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Archive for November, 2012

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Nov. 22, 2012Highlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

Resupplying relocated students with 30,000 backpacks
Calling it the “best of New York City coming together” UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the efforts of educators, administrators, elected officials and corporate citizens who all pulled together with the goal of raising $1.5 million to deliver 30,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to students whose schools were flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

Members roll up their sleeves
Idea to help in lieu of Election Day PD was born on UFT Facebook page
Hundreds of educators across the city spent Nov. 6 bringing water, blankets and baby supplies to hurricane shelters, walking up 15 flights of stairs in public housing to assess needs, doing demolition work on homes that were flooded, shoveling sand off the Coney Island boardwalk so emergency vehicles could get through and bringing hope and help to those who needed it most.

Repaying a debt
Upstate teachers volunteer to help rebuild Staten Island town
They arrived on Staten Island in a bus from Schoharie in upstate New York, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, sneakers or workboots, carrying shovels and crowbars and hammers and utility knives in their workgloved hands. “We came here to work,” one said. “Let’s get started.”

Hundreds of UFT members turn out for Day of Action
Hundreds of UFT members, bolstered by four busloads of members of the union’s national affiliate — the American Federation of Teachers fanned out across the city to assist with the Hurricane Sandy cleanup and recovery effort on Nov. 10, the first of several Saturday Days of Action being organized by the UFT.

Two taken from us by the storm
Two dedicated UFT members lost their lives in Hurricane Sandy. They are Jessie Streich-Kest, a first-year teacher and activist with a wide circle of deep friendships; and Henry Sullivan, a longtime Abraham Lincoln HS teacher known for his generosity, integrity and humor.

Dealing with the trauma
UFT’s Election Day PD switches focus after storm
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the organizers of the UFT’s Election Day safety training quickly refocused the agenda to make it relevant to chapter leaders returning to schools after the storm. They learned about how to address the short- and long-term trauma from the natural disaster affecting both students and staff.

Hard work pays off in national, state elections
Election Day was sweet for UFT members who had worked so hard in the weeks leading up to Nov. 6 to get out the vote for President Barack Obama in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, in a critical Senate race in Connecticut, as well as in key state races.

UCP workers win contract just before strike deadline
Poised to strike if a new agreement were not reached by Oct. 15, workers at United Cerebral Palsy of New York City beat that deadline by one day and then ratified a new contract in the final days of the month.

Between the Rap Sheets

The best thing to happen to democracy in recent years may be the popularity of blogs. They’re especially influential in politics and education. Anyone can access everyone these days. The marketplace of ideas is wide open. Edwize is, of course, the UFT’s blog. But the views contained in the following piece are solely those of the author and are independent of the UFT’s positions and policies.

Remember Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and unflappable former front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination until he blew his chances during a debate by plumb forgetting the name of the federal agency that he had sworn a thousand times to destroy? It was a helluva “aw shucks” moment for the supporter of state-sponsored murder.

But last year he showed leadership, for better or worse, in a way that is both highly uncharacteristic and typical of him. He signed into law a bill that extended rights to teachers but at the expense of their students. Whether that trade-off is fair is the question I pose to you.

That law requires that law enforcement agencies provide superintendents with criminal histories of students and that the details, including those of parolees and juvenile records (which are confidential in most states), be shared in writing with teachers.

According to the Texas Youth Commission, around 300 of the more than 4, 200 violators who were paroled from the state juvenile system to enter Texas public schools had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault or robbery.

What is the more compelling priority: safeguarding teachers from an epidemic of violence or allowing students the chance to break free from the scars and stigma of their past and move on to a productive future? More »

Flood of Questions Follow Floods from Sandy

Hurricane Sandy Relief

DONATE to the Disaster Relief Fund to help UFTers in need »

URGENT ASSISTANCE FORM: Help for UFT members most severely affected by the storm »

VOLUNTEER for Sandy relief efforts this Saturday, Nov. 17 »

After a week without classes, my 5th-graders filed back into school. Fortunately for my class, no one had been directly affected by Hurricane Sandy beyond some minor power outages, though others in our school were not as lucky. But that is not to say we didn’t feel the effects of this tragedy in a very personal way.

My students’ eyes were full of conflicting emotions — a mixture of excitement and fear. Excitement from having experienced something so new to them, from knowing they had survived a powerful threat, and from hours of storm-related news coverage that was far beyond their 10-year-old understanding of the world. Fear about whether it was appropriate to ask questions of their teachers, about whether everyone they knew had weathered the storm safely and — especially after the onslaught of emotions they had seen in their own families — about whether they were safe yet themselves.

They had heard some schools were still closed, and the instability of childhood’s most important institution was terrifying. They had heard some teachers were not ready to come back to our school, and the vulnerability of their authority figures destroyed their sense of security. They had heard that many people, even children, had not made it through the storm, and the fragility of human life was completely overwhelming to them.

Questions and feelings quickly flooded out, unfiltered. Did I know anyone who had been killed? Did my house get swept away? Did I see all the people crying and screaming on TV? Did I hear about the kids who had been washed away from their mother? Wasn’t it exciting to have a week off? Wasn’t it boring to have a week off? The news says another storm’s coming next week — I hope we get to miss school again! The news says another storm’s coming next week — I hope I’m not stuck at home with my brother again! What’s a FEMA? What’s a nor’easter? What’s a storm surge? Why can’t we build walls? Why aren’t the subways running? Why does Mayor Bloomberg talk so much? Why does his Spanish sound so funny?

I did not feel prepared to help counsel these wonderful boys and girls back into the safety of their school routine, but I was ready to try. We began the day with a discussion of the tragic nature of the storm, focusing on which emotions were appropriate to project as we shared stories about something that was so painful for so many people. Giving my students a safe place to share their thoughts and experiences was the first step toward healing our tattered emotions.

We followed that discussion with a social studies lesson on the path of the storm and the many different communities that were affected, and a science lesson on how hurricanes are formed. After discussing ways we could help people we know who are still trying to recover, especially some of the teachers in our own school who had lost their homes, we wrote letters and engaged in a schoolwide drive to collect resources. The boys and girls in my class really rose to the occasion — I have never been more proud of my students.

After lunch, we went back to our regular schedule to establish a sense of normalcy and learn the daily math lesson. With our emotions and community on the road to recovery, we turned our attention toward healing the tattered pacing calendar, one of the many casualties of the tragic storm.


Mr. Thompson is the pseudonym of a fourth-year elementary school teacher in Brooklyn. If you’re interested in writing a New Teacher Diary entry for Edwize, send an email to edwize@uft.org.

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Nov. 1, 2012Highlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

Answering the call
Thousands of UFT members volunteer at evacuation sites to help victims of Hurricane Sandy
While Hurricane Sandy was still swirling around the Caribbean, the UFT was already reaching out to members to tell them how they could volunteer when the storm hit New York. And they volunteered — by the thousands. UFT members spent days and nights in 76 hurricane shelters, most in city public schools, helping however they could.

Tough return for members, students
Despite the enormous challenges still facing New Yorkers in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, most teachers and students, many of them storm victims themselves, headed back to school on Monday, Nov. 5 bundled up against the cold in those buildings still without heat.

How to get assistance
Although the storm has subsided, the devastation left in its wake is tremendous. The UFT is marshaling its resources and providing services to our members and their families who have been affected by the storm.

Manhattan district schools protest Moskowitz co-locations
“Hey, Eva, we’re no fools! We won’t let you ruin our schools!” chanted more than 70 teachers from the six schools on the Washington Irving Campus, near Manhattan’s Union Square, as they rallied on the campus steps on Oct. 18 against the possible co-location of a new Success Academy charter school inside their building.

Mayor’s EarlyLearn NYC a travesty, providers say
Parents, children and child care providers have been left in chaos in the wake of the Oct. 1 launch of EarlyLearn NYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s long-anticipated and ambitious overhaul of New York City’s early childhood education services, according to officials at the UFT, which represents 21,000 family child care providers.

UFT: Where’s the curriculum?
A high-level gubernatorial commission on education reform on Oct. 16 got a rapid-fire earful from UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who warned that most teachers still do not have the curricula to prepare students for new state assessments this year that will incorporate challenging Common Core Learning Standards.

UFT: Special ed reform ‘pilot’ had weak results
Students with disabilities in schools that piloted the Department of Education’s new special education reform actually showed less improvement in performance over the last two years than their peers in other schools, a UFT analysis has found.

President’s Perspective: Thank you for staying strong
Teams of UFT members were volunteering in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, including the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island and Gerritsen Beach, having volunteered to spend Election Day bringing relief to their fellow New Yorkers.

Hurricane Sandy Relief — Donate to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund

Hurricane Sandy ReliefThousands of UFT members rose to the occasion in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, serving admirably in evacuation centers across the city and providing comfort and solace to our fellow New Yorkers. But many other members were severely affected by the storm and the recovery process will be a long one. Please help UFT members and their families by donating to the UFT Disaster Relief Fund.

Make a secure online donation here »

If you are a UFT member who was severely affected by the storm, or you know one who was, please fill out the UFT Urgent Assistance Form and the union will do whatever it can to get you the support that you need.

UFT Urgent Assistance Form »