Friday, November 25, 2011

I'm a Public School Teacher

I've been thinking about retirement lately. I'll need something to do, as shuffleboard leaves me cold.

While watching X Factor this week, I thought it might be great to become a rapper. It seems easy enough, in the sense that you don't really have to sing. The hours are short, and I think it'd be great to wear a clock around my neck, as I can hardly see the numerals on my watch anymore without my reading glasses. So I wrote the rap below. I was thinking about making my own video, but I was all out of Cristal. If anyone wants to record this, I'd be happy to post the video.

I’m a public school teacher.

I plan my lessons with rigor and teach them with vigor
No chalk and talk, I’ve got teach and walk
I’m child centered, self directed,
Technology enabled, Internet connected.
I group heterogeneously, homogeneously, and even alphabetically.
I hold small group discussions with classes of thirty four
I teach mini-lessons, big ideas, small moments and more.
I’m over crowded, overworked, over taxed and overlooked
I'm under supplied with pencils and books.
I spend out of pocket for my own supplies
What I can’t afford, I improvise.
My pockets are empty but my briefcase is full.
With grade books and tests papers and all kinds of bull.
I get observed, evaluated, walked through, walked on,
Talked to, talked at, pissed off, dumped on,
I get PD in the PM of every half day.
I’m POed that I have to teach extended day.
I teach ELA, ESL, Gen Ed, and CTT,
From ADD to ADHD to just plain crazy,
All jammed in one room, packed like sardines.
Jammin' to my rituals and my routines.

I’m a public school teacher.

I’m a man with a plan, I’ve got a lesson in hand
Competing for attention with adolescent glands.
I check for homework, attendance, understanding, participation,
Abuse, neglect, frustration and sedation.
I aim high with my Aim, to the point of obsession,
I always frame it in the form of a question.
My questions are motivational, my Do Nows inspirational,
When the AP drops by, I start getting perspirational.
We analyze, memorize, hypothesize, synthesize.
I differentiate, evaluate, discriminate, and formulate.
I integrate technology and practice amateur psychology.
I teach biography and chronology from my anthology.
I’ve gone from blackboard, to chalkboard, to white board, to Smart board.
I’ve even got an up to date, standards based bulletin board,
Backing paper, border paper, borderline papers, exemplary papers.
Tasks and rubrics, chart paper, word wall,
A fire chart that says exit left down the hall.
Fire drills, wind drills,and rapid dismissals,
Warning bells, passing bells, late bells and whistles.

I’m a public school teacher

I’m a traffic cop. Stay to the right! Stop when I say stop!
Don’t go down the up, or up the down,
Don’t stand around like a circus clown.
Don’t be a bully. And don’t you harass!
Where’s your pass? Now get to class!
I’ll check your latenesses, your absences, your cuts, and more.
You check your attitude at my door.
Give me your homework, your assignment, your report,
Whatever I ask for, keep the snotty retort.
Give me your attention, undivided, with a side of respect.
Give me your answers, provided your sure they’re correct.
But don’t give me an attitude, an excuse, or guff
Or anything less than you’re capable of.
Come in, settle down, don’t talk, now turn and talk,
Partner talk, group talk, but for God’s sake, don’t talk!
Why? Because this will be graded! Because I said no!
Because I’ll call your mom! Because I said so!
Raise your hand, don’t call out, and not too loud!
Figure out the answer and make me proud!

I’m a public school teacher.

I go to Parent/Teacher conferences and monthly staff meetings,
I go to dances and pageants with themes of Seasons Greetings
I go to sports and assemblies, games, and plays,
Most of all I go to extremes most days.
I’ve been cursed out, lied to, jacked up, run around,
Told off, told on, told tales, and calmed down.
But you can't discourage me, because one thing I've found is...
I’m a public school teacher.
Don’t ask me why I do what I do.
Just get yourself a pencil--number two.
Here's a pop quiz--let me ask you:
Which of the following statements is true?
A. Teachers are completely out of their minds
B. It has to be a labor of love
C. We just can't stand to see a child left behind
D. ALL of the above

Word. Look it up in the dictionary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bloomberg KO'ed by KO

I don't know how many of you watch Keith Olberman these days. I know I rarely see him now that he's on Current TV, but I'm going to watch him more often. Watch him as he eviscerates Mayor4Life, comparing him to George Wallace, Mayor Daly, and Joe McCarthy. Enjoy!

Promises, Promises

Just got a nice invite from the DOE to participate in a survey about my school. It sounds great. The purpose of the survey is to "..inform recommendations to school and administrative leaders – at NYCDOE and across the country – on how to attract and keep great teachers for schools serving low-income students."

Awesome! Sign me up!

But wait. I had a deja vu moment as I read the email. It said: The surveys will be voluntary and confidential. No individual schools, staff or teachers will be personally identifiable in any future reports or publications, and individual responses will not be shared with anyone from NYCDOE. All data will be reported in the aggregate.

Now, where have I heard that before? Oh yes. That's the same bullshit that they told us when they asked us to participate in Teacher Data Reports.  If you recall. none of that data was ever going to be shared. The DOE promised us it would remain confidential. They promised that they would actively resist any attempt to use that data in any way and fight against its release.

Oops. Turns out they were just joshing us. What they really meant to say was that they would try to release that supposedly confidential information at the first possible opportunity. The UFT is still in court trying to make the DOE keep its promise. As of right now, the UFT is losing that battle.

If you look at the survey, there are so many personal questions that it would relatively easy for someone to figure out who took it. They ask you things such as subject, years teaching, years in the district, years in your school, etc. They also ask you how happy you are with your school's leadership by asking a whole host of questions. I bet your principals and APs would love to read that.

Oh, but they can't. Because the surveys are confidential. It's even in bold print! Just because the DOE screwed 80,000 teachers once by reneging on a confidentiality agreement doesn't mean they'll do it again, does it?

I wouldn't bet my career on it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Times They Are A-Changin'

I was discussing the merits of Bob Dylan as a poet with a colleague the other day. I already knew most of Dylan's famous lyrics, of course, but sometimes when you see them on paper (or on a screen) it makes you see them anew.

One of the qualities of a great poet is the timelessness of the words. With that, I'll leave you with a verse of The Times They Are A-Changin', and ask that you ponder how it's stood the test of time relative to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Oh, and do yourself a favor and listen to the song, too.

Come senators, congressman
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he who gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Day as an ATR

I am not an ATR, but yesterday I believe I got a small taste of what it is to be one.

Yesterday was Election Day, so I, along with thousands of you, got shuttled off to another school for
"Professional Development", which is DOE speak for lecturers droning on for hours in a way, which, if you or I taught that way in our classes, we'd rightly be U-rated. But I digress. The point is that I was sent to a school that is nowhere near me, and I was only informed on Monday of what would be happening Tuesday.

This wreaked all kinds of havoc in my life. I had to arrange for someone to take my daughter to school, because I had to leave far earlier than usual. I also had to arrange for someone to pick her up in case the PD went the distance (it did) and I was unable to get to her at the usual time. Then, of course, I had to figure out how to get to the school I was assigned to, map it on Google, and decide whether driving or public transportation would be the smarter choice. I opted for the subway even thought I knew it would take me longer, because I had no idea what parking would be like. I didn't know whether to bring lunch or not because I had no idea whether there was any place to eat at this strange school. In all, the day cost me quite a bit of time and stress to arrange. My day ended up being two hours longer than usual, and when it was over, all I could think is that I didn't want to ever leave my building again.

I thought about ATRs a lot yesterday. They face the same dilemma as I did on a weekly basis. Who'll take care of their children? How will they park, if they can park at all? What and where will they eat? Of course, real ATRs, not temporary ones like me, face even more problems on a regular basis, such as:

Will there be anyone to talk to?
Will the administration like me?
Who will I be teaching? What subject?
Will the students I'm assigned behave? If not, will anyone care?
Will I get a bathroom key and a secure place to leave my belongings?
Will I get a job here or do I start this all over again next week?
And perhaps most importantly, how long will this go on???

I had the consolation of knowing that however crappy my day turned out to be, it was simply a day, not a DOE-mandated sentence. Today, I am back in my cozy classroom (cozy not because it's large, but overcrowded), and I am truly glad to be here. If I were an ATR, I don't know how long I would last.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe the DOE is trying to disrupt the lives of ATRs to the breaking point, in the hope that they will all quit rather than continue in education limbo. For ATRs, every day is Election Day, only much, much worse.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mic Check

We need this to happen to Mayor4Life and Governor 1% Cuomo!