Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Teacher's Dilemma...

... how the DOE/UFT eats its young

Unionizing or Truly Uniting?

A great post at Syntactic Gymnastics.

It was great to see that she got a lot of value out of the Teachers Unite Forum (I think she is referring to Michael Fiorillo's brilliant analysis of privatization.) If she stays in NYC I hope she works with Teachers Unite, ICE and other progressive forces to create a movement for change.

Some excerpts (read the entire piece at http://syntacticgymnastics.blogspot.com/) illustrate the bankruptcy of the UFT leadership from the point of view of a teacher not affiliated with an opposition caucus and fairly new to the system:

I was even a chapter leader for a time. I knew enough to be skeptical of the administration's motives, but I was floored when I realized just how little support I could expect from the UFT. I have reached out to them on numerous occasions, always hoping that something good would come of it, but most of the time, I hear promises from the UFT reps and District Reps that never come to fruition and I just live in fear about the negative consequences.

If the teachers "won't stand up", or so the UFT DR's stance goes, then "what can we do?"

The problem with this logic is that the teachers won't stand up with the UFT if they can't trust the very people who are supposed to be looking out for their interests. The teachers won't stand up when every effort is made by the DOE and the principals to splinter the staff and create a culture of fear. The UFT should have been on the ground, uniting the staffs of these small schools, from the very beginning of all of the reorganizations. They shouldn't be waiting around for the desperate cries for help, only to pass the buck when it's clear the situation is hopeless. The teachers will NOT stand up with the UFT, because the UFT is not ultimately serving their interests lately. I mean, think about it. If the organization itself is top-down (I just learned that the District Reps are appointed by Randi herself!), how could it possibly be serving the interests of the teachers? Yet it's not as if the teachers are scaredy-cats who are all too afraid to do anything. On the contrary, the teachers are much smarter and refuse to align themselves against their own interests. That's why they are not so willing to stand up right now.

SG's great insights reminds me of a conversation I had with a long-time chapter leader and teacher of over 20 years who supports the work of ICE and Ed Notes but insists on remaining under cover – deathly afraid (wrongly, I might add) that when they [admins] come for him/her, the UFT would do what it could to knife him/her in the back if he/she were an open ICE supporter. A bit paranoid, he/she won't listen when I say that the more vocal you are the more protection you get if it is perceived you have allies. (Bully admins and UFT hacks look to pick on the weak and isolated.)

I pointed out that when Shanker, who was viewed as so much more powerful and influential than Weingarten (not true either, by the way, but more on that another time), was in power, the opposition did so much better. The response:

"The union was much stronger then and principals were afraid. With the union being so weak, so many people are paralyzed with fear and afraid to open their mouths about anything, including being critical of Randi."

A year ago, Syntactic Gymnastics wrote:

...after being burned so badly last year for speaking out, and trying so hard to "position" myself well politically this year, I am reluctant to go to the union out of fear. I can't believe I am so intimidated, but honestly, I am not convinced the union would be able to protect me. And I'm not convinced that it would be worth the harassment and intimidation that would probably result.

I love teaching and don't want to quit, but I refuse to be abused like this!

Interesting that such similar feelings come from both vets and newbies.

The impact of the Tweed/UFT collaboration is bridging the gap.

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