Thursday, February 26, 2015

Media Hammers Teachers Again -Why? You Know Why.

Just turned on the TV. Every channel is blasting "TEACHERS ARE PLAYING HOOKY -- 16% ABSENT 11 OR MORE DAYS!!" . A little later a report on how DiBlasio wants control of the schools and is attempting to thwart Gov. Cuomo. 16% is not a lot with all the snow and terrible weather we had last year. (Couple that with everything closed down but schools.) The battle is on!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Gong Hey Fat Choy- Happy New Year! It's the Year of the Sheep (UFT)!

I had lunch with a recently retired UFT delegate on Saturday. We endened up hanging out for about 15 hours - talking, listening to music and playing backgammon . George related his experience of going out of state and voting on union matters. As a highly ethical and intellectual person, I was surprised to see him become agitated and emotional when speaking of his final days as a delegate (and teacher).
George traveled to an assembly meeting and shared a room with another delegate. He was excited to be part of intellectual debates and voting for his school's members wishes. Items were discussed and George attempted to vote according to his own directives. He was told that he could not. All members were to vote as a block and he had to vote accordingly. He questioned why the traveling, meetings, expense and purpose. They were told to follow Mulgrew's directives as a unified force. There was no tolerance for dissension. George voted the way he wanted. What happened to that dissenting vote?

That autumn began an extremely difficult year in which George was targeted by his AP and principal. He decided he had enough and retired.

George was recently invited to the Hilton by the UFT and asked to support certain requests from the union. Certain perks were offered and promised. Retirees out of the trenches are actively seduced as they vote in elections, but have no real involvement in the day to day concerns of active teachers and their respective schools. As such they are a valuable resource. George told the head honchos what he thought of them and how he had been treated as a teacher -"But George, you now have a chance to make a real difference for teachers and education!"

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How can Bronx Public High Schools be Improved?

I've been reading about all the changes to our discipline code ( basically no suspensions), cell phones in the classroom, many ( especially new) school buildings with no metal detectors. I have mixed feelings about it. If I walk into my teenager's public school in Westchester, it's the same as what's being proposed. No metal detectors, cell phones, peer mediation and justice. It works. There is where the (future) similarity ends. This particular city is not wealthy. It is however fully integrated. The kids that come over to my house to study are Filipino, African American, White and Bi -Racial. Most have two parents at home ( with some notable exceptions), but all have parent(s) who want their children to succeed. The parents who aren't killing themselves working to pay their bills get involved in some way with the school. The kids themselves are very motivated and competitive with their grades. (Many parents, but not all, hate common core.)

All of this is in sharp contrast to what I see in the Bronx. I've taught thousands of students over my 24 years. I have never taught a White student. When I tell people outside the Bronx that, they shake their heads, laugh (or perhaps don't believe me). "Not even a stray Albanian?", "No." Many of the students I've taught over the years ( and am very proud of) have admitted the only diverse people they came into contact with, as students,were their teachers. This bubble like environment creates stereotypes and causes many problems for our students and society. (This happens in any school that isn't integrated -At NY Private Schools, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside .)  I don't see any involvement from parents in any Bronx high school I've been to. Why is that? Do principals want parents in their schools - other than for open parent teacher night? (I asked several parents their feelings about common core- none of them knew what it was.) I know Bronx parents love their children. Many Bronx parents are poor, have limited educations, and don't know how to help their kids succeed. I believe everything that DiBlasio and Farina is doing is well intentioned and should be done - but integrate the schools, get parent involvement, help parents with classes or study groups and have great schools again. Our schools need to be diverse and integrated. One last point, if Ruben Diaz Sr. cared about the people of the Bronx he would try to facilitate that, not blame the NYCDOE for sending the Bronx the worst teachers. (I suppose he's looking to curry favor with Cuomo after endorsing Astorino.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Andy, Mike and Randi - A Parody

Andy: I've come to collect. You know what I want.

Mike: Will I get to keep my minions and some semblance of authority?

Andy: Of course, Mike. Put up a little fight to make it look good.

Randi: How about Tweeting!? You'll love it!

Mike: What the hell (sorry Andy) is that?!

Randi: Just get some of your followers to say they are against whatever Andy wants.

Andy: Do you think anyone is stupid enough to fall for that?

Randi: What are you kidding?! They're teachers! I got them to sign off on the 2005 contract!

Andy: That was beautiful work, Randi. But what have you done for me lately?

Randi: Well, I have opened up NYC public schools for receivership by allowing it in Massachusetts.

Andy: Interesting. How can I get that to work for me?

Randi: Just let the schools go into receivership, terminate everyone and give it to whomever you wish.

Andy: One of my biggest supporters will love it. Randi, once again I have to say, you are the best!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Atlas Shrugged


Harry: Atlas, you are wise and worldly. Give me some advice. If I get called for an interview, what should I do?

Atlas: Do you want to be subjected to an expedited dismissal process? Danielson, Common Core, constant observations and an imitation position?

Harry: What do you mean imitation?

Atlas: Provisional. You're thrown back to the wolves at the end of the year. That's assuming they haven't already thrown you back with 1 strike toward dismissal before then.

Harry: But Atlas, I want to teach! I feel like my profession has been stolen from me.

Atlas: It has, but there's no reason for you to allow them to steal your livelihood as well.

Harry: This ATR bullshit is driving me nuts. What's the point of it?

Atlas: They can't fire us, so they want us to quit. The ATRs who want positions will wander; the ATRs who want to wander will be force placed. In September of 2016, ATRs will be placed in failing schools that will be put into receivership, so that they can easily be  terminated  with the rest of those staffs. This will stop the creation of new ATRs and get rid of the existing ones.

Harry: So maybe I should take a job now and hope they keep me?

Atlas shrugged.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

UFT To Retirees: Happy Valentine's Day!

The UFT gave out what they would like perceived as a Valentine's Day gift to the retirees. Not really a gift, in that it was owed and then paid for by active members. It is an example of how bereft of integrity the union has become. Is it borrowing from Peter to pay Paul? Is borrowing the correct word?
Somethings are more important than money- fairness, loyality and truth. Most teachers I know don't care about the money, it's the principle. Members should have been asked. I suppose the UFT assumed we'd refuse and just took it anyway. Then why not let the retirees wait a little while longer? Assurances were made and there are elections next spring (2016). Do retirees vote in union elections? Yes, yes they do. Why do retirees have such clout during elections? I'll let you come to your own conclusions.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Is the Uptick in Anti-Teacher News Stories a Coordinated Strategy?

In perusing the NY Daily News online  today, I was amazed at the amount of recent vitriolic articles about teachers. Some of them seem to be created just to cause negative public opinion. For example, the article
More retired teachers are pocketing six-figure pensions, would have the general public believe all teachers are grossly overpaid. This is not a news article. This is research project with a specific goal. In another article, Special ed teacher at Queens school punched 10-year-old boy: cops, the individual teacher is singled out for public inspection and judgement. How can a rational person defend these monsters? That's what the next article is about, City Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa criticizes Cuomo's education plans. They are presenting Farina as public opinion fodder for not agreeing with Cuomo's plans to eviscerate us. If she went along with him, she would be heralded as a reincarnation of Queen Victoria, instead of an old granny.

There seems to be a definite agenda going on here. It smacks of propaganda and is biased. Why? The most logical interpretation would be that it sells papers and is what people seem to want to read about. Some teachers believe there is a coordinated conspiracy. Do people hate us? Do people think we are rich pedophiles, who do nothing? Most people do not, but that may be changing. There's a lot of money to made on privatizing education. If teachers are viewed as monsters, this market can be quickly opened up. The Governor is on board, the public is being brainwashed, and the teacher's union is sinking in quicksand (while trying to tweet itself out).

There are billions of dollars and 1.1 million students at stake. How will it play out?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Are All Meaningful Resolutions Denied by the UFT?

It seems that every time a proposed resolution (that many feel strongly about and that will have a big impact), is presented to the UFT, it is denied. The latest being a resolution against high stake testing. I understand the union's position , but if a majority of teachers want this (and I believe the figure would be close to 100%), isn't the union obligated to pass it? If the union is protecting us from ourselves, shouldn't they have stopped the presentation of the 2005 teachers contract? What about ATRs having their own chapter? Denied.

I have supported the union for over 20 years. All (!) of my former colleagues are ATRs. When I enter a large campus building there are 5 or 6 Chapter Leaders that are untenured, afraid, and completely ignorant of the rights of those they are supposed to be representing. One told me, the union can't protect him. He's right, and no one seems to notice or care. I believe the union has to start being proactive instead of reactive. Use strategy and planning. If the union wants to quiet dissension (from the rank and file), it needs to instill pride instead of fear, fairness instead of inequality, and discussion instead of silence. Telling us to shut up because we are being attacked is not the way to accomplish that goal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

ATR Guru Predictions as told to an ATR Neophyte

ATR Neo: "Thank you for your lessons. What's coming down the pike, oh gifted one?"

ATR Guru: "Specific questions, please. I will answer them directly - I don't work for the UFT."

ATR Neo: "What's going to happen with Cuomo's anti-teacher agenda?"

ATR Guru: "It's going nowhere. Cuomo's priorities have dramatically changed."

ATR Neo: "What's going to happen with ATRs?"

ATR Guru: "In June of 2016 a substantial buyout package will be offered to ATRs. For those that don't accept, they will be placed for a year at a time at the neediest schools - it will be very close to a waking, walking nightmare."

ATR Neo: " I have 10 years to go! What can I do?!"

ATR Guru: "After DiBlasio leaves, the crap will hit the fan. You need an exit strategy. The system we have now will not be here in 5 to 10 years."

ATR Neo: "This is terrible! Is this an inevitable event or a possibility?"

ATR Guru: "It pains me to say it, but it is inevitable. It is a direct effect of the actions of wealthy entrepreneurs, their media allies and the 2005 teacher contract." "Teaching as an honorable profession will return after an entire generation of students are lost. That will be 15 years from now."

ATR Neo: "Give me some hope, Guru!"

ATR Guru: "You have to remember this is not your fault! Ride it out for as long as you can, but don't become devastated when it's over. Don't waste your time and money with administration classes, there's way too many of them. Look for other opportunities, you'll find them."

ATR Neo: "Thank you, I guess."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lesson Three - A Scene From the Teachers Lounge

New ATR, Atlas (circa 2012) : (entering teachers lounge, three teachers present- 25 year old newbie, 60 year old newbie, 10 year ATR) "Good morning everyone."

All: (in unison) "Good morning! Who are you?"

Atlas: " I'm Atlas, an ATR."

25 year old newbie: " Oh, you look like that actor who died recently, Patrick something. What's your favorite movie?

Atlas: " I love High School High with Jon Lovitz. What your favorite movie and what's your name by the way?"

25 year old newbie: " Call me Sharon. Basic Instinct is my favorite movie."

60 year old newbie: "You know what I find disgusting? Middle aged men flirting with girls young enough to be their daughters!"

Atlas: "I'm surprised you're not an ATR. How long have you been teaching and what's your name?"

60 year old newbie: " I'm Rosie Parker, but you may call me Ms. Parker. I've been teaching 3 years."

Atlas: "Do you enjoy teaching?"

Ms. Parker: "Of course. The schools only hire the best. This may be hard for you to believe, but I'm 60 years old. Most people think I'm 30." (She looks about 80.)

Atlas: " Well I have 3 masters degrees. I have a Who's Who in teaching for 10 years in a row and I can't get an interview. So I guess you can retire when your 77, if you want to put 20 years in?"

Ms. Parker: "You ATRs are soooo lucky." She gives Atlas a hateful glare, gets up and leaves.

10 year ATR: "Hi, I'm Berly Stess. I've been an ATR for 10 years and don't feel very lucky. (Then in machine gun English fires off an astonishing number of questions, many very personal.) How long have you been an ATR? Where have you been? Who's your ATR supervisor? Did you have a bowel movement today? I only ask because I've been here for 2 months and haven't got a bathroom key. Do you drive in? Do you like the new rotation? Would you prefer to be teaching?" (Ms. Parker re- enters the room, hanging on every word.)

Atlas: (Doesn't respond for several seconds; recognizing the minefield that has just presented itself.)
"I love teaching and miss it. I don't have a restroom key, ethier."

Sharon: "I'll show you where it is and open the door for you."

Atlas: (Thinking, I have to get the hell out of here, but not like this!) "Thank you, but I don't have to go." ( Ms. Parker looks like a cat ready to pounce on a bird.)

Beryl: (Looking like she's going to cry.) "I'm a great teacher. I was excessed 10 years ago and no one will hire me. Let me show you some of my art work."

Atlas: Looking over the artwork - "It's beautiful, really."
(Beryl runs out of the room crying with Ms. Parker running after her.)

Sharon: "What was that all about?"

An unknown lady enters the room and asks, "What the hell is going on in here?" "You disgusting ATRs come to my school and upset my staff!?" "This room is filthy! Get a mop, Mr. ATR and mop it!"
(Beryl and Ms. Parker re-enter the room.)

Beryl: "He didn't do anything, I'll mop the floor."

Unknown lady: "Good, but that won't be nessasary. Mr ATR can do it."

Atlas: (Getting up to leave, vowing to himself never to return.) "Sorry, but I have 5 periods in row and the bell's about to ring."

Friday, February 6, 2015

Lesson 2 : Navigating the Treacherous Waters of the Teachers' Lounge

ATR Guru 
ATR Neophyte

ATR Guru: Where do you spend your time outside of  babysitting?

Neo: "The teachers lounge, of course."

ATR Guru: "The worst possible place! It's a shark infested feeding ground and you're for lunch!"

Neo: "Why shouldn't I go there? I'm a teacher and most of the time it's my only option."

ATR Guru: "If you have any options, stay out of there. You'll have three types of teachers there. Type one will be the 25 year old newbie. Type two will be the 60 year old newbie. Type three will be the 10 year ATR. All them are reincarnated sharks."

Neo: "So what's the problem? I'll just hang out with them and get a feel for the school."

ATR Guru: "Remember Lesson 1 : Only the Invisible Survive! If you are in a room with them make yourself invisible! Always carry headphones! Keep at least three sets, even if you don't own an electronic device! Bring a book and sit in a corner."

 Neo: "Please explain the perils of social interaction there."

ATR Guru: " That will be for Lesson 3!"

Monday, February 2, 2015

ATR Survivor - Lesson 1 - Only the Invisible Survive


                                                                          ATR Guru

ATR Neophyte: "How, Oh ATR Guru, can I survive in these dens of inequity, when so many want my head?"

ATR Guru: "Make yourself invisible. Draw no attention to yourself. Be professional and courteous. Dress casually. Choose the correct picture for the ATR who wants to survive.


ATR Neophyte: "Newt, obviously. He's very well dressed, well spoken and likes the public eye. If he were an ATR he could last forever."

ATR Guru: "You poor deluded fool. The administration would think he was a plant from OSI or was going to take one of their jobs. All the 25 year old admins would feel threatened by his knowledge and he would be sent into the girls restroom to check if any toilet paper was needed."

ATR Neophyte: "Then it's got to be the relaxed gentleman with his cell phone!"

ATR Guru : "Fool!" "A slob like that will create a toxic mix of disgust, envy and anger with everyone he comes into contact with. He will rarely leave the teacher's lounge and will be a sitting duck."

ATR Neophyte: "Then it's got to be the middle aged friendly guy! But why oh Guru!?"

ATR Guru: "The guy presents no threat. He looks like the young teachers father and the older teachers husband. He also seems friendly and happy - which can be dangerous, but that's for lesson 2!"

Sunday, February 1, 2015

ATR Heaven

"Mr. ATR, is there a heaven?"
"Yes, there is."
"Can you please describe it for me?"
"It's a school where you are treated respectfully, by staff and students. A place where you have a place to put your belongings and sit down to eat lunch. It's a place where you have a restroom key. A parking lot is also available. Most of all its a place where you can actually teach students in your subject area."
"Why would anyone leave?"
"We have no choice; we are but a ball on the roulette wheel. I should mention that you can be in an ATR heaven, no matter where you are."
"By training your mind only towards the positive, asking for help from God and remembering all is transitory. Peace to all."