Monday, March 30, 2015

A Victory For the UFT!

Andy: Mike, I want to thank you and Randi for all your hard work. I could never have gotten all I wanted without both of you.
Mike: Andy, this was a victory for all of us!

Randi: All except the teachers! (laughing) They really deserve everything they get.

Mike: That's a little harsh, Randi. Remember they voted us in!

Randi: I've always said you're smarter than you look!

Andy: Enough of this nonsense! I want a list of failing schools to put into receivership! I want to personally give those teachers their pink slips.

Eva: Andy, you make me swoon with delight when you talk like that!

Andy: I told you you'd get everything you wanted, didn't I?

Eva: Yes, just make sure you get rid of the email!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The UFT's Latest Insult


    There was a news release  on "sub-par teachers" also known as ATRs last Friday, A little creative manipulation of the total ATRs (don't count those temporarily placed; use the lower numbers to make the statistics of those leaving seem higher, and don't give the figures of those with Unsatisfactories- or anyone's age, race, gender or pay grade statistics) and we have proof positive that these abject creatures are both inferior and leaving. This of course was accomplished via counseling. What type of counseling is this (if Bloomberg couldn't do it with all his demoralizing tactics)? I'll let you come to your own conclusions.

     One would think the UFT would be outraged at this statistical dog and pony show. No, Mulgrew just stated Bloomberg created a mess that would take years to fix. (As in until you retire or are counseled out.) A disguised acquiescence that totally ignores our rights as people and UFT members. Mulgrew is paid to advocate for his members, not use them for brownie points with a new mayor.

     It gets worse. The ATR pool is close to the 2,000 mark and we have one representative. We should have one chapter leader for every 60 ATRs. So the politically correct, progressive, fair-minded UFT has deigned to allow us to run for chapter leader (in whatever school we find ourselves in during the first week of May). I guess they are so used to dealing with their sycophants that they think everyone will concede that this accomplishes their legal requirement. Why would anyone vote for a chapter leader that will be leaving in a couple of weeks? Even if he/she were voted in, how could the CL duties be upheld? All ATRs should be allowed to vote in their own numeric district for an ATR Chapter Leader.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Laments of Atlas

Harry: Atlas, give me your take on schools, kids and anything else you feel like talking about.

Atlas: Sure. I think kids and people are basically the same as they always have been.

Harry: What?! I was never like these kids!

Atlas: Sure you were, but you had a mother and maybe a father who would kick your ass if you got out of line. When I was in school the teachers would kick our ass, then we'd go home and get another beating. Now the kids are beating up the teacher and the parent is coming in to finish the job.

Harry: Yes, it's true. But, their slovenly appearance, obscene music, lack of manners!

Atlas: Come on, you still dress like a slob! You still listen to Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. And when was the last time you treated a student like a person?

Harry: Atlas, you go to far! Fortunately, I have a tough skin and forgive you. So, you think things are the same as when we were kids?!

Atlas: No. Parents are disenfranchised from the schools. Technology has made cruel behavior easier and less likely to be changed. Real consequences in schools are not immediately there for students. It is however, there upon entering society.

Harry: What can be done?

Atlas: The rights of the kids who want to learn should take precedence over those who don't. Basics should be brought back. Civility, penmanship, and home economics.

Harry: Seriously! You're nuts.

Atlas: Ask a kid to tell time from a clock. Ask him to sign his name. Ask him if he can cook a simple meal or do a load of wash. Ask him what he'd do if there was an old lady standing on the bus and he was sitting. You may be very surprised.

Harry: I have to begrudgingly agree with you. Society seems to getting worse and worse.

Atlas: The fall of the Roman Empire was more gradual than ours. The Dark Ages will return.

Harry: I think they're already here!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What Can We Learn from the MTA?

Last year the MTA was determined to cut down on the enormous amount of trash accumulating in train stations. It looks bad, smells, attracts rats, flies and roaches. Most of us would probably consider more tickets, advertising and trash cans.  The MTA decided to eliminate trash cans, explaining most people would just take the trash with them . Last week while watching the news on TV, the reporters were all lamenting the rat population explosion in the subways. While they were filming I noticed an awaiting passenger using her foot as a broom to push a heap of trash onto the tracks so she could have a place to stand. None of the news stations mentioned  the lack of trash cans as the cause of the growing rat populations.

In recent years there has been a lot of bad and criminal behavior from the student population. It looks bad (for teachers, schools, administration, parents, and students), attracts criticism (from the media, charter schools, and those who want to sell education) and is politically inconvenient (when correlated with racial and socioeconomic factors). Many of us would consider counseling, more accountablity, and specialized schools. (Some may like the Clockwork Orange behavioral modification solution.) Now there will be basically no suspensions and/or arrests. Like taking away trash cans to eliminate trash; taking away suspensions will eliminate suspendable behavior. Try not to turn your back on the class while teaching!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cell Phones for All!

It's been 2 weeks since NYC students have been given the privilege to bring their cell phones to school. How has it been in your school and classroom? In mine, it's a complete disaster. Kids here are roaming the large campus building blasting obscene music with wireless, small, powerful portable speaker units. They are filming faked fights to share and post on media sites. They are covertly filming staff and students. (I just read about a teacher being suspended for napping. His nap was recorded by a student.)

Cell phones will be used by students to organize and film real fights. One student told me he won't use the school's restroom anymore because he doesn't want to be filmed on the toilet. The students are sharing their favorite pornography in school. Teachers will have to censor everything they do that could be misconstrued via the cell phone's recorder and camera.
One teacher told me it has forced her to become detached from her student interactions and teaching. This is an outcome that many have not anticipated. A vechile for all types of abhorrent behavior is now in the hands of many immature coddled teenagers. The genie is now out of the bottle.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Importance of Professional Development

A lot of teachers and their downtrodden ATR counterparts are complaining mightily about Monday PD. Professional development, in my opinion, is invaluable if done correctly. Years ago, I learned how to use new technologies, facilitate peer mediations and teach in whatever style was mandated at that time. As an ATR, I am not being taught how to use any technology, new methods of teaching or anything useful. Many ATRs simply don't know how to do many things that regularly appointed teachers know, yet it is assumed that they do. If ATRs are ever to be placed, they need targeted PD to get them up to par. Sitting in a PD that is targeted to the staff of a school (that we are in temporarily) is not an optimum use of our time.

As for regularly appointed teachers most do not want it added on to instruction time. Last year I was in a school that had 2 hour periods for 9th graders. The place was like a zoo and the teachers were completely frazzled. Most schools had 1 hour periods, also too long for the average high school student. Some teachers would like to see small group tutoring, but many would not. They are exhausted at the end of the day.

I believe ATRs should have a full day of targeted PD a month. Some topics could be how to use a Smart Board, keeping electronic data, using data to design curriculum and instruction, etc.

Teachers should meet collectively to determine and vote on how best to use the time. What's completely obvious with PD is that one size does not fit all.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Optional UFT Dues?! Will You Pay?

Interesting case in the Supreme Court, Friedrich vs. CTA, which could spell the end of mandatory union dues for the UFT. Will you continue to pay union dues? I think it depends on your perspective.

How about new teachers? I meet them constantly on my journeys. They are often referred to as newbies and there seems to be certain level of disdain for them from seasoned professionals, especially ATRs. It's understandable because they have our jobs. I however, don't agree with it or even condone it. The vast majority I meet, I really like and do my best to help. They are thrown into classrooms with very little training, often coming from a completely different culture and viewpoint. They come to NYC expecting fun, love the idea of teaching and are met with the stark reality of the Bronx. The young women are constantly sexually harassed by the students and the men are ridiculed for being nerdy and unhip. I've seen several (young women) run out of the buildings crying, quit or go into a walking catatonic trance like state. The latter are denied tenure (or discontinued) and the union does nothing to help them. So, I believe thousands of them will line up to rescind their dues.

How about ATRs? When I became an ATR I called the Bronx office for advice and I was told I had to do whatever was asked of me including teaching gym, deaning, and clerical work. The lady I was with called them after the principal told her she'd be brought up on charges unless she mopped the staff room's floor and stay (5 weeks) in a stairwell as a monitor. This was a very elegant intelligent older lady. When she called the union they laughed at her. At the once a year, one a borough, unadvertised prefunctory meeting Arundel holds, she focuses on the mundane, to avoid the real issues. We are treated terribly in many schools, by everyone. If we contact the union, they do very little to nothing. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is no one has our backs. So, I believe the 1800 -2500 ATRs out there will push the newbies out of the way to rescind their membership and dues.

How about the teachers who have 10 to 20 years in? I honestly don't see many of them. Most have, or will become ATRs. They will deny this with every fiber of their being, but in their hearts they know it's true. They hope the Union will be there with a good lawyer when they face their 3020a hearings. The reality is that if they want to win, they'll have to pay for their own lawyer or represent themselves. So, because they are in denial, I believe they will continue to support the union.
(There's also the issue of dental and eye care. With so many people leaving the union, I'm sure a group plan will present itself for a lot less than the cost of the dues. I should also note that none of our dues are used do pay for dental, eye care or prescriptions - this is paid entirely by the city via the union. Many members don't know this.)

Personally, I believe it would be a huge mistake for us to leave the union en masse. If someone is trying to bust in your unlocked door, and all you have is a chair, you stick it under the knob. It's not much of a chair, but it's all we got. The union is that chair.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My Dinner With Andy

Andy: How are you? You're looking a little worse for wear.

Atlas: I'm good, but it's been a long winter though.

Andy: I hope you haven't gone over your allotted 10 days?! I had my subjects do some research and I had the results published. 16% went over 11 days last year. (Smiling) It will be a lot more this year!(Then in very low voice) It's very warm where I live, I'd love you to join me.

Atlas: No, thanks Andy. I want my heart and soul intact.

Andy: Now I'm getting hungry! I think I'll have hearts of ATRs-I-choked - I mean hearts of artichoke! You look nervous. Just kidding, Atlas!

Atlas: I'm not nervous Andy.  People are beginning to see you for who you are.

Andy: You're right, that's why I need you teachers as a smoke screen and as scapegoats. By the way, do you still consider yourself to be a teacher?

Atlas: I do. Do you still consider yourself to be a governor?

Andy: An angel with an angle, Atlas! I should have chosen a better looking body. I will be president one day.

Atlas: Very sure of yourself! So what's  new in your world?

Andy: Same world as yours. I've been getting many souls here in NYC; they should rename the city for me. I've been enjoying myself getting the public to believe you are all rich pedophiles. Those media moguls are invaluable to me. Did you read the paper this morning?

Atlas: Yes. There's supposed to be an assumption of innocence.

Andy: Not with teachers, my friend! Their guilt is just too valuable for my cause. In fact, only priests and rabbis are more valuable to me.

Atlas: Tell me why you asked me for dinner because I'm losing my appetite.

Andy: I want you to join me. I'll give your own charter school, lots of money and the potential for lots of power - if you prove yourself.

Atlas: No thanks, Andy. I'll stay an ATR.

Andy: That's ATR-ocious! Then I will make your life very difficult. Different schools, no respect from anyone and the constant threat of career loss.

Atlas: That's already been done. I'm leaving.

Andy: I'll give you some time to think about it. You have until June 24, 2016. I had a feeling you'd walk out and invited some other guests. Say hello to Mike and Randi!

Atlas: I'm out of here. Leave me alone!