Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mice and Men

NYSUT Reveals its New Logo

Imagine a sports writer being told in October that he has to guess the season's Win/Loss record of the Kansas City Chiefs. Let's say of all the relevant data points bookies use in determining winners and losers -- stuff like who the QB is, who the running backs and receivers are, who the defensive line and backs are, who's injured, who's likely to get injured, who they're playing and whether the games are home games or away -- our guy will only be allowed access to three of them. Getting it wrong means he gets put on an improvement plan. Getting it wrong two years in a row means he's simply incompetent, can't do the job and he must be terminated. Sound fair enough? 

After spending way too many hours I'll never get back writing SLOs last week I am now more convinced than ever that teachers need to refuse to participate in the creation of these obnoxious and pointless documents. The idea that teachers are being forced to predict a student test score in June with the scantest traces of information to go by then given a failing evaluation for doing so is so asinine and so outrageous that I honestly can't even believe we've allowed ourselves to be bullied to the point of agreeing to it. Did we agree to it?

If I had a dime for every time I had to write the phrase "Student has a psychiatric diagnosis, suffers from extreme depression and anxiety which affects performance on standardized tests" I'd have as Taggart said in Blazing Saddles "a shitload of dimes." I know I don't want to rock the boat or speak out of turn; we don't do that as good NYSUT/AFT affiliates these days. We simply accept the shipping container full of horseshit and start digging to find the pony inside as we're told to do by union leaders who endorse Hillary, Common Core and high stakes testing.

The population of kids I teach every day consists of teen agers diagnosed with psychiatric issues including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, attachment disorder, sleep, personality, eating and mood disorders. Some of them engage in self mutilation. Some lay awake all night and fight to stay awake during the day. Some hear voices. Others talk to themselves. Sometimes they have to be hospitalized until they are stable, they miss weeks or months of school during these intervals. Often their meds are a work in progress and stability can be fleeting. More often than not their meds cause weight gain which can negatively affect their self image leading to deeper depression. I'm taking a breath right now someplace between screaming and smashing this computer against the wall. And with all of this on their plates I am expected to drag them through an engageNY module that spends upwards of 3 weeks of classtime close reading and annotating a story about a home for werewolf girls which none of them found remotely amusing, interesting or worth the time it took to read it. I'll let you divine my degree of fidelity to the module. Just for kicks too imagine my likelihood of predicting who's going to score what on a June exam and ask yourself if this says anything about my teaching chops. 

In short, teachers and students are being bombarded with an interminable volley of reformy bullshit that serves nobody but the people who've set themselves up to make a profit off public education. The situation is critical and something needs to give. If something doesn't give -- and I honestly see no signs of it anywhere -- then we as professionals are going to have to act. Not wear stickers and go inside the building together once a month. Not dancing the Nae Nae and sending a tape of it somewhere. Not Twittering or "eblasting" as they love to call it over at NYSUT. Not another empty gesture like the ones our President for Life Weingarten has built a career of -- bullhorning in the pines, getting arrested and bailed out 15 minutes later, or issuing Ice Bucket Challenges to ed reformers. No I mean the way they just did it in Seattle and the way they are girding themselves for in Chicago. Again. 

When the teachers at Garfield High in Seattle unanimously decreed they were not going to give the state's ridiculous MAP test, the idea spread to other schools in the city.  They were then threatened with a ten day suspension without pay. Nobody flinched. But with strong support from students and parents the Superintendent realized the fine would be folly and ended up backing down and canceling the test for the whole city. He had no reason cancel the MAP until teachers stuck their necks out and said "No". In Chicago the President of the CTU, Karen Lewis, accurately referred to the reformy governor of Illinois as "a sociopath." She and her leadership team are currently laying out the groundwork for an upcoming strike, a LONG one if need be. Chicago Teachers Union went on strike in 2012. This is not idle chatter or bargaining table rhetoric. They'll do it and everyone knows they will. CTU does so with widespread parental backing because parents in Chicago have seen the devastation and the not so subtle racism Mayor Rahm Emanuel's ed reform crime wave has wrought.  Millions given to politically wired business pals while schools full of poor black and hispanic kids are shuttered due to financial concerns. Welcome to Rahmbo's World. 

But here in New York we whistle as we pass the grave yard. In NYC Randi Weingarten's hand picked successor Mulgrew supports Common Core, VAM, Danielsen drive-bys and expedited 3020-a hearings for teachers he's supposed to represent. Weingarten by proxy still pulls all the strings and she and Il Dunce' have successfully kept New York teachers and NYSUT penned up, compliant and ready to go to the slaughterhouse any time Cuomo, or Elia  or Kriner Cash decides it's time. When the spectre of boycotting SLO's came up as a discussion topic in Buffalo we never even got as far as being threatened by Kriner Cash or his Failority Sister MaryEllen Elia. Our own union stomped it down and threw a bucket of water on the embers before the powers that be ever saw it on their radar. Under the failed leadership of Mulgrew and Weingarten's puppet Karen Magoo there's never any need for Elia or Cuomo or Cash to get up on their hind legs and make threats. NYSUT does it for them. If they want to tell us again how much they need their "seat at the table" and that's why they just can't do enough to help corporate ed reform destroy pubic education I think it may be time to start working around them and in spite of them to save what's left of public education. We need to act before NYSUT gets up out of their seat at the table shrugs, smiles and tells us sorry but we did the best we could. The best NYSUT can do has landed us where we are. Raise your hand if you're happy about it. 

And before I get the usual teacher comments like "well what are we supposed to do then?" I ask you to use your imagination and ask yourself how you found this post. Nothing will lose this battle quicker than believing it's already lost before we've done a damned thing about it. I look forward to a new way of doing business. Who's in? 


  1. A great post, as usual, and "Il Dunce" is brilliant!

    1. Thanks M. I thought it was better than Il Douche'

  2. I don't see any hands raised.

    Abigail Shure

  3. I hope to keep the faith and have footage Friday!

    1. It will be up there with monopoly money bombing Tischy and Wheezer Bennett. Looking forward to Friday. Go Mad Myke.

  4. For taking action not for NYSUT I'm guessing. Thanks for stopping by.