Sunday, October 30, 2005

Remembering Sir Rudy

Do you ever notice you never see Rudy Giuliani and Osama Bin Laden in the same place? I mean, think about it—who actually benefited from 9/11 besides these two? Is it a Superman/ Clark Kent thing? No wonder they still haven't found Osama.

Seriously, 9/11 revived Rudy’s career—one day he was a bum, the next, a saint.

This is the same Rudy Giuliani who proposed forcing welfare recipients to work in NYC schools. He figured people chronically unable to find work were adequate role models for the city 1.1 million kids. After all, his kids didn’t attend public schools anyway. When people complained, he got on his high horse, accused them of racism, and quietly ditched the plan.

He made Bill Clinton look like an altar boy, going to court to demand the right to bring his mistress into the home he shared with his wife and two young children Should Rudy have the audacity to run for Prez, and there's no indication he doesn't, how Clinton bashers will rationalize supporting him is beyond me.

Rudy, despite advice to the contrary, insisted on placing his emergency command post on the 20th some odd floor of the WTC, a demonstrated target for terrorists. The press made nothing of that, and after it was destroyed Rudy commandeered a public school to replace it, doubtless figuring it had no value whatsoever. Parents of the dispersed children failed to share his point of view, and many sent their kids to private schools rather than have them shoveled slapdash into overcrowded, unfamiliar buildings.

Rudy presided over the worst disaster in NYC history. FDNY members ran into crumbling buildings, many lost their lives, and Rudy got all the credit.

Al Sharpton said Bozo the Clown could have done as well as Rudy.

Despite term limits, Rudy suggested he needed to stay on. Unlike Roosevelt and Lincoln, who stood for re-election in times of crisis, Rudy felt a need to unilaterally extend his term, in order to “keep up the morale” of NYPD and FDNY, to whom he’d been denying a contract for years.

By then, NYPD, who’d once supported him, had begun actively demonstrating against him, calling Rudy a traitor. That did not dissuade Rudy that they needed him. The press and public found Rudy’s idea preposterous and repugnant, said so, and some advisor must have persuaded him to change his mind.

Then, of course, he got knighted, and became Time’s Man of the Year. The rest is history.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

It's Staff Training Time!

"Has anyone here ever had to make a very important decision? Please raise your hand if you have."

"Everyone? That's great. Please take 3 or 4 minutes and write a paragraph describing the decision you made."

"OK. Maria, would you please tell us about your decision? How about you, Kai?"

"We're going to read a poem now in which the writer makes an important decision. It's called
The Road Not Taken, and it was written by Robert Frost."

That may sound like a "motivation" and a "do now," but it isn't. It's called "triple A." It was all part of a riveting presentation given in my region by various 6-figure members of Klein's army.

The gist of it is this--we're no longer doing "motivation" and "do now." We're doing "triple A." These people are geniuses. They certainly deserve to be paid more than lowly teachers like us. I, for one, could never have come up with such a concept.

The presentation, consisting entirely of what you read above, took three hours. You can imagine how thrilled we must have been.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what they come up with for Election Day.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Smile Pretty

Do you ever wonder how good the union plan dentists are? I’ve had some very good ones. But you have to be careful.

I took my 9-year-old daughter to an orthodontist who came highly recommended. He accepted UFT insurance, and his staff talked him up as though he were a god. The orthodontist told me my daughter would have to wear this awful night-brace appliance 18 hours a day for two years—in the night when she slept, and whenever she was at home.

I told the doctor she was very physically active, and that I could not imagine her wearing this bizarre implement for so long. The doctor told me the alternative was removal of four of her adult teeth, and braces in any case. He said it was better he worked with the kids early so he could be their “buddy.” He also informed me this treatment would cost $3,000 more than the plan would pay, and gave me a coupon book to pay over three or four years.

It pained me to see her wearing that thing.

A few days later, I told one of my colleagues, and he told me he had brought his daughter to the same doctor, with the same prognosis. He then took her to two non-plan orthodontists, who said the night-brace was unnecessary. Shortly thereafter, they told me the same thing. One said he hadn’t used such a device in twenty-five years. The other told me such incidences were a problem with insurance-driven practices. They both agreed she had a moderate problem that would require braces within a few years.

And both charged less than the UFT-plan orthodontist.

Orthodontists who prescribe kids night-braces belong in prison, right along the guys who record Mozart with disco dance tracks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Count on Unity

We can always count on Unity. During the boom years of the nineties, they negotiated zero percent increases for teachers. Now, while NYC has a surplus, they give away the store and get us less than cost of living. They tell us that’s the best they can do, and claim anyone who disagrees is delusional.

Count on Unity, through bad times, to assure us that a bad contract is the best they can get, and through good times, to get us nothing or damn near close to it.

Unity propaganda tells you how anti-union the country is, and they’re right. They tell you the awful things the Bush White House lets corporations get away with, and they’re right. They tell you that nationally, things are tough for unions, and they’re right.

Closer to home, though, only 16.9% of New Yorkers voted for Bush. We know better here. We can and should do better here. The cops, the correction officers, and the sanitation workers did better than us. They don't have Unity negotiating for them.

You can always count on the comforting voice of Unity, the party that’s been in power forever, through good times and bad, to tell you “That’s the best we can do, and anyone who disagrees with us is delusional.”

Well, I’ve come to believe them. Under their stewardship, we’ve gone from the highest to lowest paid teachers in the area. I believe that’s the best they can do. I’ve also come to believe that it’s time for all the opposition parties to unite and bring in some new blood. Why?

Because Unity can't do any better, and anyone who thinks they can is delusional.

Vote no, and defeat this contract. Then vote out the entrenched, cynical, self-serving and impotent Unity hacks who think we work for them.

New Advocate Weekly

Check it out at Joe Thomas' Shut Up and Teach.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Power of Negative Thinking

There’s an art to saying “no,” but many of us have yet to master it.  Just look around you at the supermarket checkout, where children battle in earnest over that Juicy Fruit Gum displayed there for just that purpose.  How can you, the teacher, say no when Freddy, who stands on the desks, beats his chest and does high-quality Tarzan yells, asks to go to the bathroom for the 17th time this week?

After all, it’s such a relief to have him out wandering the halls, where he won’t bother you.  Just like you, that parent at the checkout knows the noise stops with a simple purchase of gum.  Unfortunately, the battle continues with every subsequent trip to the supermarket.  Also, kids learn quickly that loud crying gets much-desired results in various other locales.

It’s inconvenient to assert yourself, and almost physically painful the first few times you do it, particularly as you must force yourself to remain calm while other human beings do everything within their power to rattle you.  Still, I’m usually not getting angry while kids act out, but coldly calculating the best way to make them aware that such outbursts will have inconvenient consequences.  With me, they generally include calls home.  Here are some tips on how to do that.

Once you learn to say no, and mean it, your classroom problems will be far fewer.  Another advantage in active naysaying is this:  someday, it will make you a much better parent.

Politics as Usual

A poster to Edwize reports that a contract supporter "ate a loyal UFT member." The poster called it "a bitt offensive."

While I can't determine whether or not the pun was intended, I must object to this sort of action.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Unity Visits Your School October 2009

Now I know some of you will be disappointed in the language of this document, but goshdarn it, this mayor is one tough negotiator and this was the best we could do. We’ve gotten the teachers an 8 percent raise over five years, and if you add this raise to the raises we’ve gotten over the past 54 years you’ll see that we’ve gotten over 2,000 percent in raises. Now, who else has gotten a 2,000 percent raise in this economic climate?

Of course a lot of crotchety high school teachers are upset about the sixth full teaching period, but you need to look at it from a more balanced perspective. This was the best we could do. After all, it’s only an extra ten minutes a day, and we’ve finally done away with those irritating 37.5 minute periods. Now, every school will close no later than 3:55, except for multiple session schools, and some other schools, which will close later.

I’d like to address the issue of merit pay. Now anyone who calls the new merit pay provision “merit pay” is simply ignorant. It is most definitely not merit pay. Furthermore, while principals will now determine who gets to be lead teacher, master teacher, and the coveted Mighty Morphin Power Teacher, we placed explicit language in the contract stating there would be absolutely no repeated sexual favors exchanged for merit pay. We were able to insert a very important clause that asserted this right regardless of a teacher’s sex, inclinations, or lifestyle.

Unfortunately, similar clauses relating to cronyism and nepotism were dropped so we could earn that last point of your raise. This was the best we could do in the current political climate. Be assured, however, that we will make these clauses a prime objective in our next round of negotiation.

It’s come to my attention that a lot of people are up in arms about our recent endorsement of the mayor, simply because he’s been frequently quoted as saying “I hate all teachers and everything they stand for.” Now, first of all, those quotes were taken out of context, and he most certainly meant it in the nicest way possible. Secondly, if we don’t occasionally endorse candidates from the other party, they may stop negotiating in good faith with us. We couldn’t have done any better.

Now we managed to get, free of charge, 100% waterproof wetsuits for all teachers doing lunch duty. They are completely hamburger, and veggie-burger resistant. Also, we fought hard and defeated management’s demand that teachers spend three periods a day in the lunchroom. No teacher will perform more than two lunchroom assignments per day, and only one of these assignments can involve cooking, cleaning, or operating the cash register.

Predictably, there’s been a lot of flack about half-day Saturdays, but we just had to give something back or we wouldn’t have been able to come up with this monumental new contract. We are pioneers—the first teachers in the country to work a five and a half day week. It is most certainly not a six day week, as those naysayers and rabble-rousers from ICE have been saying. Remember, they’re the same ones who complained that the 37.5 minute “small group instruction” was a sixth class. Note that in August, we have maintained the five day week. That took some tough negotiation on my part, but we absolutely refused to let teachers work on Saturdays in August.

Let’s talk about what we fought back in this contract. For one thing, there will be absolutely no school on Sundays. No teacher will have more than 40 students in a class, despite the mayor’s demands to the contrary. And despite the new provisions allowing principals to summarily fire anyone for any reason whatsoever, which were the best we could do, we have retained tenure! In all my 37 years of tough negotiations, this was the toughest! It was tough, I tell you. How tough was it?

It was so tough, we had to negotiate a new Tier 6, but all teachers will be able to retire with 60 years of service, regardless of how old they may have been when they started. For example, an 80 year old teacher who began at the age of 20 can now retire with no penalty. A 120 year old teacher who began at age 39, depending on when his or her birthday was, will now be able to….

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Unity Spin Guy Visits My School

They are desperate to pass this contract, and Unity is dispatching its paid employees to make sure they get their raise. And why shouldn't they? They won't be working lunchroom duty, or losing any options.

He came in and sat down at our lunch table. He told us about all the things the contract didn't give up, and how we got the best possible deal. I asked him about the correction officers, who got 10.25% over two years, with 12-15K in back pay (more than double what we get over four years), and he started talking about sanitation workers.

"Excuse me, I thought I asked about the corrections officers."

"Do you let students interrupt you in your classroom?"

"We are not in a classroom and I am not your student. Also, my writing students know the difference between argument and obfuscation."

I asked him about the sixth class. He insisted the 37.5 minute "small group instruction" was not a sixth class, despite some very compelling evidence to the contrary. At this point, several generally well-behaved English teachers began making obscene gestures behind his back. I was surprised.

He spoke proudly of the UFT's changes in the Taylor Law. A social studies teacher asked what changes he was talking about. The spin guy started telling about monetary penalties for employers who fail to bargain in good faith. The social studies teacher repeatedly asked him if that was now law, and Mr. Unity finally admitted "Well, Pataki hasn't signed it yet." He told the teacher not to worry, because we'd regain all our losses in the next contract.

A young teacher approached him and started talking about the pros and cons of the contract. After they spoke for a few minutes, he told the spin guy that he was going to seek work in Nassau, where he could make a lot more money without teaching six classes or becoming a "lead teacher."

I saw no love for this contract today, and I saw no one persuaded to change their vote either. Our chapter voted "no confidence" in the current UFT leadership to negotiate a fair contract last week, and no matter how they spin it, this contract is an improvement for no one but Unity spin guys and folks who plan to retire very soon.

Read here about when Unity Spin Guys visited reality-based educator.

Monday, October 17, 2005

How Do We Measure Up?

If the contract passes, you’ll be performing a building assignment, working as long as your suburban colleagues, and teaching an extra class four days a week to boot. How does the Bloomberg-Weingarten agreement measure up?

The following, as of January 05, were Nassau maximum salaries without a doctorate. Most require 60 credits beyond the Masters, which I, and I assume you, would get if NYC paid. Some districts below have not yet cracked 100K, but unlike NYC, they’re on their way.

Baldwin 105534
Bellmore 92957
Bellmore-Merrick 104123
Carle Place 98451
East Rockaway 100590
East Williston 105764
Elmont 97815
Farmingdale 102081
Franklin Square 98136
Freeport 97960
Garden City 108097
Glen Cove 104114
Great Neck 108280
Herricks 105498
Hewlett-Woodmere 110394
Hicksville 93959
Island Park 106004
Jericho 113789
Lawrence 112176
Levittown 102332
Locust Valley 107328
Lynbrook 102354
Malverne 100096
Massapequa 97537
Merrick 101530
Mineola 105758
New Hyde Park 87383
North Bellmore 102167
North Merrick 101445
Oceanside 107339
Oyster Bay-E. Norwich 110325
Plainedge 95961
Port Washington 106400
Rockville Centre 106136
Roosevelt 97916
Roslyn 111548
Seaford 91767
Syosset 107052
Wantagh 102611

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Speaking English Is No Longer Necessary

We have fewer ESL students than we used to after 9/11, perhaps 40% fewer. Still, we ought to be able to come up with a reasonable method of testing their English.

In New York City, we had a test called the LAB that was used for 20 years. It had a version A, and a version B. For ease of scoring, the answers to both versions were identical. As the test was never updated, students started stealing it, and several told me that they’d received the answers via email. That explained the students I had who spoke no English, yet somehow passed.

After 20 years, some wise individual decided to revise the test. Unfortunately, the new test is extremely basic, and I’d say any student with one year of study could pass it. This was highly problematic until it was supplanted by a NY State exam called the NYCESLAT, and please don’t ask me what that stands for.

The new state test shared the low level of the city test, but the folks in NY State arranged it so you seemed to need a perfect score (at least) to pass it. This resulted in a highly critical column in the NY Times written by my favorite education columnist, Michael Winerip. The state was upset by this, so in a relatively short time (2 years) they revised the standard. Now, like the LAB, it's far too easy to pass.

The NYCESLAT, for reasons never explained to me, though, can only be given in the spring. Therefore, students who arrive at other points in the year (the majority) are given the LAB test.

Last year, I taught Transitional English, the last ESL course we give, in which I taught novels. I had one young girl who did no homework, no reading, and never participated in class. One day I informed her that if she did not start doing the homework and the reading, she would fail. At this, the girl ran crying from my class to her guidance counselor, who placed her elsewhere.

The girl was right to be upset. The test falsely indicated that she was ready for advanced English. It doesn’t take forever (as some “bilingual” programs seem to advocate), but it takes a few years for teenagers to acquire a second language. It really behooves state and city officials to get off their collective keesters and design a valid test.

My test?

“What’s your name?”

“Where are you from”

“How long have you been here?” or ungrammatical but simplified:

“How long are you here, in the United States?”

Beyond that I’d want to see writing samples.

Students who lack mastery of such basic verbal English should not be placed beyond level 2 of basic ESL. Talking is a huge part of language, and to place kids who can’t speak in classes where they’re expected to study Shakespeare does no service to the, or indeed anyone.

Why can’t all those smart people in Albany and Tweed figure that out?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Democracy, UFT Style

If you’re a high school teacher, you don’t get to select the vice-president representing you. You used to, but you don’t anymore.

Michael Shulman, representing New Action, won that post once. The UFT called a special re-vote, and he won by a larger margin. This disturbed the folks at Unity, as it threatened their monopolistic hold on power. What could they do?

Well, in 1994, they changed the constitution, so that all members could participate in the selection of all vice-presidents. This meant that elementary teachers, who outnumber high school teachers, and who largely tend to vote Unity, could drown out those nasty folks voting for the opposition.

So, if you’re a high school teacher wondering how the hell the UFT expects you to balance your current workload, plus the 37 minute sixth class, plus lunchroom duty, it’s not that hard to understand. The UFT has pretty much precluded your input by denying you representation.

When the UFT claims 90% of the vote in the executive board meetings, bear in mind that votes are not counted, but estimated. That’s why both sides tend to interpret votes in their favor, and it’s also why we, the members, never find out what really happened. Ballots are not even secret, so those of our representatives who are beholden to Unity for jobs or perks are not free to vote their beliefs.

Karl Rove could learn a lot from this system; if you don’t actually count votes, you don’t need a Katherine Harris to certify the results before they’re counted.

Friday, October 14, 2005


I’m in the department office, correcting papers and congratulating myself that I have only 5 million more to go when Vivian bursts in, crying hysterically. I try to calm her down, and ask what’s wrong. Vivian, an incredibly conscientious student who arrived from China only months ago, thrusts a paper in my face and begins to cry even louder.

It’s in Chinese. Between sobs, she sputters she got a D on her composition, and apparently, it’s all but ruined her young life.

“I’m sorry, Vivian, but I can’t understand Chinese. Did you ask the teacher why?”

“Yes.” (sob, sniff….)

“What did he tell you?”

“I don’t know.” (cry, sob)

“What do you mean?”

“I c-c-can’t understand his Chinese.” (sniff, sniff)

“Come on, Vivian.”

“NO! NOBODY understand his Chinese!”

“Well, you must understand it better than me...”

“I ask him five time, and I don’t understand. Finally, he tell me in English….” (sob, cry, cry…”)

“What did he tell you, Vivian?”

“He tell me in English ‘It suck!.’ “ (serious bawling)

Well, as criticism goes, it’s certainly concise.

Later, I look for her teacher and find him. Unfortunately, I find his English utterly incomprehensible. That’s unusual for me—my job involves regularly dealing with people who speak little or no English. I have a Chinese-speaking colleague call Vivian’s parents on my behalf and tell them what a wonderful kid she is and how well she’s doing in my class.

It probably won’t help.

Tired of Kids Tossing Desks out the Window?

Great classroom advice from Tim Fredrick.

Thanks to Nancy at Se hace camino al andar.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Top Ten Edwize Headlines

10. The Joy of Lunchroom Duty

9. Why Merit Pay is a Good Thing Even If Base Salaries Are Far from Competitive

8. Find Fulfillment by Teaching Six Classes for the Price of Five

7. How Losing the Right to Grieve Letters in My File Improved My Sex Life

6. 37½ Minutes to Paradise

5. If We Approve It, It Must Not Be Merit Pay

4. Less is More: Why It’s Better to Have Fewer Options at the Workplace

3. Become a Complete Person by Spending Less Time with Your Family and More with Klein’s Flunkies

2. Why, Despite Years of Evidence to the Contrary, Your Principal Will Probably Not Abuse Power

1. The Contract Is Good Because We Say It Is

Essential Reading

From reality-based educator:

UFT Spin Guys Come Around for a Propaganda Session

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Real Value of Lunchroom Duty

I remember reading a column in the New York Times by then-education columnist Richard Rothstein entitled “The Secret Value of Lunchroom Duty.”  In the lunchroom, Mr. Rothstein wrote, you could get to know the students in an informal setting, and surpass the restrictions of the classroom, or something like that.  It seemed a very fine idea.

However, having actually done the job, I can tell you Mr. Rothstein’s musings bore little resemblance to reality.  

The last time I was assigned to the lunchroom was upon arrival to a brand-new school.  The dean, the guy in charge, posted me at the front door to check student programs and challenge the kids who didn’t belong.  He posted himself way in the back, by a locked door, where he could peruse the Daily News to his heart’s content.

Despite Rothstein’s presumptions, in a school with thousands of kids, almost none turned out to be my students.  The only kids I got to know really well were those who regularly stole or borrowed programs in order to spend their math periods in the lunchroom.  That’s right—I met the proverbial boy named Sue, and furthermore, I confiscated his phony program.  

Out of sheer boredom, I started asking kids what their third period classes were, what their birthdays were, or who their English teacher was.  Many had no idea, and my collection of programs grew and grew.  Had I known about all the zero percent raises the UFT had in store for me, I might have considered a tidy little business selling them.

Another important job was keeping careful count of the bathroom passes, and making sure you took a valid program for each pass you issued.  There were very particular rules about these passes, but I don’t remember them anymore.  With luck, I won’t need to learn them again.

Sometimes a fight would break out.  As a teacher, I’d learned, I’m not authorized to break up fights, and if hurt trying to break one up, I’d have to pay out of pocket for any and all injuries.  I wrote a long essay on the NTE about this, to describe something I learned outside of the classroom, but will spare you the details for now.  

Sometimes food fights would occur, bringing the dean from behind his Daily News to where the action was.

“Who started it?”

“I have no idea.  I was checking programs.”

The real truth about lunch patrol?  If you love teaching, you’ll hate it.  It’s a mind-numbing waste of time.  You can’t get any work done, because too many things are going on.  You can’t really help any kids, because few, if any, need your help eating lunch.

There’s absolutely no reason school aides can’t do this job as well as teachers.  We’re here to help kids learn, not to police their lunch trays.  I never, ever had the remotest opportunities to get to know kids in the lunchroom.

If you want to get to know kids, have them write regularly in your classroom.  Carefully read everything they write, comment on it, and return it.  This sort of correspondence will let you know things about kids you’d never have suspected otherwise.  You’ll also be able to offer them real grownup advice, which some of them sorely lack.

Unfortunately, this is difficult when you have the highest class size in the state.  It will prove even more difficult when your time is spent teaching a sixth class, the mysterious “small-group instruction,” and a lunch patrol, in which you may expect to complete no work whatsoever.  

With the inevitable full sixth class in our next contract, you can expect this job to cut even further into your “free” time.  And if you can’t see that full class coming, you need your eyes examined.

Me, I’ll probably move away from essays, and toward multiple choice tests to be pushed through scantrons.  How can I read hundreds of papers on a daily basis when I have two other jobs, precious little time to do so, and, apparently, no one in Tweed or the UFT who thinks it’s of any value?

In any case, if any of this has piqued your interest in lunch patrol, you should probably vote “yes” on this contract.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Break out the Rubber Stamps

I just heard the UFT Delegate Assembly approved sending the contract to rank and file this afternoon.

Now we get to tell them what we think of this contract. On October 21, if I recall correctly, the ballots will be available.

Vote early. vote often, vote NO!

News and Rumor

First, a colleague informs me that this blog was quoted on News 4 last night in a story about the contract's chances. "Money comes and goes, but lunchroom duty is forever." It's still true too.

The NY Daily News today took a step back on the "kiss of death" story, suggesting that a contract vote would be close, but predicting it would pass. It also ran an editorial strongly endorsing this contract. In case you haven't noticed, the Daily News likes nothing that's good for teachers. That, in itself, is a compelling reason to vote no after tonight's Delegate Assembly rubber stamps sending it to the rank and file.

Oh, yes--the rumor. A teacher in my building knows some big shots on the UFT who are visiting schools. He says they're regularly astonished by the volume of anti-contract sentiment they see. Let's keep it up and stop this thing from degrading and demeaning the job we love.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Kiss of Death?

In today's NY Daily News, Randi Weingarten reveals doubts the new contract will pass rank and file.

She attributes them to this photo, and Klein's boasts about having won so much in this agreement.

Unfortunately, Klein is absolutely right to boast about buying the UFT off so cheaply. Hopefully, Ms. Weingarten will soon recognize it's more than a kiss that makes this contract undesirable and unacceptable for NYC's 80,000 working teachers.

(With thanks to posters Reality-Based Educator and Dismayed.)

Unity Visits Your School

Welcome everyone.  I’m very glad to see you’ve all come here.  First of all, despite the whining of a small but vocal minority of chronic malcontents, I’d like to point out that, under our guidance, teacher salaries have more than doubled over the last 20 years.   Doubled!  That’s quite impressive given the current geopolitical context, and if you have any sense, you’ll be quite impressed, as we all are.

Let’s first talk about the 37.5 minute “small group instruction.”  This is most definitely not a sixth teaching period.  It is instruction, not teaching, and anyone who can’t tell the difference is clearly ignorant.  Everyone with any sense knows that teaching can be stressful at times, but instruction is an effortless pleasure.  Furthermore, those high-achieving students who ask difficult and troublesome questions will have already left the school, so you won’t have to deal with all their nasty curiosity and thoughtfulness.  We at Unity find those qualities distracting as well. That’s why we discourage such vulgar individuals from working for us.

Now, some of our detractors are complaining that the “lead teacher” position is “merit pay.”  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  “Merit pay” is when the administration selects teachers to be paid more than other teachers.  A “lead teacher” will be chosen by the administration to receive additional compensation.  Anyone who can’t tell the obvious difference has not read the official UFT fact sheet, which Ms. Finch is now passing out.

And now we come to the issue of lunch patrol.  If you remember, it was our hard work that got you out of the lunchroom, and we were very proud of that.  It was a tough year and no money was available, so we got you out.  This year, not only did we achieve a raise, but we got you back in at no additional charge to you, or any of your UFT colleagues.  And furthermore, many of you will not serve lunchroom duty, since you’ll be returned to homeroom.  Yes it’s true we got you out of that in the past, in exchange for a zero, but this year we got you back in, once again, with no additional charge.  That was some tough negotiating, but we rolled up our sleeves, put our heads together, and had the chauffers garage all the limos till it got done.

Now a lot of teachers are complaining that the police and corrections officers received 10.25% over two years, while we got 14.25 over four.  Well, you only need to look at those statements to realize how much better our deal is.  We got 15, and they only got 10!  15 is five more than ten!  Do the math, people!

Furthermore, police cadets will receive a drastic cut in salary for their first six months.  I’m proud to tell you that, under this historic contract, student teachers will receive the exact same salary they always have, and their rate of pay has not been reduced at all.  There’s also a lot of loose talk about how they’re getting 12,000 for two years of back pay, while you’re only getting up to 5,000 for four.  All I can say is do the math!  If you take that 5,000 and multiply it by 5, that’s $25,000, which is more than double what the corrections officers got!  Do the math!

Finally, with this historic contract, we have promised to agree in principle that teachers with 25 years service will be able to retire in 25 years.  That’s something that we might get for you in the future, if it’s possible.  Is anyone else promising they might get that for you?  No?  Well, I’m here to tell you that if you vote yes for this contract, you might get that in the future.  Furthermore, under this contract, if you spend one dollar of that raise we got you, you might win the lottery and live a life of luxury in Hawaii, where girls with grass skirts play ukuleles, and bring you drinks in coconuts on the beach.  Who else is saying you might get those things?  No one!  Keep that in mind. Remember, if you vote “no” you might not win the lottery!

Remember, this contract is the best we could do.  If you vote no, the next one will be even worse.  Also, we will immediately go on strike, be replaced permanently by scabs, you will be unable to pay your bills, removed from your home, and forced to live in a pickup truck opposite your school, with access only to gas station and student bathrooms.  Is that what you want?  Remember, don’t let our detractors’ sleazy fear tactics sway you into voting no!

Any questions?  Yes? I deeply regret I will be unable to answer questions at this time.  Unfortunately, I have a rhumba lesson in fifteen minutes, and the teacher has a strict policy about lateness.  As teachers, I’m sure you all can understand that.

Before I leave, let me express my deepest thanks to the silent majority of teachers who support Unity, and this historic contract.  God bless you all, and God bless the United Federation of Teachers.

Thank you, and I’ll see you all again when the next contract comes up for ratification.  Let’s go, Ms. Finch.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Vital Advice

If you have a kid, know a kid, or have ever been a kid, you must immediately go see Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

"Something wicked this way hops."

A Dialogue

Here’s a post Leo Casey left on Ms. Frizzle's site:

I will not respond to the personal attacks.

I can’t blame Mr. Casey for that. There’s really no need to indulge in personal attacks. Let’s focus on the contract, and Mr. Casey's ideas about it.

Mr. Casey is very visible on the front page of Edwize, defending the contract. I’m encouraged that he’s venturing out into the blogosphere, because that indicates that those who professionally spin this contract feel the need to further get the word out. Mr. Casey continues:

I do need to point out, however, that if the people who are now pronouncing with absolute cetainty that the extra ten minutes will produce a sixth teaching period were right in the past, when they made similar pronouncements with equal certainy, it would be the eighth or ninth teaching period we were discussing, not the sixth. As a matter of fact, it was not that long ago, when Circular 6R was first negotiated, that the very same folks were saying this is a sixth teaching period, and it does not matter how you say you are going to implement it. Now, they shout from the rooftops, "Don't surrender Circular 6R."

Yes we were born, but it wasn't yesterday.

Circular 6R, if I’m not mistaken, is the document in which teachers select their professional assignment. Please feel free to correct me, as I’m very likely to be wrong. In my school, we have the option of planning for three preps as an assignment. This works well for me, because I’ve had three preps for the last 12 years. (Note—while it sounds otherwise, I’m not complaining.)

In any case, here’s my response:

The distinction between lunchroom duty and being in charge of kids in a classroom has evidently escaped Mr. Casey. Nonetheless, I am indeed opposed to placing teachers in lunchrooms. It's degrading, unprofessional, and will do little to halt the exodus of new teachers.

Unlike Mr. Casey, I've performed lunchroom duty, and I can tell you it's the worst task I've ever been forced to do as a teacher. Despite his bold words, Mr. Casey, I fear, will not be joining us in the lunchroom.

The UFT was proud when it (lunchroom duty) was eliminated, gleefully selling us a new contract. They now seem proud to have gotten it reinstated, gleefully selling us a new contract. How does Mr. Casey explain that?

It's remarkable that having ten students in a room for 37 minutes is not a teaching period. Did everyone understand Mr. Casey's contention?

When I teach college at night, I sometimes get groups of ten people. And I, lacking Mr. Casey's apparent expertise, actually organize materials and teach. Perhaps Mr. Casey will be kind enough to share with us his preferred approach.

Perhaps Mr. Casey will further enlighten those of us too ignorant to discern the difference between "small group instruction" and "class."

As a teacher and a parent, it's my view that no conscientious educator would allow ten kids to sit and waste their time for 37.5 minutes a day. Doubtless Mr. Casey has a better approach.

I eagerly await the moment he shares that approach with us.

Do UFT muckety-mucks think they can tell us being in charge of a group of students, expressly for the purpose of "instruction" is not teaching? What do they take us for? Could it be that they think we were born yesterday?

Your responses are encouraged. Have a great Sunday, everyone. And enjoy Columbus Day, which seems to have survived this round of negotiations.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Piano

They came into the auditorium, two guys in white jumpsuits, and announced “We’re here for the piano.”  Someone pointed to it.

Then they wheeled it out, the grand piano, and loaded it onto a truck.

No one ever saw that piano again.

Friday, October 07, 2005

I Was a Teenage UFT Transfer, or Why You Might Need the Current Contract One Day

Well, perhaps I was a little older, but I was teaching in a pretty bad school. Discipline in the halls was virtually non-existent. We’d had a very tough principal who actually took action against troublesome students, but he was replaced by a Board of Ed. hack with a moustache. He had a great smile, his moustache would move up and down, and words would come from his mouth, but they rarely signified much. He was very careful not to offend any member of the community, so for kids, there were no longer significant consequences for anything they did.

My classroom was different. I terrorized the kids by phoning their parents in Spanish and reporting absolutely everything that happened in the class, along with grades, absences and lateness. It was simply not worth acting out in my ESL classes.

Next door to me was Mr. Mudd, the Spanish teacher. Mr. Mudd spoke with a very thick accent that was by no means Spanish. He had been the principal of a school in his home country, and expected absolute unquestioning obedience from his students. He did not receive it.

For some reason, Mr. Mudd was assigned five Spanish 1 classes, including three composed of native speakers. The natives in particular found Mr. Mudd’s Spanish laughable, and delighted in torturing him with all sorts of juvenile pranks: tacks on the chair, verbally imitating his empty threats, spitballs and such. Every day, he’d send scores of uncooperative kids to my supervisor, inconveniently tearing her away from whatever it was she did in that little office. I never threw kids out of class, figuring time spent with me was punishment enough.

One day, Mr. Mudd found a regulation somewhere stating that if a student had previously failed a teacher’s class, that student did not have to repeat that class with that teacher. This was a great opportunity for Mr. Mudd, since he had failed virtually everyone in all of his classes. He started sending names to the supervisor, who then had to re-assign all the students out of Spanish one.

At the end of the semester, I was called into the supervisor’s office. She had a cunning plan. She knew I then had a second job that began at 3:30, and informed me that the following semester I, an ESL teacher, would be teaching all Spanish 1 classes. If I declined, I would receive the only late class in the department, and be forced to give up my second job.

It was a perfect plan. Now, Mr. Mudd would no longer be sending those kids into her office, and she could do whatever it was she did in that office in peace. I would never send kids to her office, I would have no lists of students who couldn’t be in my classes, and she could put all those kids in Spanish 1 again. Many of them weren’t taking to French or Italian, and the ones who spoke little or no English had become particularly troublesome.

What could I do? I told her to do whatever she wished. Then, I applied for a UFT transfer to a school that was located within minutes of my second job. It did not require the approval of my AP, but only the signature of my principal. He waved his moustache up and down happily, and declared I’d never get a position in the school I’d requested.

The following September, while I attended orientation meetings in the school I requested, both the principal and my supervisor of my old school were perplexed at my absence. The UFT transfer plan precluded my being punished for doing my job too well.

Perhaps it will do the same for you one day.

But only if you vote “NO” on this awful contract proposal.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Of teachers:

“I could vote for it because I’m going to retire.  But that would go against everything I went on strike for.  I don’t believe in giving all this stuff back.”

“They pretend to pay me, and I pretend I’m working.”

Of students:

“Without my glasses, I can’t even find my glasses.”

“This room smells like math.”

(Upon watching me, her teacher, feign a heart attack over a subject-verb agreement error)
“You needs to calm down, man.”

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Roadmap to a Sixth Teaching Period

Goshdarn it, why oh why are we being so negative? Did Martha Stewart stop baking cookies just because they sent her to the stoney lonesome for a few months? When GW failed to find any WMDs, did he suffer any consequences? When Rod Paige got caught faking the “Texas Miracle,” did he go to jail? Of course not! Ol’ Rod just paid journalists to push his programs, called the NEA a “terrorist organization, ” and rode quietly off into the sunset.

So let's just stop being such a "Gloomy Gus," and look at the bright side of the new UFT contract, shall we? With the innovative language of this unprecedented document, the “Roadmap to a Sixth Teaching Period,” you’ll be a better teacher, a better human being, and surely edge closer to that spiritual fulfillment that's been eluding you all these years.

Aren’t you sick to death of getting raises just to have more money? Wouldn’t you rather increase your workload while essentially getting paid the same or less? Wouldn’t everyone? Well, here’s your chance.

First of all, rather than planning lessons or helping kids, you’ll have the opportunity to experience firsthand the sublime satisfaction of refereeing food fights. Or perhaps you’ll spend that period in one of Chancellor Klein’s luxuriously appointed student bathrooms, checking hall passes and lecturing kids you’ve never seen before on the perils of wearing hats. Maybe you'll even get to assist a secretary or a paraprofessional in filling out forms! Some teachers haven’t done these things before, but if you haven’t, believe me, there’s nothing quite like that first time.

Not only that, but after a full day’s work, you’ll spend 37.5 minutes on “small group instruction” since your classes, under this stellar contract, will still be the largest in the state. Think of all the new and exciting people you'll get to see and experience on the parkway after school. And don’t forget the inevitable extra ten minutes coming in the next contract, which will give you six full periods of teaching the largest classes in the state. What's that you say? "Oh boy!" "I can't wait!" But that's not all!

Instead of that wasteful Labor Day trip, you'll save big on gas by spending two perfect summer days being indoctrinated in the mysterious and arcane plans of Chancellor Klein. Get ready to sit in a hot auditorium and listen to his overpaid sycophantic flunkies tell you what a great job he's doing, and how and why you should stop screwing it up. And you'll yet enjoy another vacation day (for your students) hearing even more about much-neglected topics such as "The Art of Reading Aloud to 34 Seventeen Year Old Kids Who Don't Understand the Language You're Speaking."

Best of all, even with all these extras, you can rest secure in the knowledge you’re still the lowest paid teachers in the area. The fact is, while UFT pay edges up, our suburban colleagues get raises too, larger than ours, and without optional extras like those mentioned above. The UFT, in a particularly canny negotiating tactic, regularly underestimates the difference in pay between us. If you don’t believe me, visit a Nassau library and ask to see their teacher pay schedules, which are annually published in booklets by NYSUT.

Frankly, I can't wait till the next contract, when they give us that sixth full class we’ve all been hankering for. Like many of you, I’m bone weary of having such an effortless, cushy job, and if the UFT hadn’t proposed this contract, I was personally gonna circulate a petition demanding more work and less pay. So let’s all put our heads together and figure out what else we can sell them come October 2007.

Hmm…Tenure? Health insurance? Your firstborn?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Edwize Silent on Contract Pact

I'm curious why Edwize, the UFT blog, has seen fit to publish no new thread related to the new contract proposal. Interesting though the "New Teacher Diaries" may be, they hardly reflect what's on the minds of most teachers this week.

Could it be they don't want to know how the rank and file feel about the proposed contract? Or could it be they already do, and would prefer not to hear about it further?

Feel free to speculate here, and let's hope they show some guts and prove us wrong.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Contract Update (revised)

Today's NY Times reports an agreement between the UFT and Bloomberg for a 52 month contract with a 14.25% increase.

Highlights include:

-3 extra days listening to Klein's flunkies pontificate
-10 minutes extra per day
-fewer transfer options
-a sixth 37.5 minute class of "small group instruction" 4x weekly
-no right to grieve letters in your file
-return to lunch duty, hall patrol, homeroom, potty patrol et al
-UFT silence on the mayoral election as quid pro quo

Hopefully, the UFT will see fit to share further details with us soon.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I’m in the department office, correcting papers and congratulating myself that I have only 5 million more to go when Vivian bursts in, crying hysterically. I try to calm her down, and ask what’s wrong. Vivian, an incredibly conscientious student who arrived from China only months ago, thrusts a paper in my face and begins to cry even louder.

It’s in Chinese. Between sobs, she sputters she got a D on her composition, and apparently, it’s all but ruined her young life.

“I’m sorry, Vivian, but I can’t understand Chinese. Did you ask the teacher why?”

“Yes.” (sob, sniff….)

“What did he tell you?”

“I don’t know.” (cry, sob)

“What do you mean?”

“I c-c-can’t understand his Chinese.” (sniff, sniff)

“Come on, Vivian.”

“NO! NOBODY understand his Chinese!”

“Well, you must understand it better than me...”

“I ask him five time, and I don’t understand. Finally, he tell me in English….” (sob, cry, cry…”)

“What did he tell you, Vivian?”

“He tell me in English ‘It suck!.’ “ (serious bawling)

Well, as criticism goes, it’s certainly concise.

Later, I look for her teacher and find him. Unfortunately, I find his English utterly incomprehensible. That’s unusual for me—my job involves regularly dealing with people who speak little or no English. I have a Chinese-speaking colleague call Vivian’s parents on my behalf and tell them what a wonderful kid she is and how well she’s doing in my class.

It probably won’t help.


Obviously I was premature in announcing that a deal between Bloomberg and the UFT was all but signed. While I was certainly not the only one laboring under that particular misconception, I'll refrain from further criticism of the contract until if and when there is one.

My feelings about the fact-finders report remain the same--it's absolutely unacceptable, and a very, very bad precedent. I very much think it will form the basis of any contract to which the UFT leadership agrees, but continue to hope against hope they will prove me wrong.