Monday, May 14, 2018

We Are Trained to Blame Teachers

That's a pretty depressing thought, isn't it? But you don't know when you're being trained. That's NYC Educator mascot Toby on the left. I have been training him for months. For example, every now and then, no matter where we are, I ask him to sit, and I might give him a treat when I do that.

Right there Toby sat of his own volition, and he's waiting for me to give him a treat. Someone pointed out to me that this meant he was training me. I wouldn't have even noticed that.

The public at large seems to think teachers are a bunch of lazy loafers, doing nothing all year and then taking summers and holidays besides. They begrudge us health benefits and sick days, vilify us for having pensions, insult us relentlessly, and try to suppress our voices. We weather it all and sort of take it for granted.

Why don't other Americans simply demand what we have? There's a joke about two Russian farmers. One says of the other, "He has a cow and I don't. I want his cow to die." It's unfortunate so many Americans see things that way. Why don't they want their own cows instead? Maybe Fox News says they'll have scores of cows if only we get rid of all this socialism. Having a cow, alas, is not everything.

In New York City I can't count how many teachers I've met who've faced dismissal because the principal woke up one morning and decided this one's got to go. I've seen people facing dismissal because a superintendent arbitrarily decided the person had too many continuances. The fact that no one at this teacher's last school was granted tenure, ever, did not factor into that superintendent's thought process.

Meanwhile, if you aren't watching a crazy administrator up close and personal, you read story after story about them and their abuses. A case in point is this one, from 2016, telling of a principal who's cost the city over half a million in lawsuits. Well guess what? It looks like it takes damages of $830,000 and counting before New York City sees fit to reassign an administrator.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has come under scrutiny recently for the handling of sexual harassment cases across city agencies, especially at the Department of Education. The city has admitted that it has no consistent system to track sexual harassment complaints against employees, making it difficult to analyze the total number of complaints as well as how employees in substantiated cases were disciplined.

That's kind of remarkable, particularly since the mayor decided that 98% of sexual harassment complaints from teachers were nonsense, and this there was some sort of hyper-complaint dynamic, whatever that may be. What's worse is he based this assessment on nonsense he heard from the idiots on city agencies, the ones who never met a deadline they could meet, and never read a contract clause they could understand.

I have no idea why there's so little accountability for administrators. I've repeatedly seen UFT members raked over the coals for nothing of significance while supervisors, who did things much worse, faced no consequence whatsoever. If it weren't for the fact that I would hate the job and be terrible at it, I'd aspire to be a supervisor. Who wouldn't want a job in which you could blame anyone for anything, judge people on a rubric you'd never experienced and never would, have zero requirement for demonstrating how said rubric would work? Well not me. But I know people who do.

Despite stories of the sexual harassment and malfeasance, I don't think we'll be seeing principals stereotyped anytime soon. There just aren't enough of them to make it worthwhile. There are reasons we are under assault. A big one is the fact that we're one of the last strongholds of unionism in these United States. The Koch Brothers don't love seeing regular people with adequate health care, defined pensions, and political clout. That's why they've propped up Janus to weaken us.

I'd argue that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that some people, given even a little power, need to lord it over everyone they possibly can. That's why there are so many flawed administrators in our flawed system. Too bad they haven't figured out that we're in this together. If our enemies shut down the teachers, the administrators won't fare well either.

Nonetheless, every working teachers knows or knows of that Administrator from Hell. And no matter how much we read about them, the general story is all about how teachers suck.

When and how are we gonna change that narrative?
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