September 24, 2009
He was here in June with his head buried in a pile of lawyer's papers, pausing only for food and water. Ahmad mostly kept to himself, alternating activity between sleep and prayer, trying to ease his constant stress and preoccupation with the outcome of his long drawn out hearing. Now they are both gone. Returned to the unknown 'Abyss' of the Bloom-Klein public school system. Several fellow occupants disappeared over the summer, whereabouts unknown. Word has it that Rem settled his case and has to pay a hefty fine over the next two years. No one really knows for sure. In an atmosphere encompassed by fear, no one really knows the truth about anything and everyone knows not to ask. Unless information is offered, you really cannot know the teacher, (the person) who has been sitting next to you for the past two years. It is the way that they, (the DOE) want it. The way it was designed. The Rubber room atmosphere takes it toll on the best and the brightest.
I have watched so many reassigned teachers come and go as I sit and wait for my hearing date to come up. Most of the time, those who were here first, leave first...but not always. Overall, it is an endless and indefinite wait with no explanation. No one knows what they're really waiting for. Wait and sit. Sit and wait. It's a good day when no one bothers you. It's an even better day when the person next to you is out and you gain another chair to put your feet up on.
Most teachers who pass through these doors are oblivious as to why they are here. Arriving in shock and denial, teary eyed or angry, it is only a matter of time before they are trudging in here daily, resigned to the fact that they are powerless. The Rubber room has become the only place where we sit amongst those who also know what it's like to be "railroaded".
The passage of time has a way of removing the layers of armor, the layers of anger and the will to 'fight the good fight'. Anxiously making phone calls, writing letters and shuffling papers separates the newcomer from one who has done some time in Teacher Jail. The pain and suffering of this treacherous waiting period is further magnified by the fact that the UFT doesn't come to your rescue the way you expect or are told that they will. The reality that they will not save you or even try is a tough pill to swallow. They are not even that 'upset' to learn of your demise. They will inevitably be the first to remind you (for the billionth time) that you should be happy that you are, "still getting paid"- when they aren't dodging your phone calls.
Unfortunately, the door is still swinging open and more teachers are daily being sent here. Sustained by the silence of its' victims, the Union that has turned its' back on them and those who think that it could never happen to them, the DOE's best kept secret is alive and kicking.
September 1, 2009
All That I Ever Needed To Know...I Learned in the Rubber Room (Mental Preparation)
1. Most people don't like air conditioning.
2. The world will never stop for you. Husbands get sick, children graduate, parents die, the mortgage must be paid, birthdays are celebrated, people get divorced and Jury Duty notices still arrive in the mail-(hopefully)...all while in the rubber room.
3. Good people won't steal your stuff. Find one decent person whom you can trust to watch over your stuff while you're in the bathroom.
3. If you don't want anyone to know your business, don't be the FIRST to share it!
4. Racism and prejudice are alive and well in the Rubber Room. Respect and tolerance isn't.
5. There is another rubber room. It's called the "Teacher's lounge".
6. No one ever gossips about other people's 'virtues'.
7. There are some things that aren't even worth explaining to your BFF. (Reassignment is one of them.)
8. The UFT is NOT your friend. (If you're disappointed with their inaction, it's your fault for having expectations.)
9. A friend is someone who doesn't want to see you fall flat on your face. Deal with a major life crisis and then take a good look around. Real friends don't get spooked.
10. Your principal doesn't really like you. You're just young and underpaid.
11. If you think it can't happen to you, it probably will.
12. Being in the rubber room is a punishment designed to get you so frustrated that one day you will just get up and quit. Being guilty or innocent is not a factor here.
13. If you still "don't get it", you are correct.
14. There is no logical answer to, "Why?" when dealing with the DOE.
15. My own chapter leader thinks that the UFT is "useless" and she couldn't be more right.