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Archive for February, 2009

Tough Grace

Two weeks ago nine members of the girls basketball team of St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, Queens, were suspended for the duration of the season because they did not appear for their scheduled game against a rival high school the prior day. Why didn’t they show up?

They stayed home on orders of their parents who were protesting the school’s failure to act on their petition to fire the head coach from her position. The parents had counted on the flexing of their collective muscle to persuade the school’s administration to knuckle under.

They didn’t. More »

The Fairest of Them All

[Editor’s note: Just Miss is the pseudonym of a second-year teacher in a high school in the Bronx.]


The complaints rarely begin with your actual name. (Sound familiar?)

“Miss. This isn’t fair.”

What’s not fair?

“That we have to do WORK! Gaaaa!” More »

New Radio Ad Promotes March 5 Rally

Listen to the UFT’s new radio ad.

The text is as follows:

Now that the president has signed the new federal stimulus bill, let’s take a moment to thank the New York congressional delegation, the mayor and the thousands of educators who lobbied for its passage. But let’s take only a moment. Because for those of us who are pushing for high quality public schools in New York City, there’s a lot of hard work still to be done. Now we must keep a watchful eye on how the stimulus funds are used. This once in a lifetime opportunity cannot be wasted on bureaucracy. The additional funds must go straight to the classroom to help our teachers provide their students with the quality education they deserve. We must also fight in Albany and at City Hall against any erosion of our children’s educational opportunities.

Join us on Thursday, March 5, at 4 p.m. for a rally at City Hall, and make your voice heard in support of our schools and our children. Go to www.uft.org for more information.

The Two Minute Timeout

[Editor’s note: John Powers is an English teacher and Chapter Leader at Liberation High School in Brooklyn, NY.]

Unlike the two-minute timeout in football or the seventh inning stretch in baseball where the players and fans get a chance to relax for a moment, run to the bathroom or stretch one’s legs, the last two minutes of a class lesson can be a time of restlessness and vexation for teachers and students, especially if the lesson is being observed by an administrator. We teachers know that even with the best planning, organization and instruction, our lessons may end a minute or two early and thus invite criticism of the need to teach “bell to bell.” To make matters worse, students will sometimes begin packing up and making their way to the door; their last class before lunch or the end of the day will sometimes exacerbate these actions. What is to be done?

What follows is a short list of strategies I have used successfully and have shared with colleagues over the years. More »

Armando Blasse

It is our sad duty to communicate the sudden and untimely passing of a brother in the UFT family, Armando Blasse, District Representative for CSD 13  and Political Action Coordinator for Brooklyn.

In honor of his life and in sorrow for the way he was taken from us so young, we affirm our love for him with a “cold and broken Hallelujah.”

New York Teacher

Highlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

UFTers go all out to participate in AFT 'Wear Blue' campaign

Despite stimulus, the fight to make up the multibillion-dollar shortfalls in the New York state and city budgets isn’t over.

UFTers from the five boroughs supported the AFT’s “Fight For America’s Future: It’s Dollars and Sense” campaign by wearing blue on Unity Day.

The most important purpose of the union’s recommendations to modify the law granting control of city schools to the mayor is to help “improve student outcomes.” More »

The Case for National Standards

[Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the Washington Post on Feb. 16.]

Rebuilding our economy for the long haul — not just to meet today’s needs — requires investing in education. President Obama rightly has called for immediate investments to build the classrooms, laboratories and libraries our children require to meet 21st-century challenges and to increase funding for crucial educational programs. But to address the challenges and seize the opportunities of this new century, we must do even more. More »

Weighted Student Funding: An Empty Promise

In 2006, the Department of Education completely reorganized the budgetary process for New York City public schools. The new “Fair Student Funding [FSF]” budget process was based on the  idea generally known in the educational world as “Weighted Student Funding [WSF].” In theory, schools would receive additional weighted funding for educating students with greater needs, such as English Language Learners and students with special needs. But in practice, FSF/WSF involved far more than simply directing resources to the schools with the greatest needs. For example, by recalculating budgets to include the actual cost of salaries, a change will come into full effect in September 2009 with the end of the ‘hold harmless’ protections negotiated in the spring of 2007, the new funding formulas adopted by Tweed created financial disincentives for the hiring of more experienced educators. More »

What Are They So Afraid Of? [Updated]

To read the tabloid press and the right wing edu-blogosphere these days, one would think that the decision of the KIPP AMP teachers to organize with the UFT was something akin to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse riding into town.

Anti-unionist image of teachers organizing

Anti-unionist image of teachers organizing

What is extraordinary is the violent tone and tenor of much of this commentary, and the violence done to the most simple and straightforward of facts.

The Fordham Foundation’s Flypaper blog announced that the teachers at KIPP AMP had decided NOT to organize, in the latest iteration of its well-established practice of mangling story after story about teacher unions beyond recognition. This was followed by the usual mealy-mouthed update announcing that the truth was, well, the opposite of what it had just reported. More »

A Time and a Place

[Editor’s note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a second-year elementary school teacher in Queens. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

Imagine you’re a lawyer, and you wake up early one morning to finish preparing your arguments for a case — say your client is on trial for robbing a grocery store. You arrive early at the courthouse, review your notes and feel ready to go. But then midway through your opening arguments, you get a call informing you to leave the courtroom and go to the one next door, where you’ll be arguing an entirely different case on patent law.

You’d be a little caught off guard, right? Maybe a little irritated that you didn’t find out about the change sooner? Maybe kind of annoyed that all your hard work will go to waste?

Yet this happens to me every day at my school. More »

Unity Day Photos

UFT members at JHS 125

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, AFT members around the country wore blue to school to send a clear message: That strong education, healthcare and public services are critical elements for our country’s economic recovery; and that budget cuts to education, healthcare and public services will hurt, not help, our economy.

For more photos of UFT members wearing blue, go to the UFT online photo gallery.

And check out the AFT’s Unity Day slideshow.

What is a Teacher?

Teaching is a noble profession. The esteem, reverence, and awe which students hold for their teachers is often captured in the students’ words. In 2006 our students wrote about their teachers. They were writing about teachers who were professionals in every meaning of the word. Through the children’s words, you can see how “a practitioner’s superior depth of experience” made a difference in the academic life of each child. Surely, a qualified teacher in a classroom can mean the difference between the students’ academic life or death because the students’ future depends so desperately on the quality of their education.


A teacher is a symbol of learning: a leader of learners and a miracle to education.

More »

Fight for America’s Future

AFT’s new ad:

The Kindness of Strangers

[Editor’s note: Señorita in the City is the pseudonym of a second-year teacher in a high school in Manhattan.]


Last year at an event for new teachers put on by the UFT, I found out about DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit organization that matches classroom project proposals from around the country with online donors. Teachers can post requests for materials, and anyone can browse the site for projects to donate money to. More »

New York Teacher

Highlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

Preliminary city budget targets 15,000 teachers for layoffs

UFT President Randi Weingarten called the mayor’s plan to lay off 15,630 Department of Education positions “shockingly disproportionate and unfair.”

Preparations began for the “biggest rally in the history of this union on March 5” outside City Hall.

President Barack Obama’s inauguration captured the imagination of educators and students like no other event in recent memory. More »