Thursday, July 05, 2007

Recommended Reading

If you haven't seen it yet, check out Sam Freeman's column on Allison Rabenau. It's very, very rare to find anything in a major publication so supportive of teachers. It's not surprising ex-Deputy Chancellor Alonso, who's publicly declared that teachers are the only variable in education, does not concur. Of course, he firmly believes NYC is the best of all possible worlds.

Allison Rabenau celebrated an inauspicious milestone on the otherwise unremarkable day of Oct. 18, 2004. Six weeks into her first year as a teacher, she finally taught a class.

Ms. Rabenau had left a long career as a stage manager in the commercial theater to learn how to teach English as a second language to immigrant children in New York’s public schools. The only problem, she quickly discovered, was that the avalanche of paperwork and other assignments meant she actually got to teach only sporadically.

Like Ms. Rabenau, I'm an ESL teacher. We spend weeks administering the oral part of the NYCESLAT English competency test, and for those weeks, I must give an oral interview to every single one of my students. I give the rest of the class assignments, but since I am not able to pay nearly sufficient attention, it amounts to busy work, which I pretty much allow them to ignore if they're cooperative (I have great students).

That said, the thing that bothers me most nowadays, with 22 years in, is not the paperwork but the palpable fear and loathing introduced by this chancellor and mayor. High school teachers used to teach five classes. Now most do that, patrol the lunchrooms, and teach a sixth smaller class four days a week.

Many of my colleagues, though no fault of their own, are tenuous appointees in the "Absent Teacher Reserves," with no permanent assignments, and wondering just when the contract will be modified so they can be unceremoniously dumped jobless onto the street. Others wonder if they'll get positions when their schools are closed, renamed and reopened (whether or not the schools are actually failing).

In view of this, UFT leadership, which endorsed mayoral control in the first place, saw fit to enable a reorganization that will make it even less attractive for principals to hire or retain senior teachers. They arranged to kill a major protest against this mayor at a time when his popularity had hit a distinct low. Now it's rebounded to the point at which his presidential aspirations are taken very seriously.

In this awful climate for city teachers, it's great to see a major voice like that of Mr. Freeman advocating for us a little.
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