliation of entire portions of those they pretend to represent) we are doing a disservice, not only to ourselves, but to the larger issue of what our union is and what it should be. Unity represents everything that is wrong with the UFT. We appear to be able to have a say, but  we do not. The election is rigged, loyalty oaths are expected and exacted, and all elections open to retirees to vote. Retirees are actively seduced and vote at a much higher rate than the working rank-and-file. Most rank-and-file members have become so disenchanted with the Uft and with the stranglehold Unity has on it, that they just don’t vote. This of course is fine for those in power. There are many ways that the UFT could increase voters input - from electronic voting to eliminating retiree voting, but this is not in Unity’s best interest. Therefore, the entire election is basically a done deal. As it is a done deal we should not compromise our principles by voting for a party that has been part and parcel  of the demise of the teaching profession in New York City. When I say part and parcel, I don’t necessarily mean intentionally. Through Unity’s mixture of incompetence and indifference, the quality of life of most teachers in this city Is abysmal. Overcrowded classrooms, principals running amok, inexperienced young staffs, veteran teachers turned into wandering hobos, rampant student drug use, cell phones in the classroom, aberrant and violent behavior ignored, pulled metal detectors, and the constant push to reinvent the wheel via no curriculum and/or textbooks. Unity, when pushed, will voice a carefully scripted cry of outrage on behalf of all of us, but it’s part of a long running farce. Those that have taken on Unity, beat the odds and got into the inner-sanctum are now running with Unity. Do what you feel is best, but do so with open eyes.
     (P.S. Unity knows many ATRs are incensed.  They only care now because the election is looming. They will announce an ATR buyout this week.)

Friday, March 22, 2019

RePost: 74 - Committed to the End of the UFT, ATRs and Public Schools

  I've been reading anti-public school, pro- charter school nonsense in the NY Post all week. Nothing really new about any of it except that the articles have a hint of panic and desperation about them. The public is beginning to see these groups for what they are - parasites that want to feast on the blood of all taxpayers. Campbell Brown and company have all but disappeared, TFA is a laughing stock and Eva only rides her broom after midnight. Here's a repost written from my perspective as a vilified ATR. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

74 - Committed to the End of the UFT, ATRs and Public Schools 

  Yesterday I read Arthur’s blog the 74 and it’s vilification of a group of teachers, that comprise less than 1% of public school teachers. These teachers  are ATR’s - the most veteran group of teachers at the highest pay range. They are also some of the best teachers in the system. Most have been removed due to school closings in which the student population was manipulated to show a drastic downturn in academic and safety statistics.

     74 is a group that proposes to change education by privatizing it via funding from billionaires. They want what they want, when they want it. They and their cohorts recently had some parents go out and picket against ATRs being permanently placed in public schools. Why would parents who don’t have children in public schools care? We are much more qualified and have much more experience than their children’s teachers. (I would venture to say than most of their principals.) So why the attention on ATRs? The thing is that the same billionaires that are making headway into education are the very same people that broke up the mom-and-pop stores to create big box stores, used unethical means against competitors and have signs out around Thanksgiving asking for contributions from the customers for their employees Thanksgiving Day dinners. They don’t want unions - they don’t want long-term workers - they don’t want workers rights. They want profits and lots of them. If they can manipulate poor uneducated parents, that are their core group of supporters, then so be it. I met one of those parents recently, a school safety officer, and she described at length how her daughter was not doing well in a charter school. She told me she was continuously harassed until she removed her daughter and put her back into a public school. She didn't want to pull her out, but after they called her daughter inferior, she became enraged and removed her.  If the charters can remove students as they see fit it will increase their statistics, while decreasing the public schools'. The charter schools often tout their success rate as being astoundingly better than public schools.  They publicize that it is a moral imperative to increase charter schools, take public school space and eventually rid NYC of public schools all together. The thing is there are those pesky unions always throwing a wrench in the works. They and the minimum wage are an outrage!

    First things first, they will continually vilify veteran teachers - ATRs, who if placed back in the classroom are a threat to their long-term goals. Their long-term goal, in part is to make sure that there are no long-term teachers. Teaching will be a temporary job, not a career. The second long-term goal is to break any and all teacher unions. These unions will enforce commonsense humane laws and the requisite pay increases for those that have furthered their education and expertise. This is counterproductive to the profit margin. 74 is actually a Chucky Cheese like franchise operation (no offense to Chucky Cheese - it’s a place where a kid can be a kid - charter schools are places where kids can be dollar signs) that hopes to open more of the same. They should not be given any respect whatsoever from the media and the public should understand what they are about -money and only money;  kids are the means to that money. 

    I challenge any Charter School teacher(s) to teach a lesson to the same group of kids (any kids) under the same conditions as any ATR(s), with objective observers, to determine the superior educators. Film it and put it on YouTube or make it a new reality show. '74 vs. 55'

Monday, March 11, 2019

Repost - A Big Bronx Cheer for Mayoral Control of the Schools!

Here's a reprint from almost three years ago. Mulgrew has finally admitted discipline is out of control at schools - in sharp contrast to statistics that prove otherwise.  Don't minimize the importance of that. DeBlasio is up for mayoral control of the schools again. It's time for everyone to scream to the UFT to fight for the end of it. If the UFT won't do it, go down and voice your opinion. Good luck.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Big Bronx Cheer for Mayoral Control of the Schools!

Bill: "Please no autographs."
    Ah, yes - another year of Mayor Bill as head of the schools! What can we look forward to? (There will first, of course, be a long speech from Bill and the presumptive victory cry from the UFT.) Every action will be countered with a counterintuitive reaction. Increased violence in the schools - pull out metal detectors. Out of control classes - blame the teacher and reward the student. Inattentive students- let them have cellphones. Drug use and sales - ignore it. Failing schools- hire inexperienced administration and staff. Teacher shortage - create more ATRs. The list goes on and on. (The one good thing about him, and it's a big one, is that he doesn't want more charters. This has gained him the animos of Eva and her biggest fan Andy.) He has good intentions, poisoned by naïveté - but you know what they say about good intentions.
Andy:"I'll be watching you, Billy." 
    It seems like everywhere I go in NYC there are totally inexperienced people in charge. From the classrooms, to schools, to our union, to cab companies, to hospitals, to every facet of daily life here - you have to question putting your trust in anyone's hands. When I was young and inexperienced no one would hire me. There was an implicit obligation of those in charge to be responsible stewards of their chosen professions. No way was an inexperienced teacher going to be put in front of a class. No way were you going to be a cab driver without knowing how to drive(!). No way was a doctor going to diagnose and prescribe medication without meeting you and giving you a thorough examination. And no way was the UFT going to sell out their own members. Greed, a lack of ethics and the business model has severely damaged our quality of life. What's really scary is that those growing up in this generation don't know what they're missing, and that fact is a 'HUGE' part of the undermining of our society.

(Bronx Cheer: a sound of derision or contempt made by blowing through closed lips with the tongue between them; a raspberry. - Google)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Safety is an Illision, Just like Statistics

I've been reading recently that many teachers feel unsafe in their schools and classrooms - not from armed invaders, but from their students. As a  dean, supervising over 14 other deans, in a hellacious high school in the Bronx, I worked very hard to keep my school safe and keep dangerous students out of the classroom. I personally suspended at least 15 students a day and never heard a word of complaint from any of the predominately Black and Hispanic staff. This all changed shortly before Deblasio - we were told we'd have to stop suspending students because too many were Black and Hispanic. My school was 100% Black and Hispanic, but that didn't matter or was all that mattered depending on how you looked at it. We were told to do mediations, counseling, parental intervention and restorative justice. I was one of the few teachers and deans that was certified in restorative justice - all the way back in 2009. I had been practicing all of it, and none of it worked, including suspensions and restorative justice.

Many students loved being suspended, to the point they actually sought it out. Mediations sometimes worked, but the need for excitement and drama combined with DeBlasio's asinine policy of allowing cell phones into the schools destroyed that. Filming fight and sex scenes was de riguer. How about parental intervention? Those rarely worked as most times it was one of the foundational reasons for the problems we were experiencing with the offending students. Many had been taught to work out their problems with their fists, intimidation or a weapon if need be. I had to call in sets of parent(s) of  combatant students at different times, because there was the constant possibility of brawls between the opposing families. One counselor took it upon herself  to call the parents and students in for a talk at the same time. By the end of the day we had a full swat team in the building with 25 members of both families arrested. Of course, I was out on the street in the middle of it while all the kids were filming it from the windows on their phones for  World Star Video and YouTube. This wasn't that unusual for me - the only reason I remember it is because everyone was arrested and they all forgot a frightened little four year old boy, crying in the middle of the street who watched his mother attack a cop - I'm fairly certain she broke the cop's nose. I had my secretary calm the little boy down, but he went into foster care. It was heartbreaking on many levels. Counseling rarely worked because we had too few counselors, they were completely shell shocked and it required a commitment of work and time from the student and counselor. I did have minimal success with restorative justice. It does work with students that have a modicum of civility and reasonableness. In most suburban schools it would work well, in the inner city it was seen as a joke by the thugs that would play along for the well intending dean, teacher or peer. You see there is that assumption that students are reasonable, well functioning people that may have had a bad day. That assumption was, for many of the 2500 students, in my particular warehouse, false. Sure, there were some great kids but they were bullied, sexually harassed and shouted over in almost class - I did what I could do to stop it. There was never an incident too trivial or large to throw a teacher into a rage and that rage was almost always directed at the deans.

 All this is now an issue because it lands squarely in the teachers lap. There are no deans or if there are they do little or nothing. If a student is removed, he/she is brought back in less than five minutes. There are no more SAVE rooms, although Mulgrew did put them back into the new contract. Most schools don't have the room because of shared facilities due to the campus buildings being broken up and having to unbelievably share space with for profit charter schools. (Again, this is unconstitutional  and the UFT needs to fight it.) These teachers are between a rock and hard place. While at the end of that large school's existence, with 14 deans under me, I experienced it also. We had students that verbally attacked, threatened and physically attacked us. The new 27 year old principal refused to report it, suspend or call the police. I had every dean call the police each time we were in danger and take out orders of protection against one particular dangerous low life. I quickly became very unpopular with the principal, but he respected me. This forced the principal to remove this criminal from day school and put him into YABC.  (Expulsion is the only thing that works, and it works well for Eva.) The order of protections weren't , like this student told everyone, out of my fear - I did it because I realized I might have to defend myself on the street. I didn't want to be arrested or lose my job for doing so - especially when it would be his word against mine. The POS was smart enough to know he'd be locked up for threatening  me. Sure enough six moths later he was going to YABC in the evening at the same school and I was walking to the store for a coffee. He started whispering to the girl next to him while staring at me and laughing. I broke out in a cold sweat and prayed to G-d to help me to not knock him out. The next week during Regents he was alone in the hallway and I walked right up to him, tried to look him in the eyes (he wouldn't meet my gaze) and told him what room to go to. I thought about telling him to suck my dick like he'd screamed in my face hundreds of times before, but I wanted him to know he meant nothing to me. (The first day of school the next year, someone took a lead pipe to his head at the front door.) Do what you are given the authority to do, don't allow yourself to be provoked and remember we all have rights. Pick up that cell phone and call the police if you have to. Don't expect the administration , deans, other teachers, students or the UFT to help you - help yourself. As an ATR I've seen several teachers assaulted and the student go back to the same classroom the next day with absolutely no consequences. Don't be one of those teachers.