June 30, 2008

Rubber Room Journal - Last Day Before Vacation

While the teachers were celebrating their last day of school, it was nothing compared to the relief we felt in the Rubber Room.
We were all enjoying the bagels that Yeoj brought when Moocher practically stuck his nose in the plate. "Oh, who brought bagels? I should have brought them." Who are you kidding? You haven't offered anyone a peanut since you've been here, I think. Moocher quickly grabs two bagels. "Now I have lunch and breakfast", he says. "You are disgusting", says Sec. Moocher walks away as if he didn't hear a thing.
We had all received an envelope in the mail requesting our summer contact numbers just a few days earlier. "They are going to send us a letter telling us where to report in September", Sketcher told the group. "Will you be back here in September?", he asked. " Where else would I be? Nothing is going to change over the summer", answered Mac. "Looks that way", Moocher said as he sat there scoffing down his bagel. "Well, I just got my charges. I'm looking at six months to a year at least", said Sketcher. When Moocher arrived to the Rubber Room (this is his second stint) he had the whole "mightier than thou" attitude. He was a complete narcissist. "Not me", he would say. "My principal told me he wants me back". Every comment he would make sounded more ignorant than the last. "Do you think that I could work summer school?", He added. "I have retention rights". Annoyed, Sec answered, "You are a criminal. You have no rights! Nothing is as it was before." Moocher sounded like a seven year old who asked the same questions over and over expecting a different answer. "It's pensionable if you work in the summer." He just keeps on pushing.

"So where we goin' for lunch girl? We gots to cel-e-brate!" Flea sings out. "I got to get me some su-shi." This girl requires huge doses of attention when she isn't sleeping. She is loud and irritating which upsets a lot of people. "I got to get me out of this joint. Come on. Where we eatin? Wake me up when it's time for lunch."

Princess makes her entrance at about 10:00. In her high heels and her high pitched voice she says, "Ooh, It's so cold in here. It's freezing! Aren't you cold? It's like an icebox!" No, we're not, I am thinking. It's 89 degrees outside and 75 in here. The air is barely breathable. You come here everyday in shorts and a skimpy blouse. If you're always so cold, why don't you wear a sweater? -"Why don't you wear a sweater?", comments Sketcher. Princess rolls her eyes at him. This is an act that Princess puts on everyday so that she gets out of sitting down here like the rest of us. There is nothing 'real' about Princess. She is a very large woman who dresses up everyday as if she is 'going out with the girls.' Just then her phone rings and she speaks as if none of us can hear. "These people are freezing me out of here!", she tells her phone mate. "I am allergic to the cold". Before she even puts her bag down, she turns around and leaves.

Mr. Warden is in full attire on this last day before the summer. He is wearing a tank top with a suit jacket thrown over the chair. Whenever he wears anything sleeveless, the odor is unbearable. "I have to hold my breath whenever I walk by him. The odor lingers if you don't hold your breath", says Sec.
At lunch time, everyone cuts out to the restaurant except for a few of us. We just go out for a walk to the park. We find Princess outside flirting with the custodian. You can hear her laugh all the way up the block. After lunch, Mr. Warden tells us that we have to stay the full day- unlike our colleagues who usually are granted early departure. Regardless, some people punch out early.
So, there it is. Another day of life in the Rubber Room... Until we return.
Have a Safe and Peaceful Summer.

June 28, 2008

A Tribute to my Teachers...

Before we all get back to our ranting about Public Education in its' present state, wouldn't it be nice if we could all say thank you to at least one or more of our teachers whose loving gestures would qualify in todays's world as sexual harrassment or corporal punishment and make them eligible for a paid vacation in the Rubber Room?

We all remember those teachers who committed at least one passionate crime of nurturing us with the obscene gesture of a hug, a squeeze of the hand, or a supportive pat on the shoulder. Perhaps they even 'yelled', detained or threatened us in the hopes that we might change for the better.

As a product of the NYC Public Schools of the 70's, I want to take this opportunity to say, "Thank you" to this group of dedicated individuals who've had an incredibly positive impact on my life. They were my public school teachers. In order to protect their anonymity from the likes of 'Kleinberg', OSI and other DOE administrators, I have chosen to refer to them by their first initials only.

Mrs. M, my kindergarten teacher, who played a mean piano, may she rest in peace. Never once did she allow us to put pencil to paper or torture us with "Open Court", thus depriving us of early exposure to the the three R's.

Mrs. B, my 2nd grade teacher who encouraged and applauded my artistic ability even when I couldn't add or subtract to save the life of me.

Mrs. D, who embarrassed me in front of my class by comparing me to my older brother who spent most of his time in the principal's office. The distress and public humiliation she put me through inspired me to want to be a teacher.

Mr. W, my 5th grade teacher, who always punished the whole class for the actions of one student.(Perhaps a lesson in how our actions can affect others?) He spent most of his time shushing us while flirting with Mrs. R outside of our room. The flirting eventually resulted in Mrs. R's divorce and their inevitable marriage. I ran into this beloved man recently and I am happy to report that they are still married!

Mr. D, the most popular and sought after 6th grade teacher. He'd often invite students and their families to his home on weekends and vacations. He made us put our chewed gum in our pocket or on our nose. He taught us the proper way to behave in the halls by making us walk up and down the stairs repeatedly until we either passed out or got it right.

These 'teachers' often raised their voices, used homework as a punishment and made us write, "I will not talk in class." 500 times over. They cared enough to spend their lunch period in the room 'alone with us' so that we couldn't go to recess, called our mothers, used red "x's to correct our papers, and even made us write them over! As a result of their 'ridiculous' demands and expectations, I strived to listen more, write neater and come to school prepared to do work. I walked in a straight line, ate lunch quietly and never talked back to my teacher. I learned that hard work was rewarded with better grades, mistakes made me stronger and respect was something to be earned. The nerve of those teachers for taking the time (which could have been used more productively for 'testing') out of their busy schedules to teach us some valuable lessons about life. Thank you.

June 23, 2008

The Day the Comedy Died...

In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem. -George Carlin

I was eleven years old when I first discovered George Carlin, the great comic icon. He was the first performer to ever "host" Saturday Night Live. The year, 1975. My older brother and I had to beg my parents to let us stay up and watch it. We were hooked. George's outlook on life was so refreshingly warped. He said what everyone else was thinking. Filtered through the mind of an eleven year old, it was harmless humor. Of course, most of the political talk went right over our heads, but we loved his spoof on 'dogs and cats'. His comparison of 'football and baseball'. His timing, his voice, his face and his posture. We and the rest of the world couldn't get enough.

It wasn't until I was older that I could fully appreciate the genius of George Carlin. One could always rely on George to comment on the state of things "as they really were" and it never left him at a loss for material. He was in touch with America and its' clear imbalances and inequities. He put his finger on obvious issues and twisted them like silly putty. He got it. We knew he got it. It was comforting to hear the truth. He was one of 'us' and never claimed to be anything but.

I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it.
- George Carlin

George, We hope you're still listening. You will be sorely missed.

June 16, 2008

Packing it All Up

As the school year draws to a close, my elementary school colleagues are busy sweating out their end of the school year rituals. No other job offers the yearly benefit of closure and paid vacation; Time to regroup and then to begin anew. Before the joys and freedom of summer can happen, however, a teacher must digest their final helping of last minute demands(abuses), pressure(threats) and anxiety(fear of imperfection). Meeting deadlines(rushing), planning graduations(grin and bear it), budget meetings(more cuts and layoffs), attending award ceremonies(keep smiling), teacher luncheons(not another one), retirement collections(I don't even know her!), reorganization(favoritism at is' best), rating sheets(the final blow), shuffling articulation cards(those poor kids) and the honorary passing of the file cans(whew, you made it).

It is a time to ponder many questions- Should I extend a kindness to the next teacher and complete the file cards or leave the cards for her to fill out in September? Should I run away? Should I turn in my real classroom keys, or -uh just the ones that are useless to me and anyone else who finds them? Should I leave up the backing or rip it down? Should I run away? Should I pack it up or just cover it? Will I have to move my classroom? Will I have a classroom? Will my stuff still be here in September? What should I do with these?( We may never be able to get 'these' again.)-And in the end, nothing ever gets thrown out. The senior teachers have been packing it up since the beginning of March and the newbies are scrambling for closet space while learning the true value of a clean empty carton (They never take advice). Pack Rats we are, always will be. Let's not forget the dreadful thought of having your classroom used for summer school...The thought of unknowns granted free reign of your room and the opportunity to take, use and destroy everything you've worked so hard to maintain.
The trials of teaching. I can't say that I miss them. Although I do miss some of my colleagues, my present situation has taught me who my real friends are. I am grateful to be away from the toxicity of an unfair administration and the daily injustices I've beared witness to. I am grateful to have removed the rose colored glasses and clearly see through the facade that our country calls Public Education.

June 15, 2008

Is anyone listening?

Does anyone really care what the teachers have to say? I wonder what would happen if just once someone listened.

June 12, 2008

"The Notebook"

Poor Mr. Warden. He has nothing to do all day. No one to talk to. For this reassigned A.P. who has made a deal with the devil, loneliness is his well earned sentence. There he sits all day in the hallway - alone. This is a man who not only belongs in the Rubber Room, but is recognized by the non-RR-residents of the building as a severely strange and troubled man. Mr. Warden takes his job very seriously. In fact, he takes his job to a level that can only result in his own self affliction. His obsessive need for control and nasty disposition is sure to keep anyone out of his occupied space.

Poor, poor Mr. Warden. His job is to sit in the hallway outside of the rubber room and 'supervise'. Now he can only 'supervise' if there is someone or something to supervise. Since we still have the 'privilege' of choosing whether or not to open and close the door to the room he sits outside of, naturally, we keep it closed. It is only when we leave the room that he has a purpose- or let's say he has created a purpose for himself. In his "Notebook", Mr. Warden has documented each and every time that I have gone to the Little Girl's Room since the end of March. He just sits there all day long and waits for someone to go to the bathroom. Scary, isn't it??? He not only writes down the time that I leave, but also the time that I return. Mr. Warden lives for the moment that he can take pen to paper and document that someone has left the room. Have to clean your coffee cup? Another entry into the notebook. Please someone tell me, what is the purpose of this!? Does this qualify as a form of corporal punishment? I dare to think (Do we still have that right?) that the amount of time that I spend in the bathroom is a personal and private matter. As a woman I feel that his actions are a sick and perverted way of passing the time. This man is really hurting. Can someone just give this man a job?!!

June 11, 2008

Joel Klein and His Ego

The big joke of the day in our Rubber Room was the arrival of the "Joel Klein" Evaluation Surveys. Apparently, they were sent from Randi W and brought to us via Mr. UFT Rep of RR's. Mr. UFT Rep explained that the survey's purpose is to measure the level of support we feel Joel Klein has provided to the schools during his reign as Chancellor. As we know, Mr. Klein is doing a thorough clean up and feels that we should applaud him. Mr. UFT Rep informed us that these findings will be published in the UFT paper or somewhere in Journalism Land...We did not get a clear answer. You can be sure that it won't be "The NY Times".

There were about a dozen questions pertaining to the level of support Klein has given to several areas such as parent participation, teacher/principal collaboration, class size, communication among staff etc. etc. UFT Rep assured us that our surveys would remain anonymous, BUT our names had to be checked off as they were distributed and the envelope would indicate our RR location. The questions were very general and we were to indicate our level of agreement with each example given. Naturally, without a second thought, I gave Mr. Klein and his ego an F straight down the board.

June 10, 2008

If you are not part of the solution...

Lying is done with words and also with silence. -Adrienne Rich

June 9, 2008

"The Battle of the Air Conditioning"

It's funny how the air conditioner worked 2 months ago in the middle of March. The room was freezing. The custodian-(if you want to call him that)tells us that there are only 2 settings; ON and OFF. After literally begging, he comes in here with his "POWER" key to the thermostat box and pretends to adjust the air. He disappears and the air does not kick in. When confronted, he pretends not to speak english so he doesn't have to give you an answer. He came in three times this morning and I know that he never even touched the settings. He's got a nasty disposition and is on a power trip with his "KEY"- just like the warden is with his "NOTEBOOK" that he won't go anywhere without. The lack of air in here is stifling. This Rubber Room is in a basement and one would hope that the hot air would rise like it's supposed to- but it's sedentary just like its' inhabitants who are gasping for air. My cellmates are cranky and irritable. To add insult to injury, there are two women in here who claim they are "allergic" to air conditioning. Allergic? Ms.3 Seater rants,"Ain't nobody gonna make me feel uncomfortable. I ain't too hot and I ain't too cold." Okay, GoldiLocks. There are 25 others in here who are sweltering. It's 103 degrees and you need to shut up. Did I mention why we call her "3-Seater"? At a table big enough for six chairs, only 3 can sit because she won't move her things. I think that she is also breathing for 3. For tomorrow, I've been eyeing this big fan in my bedroom. For tomorrow- that nice, big fan won't be leaving my side. That'll show you Ms. 3-Seater.

June 8, 2008

NYC Rubber Room Report: Re-Assignment Rooms May Start in Rochester, NY

NYC Rubber Room Report: Re-Assignment Rooms May Start in Rochester, NY


By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter
Teachers who are let go by a school trying to make mandatory budgets cuts till must get paid by that school until they find a job at another one.

June 5, 2008
City principals are facing a Catch-22 dilemma as they carry out Department of Education orders to cut their school's budgets.

Many would like to do so by reducing the number of teachers.

But under a bizarre department policy, the bounced teachers continue to get their paychecks until they find a new job at another school - and their salaries come out of the budgets of the schools that let them go. (for 6 weeks and then the teachers are off their school payroll and on to the DOE's payroll)
The predicament is tying the hands of principals, many of whom indicated a desire to cut staff in order to save as much as $1 million at some schools.

The regulation means "you're not really the boss of your building," said one Queens principal.

"It means you're carrying people you really don't need. They stay on your register until they get sucked up."

While some principals are looking to shed one or two teachers, it's as many as 20 at large high schools.

The DOE - rather than the individual school - picks up the tab for "excessed" teachers only if they were dropped from schools with declining enrollment or that are being phased out.

Officials said they would help find other ways for principals to make mandatory budget cuts.

"We are committed to working with every principal who has any concerns about meeting their new budget line - item by item if need be," said Education Department spokeswoman Melody Meyer.

Teachers-union President Randi Weingarten insisted that "displacing teachers is not a viable solution."

She added, "Fewer teachers in a school means increased class size, a reduced range of courses and guidance services, and less time for teachers to spend with students."

The current school year is the first where teachers' salaries came out of the budgets of individual schools.

Typically, principals have chosen to cut after-school and Saturday activities and extracurricular programs rather than lose teachers.

The mandatory budget cuts now range from $18,362 to $1,080,751.

But the DOE is hoping those figures can be reduced if the state eliminates restrictions on how $63 million in state aid can be spent.


June 6, 2008

NYC's Missing Teachers

This article was in today's Post News Editorial- Check it out-

June 6, 2008 -- New York City public-school principals looking to control costs by shedding teachers forgot Lesson No. 1 about schoolhouse politics: The faculty can never shrink, only grow.

"Displacing teachers is not a viable solution," union boss Randi Weingarten says. "Fewer teachers in a school means increased class size, a reduced range of . . . services and less time for teachers to spend with students."

Ah, yes. The class-size trope.

Weingarten & Co. bemoan rooms with as many as - gasp! - 21 kids in the younger grades, on average, and up to 26 kids in the older grades.

But here's Lesson No. 2: Teachers get to use different math than everyone else. Because, in reality, the system's 1 million students share more than 78,000 teachers - producing a student-teacher ratio of, get this, 13-to-1.

So why do classes run so much larger than 13?

Ah, you see, a teacher on the payroll isn't necessarily a teacher in front of a chalkboard.

So where have all the teachers gone?

Gone to rubber rooms, every one.

Or they're on sabbatical.

Or "excessed" - that is, let go (though they still get paid, under rules of their contract).

Meantime, special-ed classes - where the maximum number of kids is 12 - suck up armies of teachers.

For Weingarten & Co., of course, the more teachers, the more dues income to bribe - er, contribute to - politicians.

Any additional teaching is purely coincidental.

But if principals can't trim faculty headcounts, how are they supposed to achieve their share of City Hall's mandated budget economies - given that some 85 percent of their outlays are for personnel costs; that is, for teacher salaries?

They're not, of course.

That's the point.

Teachers are special, don't you know

June 4, 2008

Rainy days and Wednesdays...

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It's 10am and all is quiet here in the Rubber Room. I can hear the rain hitting against the window and it is unusually hot. This kind of silence is very rare. Usually there are at least 8 of us having a discussion about something. Maybe it's quiet because Rem's not here reporting the daily news. He used to read it aloud every morning- whether you wanted to hear it or not. No one has claimed his seat yet and his table is still covered with magazines. Remnants of Rem. Part of his spirit remains with us while he begins to renew the spirit of others.

June 2, 2008

Be Careful of What You Wish For...

Last Wednesday, we lost a fellow inmate. Rem got a call from his school district sometime around 1:00 PM and just like that, he was going back. "I'm out of here," he said after his very brief phone call. Allegations unfounded, EXONERATED of all charges. It was exactly 7 months from the day he had arrived in September. Seven months of sitting and waiting. There was no 3020 or investigation. "They couldn't get one kid to talk- not one kid to back their story". "Rem's leaving us", Geo grunted. There was a quiet moment as many of us stood there in disbelief. As happy as we were for him, come tomorrow morning there would be an empty seat at our table. It was almost as if we felt betrayed. "That's great news. I'm really happy for you," I said. "You'd better not be showing up here again", said Geo. For a second I could see a look of terror in Rem's eyes. There was no real comfort in returning to the "Lion's Den" when you're feeling like a zebra. Anything could happen. God knows, we're living proof. We've all read the news and seen enough. Our stories alone could scare away the whole graduating class at Molloy. Everyone wants to go back, but no one really wants to go back to the way it was----the way it still is. At least here we have each other. You guys out there in the jungle-- you're the ones we feel sorry for. Out of danger- we are- at least, for the moment.

June 1, 2008

Double Whammy

It is June 1st. Tomorrow I will be starting my third month in the Rubber Room...and it is a Sunday night. Double Whammy. I never get to sleep on Sunday nights. Sunday nights mean Monday mornings in the Rubber Room. Monday mornings mean a whole week of waking up and heading to the Rubber Room.

I spend my idle time thinking about the Rubber Room. I've even begun packing up a RR "survival kit" the night before. My laptop and charger, my Vz wireless-only 59.99 a month for unlimited access to the outside world...my cell phone, my cell phone charger, extension cord, a couple of pens, reading glasses, the fliers that were left on my doorstep,gum, my unopened bills, blank checks, stamps, earplugs, earphones, a pillow, blanket, a few packets of sweet and low. That should cover it.
This is all becoming so robotic. I want to cry just thinking about it.
I will guess that by now my salary is being paid by Central. I am officially a prisoner of the DOE.
This is the way things happen here in the Rubber Room. Nothing makes any sense.

Please check this out. You will understand why I love this man.