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. http://time.com/4645442/gorbachev-putin-trump/  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  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/17/teachers-union-president-randi-weingarten-skewered/. 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 http://nypost.com/2017/01/17/eva-moskowitz-supports-trumps-education-secretary-pick/. 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 http://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-01-27/democrats-to-vote-en-bloc-against-education-secretary-nominee-devos  . 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 http://nypost.com/2017/01/18/why-parents-want-out-of-de-blasio-run-schools/ . 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 FariƱa 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' http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/brooklyn-principal-shrink-city-absent-teacher-reserve-article-1.2944116 . 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. http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2015/03/20/since-new-contract-most-teachers-who-left-payroll-took-buyouts-or-retired/#.VRCmMob3aK0 . My post on that article and it's implications can be found here https://atradventures.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-ufts-latest-insult.html .

    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.http://nypost.com/2017/01/08/teachers-union-president-wed-staffer-following-sex-scandal/     http://nypost.com/2017/01/09/boom-times-for-the-teachers-union-even-as-more-schools-fail/ 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 http://m.wikihow.com/Meditate .