Friday, September 13, 2013
Nope, I couldn't do it. I could not start this year and expect to finish it as a member of the ATR. The idea of milking the system for a crummy paycheck just did not sit right for me and so on 9/3 I walked in to the TRS at 55 Water Street and handed in my retirement papers. No big deal really as I am already half way through my sixth decade -I have plenty of time to start another career. I do, however, feel for some of my colleagues who know nothing but teaching as a career and now unfortunately find themselves excessed and removed from their permanent teaching position through no fault of their own. Distressing and depressing would seem to be apt descriptions of this state of affairs for any teacher in the ATR whirlpool. However, there is a bright side to the exclusive membership and that is that you are not subject to the flawed evaluation system.
I don't regret leaving the profession if we can still call it that. I will miss the students, some colleagues and the fight that has engaged and enraged me the past year. As I have said before, if you don't have a stake in the battle, perhaps it's not your battle. Since I am no longer a teacher, I won't write or make cartoons about teaching in the New York City school system. I will say that I will continue to pay attention to the road this country is on - this still engages and enrages.
I would like to thank all three people who enjoyed my blog and with that I bid you adieu.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Well, despite my best efforts to actually retire this year, I am back in the ATR pool of "living aimlessly". I mean, I am of retirement age and my body parts are lining up for surgery but the economics of healthcare have forced my decision to forestall this momentous departure from my daily routine. So now, in the waning days of August, I am girding myself for a year and two months of life as an ATR. Having been excessed last year, I started this blog in response to my new designation and even though I was subsequently hired back at my old school, I decided to keep the blog going in order to address the larger issue of the educational/industrial complex. And now that I am going back to school, albeit without a class, I have decided that to maintain sanity, I would keep this blog going and invite any members of the ATR to share their experiences, strategies or rants on these pages.
And, so how does one prepare for life as a wandering pedagogue? First we have to look at the only good thing about the ATR status and that is that we are, for now at least, exempt from the new and improved, lemon-fresh evaluation system currently dumped on our "more employed" colleagues. No small matter these days; the evaluation process called Advance will be creeping into your vocabulary very soon but if you are a member of the ATR you will still be evaluated. However, it will be the old fashioned way with a U or an S after a perfunctory observation - all of it quite pointless as you can well imagine. Well, that's about it on the positive side unless of course, you feel that not having a class with all the attendant obligations, is a good thing; in which case, it might be proper to ask oneself, "why do you want to be a teacher"? In the end, it is not all that easy living life in the absurd lane. I am a teacher therefore I teach but now I am a teacher and I don't teach. It is a betrayal of the purpose of leading a meaningful life. Instead of daily engagement in one's life work, the ATR is left to wander like a ghost, aimlessly; a spectral presence in the machine.
So how can one remedy the isolation and existential "otherness" that latches onto to you as you walk, coverage slip in hand, down the strange hall to an unfamiliar class to "teach" a subject you have never taught before. I can only recommend "engagement" in the political/social storm that is swirling around you whether you know it or not. You are in the mix and you really need to engage the political forces that determine your future and as a teacher you are, politically, not alone. Not unless you choose to be. I have spoken with other teachers in the ATR pool and there is hardly a consensus on how to survive in this Netherland. Some teachers just let you know that, "...hell, if they want to pay me to sit and twiddle my thumbs all day then I will twiddle and count the days", while another teacher just might try to actually be a teacher between 8:20 and 3:00. In the end, it is every man for himself and god against all. However, there is a curve in the road and if you keep you head up you just might steer yourself in the right direction. Don't make your condition a matter of survival in a hostile world but rather an opportunity for engagement in the political realm. By sharing the experience of being disenfranchised, by screaming that you have no voice in a union created to give you a voice, by exposing the reformers goal of your being expendable in the bigger war on public education, you just might find the intellectual tools you can use to stand up to the assault, to counter the demonization of your profession and to find the support of colleagues who also find themselves in the DOE gulag. I think this point must be made especially since we had such a relatively poor turnout of teachers voting in the past UFT elections. It seems to indicate that many teachers are not really paying attention to the big picture. I guess they are assuming that their teaching positions are safe and unassailable. But who do you think is in the ATR? The very teachers, veteran teachers, who are failing to vote, failing to have their informed voices heard and to be counted. Being in the ATR takes an emotional toll on the committed teacher. Waking up everyday knowing you have no control whatsoever over the unfolding of the day can easily become the source of daily dread which, in the end, can actually kill ya. So, living aimlessly? I don't know? We all need to make these kinds of decisions but if we can rise up even as we are ignored or discounted, we can at least attest that we were there and fought in this battle.
It is time to join the BadAssTeachers http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/ just for a start and from there you can look up http://morecaucusnyc.org/join-the-movement-of-rank-and-file-educators/ and make up your own mind.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I can't say that I didn't expect to be released and to be honest I was planning to end my teaching career sooner than later. I have already taken my final "retirement meeting" and I can see the hazy future. It's not that drastic a change for me in that I have had a number of "career" changes and I am quite used to remaking myself to suit the circumstances. The same cannot be said for a number of other people who have chosen teaching as a career. I have come to the conclusion that some people are born teachers or at least knew all along that teaching was their calling. These are people who have been teaching since their college graduation, they have put decades into the classroom and now, many of them find themselves burdened by their experience in that their school can no longer afford them. Their years of devotion and experience have been trans-valued from a positive to a negative and they find themselves without a school, without a classroom and without students. They have been excessed, they are in the ATR pool and this is an outrage. This past year I made an effort to speak to the ATR teachers who found themselves rotating into my school. The conversations were almost universal in content as the ATR's learn that nobody and that certainly includes the teachers union, nobody gives a shit about them. In fact, you will note that all the teachers with assignments are being directed to attend summer seminars or discussions or whatever so they will be well informed about the new lemon-fresh evaluation system aka ADVANCE (see Game of the Name). Well, I didn't get an invitation to go anywhere and I suspect that other members of "le club ATR" didn't get an invite either. So what does that tell me? Not only am I supposed to search for an assignment, I am supposed to do this knowing full well that I will not get a permanent assignment - and their (DOE) knowing this in advance is a good reason not to invite the army of the ATR to these mandatory and, I am sure, illuminating seminars. WHY IS IT A GOOD REASON? BECAUSE THERE IS NO CHANCE IN HELL YOU ARE GOING TO GET HIRED. That said, it is my understanding that the ATR is exempt from the ADVANCE onslaught and instead will be evaluated as in the past with the S/U rating as pointless as it is for the ATR. I guess there is some comfort in that exemption and, in a way, it will afford an astute observer from the ATR a pretty good overview of how this ADVANCE is being handled in various schools. But, I imagine that can only last so long. The true purpose of the ATR is to force retirement on experienced teachers. And this tactic is only a small part of the larger assault on public education. This is no mystery and anyone who reads the real teacher generated blogs knows full well how this country is being steered to a two tiered education system and how big bucks is drooling over the money making potential of the educational/industrial complex.
I have always felt that the opinions of people who have a stake in the matter are somewhat more relevant than those who just chime in from the outside. As a teacher I felt I had some stake in the way children are educated and though I do not expect to be in front of a Smartboard in September, I still have an invested interest in education in this country. As Dicken's wrote, " It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...", and any teacher entering the profession will have serious issues to contend with and the repercussions of their decision will determine much of the future for our country. For me, well, XtraNormal is going off-line at the end of July. If they come back, then maybe so will I.