Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Take a Number, Please

An article in today's Gotham Schools blog really frosted my shorts. You can read it here, but I'll summarize. Joel Klein was exiting a speech at his new teacher orientation when a woman, a Teaching Fellow, accosted him and told him how unfair it was that she and others like her had to--if you can even believe it--wait their turn to get jobs teaching in NYC. If you can imagine!

I mean, these are people who want to be teachers and spent a whole few weeks preparing, so why shouldn't they get to skip the line over the 2500 ATRs waiting in limbo? So what if they have no experience and no seniority?

The woman then went on, “To be here and to hear you speak is wonderful,” she told Klein. “But it’s also kind of a slap in the face.” Because turn about is fair play, Klein proceeded to slap the 2500 ATRs in the face by saying “I don’t make the rules....If I did, everything would be different.” What he means, of course, is that if he had his way he'd fire all the ATRs and hire TFs. He punctuated his point by giving her his card.

Why do Fellows, and to an even greater degree TFAs, assume they they are entitled to ignore seniority rules? At least part of the blame has to go to our own union, which has gradually been selling off pieces of our seniority rights for years. The awful 2005 contract gave away seniority transfers, and senior teachers are often stiffed on positions in favor of newbies because principals know the grievance process is a farce.

So to all Fellows and TFAs who are unemployed, I do have some sympathy for you, but not as much as I have for those poor souls who've dedicated their lives to teaching and who now languish as overpaid, underutilized subs. Once they are placed, I will gladly support you. Until then, take a number, please, and get to the back of the line.

UPDATE: The New York Times has posted their own version of this story and you can comment if you wish. I did just that a few minutes ago.

11 comments:

Pissed Off said...

Now I'm mad! (as if I wasn't mad before!)

Anonymous said...

Over twenty years ago I had to take a number and wait my turn, as per the contract, with respect to seniority. I felt it was a very fair wait. Unfortunately, the TFs and TFA teachers for some deluded reason think that they are privileged educators and that Klein is supposed to run to their defense. If they had been teachers, let's say 15 years ago, they would understand the plight of the ATRs, who truly want to be back in the classroom. The 2005 contract was a faustian deal that only brought hell to our union brothers and sisters. Therefore, TFA and TFs stand in line and wait your turn! Don't try to jump the line.

Corey Bunje Bower said...

I think you're missing the point. While it seems that there are more deserving applicants out there than there are jobs, and it seems that lots of people have a legitimate beef, that doesn't mean that she should shut her mouth and wait her turn. In other words, she was treated poorly regardless of whether or not others were also treated poorly and whether or not there are others more deserving of a job.

The reason she's so upset is b/c the Fellows recruited her with the promise of a job -- no sooner had she quit her previous profession and gone through the exhausting summer training then she found out there was no such job. She has every right to be pissed that the NYCDOE and TNTP promised her something on which they couldn't deliver.

So while I see your point that others have, to some extent, more of a right to the open positions than does she, you shouldn't be mad at her for wanting such a position -- the situation is entirely not her fault.

NYC Educator said...

Perhaps it isn't her fault. But Klein takes no credit for the ATR mess, saying the situation, which he negotiated, is not his fault. The solution he offers is to fire all the teachers stuck in ATR.

Frankly, those teachers who've worked for years, displaced often through school closings initiated by Klein, are also worthy of consideration. The notion of dumping veteran teachers for the offense of being in the wrong place at the right time is even more egregious than having wasted the time of these TFAs.

I was excessed at least four times as a new teacher, my story's not at all uncommon, and things like that happen when you start out.

Also, I wonder whether I'd want my child taught by an adult who found Joel Klein inspiring.

Anonymous said...

It is conversations such as these that cause more problems within our schools. The version of the story told above is so completely biased that no one could read it without seeing that TF as ignorant and pretentious. Joel Klein was not accosted and no one said they didn’t want to 'wait their turn' to find a position. This TF was recruited to teach and she gave up her old life entirely to do so. We are all interested in this story for the same reason- we are teachers and we are passionate about what we do. When we sit here and let the politics, which have affected US ALL, control our manner of thinking we will lose that passion. In writing this version of what went on at yesterday's orientation you are continuing a cycle in which new teachers and new tf's get treated poorly when they need the most support. Imagine walking into a school as a new teacher and having to work with veterans who believe you purposefully didn’t wait your turn or stole the job of a former friend? It is ridiculous to treat people, who have the same passion as all of us, poorly because of their credentials. I am pretty sure they do not go into an interview screaming screw the ATRs hire me because I am a teaching fellow! These TEACHERS are getting positions because they have worked for them, they are passionate about their students, and they are determined to succeed.
I truly feel sorry for the tf's who will work with you and all those with such hardened feelings toward them. All new teachers should enter their first school with support regardless of how they came to be there. Just remember that these people are not intent of screwing over any ATRs or jumping over any lines- they are here to teach, a position you once were in.

Pogue said...

Anon 7:43,

I think you still miss the point. Until the ATR and Rubber Room situations are dealt with fairly and honorably, you may not find much empathy with the experienced NYC teacher population. The profession is under attack by Bloomberg, Klein, Michelle Rhee, and their ilk. They're good at pitting people against each other with their lies, PR spin, and nefarious acts. Teaching is a special vocation, though some, (the above), would have you think it should be run like a cut-throat/cost-cutting business, thus, there should be some protections for those who choose it as a career. Clear up the Rubber Room, ATR, and TFA debacle, and then the issue of new hires can be addressed.

NYC Educator said...

Let's also be clear about Chancellor Klein's comment, "I don't make the rules." In fact, he negotiates the contracts that constitute the rules. Furthermore, as to the freeze itself, he did indeed make the rules, and unilaterally at that.

Corey Bunje Bower said...

Pogue and NYC Educator, you're still missing the point. The fact that the city has dealt poorly with the ATR and the rubber room means should be able to empathize with this woman. This year's crop of fellows is at least the third group of teachers in the city to encounter great difficulty under Klein. You can feel badly/upset about all three groups at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Pogue and NYC Educator for your comments and understanding for those veteran teachers or recently tenured teachers who are in a situation due to no fault of their own. Klein knows exactly what to say to those recently recruited TFA/TFs teachers who were duped out of a job because he permitted the number of ATRs & Rubber Room Reassignments (the 3Rs) to grow. Over two years ago the union informed the chancellor of this situation and to negotiate in good faith to resolve the ATR situation. So what does Klein do, he decides to change the Fair Student Funding and informs principals that it would be very costly to hire veteran teachers. What is the repricussion behind this? More ATR's from school closings and less hiring from that pool! Before any person becomes a TF or TFA teacher, do some research on the economic and political status of hirings in the NYC schools. This way individuals like A.Lewis will not become a victim of Klein's media and communication hype of providing you a job. Klein knew for very long time NOT to keep hiring new teachers UNTIL the ATRs were placed. Therefore, the ATRs are NOT at fault. They, too, want to be in a classroom, and once they are placed any vacancies left should be filled with new hires. This is fair and the right thing to do. My empathy is first to those who are being denied a teaching position which they are entitled to because they put in the time. If you think I don't feel sorry for the TFA or TFs, I do especially when you hear how they made a decision to leave their prior life behind to venture into a new life-career. To the TFA/TFs, did you read the committment letter that the DoE makes you sign? Was there a clause in it that clearly states that a teaching job is a guaranteed deal? I don't think so. It is an economic risk that TFs/TFA must make. Unfortunately, it did cost them.

Anonymous said...

three weeks ago I completed my MA coursework in English Education at Teachers College, a program that included two semesters of student teaching and 38 credits worth of education classes. Two weeks ago I made contact with the principal of a local high school, was interviewed, and was offered the job.

Now tell me ... given that I have three years worth of work experience in education (with a non-profit in California), a masters degree, a year of student teaching under my belt, and a job offer from a principal who is enthusiastic about having me work in her school, should I not be allowed to work this job? No ATRs interviewed at this school. I was OFFERED the job. The school year starts in a week and a half. Where is this "line" I should go to the back of, and why should I go there?

I am qualified and ready to work, and the hiring freeze is preventing the school that offered me a job from addressing its needs.

Mr. Talk said...

Anon 2:14:

I understand your feelings. You want a job, and a principal is offering you one, and you don't understand why you shouldn't get it. Here's why.

1. That principal should never have offered you a job in the first place. There is a mandated hiring freeze.

2. If you were to be hired, someone in the ATR pool would still be without a job. That person would draw a huge salary on top of yours. That is money that could be used to reduce class sizes, buy supplies, put cut programs back into place, etc.

3. Any teacher could end up on the ATR list through no fault of their own--this includes me or you. While your credentials are admirable for a newbie, I have twenty years of experience and my masters and 30 credits beyond that. What makes you think you should get a job before someone like me? Do you really think you're more qualified than I am? If so, on what basis do you make that assumption?

4. Principals are enthusiastic about people like you because you will draw a lower salary than an ATR, and if you don't work out, they can fire you at will.

5. Principals DON'T want to hire ATRs because they command a higher salary. If no ATRs applied for that job (and how would you know that anyway?) it's either because the principal hid the position or refused to interview anyone from the Open Market, which is what they were mandated to do. Do you really believe that out of 2000 qualified teachers, not ONE of them wanted the job you were offered? Does that even make any sense?

6. If you did get that job, and your school eventually closed and left you without a job, I would be on your side, too.

Being from TC and wanting a position doesn't mean anything. Most of us were highly qualified when we started, and no one guaranteed us a job. Lots of us have been excessed, laid off, and generally bounced around to get where we are.

Hopefully, the ATRs will all be placed soon. At that point, I hope you get whatever position you want and are qualified for. And at that point, as a UFT member, I will stick up for your rights just as much as I am sticking up for the rights of ATRs right now.