Monday, April 25, 2011

Talking Through His Asshat

Move over, Ruben Brosbe! We have another A4E clown tossing his asshat into the ring!

The newest scab to don the sphincter sombrero is Michael Loeb, a third year teacher from the Bronx. (How is it that the Bronx manages to produce both a union stalwart like Bronx Teacher and schmoes like Ruben and Michael? It doesn't seem possible.)

But I digress. Michael Loeb penned a piece of drivel for Michelle Rhee's Students First website. When it comes to drivel, Michael is right up there with Ruben. Read the first incomprehensible paragraph:

"Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." That's how Nobel Prize for Literature winner George Bernard Shaw saw it over 100 years ago when he wrote these now infamous words. Educators know first-hand that Shaw was wrong. But we have to do more to change lingering misperceptions. Considering the enormous role education plays in shaping the lives of our kids, it is essential we elevate the status of teachers in our society.

I mean, what?? I often tell my students to begin their essays with a meaningful quote that helps illuminate the rest of the writing. Loeb got the quote part right, but he's about as illuminating as the dim bulb he appears to be. If Shaw were alive today, he'd modify his quote to read, "Those who can, do; those who can't teach, write for ed deform websites."

Mostly what Michael says is an A4E retread of how we need to "elevate" the status of teachers by firing senior teachers. Of course, Michael himself has been teaching for a whopping three years now, so obviously he knows everything there is to know about education and how to change it for the better. He advocates the elimination of seniority as a means of elevating the profession. He asks, "How will we attract new, talented, relentless teachers if potential educators know they may be out of a job in a year or two regardless of how they do?" To which I say: relentless? Really? Spend a little time on your vocabulary, Michael; "relentless" is hardly the mot juste here.

A better question is, "How will we attract new, talented teachers if they know they may be out of a job as soon as their salary rises? Why will anyone spend time and effort mastering the craft of teaching when they know they are disposable and will be discarded after a few years?" Michael and his coterie of colonic chapeaus would do away with many of the things that make teaching an attractive profession, such as security, due process, freedom to implement one's own teaching methods, pensions, and whatever else they can think of.

Of course, A4E's position, and one assumes Michael's position as well, is that test scores should play a large role in determining who gets fired (let's stop saying Bloomberg wants to lay off teachers--he wants to fire teachers). Let's look at this position and figure our why all the Asshats seem to love this idea.

Look at your Teacher Data Report or TDR (you can see a sample one here). Look at the very top. The first thing reported is how many years a teacher has in the system. That's important because teachers are NOT judged the same way. TDRs break teachers down into four groups: Teaching for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, or more than 3 years. They do this because that way new teachers can only be graded against each other, and NOT against senior teachers. So when layoff decisions are made using test data, newbies don't have to pit themselves against more experienced colleagues. As a result, if Michael scores a 56 percentile against other 3rd year teachers, this doesn't mean he's in the top half of teachers--it only means he's in the top half of the very small number of teachers who have his exact experience level in his subject area. That gives him a huge advantage because he only has to perform better than a very limited subset of teachers to appear as if he's in the top half. Senior teachers, however, would be judged against all other teachers.

The DOE does it this way because they know what all the research says: that teachers only really begin to shine when they hit their fifth year. If the DOE pitted their newbies against senior teachers, the newbies would be hammered.

Ruben Brosbe knows this. After a rather dismal showing on his TDRs for three years, he ended up teaching third grade this year. Of course, third grade teachers do NOT get TDR reports. How convenient.

So if the DOE and StudentsFirst (gag) and Michael and Ruben really were concerned about keeping great teachers in the classroom, they'd put all their "relentless" energy toward protecting seniority, because the evidence shows that experience makes one a better teacher. Instead of shoving a shiv in the backs of their colleagues, these Asshats should be arguing that layoffs are totally unnecessary given that the city has a 3 billion dollar surplus.

I'd like to conclude by reminding Michael Loeb that George Bernard Shaw was a strong advocate of workers' rights at a time when most workers didn't have any rights at all, so he is hardly a fitting quote to use in your essay (sorry, but even my 8th graders know an inappropriate quote when they see one). To show Micheal how it's done, as all good teachers do, I will leave him with a quote from Shaw that is much more appropos:

I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would be an affront to your intelligence.

Note: Thanks to commenter Zulma, who brought Michael's article to my attention.


NYC Educator said...

I lost my job at least four times, due to being low man on the totem pole. It was not the end of my career. I put on a suit, got my ass into every school in which I may have wished to teach, walked into every department until I found a job, and took care of myself. The notion that more knowledgeable senior teachers should move over for the likes of me never entered my mind.

But I didn't know everything at the time. Regrettably, I still don't know everything now. But knowing that means I know more than those 3-year teachers who think they know everything.

Anti-Asshat said...


"Those who can, do; those who can't, won't make it beyong
year 3, especially in the Bronx."

zulma said...

Your article always brings it home and continues to kick those asshats in their vertical smiles.

You are very welcome.

BronxEnglish said...

Colonic chapeaus?? There is absolutely no limit to your brilliant verbiage, Mr. Talk. What an amazing writer. And of course I agree with every word. Bravo.