Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tenure 101

Saturday, Dec. 17, Updated 9:30AM

Ed deformers would have us believe that the new crop of teachers are so much more concerned with issues beyond pensions and tenure. Not true.

Getting an early start on value-added testing
Do young teachers worry about tenure? You bet they do. 

One of the key people involved in the Rockaway Theatre Company is a 3rd year teacher. When I came in to the show last night she said she was contacted by the UFT to talk about the new tenure rules. "My luck," she said, "I'm a year late." She is not really worried because she knows she is good and has not had issues so far. Plus she is not teaching in a value-added testing grade. Yet. I imagine they will want to do value-added straight out of the womb so they can measure people who teach 2 year olds in day care centers. I didn't tell her about the stories that came in last year from people who didn't think they had problems until a month before they were to get tenure. One case involved a teacher who had not bowed and scraped - the main behind the scenes charge was she was not humble enough.

It reminded me of the stupid stuff I did in my tenure year - which was my 4th year teaching because I spent the first 3 under a substitute license. I was in a new school and no one knew what I could do - and I got off to a rocky start. Btu I had such confidence in myself I was arrogant. I also got involved that year in district union politics and since the district was controlled by the UFT that was dangerous territory. The acting principal was a milquetoast kind of guy but a true educator. He gave me a "U" on my first observation. I was outraged and attributed it to his covering his ass due to my political activity.

I wrote up a 10-page response for my file and pinned it over the time card. Insane. But I think his being a serious teacher for so many years, some of what I said made sense - and I think he was covering his ass to demonstrate to his uppers - he wanted to be appointed - that he made an attempt to coral me. But he didn't have the stomach for that kind of fight and I guess my aggressive response intimidated him and I got tenure. Lesson to me that I followed for the rest of my career - let the powers that be know that if they mess with me they will get the fight of their lives.

A year or two later my AP told me he was paid a visit by the UFT District Rep and the District Supt. The wanted to explore ways for him to give me a U rating. He refused - and always maintained that was the end of his chance to become a principal in District 14, though he says he never regretted his decision. In 1974 they implanted an AP with barely any teaching experience, the clear successor as principal. When the old guy wouldn't go fast enough they transferred my AP who had been propping him up and installed a district hack who took over his office and started tossing his stuff on the floor - real gangsters. He cracked in 5 days and their gal took over as principal, starting an almost 20 year war between us.

Frankly, if I were in that position today I might have played my cards in a more rational manner. But on the other hand, they thought I was so dangerous, they may have been more afraid of me than I was of them.

Acting update
A whole bunch of pals from GEM and one from the original ICE days of late 2003 came to the show last night. Glad they did as the theater pros said it was our best performance. And Frank Caiati my acting teacher was there - he had been there opening night - and he said my performance looked so much more natural and the entire play ran smoother. That is another lesson. As a play runs things begin to mesh. So going to previews and even the opening week of a play you may not be seeing it in full glory.

I was real nervous going in as when we ran lines backstage a half hour before I blew a few biggies. I feel good now - maybe because we all stayed in the theater partying past midnight - and I got a kiss and hug from the most beautiful young actress who I've long admired but never seemed to know who I am. But I expect by tonight I'll be a wreck again. And tomorrow afternoon when we close we have a cast party and I get to miss another NY Jets debacle.

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