Saturday, April 30, 2016

I'm Voting Solidarity

This week we should all be receiving a large envelope via snail mail that will allow you to vote for the caucuses and individuals that you want to represent you. It is the UFTs fondest hope and desire that you will leave these important decisions in the hands of the retirees. (Retirees pay 1/40th of the dues we do and really shouldn't be voting in elections, as they aren't active members and aren't covered by Taylor laws.) For many years, I usually tossed my envelope directly into the trash. I assumed the union had my best interests in mind and I had very little to complain about. That changed for me after the full ramifications of the 2005 contract became apparent. It became appallingly so with the closure of hundreds of schools, the legions of veteran teachers segmented into the demeaning role of substitute teacher and the promotion of the UFT president to AFT president. I then realized we were all sold a bill of goods and that we would keep on paying, until we retired or quit. This epiphany did not stop the tidal wave of assaults on our profession from Bloomberg, the media or the deformer groups. The UFT, which I had always supported and held in the highest regard, sat on its collective hands. (Mulgrew stopped talking with Mayor Bloomberg for much of the mayor's tenure.) Then the inevitable happened to me - my school was closed and I became an ATR.

 The UFT recently passed a contract that allows discrimination against ATRs. This was, for many of us, an injury that could not be shaken off. It was and is a complete betrayal from the UFT of its most vulnerable and veteran teachers. To add insult to injury, we were told there was no need for an ATR chapter, because this would solidify a temporarily displaced group. (There have been ATRs for over a decade with no end in sight.) On a good day, an ATR is mind numbingly bored and on a bad day angry, humiliated or despondent. These bad days can end your career, such as it is, or your life. I personally know several ATRs who have died after having had a stroke and/or heart attack.

If you are a new teacher or one that has over 10 years in service, you will learn that the UFT doesn't care about you, your needs or your wants. It cares about your dues. If you don't like it - quit or retire. There's always someone else to replace you. It's time to change this. Vote. I believe Solidarity is the best choice. Portelos and many of Soldiarity's candidates, have had their intestinal fortitude tested from rubberrooms, 3020a hearings, ATR placements and targeting. Portelos fought and won, over and over, against incredible obstacles. We need fighters, while there is still something worth fighting for.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How is Bernie and Donald's Popularity Related to the DeBlasio Debacle?


      Interesting times. After watching the Republican and Democratic debates this summer, I realized what was at the heart of Bernie and Donald's popularity. This became especially clear during one of the Republican debates; Rubio said Trump made contributions to Hillary. Trump responded he did, that's how business is done. He then added that he had contributed to almost all of them. Kasich said he didn't get any and asked him for money, at which time several more joined in on the panhandling.  
     Most people, myself included, were incredulous. The tangible distain for pandering politicians, taking contributions from those who have their individual and special interests forefront, is what catapulted Trump and Sanders over their rivals. Most people understand it's legal, but find it ethically reprehensible. DeBlasio is currently being targeted for taking contributions. Perfectly legal. He is being vilified in the News and Post. They have already convicted him. While nothing will probably come of it, people are disgusted and disturbed by the accusations against DeBlasio. It may have destroyed his chances for reelection. If purposely orchestrated by Andy, it was a brilliant low down dirty political move.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Who's Behind the deBlasio Investigation?

Andy: This is shocking.
   I've been reading about the investigation of deBlasio. He's being accused of getting contributions from donors that expect favors. Doesn't every politician do that? (Yeah, besides Bernie and Donald.) Most of those politicians actually give those favors, but aren't tarred and feathered. Bill hasn't even done that. Mulgrew gave him a $350,000 check, before contract negotiations, and we got the worst contract in the history of the UFT! Now the papers are using that as part of the evidence against him. To me, that's proof he's innocent. I have my problems with some (OK, many) of Bill's policies, but this nonsense is just plain wrong.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Voting in the Twilight Zone

  Yesterday afternoon I walked with my wife to our local polling site. A truly beautiful day and I wasn't expecting many people to be there. I was surprised by the long line at the the door. We got in queue and as the line moved, we were asked individually if we were Democrat or Republican. I was surprised that I was the only Democrat on line. When I told the lady who asked, that I was a Democrat everyone stopped talking and looked in my direction. Immediately after answering, a large guy, out of nowhere, tried to rush the line screaming, "Where do I vote for Trump?!". Everyone started laughing and making sympathetic comments like, 'I'm with you'. To be honest it jarred me and it was a very subtle repudiation. When I got to the front of the line and signed in, I was given a card. No explanation. I asked,"Where's the voting booth?". I got a blank stare and the reply was just fill out the card. I put an X through each candidate's bubble slot and tried to hand it back to the worker. I was told it was to be fed into the machine. (I had flashbacks from college when I had a computer programming class and I used to constantly feed punch cards into an enormous computer.) I fed my card into the machine and it was rejected. I tried four more times, and the line behind me was building up. I heard grumbling and murmurs of dummy Democrats. Finally a worker came over and tried it. He tried it three times and then asked me if I minded him looking at my card. I said, "No". He said, "Here's the problem - you didn't bubble in the sheets! Here let me show you" - filling in the bubbles, he added, "The bubbles must be filled in completely and without stray markings outside the bubble." Irony of irony, me the dumbest (Democrat) teacher on the planet, who couldn't bubble in my choices! I left that polling site in an embarrassed daze. Who came up with these cards, Randi Weingarten?!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Vote Bernie in Tonight's Primary!

It won't be free.

  As some of you know Randi Weingarten got me involved in this year's presidential election by coming out for Hillary. She did so with no input from teachers and did it last summer.  I then began to question my support for Mrs. Clinton. I've watched many debates, read interviews and discussed the candidates with a wide variety of people. Bernie isn't taking corporate money and isn't beholden to the corporations. These corporations have turned education into a modern day gold rush for public school money; bilked the public for everything from energy to medicine and contributed to many of the most serious problems facing society and humanity. Climate change is real and will have a much bigger impact on most of us, much sooner than we realize. Many Americans are suffering because of unemployment and sickness. Much of the sickness is from dietary choices. Large corporations are genetically modifying food and patenting seeds. Bees are dying out. Corporations will thus control the food supply and look to go after water next. Clean uncontaminated water will become increasingly scarce. We need politicians that will protect our interests. Bernie for president!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Continued Scapegoating of ATRs

I just read an article this morning about a pro-charter parent group that is demanding demographic information (salary, total number, reasons we are ATRs, etc.) on ATRS. . Great, let them know the truth. There is, as usual, the underlying assumption that ATRs are terrible teachers. (For this group, not only are the ATRs terrible but they are being purposely placed in schools, much to the detriment of NYC students. They are particularly interested in those provisionally forced placed ATRs. These ATRs are not statistically viewed as ATRs by the City and those numbers are not included in the total number of ATRs.) This stereotype has been carefully nurtured from the collective manure of Bloomberg, the media and most inexcusably Mr. Mulgrew. Isn't it time to put a stop to this stereotype?  New mayor, new chancellor, and no excuses left for Mulgrew not to do so. Come out publicly and say anything in our defense.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Things to Come? I Hope Not.

                                                                    Time for class!

I was in a good school a few months ago . The first clue to this was the enormous classes. I had classes of 48 on rooster. (Isn't there a cap of 34?) 42 on average showed up. I didn't have enough chairs and was teaching solo. It took five minutes at minimum to walk down the hall. If you had to take the stairs, you were in real trouble. The kids had no where to go, so their free time was spent on the stairs. (Also a common place for the unwelcome ATRs.) What got me thinking about this? Yesterday, I watched Soylent Green for the first time since 1975. All year round heat waves, food shortages, dead oceans, extreme poverty and extreme over population (40 million in NYC). Tonight's weather report struck me. An expected 3 degree spike in temperature expected for this summer. That's downright frightening.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Does Any School, Anywhere Know How to Deal With Bullying?

   I noticed a news report on a suit brought against the DOE for its inaction on those children targeted and stigmatized by bullying  Bullying has been around since time immemorial and for many, many years has been completely ignored. It's been ignored, not because people don't care; it's been ignored because no one has come up with an effective way of dealing with it. When I was a kid we had very strict discipline and bullying was a covert art. It devasted many classmates that were targeted for a variety of reasons. Some were overweight or effeminate, but most were chosen because they were quiet, introverted or preceived as weak. Once targeted the bullied would have to fight back or the bullying would become more pervasive and add more participants. Often times the students saw our teachers silence as an aquiesance to the bullies behavior. Our parent(s), if they became aware of the bullying, would be apt to say something like 'toughen up and fight back, what are you afraid of?'. Most of us gladly gave up our painful adolescence and only recall those past incredibly cruel experiences when our own children or students are forced to endure bullying. Children are the same, but the bullying has become more painful, because it is now often anonymous and can have devasting results. Students don't get to see the effects of their actions, so these actions don't stop the way they may have when we were kids. Social media has given bullying a new instrument of torture. There are apps where kids can spread lies about students they envy and dislike.  There have been many suicides due to online posts. What can schools do? First there should be no cellphones allowed into any schools, period. The current policy has been and is a complete disaster. Next victims shouldn't be punished by getting a safety transfer - the bullies should be transferred. There should be a zero tolerance policy for violence by and against students. That means arrests and/or suspensions when warranted. There should be a real policy on dealing with bullying. I have to add I don't see the same level of physical bullying I saw twenty years ago - kids seem more tolerant of all groups, other than of white kids. (I believe that's because our schools are almost completely segregated.) Restorative justice is totally unrealistic and making discipline problems worse. How do charter schools deal with bullies and discipline problems? They toss them into the public schools. This suit is political and not about protecting public school kids. It's about turning a completely ( albeit well intentioned) ridiculous policy into a weapon against DeBlasio.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

New Month, New School

   April showers bring May flowers and a new school rotation. I am very relieved to be out of the last school I was in. Decent neighborhood and competent staff, but kids constantly on their cell phones filming, blaring music and watching videos. Packs of overage students roam the hallways, texting each other when they see an unfamiliar teacher. They all come in and refuse to show identification. If you call for a dean, no one comes. These kids curse you out and you can't turn your back on them. The intruders weren't always from the same school. I was threatened by a kid who was openly dealing drugs. I went to the dean and told him to search his bag; he told me they knew about the dealing and I could write a statement, if I so wished. He said, "You know we can't do anything, right?". Later that day, the student pointed me out to his friends and started laughing. The thugs know they have carte blanche to do whatever they wish.

   The campus building I'm in now is in a bad neighborhood and the staff collects the phones at the door. I'm having a great time actually teaching. The kids were respectful and mostly well behaved. There are staff patrolling the halls and monitoring the building. It's time to ban cell phones and restorative justice citywide.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The New (and to be Abused) Model of ATRs for Next Year

     Hundreds of displaced teachers will be disbursed into schools next year. This placement is forced and for a year at a time. These teachers will come from failing schools that have been taken over. These teachers will be forced to do whatever is asked of them. This was agreed upon by the UFT. Think about the ramifications of that for a moment as a teacher and a union member.

   There are several layers of deceit here. The first thing that strikes me is the forced placement of teachers. Shouldn't the teacher and the school have a say? Secondly, when is a teacher not a teacher? When forced placed into a position in which any duty can be legitimately thrust onto that person and "no" is not an option. Next, these pseudo-teachers will not be called ATRs by the UFT or City because they have a position for a year. This is still a rotation and it is not permanent. Therefor these teachers are ATRs.  It will statistically skew the true ATR numbers to show stagnation or a reduction (depending on how many of us leave this June).

   Additionally this will prove that schools are not being closed. It will have the same name and some of the same students. That goes to the question, "What is a school?". Is it its staff and students or its name and location? I've been to several of these schools as an ATR and I have friends at several others. These teachers are extremely hard working, caring individuals. The schools were set up for failure by the former Mayor Bloomberg. All the students, that the charters and his new McMini schools didn't want, were thrown into schools like Lehman HS. That the UFT would agree to this type of placement for veteran teachers, who have struggled for so long, is incredulous.