Friday, June 8, 2018

Meandering Thoughts Before the Meteor Hits

     It's almost the end. I've been contemplating that as basketballs whiz through the air en route to their expected target. Sometimes the orange projectile hits it's target and other times it doesn't. Last week I got hit so hard in the back of the head by a weighted (who knew such things existed!) basketball that I thought my teeth fell out. I don't wear dentures. I was furious, of course, but the kid didn't intend it for me and has to be the worst basketball player I've ever seen. He was aiming for the hoop and missed by a mile. He apologized profusely and I let it go. That's the thing - sometimes the aim is true and the target is reached. Janus is definitely aimed at unions and the protections they should offer. As such it is a meteor that can devastate a union. If I was a frail, sickly person  that basketball in the back of the head could have ended me. Being in relatively good shape (and having a hard head), and if I had known the kid was aiming for the hoop, I could have stayed out of the way or blocked it - and even though I didn't see it coming, I survived it. The UFT knows it's being aimed at by something much worse than a basketball. The question is, 'Is it a frail sickly organization or a strong one'? I believe it's about as sick and frail as a union can be and still call itself a union. Some say our contract was never printed, but it was and it puts Charmin to shame for its cottony softness and absorbency. The contract we have is being used by many principals as toilet paper. The protections that our contract are supposed to afford us are not being enforced and if I'm to be perfectly honest, most teachers don't know these protections exist. (This is the real reason veteran teachers are being kept out of the classroom.) These new teachers work extra periods, after school and weekends without extra compensation. Some have forty plus students in their classrooms. Some have been assaulted, robbed and even sexually harassed. This is nothing new. It was the same way twenty five years ago when I started. Yes, believe it or not things were horrible back then too. There is however one big difference. When I began and for most of my teaching career, the teacher could go to the UFT and get help. The principal and APs were straight out afraid. We considered an affront on one teacher to be an affront on us all and we stood up for one another. That recourse is no longer present in most schools. The teacher, apt to be untenured and new, is afraid and doing their best to survive. They don't know their rights and the UFT is not coming to anyone's rescue. They will however pick your pocket for $1400 in dues per year. The question you should ask yourself is - are you more afraid of the Koch brothers or surviving in a career, that has deteriorated so swiftly and markedly, that many teachers are just getting up and walking out never to return? The Koch brothers are a potential threat - whereas the complacent UFT is an immediate threat, that has allowed substantial, long term, avoidable suffering to continue unabated. It has the opportunity to change its course and block that meteor by fighting the good fight for its members. There are currently contract negotiations going on that can help us all. A fair buyout or a return to the classroom for ATRs (before any new hires), an end to Fair Student Funding, an S/U evaluation system, an end to the mindless PDs and paperwork, a fair discipline policy that will keep everyone safe, integrated schools, and a transparent UFT that actually works for their members. I remember the UFT the way it was - it still has the power to achieve its inherent greatness. That is the UFT I loved and profoundly miss. If it works towards that, Janus will turn from a meteor to a minor distraction and loyality will not be an issue. This has to be a fight for the respect of the teaching profession or it will no longer be a viable career and the poor children of this city will be relegated to a permanent underclass.

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Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.