Friday, April 28, 2017

Playing the Stereotype Game with Teachers

Another day, another story about how terrible it is that teachers get due process. Evidently two teachers are in jail and still drawing salary. How exactly that works I don't know. I'm pretty doubtful they let you leave the jail to go and teach. Maybe they're using their sick days. Who knows? A telltale clue to the validity of the story is the fact that it bemoans the drop in teachers up for termination. Evidently, last year there were 392 candidates while this year there were only 381.

The need to make an issue out of a drop so plainly insignificant suggests to me borderline desperation for something to talk about. This, coupled with the prominent use of Mona David, who started some sort of parent group whose membership is a mystery, who went on an anti-tenure crusade after being dumped from UFT payroll, and also a Students First shill for anti-teacher quotes, suggests to me there's not a whole lot of "there" there.

We're talking about a total of two cases. Many readers of this piece will draw conclusions about all of us because two jailed teachers are temporarily on payroll. That smacks of stereotype, to say the least. To suggest that tens of thousands of teachers have too many due process rights because of this is faulty logic, to put it generously. And make no mistake, there is another side to this story that did not make the article.

I've seen administrative abuse all over the city. I know teachers on the verge of stress-induced breakdowns. In my own building, which is very good relative to others, I've seen some of the most positive people I've ever met walk out rather than continue dealing with the nonsense that passes for an evaluation system. I've seen members have dangerously high blood pressure,  minor cardiac episodes, and even outright heart attacks in the corridors as a result of administrative abuses.

Elsewhere it's worse. Principals run rampant and utterly ignore the contract. There are schools full of newbies, none of whom have the due process rights that would protect them from being fired for no reason. Lately I've been writing a lot about the incredible staff and community at CPE 1. Over there, if you criticize the principal you're up on charges. The chapter leader is up on charges. The delegate is up on charges. Others are up on charges.

Now it's possible they ran around and committed heinous crimes, but we don't even know what most of them are accused of. Given what we do know, though, it's much more likely they're being intimidated and punished for speaking out against an abusive and power-hungry administrator. And hey, not every administrator is as bad as this one. But there's something that happens when you give a little person a little power, and just about every teacher in the city knows what that is.

It could be just a little thing. For example, I was pretty good friends with a former APO. But when she got the administrative job, she changed. She was no longer friendly. I had to make appointments to see her. She was not abusive or cruel. She was just a little aloof. When I had real issues, she gave me real assistance. So she wasn't bad or anything. She was just changed, and in my view, not for the better.

But other things happen too. You may have read the continuing saga of Boy Wonder on this blog. Boy Wonder is every abusive administrator in the city. He's every young and incompetent person climbing to the top on the backs of the people he's hired to support. And make no mistake, he is everywhere, somewhere in just about every school in the city. And despite that, he isn't yet quite as outrageous as the principal of CPE 1, empowered by Carmen Fariña and the DOE to not only make teacher lives a misery, but also ruin one of the most visionary schools I've ever bumped my head upon.

There will always be a handful of outrageous stories about teachers. I know some that the reporters will never hear. But judging all of us by the actions of a few is blatantly stereotypical. People like Mona and the Students First hack might be happy to enact regulations based on stereotypes, but American history is full of such nonsense, and it benefits no one. In fact, I'm sure there are guilty people who've been exonerated in court. Personally I'd rather see that than innocent people convicted. Yet there are plenty of innocent people convicted. How often do we read of people on death row exonerated because of DNA evidence? How often have people been executed for lack of it?

While stories like this one are sensational, while even I can't help but read them, the implications are disturbing to say they least. I doubt any arbitrator will rule in favor of teachers jailed for abuse of children, but who knows? If they do, and they're wrong, I'd determine it's the fault of the arbitrator, not the law.

I'd like to see some paper write a story about some murderer who got off, and then determine that we ought to do away with trials so as to preclude this in the future. Because when I read stories like this one, that's pretty much what I see. I'm completely persuaded that, given unfettered power, Monika Garg would have fired the UFT chapter leader and delegate, among others. In doing that, she'd have destroyed an extraordinary school. I have no doubt that many other administrators would fire many other teachers for no good reason if given half a chance.

It's important we not give them that half a chance.

Update--Two jailed teachers are now off payroll, but new story complains that a teacher charged with assaulting a student is still on payroll.  Holy guilty until proven innocent, Batman!
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