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.
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