Monday, February 18, 2019

Florida - A Delight that Dulls the Senses

I just got back from Florida after spending several weeks of fun in the sun with my best friend Boca Harry. I have a pretty good tan and an extra fifteen pounds. It was a very pleasant diversion, but I'm now paying the price via a bad cold and a potential Weight Watchers membership. Ah, the stress of retirement. I went to almost every large city in Florida. Everywhere I went I ran into former teachers and even a few poor devils that are still working. Florida teachers make about half what we do at 22 years in. They also have to teach six classes and can be dismissed for any real or preceived infraction.
The retirees I met down there made me feel like I was back in the Bronx of 1965. They also made feel like a teenager, especially in Sarasota - where I didn't meet one person under eighty - G-d bless them all.

My last day in Boca, I met a teacher that told me Mulgrew is coming down next week to talk to them. I asked her how much Mulgrew was paying them to attend and she replied the retirees have to pay to see him! I nearly spit out my corned beef and rye. She said they expected a big turnout, as Mulgrew fights for each and everyone of them. At that point, I had become completely dumbfounded - like when I hear people say the the same thing about Trump. I studied her closely to see if she was pulling my leg, but alas she was serious. She asked me to make sure to remember to vote for Mulgrew and the Unity Party. That was really too much. That is how people snap. I got up, thanked her for the Mulgrew warning and got my ass back to freezing New York.

There should be a ban on retirees voting in elections. I know of no other union that allows it. It's ridiculous on a variety of levels. The non-Unity caucuses are barred from attaining the phone numbers and addresses of retirees, while Unity and Mulgrew directly targets them. Retirees are voting at a much higher percentage than active members - which means retirees have a huge impact. I don't have a problem with that per se, but there should be equitable recourse for the non-Unity parties. Unity by passes this issue because retirees aren't covered under the Taylor Law; therefore, the UFT/Unity doesn't have to share the retirees' information with the opposition. Where's the fairness, the democracy or ethics in that? Ah, well who ever said the UFT was democratic?

Friday, February 1, 2019

Vote! Vote! Vote! (and sign these petitions)

Dear Brothers and Sisters (in and out of hell),
      As you may or may not know there are UFT elections coming up. These elections are so rigged they could be seriously compared to a 1980s Soviet republic's farce and the UFT's would win as the most un-democratic. So why bother? For me, and perhaps for you, it's a way to exercise the very limited voice we have. As a retiree, I still have LSD like flashbacks of my years in over 75 different high schools in all levels of Hades, so even though I've left, something still remains. I feel mostly sadness for all the lies and bullshit that are fed to the public, the parents and to us about the state of our schools. No one gives a crap about the students - it's all an elaborate charade. Make no mistake, the UFT is 100% complicit. Instead of celebrating that graduation rates are up, Mulgrew should hold a press conference and tell the truth. (You know who else knows the truth? Eva and her gang of money hungry demons, and that truth will eventually be used against us. I'm getting off topic.) I am still allowed to vote in upcoming elections and plan on doing so.
    I was hoping the different caucuses could get together as a united front. I was, of course, saddened to hear that they didn't. The one caucus that has always kept it together and helped the most underrepresented group, ATRs, is Solidarity. Solidarity has always had my support because they have consistently brought our issues to the forefront and have helped us as a whole and individually. Even if you aren't going to vote for Solidarity, I am asking that you sign their petition, so there is at least the appearance of democracy and the wonderful opportunity to say 'FUCK YOU, Mulgrew'.
   Thank you, time is of the essence, please follow this link as it has all the petitions and directions, and please share it

PS - The easiest way to do this is to take a screen shot of the signature page, then open it via your photos, then hit edit and markup to sign and then send it back.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Observations outside the Classroom


     First, let me wish you all a healthy and happy new year. I hope you are all at peace and enjoying life. Unfortunately, many seem very unhappy. I think we are the only people in the world that expect happiness. That's a fundamental problem that affects most of us with disappointment. There seems to be tremendous rage wherever I look. Nothing new about anger, but what's new is the level of it and the demand for us to plant our flag in one camp or another. Trump's election has solidified this once unstated pressure. When we allow others to classify us, we are allowing them to make subtle and important choices for us. We are allowing others to decide who we are.

       All of us have probably asked, at one time or another, 'Who am I?' That's a question that has to be answered by you. We are unique individuals and should remember this. I believe the visceral anger that seems to be rapidly growing is really anger at ourselves. I don't allow anyone to speak for me. What they are doing, in attempting to do so, is minimizing us. Of course, there are times and places where we may feel we have no choice, but we always do. The choice may be hard, in that there are consequences involved, and we have to be prepared for them. Sometimes, the choices will be dangerous and have to be weighed carefully. When doing this I've always considered my family first. Fear keeps many of us locked in a job, a relationship, a religion or even a location. The thing is we only get the one life and the clock is ticking. Change is often good, even if it's sometimes painful. Remember it's OK to make a mistake - just do something and ask yourself, 'Can I live with myself if I don't try?'

      Secondly, I've noticed a general decline in everything. I really do believe this is greatly influenced by Trump. I never thought a president could have that level of influence, but Trump does. From the lack of civility to the lack of vocabulary, he has had a devasting effect on the American psyche. People either love him (no matter what) or want him dead. The thing is both sides are so entrenched in their certainty of being morally correct that humanity and democracy are disregarded outright. The opinions and beliefs of others are maligned, stereotyped and dismissed. No one listens to others with different opinions; no one apologizes, and no one cares about the other person because he/she is in a different group. This pertains to political parties, denominations, race, sexual identity, economics, and all facets of life that can be classified. What's especially egregious is the now prevalent tendency to insult and even become violent with those that we disagree with. I have a good friend that was openly and nastily ridiculed by people he just met at a party, because he said he loved the composer Philip Glass's work. Most of us react in kind and there ensues a big argument or even a fight. My buddy just got up and left, but he's still angry and rightfully so. It was no surprise to me when I heard on the news today that there was a guy walking his small dog on a leash that asked a passerby to leash their dog. The passerby punched him in the face; the guy fell and cracked his skull, dying.

    Lastly, I have to admit I don't miss my time in hell. I wish only the best for those of you that find yourselves in there. Try to remember nothing lasts forever and 'iron bars do not a jail make.' Cheers.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Light at the End of the Tunnel, pt. 2

     I finally made my way through that dark tunnel and am on the other side. My other retired teacher buddies tell me 'you won't even miss it and you won't care anymore'. I don't miss being a babysitting ATR, not even one iota. I honestly can't say one good thing about it. The teachers stuck in the ATR pool are living lives of quiet desperation. That's not to say I haven't seen many appointed teachers living with the same internal and seemingly eternal scream. Many ATRs and teachers discuss their careers like convicts in a hellish jail. "How much time you have in?", "When you getting out?", "Keep your head down - don't let them notice you!" "Don't complain about anything, especially if you're in the right." "Don't trust anyone - especially the union!" "You need a good lawyer at the ready at all times!" Even with all that nonsense I do miss real teaching at a real school. Teaching is supposed to be a fulfilling career, not something that makes you want to jump out the window or start experimenting with hard drugs. Remembering that is important - getting to the point where you can walk is now all important - it's the only thing left to the ATR that he or she can control. Leaving the ATR forever is a joyous thing. Some told me I was lucky. It wasn't luck, I earned my retirement. Some tell me I wouldn't  have my retirement without the union, but there would be no union without us and our decades of dues. Both my parents were/are staunch union supporters and Democrats. I'm still both but I am disenchanted. I think it's extremely important to have a union, but if the union continues to alienate and discriminate among its minority rank and file members like ATRs, what good is it? If everyone at 'our' union takes a loyality oath and votes in unison, what good is that? If every UFT president is a pick from the former president, (regardless of experience, credentials or affinity to the position), what good is that? Even after saying that I will continue to pay dues and vote for those that I preceive as willing to try to change the UFT. The caucus stuff is ridiculous - look at the individual and vote for the best person. The fighting between these anti-Unity groups only insures that Unity and its deeply un-democratic stranglehold of power will continue. The time to do something is now, otherwise, for you and your fellow educators, that light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train. Cheers, Happy Hanukkah and a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thank G-d Almighty I'm Free at Last!

   Another Thanksgiving! Can you believe it? Where does the time go? Is it your favorite holiday? It's not mine but I certainly have enjoyed it. When I was single, back in the Stone Age, I would spend every Thanksgiving Eve watching the balloons being blown up and then doing a tour of all my favorite hangouts. We'd start at the Dublin House in the west 70s, then a surf bar on Columbus, then Teachers or Fugiama Mama for a late supper, then onto Bainbridge Ave in the Bronx - which had the most bars per block in the country at the time. Later it would be an after hours jazz joint back in Chelsea or a dive in Kingsbridge Heights. Those old friends are mostly scattered to the four winds, but not forgotten. Once I settled down and became a teacher, Thanksgiving became a respite from exhaustion and a much more traditional celebration. Happiness in different forms. Always happily married to my wife and for many years to teaching, but certainly not to the ATR pool. Those early idyllic days are long gone and I haven't thought about them in years - but I am now. I find myself free again. Free from the oppression, anger, depression and despair. I just retired. No more bar hopping or shivering on the West Side, but I'm having just as much fun. I highly recommend it. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

I'll Be Voting No on the Latest Joke

I read through the material enclosed with the ballot. My natural tendency was to line my cat's litter box, but I fought the inclination. However, I still came to the same reaction after reading everything carefully and researching the items that weren't presented.

First, let me say there are many different individuals with different wants and needs that this proposed contract tries to placate. Overall it does so inadequately or not at all. For those that see money as the foremost appeal of teaching - this contract does not meet inflation. For those that want less observations - that the rest of the state already has and have not had to negotiate for - this is an insulting enticement. In other words, it should not have had to have been negotiated for. For those that can't teach because of out of control students - all schools will have a SAVE room. SAVE rooms were mandated at least 5 years ago and slowly disappeared because of the scarcity of space, due to shared school locations from dismantled large schools. So again we negotiate for what we were already supposed to have. Then there are class sizes. If the UFT is not going to enforce our already contractual limits in this regard, why are they presenting it again? Appearances? (It shows impotency not strength.)

Secondly, paras rights are protected. They're due paying members, so why weren't they protected to begin with (?) - that they will be now is a good thing - but it's basically the UFT tooting its own horn for what it should have been doing all along. For me this is the only valuable item in the proposed contract.  How about new teachers that can be discontinued for wearing white after Labor Day? Where are their protections? Not addressed. How about veteran teachers that have high salaries that drain individual school budgets and as such have a target on their backs (a la Fair Student Funding)? Not a word. Those teachers, if they beat their trumped up charges will become ATRs. What about ATRs? That vile cesspool where the most experienced, older and highest paid teachers are tossed with the hope of drowning in despair? Well folks, they will be hired if there isn't anyone left, on the face of globe, that hasn't been hired for the particular position as of Sept. 1st. These positions are actively recruited for from April to September - so the only positions open will be ones that even starving twenty two year olds from Boise won't take. Hey, but don't worry  the UFT has you covered - ATRs can apply for small group literacy. LOL! SAVE room coverage and literacy in one full swoop.

Thirdly, undefined, undisclosed healthcare givebacks will ensure that this contract will cost us more than it will compensate us. I'm sure there are other items hidden in this contract that are only inferred but have the ability to greatly damage us - from extra pay (for the best teachers!) for Bronx high need schools, to greater distance learning, to having to get classes approved for your 30 credits over your Masters.

I'm voting NO.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Heartache of Labor Day (Reposted -9/4/15)

It's Labor Day again and I find myself thinking about not only what it means for us as teachers, but what the UFT has descended into. We're different than most workers in that we don't break our backs doing manual labor, like many of our fathers and grandfathers did. Perhaps you come from such a family? Seeing the type of work they did helped me decide to get a higher education. They struggled to make a better life, and started unions to help protect workers from the abuses that were common place - low wages, dangerous working conditions, long hours, no vacations, six or seven day work weeks ... the list goes on and on.  They were beaten, imprisioned, fined, fired and died starting unions. Can you imagine the people running our union - Mulgrew and Weingarten doing any of that? Can you imagine any of us doing it? The UFT Poo-Bahs that are marching at the head of the Labor Day Parade had better start to remember the rich history and obligations they have inherited and must honor. Mulgrew and his toadies have not done right by ATRs, that are overwhelmingly veteran middle-aged teachers that have been turned into babysitters. They have not stood up and fought to end Fair Student Funding, the accounting scheme that individualizes school budgets - in order to make the experienced higher salaried teacher persona non grata. That means every working teacher has the likelihood of becoming an ATR. Working conditions for all teachers has declined markedly since the Weingarten endorsed 2005 contract. Teachers are fed up and want change. That may mean the ability to strike someday. The UFT won't even speak out on that right or endorse a gubernatorial candidate, Cynthia Nixon, that will fight for this right. The UFT doesn't want change and they certainly don't want the right to strike. It's leaders don't teach and haven't for many years. They are removed from the classroom and from reality. It's up to us to wake them up or keep getting abused.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Heartache of Labor Day 

 For the past 25 years I've spent my Labor Day in a U.S. Open trance. I watch it from the moment it starts until it's over. It's the end of my summer vacation and as such is a mix of melancholy, anxiety and dread. The mix of those ingredients has changed considerably over the years. During the beginning of my teaching career the anxiety was much stronger. When I was in a terrible school, the dread was palpable. I remember watching Jimmy Connors play Patrick McEnroe late into the night, hoping the match would never end. If it could go on forever, so would my summer vacation. It was Connors 39th birthday and I remember screaming for him. If he could win, we could all hang onto our youth for a little while longer. As an ATR I no longer feel the pangs of anxiety or dread. Indeed, I no longer feel like a teacher. Now as my children are growing up, the melancholy is stronger. A cocktail that is very bittersweet. I sacrificed a lot during those years for my family and my students. I've had some success on both fronts. Labor Day is a day of rest and recognition for all workers. Enjoy your labor, for there can be great fulfillment from a job well done.