Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MORE Cool Stuff MORE Has Done

Wow! It has been some time since I last posted. Three weeks in fact. Almost a month since an
original posting by yours truly.

I had scored the ELA exams for two weeks in April and was too beat to blog when I came home and the little free time I had was devoted to doing whatever I couldn't do during the week. Plus, baseball season has begun and my son, soon to be 15, is on three teams for the spring. That involves constant juggling of schedules and schlepping him to games and practices.

So it has come to my attention that there is the typical whining that MORE doesn't look out for teachers who are facing discontinuance or have been discontinued.

We know that is bullocks. See, MORE does help, does fight for teachers. But just because it does not wear what it does on their sleeves doesn't mean MORE is not at the forefront of the fight.

Let me share a story.

About 2 1/2 years ago, just about the time I got sent to the Rubber Room, a received an email from a minor, yet well known, NYC celebrity. He shared with me that his brother, who happened to be in his mid-60's and a career changer, was being harassed and threatened with termination if he did not resign. Now mind you, this is in September 2013, this teacher whom I shall refer to has Bob had only a few weeks on the job.

Bob was put into the wrong setting with the wrong classes and the wrong kids.  He was was hired to teach math, (Tripline/Algebra) but forced to teach science as well (Molecular Genetics). Apparently, on Friday the class was out of sorts and he went to lesson plan B instead of what he was planning on teaching. Sadly, the principal walked in on this and saw the difficulty he was having. At the end of the day she asked for him to resign or face an evaluation/observation that can result in his termination and loss of certification.

Having not been a chapter leader I sought out those from MORE who have experience. Peter Lamphere (Who is running for executive board at-large) rode in on his white horse. And flowing hair. But I digress.

Peter told Bob that under no circumstances should he resign immediately. This will ruin his chances of ever being re-hired by the DOE. Peter's response, and if memory serves, was the principal must give a teacher that is to be discontinued 30 days notice and in the meantime seek another position within the DOE.

Based on Peter's advice, the principal wrote a "mildly" positive letter of reference and Bob was able to transfer out to a school where he has thrived. Thanks to Peter Lamphere, Bob has a job.

Now, Bob would not have had a job if he took the advice of someone who chimed in upon reading his plight on the MORE listserv. This person, who shall remain nameless, shared....

 "He should call her bluff and wait for post observation. Then ask principal "can you model a lesson for me?"

Call her bluff? Ask for a model lesson. This coming from a teacher several weeks on the job? If Bob took that advice he would be selling pencils in Staples.

But again, I digress.

Not once has Peter gone around "bragging" what he did to help Bob. In fact, IMHO, it is just par for the course for Peter.

This is what you get with MORE. You get a level of knowledge and maturity in handling a situation. A sense that whomever you are dealing with is looking for a solution not from a micro perspective but the macro perspective that it should be.

MORE doesn't just want to put Bactine on the DOE boo-boo. It wants to get to the root of the boo-boo and make sure it is cured, not treated.

When you get your ballots in the mail, be sure to check of the box for the MORE/New Action slate. You need no worry about going through pages and pages to vote.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What Opting Out Means for a 15 Year Old

Kathy Perez has been an activist and a friend of MORE for some time. I have a great deal of respect for Kathy and glad that I can call her a friend.

Kathy took the lead herself several years ago in opting her children of testing. In fact, Kathy's daughter Elizabeth, who is now 15, has refused to test since 5th grade and in fact was the first student to opt out ever in the Baldwin, LI school district.

With that in mind, Elizabeth now 15 and a freshman at Calhoun HS in the Bellmore-Merrick school district, is still a leader in the opt out movement. She can see clearly through all the BS.

Elizabeth took the time to share her thoughts with The Crack Team on what opting out has meant, and still means, for her. We need to hear from more student leaders like Elizabeth and take comfort that we know that we who advocate for opting out are passing our beliefs and core principles down to a younger generation.

We here at SBSB wish to thank Elizabeth for sharing her words and are proud to share them here on these pages.

For the first few years that I opted out of the New York State tests, people looked at me funny, asked me why I wasn’t taking them, and I was pretty much the only one to be reading a book rather than filling in a scantron, being sure to not make any stray marks. But as the years went on, the number of kids not taking the tests increased, and we eventually were taken into the cafeteria while the tests were being taken. I almost looked forward to testing week, even though everyone else was stressed. I got to spend a few hours taking naps, reading, or doing homework rather than sitting in class. All throughout elementary school and middle school I opted out of the tests, turning in my refusal letters on the first day like it was routine, and never did my parents or I think it affected my grades or my chances of getting into college, as some people claim it does. 

Now, I’m an honor roll high school student, with a plan to go to college, become a psychiatrist and an advocate for human rights, and I’ve refused the New York State exams. So, I’m pretty sure that my opting out of the tests hasn’t taken a toll on my education. I never really understood why these tests were even administered in the first place, considering the fact that they hold no benefit to anyone who takes them, and all they do is somehow display a teacher’s effectiveness through a student’s test grade. I know that I’m more than an ID number or test score. I don’t need a rigged exam to tell me what I’m capable of, or how effective my teachers are and hopefully, when I’m older, I won’t have to write refusal letters for my children at all.

Great words from a future leader.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

This is What MORE Does

Over the course of the course of the last week or so there has been a tiny, whiny background noise asking "what does MORE do?"

In reality it's an insignificant noise more akin to the buzz of a gnat flying around your head. You want nothing other than to swat at but you know that will give the gnat the attention it wants. Soon, the gnat will lose it's energy and drop to the ground where it will soon be back to serving it's purpose. Just being walked over, no one knowing it's there.

But we know MORE is there. We know what MORE does. Yes, MORE doesn't send a bunch of people to protest a principal on a side street somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens where there is no foot traffic or cars driving by. MORE doesn't send threatening or intimidating emails to principals. MORE doesn't habitually send text messages or emails obsessively to other UFT members. Or go to PEP meetings to kvetch, alone, about some injustice (I did this twice. It was a waste of my time. I might have just as well read The Great Gatsby).

I mean I guess this stuff can be considered being "active" but it doesn't accomplish anything. If you think about it nothing changes. Nothing has been accomplished. This stuff is all on the micro level. What about macro?

Last night on WNBC-4 news we saw what MORE does, how MORE operates, what MORE believes in. Three teachers, all MORE members, all teachers with true core beliefs appeared on the 6 PM news and shared what they did, what they are doing to affect change when it comes to testing.

Jia Lee, Lauren Cohen, and Kristen Taylor drew a line in the sand and dared Chancellor Fariña to cross it. Basically they told parents to opt their children out of the state tests.

According to the WNBC website;
“Parents should definitely opt out,” said Jia Lee, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at The Earth School in Manhattan. “Refuse. Boycott these tests because change will not happen with compliance.”

“I want to tell parents that I’m not going to get anything out of the test. Their kids aren’t getting anything out of the test,” said Lauren Cohen.
Kristen Taylor added that the tests are “fundamentally harming the education system”.

Think about this. Is this not what, and whom, we want as teachers and leaders? The energy that Jia has put into the Opt-Out movement shows how much of a leader she is. What she can bring to the teachers and communities of New York City.

There are no gimmicks or illusions such as some app that sends a form letter (and probably exists just to gather email addresses. I mean, seriously, how is that helping the cause? It's nothing other than just a bogart of the Opt Out movement. Micro.

Another gimmick is sending out an email to the Chancellor that one will not participate in proctoring or anything when it comes to the tests. Yeah, big whoops. It's all micro.

Just this past Sunday, Jia was featured in the New York Post as a teacher that has...
"...been sending emails to parents the past week encouraging them to boycott the state English and math Common Core exams being administered citywide starting Tuesday."
Oh, and while we are at it, a contingent of MORE members were out in Chicago on April 1 to support our CTU brethren in their one day strike. This is bridge building, not bridge burning.

Thin about it. From Chicago, to Long Island, to Upstate and Western New York Jia Lee and MORE are not only recognized as leaders, but game changers as well.

Watch the last few seconds of the report. Chris Glorioso says;

"They are members of the UFT and vying for leadership positions"

MORE builds. MORE looks long term. MORE leads. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Bagels and Coffee With Jonathan Halabi

I have been meaning to write this since last week, but I had been swamped and with this piece by Norm, felt it was time for people to see what an effective leader, union member, MORE candidate is capable of.

I spent Good Friday like a Good Jew, sleeping in and taking advantage of the day off by scheduling a doctor's visit.

While waiting for the doctor, Jonathan Halabi texted me through Facebook and we were texting until I had to see the doctor. When I came out it continued and I suggested since we text too much to meet up for coffee. Jonathan told me his car was in the shop (next time come to me for the parts!) and told him I would pick him up and since I was in Chappaqua it would take me about 45 minutes to get down to the Bronx.

It was a good time with Jonathan. We hit a bagel store in Mount Vernon and the symmetry came alive. We both ordered scooped out bagels with lox spread. But that is not why I am writing this piece. The reason I am writing this piece is I got to see Jonathan in action as not only a chapter leader, but more importantly, as a human being that day.

When I pulled up to Jonathan's place he was outside on the phone. At first I thought perhaps a family member was ill or in crisis but I heard more and was able it was a educator, a non-tenured teacher Jonathan was involved with.

Now, I can't divulge any part of the conversation other than to say that this educator was in crisis and somehow found Jonathan (being that she was from Queens and not from his school) but I saw how Jonathan was trying to not only deescalate the situation and the anxiety with the educator but to empower her as well.

Jonathan took her step by step through what she needed to do and in fact was able to share with her he reactions to what she would do by telling her how she should react. How to word an email, how to react to any negative reactions to the email, steps she can take. And most importantly, do what she had to do to leave the school.

Jonathan's tone was very soothing and very caring. He took what was happening to this educator personally. At no point did Jonathan try to impart his agenda or someone's else's agenda. Like a doctor, he did not want to do any harm.

In fact a few days ago I called Jonathan myself for some advice. I had a "good problem," and wanted to hear what he had to say.  He gave it to me straight and again, as he was with the educator from Queens, the most important thing he reiterated to me was about the well being of my career.

Jonathan very well could have said to me or to the educator in Queens to get angry, to threaten, to huff and puff to we threaten to blow the schools down, expose the someone, write a blog post, FOIL, or do some other dumb ass thing. Wait, he could've, but he never would.

With myself and the educator from Queens I heard in Jonathan's voice a true knowledge of not only the UFT contract, but how to be firm, how to protect yourself, and the proper way to deal with bullies.

The way Jonathan is, the way members of MORE are, not running away from a crisis but dealing with it head on with empowerment, knowledge, and humility are not signs of weakness, but signs of strength.

To give advice that is contrary to the beliefs of Jonathan or MORE are the easy and coward's way out. Strength comes from within and with the confidence you exude in yourself. If you have confidence in your own abilities, your own beliefs there is no need to feed people fear.

Strength is in building a community that doesn't fizzle out but that will grow and be sustainable and not rely on any one person. Strength is being able to pass the torch along.

Jonathan Halabi is running for the HS Executive Board. Don't forget to check off the MORE/New Action slate when you get your UFT ballot.

Friday, March 25, 2016

33 Is a Sad Number

Thirty-three. It is an interesting number. So many associations. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rolling Rock beer, Jose Canseco, Patrick Ewing, Kris Draper, Eddie Murray along with so many others who wore that number with pride.

But today we shall talk about the indignity, or rather, the albatross of the number 33 and what it really means.

It means that one is a false prophet, a charlatan, a fraud, a huckster.

For months we have been hearing of the solid power emanating from a little itsy bity man, Landru. 

Landru preys on people's fears. Makes false promises. Promised his cult that he would lead them to the promised land. That all would be fine. 

But when push came to shove, when crunch time came, Landru failed and failed big.

The worse part is Landru could not accept it. Landru couldn't handle that the rules applied to him.

"WAH-WAH-WAH," cried Landru and like that dork we always see with that lateral lisp screamed out, "I'LL SUE YOU!!! I'LL SEE YOU IN COURT!!!"

Why couldn't Landru have more than 33 Lawgivers to serve him? Too many know the real truth of Landru, they are no longer "of the body." They see through the charade.

Landru was too focused on himself say some. Some say that many didn't want to be seen with or supporting Landru. But most say that the numbers that Landru spoke of were an illusion, and fraud, and roomful of mirrors.

But what Landru is is nothing but a paper tiger.  A scared paper tiger that is acts tough but in reality scurries away, not like a cockroach but a rat, when the chips are down and refuses to look in the mirror at Landru's inabilities.

Look behind the wall and see what Landru really is. Festival is no more.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Come to Bronx MORE Happy Hour on March 24!!!

Come to a Bronx MORE Happy Hour!

Thursday March 24  4 p.m.
Wish 37 Bar
37 Bruckner BlvdBronx, NY

  • Do you want a more democratic union?
  • Do you support the opt out movement and Oppose Common Core, Danielson Evaluations and High Stakes Testing?
  • Do you think that teachers and all city workers deserve paid parental leave?
  • Do you oppose systemic school segregation and racism?
  • Do you oppose the delayed payment of retroactive pay and the increase in health care co-pays that stem from concessions in our last contract?

Come discuss the upcoming UFT election with MORE election candidates and activists in the Bronx.  Meet High School Executive Board candidate David Garcia Rosen, restorative dean and athletic director at the Bronx Academy of Letters and the lead organizer of NYCLetEmPlay which fights to end unequal access to sports across the city.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

This Was Bound to Happen To Me

It was bound to happen. It came out of nowhere, completely unexpected, but it did have to happen.

Today I was doing my 2nd lunch duty in a row (I know, I know, I don't mind doing lunch duty). The third grade was in the cafeteria and there was about 2-3 minutes left.

As the students were cleaning up and getting ready for their teachers a 3rd grade teacher, for whose class I covered for prep the other day, walked by me and complimented me on my classroom management. Out of curiosity I inquired as to why he was saying that.

"Oh, we get lots of subs in here that just can't control their classes and have the kids running all over the classroom," he said.

I looked at him and replied, "I'm not a sub, I'm an ATR." I said this with pride.

He apologized and told me that the previous ATR was at the school for a few months and then "disappeared."

"Anyway," he continued, "What do I know? I have only been teaching 5 months." A NOOB!!!!!

What was he talking about Willis?

Yes, it is always nice to receive a compliment, but, come on. From a noob?

I so wanted to say so much more. I held my tongue. Not worth it. I want too as well on this post but I shan't.

I just can't write about this anymore.