Sunday, August 20, 2017

Another Reason to Turn Off Your TV

Put down those chocolate Easter eggs!

   (Written Easter Monday and today)  I've been enjoying this vacation and indulging in many of my favorite foods. Last night, after a feast of epic proportions (in which death by Cadbury chocolate was definitely a possibility) I sat down to watch the local news. I don't watch much TV and need to lose a few pounds. I was cured of both by Chris Christie. During the 30 minute program, he interrupted my visual and auditory senses 25 times for a dramatic thirty second commercial on the dangers of prescription medication. Christie is the most loathsome creature that has ever crawled his way up from the cesspool that is American politics. His underlings that enacted his vindictive orders are now looking at jail sentences. Trump is thousands of times better than Christie in every way possible. Yes, I would have actually moved to New Zealand if Christie became president. Why, oh, why was my peace of mind so persistently disturbed by Christie? Trump had to throw him a bone and realized the guy is HUGE turnoff and liability. So I guess Trump figured if Christie can turn so many people off, maybe he can get some heroin addicts to stop using, so Donald made him Opioid Guru. He certainly got me to put down my fork and turn off the television.

    The constant viewing of the commercial had me mentally rewriting it as a warning against overeating. I imagined Christie saying, 'It started out with a Happy Meal and now I'm Vladimir Harkonnen.' (I've been rereading the Dune series by Frank Herbert.) I'm not trying to trivialize the heroin epedemic, but Christie is trying to equate it with prescription opioids. (In my opinion by tightening the legal supply of prescription pills the government will cause more heroin addicts, not less.) Now you can't get a painkiller from a dentist after a tooth extraction. Much worse are the many people who are in severe pain that are unfairly being penalized because there is a preceived link between prescription pills and heroin. I recently went to the hospital to visit a dying friend. She was terminally ill and had less than two weeks left. She was in her hospital room, screaming in pain. I went to the nurse and told her to give her something. She told me she could have only a Tylenol and that she couldn't have anything stronger because it's being limited because of the opioid crisis. I was beyond outraged. Worse she had a smirk on her face, like she thought it was a big joke. I told her I would report the entire incident to the medical board and the NY Post. The nurse then gave her a morphine drip. I got hold of her doctor the next day and reported it. Every time I see that Christie commercial I get pissed off all over again. Christie isn't stopping anyone from using drugs. Watch him and realize how lucky we are to have Trump!  No more TV or chocolate for me.

    A few weeks ago I was covered in poison oak. I hadn't slept in a few days and went over to the ER. Some big tough looking guy came over to me and hugged me. He was my student from twenty years ago! I was admitted and met his wife, who going through heroin withdrawals. She was a vet whose meds were cut and started using heroin. Her husband told me the government is creating addicts by withholding meds which makes some people turn to heroin, which is much cheaper and easier to obtain. The big problem is these unfortunate people don't know what their taking - it can literally be rat poison. Real life Russian roulette curtesy of #45. Marijuana is an effective pain reliever - basically a weed that can be grown anywhere and is purposely being thwarted by the pharmacy companies because of the lower profit margin. It's time to make marijuana legal for those in pain and that are suffering.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Heat Bugs and Their Beautiful Song


   I was sitting outside at around six this morning with my sister's Italian Greyhound, Lorcan. Lorcan is an unusual creature. He seems to understand me when I speak to him. My sister has a family of feral cats that he protects and that live under the backyard deck. They completely trust him and seek him out, but have always stayed far away from me. He was recently hurt protecting them from a skunk and got sprayed in the mouth. His internal organs were hurt and it looked like he might have to be put down - put happily he made a complete recovery. I was sitting outside listening to heat bugs with Lorcan. Suddenly, all these kittens came out of nowhere to sit by my feet. I concentrated on the song of the heat bugs.  If you are a teacher you know this song. It's poignant for it is a song played at nature's prime. We know the end is near. August and the end of summer quickly approaching. It's always been such a sad song for me, but this year it was much more beautiful than anything I've ever heard before. Glorious in a multitude of ways. Realize everyday is a gift and make your own happiness. Be kind to one another, it costs nothing and will save your life. Enjoy these final days.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

'The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus'

'I could shoot someone on 5 Ave and not lose any voters.'
         I often feel the need to think about and talk about things that are going on in our world that I find disturbing. I have been avoiding most of the national news that seems to be revolving around Trump. I don't find it humorous anymore, I find it revolting. I think if the media starts to ignore the Donald, he may resign. The problem is that the media's ratings are skyhigh because of him. He says whatever he feels like saying at any moment, and then if it's a lie or an exaggeration - it's no big deal. He gets a pass. When he said he could walk down fifth Avenue, take out a gun and shoot somebody and nothing would happen to him, he was right. There is something profoundly wrong with that and even he himself knows it. That doesn't stop him from glorifying in himself and in his 'accomplishments' - such as they are. Let me also say I don't hate Trump or even dislike Trump. I actually feel he's in way over his head and may know it.      
I recently read Marlowe's play Dr. Faustus and I found myself thinking of Trump. Has he sold his soul to the devil for all he's ever wanted? Does it fulfill everything that he's always wanted? He has a beautiful wife and children, is rich, famous and powerful. Is there more to life? What is the meaning of life? For many of it is it is to help others and leave the world a better place than the one in which we entered it. It's my hope that Trump realizes that at some time during his presidency. The pursuit of the almighty dollar is not what this country is about. Americans come in all shapes, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. The typical American is no longer a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and neither are you Mr. Trump, as much as you may try to be. We are a nation of immigrants. Your mom was one. Your ancestors didn't come over on the Mayflower. You never mention your mother who came over here as a domestic servant and who's first language was Gaelic. we want people to like us so badly that we change our identities in order to be accepted? Are we all self- hating teachers, Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians, Blacks, Hispanics, Irishmen, Scots, and Italians because the media tells us that the stereotypes concerning us are the truth? Do we know our own history or do we accept what has been told to us from the media and history books?    
      Trump is our president and he should be called out on the things he says and the way he acts. He shouldn't be held to a lower standard - he should be held to a higher standard - he represents each and everyone of us throughout the world. I was on a plane recently sitting next to, lucky me, a German model, and we had a very long conversation on Trump. She was laughing her head off almost the whole long trip discussing the things he had said and the things he was doing. At first I couldn't help but laugh as well but after a while I started to feel a little upset. (That wasn't her intention, so I took no real offense to her remarks. I am upset that Trump is our president, but that doesn't delegitimize his presidency - he is our president.) We started comparing national leaders around the world to Donald Trump. He's at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. It was somewhat of an eye opener to hear her views on what others in the world feel about Trump and our country. She was very intelligent and and an excellent conversationalist. Her number one question, over and over again to me was how could Americans vote Trump into office. I had no real answer for her, other than to read Marlowe's, Dr. Faustus.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The End of Fair Student Funding?

   Last spring we got some tidbits of information concerning the ATR pool - first there was the announcement that Randy Asher would be overseeing its planned reduction in helping us back into the classroom. Then, there was Mulgrew's visit to Boca with a litany of potential woes (to open those wallets for COPE) in which he said,  "There will be no more ATRs as of September 1st. All ATRs will be placed". A 50K incentive was offered to ATRs and then extended. Then, there was the announcement Amy Arundel would no longer be the ATR rep for the UFT. (No replacement has been announced.) During the end of June it became painfully apparent that many individual school budgets had been cut again for next year. The announcement of next year's budget facilitated the excessing of many teachers into the ghost army of ATRs, classes that will now be combined and overcrowded, many teachers that will have to teach six classes, and the marked scarcity of viable (cheap and inexperienced) teachers available to fill the vacant teaching slots. There will of course be little or no per session and a lack of basic supplies. (That $250 Teachers Choice won't go far in this scenario.)

  All this while the City has a tremendous surplus and the CSA and UFT seem to strongly want an end to Fair Student Funding (aka, individualized school budgets) in order to run their schools to meet the needs of their students. I say this because every principal, UFT rep and even one former superintendent I've spoken to has told me so. Fair student funding has been a Bloomberg burden laden on the shoulders of schools, principals, and children for far too long. It's time it was thrown into the garbage heap with Klein's discarded toupee.

    As an individual example - at an ATR friend's school (which she left in June after a five month gig), four teachers were excessed; the staff were told they would all be teaching six periods next year; that next year's classes would be at full capacity; that three math teachers would have to be hired (but there were no funds to do so) and there would be no per session or money for after school clubs. The principal said he would gladly hire my friend if her salary came from central. This school is not unusual. How will these schools run with no money to pay for necessities and salaries? Why was an ATR incentive offered and then extended?

   I believe the city hoped to rid itself of the most expensive teachers possible before going back to centralized funding. I hope that the city will announce a return to centralized funding for the benefit of the schools and their students. This will allow principals to hire the best teaching candidates, diminish oversized classes and funnel funds into the neediest schools. It will allow for a much more efficient use of funds.

   Perhaps, it is just a pipe dream, but I see no other way for schools to meet their monetary     obligations  under the current accounting system. (Other than springing Bernie Madoff.) It is a win - win for everyone, especially students. Then the powers that be can proudly say, "Children first, always".

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Strong Response from Our Beloved Leader

Dear Media,
It's come to my attention that some of our smallest group of educators ( no more than a dozen or two), also known as ATRs, have been labeled drunks, perverts, peddlers, and lemons. I happen to know for a fact not one of them are lemons, vegetables or minerals. They are all human beings (to the best of my knowledge) with the same urges that may lurk in all of us. We no longer have teacher cafeterias -so alcohol is not openly served to the staff and is not an issue. Our discipline code has banned chains and whips. We are looking closely at handing out spinners to ATRs so their hands will be occupied and visable at all times. We are also asking them to refrain from wearing raincoats and use only umbrellas during raining days. As for peddlers, some teachers do opt to ride their bicycles to work. I don't know what your problem is with that! I strongly uphold their right to do so!  We are working hard to get these teachers back in the classroom, but in case we can't -we have a plan B. Our President, #45, is bringing back coal consumption. In order to show unity with our coal miner union brother and sisters we are re-retrofitting our boiler rooms for coal. Shoveling coal to keep our schools at a comfortable 99 degrees is an important and vital job. It will keep our ATRs in tip top shape in case a vacancy should open up.

So please show some respect, we are doing all we can to get rid of them. We've even offered them $50,000 to leave. Please, if you wonderful media folk decide to write any more about ATRs, please refrain from criticizing me in any way - as I find it very hurtful, unfair and upsetting. I'm sure the ATRs don't mind it at all.

Best Regards,

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chancellor Rosie O'Donnell?

     I wasn't always a fan of Rosie O'Donnell. I knew she had a tough upbringing and came out on top. She seemed to have always spoken her mind, even when it got her in trouble. I wasn't a true fan of Rosie until she came out of the closet. Prior to that time, my wife and all her friends would race home after dropping the kids off (this was before DVR). hang out and watch Rosie. Once a year they'd get tickets and go visit her show. I remember when she came out, there must have been some backlash, because her popularity seemed to take a nosedive and she seemed to take on a bit of a hard edge. My wife and friends remained loyal but she lost some fans. She did however gain others. Shortly after that initial coming out, I was in Nova Scotia on vacation. Rosie had her own cruise ship and was landing at the pier I was shopping at. I was talking with all the lady vendors there. Their main concern, and I'm not joking, was that she wouldn't romantically hit on any of them. I told them I thought Rosie was involved in a relationship and I didn't think they had to worry (most of them looked like Nanny McPhee). It made me realize that Rosie gave up a lot to be honest and true to herself. She may have also helped others - even those that weren't involved in issues related to her's.

    At around the same time I was watching Donald Trump on the original Apprentice. It was a great show and my poor opinion of him started to change and I began to like him. Then something happened that made me shake my head and realize there was something profoundly wrong with him. Rosie made fun of his hair style and he became so over the top nasty that I was speechless. I thought he'd laugh it off and say thanks Rosie, but he went for the jugular and didn't stop. He made himself look like a complete fool and I lost all respect for him.

   During the presidential election Trump brought up Rosie's name many times and it was often very mean spirited. I thought he might try to reach out to her and make friends, but, alas it didn't happen. It solidified his petty persona.   We now have Trump in office. He wants to dismantle public education, bring in charters, get rid of unions and have a right to work nation. How does our union president respond?  Mulgrew is afraid to utter Trump's name and refers to him as '45'. Rosie on the other hand has come out with a game in which the player can opt to have the Donald dropped over a cliff, into a volcano or eaten by a T-Rex.  (This has outraged some conservatives who may feel this may give some the idea to clone a T-Rex and threaten the president.) Who do you think Trump respects more? Who would he prefer to fight? Who would win? Rosie; and the more he opened his mouth the more he'd lose.

 There have been rumors that Chancellor Farina may be retiring soon. Perhaps Bill is actively seeking a successor? Bill has been very vocal and strong in standing up to Trump. My sugestion is that he considers Rosie O'Donnell for chancellor. She is strong, vocal and smart. She cares for kids, teachers, schools and is a New Yorker. Bill, if you're listening, consider Rosie O'Donnell. I am entirely serious. We need fighters like Rosie in office.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

ATRs Are Teachers

He's an ATR!

   First things first, I'm a teacher. A teacher who's status is currently 'ATR'.  I'm not a lemon, drunk, pervert or sub. I'm tenured, permanently licensed, respect everyone and respect myself. I love God, my family, my friends, the arts, the USA and children of all ages. When I say children, I'm referring to those that experience joy, sharing and laughing. I also include those that are wounded. I can experience just about any type of pain, but if my kids are in pain or serious trouble it is unbearable. Everytime I teach, I try to remember that. I want that student, even if he or she curses and threatens me, to succeed. Why? Well, in many ways he or she is my child. I want them to have a good life, hopefully even a better one than me. That's not to say I've had a bad life - I'm grateful for all of God's gifts. If I walk into a room and see a teacher that doesn't know the subject, I don't judge him or her, I try to help. Often, I'm shunned - even when placed with another teacher.

    Recently, I was in a class where the facts presented were completely incorrect concerning Judaism. When I tried to explain the concept privately (so as not to embarass or upset the teacher in front of the students), I was asked by the (12 year experienced) teacher how I could 'know so much being, an ATR' and not licensed in Social Studies. First, I politely asked what she thought of ATRs. She told me, 'really bad teachers that they weren't able to fire'. I explained that anyone could be brought up on charges, and that even if cleared they were turned into ATRs for life. I also explained that the group she referenced was only about 10 -15% and the rest of us were excessed, mostly from closed schools. She replied, 'if you guys were any good you would have been hired'. I then explained school budgeting vs. centralized budgeting and that most ATR salaries were too high for most individual school budgets. She looked at me like I was crazy. She then asked if I was Jewish (I'm not), because she didn't understand how I knew what I had explained to her. I was getting uncomfortable with the level of her ignorance, lack of social skills and stereotypes. This didn't stop me from trying to help her. In helping her, I was helping the kids and myself. You see, I believe we all have a calling. For me, and perhaps also for you, it may be teaching, and helping others. If I ran into this teacher in the hall, she wouldn't answer me if I said good morning, and often looked at me like something that had stuck to the bottom of her shoe. I've experienced this in many schools from staff and it doesn't really bother me anymore. It's being an ATR.

    The last week of school this particular teacher was excessed and turned into an ATR. Next year's school budget was cut and several teachers were excessed. Several teachers told me the teacher I referenced above was crying so badly they had to send her home. They asked me to go speak to her to let her know how great being an ATR was(!). I then asked them what they thought an ATR was. I got responses that basically boiled down to 'heaven on Earth'. I was incredulous. I said I'd be happy to speak to her about the reality of being an ATR, but that based on her reaction, she already had a good idea.

     One of the teachers actually congratulated her on the last day of school on becoming an ATR. She looked like she wanted to strangle him. She never did seek me out, but as of late I have seen many versions of her voiced opinions and those of other teachers published. Published by those that hate public education. There seems to be a marked indifference to these ATR stereotypes from teachers and the UFT. As a teacher do you realize you can become an ATR once your salary becomes prohibitive to a projected budget? What is the inference, when the UFT stays silent during these attacks? Does the UFT understand these attacks are in fact on all NYC public school teachers? It is high time for all teachers and the UFT to recognize that ATRs are teachers and should be afforded the same respect and rights as every other UFT public school teacher.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Principals, Start Your Engines! The Race is On!

The race is on!

     Holy cannoli! ATRs and their high salaried, expansive derrières are going to be force placed into schools that have vacancies as of October 15th. That can mean only one thing - a massive race to get the cheapest possible candidate on board before that date; as well as competing with every principal in the city for the same candidates. Where to look? If I were a principal, I would troll the the Charter Schools. Stand outside the best ones with free bagels and coffee and start talking. Heck, bring twenty dollar bills. Chalkbeat would be another place I'd try, as well as Craigslist. Maybe a paid ad or two in the more scholarly journals or MAD magazine? Hey, I don't blame the principals - I would do the same thing. That's right - if my budget was cut and I had a vacancy, why should I have to pay an ATR, 100K, even if he or she is the superior candidate? How is that fair to the school? How is it fair to the ATR, that has no say and may be burdened with the ill feeling that the administration may feel about that placement? How will that ATR's punititive salary affect the ATR's potential rating? I'd try to get rid of that ATR pronto. Wouldn't you?

    Two weeks ago I met some newly excessed teachers that have between 10-15 years in and as such are not at the highest end of the pay scale. For the few schools that may have vacancies, those are the ATRs that will be placed first. They are good experienced teachers and cheaper than most ATRs. Again, a no brainer for the unfortunate principal that may have a vacancy as of 10/15.

   Mr. Asher's webinar was excellent and I thank him for having it. It would have been nice if the UFT could have had the decency to have a meeting or two, but hey, we know what we're dealing with. In my opinion nothing will change until the DOE goes back to centralized funding. The best candidates should be placed regardless of salary and the students should have the best teachers. The FOIL request from the Post and the charter parent group should be honored and will show most ATRs come from closed schools, have never been rated unsatisfactorily or brought up on charges. Mr. Asher brought up these facts. Thank you, sir and thank you, Bill DeBlasio for also bringing it up. A very positive sign, especially in light of the outrageous articles in the NY Post. your summer and that 50K, if you're so inclined.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Place Where Many of Society's Problems Meet

     It is upsetting to read that homelessness is surging to a record pace here in NYC - this while the economy is supposedly doing much better. If homelessness is growing in the general population, it is with our students as well. I'm going to preface this post with the statement that one of my favorite students, during my entire teaching career, was homeless. This was before my ATR stint and one in which I was given five classes of computer repair, out of license and with absolutely no training. I was given this program the day before classes started in September. I was panicked, depressed and angry. I didn't sleep or eat much for about a month. I spent six hours a night reading technical manuals while trying to teach myself the material I needed to teach the next day, every day. I am not in anyway mechanically inclined. At first I balked and went to the chapter leader who told me I had to take the program or be charged with insubordination. I told him to go f--k himself and called the UFT, who told me I would be excessed if I refused. After hearing so many horror stories about being an ATR, I decided to do my best. I would come in daily about 6:30 AM to set up the room. All the air conditioners were broken and the latches to open the windows were missing (therefore the windows couldn't be opened). I bought latches and had them installed. Even with two windows open a couple of inches it was a sweat box. I lost twenty pounds during that September. That was just a minor inconvience compared to many hurtles I had to jump. There were no books, so I had to print out the materials weekly for 150 kids a day, for a five day week. I had to get new computer equipment, laptops, old computer equipment, learn an incredible amount of material which included coding. The real kicker for me was I HATED the subject. I asked the principal to give me English, Social Studies, Health, Physical Education - anything but this. He said he would if he could, and he was very supportive of me - however, two students really helped me.
     My daughter introduced me to YouTube, which basically saved my sanity. Every topic, which I didn't understand, (which was every topic) was explained.  The other student that helped me every day, almost all year was a male student, 'Adam'. Adam used to get to my class about 7AM every morning and help me set up. He knew a lot more about computer repair than I did and would usually explain one of the more difficult technical points. We became friendly and I learned he lived in a shelter with his father. He was never disheaveled, or gave any indication that he was homeless. His dad would usually get day laborer work, but it wasn't enough to pay for an apartment. I never asked about his mother and he never brought her up. Most of my students were great but I had one very obnoxious student in an afternoon class (in which Adam was not present). This student, 'Brad', was not homeless, but wasn't being parented. He was the complete opposite of Adam - disheavled, smelly, obscene, and would do his best to destroy every class. One afternoon some of the students came to me and told me Brad and his friends were robbing Adam and beating him up almost daily. (They told me Brad found out Adam was homeless and was using it as an excuse for the beatings.) Adam had been telling me his bruises and black eyes were from karate with friends when I first noticed and reported it. I went to the dean and he insisted on doing a mediation. It was an initial success. Unfortunately, it only lasted about a week and the bullying continued. His father took out an order of protection, which emboldens many bullies because they feel their potential victims are petrified. The bullying escalated as did the seriousness of the assaults. Adam's father wanted the bully removed, but was told only victims were given that option. I did everything I could to quell the situation, to no avail. Needless to say, Adam eventually had to leave on a safety transfer, even though Brad, who was given several court appearance tickets for harassment and several suspensions, stayed in school. I never saw Adam again, but last year ran into one of his old friends (and a former student). He told me Adam got a degree in computer science and was working. Adam never despaired, was always hopeful  and eventually came out of his absymal situation.
    There are many homeless families in NYC now. Homelessness, bullying, lack of parenting and societal indifference all meet at our desks. Try to help if you can.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

(Re-Post from 7/6/16) Post 4th Thoughts

Post 4th Thoughts

     America. What does it mean for you? For me it's an inherent part of my identity. It's not really a deliberate choice, more like an intangible tangible. I can't change it, no more than I can change my revulsion at the road this country is going down. The candidates are just symptoms of the illness. The real problem is we have become much too lenient with every type of misbehavior, other than of verbal slurs (unless its on social media - in which case anything goes). The rights of the few take precedence over the rights of the many. This is evident in everything from schools to public spaces. Students who have severe behavior problems have the right to totally destroy a class and stop the teacher from teaching and the students from learning. In public spaces, self cleaning toilets were removed from NYC some years ago, because they weren't completely handicap accessible. As I'm writing this, there's a guy with his pecker out, peeing between two cars on 172nd Street. All in view of everyone walking by. The cops won't ticket him - partly because they can't be bothered and they hate the mayor (who has downgraded the offense). I don't entirely blame the urinator - he appears to be homeless and there are no toilets to use - self cleaning or otherwise. As an ATR, I know the feeling. No restroom key and no one to open the restroom door. How many of us have been tempted to urinate in the back stairs? Save not for the cameras and the students back there having sex, some of us may have. What an embarrassing hearing that would be! The daily papers would read, "Subpar teacher urinates in back stairs!". The TV news would show endless clips with the warning, "What we are about to show you may be disturbing".
     Every time I walk around this city I'm disturbed. Homelessness, selfishness, materialism, incompetence, and downright meanness are there. My right to blow your head off with my gun takes precedence over your right to have a head, especially if I perceive you as a threat. Most people that carry guns perceive everyone as a threat. If they get in a fist fight and start to lose, they will pull out that gun and use it. How likely is it that you can get into a fist fight in this city? Very likely, especially if you are young. (Don't have a gun - then a knife will be used.) Every weekend and after every holiday, I open the paper to read how many people were shot the night before. How many people were shot in NYC, last night on the 4th of July? 10. I don't know how many were intentionally targeted. Many of the kids that have these guns learn to shoot by watching videos and movies in which the gun is held and shot sideways - insuring that everyone, except the intended victim, is shot. Violence is glorified in movies, video, music and gaming. Getting a gun for many young people is like what getting our first bike was for us (with an extra added pleasure of being illicit). Schools are a microcosm of society - keep metal detectors in schools. Have a peaceful summer.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Scourge of Social Media

   I don't like what I see on many social media sites. I haven't for years, and this was before Trump took to tweeting I grew to detest social media via my expansive experiences with teens and seeing first hand social media's often devastating effects. In addition to being a teacher, I'm a certified mediator and did them almost daily. On most days I did one or sometimes two, but when our students started getting cell phones, I was doing about ten a day. It became quickly apparent we needed more mediators and several staff members volunteered for the training. (I believe all teachers should be trained - it helps in a myriad of ways.) Many of these mediations were intense, emotional powder kegs that had the potential to escalate. It was mandatory after a fight and a mandatory suspension. We had a minimum of one fight a day - our school had approximately 2000 students, in a building built for 800. Ninety percent of the altercations dealt around social media. This was at a time when phones were banned from school. (There was a truck or the corner bodega that would hold them for a dollar. If a cellphone was found in school it would be confiscated and only returned to a parent.) During those years My Space, AIM and then Facebook became de riguer. Someone would gossip and say something nasty on one of the sites. It would result in a fight, which if fought outside, would be filmed and posted. The NYPD, out of pure necessity, put an Internet division in each station house.  It seems that technology, especially technology that allows one to be anonymous, creates a viciousness that will often result in violence. Violence directed at the suspected parties, or most appallingly  at oneself.
   When I was young if we said or did something awful, we saw the results of our actions. On the face of the recipient, or with a fight, a suspension and/or a severe punishment at home. That fact alone stopped the behavior from happening and/or stopped it from happening again. Zen and the art of teenage discipline could be letting kids see the effects of their actions in a natural and tangible way, but that isn't happening presently. Many young people are receiving no discipline at home or at school. Now, unbelievably, phones are allowed into schools, but I must say many schools have started to collect them at the door. The staffs however are not trained in mediation and/or restorative justice, just say they are and do nothing. There needs to be real training (not a half hour PD) for staffs and tangible consequences for students, when warranted. It's insane to allow students to bring their phones to class, especially schools that have severe discipline problems. Again, you can quickly judge the quality of a school by how it deals with this issue. Some of these schools don't even have a dean.  Schools are a microcosm of society and even we are not immune to social media's invasive tentacles. It actually makes us less socially adept. The people that I know with thousands of friends on Facebook have no close friends. Those that like to be combative on Twitter can't argue face to face. Social skills and civility are being replaced with silence, texting and walking into fountains.
    There was a case earlier this month that involved texting and outrageous cruelty that I have been following closely that I hope may change much of the unfettered viciousness of those that cause others to hurt themselves. . Teachers, administrators and parents need to be cognisant of the effects of technology, youth and the all encompassing indifference I see everywhere from almost everyone.

7/3/17 Update : Michelle Carter was convicted and is looking at a 2.5 year sentence.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

(Repost from 1/21/15) Survival as an ATR - A Brief Overview

     (Today I came across some very upset, newly minted ATRs. To say they were devastated would be an understatement. All of them have over ten years in the system and are great teachers. This crap has to stop. Here's one of my first posts and I hope it helps someone.)

Survival as an ATR - A Brief Overview 

     When I was teaching I never thought I could become an ATR. The 2005 contract seemed like a win-win and most teachers trusted the union. At the time my chapter leader said the seniority clause really didn't mean anything - unless you wanted to change schools and bump someone. (Most of us wanted to stay in the school we were in until retirement.) He went on to further explain it would stop someone from bumping us. No one imagined school closings and the creation of the dreaded beast "The ATR". As time went on the number of school closings increased, as did the number of ATRs.
     Today many teachers are deathly afraid of becoming an ATR, partially because it's inevitable for experienced teachers. I now know many ATRs. Almost all are over 40 and professional individuals. (The stereotypes that abound are disturbing , especially when it comes from our union and fellow teachers.) Depending on your teaching background, some will have a much more difficult time than others.
     Everything is taken away from you, except the pay check. You will have no routine. You won't know the kids, teachers, administrators, building, or neighborhood. You will spend a lot of money in parking garages or on tickets. You will have a new cold every time you change schools, because of the different populations and stress. You will have to carry everything with you- coat, bag, food, etc.. You will start at 9 in one school, 7:35 at another. If you had a miserable time in the past, this may not be so bad. If you had a great time teaching, this will be hard on you. How to survive?
     Try to have a positive attitude. Try to exercise more, preferably before work. Watch yourself for depression and addictions ( shopping, overeating, gambling, and any of the more illicit ones). I have several friends who have become seriously ill and quit. Dress in layers - some schools are 90 degrees, others 40. Carry hand sanitizer and earplugs. (Yes, believe it or not, these rooms can get so loud your hearing will be in danger.) Carry some generic class work. Expect no help from the UFT and you won't be disappointed. Pick your battles, because you may win the battle and lose the war. Most importantly- don't lose your head.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

How about a Raffle?

I like raffles.
    It feels like summer today. Another year over already. I'm making my list of things to do and people to see. I don't care about the UFT having meetings to explain why this 50K offer isn't a shafting. I'm not taking it and I only know one ATR that is considering it. Last week the Chapter Leader at my school asked if I was planning on taking this 'terrific opportunity' and I said no. He said, "You should reconsider - they have some nasty things planned for you guys." He wouldn't elaborate. I guess that's what's referred to as the fear factor. I believe it's that fear that the UFT is betting on and what's keeping them from having meetings. (If you have any questions email the UFT or just get out your Magic 8 Ball.) The fear that people imagine is always much worse than reality. The best horror movie directors scare by not showing their monsters. It's what caused several of my colleagues to leave teaching, rather than become an ATR when our school closed. It's what causes most of us not to take a risk that could greatly benefit us.
     I was listening to a lecture by Alan Watts last night. He said something profound (and I'm paraphrasing) 'Once you realize that you will eventually die there is no fear in living.' I don't believe many ATRs will take the offer, but there are many teachers that would. Why doesn't the UFT offer everyone the same deal? Aren't we all considered teachers? Why should only one group be offered this 'opportunity'? If the UFT or DOE (they have become increasingly synonymous) doesn't want to offer this to all teachers, why not just offer the budgeted amount, that is turned down by ATRs, to those teachers that want it? How? A UFT raffle of course!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Another Victory!

                                   Mulgrew wins again!                                               
       I look to the future with joy and happiness at being alive and healthy. That's something many teachers and ATRs I know can't say, and if the UFT can do something to alleviate its members anxiety, it should do so. I've read the new ATR agreement, but it is vague on many points. There's been an offer of 50K to retire or 35K to resign, but more than a couple of us are wondering why the questions concerning the agreement aren't being openly discussed. Is there something being concealed? Is it that the truth may dissuade those who don't want to be placed from leaving? Or is it something outrageous that will shock the conscience of the rank and file? For instance, do principals have to accept ATRs in a permanent placement? If not, how are they to be placed? Will they be placed? If there are more ATRs than there are for certain vacancies, how are the placements to be decided? If there are no vacancies, for certain license areas, how are those ATRs to be placed? The system seems ripe for outrageous indignities to be heaped on ATRs - which was the reason the weekly rotation was developed in the first place - to avoid schools taking unfair liberties with teachers placed in the status of ATR. This was of course after the terrible mistake of allowing an ATR system to be created in the first place.
   The UFT should be having meetings now to help ATRs decide if this is the right time to leave based on what is or is not planned. I have plenty of aquiantances that are principals and they have told me they can't afford ATRs even if they are free at first; that some of them (they seem pained to admit) believe the stereotypes about most of us; will not want our seniority to trump a newbie superstar and do not want us to infect their staff with unknown union rights. If I was racing horses I might feel the same way. Why should I pay top dollar for some old broken down horse (that may have a disease), when I can get three foals for the same price? The DOE seems to want to put us out to pasture but it seems like we're being led by our handlers into a glue factory. We are not horses, we are teachers. Our experience should make us vastly more valuable than a new hire. I guess the Belmont Stakes is bringing out all these metaphors. I read the asinine comments from some of our UFT handlers. It's infuriating not to have a voice, be treated like a fool and then told that a couple of ATRs are excited. We're running the good race, but it looks like the fix is in. Always enjoy the race, even if you lose.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Annual Meetings and Input From ATRs

   See you in September!
      There is a new ATR agreement that looks a lot like the old ATR agreement, but took most of a year to be negotiated, was done secretly, without ATR input, without open discussion and without being voted upon. Many of us have questions and concerns. We used to have an ATR advisory committee and ATR agreements were voted upon. At last nights Executive Board  meeting Ms. Arundel said we don't need meetings concerning this, as there are annual borough meetings every fall. Stuart Kaplan mentioned ATRs now have a choice of getting a buyout or being forced placed, and that a couple of ATRs he talked to were excited about the prospect. Mr. Mulgrew mentioned we're going to be a right to work nation and state soon - the implication being since it's going to be happening to all of us soon, the ATRs shouldn't balk because the UFT are using their own version of it now.

We are very excited!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mike : Let's Make a Deal


      Hey Atlas, I gotcha a hell of a deal, $50K, to make like a tree and leave. What could be better? After taxes you can be the owner of a brand new Corolla and drive for Uber. What! No. I can't be hearing correctly. You want details? I told your buddy Harry you guys don't have to worry we'll place you. Obscure license, not enough vacancies, and eccentrics? Don't worry we got jobs for all of you. Details? No, I got no details. Meetings? No way, Jose - I mean Atlas - Amy is a very busy person and  her assistants are bogged down as well. Don't worry, be happy - we have your best interests at hand.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

UFT Meteor

   First enjoy your weekend, but remember why we're off on Monday. Many people don't stop and give pause for all those who sacrificed for our ideals. Most teachers I meet seem to truly hate their jobs. Some were actually running to their cars this afternoon. It was like a meteor was about to hit the area and it was a matter of life or death to escape as quickly as possible. I never saw traffic like I did this afternoon - it took me one hour to go four miles. Unfortunately, for most of us, the thought of being off far outweighs the reality. Personally, I had a lot of fun with the kids this week. I had the same classes and was teaching literature. No excerpts, the entire book. I tricked the kids into learning, despite themselves. Old teaching tricks that I learned long ago. It hit me how much I miss teaching. Actually teaching classes, having kids listen and do work felt wonderful. When I teach, I get a feeling of elation that is unlike anything else. That that joy was taken from me, and so many others, for no other reason than we are at the higher end of the pay scale is maddening. The UFT has been more than disappointing, in that it doesn't seem to be willing to support us, even minimally. That it went so far as to agree to put in discriminatory provisions in the last contract (that have since expired) was a profound betrayal. It now openly lies and/or ignores us and tells us how lucky ATRs are to have a job. The truly fortunate group is the UFT. It is lucky that dues are still mandatory. Things may change for all of us. I will continue to support the UFT, despite my anger and disappointment, but I hope that the UFT starts to respect its veteran members. The UFT should carefully consider what it is agreeing to in its representation of us. It hasn't asked for our input. It hasn't informed us or kept us informed. That fact, at the very least, should imply strong representation on the part of the UFT. Let's hope that a darkly imagined meteor doesn't strike ATRs or the UFT.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

(Repost 6/2/16) The Anti-Vocational Education and 'College For All' Ideological Harvest


     Back in the early 1990s, I was enrolled in Lehman College working on my Master's degree. During one of my more interesting classes, I had a professor who became very angry with me when I told her I disagreed with her. She had stated that all vocational high schools in NYC should be closed. She had asserted that vocational schools were racist facilities that were being used to keep minority students out of college. She maintained that all students should be sent to college. I, of course, said that was ridiculous. She asked me how old my son was (3, at the time) and said, "So it's ok for your son to go to college, but not the Black or Latino kid?" I replied if my son had the inclination toward the trades, I wouldn't stop him and that tradespeople can make very high salaries. (There is and was a subtle snobbery with many intellectuals that view skilled labor as a demeaning way to make a living. My son did end up going to a vocational high school. I should mention that this professor was a very attractive, nice Jewish lady.)
    As the years went by, I saw a lot of chipping away at the notion of vocational schools. First, as I've mentioned, from education professors; then from teachers and administrators, and finally from our beloved Mayor Bloomberg. Right after the No Child Left Behind Act, my AP went around to all the CTE teachers in our school and told us we had to get another license. She explained that the increased push to get all students into college and the end of zoned schools would mean the demise of vocational schools. The kids had to take newly required classes and tests. These classes left very little to no time for vocational classes. Most kids in the school were now taking 9 to 10 periods a day with no lunch. (We had to have the parents sign a waiver allowing it.)
    Next came massive amounts of kids being placed in our school with no interest in vocational classes. These kids used to go to their zoned schools, (and we used to send the ones that showed no aptitude to those schools). These students were now destroying every CTE class. The final nail in the coffin was of course, the completely diabolical 2005 contract. It allowed failing schools to be closed down and the veteran staffs to be turned into babysitters. Vocational schools were sent high need students and the resulting falling stats used as evidence for their closing.
    Now all students are being sent to college, regardless of academic readiness. (The Regent exams were supposed to ensure this.) Many former public school students can not pass an introductory class. Some spend all their financial aid on remedial classes. They then go into the world with no skills and no degree.
    I was recently at a play at SUNY Purchase. During intermission, I started talking with a semi-retired lady that seemed very familiar. She was telling me horror stories of the students she was teaching in a community college, as a adjunct English professor. "They're all so entitled! They expect me to spoon feed everything to them. They have no social skills, no vocabulary and can't write. Why don't they go out and learn a trade?!" Yes, you guessed it - my former professor from Lehman. I reminded her of our former conversation so many years before  - which had left a lasting impression on me, but none at all on her. She eventually did however, admit that she did feel that way once upon a time - but had been wrong. The crop of anti-vocational education and "college for all" ideologies, sown so long ago, is now being harvested by the very same people and institutions that planted it.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


   There seems to be a deep divide between the ideals and personalities of pre and post Bloomberg schools. The person I always came into contact with first was the principal. Most of the principals I worked with, as a permanently appointed teacher, were excellent school leaders. They were highly visable, with an open door policy. They saw their positions as leading their staffs in the facilitation of teaching. Their APs were there to directly help teachers do that. We were one team working together to help students. Rarely did I see a bad teacher; if there was one, direct intervention was implemented to help the teacher get up to par. New teachers were mentored and teamed with veteran teachers. Rarely did I see a teacher fail to achieve tenure. I did see several APs fail to make tenure because they alienated staff and/or students. This type of individual was not welcomed into our school community. Several went out into the business world. Our environment was a close working relationship between students, teachers, guidance counselors, paras, aides, APs, the principal and even the custodians. We respected one another and oft times became close friends. There were always the dynamics of gossip and negativity that is apparent wherever you have groups of people working together, but in most schools I worked, it was minimal. If an overzealous AP or an overreaching principal directive was issued the chapter leader filed a grievance immediately. We had deans and suspensions, when a student's actions warranted it. We always had oversized classes and were told to grieve it within three days and it was ALWAYS rectified. We usually had our own room. We were always asked by administration to teach six classes and were always told not to by the chapter leader, as this was seen as taking a job away from a prospective teacher or creating the need to excess one. We spent most of every June going to retirement parties and we celebrated births and weddings. Many departments went out every Friday night for dinner. I also went to my fair share of wakes and funerals for former teachers. Many teachers after retirement would come back frequently to visit or sub. We had a large staff lounge, a teacher cafeteria and parking. The students graduated and went on to work or college. Most lived nearby and would also frequently stay in touch. All and all, it was a fulfilling career where most of us were content. Only the expert teachers - the best of the best - would become APs and then if they excelled, on to become principals. These principals were respected and in many cases loved, (yes, it's true).
    The past few years as an ATR I haven't really met too many principals. The few I've come across seem to be overwhelmed, as do most of the teachers. There's no real cohesiveness or much happiness.  There's no teacher's cafeteria, very little space for collaboration and people don't want to answer back to a 'good morning'. No one stays too long in one school without leaving or the school closing. There are no checks and balances in place for anyone, but the teacher. There seems to be a prevailing aura of dread. Dread for the next observation, dread for the next class and dread for the next day. I heard a quote by Demetri Martin on swimming that made me think of my past and present experiences with teaching  - 'Swimming is a confusing sport, because sometimes you do it for fun, and other times you do it to not die. And when I'm swimming, sometimes I'm not sure which one it is.' 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Hey Mulgrew, Give the ATRs the Info on the Deal you Made for Us


    I recently wrote about Mulgrew answering my buddy, Boca Harry, concerning the demise of the ATR pool as of 9/1/17 and our forced placement. Friends in high places in the UFT assured me Mulgrew would reveal the particulars over a month ago. We're still waiting. The ICEUFT blog found the city saving the ATR cost of 187 million per year in the new city budget. This logically asserts the approximate number of ATRs at 1,870 and that the deal has been done for weeks. Hey Mike, how about some straight talk and information? I've been paying dues for 25 years, never brought up on charges, never given an Unsatisfactory and have been treated like a pariah ever since my school closed. I don't expect to be treated that way from the union I pay dues to and am a current member in good standing.
      I have to say many of us are coming to a slow boil. Why weren't we asked for input? Why aren't we kept informed? Why are we completely ignored or at best treated as a repulsive afterthought like the acid reflux from the under cooked quail at a UFT dinner? If union dues become optional do you expect the support of those you have ignored?
      When does the UFT plan on informing us, August 31st?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Repost (10/09/16) : Atlas ponders, 'What ATR Scenario Would Mulgrew Deny the City?'

  Two weeks ago we learned that there were renewed ATR negotiations via Mr. Mulgrew's announcement that they didn't go well. What does the city want that Mulgrew would have denied!?Atlas asked some friends their opinions:

Tony: Probably weekly or daily rotations in different boroughs.

Atlas: No, Bloomy tried that. The UFT won the court case.

George: I think they want the ATRs to drink the water in each school to test for lead.

Atlas: No, ATRs don't drink any liquid during the day. This is to minimize their need to urinate based on the frequent absence of a restroom key. Mulgrew would have readily agreed to this.

Harry: Place all ATRs as the sole staff in receivership schools and allow the staff to be fired when the school doesn't improve.

Atlas: Two thoughts about that - one a deformer group has FOILed the DOE to get the info on ATRs sent into these schools. If the info is released, then it proves ATRs are superior, not inferior - and also that ATRs are being sent to these schools. If the UFT agreed to this scenario then this would come out and the UFT could not be seen agreeing to termination of these ATRs.

Harry: So you think this is the case?

Atlas: Perhaps. Anymore ideas?

Pat: I think they wanted a time limit. Get a permanent position or be terminated.

Atlas: No, the system is set up to insure ATRs don't get permanent positions. State law, LIFO, states last in first out. The UFT and DOE would lose that battle in court and in the court of public opinion.

Jean: I think the DOE wants to give up and put all ATRs back in the classroom permanently.

Atlas: Very interesting. If the UFT agreed to this they would lose the dues for 2,000 new UFT members that wouldn't be hired. This may be what the Mulgrew referenced when he said a new agreement couldn't be reached and there was no new agreement.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Bigger Picture

     There's been some good news coming from, of all people (!), Gov. Cuomo. Free tuition at state and city colleges. If you are a parent to a college bound teenager you know what a big deal this is for many of us. Some of us may actually be able to retire before we drop dead. Let me briefly explain - college tuition has skyrocketed over the past decade. I know many young adults who have hundreds of thousands of dollars in college loan debts. I know many more exhausted middle-aged, middle-class ( making under $125,000) parents that are working two jobs to help their children.
     There are many ways one can look at this - a boon or a potential bust. If tuition is free, can all children of families that make under 125k attend, even the vast number that are graduating NYC public high schools woefully unprepared for college? When they start retaking all those classes they took in high school and passed, for zero credits, will they presist and catch up or drop out? How long will they be allowed to take those remedial classes and/or attend college? Will the college professors be expected to pass them regardless of real learning, just like their high school teacher counterparts? Will the colleges be held accountable by the city and state if there are low graduation rates from their NYC public hs grads - now 'free' students? (Or will it necessitate real change from the high schools to prepare their graduates?) Will those students value their education because it's free, or throw it away like free lunch at a food fight?
     I don't believe anything of value should be given away. It devalues it in the eyes of the giver and recipient. All students, including my children and students, should work part time at whatever college they attend for free. It could be helping other students, library work or something of benefit to the college. I think it's very important to instill values - I don't see that happening at all on the high school level. It's important that young people not grow up feeling they are entitled to everything they want, especially those things that require hard work and sacrifice.
   Free college is wonderful. I thank Gov. Cuomo and the NYS legislature that signed it into the budget. It is my fondest hope that all students that can benefit from free tuition will take advantage of a higher education and respect it as a magnificent opportunity.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Repost(5/7/16): After Bloomberg, Should Any Mayor Have Sole Control of the Schools?

    How was your experience as a teacher under the mantle of Sir Michael Bloomberg ? Mine went from wonderful to abysmal after the 2005 contract, in which we got a big raise for selling our seniority rights. Then came the hundreds of school closings. Then, the replacement of veteran teachers with totally inexperienced white kids from the mid-west. Then, leadership academy principals indoctrinated with a business management approach to school leadership. Then, the ATR pool for teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, and APs that were too highly paid and couldn't be molded into a sniveling bureaucrats.

   Bloomberg is gone! Fantastic, Mulgrew regained his voice and gave DeBlasio a big check before the contract. Not a bribe, because we got the worst contract in the history of the UFT. It was more or less a house warming gift. I don't have a problem with it. We all had big hopes for Bill. A smiling mayor and a humanitarian. Two years later, not only hasn't anything changed, everything has become progressively worse. That's not what I expected when I heard him toot his horn claiming to be progressive. Students have cellphones in schools and classes, restorative justice has allowed criminal behavior to go unchecked, principals who have no business running schools (according to Chancellor Farina) are still in charge, principals who have made unethical choices for their staffs and students are unchallenged, teachers are evaluated in an insane manner, and veteran teachers who are overwhelmingly middle-aged and people of color are still languishing in the ATR pool. The last contract gave them second tier status and was announced with UFT President Mulgrew as a beneficial way to help these teachers find a career outside of education- the implication being ATRs are unsuitable for actual teaching. Mulgrew says things are great with DeBlasio. What do you think?

   Mayoral control of the schools end in June. A monarchical system that started with Sir Mike, that is  simply terrible. It's also being used as a political manipulative tool by both parties. We live in a democracy. Schools are not businesses, they are social institutions. All constituancies should have a voice in the decision making of education - parents, teachers, neighbors, taxpayers, students and the mayor. No one person should have sole control of the schools, bring back the Board of Education.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Harry from Boca with ATR News

  This is a post from my best friend, Harry, from Boca. He taught for thirty one years and was an ATR for his last three years. Harry is a great guy and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the following post. I don't know why Mulgrew would casually answer his questions or if Mulgrew's answers to those questions are true. Check your Magic 8 Ball.

   ' I went to a retiree meeting on March 30th, in Boca, in which Mike Mulgrew preceded over. At 61 years old, I was the youngest person there by at least ten years. When Mike took the podium, the old folk started to elevate out of their chairs, like errant helium balloons at a country fair. For safety, he listed his litany of oncoming disasters slowly- thus allowing the air to escape gradually as they slowly deflated back down. Even so, I'm sure he had an ambulance or two waiting by the doors. He started off by reiterating the political climate. Trump, DeVos and all the deformer groups looking to capitalize on charter school money. He mentioned a Fredrichs type case that could come back to the Supreme Court. He said there were huge cuts on the horizon. He mentioned that after school programs. summer school and evening school will have to be cut. He mentioned it was due to the cuts that would be coming from the federal and state governments, as well as the possibility of fines for being a sanctuary city. Mulgrew also mentioned that these charters schools are not being scrutinized the way they should; some of them may be funneling money into foreign countries. Mulgrew also brought up a severe teacher shortage. He then greeted us individually and asked for questions, so I asked,
 You have a couple of thousand of teachers babysitting, why don't you use them?
 Mulgrew: There's not a couple of thousand, it's less than a thousand. The ATR pool will be over as
of September 1st. They will be force placed. The city can no longer afford the expense. It's a done deal, I'm signing off on it next week.
Me: Forced placed into teaching positions or babysitting?
Mulgrew: Teaching. Anyone else have a question?
Me: Just one more thing, what about teachers that have business or other hard to place licenses?
Mulgrew: There are enough vacancies for all ATRs to be placed in their content area.
I then tried to get another question in and was elbowed in the ribs by a ninety year old retiree. She said, "You've asked enough questions from President Mulgrew, just shut up!" She then asked Mulgrew, "How long do we have to wait to vote for you again? You're the best UFT president we've ever had!" She was looking at him like a starving man would look at a corned beef on rye sandwich  in Katz's. Everyone was in awe of him. He made a quick exit saying he had a very important meeting that evening in NY. The audience was cheering wildly like they were at rock concert.'

Sunday, April 2, 2017

It's My Way or Norway!

      I recently heard Norway is the happiest country in the world   happiest-country-world-u-s-falls-14th-article-1.3003355
For me, having a say in anything I'm part of - a union, school, church or country is one of the most important criteria for happiness. I have no real say in the UFT and I have no school, being an ATR. I do have a say in my church and country. I can get a group together and protest or write articles or make phone calls. Trump, as much as he'd like to say, "It's my way or Norway", can't. Ruth, forget about moving to New Zealand - this is our country, as well as all those who disagree with us (including Trump). Great, that's the way it should be.
      I got a wake up call that reminded me of that criteria for happiness. It was cathartic in that it made me realize how fortunate I am to be living in the United States. Most of us take many things for granted - from turning on electricity, running water, television, Internet, phones and the English language. Visit a poor country and carefully look at how the average person survives. I visited Cuba recently and it opened a wellspring of love for the United States that I have never felt before. Never have I been so happy to be back in the USA. The Cuban people are highly educated and very likable. The country itself is a nightmare. Two currencies - one for the enslaved Cubans and one for the tourists. The cab driver that picked me up at the airport was highly educated in a very specific field (I won't say what) and would be a millionaire here. He was just one of many intellectuals I met there and became very friendly with. Engineers, artists, musicians, doctors and architects all doing menial work. Most of them spoke fluent Russian and were educated there as well. I also visited some wealthy Cubans I got to know. Die hard communists who insisted on trying to prove to me the supremacy of Cuba over the evil United States. They are totally brainwashed, but are kind, respectful people. Wealthy there, is borderline poor here. Extremely hospitable and living with very limited resources. They owned old Soviet cars that looked and ran like the old bumper cars in Rye Playland - my teeth are still chattering. Mansions that are falling apart and can't be fixed because there's no cement. Cement is recycled from the crumbling buildings because cement is very difficult to get. We had simple dinners that were generously shared. I felt guilty eating their food. The debates were wonderful. I also visited a school that was doing excellent work with very limited resources. The principal was afraid of me - another clue I was in a topsy-turvy world. She didn't know what to make of me. The students have chores, have fun and learn - but what good is a great education, if you can't do anything with it?  The DOE would love it, different equation with the same results. The government there is a dictatorship, and the people have no rights. Simple things like dominoes are very difficult to get and are passed down father to son, like all those late fifties cars (running on diesel tractor motors). The people get the bare essentials and little else. There's very limited internet access and two channels on the TV. Many of the people are bored out of their minds and love conversation. A country of ATRs. I haven't spoken my Spanish in twenty seven years. It came back like riding a old rusty bike, but I found myself craving English like my cats crave catnip. It made me feel for all immigrants. If I lived in Cuba I would build a boat or swim off that island, even if it killed me. It's a diesel filled time capsule and changing rapidly. It's very safe because of that dictatorship, but it comes at too high a cost. Elderly parents crying to me that they haven't seen their children in decades because they fled to Florida. Churches that are unused antiques because the people have no religion other than the hero worship of Fidel and Che. Che everywhere, on everything. Displays of anti-American propaganda and dozens of flagpoles placed in front of the American embassy to block the beautiful views. Communism does not work and I believe it can destroy everything that makes us individuals.
   If something is wrong, protest. If someone isn't representing you correctly - tell them and vote them out. Question everything and have empathy for those less fortunate, even the illegal immigrants that may be fleeing places much, much worse than we could ever imagine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

If Trump is the Number 45, What is Mulgrew?

   I was astonished and struck by the surreal absurdity that 'our' UFT president, Michael Mulgrew, is using the number 45 to refer to Donald Trump. At first I thought it was a hidden joke thrown in by blogger and HS Executive Board member Arthur Goldstein on his recent blog . (45 is actually an auspicious number  )  It was not. It got me thinking about what it means to be a leader, what it says about our union and our country. This is the United States of America, not a dictatorship. We have a democracy in which Trump - love him, hate him or don't care - was elected president. Get over it, he's the president. (We have a voice and many ways to use it. Fixation on his legitimacy is ridiculous.) The same can be said about Mulgrew's election as UFT president. (We had to get over that as well.) A union exists for many subtle reasons, but its main focus should be on its members and elevating the profession. A leader needs those goals to direct his or her members, otherwise you just have a large group of unfocused people that can quickly become a mob - although I highly doubt it with our demoralized rank and file. A leader, especially under these circumstances, shouldn't be so afraid that he won't utter the name of the person who intends to end his members jobs and severely curtail the profession as a whole. It's not leadership. It's indicative of everything that's wrong with the UFT. Fear, apathy, and yet another embarrassing incident that is unintentionally humorous to the objective observer. If Trump is even aware of it, I'm sure he's laughing himself off his golden toilet seat - not quivering with fear.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

You could have had this feeling for four years!

    I don't know if it's the full moon, the agony of staff development or simply mass exhaustion, but it was like the whole school (kids and staff) hit the lottery today. I haven't seen this much hysteria since I was a teen and Led Zeppelin announced a concert date. (My old fart friends recently reacted similarly when Barbara Streisand announced a concert. They called me frantically, but I demurred at $600 a ticket.) DeBlasio got everyone's vote today, some were a little worried that Carmen might think tomorrow would be a beautiful day. No worries, Carmen- now it really is!
    Enjoy the snow!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Where are the Americans on the List for Global Teacher Prize?

   I recently wrote about the emphasis on testing and graduation rates that have resulted in micromanagement from administrators and misery from teachers. Those statistics are used to judge teachers, administrators, students and schools. Everyone's focus has been so compartmentalized that we seem to be missing the big picture - the well being of students and staff. That means having students graduate high school who can enter the workforce or are prepared to take college classes. That means having young adults enter society that know right from wrong and will have compassion for others. That means having a happy teaching staff that isn't fixated on their next observation, so maybe they can view their students as more than just another OSIS number.
  It would have been nice to see an American teacher on the list for Global Teacher prize. Unfortunately, we are too busy covering our collective butts, in a very anti-teacher society.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Brevity, the Soul of Wit? Or is it being Intentionally Oblique?

Several neurotic,  nervous ATRs I've come across have hijacked my ear to express their frustrations concerning their overall anxiety. I replied that we all feel this to some degree, but that we have no control over what may or may not be happening. Their legitimate complaint is that we aren't being informed and that rumors seem to be par for the course when it comes to ATR issues. We do have ATR liaisons. Here are some recent calls that have been relayed to me:

ATR#1: Is the ATR rotation still in effect?        
UFT: Most likely.

ATR#2: Are we still ATRs?
UFT: Yes

ATR#3: Will we be placed permanently?
UFT: Very doubtful.

ATR#4: Will things change this year?
UFT: Ask again later.

It dawned on me the UFT is using another high tech device for our benefit - the Magic 8 Ball.
Save yourself a call and pick one up at Toys R Us. Keep the receipt, you maybe able to use it for next years teachers' choice.