Friday, October 23, 2009

Slugging it Out Over ATRs at Gotham, Part 1

Ariel Sacks, a 4th year middle school teacher in Brooklyn, has written a piece on ATRs at Gotham that has ignited a fire storm. See ATRs in the Teachers Lounge.

There are 60 c0mments and counting, with all sides chipping in. The Fiorillo comments are always worth tracking, as are Mr. Talk and Michael M. Of course, I agree with their sentiments. Sacks is undergoing quite a thrashing, while being defended by the usual anti-teacher crowd. She seems to really resent having people around her school who she feels don't work as hard as her but get paid more. It seems logical to some people that she is right. Naturally, I don't agree.

More interesting is the hysteria over the possibility that there are some potentially bad teachers out there. HELLO!

Believe me, I had my share of bad teachers as a kid and saw a few as a teacher. But the overwhelming majority of teachers were competent, though I think the number of great/bad teachers would come out to about the same numbers. In fact, most teachers are pretty good but few are great. Yet the ed deformers predicate their program on having all teachers be great. That's like saying you cannot have a good baseball game unless all players are a the level of Willie Mays.

No matter how hard people huff and puff to get rid of bad teachers - for instance, measure them by test scores and I bet you lose as many good ones as bad ones. In fact I surmise more honest teachers who understand and try to teach realistically will go down the drain, while the free loaders will figure out the easy ways to get better scores and never worry about really trying to teach in the best manner that meets the needs of the kids.

Look at the numbers of teachers and how many leave the job in droves within 5 years - both good and bad. The replacement factor automatically brings in a new crop of bad (and good) teachers with every round. These people get to experiment on the kids for a few years until they are denied tenure. Think of the effort - and hot air - spewing forth about removing teachers. I would rather have a 10 year bad teacher than a 2 year bad teacher. Either way, you're going to get them anyway.

My answer it to figure out a way to make the best use of whatever talents they have. There is really a lot of useful work to do in a school and some would rather do any work other than teach.

Not to say that there are impossible cases that bug their colleagues even more than the outside "experts" like Kristof and Brooks. I always believed if teachers ran the schools - even hiring the principal (along with parents) - their fellow teachers who were goof-offs would shape up or ship out. And there are certainly a bunch of people who are actually competent but don't want to work very hard or don't think much of the kids.

By the way, there are teachers who don't like kids all that much but actually teach pretty well and there are teachers who love the kids but can't teach their way out of a paper bag. There are teachers who put in a tremendous amount of time and those who don't, but don't judge them by that factor. I had to put in time because I was not organized. We should factor in the organized factor in talking about good teachers. I could get in front of a class on a dime and teach my ass off with almost no prep. Creativity sometimes seemed to flow out of me. Other times not. Getting the stuff ready drove me crazy, as did marking papers. So if you saw me in my various roles I played as a teacher, you could find many levels of competency from bad to sometimes great. (I do think today I would be a very different teacher than I was. But certainly not in the world of BloomKlein.)

Want to think about bad and good teachers? Think back to the ones you had as a kid and rate them on a 1-5 scale. Now if your kids had to rate you as a teacher, how do you think you would do? What about parents rating you? What about the principal? And your colleagues like Ariel Sacks? Better not go there. I bet the numbers might vary considerably depending on the audience rating you. Then factor in the scores your kids get on tests as your rating. How would that change the way you teach? Not for the better, I bet, though the lower level, non creative types would do better.

And by creative, I do not mean drawing pretty pictures, but creativity in reaching deep into the minds of kids and coming up with ways to hold their interest and stimulate them, a skill great teachers have, but a skill not values in the world of ed deform.

Part 2 will address the hysteria over bad teachers compared to other professions that can harm kids much worse than a bad teacher: police harassing black kids, lower quality doctors and other health professionals in the poorer neighborhoods, less competent military leaders when poor kids get to Afghanistan? Lousy court appointed lawyers to defend the overwhelmingly high numbers of Black kids than white kids - no one want to talk about that gap. Oh yeah, and when they have passed through the school to prison pipeline, they meet a few prison guards that just may be more harmful than the bad teachers.




Regarding: MS. ARIEL SACKS

This individual appears to harbor great and deep seated anger that she is expected to impart her infinite knowledge to people whose salary is twice what Ms. Sacks currently earns.

Apparently Ms. Sacks, when she one day becomes "Chancellor Sacks", will, on her first day of occupying the former Chancellor's office pen a Decree that a new system will be enacted regarding teacher salaries.

There will be no Salary Differentials automatically awarded to teachers who earn education credits or Master's degrees because it will be too cumbersome for Chancellor Sacks to vet what type or amount of "useful" knowledge was gained from those education credits or Masters degrees.

As for Salary increases based on years of teaching/Longevity, according to Chancellor Sacks, after age 35 or 40 it will clearly be logical that a teacher's Salary should decrease by say 10 % per year as the brain cells of all those "old nags" begin to atrophy and clearly those "has been" veteran teachers would be best put out to pasture to vegetate and just graze all day til they are ready to be sent to the glue factory.

In the world according to "Chancellor" Sacks, just as in the world according to the present "Legend in his own mind", the educationally uncredentialed, Faux "Chancellor" Joel klein, Esq., all that came before will gradually be eliminated as if it never existed.

The millions of people who were products of the NYC schools system for the past Century were obviously all "cheated" and prevented from obtaining a first class education by antiquated methods and people who refused to change with the times. Clearly- deadwood all of them.

How fortunate are we to have had a Mayor, whose Townhouse is just down the street from me, who in his infinite wisdom selected a former Federal Prosecutor to take control of the destinies of one million predominantly at risk, (due to poverty), children.

But now we are "saved". The entire system is well on the way to being totally Privatized.

Beloved American Capitalism and "Chancellor" Klein and soon to be "Chancellor Sacks, will rescue us all from a supposedly dilapidated system that has outlasted its usefulness.

Oh "Brave New World that hath such people in it".

All will soon be righted, all the old nags and old hags and Atlantic ocean Dead Wood, the flotsam and jetsam of all the education world's endless seas will be no more.

People like myself, "aberrations" apparently in time and space, who went from Teacher of the Year, decorated in NY City Hall by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to hated, despised, villified, Whistle-Blower, confined for four years and counting to four of "Chancellor" Klein's Rubber Room gulags, will become a thing of the past.

"Chancellor Sacks", learning from and following in the foot steps of "Chancellor" Joel Klein, Esq. will make certain that any teacher who does not "know his/her place" will never last long enough in the system to have anything of which to report.

The system may one day find a way to rid themselves of my presence, but Klein and his countless lapdogs, lackeys, stooges and sycophants have a long road to tow ahead of them.

And even if they succeed by engaging in criminal behavior, that will not stop my Federal Lawsuit from proceeding. I will live long enough to see "Chancellor" Joel Klein, Esq., stand in the Dock and be Sworn in to Testify under risk of Perjury as a Defendant in my Federal case- even if NY City Sheriffs must bring him by force in hand-cuffs, against his will.

But on the evening of that day, no doubt the next and future Chancellor will be lying in her bed, dreaming as she must every night that she will wake up to read a six column headline across the top of the New York Times that says in huge ivory black letters:

Chancellor "Ariel" - Sacks Another Trainload of Teachers"

Michael Fiorillo said...

As for teachers and universities being the source of The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, where's the outrage over the MBA programs, which have trained the looters and sociopaths that have cannibalized the economy and brought it to its knees?

Mr. Talk said...

Thanks for the mention and the love. I was beginning to feel unwanted after Ms. Sacks commented on my blog. I posted a long open letter to her, but I don't expect to hear much in return. Maybe she'll surprise us, but somehow I doubt it.

Ariel Sacks said...

I just posted this in response to Mr Talk's open letter:

Thank you for the clarity in your arguments and your professional tone in this letter.

I agree that I make a mistake in using my principal's comment about the 37 ATR's interviews, because that was hearsay. I wasn't there for any of the interviews, so I don't really know. I also had nothing to do with the decision to wait out the hiring freeze, or to use the ATRs as subs instead of filling the vacancies with them. You're right, I trusted my principal's judgment, and now recognize that there is a lot of room for error in that.

I also made a mistake in my post by implying that the ATRs at my school are representative of all ATRs in the city. I did make a false assumption there, painting with too broad a brush, as so many have pointed out. Today I've apologize for that on my blog in a new post.

You have one thing incorrect:
(1) I do not resent teachers who get paid more than me. I hope when I've been teaching 10 or 20 or 30 years I am making a lot more than I make now. I just resent it if they seem like they are choosing not to do their job well, or are unable to. I respect and admire veteran teachers for their expertise and commitment. I named my blog "On the Shoulders Of Giants" for that reason. I have learned most of what I know from wonderful veteran teachers who've taken time and care to teach me.

The part of my argument that I will hold onto is that I believe I can judge the work of the ATRs who I've seen teaching at my school. Perhaps I shouldn't have brought it up so publicly, but despite all the unfair conditions placed upon them, and despite the fact that they seem like nice individuals, they do appear to have low ability to teach. That was quite surprising for me to see, and it is a reality that affects students and teachers at my school. Those realities are the things I blog about (see my blog archives, I am pretty sure I've never before spoken negatively of teachers in general or at my school). I guess the best thing to do is to support them however I can, because they are my colleagues and teachers of my students.

But Mr. Talk, as much as we both hate the way the politicians and media paint teachers as the problem in public schools, do you admit that there are some incompetent teachers in classrooms, and that they make an impact on working conditions for all teachers? Should not the union care about that too? Do you believe the teacher evaluation system is efficient enough to remove the few teachers who are not fit to teach? If so, I suppose we just have an unfortunate situation that principals need to take the time to deal with. But if not, we have a deeper issue that needs to be exposed. If we do not begin to speak up about it ourselves, then policy makers from Duncan to Klein will come up with their own ways of dealing with it without any teacher input, as they've already started doing. (and trying to use test scores as the vehicle--not a good move as Norm points out. )

Norm, btw I'm a 6th year teacher, and have been working in schools, including years as a student teacher or substitute for 8 years.

I agree the hysteria over bad teachers is a big problem and diversion from the real problems. But if we blindly defend all teachers just because they are teachers, we are more vulnerable to those anti-teacher folks who will find fault in our blind defense and seek to discredit anything we have to say.

Interesting thoughts about teachers running schools. I think we might see more of that over time, and you make a good point that if teachers were running things, "then maybe fellow teachers who were goof-offs would shape up or ship out." This is really about teachers policing our own, keeping the standard high for each other. How does this contradict the idea that teachers should support each other no matter what?

Anonymous said...

Arilel Sacks you think that all the new teachers (Fellows & Teach For America)are great. You should go to the schools where they work and observe them. Many of them are so unprepared and not a good fit for teaching. The only reason that they are in the teaching system is because there are no jobs in our country.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to give you an advice from a 21-year veteran. Accept that this was a true learning experience. Take the good advice that many bloggers have provided. Humble yourself and ask the ATRs to forgive your faux pas as an inexperienced teacher. Sit and listen to the ATRs plight and ask them to provide their best teaching practice. All veteran teachers have tried-and-true strategies that are used in the classroom; teachers love to share. Most importantly, allow time to pass. Let the fire storm die down. If there should ever be another school-related controversy or union issue, go straight to your chapter leader and ask for advice. Remember your principal is your boss, not your confidant. Above all, build trust among your colleagues because teachers will fight to defend other teachers.

JW said...

Anon. 9:43, they won't always fight to defend other teachers, that's the trouble. Ariel painted with some pretty broad strokes like so many others do, and I couldn't get anyone to go to the ATR protest a couple of years ago who wasn't actually an ATR or in the TRC.

How much "fight" teachers have in them for other teachers is highly dependent on how comfortable they are doing absolutely nothing in the name of solidarity. That's the way it goes.

It doesn't help that the union is too comfy to organize past their patronage staff.