I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bloomberg Ties Up NYC Just To Torture Teachers

El Bloombito* is going to send 1,800 Absent Teacher Reserve members (ATRs) out into the crowded, dangerous, chaotic streets of post-Sandy New York on Friday for no apparent reason other than to torture them:
Well my feeling of pointlessness just reached a new high when I heard that schools will remain closed for the remainder of this week for children, but teachers must report to work on Friday. All week I've had an assignment in an unnamed high school, but due to inclement weather, I haven't had the opportunity to report to this high school. But now, on Friday, I guess I will make my way through several bus transfers to go there to ... sub for non-existent classes? It's going to be all sorts of meaningful.

Next week I'm supposed to be shuttled off to yet another school, but I haven't gotten my assignment yet. Again, because of the inclement weather they're a bit undecided about which schools would most need a week-long sub.

I guess this is Tweed's idea of really putting teachers to the best possible use. Don't you think? 
Frankly, I don't understand why teachers are reporting for work on Friday at all. Why put 75,000 more people on New York's streets if it's not necessary? While I'm sure there are some teachers who have to assess the damage to their classrooms, many teach at schools that weren't directly affected by Sandy. Why clog up the transportation system with all of the teachers if we don't need to?

But having the ATRs report is just silly. ATRs are basically substitute teachers; there will be nothing for them to do. This is yet another absurdity foisted upon teachers for only one reason: control. Jonathan Kozol gives my favorite example of this phenomenon:
In some districts, even the most pleasant and old-fashioned class activities of elementary schools have now been overtaken by these ordering requirements. 
A student teacher at an urban school in California, for example, wanted to bring a pumpkin to her class on Halloween but knew it had no ascertainable connection to the California standards. 
Only Exam Stuff 
She therefore had developed what she called the 'Multimodal Pumpkin Unit" to teach science (seeds), arithmetic (the size and shape of pumpkins, I believe— this detail wasn't clear), and certain items she adapted out of language arts, in order to position "pumpkins" in a frame of state proficiencies. Even with her multimodal pumpkin, as her faculty advisor told me, she was still afraid she would be criticized because she knew the pumpkin would not really help her children to achieve expected goals on state exams. 
Why, I asked a group of educators at a seminar in Sacramento, was a teacher being placed in a position where she'd need to do preposterous curricular gymnastics to enjoy a bit of seasonal amusement with her class on Halloween? How much injury to state-determined "purpose" would it do to let a group of children have a pumpkin party once a year for no other reason than because it's something fun that other children get to do on autumn days in public schools across most of America? 
"Forcing an absurdity on teachers does teach something," said an African American professor, "it teaches acquiescence. It breaks down the will to thumb your nose at pointless protocols— to call absurdity 'absurd.'" 
Writing out the standards with the proper numbers on the chalkboard, even though these numbers have no possible meaning to the children, has a similar effect, he said. [emphasis mine]
Making substitute teachers go to an empty school in the wake of the worst storm of our lifetimes is absurd. And that's why El Bloombito* is forcing the ATRs to report: because he can.

* El Bloombito is the hilarious tweeter who parodies the mayor's riotous habit of attempting to speak Spanish during his press conferences. Check him/her out.

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