Monday, February 29, 2016

What App Are You Being Filmed On? I Am Now an ATR Alien.

Please open your books to page 161.

   I recently caught two separate students filming me. One turned me into an alien via a cell phone app and the other was being broadcast live to heavens knows where. I asked both to put the phones away. I considered reporting it to the restorative justice league and thought better of it. It would become a big deal and nothing would happen other than I would be blamed. (Yes, it's come to that.) So instead I talked to both students. One was a junior, a very immature girl (alien app) and the other was a bit thuggish. I talked to the young man alone as he was leaving the school. I warned him of the danger of filming people without their knowledge. It seems these pictures disappear from the internet after a few seconds (that was a relief - I'm not a good looking alien).  The alien app is called snapchat that allows you to turn people into unicorns, aliens or assorted creatures. I have been told there is also an app that exchanges and/or merges faces. These apps can be potentially troublesome for teachers and students (use your imagination). Some of them promote anonymous gossip, sexting and altered photos.

   There is no legitimate reason for cell phones to be in classrooms, period.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Is NYC Safer?

Preparing to enter the D train at rush hour
     Restorative justice has basically stopped suspensions and arrests in schools. The end of Stop and Frisk has stopped the confiscation of many weapons, as has the pulling out of metal detectors from some public spaces - including schools. Are we safer?

    A couple of years ago, the MTA pulled out trash cans from stations, assuming counterintuitively, that people would take the trash with them After thousands of track fires and an exploding and fearless rat population (i.e. Pizza rat the MTA replaced the errant trash cans. Does the city assume that people will stop carrying weapons, that students will act correctly and that people will behave peacefully in public because of it's inaction? It certainly appears that it does. Just how successful is it?

   Statistically arrests are down, confiscated weapons are down, school arrests are down - proof positive that the city is a much safer place to live and work than it was a few years ago. (Are people starting to realize that statistics can say whatever is necessary?) The thing is that I'm meeting people who are afraid to ride the trains. Knife slashings, especially with box cutters across the face, are happening daily Bratton has complained the media is over reporting it and many New Yorkers don't want to dwell on it - rationalizing that New Yorkers are tough and can deal with it (a pragmatic attitude). I looked up the numbers - over 600 in a year - 100 more than last year. I worry about family, friends and students traveling in crowded areas. How do people protect themselves from random attacks? What are the reasons behind it and the demographics involved? Many of the victims seem to be attractive young women.
   I believe NYC has to reevaluate their well intentioned attempts at keeping New Yorkers safe or we will all have to start wearing something like this:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trump Will Be Our Next President


Trump: I will eliminate the DOE and Common Core.

      For better or worse, I believe Trump will be our next president. Sanders has a shot at the nomination, but without major union endorsements, including the AFT, it's an uphill battle. Many teachers have told me if it's a choice between Trump and Hillary, they'll vote Trump. If it's between Trump and Sanders, they will vote Sanders.

      Why would teachers vote for Trump over Hillary? There are myriad of reasons that include Randi's endorsement, dislike of Hillary, and mistrust of Hillary. And yes, Trump actually said he would eliminate the Department of Education and Common Core at tonight's debate. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty good.

       I would like to see Sanders win the Democratic nomination, but I must admit I'm looking forward to Trump vs. Hillary debates. Pay per view?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Which is a Worse Endorsement for a Presidential Candidate - Randi Weingarten or Fidel Castro?

   As a long time Hillary supporter I was forced to take a cold hard look at her after Randi's endorsement as AFT president . I truly feel, as many of us must, that as teachers we have no say in anything (especially the payment of our dues). Weingarten's premature endorsement with no input was a slap in the face for all of us. It was then that I started watching the debates and listening to Bernie.

Vote Hillary!

   I should add that I went to school with and have many Cuban friends, so I was stunned when I learned of the accolades (some may say endorsement) of Fidel Castro for Bernie.

Vote Bernie!

    Which is a worse endorsement? I would have to say Randi's. The great appeaser, accommodator, and puppetmaster has done nothing to elevate, improve or support the teaching profession. As a lowly ATR teacher she has pushed me towards Bernie.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Foul and Fair a Day I Have Not Seen -The Death of Justice Scalia

  I was surprised and saddened by Justice Scalia's death. His death is a huge loss for our country. I found him to be an interesting intellectual and always taped any show he appeared on. Even when I vehemently disagreed with him, I enjoyed hearing his views. I am a unionist. I've been reading some comments on Scalia's death and they are troubling.

     Scalia's death does not let the union off the hook. It delays the inevitable. I want the middle class to survive and I want to be protected by a union. I do not want the death of unions. Does that mean you or I should be forced to pay dues to an entity like the UFT? Where oaths of allegiance take the place of honest voting? Where an entire segment of the membership is discriminated against? Logically and legally it shouldn't. Is it in my best interest that dues remain mandatory? Yes. Would Scalia have ruled against mandatory dues? Probably.

    Can modern people disagree, become angry and still remain civilized? Do we have to devolve into Neatherals when we have minor or profound differences? Can those who represent us include all of us, even when it goes against the most popular views? It should. The last time I heard Scalia, that's basically what he said. His comments were concerning the total disregard of a large segment of the population (evangelical Christians) on gay marriage. Even if you get angry on a visceral level over an issue, it shouldn't blind you to other viewpoints. It most certainly shouldn't provoke a personal attack, especially on a dead man.

    As the various UFT caucuses and US political parties fight among themselves, there seems to be increasingly outrageous and vindictive personal attacks. As written in Macbeth, 'Fair is foul, foul is fair'.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Empathy for the Invisible

   I was out last Saturday night. I really didn't want to go out, but I had $50 tickets to a jazz concert in Purchase. I took out my heaviest coat and braved the 15 second journey to my warm car. After picking up my retired buddy in White Plains, off we went. Not much of a journey but the walk into the theater was about 5 minutes. The fog on my glasses had actually iced. I started thinking about the homeless living on the streets. What must they be going through on a night like this?

    I have to admit homelessness and the homeless never entered my lexicon before becoming an ATR. Whenever my mother would bring it up, complaining that Bloomberg was hiding much of it, I would shake my head. It wasn't that I agreed, I simply didn't want or like to discuss depressing issues. Then about 10 years ago, at Christmas, I was hiking with my dog in Van Courtlandt Park in the Bronx. We entered near 233rd Street and I got fairly lost. I came upon an encampment of about a hundred tents amongst the tall dead pampas grass. I got back home and was telling my wife and mom. My wife said it must be a movie shoot. My mom said it's a homeless encampment - Bloomberg keeps them off the street, so as not to displease the tourists, and they rightly won't go into shelters. My son agreed saying he always bikes past them. He said some were actually living inside (as in underground) the old aqueduct that runs through the Bronx all the way to Ossining. I put the whole incident out of my mind. I was completely focused on teaching and my family. I really never noticed a homeless person or thought about them in anyway. Incredibly self-centered and selfish, I know. 

   After becoming an ATR, I had to go to a different school every week. Most schools didn't give me
a bathroom key. Many of the schools didn't even have a place for us to wait for our Chuckie Cheese like classes. I'd sit in an auditorium, or stairwell and wait. I had no place to put my belongings, so I dragged them around. I started losing cherished items, so I started traveling light. I had to time eating and drinking to a minimum in order to minimize trips to the restroom. I was in Taft, a couple of years ago (during an autumn heat wave) with another ATR. He passed out from dehydration. He told me afterward that he never drinks water during the day to avoid nature's call. Then there's the people I come into contact with during the day. At best I'm invisible, at worst something to be avoided or eradicated, like a roach infestation, by whatever means possible. The media and many have labeled us subpar and/or borderline criminals (in which charges couldn't be proven). Around the same time I became an ATR, I started noticing the homeless. I noticed how people and the media labeled them mentally ill and/or addicted. They do exist, but I also noticed women with kids, the very elderly or harmless looking people that were homeless. I don't look down on them or feel they did something to deserve their plight. I long ago stopped judging people. 

I want to personally thank Randi Weingarten, Michael Bloomberg and the UFT for making me an ATR. It has made me a much better person. Any teacher can become an ATR and anyone can become homeless.