Friday, June 24, 2016

Where Are We Without Union?

Yesterday commenter Bronx ATR remarked on the weak UFT presence in some schools. The letter at left is a pretty good example of what happens when union isn't around. In this case, the administration demands that teachers work after school, on Saturdays, on breaks, and pretty much whenever the hell they are told.

I love the sentence beginning, "I will follow the contractual agreement between the NYC DOE and UFT but..."

I'm reminded of a Shakespeare teacher I had in college. To be honest, I can't remember anything he had to say about Shakespeare but one thing he said, a thing I share with my students, is once anyone says but, you may forget everything that preceded it. I tell my students when your girlfriend says she really loves you's time to look for a new girlfriend.

We will follow the contract but...means we will not follow the contract.  There is no me in team and there is no but in contract. If you wish to alter the contract, there is always the option of an SBO. Until then, there's Article 20, matters not covered, to wit, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, specifically prohibiting involuntary servitude.

My UFT source tells me the District Rep. was able to dispense with this non-contractual letter fairly easily. I'd still worry, though, that letter or no letter, the administrators who run this place will bully their teachers all over the place. I've gotta seriously doubt there's much of a UFT presence in this school, or this letter would likely not exist. Just because the folks who wrote it agree they won't hold people to it doesn't mean the lowly teachers in their school aren't off on that weekend getaway to the Catskills to do test prep on an outdoor blackboard at the campsite, rain or shine. It doesn't mean they're gonna wake up tomorrow and say, "Hey, you know what? I can have a life!"

Someone has to stand up, ideally everyone. We are role models, and we aren't teaching children how to be chattel. If kids haven't got suitable role models at home, we're the next best thing they have. How do we model character if we're afraid to show it? If we're miserable, how do we model joy? If we hate our jobs, how do we get children to love their lives?

These are not questions that cross the minds of people who write letters like the one above. You may recognize one of the names of the noble, selfless, altruistic and dedicated administrators named in the letter from this piece. Hmmm. If that's true, he has spare time to pursue his interests.

Why shouldn't the teachers who work for him?

I hope the UFT District Rep. read these folks the riot act, and I hope there will be follow up. After all you know what they say. An unprincipled self-serving administrator doesn't change its stripes. OK, they don't say that. But I'm saying it now.

Do you think things will change much at this school? What do you think it will take for small schools to develop union presence? If Fariña merges schools will that help? And how many administrators are simply doing this stuff without writing about it?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Comment from Facebook: No mitigating circumstances. Goodness. That covers everything from accidents with a chainsaw to tornadoes, alien invasions and leprosy. Not to mention every day things like, "My water just broke," "My father died," and "I'm waiting for the firefighter with the jaws of life."~Michael Lambert
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