September 30, 2008

Last night I shook hands with Salieri

This was a BIG DEAL for me.

Imagine you’re a music teacher, and imagine in the course of your career you witnessed the invention and promulgation of old school rap, beat-boxing, hip hop, gangsta rap, freestyling and battling, not to mention the demise of melody, a reliance on meandering and nonsensical vocal ornamentation, pyrotechnical preferences of practically the entire gospel world, a burgeoning of Latino music, and the interpretation through lyrics, rhythm and harmonies of the most primitive ways humans are capable of using and abusing each other sexually and otherwise.

Take all of that and try to teach Mozart, to 50 kids at a time.

In fact, why limit oneself. Try to teach classical music in general, or how a composer actually composes, or the difference between genius and ordinary talent, or what it's like to write with a quill pen, or any of the subtle emotions expressed by the Bard himself when he spoke of music in his plays:
"If music be the food of love, play on." (Twelfth Night)
"In sweet music is such art"(Henry VIII)
"Like softest music to attending ears!" (Romeo and Juliet)
"Music, ho! music, such as charmeth sleep!" (Midsummer Night’s Dream)
"'Tis good; though music oft hath such a charm" (Measure for Measure)
"Solemn and strange music, marvelous sweet music" (Tempest)
"As they smelt music: so I charmed their ears" (Tempest)
"Music of the spheres! Most heavenly music."(Pericles)
Sings heavy music to thy timorous soul (Henry IV, pt 1)
Will whisper music to my weary spirit. (Henry IV, pt 2)

While rappers play brilliantly and mercilessly with the language and singer songwriters ply their trade from coast to coast, kids all over pour their passionate hearts out into lyrics of their own — notebooks full of them, written to the objects of their affection and the perpetrators of their hormonal torture.

Yet they're worlds away from Barnfield’s miraculous description of music and lyrics in a sonnet of some four hundred years ago:
If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
Then must the love be great 'twixt thee and me,
Because thou lovest the one, and I the other.
Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch
Upon the lute doth ravish human sense;
Spenser to me, whose deep conceit is such
As, passing all conceit, needs no defence.
Thou lovest to hear the sweet melodious sound
That Phoebus' lute, the queen of music, makes;
And I in deep delight am chiefly drown'd
When as himself to singing he betakes.
One god is god of both, as poets feign;
One knight loves both, and both in thee remain.

So, how do you teach the art forms of centuries ago to our big-city teenage poets?

The movie Amadeus was a godsend to me: it could captivate the imagination of any kid between the ages of 11 and 18 and put classical music within their reach. I taught it meticulously, thoroughly and tirelessly 10 times a year or more, putting the sound of Mozart's works into the minds of thousands of kids.

I taught them what it means to be born with great, inexplicable talent, and what it means to be so much in awe of it that you burn up with jealousy. They saw the palaces of the aristocracy with their vast spaces and polished door handles at forehead level, the musician servants in their black tails perpetually vying for the patron’s love, a world where music was performed live or not at all. They heard the exquisiteness of an oboe solo perhaps for the first time (Salieri describing it here in the movie) and the sweet harmonies of the Finale of The Marriage of Figaro. Even Piffmonkey, one of the kids who left a comment at the end of this YouTube clip, had to admit: “Yeah i know what you mean!!! when i first watched this part i started to tear! but i was in class.. so i just made it look like i was yawning. ;) ”

I couldn’t help myself using this movie to explain European culture, art, talent, musical proficiency, languages, customs, clothing and wigs — anything and everything. Even when I saw the kids grappling with all this strangeness, coming as they were from a world so far away, I knew it was the right way to give this music to them. And make no bones about it, they were traveling huge distances to get to where I was coming from. You could tell from their comments:
“Hey miss, you mean dey didn’t wear Reeboks in doze days?”

Seeing Mozart enter a scene: “Hey, dat’s George Washington!” and when Constanze followed: “And dat’s Betsy Ross!”

“Hey miss, you mean they only talked about music in those days? They didn’t talk about anything else?”

“If Mozar’ talked so dirty, how come he’s in the Bible?” (Mozart, Moses, it's all in the past)

“Hey miss, when ‘re dey doin’ the second movie about Mozart? You know, like Rocky II?”

So here I am last night at a play reading downtown (at the Red Bull Theater), sitting no more than six feet from the edge of the stage, when in walks F. Murray Abraham himself. Salieri!

As much as I loved the reading, I could barely contain myself for the next two hours knowing I was going to have to go up and thank this actor for making my entire career as a music educator so effortless.

I took the famed hand of Antonio Salieri himself, warm and honest, and shook it heartily, gushing how much Amadeus meant to me all these years trying to make classical music come alive. He said, “You know, that movie is already 25 years old! Can you believe it?” I said yes, I knew that, because that’s practically how long I’ve been using it. I told him how it fascinates them, students remember the sound of Mozart and his genius many, many years after they leave my classroom. He said: “Oh, so you must be the reason kids come up to me talking about Mozart,” or something like that, and I said perhaps so, because it’s happened to me as well. I can be in the subway in the middle of Harlem and a kid can call out “Mozart!!” from across the tracks when he sees me.

There was too much substance for us to laugh at really, all we could do was marvel for a moment at the movie’s universal appeal. He told me that in a month he’d be seeing the movie's director, Milos Forman, again and was going to tell him about our conversation.

I felt some kind of circle was now complete.

I met Salieri.

September 27, 2008

Smoke, mirrors and lots of loose ends

Here's the Union's response to the 3rd item mentioned in this post:

"Any member has the right to file a grievance on their own with the principal at step 1. The Union created an online filing system to be able to track each grievance and look for trends and see what the issues are that our members are grieving. Any member who wishes to bypass the online system may do so, as per the contract, by handing in to the principal a paper grievance. Under our online system, the only ones to have access to the online system are our chapter leaders. The huge majority of our members will go to the chapter leader and have no problem with then putting the grievance online. If you choose not to go to your chapter leader, a copy of your grievance should go to the boro office so they can input it into the computer system." (Oct. 6)

NOTE: Mr Barr has not seen fit to clarify this on his Chapter Leader's Weekly series as of Oct 10th. It's really hard to believe they're working with us and not against us.

With all this talk of smoke and mirrors in the management office at the UFT, I wanted to draw someone’s attention three issues that seem to have evaporated into thin air, disappeared into the fog, or otherwise suffered the ultimate deep 6.

I don’t know about you, but when you drag a thousand or more chapter leaders and delegates down to 52 Broadway from all over the city at the end of a hard day’s work, it seems to me these people should be informed of any progress relating to any resolution they may have bothered to pass. It's easy, email has been around since 1971. You don't have remind me that many of the resolutions are set-ups and some are fairly inconsequential. There are a few that are absolutely fundamental to our well-being as DoE employees and career educators, and we need to know that someone is “resolutely” following up on what that august body told them to go and follow up on.

Specifically, someone needs to tell us why in more than nine months, we haven’t heard a word about the progress of the U-ratings appeal resolution passed by the DA on Dec. 12th. Two of the Whereas paragraphs brought chills down my spine back then and actually still do:
Whereas, since Joel Klein has been the Chancellor, decisions made by the Deputy Chancellor (U-Ratings) and the District Superintendents (Discontinuances) always go against the appellant or probationer; and

Whereas, there are reports of major procedural irregularities regarding the appeal process . . .
The Resolved items call for canvassing “members that have gone through this process,” analyzing “the DOE data and determine whether the resolutions to those appeals have been within the intent of Article 21D,” and if the contract has been violated, taking “all necessary steps to restore, correct, reinstate, and take appropriate legal action.”

Does anyone know anything about the progress of this canvassing, analyzing, determining, restoring, correcting, and reinstating?

I don’t, and I’m a pretty active delegate.

How about the Resolution to ensure letter-in-the-file rights, passed by the DA on Feb. 6th. Actually,
ICE had proposed something on this issue on Jan. 24th, and it’s worth quoting James Eterno's “Rationale” so everyone knows who threw the first ball. He wrote:
NY Teacher stated the following in the October 20, 2005 issue: “City Labor Relations Commissioner James Hanley wrote to the union that the city agreed to negotiate on the issue (reopening the letters in the file provision) ‘if there is a disproportionate increase in the number of letters to the file.’” The evidence is in and for the first year under the new Contract it is not a pretty picture:

1,333 Unsatisfactory ratings in 2006-07 compared with 981 in 2005-06. (U rating increase of 36%; Source: Chief Leader)
918 tenured teachers rated U last year up from 662 the year before. (U rating increase of 39%; Source: Chief Leader)
The number of teachers denied tenure more than doubled last year compared to the year before. (Source: Chief Leader)
The number of teachers forced to extend their probation increased almost fourfold in 2006-07 compared to 2005-06. (Source: Chief Leader)
The UFT’s own figures show that 4,606 teachers resigned last year, up from 2,544 who resigned just a few years earlier; it is sensible to conclude that many of those 4,606 were forced to resign.
Chancellor Klein in 2007 created a “gotcha squad” of lawyers and retired administrators to help build cases against tenured teachers.
There had to be a disproportionate spike in negative file letters to support all that increased discipline.
The DA then passed a watered down version of the thing. In the Whereas section it said “there are anecdotal reports that because of the pressure that principals are under to raise test scores, there has been an increase in the number of threats of U ratings and letters in the file” and that “if there were a disproportionate increase in the number of letters in the file as a result of changes in the 2005 contract, ‘the parties will sit down and negotiate the impact of that issue.’ ” It then resolved that the union should determine if there’d been a disproportionate increase in LIFs since 2005 and if so, use the procedure negotiated in 2005 to “go after such abuses.”

My feeling is that the UFT in general uses only the most primitive means to go about determining anything (if at all). While UFT management was not acknowledging much of a spike in nasty letters in the file, Eterno reminded them on Feb. 7th — as if it were the job of a chapter leader to remind the entire executive board of the union of anything — that while they were playing ostrich:
All of that 36% increase in Unsatisfactory ratings last year that the Chief wrote about must have just occurred out of the blue. The 39% increase in tenured teachers receiving U ratings was not supported by any unsatisfactory observations or any negative letters. To believe that requires one to willingly suspend disbelief.
A few months later, he wrote on the blog that the negotiations should have taken place right after U-ratings started going up a year ago, and I agree with him when he says we missed one royal opportunity to go on the offensive.

Does anyone know anything about the progress of this determining, sitting down, and negotiating relating to the abundance of LIFs?

I don’t, and I’m a pretty active delegate.

Now for LeRoy Barr and his weekly emails for chapter leaders, which some of us get a hold of and actually read. On Sept. 12 he wrote:
File grievances online: Remember that chapter leaders must now go to the UFT Web site to file all Step 1 grievances on behalf of members in their chapter. You must be logged in to the UFT Web site to have access to the private chapter leader section, where the grievance form will be housed under the heading “Grievance Briefcase.” . . . If you have any questions about the new online grievance process, contact the grievance liaison/contract coordinator in your borough office.
Wow, I said to myself, that’s a change. The grievance procedure was already compromised in the last contract, and here they’re adding a middleman between the grievant and the principal. Yucccch–yyy! What if you don’t like your chapter leader and don’t want him to know your business? Worse, what if your chapter likes the principal or is even holed up in his proverbial pocket? No, no, no. Not good.

So I write to some chapter leader friends, who swiftly right back: Look at the contract. ANYONE can file a grievance. Here it is:
22.B.1. a. School Level (Step 1)
Any employee within the bargaining unit may, either orally or in writing, present a grievance to the head of the school within thirty school days after the employee has knowledge of the act or condition which is the basis of the complaint. A grievance which is presented in writing shall set forth specifically the act or condition and the grounds on which the grievance is based, the contractual provision which is alleged to have been violated and the remedy sought. A Step 1 Grievance Form such as the one set forth in Appendix C shall be used, but failure to use the form will not result in forfeiture of the grievance. A grievance which is technically flawed at Step 1 may be promptly amended or refiled without regard to the stated time limitations.
And I contacted a union exec about the obvious disconnect and asked in fairly explicit terms:
Please can you tell me if members can file these by themselves, as per the contract, or MUST they now be filed by chapter leader. And if procedure has been changed, how could it be???????? It's not in the contract and makes grievances even MORE non-personal than they were before. What if a member doesn't want his chapter leader involved in Step I. It is his right. The UFT seems to have taken that right away.
I did get a response, that an answer would follow ASAP, but that was 11 days ago.

Does anyone know anything about the UFT’s attempt to change the grievance process for the worse and bash the contract while they’re at it?

I don’t, and I’m a pretty active delegate.

September 25, 2008

Weingarten speaks!

This press release just posted on the UFT website (Sep 25, 2008):

UFT urges DOE to save city funds by helping ATRs find permanent posts

I'm going to the theater so I don't have time to comment, but here's her proposals:

Weingarten noted that the union has worked hard to help ATRs find permanent jobs, having filed an age discrimination suit against the DOE as well as a union-initiated grievance that is pending. The union has also sought to negotiate a moratorium on new hires to give the DOE a chance to place ATRs and has cited the funding formula for its negative effect on them. Today Weingarten reiterated her call for the DOE to cover the additional salary costs of ATRs and end the pay disincentive for principals in order to put them on equal footing with new teachers in terms of seeking placements.

She added that in light of Mayor Bloomberg’s latest rounds of budget cuts, the DOE should:

— Establish an immediate hiring freeze at the central DOE and at schools for any license areas where there are people in excess and available for placement.

— Embark upon a redeployment of teachers and other excessed personnel in the ATR pool.

— Develop a program to recertify excessed personnel in additional license areas so that they are available to fill vacancies as they arise.

The last one is new, and pretty interesting . . .

I've been teaching health for a couple of weeks and am getting really into Maslow, Erikson, and Sigmund Freud.

September 21, 2008


The ATR crisis heats up, and when the going gets rough, some of us head for the woods.

This time I took a book with me, one that I hadn’t leafed through in fifty years. Maybe you can recognize it . . .
There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew and that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move.
And it made me think for a moment about those great moments in the classroom when you sail free on the totality of your skills, and you just know you’re teaching full out and the kids are taking it all in, your energy and the joy of learning as much as the content of the lesson. No one can teach that in a college classroom or in a TFA prep course. It comes after years of doing this challenging work, and there are no shortcuts.
The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck, and under the fierce conditions of trail life it grew and grew. Yet it was a secret growth. His newborn cunning gave him poise and control.

As the Joel Kleins, Michelle Rhees and all the other trail bosses of Educorp swamp us with inane directives, PR exaggerations and distortions, soul-destroying testing policies, and games of gotcha and dominance on so many levels, it's good to take a step back and look at what kinds of people these are.

Buck had no love for Perrault and Fran├žois, but he recognized them as trail leaders. But the two men and a woman from the States he got sold to a few weeks later had never run a dog team in the Yukon before. They were “manifestly out of place, and why such as they should adventure the North is part of the mystery of things that passes understanding.” So it is with people whose soul is not in teaching, but in the business of teaching.
Buck felt there was no depending upon these two men and the woman. They did not know how to do anything, and as the days went by it became apparent that they could not learn. They were slack in all things, without order or discipline. It took them half the night to pitch a slovenly camp, and half the morning to break that camp and get the sled loaded in fashion so slovenly that for the rest of the day they were occupied in stopping and rearranging the load. Some days they did not make ten miles. On other days they were unable to get started at all. And on no day did they success in making more than half the distance used by the men as a basis in their dogfood computation.

It was inevitable that they should go short on dog-food. But they hastened it by overfeeding . . . Then came the underfeeding. . . They were frustrated by their heavy outfit and their own incompetence. . . . Not only did they not know how to work dogs, but they did not know how to work themselves.
Charles, Hal and Mercedes were not made for the trail. They didn’t get it, they couldn’t get it, and most certainly, they didn’t want to get it. Nor does Joel Klein.
Arctic travel became to them a reality too harsh for their manhood and womanhood. ... The wonderful patience of the trail which comes to men who toil hard and suffer sore, and remain sweet of speech and kindly, did not come to these two men and the woman. They had no inkling of such patience. They were stiff and in pain; their muscles ached, their bones ached, their very hearts ached; and because of this they became sharp of speech, and hard words were first on their lips in the morning and last at night.

So there are times when the beast in us has to follow our instincts, cross “alone from the smiling timberland” and come down into a open space among the trees. And like the long, lean timber wolf erect on haunches with nose pointed to the sky, give out that song “distinct and definite as never before — a long-drawn howl, like, yet unlike any noise made by a husky dog.”

Because it’s in our nature, this Call of the Wild, and it’s not in theirs. It’s our song to sing, and we can find our way back to it. In fact we owe it to ourselves to do that, and we owe it to our students.

Run over . . .

. . . . to Ednotesonline to read about the age discrimination lawsuit that went to jury trial on Sept. 8th.

Three of the seven Graphic Arts HS teachers won, and one of them wrote this:
"Let me verify that we have paid dearly from our own pockets to get there.... This is about justice and reputation, and our rights to teach as we have always enjoyed. It is also about getting fair pay and professional treatment for teachers who have studied and worked hard to earn senior tenure and status."

Where was Weingarten/Unity?

Where was Klein and all that "love" he showed us in his fake welcome letter earlier this month?

In his deconstruction of union minimalism, Scott quotes from his essay of a year ago on the Age Discrimination Lawsuit to Nowhere:
"The entire purpose was to deflect people from taking action on their own."

He thought then that the UFT's collaboration cum ineptitude cum procrastination could be turned into a song.

As another lawsuit on this same subject grinds its way through the DoE slime and the courts, I think it's rather more of a dirge.

Then continue running over to the post on NYC Educator about all the newbie teachers sitting around waiting to be placed:
According to today's Daily News, budget cuts notwithstanding, the city hired 5400 new teachers this year. They did so even as 1400 veteran teachers sat in the Absent Teacher Reserve. In fact, 229 of the new teachers have not even been placed yet. They were 'such good candidates' that the city could not risk losing them."

I'm thinking of the plural of a 7-letter word beginning with "b", the origins of which someone in cyberspace has laid out. It's not nice to use such words without scholarly back-up:
'one begotten and born out of wedlock; an illegitmate or natural child' comes from the Old French bastard = 'fils de bast,' 'pack-saddle child,' f. 'bast' (see BAST + the pejorative suffix -ARD. C. BANTLING.

BAST is from O Fr. bast, medieval Latin bastum, 'pack-saddle' (used as a bed by muleteers in the inns) in phrase 'fils (homme, etc.) de bast,' literally 'pack-saddle child,' as opposed to a child of the marriage-bed, thus forming a tersely allusive epithet for illegitimate offspring.

-ARD is suffix... O Fr. -ard, -art, German -hart, -hard, 'hardy,' often forming part of personal names as in OHG Regin-hart (Raynard)...Used in Fr. as masculine formative...often pejorative...It appeared in Middle English in words from O Fr., as bastard, coward, mallard, wizard...and became at last a living formative of English derivatives, as in buzzard, drunkard, laggard, sluggard, with the sense of 'one who does to excess, or who does what is discreditable.

BANTLING is possibly from BAND, swathe + -LING, but considered by Mahn, with greater probability, a corruption of Ger 'bankling' bastard from 'bank' bench, i.e. 'a child begotten on the bench, and not in the marriage bed.'...used formerly as a synonym of 'bastard.'

September 14, 2008

Which side are YOU on?

The New York Teacher calls itself “the official publication of the UFT,” which I daresay it’s supposed to be.

Trouble is, I’m not really recognizing a labor union here in this rag. I’m thinking instead the UFT has morphed into some kind of arm of the DoE.

But, you be the judge. Here are the titles of the news articles in the the Sept 12th issue, and then maybe there’ll be time for a little song.

The ones in RED are Tweed friendly, Tweed collaborative, Tweed duped, or Much Ado About Nothing. The BROWN are informational or anemic.

What the content clearly does NOT show are the issues that most concern the membership: outrageous class size, DoE thuggery, rubber rooms, autonomy in the classroom, inexperienced non-educator administrators, the ramifications of three restructurings in 5 years, fake accountability, teaching to the test, one-size-fits all methodologies and staff development, abuses in the parking and merit pay deals, overambitious excessing, and the gross corruption in the whole system of grievances and arbitrations.

Let the list begin:

“UFT, city reach parking agreement”

“Union gets hazardous condition repaired at Queens school”
(If it was that bad, it took many years to get that way. Where was the union during all that?)
"Arbitrator upholds 3-mo. time limit for placing letters in file”
(Not much of a victory, since the arbitrator said that “Given that there never was any right to place the LIF in the first place, due to its untimeliness, it obviously cannot be kept in the file.” Ho-hum.)
“Good first impression: Hardly a glitch in ‘one of the smoothest’ school openings”

“Union’s Green Dot ‘adventure’ begins”
(In case you didn’t know, that’s a unionized charter school. Charter schools mean the demise of public education.)
“41,500 take advantage of 55/25 plan”
(Remember the trade-off was merit pay, and remember how they linked 55/25 to merit pay behind our backs.)
“Hard work by all pays off in improved graduation rate”
(If you buy into any of BloomKlein’s faked statistics and general dis-transparent accountability.)
“Public schools spared mid-year state cuts; property tax cap averted”

“Weingarten boosts Obama at DNC”
(After backing Hillary for a year and making power moves towards Washington on our paychecks.)
“Members urged: Join COPE now!”

“Finding meaning as a new teacher”
(Welcome to Disneyworld, where everyone's happy and finding meaning!!! Never mind the brutal attacks — nowhere mentioned— on senior teachers, especially those who no longer have position.)
“New teachers ‘thrilled,’ ‘excited’ — and ‘terrified’”
(As if one article for new teachers wasn't enough.)
“UFT, DOE laud school crime drop”
(Again if you believe BloomKlein statistics, which I guess they do, since it's the second article in this issue that implies as much.)
“UFT, allies fighting to protect, improve public pensions”

“Union makes recommendations on mayoral control”

“New early literacy curriculum to be tried at high-needs schools”
(That's the 3-yr pilot program the union is supporting.)
“UFT: K-2 testing pilot a ‘bad idea’”

“Union: Added [11.471] seats welcome, but mayor’s real test lies ahead”

A good year to teach!’”
(A fluff article about the HS for Civil Rights in East NY: Keep fiddling while Rome burns, I always say.)
“A perfect learning lab”
(Another fluff article about PS 266 in Queens, with staff in full throttle and smiling. And what about all the schools with MISERABLE conditions, like the ones squshed into the top floor of an existing school, or those with classrooms in trailers, or all those campus schools fighting each other for space and governance.)
“UFT shows new teachers a good — and informative — time”
(Again with the new teachers? What’s with this paper?)
“Are you ready to vote on Nov. 4”
(A reminder to vote, as if our membership, one of the most educated sectors of society, need a reminder to vote. It's condescending but relatively harmless. )
“P credits: Another way to earn differentials”

And now for the song, which I invite you to join in on at the top of your lungs:

Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I'll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Don't scab for the bosses
Don't listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven't got a chance
Unless we organize!

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

September 13, 2008

Steinem says: "Wrong woman, wrong message"

Soon into watching the Charlie Gibson interview the other night, I was already revving up to write a piece on Sarah Palin’s proclivity for wide-eyed, zealous missions that will cause more people to die.

Gibson was asking her about her obvious inexperience and hubris. She responded with what she values: Not blinking and Not thinking.

This world is getting too fast for people my age.

While I was making some mental notes of what I was planning to write on this idiocy, some techie was already posting the very same segment from the interview on YouTube.

Everyone can now see the terrifying reality of this potential future president who would be in a position to not blink and not hesitate our country into more wars, wired as she is to commit missions rather than diplomacy and believing that victory in Iraq is actually definable and possible.

Panicky then and panicky still that our good ol’ bean Barack Obama, modulated college prof that he is, has not been doing nearly enough to win any moderates over to his side, I’ve been thinking with a fair degree of consistency that we are all doomed.

Until someone sent me this Gloria Steinem essay this morning, which appeared in the LA Times.

I can’t say it erases my dark premonitions for the November elections, but perhaps there’s time for enough people to come to their senses and nullify the stupidity.

Ednotes posted a link to the incredible anti-Palin rally that's just taken place.

Lots of pics, video, and a whole bunch of signs like this one:

Davids and Goliaths

It's starting to take on biblical proportions, this Bloom/Klein thuggery.

This is the second year Veteran Teacher X has been passed over for a teacher fellow.

X is super-qualified for the job: with more than 10 years experience, she’s bilingual and has two permanent licenses for what she’s trained to teach. It seems the newbie might not even hold the right license for the job that should have been X’s. When the announcement was made at a faculty conference that X was going to get a full program this year instead of the day-to-day subbing she was doing last year, everyone broke out into spontaneous applause; some came over to hug her. X had to tell them that she’ll only be filling in for someone on sabbatical this year. She’s still in excess and still an ATR.

Obviously, X is a beloved member of the staff, and obviously, admin's counting the change in his pocket. It wasn't so long ago when an administrator’s job involved continuity, stability, and a nurturing environment for staff and kids. Bet you don't find those concepts in Leadership Academy crash courses.

This just in from Veteran Teacher Z, also an ATR:
"I thought you might want to be made aware, if you aren't already, that the union is no longer grieving against new schools/principals who don't hire the 50% of teachers in the closing schools as is required by the contract."
Much lauded as an English teacher of long standing with not a single letter in her file except for praise, Z took student teachers in under her wings, mentored for years, and prepared (and ran) professional development. The UFT even offered her a job in its Peer Intervention program. Apart from all those credentials, she’s enjoyed a whole other career involving the very theme of a new school they’re creating in her building — and in which she was, astoundingly, not installed.
"And now I find that no one wants me."
Those are the saddest words I’ve heard since I’ve joined the fight for teachers who’ve been thrown into ATR limbo.
"And now I find that no one wants me."

Hers is like so many other ones in the saga of Goliath’s chancellorship. Z’s school is going to close next year, if not sooner. In the past two years, only two of the excessed teachers were able to get jobs in the small schools upstairs, and those were only because of connections.

Not having been called in for a single interview at any of those new ones, Z complained to the union. It arranged for an interview, but too late, of course. Two teaching fellows with no classroom experience or even much familiarity with the school’s theme got the jobs. Z grieved it, and the thing eventually went to arbitration. She says it was a test case, and the UFT lost it. It will now no longer be taking grievances for teachers being excessed out of old schools who apply to new schools in their buildings.
"Most of us are now ATRs, sitting in a room waiting to be sent as a sub to some school or other while the teachers upstairs, all fellows with no experience, are being made to work long hours (with no per session). And I have heard that the halls are insane. There are now eight other schools [here, and save for two people] NONE of them have hired any of us!

"Perhaps you can make others aware of this, how our union is further destroying our contractual rights."
If anyone knows differently about the way things are done in Arbitration World, please tell us. We want to know how far this debacle is reaching, and just how much the union is NOT willing to act on our behalf.
"Something is very, very, very wrong here, and someone needs to tell the story.”

That says it all, and the Davids out here are really trying.

Please send your stories. I’ll post them, and I’ll send them to all Jennifer Medinas and Elizabeth Greens I can find.

September 7, 2008

"Let's be honest."

So I was looking on the DOE website for something about the parking permits, hitting the main site first, then the link to Employees, and then the Teacher Page.

All of a sudden, the sound came on and a video screen started cranking up. I knew all at once they had fiddled with the site since last I had been on it (which I admit may have been never), and then I heard that voice:
“Welcome. Welcome to the 2008-2009 school year here in New York City. It’s my privilege to welcome all of our teachers back, etc. ”

It was Mr. Klein speaking, and sorry, I have to interject something here about that word “Mr.”

I think frivolous, unearned titles are not healthy from a society’s point of view. It’s an ethical issue, much as the whole field of Advertising has ethical issues. Perhaps “Honorary Chancellor” would be a better way to refer to Klein, like we do for Honorary Doctorates. But then the word "honorable" isn't the first word that comes to mind when I think of this particular chancellorship. So, for me it’s “Mr. Klein" — until, of course, the man goes back to grad school to get all those ed courses he’s missing, and a year of student teaching wouldn’t be bad either.

Back to what I was saying before I interrupted myself, every time you return to that Teacher Page, you’re gonna get this Klein greeting until you press the PAUSE button. You'd think with all the tech stuff going on over at Tweed, they could have programmed it to start up only once.

And here’s what you’ll be hearing:
“Our graduation rates are higher than they’ve ever been, significantly higher than they were only four or five years ago.”

“Our scores are up” [there's so much out there already on the successes that are just not, but you can try this for starters]

“And our kids are more excited”

“And the parents are more excited about the quality education in this city ..."

“Let’s be honest" [ad copy]

"That wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for our teachers.”

“I know that there are many challenges”

“Working together”

“Supporting each other”

“Participating on our inquiry teams”
“Inquiry teams”? Never heard of that before. Nor do I believe anyone at Tweed will listen to rank and file teachers except for show, like advertising a vacancy when you know you've already selected the candidate.
“We can really change the world for every single one of our kids.”
That’s actually as true as it is unfortunate. Klein's replaced the very essence of what makes education any good with one-size-fits-all methodologies, teaching to the test, suspending programs, stuffing classrooms with teacher trainees, and using thug tactics to break rather than nurture the unionized staff toughing it out on the darn front line.
“I believe that what’s happening in New York City is really important in terms of what’s happening in education in this country."
Yes, you and your buddies spearhead the destructive forces in education across the country. You train leaders who buy into your hedonistic abandonment of contract and social code, and install them here and in other cities (like here or here; Norm Scott pointed out this Diane Ravitch article, which includes these bits, especially the 3rd paragraph:

"The leading advocates of choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability appeared in a panel discussion during the Democratic convention, led by Chancellor Joel Klein of New York City and Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C. Along with such colleagues as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Mayor Adrian Fenty of the District of Columbia, they present themselves as the true voices of 'reform.' Listen to them and what one hears is the same views that the Republicans have been expressing since at least 1996, when Republican candidate Bob Dole launched an attack on the teachers’ unions. Now it is Rhee and Fenty trying to persuade D.C. teachers to abandon the tenure rights that their union won for them.

"The 'reforms' of the Klein-Sharpton-Rhee group are not at all new. They attack the teachers’ union, bash teachers, demand merit pay, promote charter schools and private management, and laud testing, lots more testing. They love NCLB, and they want it toughened. At bottom, they would like to see the public school system of the United States run like a business, with employees hired and fired at will. They are ready to privatize and outsource whatever they can, trusting private managers to succeed where the public sector (with themselves as leaders) has failed ...

"So this is the strange new era we are embarked upon, in which the mantle of 'reformer' has passed to those who would dismantle public education, piece by piece."

Klein wraps ups with:
"I look forward to being in touch with you”

“To correspond with you so we can keep our dialogue flowing”

"There are 80,000 of you"
Actually, according to the UFT website: 74,000 teachers, 17,000 classroom paraprofessionals, and a whole bunch of other non-teacher positions. That's a big difference in body count — Klein's 80,000, to Weingarten's 74, but what's 6,000 teacher salaries between friends. Does anyone know a good tune to set "Accountability" to music?
“What I hope is, you feel free at any time to send me an email”

“Let me know your thoughts, your concerns”

“Let me know how you think we can do things better”

“Let me know the ideas that you have about how we improve education in our city"
I could say Yeah, right!, but I have a better idea. Take the guy at his word and absolutely flood him with your thoughts and concerns. Flood him with your ideas. And make sure to send copies of all your emails and letters to the newspapers and to the mayor, the borough presidents, public advocate, and any other government rep you can think of.

Klein wants accountability? Hold him to his open and reiterated invitation for keeping the “dialogue flowing.” My bet is there won’t be any response. My bet he’s BANKING on there being no response.
“Let’s be honest.”

“Let’s be honest.”

“Let’s be honest.”
Okay, so he said that bit just once, but somehow it keeps ringing in my ear. I only wish the plural nominative "Let's" would include the man himself.

September 6, 2008

What a difference a list makes

The September issue of Jim Hightower’s newsletter Lowdown gives a list of names his readers came up this summer with to fill positions in an Obama administration.

It’s interesting enough to share, though I have real issues with Bill Richardson and his election manipulations (reported by Greg Palast, but did anyone else pick it up?):

New Mexico's Secretary of State, Rebecca Vigil-Giron, seemed curiously uncurious about Hispanic and Native precincts where nearly one in ten voters couldn't be bothered to choose a president.

Vigil-Giron, along with Governor Bill Richardson, not only stopped any attempt at a recount directly following the election, but demanded that all the machines be wiped clean. This not only concealed evidence of potential fraud but destroyed it. In 2006, New Mexico's Supreme Court ruled the Secretary of State's machine-cleaning job illegal — too late to change the outcome of the election, of course.

The list also made me think of the SATANIC names that would fill positions in a McCain/Palin win.

From Congress, pulpits and the Religious Right, Conservative think-tanks, the corrupt center of the 4th Estate, Law and Order, the dirty tricks club, the 911 devastation (as he keeps reminding us), from puerile, perilous punditry and the very heart of the Democratic Party itself come —

But, I digress. Here’s the list Hightower got from his readers: