Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Days are Here Again....

...or at least, they might be. According to several published sources, Mayor Bloomberg is considering a buyout to help save the city some money, and he has his eye on veteran teachers. Sounds like a win-win: he hates veteran teachers, and many of us are aching to jump the system at the earliest opportunity.

Still, details are sketchy to non-existent, so I did a little research. The last buyout applied to any 10 year veteran who was 50 or older. I haven't found out much more than that. If anyone knows what the details were, I'd appreciate hearing them.

Although I confess to some joy at the slim possibility that I might be eligible, there's a sadness to it all, as well. I realized that I could walk away from the classroom tomorrow without a glance back. Don't get me wrong; I'd miss the kids and I'd miss teaching them. I'm so anxious to get away from this insane system, however, that I'd bolt in a heartbeat.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Breaking the Pattern?

Remember "The Pattern"? That's the number that the first municipal union, often DC37, accepts as a pay increase. All other unions are forced to accept the same number, no matter what. The pattern was recently set at 4% for each of two years after DC37 again signed first. So, the chatter has been somewhat upbeat, with even jaded UFTers assuming that Randi Weingarten can't do worse than the pattern.

Well, that pattern has been broken. Mayor Mike himself broke it, refusing to give that 4% to his own managers. What is he giving them? Zero.

Can teachers expect the same? Given the history of the UFTs crack negotiating team ('crack' in the sense of what they smoke) we might have to give up tenure to get that zero.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sour on Sweet Caroline

Now, Lord knows I hate to rain on the parade of any more rich people. What with the economic downturn, it's all some of them can do to maintain their strings of poloponies. I know Smellington G. Worthington III would agree.

Caroline Kennedy is no exception. Despite being filthy rich, with an estimated wealth in excess of $100 million, Caroline has nevertheless felt the pinch of the current recession, telling the Times that she has been personally affected by the economic crisis. How she has been affected, she refuses to say. Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg will only take the calls of those with a nine figure net worth.

Despite my empathy, I am afraid I must withhold my endorment of her quest to be appointed senator from New York. As far as I can tell her platform consists of the following planks:

1. I am a Kennedy.
2. I have written a children's book, which got published because I am a Kennedy.
3. I have raised funds for education, mostly by virtue of being a Kennedy and thus able to put the bite on other rich people. ("Hello. I'm a Kennedy. Would you care to contribute tax-deductible funds to my cause?")
4. I am a mom.

Now, thanks to the Times, we can add a fifth plank. It appears that she would do away with tenure for teachers. Oh, she didn't say that, of course. What Caroline said, in her best Palinesque voice (Sarah, not Michael) was, “To pick out the most controversial [issue] as a stand-alone thing, I don’t think that’s really the way to go about this." If the Times had asked me that question, the interview would have been brief:

The Times: If appointed senator, would you abolish tenure?
Mr. Talk: No.

NY1 asked her whether she'd support a third term for Mike Bloomberg. My answer, again, would have been a simple "No." Caroline said that she thinks the mayor is doing a good job

You know, maybe she knows more about being a politician than we think.

I watched the NY1 interview. What struck me the most is how she asserted that the education system in NYC is in "crisis". In the next breath, she discussed what a fine job she thinks the mayor is doing. Hey, isn't this the same mayor who has had total control over the school system for the last seven years? How long would you have a job if your classroom was in crisis for seven days, let alone seven years?

Of course, the mayor doesn't need tenure. His job is secure, he has $20 billion in the bank, and he has the support of the woman who appears poised to be the next senator of New York. I bet his poloponies are well fed, too.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Klein Who Stole Tenure

Every teacher in Schoolville loved tenure a lot,

But the Klein, who worked in Tweed Courthouse, did not.

The Klein hated tenure! He thought it a cancer!

Now please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the answer.

It could be that a teacher once called HIM a dunce,

Or he got pelted with spitballs when he tried teaching once,

But I think the most likely reason of all,

May be that he knows nothing about teaching at all!

But whatever his reason for hating the teachers,

What he hated more, was one of the features,

Of the UFT contract that stood undiminished.

Despite 2005, he still wasn’t finished.

He knew the one hope, to which teachers could cling,

Could be dashed if he could destroy one more thing.

For every three years, despite all his jive,

Some teachers in Schoolville still managed to thrive.

And when they survived, it was tenure they got,

And this twisted the Klein’s BVDs in a knot!

“How COULD they get tenure?” Klein snarled with a sneer.

“After all I’ve thrown at them, why are they still here?

I don’t pay them enough and I make them feel small.

I’ve cut Teacher’s Choice down to nothing at all!

I give them lunch duty and potty patrol,

Sufficient to sear the hardiest soul!

And if that wasn’t enough to anger the staff,

I piled on thirty seven minutes—and a HALF!

They read to the children on germ-ridden rugs!

And share cafeterias with rodent-sized bugs!

Bulletin boards, walkthroughs, unsatisfactory ratings!

TAN notebooks, portfolios, PD unabating!

Acuity! ARIS! And monthly staff meetings!

Only a masochist smiles through such beatings!

Such horrible things! I don’t think I can top them!

Yet still they get tenure! Is there no way to stop them?”

And then he got an idea.

The Klein got a terrible, awful idea.

“I think,” the Klein chuckled, “I can end this whole mess,

If I can finagle support from the press!

But I’ll need an accomplice as heartless as me!”

So he called up his old bulldog pal from DC.

And together the Klein saddled up with the Rhee,

And declared war on tenure with malevolent glee.

Rhee’s taught for 2 years, and Klein less than one,

But has that stopped this duo? No, they’ve hardly begun!

Armed with three years of classroom experience between them.

They’ve set upon teachers, hell bent to demean them.

With data most spurious and a press most incurious,

The Klein and the Rhee hope to make parents furious,

So they’ll call for tenure to come to an end!

Are we going to allow this to happen, my friend?

I wish I could tell you the Klein’s heart has grown,

Or the Rhee’s tiny ticker was not made of stone,

Or the laughter of children would melt their exteriors,

Or the voters would finally boot their posteriors.

But unless the teachers in Schoolville take action,

And finally begin voicing their dissatisfaction,

The Kleins and the Rhees will most surely banish

Our tenure, and the last of our rights will just vanish.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Camelot? NOT!

At first, I was rather intrigued by the idea of Camelot II playing out in New York, courtesy of Caroline Kennedy's pursuit of Hillary Clinton's vacated senate seat.

Not any more.

The Times reports that "Ms. Kennedy, whose Senate bid has been aggressively championed in recent days by Joel I. Klein the city’s schools chancellor, also supports Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's bid to retain mayoral control of schools."

The fantastically wealthy Kennedy clan joining forces with the mega-rich Bloomberg juggernaut in order to tell ordinary folks like you and me how to educate our kids? No, thanks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Incredible Non-Shrinking Classroom

It seems that the city has been making a push to reduce class size. I haven't really noticed, as the only push I've been involved with lately is shoving another desk into my classroom. Given its current success rate, if the city decides to continue its reduction plan, I may have to suspend a desk from the florescent lights.

In any case, it seems that the governor's proposed budget plan is bad news. Mayor Mike has said as much, lamenting that the budget cuts would result in fewer teachers and larger class sizes. I think we can take the mayor at his word, considering his utter failure to reduce class size even when awarded CFE funds earmarked for that very purpose.

We should not be too harsh on the mayor. He has made some effort to reduce class size. For example, a number of schools have added seats by eliminating such unnecessary items as school libraries. DOE spokesman William Haveman said in the Daily News that, "We strongly discourage schools from converting their library into classroom space, but we know that in rare cases, principals may temporarily have to do so." This is so rare that a mere 17,000 students in 42 schools in the Bronx are without a library.

Fortunately, most of these schools are in poverty ridden neighborhoods, thus eliminating the chance that any children of DOE brass are zoned for them.

If you're interested in class size, I urge you to visit Leonie Haimson's site at I discourage you from trying to access the site from your school's library, however, as it may not exist.

Christmas Cheer

There's a girl in one of my classes who's bit hyper. OK, more than a bit. I've spoken with the mother a number of times, and she's been sympathetic but she has difficulties controlling this child herself.

This morning, the girl handed me a Christmas card. As I read it, it was all I could do to keep from busting out laughing. There was no affect in the girl's face at all, however, so either she picked this card at random, or mom decided I needed a little sympathy. Here's the verse from the card:

May all your Christmas lights stay lit,
And all your presents be a hit.

May joy and laughter deck the halls,

and then you open the card, for the punch line:

And no one bust your Christmas balls.

Totally inappropriate, but it made my day.

If anyone would like to share their own stories of wildly inappropriate humor from students, I could always use a little more Christmas cheer.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Dying Breed

Almost as extinct as the dinosaur, so rare that Anne Elk may yet develop a theory about me, I am a New York City public school teacher with only few years to go until retirement.

A few things about me and what I believe.

1. I'm a fairly accomplished person in several fields, none of which I will ever divulge here for fear that Joel Klein and his minions will track me down and stomp on the three or four remaining pieces of chalk I have left after my Teacher's Choice allocation was reduced.
2. The fact that I fear such things gives you an idea of my political leanings, especially as regards public education. I believe that Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg should both be lifted by the considerable slack of their pants and hoisted out into the night.
3. Ditto for Randi Weingarten and her pant suits.
4. I believe that a few simple measures would greatly improve public education. Smaller class sizes, better pay for teachers, and parental involvement would work wonders.

Finally, I believe that unionism is going the way of the brontosaurus, and that is a pity. Strong teacher unions are the only thing standing in the way of total bureaucratic control of public education (aka, the lunatics running the asylum). Perhaps, just perhaps, if enough of us band together and take a stand, we can take public education back before Anne Elk formulates a theory about its demise. Maybe I can even get a few extra pieces of chalk.

Mr. A. Talk