Saturday, April 05, 2008

Color Me a Teacher

In a recent puff piece in the New York Times, we learn something of UFT President Randi Weingarten's teaching background:
In 1986, she joined the city teachers’ union as a top adviser to its president, Sandra Feldman. She also took a part-time job teaching history and government at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a position she held for six years and refers to often, and proudly.

So Ms. Weingarten certainly knows what it's like to be a teacher. I mean, sure, she didn't actually have to live on a teacher's salary. And sure, she wasn't actually spending much time teaching. But she did the job, didn't she? Frequent commenter Schoolgal took exception, and said perhaps not, if you've read this Village Voice article:

In urging Klein "to walk in the shoes of teachers" on Saturday, she described how she'd done it, claiming that she "taught, sometimes full time, sometimes part time, at Clara Barton High School for six years." Actually, records reviewed by the Voice indicate that she taught 122 days as a per diem teacher from September 1991 through June 1994, roughly one in four days. She then did what she told the Voice was her only full-time term in the fall semester of 1994, followed by 33 days as a per diem teacher in the spring of 1995.

Strangely, while she told the Voice she was a per diem for the 1995-96 and 1996-97 school years, her records list her as a full-time teacher. Because she was credited with the required two years of full-time service she doesn't even claim she performed, she was given a permanent certificate in September 1996. She has been on union leave since 1997, accumulating a total of nine years of pensionable city time though she only did one semester of full-time teaching.

Perhaps Ms. Weingarten's "experience" led her to believe that what teachers needed was more time on the job, including pointless punishment days in August, 30 minutes extra each day, a sixth class (the one that UFT bigshots declare is not actually a class) and perpetual hall patrol.

This works out well for Ms. Weingarten, as she can declare she's raised salaries by 43%. Of course, that claim assumes our time is worth nothing. It also assumes the extra work she's negotiated for us is worth nothing. And while much of the C6 busy work Ms. Weingarten arranged for us (like doing potty patrol and assisting secretaries) may indeed be worth nothing, it means we have to spend that much more time after school grading papers, writing lesson plans, writing tests, and doing the real work that real teachers have to do.

But now that I've read the Voice article, I understand precisely why Ms. Weingarten feels that our time and work is worth little or nothing. It's because in her six years of "experience" as a teacher, and the nine years of "pensionable city time," she herself was required to do little or nothing.

For real teachers, things are a little different. We have a term for teachers with attendance records like those of Ms. Weingarten.

We call them "unemployed."

blog comments powered by Disqus