Saturday, November 11, 2017

Mermaid Man: Preface

One of the craziest things I had to do during the education wars was stop to document workplace abuses and contract violations with and for other teachers. Whenever anyone is under any real kind of abuse that violates a rule, agreement or law, the best tools they have are a cool, clear head (so as not to become emotional) and a good notebook to document the incidents in anecdotal form as they go. Knowledge of your rights is important but these two tools are actually the best you've to work with on a day to day basis   It is tough work. I would sit with a teacher at a coffee shop or bar or even in a park or over the phone and just walk them through the process of creating a log of the sometimes many incidents involved in the pattern of abuse since it began.

I didn't do it often, but when I did, it would take hours. That's a lot of tome to give up for a person you barely know. But I remembered being alone in a similar environment, so I spent those hours helping, as best as I could, those teachers to find at least that sense of empowerment.

Sometimes these patterns had gone on for months before the teacher found their way to me. So the discussion also involved the person having to relive some painful memories as we went along.

Imagine being a teacher, spending all of your time on lesson plans or telephone calls or grading -or all of these- then having to put up with patterns of abuse from your (usually Bloomberg appointed) supervisor. All of your discretion, all of your freedom, your creativity and motivation to do to the job is taken from you when the environment becomes difficult beyond what is acceptable by contract or law.

You go through stages of mourning when this happens. There is a denial stage, where you just can't accept that these things are actually happening to you. There is an anger stage when it becomes clear that any future hopes you had have been taken from you, probably forever, by this abuser (or by the person or persons who sent the abuser to perform their duties). There are stages for bargaining, anger and depression as well. Each of them are painful. Each of them bring their own separate pain. Eventually, it becomes difficult to even wake up and go to work.

And then the teacher reaches a moment of realization; an awareness that these things aren't things, but a thing -a singular thing- that is defined as a pattern of abusive workplace behavior and only then, only at that moment, is he or she is ready to reach out for some help.

Now, after months of this new reality, and after finally reaching out to someone, imagine being told that the best -the very best- you can do is to change your mentality, to document each and every incident in a cold, clear writing tone of voice and that you have to start from the very beginning of the pattern, re-experiencing all of those painful memories, so as to log them one by one --now. Right now -in this coffee shop or in this bar or on this park bench or classroom or over the phone. That's tough work.  That's crazy (actually, it's nuts). But it happens. And it happens to good teachers.

For capricious and for arbitrary reasons.

But don't sweat it! Workplace abusers are often hilarious! These are typically people of an incredibly low intellect and even lower sense of self esteem.  Think Mermaid Man: That superhero who is still around long after any reasonable time that he should have been. The guy who never hung up his tights but is still around because he knows no other way. This person who is after you. You're going to let that guy ruin your days?

Almost every teacher I spoke with came to realize that the person who was on them was a little person trying -desperately- to feel big. Some people are hurt by those folks. But other people know how to have fun with them. Be that other guy.

Sure, you'll have to go about a way of bringing the ol' junkyard dog to heel but that's why they make unions and lawyers (mine is Bryan D Glass and, although I haven't been in trouble at work in many years,  it's good to know he's there and I still have him on speed dial). So, as you are patiently pursuing those options, just chill out and have a little fun ;).

And if you're not sure where to start and you're in the city and a UFT member, those dissenting caucus' can serve as a good resource. I belong to MORE. But ICESolidarity and New Action Caucus are also made up of strong, experienced, union minded people who will literally stop what they are doing to help you start a process to end it. Don't discount the ruling the Unity Caucus, of the UFT either. They get a lot of bad press but they too are made up of people who are paid to help teachers help students.

And if you're going to read the blogs only read the funny ones. They ones who take their work seriously but keep their jobs in check.

Chapter 1: Mermaid Man has an idea


  1. Good Stuff. I didn't realize you were still blogging. I was looking for a subscription button, but do not see one.

    You are absolutely right. People need to come to a realization and educate themselves if they are to fight back.

  2. Farina was a putz and everyone knew it. I think you give too much credit to Bill and the current state of the DOE. I think things are just as bad now as they were under Bloomturd. We still have Danielson and we still ahve 4 observations and the war on teachers continues. ATR pool is still here and there are still hundreds of teachers facing 3002a. In other words, nothing has changed. The only hope is that due to Janus being right around the corner, the UFT has one last shot at getting us back some of what we lost over the past 12 years. (A sane evaluation system, seniority based transfers, etc) The UFT will be history if it blows it on this contract. It expires right after Janus. It is the perfect storm. Let's see how this plays out!