November 15, 2008

Audience in Captivity

Audience in Captivity

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts... -Shakespeare

Before my reassignment, an ordinary teaching day was active and productive. Along with my colleagues, I yearned for the Pre-Kleinberg, Pre-"Robo-Principal " days when my school was like a second home. I knew the ins and outs of the school and I knew what to expect. When my principal was having a bad day, we too, had to be in a bad mood. When my principal was happy, in turn we had to act ecstatic. It may not have been perfect, but we knew how to survive. My principal wore her moods on her sleeve and we monitored them like the weather. When her mood changed, warning signals were transmitted throughout the building in a flash.
The arrival of Robo-Principal changed everything. There were no changing facial expressions or moods to read. There was only one stone face and one mood and no one knew what that was. Fear permeated throughout the building, almost as if someone had died. He didn't like laughter or noise and reminded us to keep it down. In discussion, he never made eye contact and wrote everything down. He responded only through email. Communication as we once knew it had died. Everyday we mourned the loss of human contact. Teachers walked around saying, "I don't know." We were in the dark about everything. That is why it came as such a surprise when I was 'served' my rubber room invitation.
For many teachers like myself, the first few days in the rubber room were a turbulent and surreal experience. I was nervous, scared, disoriented and confused. From the moment I was reassigned & banished from my school building, to my first week in the rubber room, most of it is a blur. Although I was extremely restless at first, I knew that my task at hand was to slow down. God's way of saying, "Time to learn another lesson." What the lesson was, I did not know. Reassignment is a very humbling experience.
For the most part, the people that I've met in the rubber room are quiet, amicable and bright professionals who have fallen victim to our dysfunctional school system. Amongst the group are teachers, school aides, principals(yes- principals!), social workers, nurses and secretaries who want to maintain a low profile and a peaceful existence.
On the other hand, there are those individuals who require lots of attention and drama. For them, quiet complacency is foreign idea and the walls of the rubber room are a stage; A perfect channel in which to act out their neuroses. Whether it be their loud, incessant talking, whining and complaining or just plain ignorance, the show is and always was about 'them'. Their lack of respect for themselves and others is disturbing. Let us not forget that we are grown adults who represent the field of teaching. Regardless of allegations, we are still innocent until proven guilty and it is important to maintain a sense of professionalism. Try as I may, the unscripted drama, the characters and the storyline in the rubber room are all too bizarre to ignore.
Some of the behaviors that I alone have witnessed are; broadcasting loud ring tones and inappropriate phone conversations. Random calling out, 'hooting and hollering' and pounding on & smacking the tables. Also, unnecessary outbursts of laughter and cursing, insulting remarks about religion and racism and comments about the human anatomy- as well as pornographic images via the Internet.
Sad and depressed? These characters can never be sensitive to your needs. These actors are not in tune with any one's boundaries but their own. They will sneeze, cough, blow their nose and clear their throat without any regard for those around them. There is no escaping the dysfunctional daily performances . The rubber room comes equipped with a 'captive' audience or dare I say, "audience in captivity". These 'actors' will drain the life out of you. As the rubber room imitates life, these "Teachers Behaving Badly" are what perpetuates the negative stigma attached to the rubber room further increasing the already stressful and oppressive process for all who are reassigned.

Blogger Chaz said...

You should talk to your liaison and union rep and they need to talk to the site supervisor who should be senting these disruptive people to medical and isolate them if necessary.

November 15, 2008 3:55 PM

November 8, 2008

What's it like in the Rubber Room? I guess it depends on where you're coming from. For those who didn't really like teaching, were tired of writing lesson plans or never wrote them to begin with, pull up a chair, the rubber room is just the place to put your feet up. For some, it is a great relief from being pushed around by bullying administration and obnoxious students. Working on hobbies, crossword puzzles, reading newspapers and magazines, talking on the phone, catching up on sleep, socializing, eating and getting paid isn't so much of a burden compared to being in a school with an imbalanced, out of control, power crazed leadership Principal. For some teachers, there is little talk about "getting out" and returning to teaching. For many, there is an underlying hope that they never will have to return to teaching- EVER. Not only is it a dream job for the lazy, but it pays well too. Some would prefer to sit out their retirement quietly rather than face the jungle like environment that they left behind. There is a temporary feeling of relief for anyone who has been harrassed, falsely accused, injured on site or U Rated. While others are losing their jobs in this failing economy, getting paid to do nothing seems like a crime in itself.
As I have mentioned in older posts, some of the employees that one must contend with are worse than the students...There is no real way of knowing just who is sitting next to you. Lack of privacy, close quarters, bad manners, poor hygiene, bad habits and a high school mentality are commonplace. It can feel like a bad dream. Many teachers are depressed and scared. While they are going through what seems to be the worst time in their lives, there are others in the room who make the situation worse with their insensitive and callous behavior. Like most office settings, gossip runs cruel and rampant. Some teachers are just plain petty, abusive and narcissistic. There is nowhere to go when one needs refuge. There are wall to wall teachers. Because of the overwhelming atmosphere, many teachers cope by sleeping for hours on end. Others get angry, moody -or withdraw completely. The situation is so emotionally paralyzing that it spills over to their personal lives. Getting up in the morning is hard. Leaving the house, even harder. Many teachers don't even tell their spouses of the absurd situation they have been placed in. Would they even understand it?
I hear that the UFT is considering providing some type of 'stress management' for the reassigned...anyone care to comment?

November 6, 2008

"The Insanity"

Is there really a need to discipline a teacher further after sending them to the rubber room? Everyday in the rubber room is a punishment in itself. Loud, isolating, stigmatizing, claustrophobic and completely dysfunctional, there is no escaping its' damaging effects. Arguments among teachers, bickering and verbal attacks are a regular part of the day. Mental and physical personal boundaries are constantly being crossed. There is a slow deterioration of faith, hope and self esteem. Add an undeserved "U" Rating, falsified documents, an OSI investigation, trumped up charges or suspension without pay into the mix and you've got a recipe for insanity.
It is appalling the way the DOE ignores its' own laws on a regular basis. Obviously the 'zero tolerance' rule does not apply to their own. My own reassignment resulted from my robo-principal breaking 3 of the DOE's Chancellor's regulations while the almighty union sits idly on the sidelines. Tell me please, what are they waiting for?
UFT Chap says, "It's the DOE. They do it all the time." My own chapter leader is so in the dark and poorly versed on reassignment that his only reality are my desperate calls for intervention. Perhaps he should spend a week in the rubber room and educate himself. You can imagine my dismay when he says things like, "I hate to say this but, the Union no longer has any clout." and "This is the first I'm hearing of this!" and "I didn't know," & "I had no idea!"
Unless there is some revamping of the reassignment and investigation protocol, I can tell you now that we are all doomed. The Union is so overwhelmed with cases that they can't give you a straight answer even on minor issues. The insanity of this place has been a test in tolerance, patience and futility. Since my last required "playdate" with my principal, I have completely lost faith in the UFT's lip service. The principal's written follow up was biased and full of lies. I am tired of fighting against this relentless robo principal who won't stop until she destroys my career.

The total centralization of control of the school system has created a new culture of lackey behavior. . . . The system does not have the checks and balances to protect whistleblowers, nor even to tolerate a word of dissent. This is a symptom of a sick organizational culture.
- Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University, author of The Great School Wars, the definitive history of New York's schools, New York Post, March 10

Blogger Chaz said...


I feel your frustration. The UFT does not care about reassigned teachers. Their job is to keep you calm and provide you with NYSUT representation at the 3020-a hearing. To them it does not matter if the teacher committed a felony or just pissed off an insecure principal. All reassigned teachers are treated the same by the unio. Begnined neglect.

The DOE knows that the majority of 3020-a charges will not result in the teacher's termination. However, they can use the 3020-a process to get teachers to resign or retire and to get significant fines. Furthermore, it is a way for Principals to get senior teachers off their payroll.

Just think of the up side. No lesson plans, no paperwork, no student disrespect or parent aggrivation and most of all a time to catch up on reading good books, watching DVD's and making new friends with teachers just like you. Unfairly, charged for frivilous or minor infractions.

November 8, 2008 11:19 AM

Blogger The Bus Driver said...

I'm sorry there is no due justice for folks like you who have to deal with being "reassigned". I hope you are able to find some form of resolution soon.

November 11, 2008 8:23 PM

November 4, 2008

Bad Apple Bullies

Last night I stumbled upon this very interesting website.... - I checked the location of Queensland - (a state in Australia) because the bullying that this Australian teacher/blogger speaks of sounds identical to the events faced by a typically harrassed- NYC teacher. She speaks of age discrimination, intimidation, threats, prolonged investigations, corrupt investigators, falsified documents and lost files. Is it me, or does all of this sound peculiarly familiar? Are you sure there isn't a Queensland somewhere here in NYC?

"It's a talent flight.

The best and brightest are driven out.

The slugs, the slow-minded, dimwitted sycophants are the bully's allies."

* Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying and trauma Institute in Bellingham, Wash., quoted in: Companies must deal with workplace bullies or lose brightest employees; expert, Camille Bains, CBC News: Business, May 8, 2006

(Click on the title above to read this teacher's disturbing account of her dealings with the Queensland Education System in Australia.)

November 2, 2008 Update

Be sure to watch the trailer!!!!
The following update is from the website.

Randi Weingarten Goes On The Record

On October 22, 2008, Five Boroughs Productions sat down for an interview with Randi Weingarten, president of both the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Ms. Weingarten addressed such issues as the physical conditions inside Rubber Rooms, age discrimination, the rising number of reassigned teachers, and the potential for the reassignment process to be used (or abused) as a political tool. She also discussed a recent agreement, signed by both the UFT and the Department of Education (DOE), that was created to help reduce some of the inefficiencies involved in the teacher reassignment process.

Five Boroughs would like to thank Ms. Weingarten and her staff for taking time out of a very busy schedule to answer our questions. Thanks again, Randi!