May 12, 2009
While the DOE publicly abuses its' classroom teachers with disrespect, blame, oppressive working conditions, overcrowded classrooms, unnecessary paperwork, constant threats of 'Letter in File', U Ratings, random observations and zero support, it is nothing compared to the secret insanity of what goes on in the Rubber Room.
Twenty five of the approximately 1,100 Department of Education's reassigned teachers report daily to a tiny basement in an obscure location as punishment for alleged and unproven reports of wrongdoing. There was a time when teachers were removed from their school only if they seemed to pose a threat to the well being of their students. One might have heard of a burnt out teacher or of one whom after years of excellence overstepped his bounds. There was maybe one teacher every two years in my district who's time had come to retire and they just needed a nudge out the door. The teacher would spend the next few weeks or months reporting to the district office where they'd help out until the superintendent could figure out what to do with them. By the next school year, these teachers would retire, take a long sabbatical, transfer schools or return to their classrooms.
It is understandable that the DOE would choose to remove a teacher who has been accused of some form of corporal punishment until a competent investigation can be done, but to remove every teacher every time a claim is made is simply ludicrous. Have you noticed that suddenly everyone knows someone who's been sent to the Rubber Room?
If the 'room's' purpose were just to contain teachers who are waiting to work out their cases, then the RR would not be filled with mostly tenured forty somethings and it would not resemble the characteristics of it's nickname, 'Rubber Room'. The location, size and conditions of the room speak for themselves. The RR and its' dreadful conditions are no oversight. It is used to intimidate teachers into silence, detain and isolate tenured teachers/UFT members from their schools, colleagues and possible contact with witnesses. This isolation disables the accused teacher from seeking support from their colleagues, contacting witnesses and building a strong defense.
After months. which turn into years, the cramped basement with tiny unreachable windows and cement bare walls slowly seduces its' daily occupants into a sluggish, dull, state of dementia. The unproductive monotony of staring, sleeping, eating and breathing can sadly reduce one's mental state to mush. While some teachers can find temporary solace in listening to music, reading, watching DVDs, playing cards, surfing the Internet, knitting, drawing and sewing, others are sucked into the porous cinder block walls of nothingness.
Teachers are never the same as they go through a myriad of emotions while navigating through the DOE's maze of injustice. It is a never ending, drawn out process where rules do not apply. While the DOE is a stickler in upholding deadlines and time lines for teacher certification, form submittal and testing, they have no problem ignoring the chancellor's rules and regulations to accommodate their plan to ruin a teacher's career. 'Waiting Lists' are rampant in the world of the DOE as they conveniently create 'Waiting Lists' for every deadline that is not met. There are waiting lists for OSI, grievances, expedited arbitration, pre hearings and hearings, etc. While the DOE creates 'Waiting Lists', teachers are kept from receiving their due process. I have seen firsthand how the DOE continues to ignore timelines and deadlines in the reassignment process, further adding to the reign of abuse in the RR's.