Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Spork - The First Sign of the End of Civilization

I'm continually astounded by the accelerated decline of our society. It's evident in almost everything and everyone I come into contact with. The Chinese are playing God by altering human DNA, some country has most definitely cloned human beings and Americans are oblivious to anything farther than their backyard (if they are lucky enough to own one).

What got me on this rant? Well it's been building up since I first saw the spork about 20 years ago. What's a spork? It's an evil creation that's half spoon and half fork. The Chinese experiment I read about in the Times must have triggered my buried memories of it. Let me give you some historical context. When I first became a teacher 25 years ago we had a very nice, clean teachers cafeteria. In them we had tablecloths, window shades and yes, stainless steel cutlery. After a couple of years in, I noticed plastic cutlery and overall, things started to seem a little shabby. A year or so later, no cutlery. A spork, with a napkin, enclosed in plastic. The clock stopped working and no one fixed it. The table cloth got dirty and no one cleaned it. It became tattered and was thrown away. The choice of food went from four or five to one. Exact change had to be used because no change was available. Eventually the teachers' cafeteria was closed because not enough people were using it. By chance or circumstance? Perhaps Bloomberg got his ideas from the iniation of the spork. Create deterioration and close the schools, but that's only schools. What about our quality of life?

It seems as if we have become a narcissistic society only interested in ourselves. I see people with these selfie sticks and shake my head. If you say "Thank you" to anyone under 40, you get a "No problem" in return. Think about that. Why would doing your job, or doing something nice be a problem? Everything is now a problem. My buddy was side swiped while walking across Tremont Avenue and the car never stopped. He wasn't hurt, Thank God, but the car stopped at the light! The guy stopped because he didn't want to get a ticket via the light's camera. It seems as if people will not even do what's expected, never mind decent, unless they'll get called on it. Eventually there's going to have to be cameras everywhere. The churches have to lock their doors because people have robbed them of their candlesticks, chalices, and poor boxes. Also many statues and graves have been robbed from cemeteries around the country. This would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

It doesn't stop there. Journalism has taken a nose dive in recent years. It became evident to many when that NY Times reporter was caught fabricating stories. This was shocking to many of us, but really inevitable considering the accounting, banking, and Wall Street scandals. What's a little less noticible and much more troubling, is the continued lowering of all standards in which those incidents were only the most visible examples. There seems to be complete rejection of the most basic tenant of Journalism - objectivity. (The only time I now see objectivity is when the author should be subjective, as in writing about witnessing a tragic incident.) I consider Journalism almost sacred. When I read article after article, from Chalkbeat and the Post to the NY Times, exhibiting bias by what is said and unsaid, I feel a little nauseated. The bar for everything has been lowered and we as a people have been as well.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Common Core Part 2

More gut wrenching high stakes tests this week! My daughter is a wreck and spent the whole weekend with me studying. It was 80 degrees and sunny outside and we were doing probability, logic and statistics inside. The stuff is complicated, contrived and the answers are never whole numbers (so we end up double checking everything). My nephew came over, he's the same age, and my sister opted him out. He's relaxed, tanned already and can't understand why my daughter won't go bike riding with him. He's right! How surreal is it when educated, middle class parents say no to what's deemed educationally superior by schools?

The papers are saying it's being driven by unions and being done by the affluent. Our union is in favor of Common Core and the vast majority of parents opting out are middle class. I just read that teachers who opted their kids out could lose their teaching license! I don't believe it though!

                       Andy: Those teachers broke the law, Atlas. Luckily, your daughter took the tests.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A New Action Delgate Defends Mulgrew's ATR Views (On Everything)

This is an actual conversation:

New Action Delegate: Here take this ( a leaflet entitled New Action Spring 2015). It may better inform you about New Action's views. Since you like to read lies on blogs about us.

Me: Thank you. Why is the union against ATRs having their own chapter?

NAD: Mulgrew feels, and we agree that by giving ATRs their own Chapter, we are solidifying a temporarily displaced group.

Me: You realize there are teachers who have been ATRs for over 10 years?! There will be more next year. Do you actually believe that horse shit?

NAD: I do and we are giving you ATRs the ability to run for UFT office in the school you're in the first week of May.

Me: Are you joking?! Who's going to vote for someone they don't know and who will be leaving?!

NAD: Don't say that. Portelos won his election from the rubber room!

Me: Yes, but he knew the school's staff. We don't even know the school we will be in.

NAD: You really should join New Action. We're helping lots of discontinued teachers.

Me: That's great, but you're doing nothing for ATRs. In fact, you are hurting us.

NAD: Oh well. Got to go.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Sky is Not Falling!

ATR Neo: Hey Atlas, I remember you saying Cuomo's anti-teacher agenda was going nowhere! He's won! It's all over for teachers and students!

Atlas: I still say his nonsense is going nowhere. The parents are eventually going to win the Common Core battle and he will have egg all over his face. He is going to get completely tripped up because of his enormous ego. No one respects him and most see him for who he is. Our educational system maybe on life support, but it won't be him that pulls the plug.

ATR Neo: What about the teachers?!

Atlas: No one in their right minds will  go into teaching. They may actually need ATRs to teach because of the extreme shortage of teachers that's right around the corner.

ATR Neo: Cuomo will destroy us all!

Atlas: Investigations are looming. His house of cards can fall at any time. The sky is not falling!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Threats and Intimidation for the Common Core

I recently blogged that my school district has a gag order on teachers discussing opting out of Common Core testing.

What I've discovered is much more insidious. I explained to my daughter that I'd rather her not take these tests. (As a teacher I believe these tests will be used to dismantle teaching staffs, in order to replace them with cheap labor. It also turns teaching into test prep and eliminates the joy of learning.) I expected a "Whoopee!" What I got shocked me. My daughter said she wants to take the tests. My daughter explained that she must take the common core tests because she has a high grade average. My daughter feels very strongly that she will not be recommended for advanced placement classes next year if she doesn't  take them. "Dad, I've worked so hard all year and now this will be held against me. Just let me take them." What the heck could I say? No? Risk her being placed in a remedial class as punishment for all of next year? Would this happen? I don't think so, but the kids sure think it will. What about the parents of kids who are undocumented? They're scared to death to opt out. We also got a robo- call saying state funding for the school would be cut if parents opted their children out. This is not what education should be about. Teaching and learning should be a joyful experience for students and staff. This is not education; this is now a business.

Andy's Anxiety

Andy: I don't like what I'm hearing about parents opting out of my Common Core tests. I need those failing scores to continue my dismantling of the public schools and their teachers. I will hold you personally responsible Randi!

Randi: Don't blame me! All I did was tweet that if I had a kid I would opt out. I had to make it look like I was on their side. I never took an official stand against it and made sure Mike didn't either!

Mike: That's right Andy! I even told the dummies we won in our battle against you.

Andy: Mike, I have to tell you I peed my pants when I heard that one! At least you didn't threaten to punch anyone in the nose again. Just tell those teachers they better not try to convince those kids or parents to opt out! I expect a massive failure rate.

Eva: Andy, stop! I'm getting flushed.

Andy: Just remember I want one of those charters named after me!

Friday, April 10, 2015

To Opt or Not To Opt? That is the Question.

There are high stakes tests about to be given very shortly. There is an incredible amount of stress involved for parents, teachers, administrators, politicians, and of course students. I'm going to discuss my own experiences with it. I've spent an average of 4 hours a day since September doing Common Core math homework with my child. On weekends and vacations its much more. Many of the students in her class can not finish the work. The grades of those students are lowered significantly. My daughter and some of her classmates are doing well, but in my opinion the price is too high. She no longer has time for extra-curricular activities and rarely has time to read a book for enjoyment. Much of the Common Core work is so convoluted that it borders on nonsense. It's often counter intuitive and wants the answers completed in the longest, most complicated way.

I recently spoke with her Math teacher. She told me she believes in Common Core and these tests. She says it challenges students. This may be true, but at what cost? No more family outings or vacations (the incredible amount of work given sees to that), no more childhood fun, and no more time for outside interests. The teachers will be evaluated on those scores. I was just told the teachers in her school have a gag order imposed, they can't mention opting out. As a teacher and a parent I'm against Common Core and the tests, but I could not tell my child not to do the incredible amount of work given to her. Her grades would have suffered. She is highly competitive and respects her teachers. It's incredibly unfair what's being done to students, parents and teachers. Make no mistake, at least 80% of the students taking these tests will fail. It also, in my opinion, takes away much of the joy of learning and teaching. The real danger is that it will completely turn students off to learning and new, enthusiastic teachers to teaching.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Kool-Aid, Anyone?

As I went through my day (at a large campus school building yesterday), I spoke to many teachers about the latest news of Cuomo's victory. The vast majority didn't know what I was talking about! Several told me the UFT won the fight!

Only during lunch did I met 2 senior teachers who knew what I was speaking about. One was a chapter leader and the other a delegate. I said I would have to give Mulgrew an ineffective as UFT president. The delegate became very combative and was offended. I asked him if he took an oath of allegiance. He got even more angry and said " Certainly not, where do you hear such bullshit?!". I added that I knew the delegates had to vote in unison. He denied this as well. He said we vote according to our own directives. "We at New Action are our own people." That tidbit explained why he wasn't subject to the oaths and rubber stamp voting. I told him New Action appears to be no different than Unity and that they are perceived as such. His colleague, the Chapter Leader agreed. The delegate then went on to say, that pragmatically, choices were made in order to achieve change within the union. He then went on to demand that I explain why I wasn't happy with Mulgrew. I explained that ATRs are treated unequally and that Mulgrew said the current debacle was a victory for teachers.

He responded that Mulgrew had to say that for public relations; "He has to keep the public knowing that the union is strong." I looked at him dumbfounded and he got up and left.

It seems as if everyone has drunk the Kool-Aid.