Thursday, November 25, 2021

Today, I'm Thankful

This year, I'm thankful for family and friends, as always. I'm thankful for my handsome buddy, at left, who brings me unexpected joy by making himself at home in my fiddle case, and hanging with me no matter what tedious activity I choose for myself. (For the record, that crate has sat there for years, but we only enclosed him in it a few hours the first week we had him.) 

I'm thankful for great colleagues who stood with me during 12 years as chapter leader, an impossible job. I'm thankful for my bold colleague Samia Wattoo who took over the position, and from everything I see, will do very well in it. I'm thankful for an AP who is super-smart, and who actually has great teaching ideas when my colleagues and I are at a loose end.

I'm thankful for the fiddle you can't see, which kept me occupied during the endless period of Zoom teaching. I'm extremely thankful to be teaching in person this year, and reaching a whole lot more kids than I did back when they could hide behind cat pictures and go back to sleep. (They're kids, and I don't much blame them. I'd likely have done the same at that age. Still, I hated it.)

For all its flaws, I'm very thankful to be union. I've said it before and I'll say it again--We are moving very much against the tide in the USA by hanging together. Union numbers in our country have plummeted since Ronald Reagan became President. He may be a hero to some, but not to me. 

I've been teaching almost 37 years. I almost retired last year, and I may actually do so this year. These days, very few Americans have the luxury of a fixed pension, an important option for working people, and an option that's been falling off a veritable cliff for decades. If I retire, and if you do, we're unlikely to be taking jobs at Burger King in order to make ends meet. Be very thankful for that.

I'm also grateful for the voice we have at our work. If your school leader decides to violate our Collective Bargaining Agreement, or any of a multitude of regulations contained elsewhere, we have options. We can file grievances, which generally take forever, but chapter leaders now have the option of operational complaints. I'm thankful for people in the press who will report the excesses of insane school leaders, and who act as a check against their abuses, many of which they seem to have studied in Bloomberg's Leadership Academy.

Happily, there are some people in DOE who are not insane, and who will curb the dictatorial tendencies of school leaders run amuck. The system isn't perfect, but none is, and it's much improved over the last few years. I'm thankful for Debbie Poulos and James Cochran, who largely made this possible. I'm thankful for Queens UFT Rep. Amy Arundell, who will not like that I mention her, but who is always around to help me and my colleagues.

I'm thankful for the pushback against the racist, anti-labor, anti-American MAGA movement. I'm thankful that many Americans are immune to the brainwashing efforts of Fox News. I'm thankful we tossed out the lunatic who won the Presidential election in 2016. 

This will not be an easy year. We have a new mayor who has been bought and paid for by charter interests. While he ostensibly supports union, he seems to support non-union options for education. Make no mistake, with very rare exceptions, charter teachers do not work under the same conditions we do. I have friends who work in charters, or who have done so, and job security is not a thing for them. They don't think twice about leaving one place in a few years and moving on to another. We have powerful enemies, and we will need to be ready for them. 

But we survived Bloomberg, and I'm thankful for that. We will survive Adams too. Mayors come and go, but we've stood strong through all of them. Even as de Blasio proved a huge disappointment, we moved forward with parental leave. Perhaps we'll even make progress on class size this year. I'll be very thankful for that. After years of nonsensical reforminess, even from our ostensible allies, it would be fantastic to do something real for our students, as opposed to tests that waste their time and target their teachers. 

We will move forward, and we will make our union stronger and better, one way or another. I'm thankful for possibilities. I wish you and yours a joyous holiday. 

I'm thankful and happy we get a few days to reflect and relax, and I very much hope you are too!

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