Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Importance of a Debate for UFT Presidential Candidates

 Over the past year I've become enamored with political debates. I've watched all the Republican and Democratic debates this year. I've even gone and watched Kennedy debate with Nixon. Nixon's five o'clock shadow filmed in stark black and white did him in. He was in contrast to Kennedy's movie star looks. I think appearance may have been even more important in that era than now. Just how important is a debate for a candidate? For a candidate who is almost assured of a win, it's a decided disadvantage to engage in a debate. That candidate would have everything to lose and very little, if anything, to gain.

     How about for the candidates who want to upset the incumbent? It is paramount for their candidacy to be seen and heard. This is especially true for the voters on the fence. It will give the candidates the opportunity to present their views and allow all to see how well they handle themselves under stress. Surprising qualities can quickly become apparent.

  I would like to see a debate between Lee, Mulgrew and Portelos. I doubt Mulgrew would consent, but the other candidates should. There should be rules and impartial moderators. Both candidates are exemplary individuals who should be given the opportunity to present their views to UFT members who are unaware of their viewpoints or who may be on the fence.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Deven Black - Teacher, Librarian, ATR, Intellectual and Caring Human Being

   The death of Deven Black has profoundly upset me, . He was an intellectual, a great teacher (who won numerous awards), a blogger, and an ATR. Somehow he ended up in a homeless shelter and murdered. I don't know the path that led him there, but as a gifted teacher and human being it must have been a desperate last resort. To be murdered and almost decapitated in a facility with metal detectors speaks volumes as to why so many are on the streets. The young man who killed him was clearly mentally ill. There seems to be an explosion of mentally ill people in all economic and educational spectrums. We as a people need to recognize, reach out and help those friends, family and colleagues who may be in distress. My deepest condolences to Mr. Black's family and friends.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trump and Sanders - Bloomy's Worst Nightmare!

     I have to laugh when I think about Bloomy coming down from his ivory tower after two years of printing money. Why? It looks like Trump could be the Republican choice and Sanders the Democratic choice. Outrageous to every self serving billionaire! Sanders will tax the rich and Trump will start WWW3, if any head of state insults his hair. So, it's Bloomy to the rescue!

    Bloomy will save the American people from themselves and the two monstrous candidates. How well could this play out? Well, it seems that our country (and the world) is becoming more polarized. 
    You have extreme choices for almost everything, especially candidates. You have Trump on the far right and Sanders on the far left. I think of Bloomberg as a conservative, but most of the country would probably view him as a left leaning moderate. This might be because of his views on gun control and his nanny laws (limiting "bad" products, i.e. large sodas). 

    Now, the real question for Bloomberg is, are there enough people out there who would vote for a middle of the road candidate? I think there are, but not necessarily for him. What makes billionaires feel they  are better equipped than others to lead? This leads directly to the business model of running everything. Schools, churches, hospitals are social institutions and are now run as businesses. Bloomberg became mayor of NYC and took charge of the public schools. The first thing he did was change the way they are run and viewed. The business model was implemented. Goal one - cut costs. Goal 2 - increase productivity, and of course, goal 3 - increase profits. Profits, of course can stand for whatever you want - increased or decreased stats on what the public may think of as a primary goal - (for schools- increased grad rates, decreased drop out rates, etc.). It completely dehumanizes students and teachers. It misses the fundamental ethos of what a school should be. 

    Eventually, the goal is to privatize everything that once was public. (He privatized certain streets in Queens for snow removal. The streets weren't plowed and the public was screaming at Sanitation and the DeBlasio.) Destroy all unions. Replace people with technology. Many people believe Bloomy will be good to the poor. I believe he was, is and would be good to the poor. The problem is he wants everyone to be poor, except the 1% club - of which he is a primary member.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What is the UFT Saying If It Extends the Current ATR Provisions Without ATR Input?

    There have been reports on some of the blogs that the UFT has extended the current provisions (random rotations, expedited dismissal, forced placements, termination with two missed mandated interviews, etc.) six months before the current provisions end, with no official announcement and no discussion of the implications. There are several factors that make this premature decision, if true, especially odious. First and foremost is that veteran teachers should not be turned into substitutes, because we have earned our right to be in the classroom via tenure, education  and experience. We have been replaced with inexpensive, unlicensed and inexperienced individuals. (These individuals, who are also UFT members, have more rights.) This was facilitated via the 2005 contract and with Major Bloomberg.

   We now have a new major, who promotes himself as  progressive, fair and ethical. Many of us waited patiently for him to change this scheme. We are still waiting.

  ATRs joined together and went to the UFT to request a chapter, in order to facilitate protection of our rights and direct input. We were denied. Mulgrew's view was that an ATR chapter would solidify a temporarily displaced group. Keep in mind that I personally know ATRs that have been rotating for 10 years! Also be aware that there are more ATRs joining the pool every year because of school closings. If we are temporarily displaced, why would the union solidify that displacement instead of ending it? How would Mulgrew decide this? How would this respect our rights as members and people?

    The Fredrichs case is on the horizon. Does the UFT expect ATRs to remain loyal? Has the UFT been loyal to us? It has absolutely and resolutely betrayed us. The UFT has intentionally portrayed us as subpar teachers to rationalize its betrayal. If the UFT could have sacrificed us for any meager gain, it would have. That would have taken legislative action, that would impact LIFO for all NYS unions. Compare Patrick Lynch to Michael Mulgrew and you'll get a picture of how well that would have gone. Lynch fights for cops. Can you imagine cops and firemen being treated the way we are? Close a precinct or firehouse and have all the experienced cops and firemen become APTs or AFTs? I don't think so.

   So what is the UFT saying if it extends (or already has) the current ATR provisions without ATR input? It is saying "We don't need or want your input. You will stay an ATR until you disappear."

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gifts That Can't Be Taken Away


     MLK day has always been a holiday of reflection for me. How can we impact society?  I read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 in church yesterday. For my non-Christian friends, the reading involves each individual being given a talent or talents to be used for the common good. I know many teachers who have been awarded the gift of teaching and are being purposely kept from practicing their talent. Their teaching has been tested and refined by experience. They are now ATRs. They have been replaced with teachers who may or may not have this gift and have no experience. Many of these new teachers go through a terrible ordeal, much like Richard Harris in 'A Man Called Horse' or the guy in yesterday's  NY Post . Many, like the author of the book, quit. I've always regarded teaching as an art. You have it or you don't. The artists I've known would never let anyone or anything stop them. I used to watch Keith Haring creating his chalk drawings in the train stations on 23rd Street in the early 1980s. I didn't like his work, my brother loved it. Some people ridiculed his work -some did worse. Most experienced teachers went through similar experiences as the aforementioned author and didn't quit. What doesn't destroy you can make you stronger.

   The deformers out there regard the teaching profession as a job anyone can do - the cheaper, the better. Let the experienced teachers, who love teaching and are true artists, stand around with their thumbs up their asses - being told to mop floors, sit in stairwells, file papers or sub in classes that resemble a Chuckie Cheese birthday party. Don't like it? 'Quit, motherf--ker! That's the whole idea! We're going to wait it out until you all quit or retire'. Call the union and all you'll hear is, "You're lucky to have a job, thanks to us!". None of that has stopped us from teaching and helping kids. None of that has made us quit or retire. For many ATRs this has become a personal moral battle. I go out of my way to talk to and help kids that are completely ignored by the overstressed, under experienced staffs of the schools I'm sent to. If we truly help at least one kid a day then we have accomplished our true calling and have not let them steal our gift of teaching.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Visit to Pleasure Island HS

  I'm in a new school. I keep thinking I'm in the old Disney movie 'Pinocchio'. One particular scene plays out in my unconscious - the kids visit to Pleasure Island. They visit the Rough
House, (I've been to that high school also), shoot pool, smoke, fight and get intoxicated. Those who run the island turn a blind eye and encourage the behavior. They go on to school and break all the windows. This fun goes on until a remarkable transformation happens - the kids all turn into jackasses. They are then removed from the island and forced into a life of horribly cruel conditions.

   It's time for a resurgence of discipline, order and civility in our schools - not for our benefit but for our students.