Friday, October 13, 2017

Get It While You Can - Janis Joplin


   This morning I read two articles that were relatively disturbing. Relatively when viewed through the lens of another natural disaster or a nuclear holocaust. The first was in the NY Post concerning a protest by charter school parents against ATRs being forced placed into schools. would parents that have kids in charter schools care about or even know the term 'ATR'? Why would they care if we are sent into public schools with vacancies? We are much more qualified than any charter school teacher - especially now that charter schools can certify their own teachers. These parents are being manipulated to ensure that veteran teachers are not returned to the classroom after being removed for any reason. These groups want temporary teachers - 3 to 5 years stints. If teaching remains a career and not a job the salaries will remain high. This equates into less profits. Why would anyone get a undergrad degree and a master's for a three to five year gig? They wouldn't- therefore the charters will lower the requirements, while using this as a reason to pay less and make sure their workers go on their miserable way in due time. ATRs are a real threat to this plan. I'm glad the UFT sued over the charters being allowed to do this. I am, however, not pleased with their silence in defending ATRs against the many scandalous, salacious and surreal attacks by these groups and their allies.

   The second article that was upsetting was in Chalkbeat. article was not biased. Ms. Veiga is an excellent journalist. The article mentions that Farina won't have any ATRs placed in renewal schools.

     Why? There's no reason mentioned specifically by Farina so we are only left with the assumption that this is an acquiescence to the Charter school groups. A real shame for the renewal schools because we are the most experienced and the most educated of all city teachers. The complete opposite of the picture that is being painted. I believe Farina knows this, but may be  doing this out of political expediency, as this is an election year for Bill. I understand that, and to be honest I wouldn't imagine many teachers - ATRs or not, would want to be placed into a renewal school. There should however have been a strong statement of defense from the UFT.

   I dedicate this song to the UFT via 'Janus' Joplin

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Possibly Maybe

The UFT has the answers to the questions you need to know, (as you know if you did or will attend one their annual ATR meetings).

ATR: Will we be moved on October 15th or will we stay in our schools? 

UFT: Possibly.

ATR: If we are moved to another school will we remain at that school for the rest of the year?

UFT: Maybe

ATR: If we are moved to another school will we rotate? 

UFT: Possibly.

ATR: If we are rotated will it be a longer rotation then a month?

UFT: Maybe.

ATR: If we are rotated into a new school will it be less than a month rotation?

UFT: Possibly.

ATR: Will we be provisionally placed if not rotated?

UFT: Maybe. 

This interaction reminded me of a Bjork song called Possibly Maybe. Wonderful song. . that she may have some fans down at 52. Personally I think I preferred the Magic 8 Ball answers, although I do love that song- but not when the UFT is singing it.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Don't Become Distracted

Green Acres, D.C.

    Distractions - what are they used for? To take your attention away from things that may be much more important - for you and for the person who is using the manipulation. I don't watch football anymore and to be honest I haven't in quite some time.This is America -if someone doesn't want to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance that's their right. Personally, I don't like it, but I respect it. Don't disrespect our country just because you hate Trump. This of course, should not be a national issue of import other than for op-ed pieces.  I know there are many people who disagree with me. That's fine, too. (Don't disagree with Trump though, especially on Facebook- that's another no-no.) Many of my ancestors fought in numerous wars for our country as patriots at great personal and family costs. This whole thing is a major distraction from real issues.
     Right now there are extreme examples of global warming that are causing devastation in many parts of the world. (Trump of course denies global warming.) I have a special affinity for Puerto Rico and I am deeply troubled by what is happening there. There needs to be more done for Puerto Rico NOW. There also seems to be a real chance of war with North Korea. Trump calling their leader 'Rocketman' diminishes and ridicules the seriousness of this issue. Then there's his war on prescription medication, which is going to create a tremendous spike in heroin addiction. Chris Christie is the Opiod Guru and he obviously has an addiction of his own. Perhaps, Obesity Guru would have been a better choice for him. Tightening the legal supply of prescription medication for people who need it is going to put innocent people (that have committed no crimes) in great pain and anguish. It will also push some to heroin, which is cheaper, stronger and easier to obtain. roulette curtesy of #45. They may get heroin or instant death. At least make marijuana legal for pain management. Oh yes, it is already legal for pain management - but just about impossible to get. I don't know if you've ever experienced someone in tremendous pain (or perhaps yourself) not being able to get access to some kind of relief - it is hell on earth. Trump is adamantly against marijuana, drugs and alcohol. I understand that because his brother drank himself to death. I would respect that view if he hadn't tried to profit from the sale of alcohol. He manufactured and sold his own brand of vodka under the Trump label. He is the supreme hypocrite.
     He is also causing extreme polarization in this country and is very embarrassing to me personally as an American. I don't like hearing Europeans and people from around the world criticizing our president. I find myself becoming enraged because they are right and I am deeply offended, not only by their remarks, but by having this man in office. Do I really want to get into a fistfight defending Trump? No, but I cannot sit by and listen to people from other countries mocking him in the most obscene ways. He needs to understand his role, respect the office and start representing us with some dignity.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Information for ATRs Before the World Ends

      Someone told me the world maybe ending soon. That wasn't much of a surprise to me. The world ends for all of us when we die. It's our living that we should be focused on. Are you happy? Or at peace? Happiness is a deliberate decision; peace is something different. I'm at peace - for those fellow ATR travelers who may not be, the UFT will attempt to assuage your fear. Here's the link for those of you, like me, that weren't informed (I believe they would like you to RSVP, perhaps quail and caviar will be on the menu? Better grab a P&J before hand.) :

Happy Rosh Hashanah.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Repost- How do We get out of the ATR Pool?

I decided to repost this. Nothing much has changed since it was written two years ago, other than the outrageous DOE/UFT endorsed sanctions against ATRs were sunsetted; and that we now have forced placements to look forward to - something that was to meant to start a stampede of ATRs into retirement, with a 50K incentive. We are experienced experts in our field and instead of offering us 50 K NOT to leave, we are politely told to f--k off. All with our union's blessing- two ATRs told a UFT rep they were excited by the choice. In rereading my original post, I was reminded that Ms. Hinds did something one would expect from a UFT leader - she called for an end to individual school budgets. This needs to be priority number one from the UFT. Nothing will change for any teacher - new or old until that is done. Every teacher that survives at least ten years in the system will be turned into an ATR, because of cost and cost alone. Everything else we are hearing are lies and distractions to hide that simple truth. There is no teacher shortage, there is no lack of money in NYC coffers, Janus is quickly becoming a hope - not a nightmare for many teachers and charter schools are not gaining ground. Thousands of new NYCDOE teachers were just hired.

No new teacher should have been hired until every ATR was placed in their licensed content area, as a teacher - not a defacto sub. The Unfair Student Funding all but insures there will be very few vacancies as of October 15th because of cost, and seniority. The media outcry against ATRs is an outcry against the possibility of teaching remaining a career and not a job. Many want teaching to be viewed as a stepping stone to something else. If it remains a career, teachers will acquire higher salaries as the years go by, and will use the union to ensure our rights. That the UFT, with the prospect of losing mandatory dues, would ignore these attacks tells me that they don't understand this concept or have surrendered to the inevitably of Janus and are sitting on their laurels. A union should be so much more than the UFT is currently - and no Mike, I'm still loyal to the UFT and will continue to pay my dues.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Do We Get Out of the ATR Pool?

Yesterday morning, on my way into a large high school campus building, I met a former student of mine that I hadn't seen in years. He was happy to see me and surprised we were in the same school. He is now a teacher and doing well. He became a teacher via the traditional route. He said he really didn't understand the whole ATR thing, but if "they are forcing great teachers to be subs something is really messed up". How did it come to this? After 23 years of teaching, never receiving an unsatisfactory, being the moderator of several clubs, and having felt the thrill of having many of my former students graduate college, I woke up to find myself in a surreal environment. ATRs are sent to different schools on a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, (or any old way) to sub. We don't know the staff, students, building, neighborhood or any of the things most teachers take for granted. There is no set routine, everything is in flux - from daily schedules to lunch. We are often treated with an undisguised level of distain by many we come into contact with. We are asked to do things that a regularly appointed teacher would never be asked. This ranges from lunch duty, deaning, hall duty, punching in and out- to being traded to schools within a building. If we complain we are told we must do it or face insubordination charges. We are told we can always grieve it at another time. No one has our backs. The Chapter Leaders rarely, if ever introduce themselves, and will tell you straight up they don't want to get involved with ATR issues. Even Mulgrew, the president of our union, put a diminished due process clause in the recent contract. Most of us have found that being a "sub" (in every context) in the ATR pool is completely demoralizing. Yet, here we remain, day after day, week after week, year after year. Who were we replaced with? "Newbies" (from organizations like TFA), who are overwhelmingly young, from rural America and totally unprepared for the reality of inner-city teaching. These teachers have been failing miserably and like the last flowers of autumn stay only a short time.

So why don't the schools hire us, if we are experienced and effective? Cost. The ATR situation was solidified by the city via individual school budgets. As each school gets a separate budget, there is an artificially placed economic disincentive to hiring anyone but the most inexperienced. Huh?! That's right. This is the worst possible thing you can do to students. The money all comes out of the same place. Why punish every constituency? Some of us have been languishing for a decade waiting for an end to this scheme. There was a recent (UFT) resolution from Ms. Hinds to go back to unit funding for schools. We now have a new mayor and chancellor. I believe they both want what's best for NYC's students. It is my hope that they change the funding process to ensure fairness for all.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What's Next?

    I was talking today with my mother and daughter concerning the state of affairs in the world. We all agreed that it seems very frightening. Three hurricanes, an earthquake that could create a tsunami, a nuclear test that created an earthquake, and increased instability in so many parts of the world. Couple all this with the overwhelming sense of selfish materialism that has been exhibited by so many of our leaders and we have some strong signs that something terrible is going to happen. I certainly don't want that. I love my children, my country and innocence in all it's forms.  

     Nature seems to be fighting back and perhaps some of us should as well. That certainly doesn't mean violence, but it means letting your voice be heard, when you don't agree with the injustice that you may be seeing or experiencing. This can be a very hard thing to do. Everyone seems to be waiting for the next person to speak up. The problem is no one seems to care. I think it's fear. There's no shame in fear, if you fight it. There are so many people in our society who are living lives of quiet desperation. Many of them happen to be teachers, and that's a disgrace. I believe teachers should be a moral and social voice for those that don't have one. Children that came into our country as infants (and don't even know their parents language) should not be kicked out. People are fleeing from situations that we can't even imagine . Who's to say that may not be us in the future? If our country became a waste land because of war or the environment and we started a mass exodus to Canada or a de-thawed Antarctic, would you want to be turned back? I think we as a people have to be better and have to offer help to those less fortunate. Speak out against the injustices you see.  We are Americans and that still means something to most of us. Write, speak, vote, protest and be brave.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Great Advice - Romans 12:9-12

    I did this reading in church yesterday and thought it could help many, even some of my agnostic and atheistic friends.

Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection, outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is at all possible, so far as it is depends on you, live peaceably with others. Beloved never avenge yourself, but leave room for the wrath of God. For it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay it, says the Lord." No, if your enemies are hungry feed them, if they are thirsty give them something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful year. Never despair.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

(Repost 9/4/15) The Heartache of Labor Day

The Heartache of Labor Day 

 For the past 25 years I've spent my Labor Day in a U.S. Open trance. I watch it from the moment it starts until it's over. It's the end of my summer vacation and as such is a mix of melancholy, anxiety and dread. The mix of those ingredients has changed considerably over the years. During the beginning of my teaching career the anxiety was much stronger. When I was in a terrible school, the dread was palpable. I remember watching Jimmy Connors play Patrick McEnroe late into the night, hoping the match would never end. If it could go on forever, so would my summer vacation. It was Connors 39th birthday and I remember screaming for him. If he could win, we could all hang onto our youth for a little while longer. As an ATR I no longer feel the pangs of anxiety or dread. Indeed, I no longer feel like a teacher. Now as my children are growing up, the melancholy is stronger. A cocktail that is very bittersweet. I sacrificed a lot during those years for my family and my students. I've had some success on both fronts. Labor Day is a day of rest and recognition for all workers. Enjoy your labor, for there can be great fulfillment from a job well done.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Sign that the World May Not End Soon - Chalkbeat Writes an Unbiased Article


    I must say this past year was a difficult one on many fronts.  I see anger and divisiveness everywhere. It feels like everyone is being stereotyped according to some predetermined yard stick. It's difficult to see, hear, read and experience. Most of us have experienced it at some time in our life and some have empathy for others that may currently be experiencing it. However, there's always a big group that pushes back with anger and the same behavior towards the offending group(s). As an ATR, I have accepted my position, such as it is. I'm no longer angry, worried or despondent. I did occasionally get offended recently at ATRs being labeled by various media sites as lemons, perverts, pedophiles, drunks, lazy losers, etc., etc. I have rarely (never ?!) read an unbiased article from main stream media on ATRs. So imagine my surprise when in a fit of boredom I took a glance at Chalkbeat and came across such an article. I felt like the guy on the Antiques Roadshow that finds the Crown's jewels in a dumpster.
   I have to give credit where credit is due. Bravo to you, Christina Veiga.

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. Getting that marijuana prescription in NY is very difficult even for those in severe pain. That's just not right. The government is going after legitimate pain meds given by doctors and ignoring heroin?! They (dealers) are mixing it with fentynal and causing deaths. I hope Trump steps back and looks at this entire situation more carefully.

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.