Monday, December 08, 2008

What's in a Name?

Norm Scott wrote a piece questioning whether the UFT really was a "union of professionals" the other day. I wonder whether that's a good thing or not, and Right-Wing Prof commented, "Professionals don't have unions." That's a telling and perhaps entirely correct comment. I've often read commenters opining that teachers ought to get rid of unions altogether and sell ourselves on the open market.

Unfortunately, despite such comments, the open market has proven to be a disaster for experienced UFT teachers, many of whom have been stuck in the ATR for years now. If principals value price more than experience, as they clearly seem to, there's little future for teachers as "professionals."

Don't get me wrong--I think our job is important, and next to doctors, I think teachers are the most vital people who come into contact with our kids. But I don't give a damn whether or not people think we're "professionals." And I won't give up my tenure, which took me years to earn, just to trust in the kindness of strangers who've repeatedly demonstrated the bottom line has nothing whatsoever to do with quality.

"Professionals" don't do what we do. On Friday morning, I walked into my trailer, relieved that the heat seemed to be on. But I noticed that the top drawer was open, filled with a soda bottle that was half-full, which had leaked into the ancient wooden drawer (Though the trailer is less than 15 years old, they managed to find a desk that was older than dirt). The rest of the drawer was filled with a drier variety of trash. I retrieved a plastic box of markers, left there by a colleague, pulled the drawer out of the desk, and dumped the entire contents into the trash bin, after removing it from the top of the desk where the custodian had thoughtfully left it.

Two weeks ago, I found a note scrawled in chalk on my blackboard:

Put trash in the can not ON THE FLOOR!

Apparently, I should've heeded that missive. The problem, though, is that I'm in the trailer in the morning, and whoever left the mess is there at the end of the day. Also, I needed the board and couldn't leave it there all day. The custodians have had it up to here with folks like me, who complain the trailers are filthy and unsuitable for use by humans. The last time I complained, all the papers I'd stored in the desk were thrown out. That would teach me, they supposed.

I opened up another drawer and found it, as well, full of trash. I dutifully dumped it. The bottom drawer, full of another teacher's schoolbooks, was untouched. This made me doubt it was the work of a kid, though one of my students, a kid himself, suggested the culprit may have simply run out of garbage. I don't know.

The custodians have not fixed the sink or the water fountain in my trailer, and refuse to restock either the paper towels or the toilet paper in the filthy bathroom my kids are supposed to use. When I complain, they dump toilet paper and towels on my desk as if to say, "There. Now you do it." And so it goes till I complain again.

Am I a "professional?" Well, it entirely depends what your definition is. This is my profession; it's what I do. But adults in the system certainly don't treat me as such, from Chancellor Joel Klein, to the press, to the crack custodial staff that "services" the decrepit trailer in which my kids are supposed to study.

Now if you listen to Michelle Rhee, the entire problem is that teachers have it too good. But Ms. Rhee is a professional She doesn't do what I do.

And she, much like my desk, is full of garbage.
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