Tuesday, September 8, 2015

As Schools Open Why Do I Still Get Butterflies? - School Scope, The Wave

This is my back to school column for this Friday. In my early years of retirement I felt joy at not going in. Now I feel the same knot my teacher friends do. I may just spend the day drinking.

As Schools Open Why Do I Still Get Butterflies?
By Norm Scott

Maybe Jews have it right. Match the New Year to the beginning of the school year. I can just see those ancient wise men over 5773 years ago saying, “My kids are going back to school – thank God – let’s celebrate.”

The back to school calendar controlled my life as a student and a teacher from the age of 5 though 57 when I retired. Thirteen years later, being so involved with education issues and working with teachers plus living in a beach community like Rockaway where Labor Day is a sort of culminating event, I still operate on ta September to June calendar, with summer occupying separate niche. I set up all my folders of junk on my computer that way. My brand new folder for this column: 2015-16.

I’m writing this on the day after Labor Day. I live down the block from PS 114 and watch the teachers pull up in their cars and head over to school for a day of meetings and setting up classrooms for tomorrow’s opening when kids show up. Some won’t be leaving until 6PM tonight. Many started coming in last week to do all the things that cannot be done in just a few hours today.

Tonight is the real day of butterflies as people get themselves mentally ready to meet their students. For me, in my 35 years in the system, tonight is the realization that my freedom is gone for the next 10 months as I would eat, think, dream of the tasks that have to be done. It is not just the physical freedom that ends today, but the mental freedom and relief.

It has actually been 31 years since I had major responsibility for setting up a classroom and preparing to spend a year with 30 students. After 18 years of teaching my own class, the rest of my career was as a computer cluster teacher and then a district tech support person – such light lifting compared to the first part of my career. But that experience totally energized me with excitement and enthusiasm. I loved setting up my room and meeting the new kids, though on the first few days I missed the kids from the year before so badly. It took about 2 weeks before I forgot them – experience teaches you that by June I would be crazy for these kids and miss them just as much when the next year began. Teaching in that first part of my career was like a drug. But then again, I had relative freedom to teach until a test-driven principal began to put into effect the kinds of controls that have come under ed deform. It was at that point – in the early 80s after 15 classes that I had thoughts of leaving the self-contained classroom.

Given what I am hearing today, there is no way I could teach under the conditions being imposed on teachers. Last week I was talking to one of the young actors at the Rockaway Theatre Company who is/was studying to be a teacher. “I’m thinking of switching,” he said. “Every teacher is telling me how bad it is.” Now we are hearing early warning signs of a massive teacher shortage, especially as the economy heats up and there are more options.

I stay involved with the mostly 30-something teachers in the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE)- http://morecaucusnyc.org/ -  because they offer some hope for the future of the teaching profession as great teachers and activists, willing to stand up to the forces of the corporate education deform assault on the public school system and an often complicit UFT. MORE works with the parents of Change the Stakes, which is the leader of the opt out of the tests movement here in the city. 20% of students in NY State opted out last year. That number will grow despite attacks from the ed deformers and their lackeys in the corporate press – eat that Cuomo.

MORE has published a back to school guide for teachers under the gun of an unfair rating system with important and useful information regarding the “Advance” ratings that NYC teachers received in their NYC DOE email, written by a MORE chapter leader to his fellow teachers: Letter To Members On Ratings. http://morecaucusnyc.org/2015/09/03/letter-to-members-on-ratings/.

Norm has dragged himself off the beach to write this column and will drag himself back to the now empty beach until next time. He has a new Iphone and will blog from the beach at ednotesonline.org.

The Wave, September 11, 2015

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