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.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What the UFT Should be Doing

Say hello to your new chancellor!

  Last week I wrote an abbreviated version of my conversation with Niles. He asked me to post the rest.

Niles: Tell me how you think the UFT should be doing things.
Atlas: You know how I feel. It should be democratic and inclusive. What do you think?
Niles: It desperately needs change. If that change means me opting out of paying union dues so be it!
Atlas: How do you think that will help?
Niles: It'll force them to work for the money! A type of artificial competition via economic incentive.
Atlas: You have a point, but you know how cheap teachers are. Many would want something for nothing, especially if someone else is paying. The people paying -
Niles: Like you!
Atlas: Yes, like me, may end up feeling like fools. But I think it would be a disaster. The UFT has to come off its high horse and help everyone paying dues, right now.
Niles: What do you mean?
Atlas: I mean the newbie who's on his fifth year of probation with five different preps, the ATRs that want a permanent position, the targeted teachers, and quality of life issues.
Niles: You mean like cellphones, parking, no cafeterias.
Atlas: Yes. Would that make you reconsider paying dues?
Niles: Yes, it might. But they'll never do it. Look how they just gave the endorsement to deBlasio. They learned nothing from the Hillary endorsement debacle.
Atlas: Endorsing deBlasio is nessesary. He will be the next mayor, in good part because of Randi's endorsement of Hillary over Bernie that put Trump in the White House.
Niles: They should have gotten some concessions - not the bullshit I heard that they forced the hand of the mayor to let Farina retire in June.
Atlas: That is BS. She was retiring anyway.
Niles: What the f-ing UFT should be doing is hand picking the next chancellor.
Atlas: I agree, but remember the UFT loved Farina.
Niles: Mulgrew would have loved Atilla the Hun after twelve years of Bloomberg!
Atlas: True, but the bloom is off the rose with Carmen.
Niles: Is it? Is it really? Let's hope the UFT does something right and help pick the best person for the job.
Atlas: Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why is the Teacher Always Blamed?

  I had a lengthy conversation today with an old friend, let's call him Niles. He a quiet, dignified intellectual. He's also a completely demoralized high school teacher.
Niles: Atlas, the students are beyond vile. The administration is clueless. The staffs are clueless.
Atlas: You must never blame the students, Niles. It's completely verboten.
Niles: Why and when did it all start?
Atlas: I distinctly remember it first being said during a staff meeting right after Bush, Jr. signed in the No Child Left Behind Act. The principal said that the Quality Reviewers were coming in to interview everyone and would be asking for input into how to improve the schools, and that under no circumstances were we to mention the students or their parents being at fault. The QR people had relayed this to the principal, as had the chancellor and the UFT. The chapter leader then got up after many of us vocalized outrage. We were told we simply could not do this as it would jeopardize our funding as a school and ultimately our jobs. 
Niles: Yes, that was the start of it, but how did everything become the teachers fault?
Atlas: Well, that didn't start right away. At first, we told the QR people that we need to take out more of the bad eggs from the school population and get better students.
Niles: How did that go over?!
Atlas: Not well, as you can imagine. We had another staff meeting in which we were told there were no more zoned schools and that we couldn't get rid of any kid, regardless of their lack of desire to be in a vocational school. Also there would be no more tracking and special Ed would be a service rather than a place. Tracking would not be allowed and multiple lesson plans would have to be developed for each class to meet the needs of the varied students. The start of differentiation!
Niles: Yes, I remember the teachers balked.
Atlas: Of course, but the by product of all this was plummeting statistics on every level. So someone had to be blamed. The students and their parents were off limits. So teachers were the default scapegoats. This was right around the time Bloomberg went into office. He upped the ante by using the media and the UFT's naïveté.
Niles: What do you mean?
Atlas: Guiliani didn't give us a raise, so people were eager for one. Bloomberg made a Faustian deal with us via Randi and it was all downhill from there. Bloomy stigmatized the veteran teachers as being subpar, closed the schools and turned most of us into ATRs. 
Niles: And by controlling the individual school's population he skewed the statistics to show marked improvement.
Atlas: Exactly. But the UFT never pushed back effectively after having that 2005 contract passed. Mulgrew said teachers weren't to blame, but he bought into the 'never blame students or parents' directive.
Niles: The UFT should have been screaming from the rooftops! Students actions or inactions are on them! If a parent doesn't parent their children, that's on the parent! 
Atlas: True , but I think Mulgrew's well meaning response was 'Well, we shouldn't play the blame game, and if Bloomberg keeps blaming us through his and his friends media outlets, we'll just ignore it.'
Niles: The result being that we are to blame for everything wrong with public schools and the public response was schadenfreude because of our preceived short work day and time off.
Atlas: Yes, it really comes down to a lack of leadership. No one wants to be the sole guy to stand up and scream from the rooftop. That's what we have leaders for. 
Niles: I blame the UFT for all it. Our sole focus was on pedagogy and the UFT's focus should have been on us.
Atlas: Niles, we have to remember our worth as teachers and people, even if those around us don't. Try to have a relaxing vacation! 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Misery, Thy Name is Teacher

I love my toadies!

    I have never, ever seen so many miserable teachers in school after school, as I have this year.
At first it was a bit of a mystery to me as the kids and administration have seemed pleasant in some of these schools. I've talked at length with several teachers in these schools and the common thread that connects them is administrative micromanagement. (The absurdity of staying until 4PM on Mondays and Tuesdays for meaningless PD cannot be mitigated. For many it's  simply torturous and seems to be 'the straw that broke the camel's back'. Some would give a monetary giveback or a pint of blood weekly to get out at 2:30 or 3 PM again.) If the King or Queen of the school is beneficent, there is happiness in the kingdom. On the other hand if you have an insecure, inexperienced and/or arrogant individual, life in the kingdom will be miserable. These individuals seem to exact much more discipline from their staffs than from their students. I was in one school where the kids left and  returned constantly all day (stoned, of course), phones weren't collected, but the staff had to sign out for lunch or a cup of coffee. Another school's administration publicly berated their staff for any preceived infractions - lateness, absenteeism, etc. These same things were completely ignored if committed by students. Add to this the lack of space, and the staffs' reluctancy to go outside to the only personal space available for them to eat their lunch - their cars. Some of these schools have no teacher lounges, libraries or any common spaces for teachers. (The kids in one place had a large room they would pick up free condoms though - we all tried not to slip on them as they were all opened and scattered throughout the hallways and stairwells - the NYC equivalent of the banana peel.) The teachers or royal subjects were forced to meet in a designated classroom or in the principal's massive office that was lavishly decorated (in the ostentatious Trump style) with a private restroom (no one even dared thought about using it). If the Royal Family of Administration liked you, you were fine - if they didn't, your life could be very difficult. (Needless to say, the UFT was basically nonexistent. I have yet to meet or have a chapter leader introduce themselves to me this school year or last.)
   This is all a legacy of the Bloomberg regime and it simply shouldn't still be with us. That said, students and staff should be treated with respect. Schools are not individual fiefdoms to be run as unsuccessful fast food restaurants. The students need discipline for their well being as students and future productive members of society. We are the last bastion before these students are released into society. I personally believe this preparation is more important than most of the information they are expected to learn and will never again use. Who do you want to be on the train with - the guy who can't remember his geometry proofs or the guy that will set you on fire, film it and laugh his ass off? Life skills, vocational skills, and basic academics for the average student. Much, much more (than what is currently being offered) for those who have the aptitude and drive.
    Happy Presidents' week and good riddance Andy Puzder!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The UFT and Right to Work - Both are Contronyms

   Right to Work and the UFT are contronyms - words or phrases that have the opposite meaning of what they should have. Right to Work is really the right to become quickly and easily unemployed. The United Federation of Teachers is not United in any sense of the word. Even after saying that, any union, even the UFT, is better than none at all - but I don't understand some of us expecting radical protesting from teachers.  Expecting us to take up our yard sticks and erasers to fight the establishment isn't going to happen. The only reason the UFT, which is really run by a handful of people, even notices is because they feel individually threatened.  Many of us feel completely disenfranchised. The UFT is complicit in the creation of our defeated and apathetic rank and file. Teaching under the Bloomberg administration, the shuttering of schools (2005 contract-Weingarten), the end of seniority transfers (2005 contract- Weingarten), lowering of our TDA (Weingarten), the influx of charter schools (with UFT joining in), fair student funding, the mass hiring of inexperienced, inexpensive and rural young teachers, the failure of the UFT to endorse Thompson during Bloomberg's  run for a third term (Mulgrew), the choice to remain silent instead of doing anything (Mulgrew) during Bloomberg's third term, the army of veteran teachers turned into subs (the ATR pool), the discriminatory ATR provisions put into effect from the UFT (Mulgrew), the never ending expansion of class sizes, the army of lawyers to terminate teachers, the observation games, the constant claims of victory after defeat, the raises that aren't (Mulgrew), the increased healthcare (Mulgrew), the Weingarten endorsement for the entire AFT of Hilary over Bernie and the exclusive, non-democratic governance of the UFT are but a few of their benchmark atrocities (yes, they put the ATR in atrocity).
    The fight over DeVos also shows the continued lack of political insight from the UFT. This lady doesn't know what she's doing, good intentions not withstanding. (There are at least 20 much worse candidates that Trump could get with excellent credentials, that woud easily get in and completely  eviserate us.) Remember Cathie Black? When complaints of oversized classes reached her she commented that the parents should start using birth control. While I don't think DeVos is such a callous person, I don't think she'll last long - especially if she has to fight some of the very obnoxious people that have repeatedly shafted us and are supposedly on our side. I would greet her and work with her. She may not get in and that will be used as the excuse to allow Andy Puzder in as Secretary of Labor. 'We gave up Betsy, now you give us Andy.' Puzder is the real danger. He doesn't doesn't believe in minimum wage, wants the entire country to be Right to Work, and makes the pre-enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge look like the personification of generosity. This is who should be scrutinized, publicized and protested against. He's the dude that can put us all out of work - you, your spouse and your kids.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

What's Going on with the ATR Pool?

Livia - I won't read it, so don't ask.

   Yesterday, I received the monthly UFT rag, The Teacher, so I decided I would actually read it. It's been quite a while as I usually put it right under my cats' litter box. The first thing that hit me was the third page. There's an article that reads 'DeVos, voucher measured OK'd'. My teenage daughter, who desperately wants to be a teacher and writes for her high school newspaper, said, 'Wow, the UFT is backing DeVos and vouchers?!'. I said let's read it first as it's written by the UFT, but that wouldn't be the first time a counter intuitive strategy was used to hurt teachers. (Let's not forget the discriminatory provisions against ATRs in the 2014 contract or the UFT charter schools.) Upon reading the small article, it just mentions the opposition to DeVos and against vouchers was passed. My daughter read the rest of the paper and remarked some of its articles were excellent, good and terrible. We agreed it was terrible in the places it was unintentionally humorous, misleading and  especially for the information that is left out. No where are ATRs mentioned. It's like we don't exist. There's plenty of recent rumors and news concerning us, and no one from the UFT is informing us. We learned that Mr. Randy Asher was hired to help ATRs get back to teaching from a Daily News article. Since that time, there have been numerous rumors, which have ATRs elated or despondent, depending on their perspective. I believe as veteran teachers, that have been paying dues for decades, we deserve some respect from the UFT. Why not have a UFT ATR liaison write a monthly paragraph that keeps us apprised of news, negotiations, trainings and opportunities? Is that too much to ask for or is the ATR pool being drained as I write? I guess we won't know, until we know.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Can You Feel It?

  One weekend, about three years ago,  a friend and I dropped by his sister's place for a quick visit. Her husband is a nice guy that during a conversation on world events began describing some disturbing incidents in Scandanavian countries. They involved Muslim attacks on young women. He was telling me how the tide was turning against Muslim immigrants in those very progressive countries. I did some fact checking and found what he said was true, but that there seemed to be much more violence committed against Muslim (especially Turkish) immigrants there than the few isolated incidents my friend described. Worse the national empathy towards immigrants in those countries seemed to be changing to hostility and restrictive laws. The farther south in Europe I searched, the worse it seemed to get. Germany, Italy, France and many European countries had fringe groups that were viewing immigrants as scapegoats and using their hatred of them to burgeon up national pride through fear. Fear of losing jobs, ethnic identity, language, loss of religion, thefts, drugs, rape, and welfare. What was even more troubling was that some of these groups were getting anti-immigrant politicians elected into very high offices and were carrying that agenda into new discriminatory nationalistic laws. These laws were not merely a celebration of their native culture, but were and are used to stop the spread of different cultures, people, beliefs and religions.
       A week later, I gathered a few friends together to go to a traditional Jewish restaurant for dinner. (I get the urge every so often.) I started telling a few of my dinner companions my research on some of the attacks by Turkish immigrants. I assumed the waiters were Jewish, but they turned out to be Turkish. At first our waiter assumed I was anti-Muslim and asked me why I hated Turks. I, of course, told him that I didn't.  He then started telling me of some of his experiences with roving skin head gangs in Germany. It was a slow night so he basically spent about a hour talking with us. At the time, I thought to myself that whole European scenario could come here, especially if Muslims start coming en masse. As time flew by and Trump emerged, I often thought of those European stories. (Brexit can also be seen as another example of growing nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment.) Germany's PM Merkel has been an exemplary head of state and I had hoped that if such nationalistic fervor came here it would be offset by our own Merkel like president. Needless to say that didn't happen.
     Part of Trump's ride to the White House is because of that sweeping nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment that seems to have spread world wide. I've been noticing many young Trump supporters wearing not only,  "Make America Great Again", but pro-war slogan tees and hats like - "Back to Back World War Winners", "Don't Make U.S. Go for a Threepeat". I think these young guys actually want a war, 'to kick some foreign ass and show everyone the USA is still #1!' It seems every country feels the same way. Gorbachev was interviewed recently and said the world seems to be gearing for war.  Can you feel it?

Friday, January 27, 2017

WitchFest: Randi vs. DeVos and Moskowitz

I should have been Secretary of Education!

    Which witch will win? Randi is out against DeVos. What a surprise. I'm underwhelmed by the confrontation. DeVos seems a little shaken in that she's taken out ads to counteract Randi's spells Moskowitz wouldn't have done that. She would have set up a boxing ring in Times Square and invited Randi over. Trump knows this and wanted her. (Fortunately for us, taking a position as Secretary of Education is a step down in salary and she refused it.) Eva recently came out in support of DeVos I believe DeVos' intentions may be honorable, but Trump is giving her the shot for one reason only - her husband's billions. There is no way she should ever be considered for Secretary of Education and the Democrats agree  . Randi Weingarten, I wish you well in our shared battle (against someone who wouldn't have been there if you had endorsed Bernie).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Would You Like to Play ATR Russian Roulette? Part 2


    Deja Vu! Yesterday several friends called to say there was a new school listed on their SESIS account. This after we have received our weekly emails telling us to return to our current schools. The concern, based on recent rumors, is that the listed school may be the only one we are sent to for the remainder of the year. I understand the concern, but it's the same concern we used to go through weekly, monthly and now bi-annually (?). Some are concerned that we may be placed permanently or provisionally. I understand that concern also. What if the school is geographically undesirable, like that beautiful girl you met on the train to Albany in 1984? What if the school is ill managed? What if the school is populated by gangs of evil elves? These are the dark imaginings of a panicked mind. Don't imagine or consider these things. We are great teachers and will do well, no matter where we are sent or for how long. Mr. Asher does not want to be viewed as forcing sub-par teachers onto unsuspecting schools - he logically wants us to succeed. If these rumors have any veracity, the UFT should notify us. If there are current negotiations, we should be asked for input. If there are no more rotations, we should revert back to (what I like to refer to as) ATR Russian Roulette. We pick one school out of six. That said, I'd like to treated with respect again, or with the same lack of it as every other teacher.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

NY Post Brands ATRs as Rubber Room Teachers

    Yesterday, the NY Post wrote an article attacking deBlasio, Farina, Mulgrew, the UFT, NYC non-charter public schools, Randy Asher and ATRs. Here's the link for the article . I have to say the article made my blood boil. It's ignorant, insulting and uses several tricks in its attempt to persuade the reader. I could go through it sentence by sentence, but suffice it to say, it's the ATR comments I found most egregious, (I'm sure every group and person mentioned feels similarly). 
 "If the UFT still balks, expect City Hall to bend — because de Blasio always bows to its wishes. Hence the new drive to sneak “rubber room” teachers back into class.
Educators stuck in the Absent Teacher Reserve are those who’ve lost their old post but who no principal wants to hire. The rubber rooms embarrass the union, which pretends its every member is just great.
So Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña named Randy Asher as her senior adviser tasked with clearing the rubber rooms. He says some in the ATR pool “are highly desirable” — but why didn’t he desire them as principal at Brooklyn Tech? Presumably, he’ll be pushing these teachers on less prestigious schools, with less demanding parent associations."

   The Post doesn't define 'rubber room teacher', but understands the public's connotation to it. 'Rubber room teacher' is intentionally branded on the ATR. Then it sneaks in the definition of an ATR. Now the unsuspecting reader understands the definition of an ATR and that they are 'rubber room teachers'. A clever maneuver. The Post then tries to disprove the recent comment by Mr. Asher, that we are highly desirable, by asking why he didn't hire us when he was a principal. I don't know if Mr. Asher did or didn't hire ATRs, but I know one thing - if he didn't, it had nothing to do with us being desirable or sub-par - it would be because of cost. Even with ATRs being free this year, the branding that the NY Post is attempting to reinvigorate, stopped most principals from taking a chance on the far superior ATR candidate.




Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Purpose of Education, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

     I remember reading Dr. King's speeches when I was a teenager. Those speeches had a profound impact on me. Many of my friends are Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Jewish and Buddhist clergy. I also have several close friends that are non -religious. Tonight while speaking with one, I commented that young people don't seem to know anything about Dr. King and there doesn't seem to be enough respect paid to his memory. She said, at least we still get the day off. An honest, blunt and sad assessment.
His writing below could have been written yesterday.

   The Purpose Of Education

by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947
As I engage in the so-called "bull sessions" around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the "brethren" think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.
It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the ligitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one's self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.

The late Eugene Talmadge, in my opinion, possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America. Moreover, he wore the Phi Beta Kappa key. By all measuring rods, Mr. Talmadge could think critically and intensively; yet he contends that I am an inferior being. Are those the types of men we call educated?

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.

If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, "brethren!" Be careful, teachers!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Rebranding of ATRs from Sub-Par to Highly Desirable


     This morning a friend texted me an interesting article titled, 'Brooklyn Principal Will Help Shrink City Absent Teacher Reserve' . The article is interesting for many reasons. It seems there has been a polar shift in how we are currently being viewed . The article quotes a new hire, Mr. Asher. He references ATRs as being (hold onto your seats) "highly desirable"! Finally the truth is out. He has been hired by the DOE to help ATRs. Not to help us out of the system, counsel or demoralize us -while simultaneously having Mr. Mulgrew agree to discriminate against us. Mr. Asher wants us hired. This is in sharp contrast to the city's previous views and the previous articles, i.e. . My post on that article and it's implications can be found here .

    Well, what does this all mean? I believe the much speculated upcoming teacher shortage is now an undeniable fact. There are those of us who are jaded and may view this as a charade to counteract any future claims of discrimination. Whatever it is, I'm happy to welcome Mr. Asher to our cause. I much prefer the term, 'highly desirable' to 'sub-par'.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meandering Thoughts

    I've noticed a lot of indignation concerning the new observations for NYC teachers that require 4 instead of the defaulted 2 observations that many districts are using. This was agreed upon by the UFT. Many are rightly upset that there was no input from the membership at large or at least an open discussion. As our paid and elected representatives, the UFT is within its rights to do what they preceive is best for us. I believe as the political climate is in such flux, (and the UFT/AFT have made so many teacher shattering mistakes), that it would have been in their best interest to make the appearance of inclusivity. That said, I believe they made the right choice. If an administrator loves or hates you, he or she can make or break you very easily with one or two observations. It's a moot point if you're favored, but if you're not, then the items that you have been targeted for and are  allegedly remiss in, have to be rectified. The more observations you have, the more chances you have to prove yourself and the more difficult it becomes for that administrator - especially if he or she has a large staff. I would argue it should be more than four, especially for those who are targeted and want a fighting chance.

   There has of late been many small snippets of unfavorable news stories on the UFT, Mayor deBlasio, and schools. Some of them are salacious and paint the UFT and Mulgrew in a very unfavorable light.  We have to see them for what they are - an attempt to get you to stop supporting the UFT - when the time comes that dues become optional. Don't fall for it. I don't have much respect for Mulgrew and I have none whatsoever for Weingarten, but I will never opt out of paying dues. Just like the teachers that voted for Trump, it would be harakiri. That said, the UFT has to change if it is to survive. Matters of great import to the rank and file should not be decided, in what oft times appears a flip of a coin. When such a matter is decided upon, there should a consensus - a full explanation of all ramifications and informational letters and/or meetings of explanations.

   I also want to say we need to support Mayor deBlasio. I have major problems with many of his educational policies - but he is a stop gap for what Trump will shortly be sending our way. I don't believe deBlasio is fully aware of many of the problems with our schools and the people ruining them. He needs to clean house. This would go along way in quelling the dissention and disenfranchisement many of us feel.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Meditate for the New Year

    Anxiety, depression and anger seem to be incredibly prevalent with many of us who have stressful jobs. Some may medicate with Xanax, Valium, Marijuana, alcohol or even more illicit drugs. Others use food, compulsive shopping, sex, gambling and excessive exercise. Still others slip into video games and TV as a way to escape. Many of these items will make things worse, some considerably so, unless you find a positive outlet to deal with these negative emotions. If you are a religious person of any religion, chances are you may have experienced meditation without realizing it. Rosary beads for Catholics and Episcopalians, prayers beads for Muslims and chanting or davening for Judaism. Many religious people of any faith seem reluctant to try other meditation techniques feeling it may be traitorous towards their own faith or an indoctrination into Buddhism. It need not be. Yoga can be completely secular, as can meditation. It is a universal healthy way to help your mind and body. It works for many people. Give it a few tries, instead of reaching for that bottle of vodka or weed at the end of the day. It sure beats a hangover, smelling like a skunk or worse. You may be pleasantly  surprised. There are many ways to meditate, even coloring. Here's a link .