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Archive for November, 2009

Surreal Junk Science On Civic Knowledge

Last June, Matthew Ladner, Vice President of Research at the far right Goldwater Institute and regular blogger at Jay Greene and the United Cherry Pickers, was madly blogging [see here and here] about the civic ignorance of Oklahoma high school students. More »

Celebrating the “idea that so few could make a difference…”

On Nov. 1 the UFT paid tribute to its members, both past and present, at the 49th annual Teacher Union Day ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.

Life after William

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

It’s possible I may be suffering from PWSD: Post-William Stress Disorder.

As I mentioned ever so briefly in my last post, William has departed from us, to a special education classroom at another school. If I could say one thing to his new teachers, I would say, Please help him succeed where our school failed him for three years. If I could say two things, I would say, Please help him succeed where our school failed him for three years, and also, no backsies.

So here’s the deal with my class minus William (who, by the way, had perfect attendance while he was in my class): It’s like a whole new class. On the plus side, it’s like a whole new class, but on the minus side…it’s like a whole new class. It’s like September 9 all over again. It’s like I turned around to find 26 other children sitting in front of me to whom I had not been able to devote a single iota of my attention because I was too busy chasing William around the classroom and trying to get him to give up my stapler (which he enjoyed using as a machine gun).

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about this development, but I am a little surprised by it. More »

Chicago’s First Unionized Charter Schools Ratify First Contract

From the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS):

Teachers and staff at three Civitas charter schools overwhelmingly ratified their first contract today, crediting a collaborative negotiations process for achieving the breakthrough agreement.

The three-year collective bargaining agreement at Civitas’ Ralph Ellison Campus, Northtown Academy and Wrightwood Campus is the first of its kind for charter schools in Chicago. The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff is the union that represents nearly 140 teachers at the three schools.

“This contract puts students first, gives teachers a voice and a seat at the table, and makes parents and the community partners in education,” said Emily Mueller, a high school Spanish teacher at Northtown Academy and chair of the negotiations.

Read the entire press release here.

Health Care Reform/Rehab

Health care reform is at a climactic crossroads.  Necessity should speak for itself. But sometimes it needs vocal coaches.

Although the crush of medical bills is the prime cause of individual bankruptcy (and the catastrophic collateral damage it does to families) in this country, and despite our nation’s lagging far behind several dozen other countries (including many less wealthy than we are) in many indicators of health care quality, (such as longevity and infant mortality), and even though not a single major political party in any of these other democratic nations has ever proposed the elimination of their existing national health system, millions of gullible Americans have been suckered by reactionary special interests into practically equating a government-sponsored health care option with the worst excesses of Marxism.

What rot!

Their resistance to proposed health care reform is macabre, not patriotic. More »

A Partnership That Works

[Editor’s note: Teaching in Brooklyn is a fourth-year teacher at a Brooklyn elementary school.]

After spending my first two years as a first grade teacher working solo in an elementary school classroom of 28 students, I was recently hired at a new school as the general education teacher working with a special ed teacher in a collaborative team teaching classroom of 27 1st graders, nine of whom have IEPs. Coming into the new assignment, I was nervous about working with a partner. Suddenly I was presented with the reality of working with another teacher in the classroom, and I wondered what the day to day of it would be like. Would we have the same philosophy of education? How would we share the workload and paperwork? Would we be able to better reach our students by working collaboratively? And, not least, would we get along personally?

The first few weeks of planning and teaching were an adjustment period for both of us. It’s sort of like having an assigned roommate freshman year of college – you’re supposedly matched as perfect roommates, but every now and then one of the roommates ends up complaining to the resident advisor about the other. Our school matched us because it thought that we would be good partners, and, thankfully, the school was right.

At first, we were both slightly unsure of the power balance in the classroom. I think that teachers like to be the captain of their own ship. Now it was no longer “my” class, but “our” class. More »

Building a Home, School, and Community Partnership

UFT President Michael Mulgrew addressed parents at the UFT’s 12th Annual Parent Conference at the New York Hilton Hotel on Oct. 31.

You’re Going to Lose It

[Editor’s note: Kansan in the Bronx is a second-year teacher in a Bronx middle school.]

When I was visiting schools I could potentially teach at in the city I observed a couple classes at a well-respected middle school in the West Village. During the visit I observed a teacher scream at a student in class for perhaps the first time since I was in school. I was disgusted by the behavior. The student then told me how terrible the teacher was and how she was always picking on her. I took the side of the student, of course, knowing for certain that there was absolutely no excuse for yelling at a student in class. I couldn’t even fathom what would drive a teacher to act that way and wrote the teacher off as a bitter, unhappy person individual with anger-management issues.

When I student taught in Germany I raised my voice in one of my classes with a hint of irritation on the very last day I was there. A student was enormously surprised by that, saying, “Mr. L has never yelled!” It was day two in Bronx when I unleashed my already healthy vocal chords on my class. It was the first time they listened to me in two very long days. I screamed at them as loud as I possibly could, the order to take their seats ripping out of me like I’d never directed speech at a human before. Sure I’d gotten angry at each of my five siblings and my parents and had yelling matches with them. This was different though. I stopped short of throwing things, but barely. More »

NLRB: Gridlock!

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is in gridlock. Established to ensure fairness and resolve labor/management disputes in the workplace, it has become just another dysfunctional “political football.”  That’s because of a partisan stalemate, hatched by Republican stalwarts, over filling three vacant NLRB seats.

Only two seats are currently occupied, one member each from both major political parties. Federal court decisions are divided as to whether that constitutes a legal quorum.

President George W. Bush had stacked the NLRB with five members, all of whom had passed the Republican litmus test of being rabidly hostile to workers’ rights. Now that a relatively pro-Labor administration has been voted in with the blessing of the electorate, the Grand Old Party (a name that lends itself to its own perfect ridicule) is obstructing efforts to allow the NLRB to be viable again.

Last August President Obama nominated three new members, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in cahoots with the Republicans who have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the altar of decency while fighting tooth and nail against every minimum wage increase, social security benefit and other enlightened idea, have stalled it.

Despite the deadlock, the NLRB continues to do business settling straightforward disputes. But the more complex and consequential ones are snared in indefinite delay.

The feet of the GOP, for a start, need to be put to the fire.