July 28, 2008

No one asked ME.

If I hear this again I am going to scream!
The majority of the teachers in the Rubber Rooms don't want their cases expedited?!
They don't want the DOE to hire more arbitrators?!
They don't want to speak about their cases or have their day in court?!!
Most teachers prefer staying in the Rubber Room over returning to their schools... They like where they are and want to stay there. It's frightening to think that this is the overall Rubber Room consensus according to some union sources. Hard to believe -but it's true.
Let me take a minute to vent now. Excuse me, but I wasn't asked!!! I may have been in the "little girl's room" or hallucinating from the smothering lack of oxygen, but I don't recall anyone asking me what I would prefer!!!!
I actually overheard a union representative responding to the question of why the union hasn't pushed for the DOE to hire more arbitrators; "There are a 'vast number of opportunities' available to a reassigned teacher in the RR. -Why, there's Bible Study Class at 9, followed by Aerobics at 10, Crocheting for Beginners, The Book of the Month Club and a Meditation Group before lunch. The teachers are educating each other and having fun. Sounds like a retirement home to me. They are safe from the harrassment of administrators. Why would they want to leave and return to their schools?" Well, when you put it this way- it kinda makes sense.
What this is saying is that while I sit day after day in the Rubber Room staring at a concrete wall, there are other reassigned teachers who actually prefer to be here rather than returning to the classroom. Instead of having their day in court and/or the opportunity to clear themselves, they would rather stay put. Why would a teacher want to waste their talents and years of education to sit all day instead of teach?
Everyday that I must spend in the Rubber Room is another day that I am tormented by a feeling of powerlessness. I find myself in a physical and emotional battle that borderlines insanity. It's not the fact that I have been a very active and energetic teacher in the classroom, but the fact that as a human I am restricted to the perimeter of a small room that allows for very little movement and lack of personal space. Have you ever heard of 'bed sores?'
The mere mention of returning to the classroom or being around children has some teachers shaking in their boots. They have been so abused, misused and terrorized that even the Rubber Room is a palatable choice over the possibility of justice. This year alone, I have learned that 5 of my hardworking, experienced colleagues have received letters informing them that in September they will no longer retain their various positions as "Teacher Trainers, Reading Specialists and Clusters." With tears in their eyes, they have described the feeling of shame and embarrassment among their colleagues, friends and families.
This system is so dysfunctional and destructive that it brings experienced professionals to their knees. It damages their self esteem so badly that they feel they must lie to their friends, families and even their spouses. The fear of being misunderstood and judged as incompetent serves the DOE well in that it keeps the public from knowing about the travesties of the Rubber Room. It is so dysfunctional that these experienced professionals are succumbing to the horrendous conditions of their fate without even a fight.
Ask me what I think. Go on, just ask.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...
Very well put. The responses to the rubber room vary among indivivduals as you pointed out. I was sent to the rubber room by a principal who was fired. I was working in a school that was and is totally dysfuntional. My health was was being adversaly affected. In fact a colleague who was being harassed by the Principal drop dead of a heart attack days before the end of the worst year in education that I have ever had in my 20 year tenure with the DOE.

I have documented my harassment on my blog for all to read and it is my contention that I was already in a rubber room being that my students were being questioned everyday, some of the sicker female co-teachers were attempting to set me up on the instructions of the principal and I was being observed everyday for a week.


July 24, 2008

Margaret Spellings- Education Secretary on Colbert

I can go on and on... but have you noticed that how she never mentions the word "teacher?"

Cohort12Fellow said...
I saw that and I noticed it!! I also thought it was kind of ridiculous that NCLB would be considered the high point of the Bush administration!

August 2, 2008 7:05 PM

July 19, 2008

And It Makes Me Wonder...

Did you ever wonder why you spent thousands of dollars and years of studying when you could have just taken an easier route?
What a great city New York is. Where else in the world can you get a a hot meal and a job teaching without even opening your wallet? Where was the mayor when I was living in a basement apartment & paying back all of those student loans?
Check out this ad in the NY Times for Teaching Fellows- No Experience Required!
Article Found on "An Educational Voyage" http://janetryoung.blogspot.com/2006/09/thanks-randi-online-excessed-staff.html

Update: I just read an ongoing thread on "Chancellor's New Clothes" that debates about the effectiveness of TFA program and the TFA members that has everyone in a tizzy.
Here is the comment made my a Bronx Chapter Leader on July 20, 2008 @ 2:29 pm All of the TFA’s I know, and I know many, have no children at home. They are very young and have the time to plan for school 24/7. They are afraid to “stand up” to idiot administrators and will often allow these administrators to break every article in the contract. Many of them complain to me in tears, but when I hand them a grievance form they are fearful of putting their words into action. Talk about affecting dozens of children’s lives , they leave after two years. In my building dozens of TFA leave after two years. I am not saying that these teachers are not hard workers , but if it were up to the administrators all teachers would be TFA. Teachers would work all day without a prep or a lunch. We would have no summer vacation, no holidays and be expected ( as we are now) to go home and log onto ACUITY and ARIS and check out the data. We would have to hold in our pee-pee till the end of the day. Our classes would go way beyond class caps as per contract. The turn -over of TFA is great for the schools budget because then principals won’t have to pay “steep” salaries, and can spend more money on test prep!!
Please read and join in...the thread...

July 18, 2008

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, No, It's "Teacher on Summer Vacation!"

"So, How are you enjoying your summer?". As a teacher, we hear this question all of the time. This question usually follows with the inevitable, "You are so lucky to have off". "Yes", I think to myself. It is one of the reasons that I became a teacher. In the summer, I am, "Teacher On Summer Vacation" or "T.O.S.V."... (Not "Rubber Room Inmate Enjoying Time-Off") -what an empowering feeling. For most teachers, this means a relief from writing lesson plans, grading tests, freedom from the harassment of inexperienced administration, rotten kids(not all) and their rotten parents who are in extreme denial. For an inmate like me, summer is a time when I get to be a 'real' teacher- doing what 'real' teachers do.

Teachers need summer like fish need water. The summer recharges and breathes new life to the impoverished spirit of a 'June' teacher. In the past, I have enjoyed many free and liberating months while others continue to trudge miserably to and from their more prestigious, higher paying jobs.

This summer, however, has brought new meaning to 'free time and liberation'. For me, it means, not having to report to the Rubber Room until 'school' as most of us know it, resumes at the end of August. I am "T.O.S.V!". I have to keep reminding myself of this. When you have been confined to sitting still all day in a crowded room with the daily task of doing nothing particular except punching the clock on time, the arrival of summer is *(^_^)* freeing beyond comprehension. For two whole months I get to experience what it feels to be ungoverned. I get to do what real teachers do. I get to sleep late, go to the beach, soak up the sun, drink iced coffee, tend to my garden, shop in empty stores, speak loudly on my cell phone and drive on traffic-free roads. I can loiter as long as I want in a restaurant, in a bathroom(not that I want to)or anywhere that I choose to be, undocumented and untimed.

As I reap the benefits of summer, I can almost pretend that everything else in my life is "status quo". I can freely mingle and interact with children in my neighborhood. I can go to a playground and observe the untainted innocence of children at play. I can enjoy the beauty of the day as god designed it. Afterall, I am, "Teacher On Summer Vacation." That's all I really need to be right now.

July 17, 2008

Teacher Remover

I just read the following article that was published on Crain's new york Business.com written by Susan Lee Schwartz.
I began teaching in 1963,; Ba and BS in Education -Brooklyn College. I have the equivalent of 2 additional Master's, mainly in Literacy Studies and Graphic Design. I was the only seventh grade teacher of English from 1990 -1999 at East Side Middle School, which opened in 1990. My students placed amongst the highest reading and (eventually, when the ELA tests were instituted) writing scores in NYC. This attracted Harvard, looking for teachers who could be matched to "The Eight Principles of Learning", the thesis by Harvard's Lauren Resnick, that powered the Standards project, funded by Pew. 

In 1998, based on the assessment of my teacher-practice by the Learning & Research Development Center, at the University of Pittsburgh, which studied my teacher-practice after I was chosen to participate in THE Standards project , I was awarded the NYSEC (New York State English Council)) "Educator of Excellence of Award," a much coveted and PRESTIGIOUS award. I have been included five times, in "Who's Who Among American Educators". Now that I am "googleable" as former students tell me, I get scores of letters from former students describing the enormous impact that I had on their life.

Currently I am a freelance travel writer and photographer, but I also write widely, about real education reform in order to change the national conversation to where it needs to be -- ABOUT LEARNING, and what makes genuine learning possible, or impossible, rather on the bogus subject of poor teachers and teacher standards. Learning how to learn--critical thinking--not rote memorization-- is the object of the PRACTICE OF PEDAGORY for which teacher who wish to PRACTICE THIS PROFESSION get a degree and a license.
I write because people with loud voices and personal agendas have destroyed the practice of pedagogy, and silenced the voice of the only ones who can set the record straight, the grunt on the line -- the teacher-practitioner--a genuine professional trained to know exactly what is needed to facilitate learning in each particular classroom.
I speak as a teacher and write because:

* those who have the national stage, are pushing tests, and pointing to bad teaching, as the reasons schools fail, but that is pointing in the wrong direction and thus a genuine solution and real reform eludes the people of this country..

* the national conversation has been usurped by businessmen and pundits with no understanding of the emergent learner, or the actual classroom practices that enable creative and critical thought. (Everyone who went to school believes they know what is needed "to teach".)

* What is REALLY NECESSARY for children to LEARN in school, is pre-school literacy, parent involvement in shaping attitudes and monitoring home activities, and classrooms where the teacher-practitioner sets the agenda based on curriculum objectives and the knowledge of pedagogy, rather than AN AGENDA SET BY some administrator who never taught, and who promotes the scripts and tests that enrich privateers who thrive on failing schools.

I speak as a teacher and write because:
* corrupt administrators, use a process that targets senior teacher-practitioners, despite exceptional dedication and huge success in their career, for harassment and egregious, criminal deprivation of due process.

* there is a hidden and scandalous deprivation of due process -- allowed and empowered by unions which do not fulfill their obligation and contract for immediate investigation and fair, promt, grievance procedures, thus permitting a "waiting game" which prevents due process.

* the national assumption expressed in the media is that the unions protect teachers BUT the truth is the unions have looked away from the breaking of tenure, and THUS, as they are the legal arm that protects teachers, teachers have lost their civil rights, and have no genuine access to the courts.
I speak as a teacher and write because:
OpEdNews Member for 380 week(s) and 0 day(s)

July 15, 2008

Been There?

The experiences we share as humans are quite common to differing degrees. Most of us have known the jittery feeling of taking a road test, the regret of crashing a first car, losing a job, rejection, separation, divorce, the pressures of raising children,illness and the unavoidable pain of losing a loved one. We grieve, we slow down, we heal and in time, we get through it. By helping each other, we gain hope and understanding from those who have "been there". The dreaded 'event' or excitement inevitably passes. The hurt subsides, the pain lessens, life moves on and so do we. When we look back on these life changing events in search of meaning, we are presented with a choice. We can choose to look at the experience as one that will help us to grow stronger, or we to ignore the lesson and shoulder the pain. The lessons weaved into our experiences can help us to become more humble, and more patient human beings.
In time of crisis, my mother will often say something that goes like this; "Talk to Aunt Adele. She went through the same thing when she was first married and take a look at her now. She survived." Strangely, knowing that someone else struggled and suffered in a similar way helps us to feel 'normal' again. Ironically, it does. Hey, if 'Crazy' Aunt Adele survived, I will survive, too. Now, let me ask Aunt Adele a question. "Have you ever been sent to the Rubber Room?"
How many times have you thought to yourself or heard someone say, "Now I've heard everything!", or... "Nothing shocks me anymore." Unless you have been living inside a box, these words and thoughts are triggered frequently when dealing with the real world. And,just when you think that you have seen and heard everything, there is a place and an experience that is so unlike real life, that few will ever openly talk about it. The shame and degradation associated with this place is literally crippling to those who have been inside its' walls. This unreal and futile experience can be found deeply embedded within the DOE's operating structure.

For those who have been reassigned, the emotional experience is embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning and merciless. The unfortunate people that I have met in the RR are the only people who can or will ever truly understand what it's like to be there. Other people- OP (ie; Anyone who has not spent time in the Rubber Room) do not have the capacity to fully imagine this exceedingly damaging psychological experience. Because this experience is so atypical and absurd, I find it categorically difficult to fully identify with anyone I knew in my "Pre" Rubber Room Days. This includes anyone with whom I have formerly worked with, continues to work in my assigned school or for the DOE in its' full capacity.

How does one explain to OP that the DOE is nothing more than a discriminatory, self serving, corrupt money making institution? How does one describe the morally inept thinking and practices that Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein subscribe to?
How does one explain to an outsider or even a loved one that after 10 or more wonderful years at the same job, that they have been removed from their school for an allegation that they haven't been made aware of? How does one explain that they have suddenly been denied the priviledge to teach the students they have bonded with and loved, due to an anonymous person who has made an anonymous(possibly false) accusation against them? How do I explain to others What I- myself, do not understand? How does one accept that they have been labelled "a danger to children" -the very same children that they would throw themselves in front of a train to protect?
How does one accept all of this when being around children is their life's work? How does one accept that they cannot return to their workplace to gather their belongings or meet with their principal without prior consent? How does one maintain their level of sanity, dignity and well-earned respect when they have been victimized by a system that does everything in their power to disable their teachers from doing their jobs and then claims, "See? This teacher is incompetent!"

If you are still reading to this point then you might me interested in knowing that at this point I have isolated myself from life as I once knew it. It has been too painful for me to constantly question who I am and define myself as a teacher who has been relegated to the RR. I am no longer the productive, optimistic and happy person that I was before. I have lost weight, become depressed and unable to function normally. I am a parent who has had to lie to my children on a daily basis and present a false facade to others. I feel frustrated and helpless that I am not able(really, not allowed) to take any action to improve my situation for fear of retaliation and abandonment from my own Union. I believed like most of us do that my Union was supposed to protect me. I believed that once I was reassigned that I would have the opportunity to state my case and return to my job. I have been told to sit and wait. Sit and wait until you are contacted. Sit and wait until you rot.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not a 'sit and wait' type of person. If noone is willing or able to help me, then I will do whatever it takes to help myself. I don't want pity or empathy. I just want to be heard by anyone who cares. I have not been formally charged with anything. The situation that got me into the RR(I cannot discuss for fear of retaliation by the DOE and my Union) was one that left me with no options. I can't look back on how I could have changed a situation that I did not create. I am tired of waiting and would like to get to the truth. Does the truth count for anything anymore? I conclude my post with the following thought. Next time you find yourself believing that you've heard everything, just read this post again and COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.