Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Union Has Failed Us To Protect Us, We Have To Protect Ourselves

I have a couple of questions for you out there.

Norm Scott left a comment on last night's post about the burnout I and many other teachers are feeling due to all the compliance work in schools these days:

I had written:

Meetings, meetings, meetings, PD, PD, PD, observations, observations, observations...

It just doesn't stop.

Would be nice to have some time to actually teach and grade, work with students.

Would be nice to stop running from meeting to PD, writing up four page lesson plans for every class just in case it's time for a drive-by observation, drowning in compliance work.

But nope - no time for any of that.

Only time for that constant feedback ed deform destructos like the Educators4Excellent love so much (it's not a coincidence most of them have moved on from teaching to full-time advocacy work.)

Only time for compliance work.

We are nearing the end game in the ed deform destruction of public education in New York State.

Part of the goal was to burn everybody out - children, teachers, administrators.

And we're there already.

Norm wrote:

Some of us in MORE met with a group of Brooklyn High School teachers yesterday who talked about this enormous workload. What is the answer? The time is coming for masses of teachers to just say NO since so much of this is pushing beyond the contract. Since the Unity Caucus/UFT machine has no interest in organized resistance it will take alliances of people from many schools to address this issue in a way to force them to take action.

The truth is, much of what is happening in schools these days is being pushed outside the contract.

Principals have been empowered by the DOE to break the rules, break the contract, even break the law, with little to no impunity when caught.

When teachers push back, they are the targets of retaliation, the targets of vengeance.

I have seen this with my own eyes.

It gives a person pause, knowing that if he/she pushes back against the latest insane directive from the Little Autocrat in the building, he/she will end up targeted by a vindictive administration out to destroy a person's reputation and career.

And you can be sure the UFT, busy meeting with Carmen Farina on the latest collaboration scheme between the UFT and the DOE, will not be there to help a teacher when he/she needs it most.

Again, I've seen this play out with my own eyes.

Norm writes that it will take alliances of people from many schools to address this issue in a way to force the UFT to take action.

It starts by building alliances within buildings, across departments, across age groups, across seniority demographics.

I noticed early on in my career how very good some administrations are at playing different demographics against each other within schools - this department vs. that department, this age group vs. that age group, this seniority demographic vs. that demographic.

But this divide and conquer strategy is working less these days, as almost everybody comes under the feel of the administration bludgeon.

Still, it's a difficult task to build alliances when a culture of fear is rife throughout a building.

So, here's the questions I have for you out there:

Are you now or have you already built alliances within your school across departments, age groups, seniority?

If your school is infected with a culture of fear emanating from the top, how are you dealing with that?

Finally, what suggestions do you have for dealing with a culture of fear and retribution in schools when the entity that is supposed to protect us - the UFT - has abdicated its responsibilities and obligations and will not be there to back teachers up when the chips are down?


  1. RBE I just retired in June. In my last school admin's style was to break you down until you were literally crying ; then and only then you were you able to achieve survival mode. We built esprit de corps by consoling sobbing colleagues in the ladies' room by letting them know we had ALL been there too. We banded together and we all knew who the current favorites were so they were the teachers who brought our concerns to admin. We tried to have each others backs and advocate as a united front for the children.
    Start by saying good morning to everyone. Ask the veterans for help. Young teachers share new tech with your .colleagues. Meet once a month at a local eatery after school all are always invited. Teachers must begin to build a collective will.

  2. Perfect post. As I was speaking to parents during our PTC this week, as I attempted to explain their childrens' weaknesses, it entered my mind that I know EXACTLY how to address those weaknesses. However, since whole group, teacher-centered lessons are verboten- especially during a "drive-by" observation- I can't do what I know is right for the kids. I can't sit with kids after school because the dumbasses in my building voted for an abysmal contract because they actually thought endless PD is better than working with kids.

    And the ageism! I'm on the outside looking in because I'm not one of the "cool kids" who ass kiss the boy child AP (not that it's gotten them anywhere). My contemporaries have either retired or been run out of the system. I have at least 6 more years to go, and I don't see how I'm going to make it.

    BUT, having said all that- I'm trying to become less afraid. I'm trying to adapt a "I don't give a shit if you liked my lesson or not" attitude. Go ahead boy-child- I DARE you to give me developings on my observations. I have no respect for him, and he wouldn't know good teaching if he fell over it. All I know is- years of success, years of kids and parents coming back to thank me for all I've done- the proof is in the pudding. Maybe I shouldn't be so cocky, but it's the survival mechanism that I had to adopt to get myself through every day.

    Rant over.

  3. I hear you 100% on this situation. My colleagues and I are being driven to breakdown with rediculous mandates from the principal and endless meetings. Even very new teachers who once worshipped the Principal are turning against him and his administration. Although I hear a lot of decent there is so much fear against retaliation that I have seen little action. I think the first step in my school (which is pretty large) is to first get my whole department on board and then one trustworthy person from each department to meet up and share ideas.

    As a school, teachers nead to come up with some unified strategies on how to resist these policies and work together against the administration before we all burnout.

  4. In most cases, teachers can thank themselves for the destruction of their school and ultimately their career. They have stood by and "played the game" for years now. Now the "game" is clubbing them over the head.

  5. I've had many conversations with Norm about how to break the fear, paralysis and depression that keeps many teachers from joining together to fight their oppression. He is absolutely correct that the hard, sloggy job of building coalitions inside every school and across all thousand schools but I've never heard from anyone else a very convincing argument about how this will all happen and who will do this.

    Arthur Goldstein today talks about the "silent majority" and what it will take to make them "speak." As long as most teachers would rather be nailed to a cross than become a chapter leader or organize their own schools, I'm not sure how folks inside schools get organized or how folks outside the 1,000 schools can get into enough of them to wake up the silent sufferers. Some teachers would rather anaesthetize themselves by going home every day and having three beers or smoking a joint and come back in the next day. Some teachers would rather become Quislings in their schools and make side-deals with abusive administrators not recognizing that the administrator will turn on the Quisling when it is in his or her interest to do so. Some teachers will repeat a mantra that says 'I have 20 years in and need only two more to get out." Some teachers will become radicalized and wake up to the real nature of the problems in their schools, their profession and their union. Mostly, teachers quit by their fifth year and have never heard of the UFT or Unity. Maybe the ones who stay and see teaching as their long term job will wake up, organize themselves, fight back but, most importantly, speak.

    I'll be as interested as you are to see whether your readers can take Norm's good advice and turn it into a real organizing tool. If no one can, then it's all just talk for those of us who have no problem shouting but who can't get the silent among us to open their mouths.

  6. Alliances are great and come from the ability of "playing nice in the sandbox" even when you are different. When you have a common cause you can join forces.

    Unfortunately not all groups can play nice they consider the others in the sandbox as a threat and rivals all the time. Case in point MORE met with New Action last October. What came of it was MORE saying " Thanks but no thanks until you denounce Mulgrew and Unity in the elections." When I spoke to New Action trying to form these alliances that Norm speaks of, New Action pretty much stated " We got the impression from MORE that they think we would pollute their organization. "

    Within days of the formation of Solidarity Caucus, I was called a " rival" and received a lifetime banishment from all three of MORE's listservs and even August Lempelmeier's ATR list. Alliances? No room for that when everyone's a rival. Since then we had fruitful conversations with New Action, retirees from all caucuses, Badass Teachers Association , an ICE meeting and outreach to others.

    Now we are back to Norm coming to our first Solidarity Meeting and telling us Solidarity will pollute MORE's high school election seats and Arthur Goldstein signing the same tune. The best part is that this was all because I had lunch with Randi Weingarten on Lexington Ave. Yes, it was a brilliant diabolical plan and all it cost her was a cappuccino and an avocado toast. Cheapest plan ever. She is brilliant.

    Solidarity Caucus, ATR Alliance, Don't Tread on Educators, ICE etc are ready to play with anyone who wants to go up to bat be a team player. MORE steering, respond to my emails. Set up a meeting.

    In anticipation for your anonymous comments throwing monkey wrenches at me or us, block your member, call my cell and talk to me instead. 347-564-7597.You don't even have to say your name.

    We are ready for alliance and started pushing member solidarity to the schools we visit as ATRs.

    1. Sorry for typos above. 1% battery and typing fast.

    2. Enough already. I try to ignore some of this crap. Typical self promotion distortions Francesco. You were unhappy that MORE rejected working with New Action which has supported Randi and Mulgrew in every election. We told them in that meeting that when they renounce their dirty deal with Unity we will work with them. So far they haven't and they won't. And when you couldn't get your way in getting MORE to work with the sellouts you left - and are promoting New Action as some sort of savior and laud them when they do meaningless actions.
      Everyone but you knows they are part of the problem. They have done nothing but talk with their little stool at the table of the ex bd. You left MORE because we won't work with the people who have, by their alliance with Unity, helped put people in the position described. You seem to want to be a team player with Unity and New Action. To put ICE in the category of wanting to play with New Action is an absolute lie since ICE formed in response to the New Action sellout.
      Members of ICE have rejected your message and have told me they won't attend an ICE meeting if you are coming to sell your false and misleading message that only helps Unity/Mulgrew/Randi hold on to power.
      You are attempting to isolate MORE - sort of doing Randi's bidding aren't you? Let's not use ATRs, bullied teachers and discontinued in the interests of building your caucus. Publicly renounce that Solidarity would accept being on the New Action/Randi/Mulgrew team. MORE won't play in their playpen like you seem so anxious to do.
      Why are you so obsessed with MORE that you keep badgering people with emails despite being told to stop? Is there a deal with Randi to get MORE to accept the same deal that New Action accepted? Will you state openly that Solidarity under no circumstances will accept a New Action type deal?

    3. "We told them in that meeting that when they [New Action] renounce their dirty deal with Unity we will work with them. So far they haven't and they won't."

      In the mean time they have raised resolutions that are aligned with what I believe in, such as the discontinued teachers epidemic. Two weeks ago I brought over about 20 discontinued teachers to speak to Emil and Leroy after the UFT Executive Board meeting. New Action members followed up by having a sit down with UFT leadership and DOE Tweed members to discuss the issue. I think that is called being "Bipartisan"

      Definition of Bipartisan: of or involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other's policies.

      So 2016 New Action can endorse Barney the lovable purple dinosaur for all I care. In the mean time we will work with whoever has their arrows aligned with ours (even if temporary).

      I didn't leave MORE. MORE left me...

      MORE will leave you and when ICE is ready, they can share the result of the resolution.

      Renounce? Renounce Mulgrew? I really need to do this on Perdido's comments? See below. Mulgrew has been dead to me for some time and left me for dead. He'll rue the day he walked away from me at 52 Broadway as I was attacked by my own chapter leader and entire district followed by Tweed.

      I'm the real deal. Why does that scare you?

      "Mikey Mulgrew, Where Are You?"

  7. I am in Newark. Union is hopeless. We are all terrified. As best I can tell, nobody is doing anything.

  8. I heard today that 2 $uccess academy teachers were taken away by ambulance in recent weeks due to job stress.

  9. Please correct, as symbols so as not to inflate the ego.

  10. After many years of not understanding my rights - having never been apprised as a union member - after being tossed to wolves over and over - and surviving to laugh all the way to the bank - after belling the cat in the face of overt hostility and resentment from UNITY lackies - rising from elected chapter positions to Delegate to Chapter Leader - despite attempts to vilify and ostracize, demean, ridicule, harass and threaten me - I think I learned a whole lot along the way & I sure can call bull--- when I see and smell it. Walk your talk and you can lead - or move out of the way. Attacking those who take on the miscreants posing as so-called school and/or union "leaders" takes guts, nerve, smarts, and persistence. Wounded egos and self-anointed agendas that poison the well will not inspire trust or confidence to fight the obstacles before us.