Sunday, August 28, 2016

The UFT and NYSUT Must Seek Justice for Teachers

I've been thinking.

So many lawsuits by teacher, so many lawyers hired by teachers, so little changing. Why is that?

With all the lawsuits, all the settlements, the court rulings, the discussions amongst the attorneys one would figure that a needle will move in favor of teachers, no?

While it is well and good that teachers that have been wronged continue to pursue outside legal action, individually we can't move the needle. To move the needle we must fight as a collective.

Just an aside but relevant, there was an interesting article in the Washington Post this week how former and current minor league baseball players are bringing a class action suit against MLB to raise their pay. Did you know that most minor leaguers make about $1k a month? I don't know how I feel about that. I would give my left arm to play pro ball. But hold that thought for a moment. Because this will be relevant.

What do we as teachers do and/or need?

First, as every class action lawsuit has there must be a lead plaintiff. But the lead plaintiff must not be someone who is narcissistic, selfish, or has put themselves in a spot where that person his continuously defecated on by life. No, that person must be above reproach. Must be a pillar in the their community, both at home and in their school, and with an unblemished personal file. This person will be our Rosa Parks.

Think about it. Rosa Parks just didn't fall into being the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She was chosen by the local NAACP because she was married, employed, and a pillar of her community. As teachers there must be someone to be our Rosa Parks. Our face. But what should be the cause of action?

There are so many. ATR's. Not how we are treated, but rather there should be a case for age discrimination (which I am sure somewhere in the bowels in the Tweed basement are files among files of thisThe NYCDOE version of the Pentagon Papers which I have written about in the past).

There is also the whack a mole evaluation system or many other wrongs committed. One that gets me is under new 3020-a guidelines the teacher must prove themselves innocent instead of being proven guilty. This in my opinion should be the test case. There is case law about the presumption of innocence.

But how can a low paid teacher afford such high priced attorneys that would be needed for such a case?

This is where our union, the United Federation of Teachers as well as NYSUT come in. It is time for both organizations to show some guts and to grab the bull by the proverbial testes and go out and find that teacher who can be a lead plaintiff, a face against all the crap we have taken for the last 10-15 years. Only the UFT and NYSUT have the financial wherewithal and resources to undertake such an endeavor.

Unions have done such actions all the time. They have gone to the courts for what they can't get in collective bargaining. Look at the story about the minor league baseball players? Who comes to mind? Curt Flood, Andy Messersmith, and Dave McNally. All three battled to eliminate the reserve clause. Curt Flood's case went all the way to the Supreme Court. But all three had the union behind them.

As much as I love baseball, teachers are damn more important than baseball players ever will be. Don't we deserve to be treated just as good as they are?

Friday, August 26, 2016

That Crappy, Crappy Feeling

I remember one point, and this was back in November 2014 a few weeks before my 3020-a hearing had started, that I was obsessing, in a complete swirl about what would happen if I lost my job and had no income, no nothing. My family would be left high and dry.

A friend had told me that I could get a disability retirement at 1/3 of my pay. I thought about it. Since I was on Zerega Ave and the Bronx UFT was a block away I walked over there to meet with the pension guy (I forget his name).

He told me what my pension would be. It wasn't much but it was something. I then asked him about the death benefit. He told me that if anything were to happen to me my family would get $300k. I thought about it for what seemed like a minute or so but actually was a brief second. $300k guaranteed to my family if something happened to me seemed good considering that I and my family would be left for nothing. In fact I shared this with the pension guy. I forgot what he said, but he got me back to reality.

There was another time, I think it was after my hearing started, my wife and I got in an argument, or something happened. It was early in the evening and I drove to my favorite pizzeria in White Plains. I was eating my slice in the car and called a very good friend of mine and I asked him point blank, "If anything ever happened to me I want you to promise that you would take watch out for my wife and son." He really was taken aback. Again, the lapse into this ideation was brief and coming from emotion and not rational. It passed.

So did another time. I forget if it was before or during the hearings but I was walking back to the Rubber Room it was a gray dull day and I just thought to myself if I can just end this my wife and son get $300k. Again, fleeting, it soon too passed.

Why am I sharing this? I don't know. To get this off my chest. To show that all of us in a bad predicament with the DOE can go through something like what I went through.

That is what I had thought before I put fingers to keyboard. I wanted those who put me through this to know what kind of an effect they can have on someone's psyche when they decide to play God and attempt to separate one from one's direct deposit.

But as I wrote I discovered another reason.

I know there are many others in or who were in my shoes. Many are hurting mentally and emotionally right now or have. I want to let you all know that you can battle back from this morass of fecal matter brought on by the DOE. That you can't give up the fight. That you if you come to a wall in your battle know that there are other ways around that wall.

I am so concerned, so caring about others who are going through 3020-a and other crap that what is most important is your mental health, your spiritual health, your family's health. Yeah, sometimes coming off as the loudest, nastiest, loudmouth on the playground is a good way to battle back, but there is no there there with that kind of mentality.

You need to know nuance. You need to know when and where to do what you need to do. But most important of all is your mental and physical health and your loved ones. Don't let anyone fool you into doing otherwise. Don't let anyone fool you into false promises.

If you are in the situation I or hundreds of others have been or currently in it is OK, it is natural, to have the same feelings that I wrote about. I had a great support system and that is one thing you need.

Do not go through this alone!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fixing the Blog and Teaching Summer School

For those that hadn't noticed, nor cared, the blog had been down for a while. On July 31 I logged on and got nothing. I had forgotten to pony up the $10 that was due the day before for a unique domain name and couldn't figure how to pay up.

Then a few days later my wife fell on the stairs, landed face first and not only broker her nose but dislocated her hip. She has been having equilibrium issues for some time and this was the worst outcome of those. She spent almost two weeks in the hospital being probed and tested for the cause of these episodes but she finally came home this past Tuesday, the day I fixed the blog.

So on to other matters.

I had a great summer. I taught summer school, phys. ed. in fact at a District 75 school in Manhattan and I must say it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had as a teacher.

The school was small and made up of autistic students and standardized students. It was kind of like a summer day camp I worked at in the mid-90's up in Dobbs Ferry. In fact, I was the sports director at that camp.

First, and this needs to be on the record. Not only were the teachers at the school some of the friendliest colleagues I have ever encountered, but the level of dedication from the entire staff, from teachers to paras to administration is amazing (mind you this is not taking away from any others teachers in the city). How dare anyone on the outside ever again knock teachers when I saw amazing work, dedication, and love day in and day out. This is what teachers and education is and should be about. Not being judged by some set of made up algorithm.

The students were phenomenal. Yeah, there were some moments. But they were minor and and handled easily.

I was able to be myself for the first time in years and the students saw that. I literally couldn't wait to arrive in the morning and was saddened when the last day came. The students grew on me. They really did.

There was one 3 year old pre-K student who would never take his nap (my coverage for his class always coincided with the teacher's lunch so I was there for nap time) and was wound up as heck and wouldn't sit down. But he pronounced Zucker as "Shujker" and would just say, "Hi Shujker!" when he saw me.

Other students just called me "coach," and that was fine as well. I got a lot of "Are we having you today?" and when I said no, I got a look of disappointment.

I'm going to take the good feelings I got this summer and what I learned about myself and do my darnedest to incorporate it in whatever I do this school year.