REDEMPTION SONG

 

From my buddy, Bernie K, master teacher, now an expendable pawn of Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC “education strategy”.

NOTE: When Adlai Stevenson HS in the Bronx was closed after 39 years Bernie was hired at one of the new schools on the Stevenson Campus. When he refused to follow his new Principal’s orders that violated his principles, he was dismissed and was forced to become an itinerant ATR. This year, that same Principal who was subsequently hired by a large NYS school district as its HS’s principal for a “class cutting scandal… and the fact that “during her brief tenure, the teachers’ union and some teachers complained she used abusive and profane language at a faculty meeting in September. They also accused her of telling teachers to “drink the Kool Aid” during October’s faculty meeting. The Kool Aid remark, a reference to unconditional obedience, set off an uproar among some members of the teachers’ union. Bernie loves teaching. Despite this treatment he has continued to work for kids in Bronx schools. He has been in and out of 40 schools over the past 2 years but will NOT give up hope.

“During my tenure at Stevenson, I have had the opportunity to work with some remarkable teachers and some very special students. Some of the students were extremely bright, some were just “average” and some were “below average”, but all of them wanted more out of their lives and all of them were willing to do the work to make that happen in their lives. I repeat. All of them were willing to do the work. Despite offers to teach other places or at other schools, I remained in the school located in the neighborhood in which I was raised, working with kids whose parents were my neighbors, friends or the children of students I had taught, working to show them that something good can come out of the projects and the public schools and trying to get them to add their names to that list of good things.

Now, does that sound like someone who believes that the school he works in and has worked in for so long is a failure or has been failing? I don’t do failure, so believe me when I tell you, if I thought for one moment that what I was doing was hopeless or that I was failing at it, I would be the first person to leave. The fact that I have not left, that I have spent almost thirty years of my life doing what I do, might just be because I know that I, and the many hardworking and special people I have had the opportunity to work with over these past thirty years, have made a difference in the lives of so many people throughout the borough of the Bronx, the city of New York, this country and the world.”

“I am still teaching, if you can call it that. As an Absent Teacher Reserve, most principals think of you as an anachronistic dinosaur that has been a part of the great educational meltdown. They believe that only the new and younger teachers have all of the answers and solutions. They believe that experience is the reason why schools did not work in the past. Like some of the people in baseball who make all of their decisions based on saber metrics, it’s all about the numbers, even when the numbers don’t tell the whole story or the numbers are flawed and inaccurate, as the numbers most certainly are in the case of NYC schools. In addition to this point of view, teachers like me cost them too much to put on their budget, which, unlike when schools were larger, is extremely small.

Their budget might be $400,000 or $500,000. My salary is almost $100,000. If they hire me, what does that leave them with to run the school? With 7 or 8 schools in a building, you have 7 or 8 principals so your cost for principals is 7 or 8 times more than one principal’s cost, the Xerox contracts are multiple as opposed to one for the whole building. Since the principals and assistant principals by and large do not possess expertise in teaching, they cannot nurture or “grow” new teachers.

This means the new teachers either flounder and fail, or eventually learn through trial and error (if they last long enough to do that). There is no sense of tradition or continuation or belonging because many of the schools students attended or are attending have been or will be closed. Students will not be able to return at a later date to tell their teachers what they have accomplished and how those teachers impacted their lives, nor will they be able to return to mentor other students or coach their former school’s team, thereby making a connection with the present from the past.

Also, putting so many schools in one building has effectively separated schools into tiny fiefdoms, separate and apart from the other schools. They are places that have “marked their territory” or “branded” it –Department of Education terminology not mine. The principals do not work together. Each one is out for his/her own school’s success, which engenders selfishness and self-centeredness. Finally, it denies both students and teachers of the opportunity to participate in the “world class” level of education Mayor Michael Bloomberg claims his changes have created.

Please tell me what world-class educational system does not provide AP classes, trigonometry classes, physics classes, at least two foreign languages or honors classes? Adlai Stevenson High School, that large school that was closed because it failed to educate students, offered all of the aforementioned classes and much more.”

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