Monday, August 13, 2012

We'd Best Get Ready to Rummmmmmble....

In one of my favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Aragorn desperately lobbies to enlist King Theoden of Rohan into the fight for Middle Earth. He finally throws up his hands and declares War is upon you whether you wish it or not.  I am no fantasy movie nerd by any stretch but Peter Jackson's exact and detailed translation of the books into film is so well executed that even people who usually flee from such material are forced to admit its excellence.

That aside I only mention the scene because it strikes me that we as teachers find ourselves in a very similar situation here in mid August of 2012. Many of us are busy with our own kids and our own families, our hobbies, second jobs and God knows what all else, caring for sick relatives, fighting our own health battles, trying to drop that last 10 pounds, etc. etc. etc.

There is another job we ALL need to embrace with the fervor and rigor of the one we chose however many years ago. We need to renew our vigor and our commitment and learn how to start fighting for our jobs as public school teachers in a country that appears to be surrounding us on all sides and with both main political parties, hellbent on putting us out of work and privatizing the careers we take so much pride in and have learned to take our rewards from along with our lumps.

YOU cannot go to your classroom and do your thing then come home and take Ashley to Suzuki Strings and Matthew to Tae Kuondo and call it a day. Twenty years ago we could say things like "Oh I just don't get into all the politics," and "I just do my job and that's the best protection I can ever need for job security." Your job now includes getting hip to what's going on all around us, finding out WHO the local charter people are and who their connections in state local and national politics are. You need to know the truth behind every lie they spit out and that's a lot because all they do is LIE, LIE, LIE. (click on the three lies to read some of their better ones)

The charter school lobby who counts the Broad Foundation, (who worked with Arne Duncan in chicago to close public schools so developers could get the land out from under them) The Gates Foundation (whose massive cash infusion in Pittsburgh's public schools has recently led to a drop in test scores the first time in 5 years) and Wal Mart (who really need no introduction as the greedy anti worker scumbags that they are)  among its numerous financial backers, not to mention the ill named Democrats for Ed Reform whose board is stacked with something like 7 of 11 members who happen to be hedge fund managers. They're all spending heavily and working hard to get their hands on and privatize the public money that is meant to go to public schools. They don't want to share it either in case you're wondering. These are Capitalists of the worst order, they only know how to acquire and digest things whole. So they aren't going to content themselves with taking a piece of the pie, they are determined to take the entire pie. And if that means you are out of a job then tough shit, that's the way it goes in business.

I for one chose education because the rat race and the cannibalistic world of office politics simply turned my stomach. The idea of interacting with young people in an educational setting and helping them to reach their potential and expand their horizons held a much more rewarding promise to me than  engaging in some unceremonial Potlatch where I proved myself through the rabid acquisition of boats. houses. cars, vacation condos, stocks and other conspicuous displays of greed. I have never enjoyed the company or conversation of the folks who chose the dog eat dog world and I find their conversation unstimulating at best, chidish and incurious more likely.

These very people with whom many of us parted company somewhere in our early 20s at least philosophically, are now the ones coming to challenge us for the care and instruction of our students. Theirs is not a noble pursuit but the same one they have pursued all along, it's just another get rich quick and easy scheme and it's easy because they think teachers are pushovers. Teachers look to these folks like easy marks. After all they chose relatively low wages and job security over big bucks and a lavish lifestyle filled with perks and fancy stuff. They take crap from kids on a daily basis, they take shit from administrators and parents too. They take shit from business people who condescend to them and say things like "In the real world..." and " I know you're a bit sheltered so I'll tell you how it works..." Yes I actually had an old classmate from high school tell me the latter on FB before I told him all he ever did was slap pizzas in and out of an oven until he could afford to move outta state. But be quick to see their point these free marketeers, these swashbucklers of the open seas of Capitalism.

They think we are soft and frankly they have a point. Far too many of us ARE soft and tuned out and simply think there's no way any of this privatization and charter bullshit could ever get to us. Well friends we have a governor who's deeply in bed with them. We have a Commissioner of NYSED whose only teaching experience was hiding out in a charter school for 3 years. He only had 3 years teaching experience and the law called for five to make him Commissioner. Well guess what ? When your friends are in power all you have to do it change the law and that they did to accommodate a neophyte who is willing to march to the charter drumbeat. And in case nobody's noticed this same Commissioner despises Buffalo Public Schools.

So we can either hang together as Ben Franklin once said or we can all hang separately. This is no longer a cause for a few loose nuts with lots of free time to dabble in and report back to the rest of us. This one is ALL of our fight and unless we want to be taking orders from Hannya Boulous  the  B.A. holding Art History major from Georgetown whose sensibilities were such that ReformED Buffalo thought her absolute lack of education training would make her a perfect CEO or the self proclaimed Brightest Mind of Education Ephraim Martinez over at Never Mind What My Salary Is Charter School I suggest we all convert at least 3 our our colleagues who until now have had something better to do. This is what we have to do or we'll have very damned little to do.

For openers, if anyone has any idea of screening this latest charter school propaganda piece of shit movie in Buffalo there needs to be a vocal and voluminous response from a picket line of teachers who tell the cameras and the poorly misguided and misinformed public what's REALLY going on. If we let them get away with this it sends a very loud signal like all of the ones they've all ready received. Public school teachers cannot afford to send these people the signal that there will be no resistance. Goliath needs to know that David has his slingshot strung up and there's a fresh bucket of rocks at his side. In  the parlance of the kids, it's ON bitches. 


  1. This blog needs to be required reading for all NYS teachers. Our union (BTF) seems to be one of the last in the state standing up to NYSED and fighting for our rights and our jobs as teachers. I wish they would be more proactive in engaging teachers to be more political. Send out talking points to respond to charter lies, organize more protests...after the late schools let out so we can make it too. I think a list of facts and talking points would help a lot of teachers get engaged and respond to lies. I believe too many teachers are so wrapped up in their own work, like you said, that they don't know how to educate themselves. Even though they may want to. They turn a deaf ear. Someone needs to get the ball rolling and force feed teachers with facts and talking points so they can participate in conversations that attack us, rather than just smile, sip their beer, and turn away from the conversations.

    How can I help?

  2. The BTF is up to it's ears in fighting the State on the "50% stupid" solution to poor test scores. The BTF has also had to read and interpret the mountains of "guidance" from the State regarding the APPR and the SLO, all of which had to be negotiated with both the district and the state. The BTF's position on the APPR has been recognized by many other districts as being strongly on the side of the teachers. Our APPR has been noted as being strong, clearly written, and has interpreted all of the punitive state guidelines in favor of teachers. The steady, never-ending stream of legislation and guidelines from the State and Federal government is designed to cause chaos in large urban districts and to force union leaders to do nothing but respond to the inane drivel. The union is quite strong here but the membership is uninformed. The lack of drive and interest by the union members will bring down the district and allow privatizers to ruin our public schools. This will not be the fault of the BTF.

  3. Sound familiar:

  4. I know you folks in the city have bigger fish to fry, but please give this a read:

  5. Pineapple PrincessAugust 13, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    Has anyone noticed the passive way that the entire teaching and administrative staff has acquiesced without a peep to the SLO nonsense? Not a word has been spoken about the utter havoc that the SLO is about to wreak in the opening weeks of school. Wads of time and LOTS of money are being spent to achieve NOTHING. The costly inservicing to produce thousands of SLOs that will have NO impact on student learning. The money spent and the time wasted are immoral. But you will never read about that in the Buffalo News. If there is no outcry from teachers regarding this, we are fated to inflict more needless tests on our students. Along with teachers, our spineless administrators know very well that they are not equipped to negotiate this SLO with every teacher, and to observe each teacher twice during the year. Special place in hell for scared rabbit administrators. The APPR and the SLO are written like the densest corporate drivel. These documents are designed to create chaos, cause urban districts to be deemed failures and open the door to state takeover. Our City Hall folks cannot accurately interpret the SLO guidelines. However, they are more than willing to go along with the program and inservice everyone without question. I would truly like to hear some opinions from any teacher who has been to the SLO training.

  6. I've been to the training. We were told that writing a good SLO will make us better teachers. I spoke up and disagreed, rather insulted at the thought that by spending time writing about what I want my students to achieve, spending hours and hours analyzing data, rather than working with my students directly, will make me a better teacher. I didn't really get any value from the time spent at Burgard. We will spend hours and hours writing SLOs, and then the district are the ones who will set the HEDI score breakdown for each teacher. So while we are able to set our target scores for our own students, based on a district-prepared Pre-test, we do not necessarily know the number we will have to reach to get the requisite points on our final APPR.

    And @Anonymous, I wasn't suggesting the downfall of our schools will be the fault of the BTF. I was just expressing my hope that the BTF can begin to help plant the seed of information with teachers, kicking them in the arse to get up and educate themselves about exactly what is happening right out under their noses. Too often we react to what happens to us. We need to be proactive and out front of the news and information that's put out there. The deformers certainly are "educated"...with their lies. But they all have the same message. What's our message? Who's putting it out there? I haven't seen it. Who is fact checking the charter group to shine light on their lies? I'd like to think, and hope, the BTF could spearhead that, or at least a group of concerned teachers in Buffalo be the ones to step up and get some information out there. I've already reached out to the BTF about this. All the work they're doing now, fighting the State and district on SLOs, allows the other side to spread their lies unopposed. And if we aren't out there disagreeing with their message, then the message we put out is that we must agree with them. Or at least do not disagree. Example: We are in contract negotiations. At some point the BTF should be out there publicizing the important points and our message for what we want in a contract. Otherwise Sam and his merry band of robbers will distort and lie, and we are left looking like fools saying "that's not true" or "we also want this, not just that." If we are out first, let them respond to us for a change.

  7. Sean, Thanks to you, more and more of us are becoming educated on these critical issues and the nightmare the "reform" agenda is creating. Your blog and the links to Diane Ravitch's as well as other valuable sites have helped many of us do our homework this summer and "follow the money" and recognize this attempted hijacking of our public schools for what it is. Clearly, union busting is at the heart of the "reform/deform", with their self-proclaimed experts lining up to blame everything on teachers. I do think the word is spreading. I have been sending info about your blog to others in BPS as well as those in other districts, and urging them to pass it along. And by the way, I spoke tonight to one of those friends in another district... seems now that other districts are starting to train their administrators on the APPR, they have quite an appreciation for the fight the BTF fought this past year. (They realize countless hours will be spent on a mandated task that will do nothing to really affect student learning.) And Pineapple brings up a great point about the SLO training - it will mean MORE testing, ridiculous amount of resources spent to train staff and write pretests, mountains of more paperwork... and the whole process amounts to a crapshoot... It will just be another way to label students "failing", schools "low performing", and teachers "ineffective". (I did the training the first week and we had "parking lots" full of questions each day, we were told there were a lot of points still to be clarified.)
    So here we go again, NCLB, RttT, CCLS, RtI, APPR, SLO, etc... bottom line is we will be SOL unless we stand strong. Thanks once again for this blog - I'll continue to pass it on.

  8. Well karen just when I was starting to wonder again if it's me and my five friends here playing wack a mole amongst ourselves you come out of nowhere and make my day. So glad to hear that you are enjoying the ride. I was a little all over the road for a while with our own BPS intramural freakshow but I think the real intent of this blog has made itself known to me in a funny kind of evolution. Namely Buffalo is quiet for now and there's nothing going on but the "reformers" are never quiet for long and when they are it means they are up to something or they are busy trying to deny something. Feel free to spread the word far and wide. I agree we really do need to hang tight for the foreseeable future. Especially when voting for Romney is unthinkable but the scary truth about Obama is he's as bad as anyone when it comes to tossing favors to "edreformers." He is tipsy from the kool aid of Rheeform. We need to bitchslap his Harvard ass and bring him back to earth where the rest of us go to work every day without the benefit of hedge funders and Broad and Gates bankrolls. The President needs to know he is on the wrong side of this divide and he is asking labor to vote for him after he's kicked us in the crotch for four years.

  9. Kevin I agree this is not BTF's problem. They are busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest as my old friend Gator Bill used to say. If teachers can't see the storm or feel the flames at the door then they are every but as easy a mark as the reformers think we are. Seriously, I read here and there that there doesn't seem to be much union blowback against these clowns and it's true there isn't. The unions are being handcuffed with all of this bullshit that's designed to make public schools look inefficient and poorly run. Then the reformers will be given their crack at taking away our jobs because not enough of us were able to see the multiple layers of this assault. If they have the unions hogtied with their nitpicking bullshit they are free to launch their ground game with stunts like those fucking well heeled lawyers and their wives club tried to pull over at Waterfront. I am VERY encouraged though at the muscular response from Waterfront's faculty. I saw one very articulate African Amnerican woman on YNN who told them clearly and intelligently with much more respect than i would have mustered that they are out of line and they are not wanted. This is exactly what we need on every corner and in every building, no fewer than a half dozen well spoken, well rehearsed advocates who take the fight to these shitheads and break open their pinata of lies and deceptions so everyone can see what they are REALLY about. Poor Emilio Fuentes I think really believes he's in on some edurevolution and he's being taken for a ride by the prosperous white folks who crave an angry minority to speak their lines for them.

  10. BTW if you're not reading Klonsky from Chicago and Norm Scott from NYC daily you should be along with Ravitch who is pretty much a clearing house and a sounding board for all of our brothers and sisters. Everyone knows to tell Auntie Diane what's up[ and she will pass it along.