Saturday, March 11, 2006

Out like a lamb... (Answers to your burning questions).

What happened to robotics?
We had an extended break due to the change in the after-school schedule & the new tutoring, the vacation, and that icy snowstorm, and we also allowed all the kids to choose new clubs if they wanted to. So, I met with my new group for the first time on Thursday. I have several kids returning plus several newbies. Only seven kids showed up on Thursday. I split them into two groups and gave them the challenge of building a robot that could drive straight to the end of the table, stop right at the edge, reverse, and back up to its starting point, and it had to use the rotation sensor. The problem is, none of us (least of all me) has an elegant way to attach a rotation sensor to the wheel. We all remember seeing teams do it at the competitions, but no one remembers how. So we spent a somewhat frustrating couple of hours playing with gears. One group built a robot that made a go of it, but it was godawfully inelegant and not very robust. I helped the other group for a while and found a solution, except that it's a robot that will never be able to turn, so it's not really going to help in the long run. Can anyone point us to a website with building tips? The programming is proving much easier than the building - which might reflect my own strengths, to be honest.

What differences, if any, do you see in teachers from TFA compared to teachers that majored in Education?
Most of the teachers of my generation with whom I work got started in either the TFA or Teaching Fellows; most of the teachers I know who did not start that way are a generation older. So, I wouldn't be sure that differences were due to the path into teaching or simply differences in age and experience. Anyway, everyone at my school is extremely committed to righting educational injustices, regardless of how they got started. TFA and Teaching Fellows teachers might have a stronger feeling that they control their own destiny - if you don't like a school or teaching situation, change it or find a new place to work. We are not willing to complain without taking action to change things. For some, that means leaving education altogether, for others, finding a school where they feel more empowered to make change, for others. Of course, I'm generalizing a lot here.

So now that time has passed, would you be willing to share how you voted on the contract?
Sure. I voted for. Not because I liked the contract that much (I didn't) but because, assessing the political situation, I thought it was the best we could get (and I'm not talking about just the money). I wasn't seeing a lot of willingness to walk out, and Bloomberg had just won the election. Of course, the TWU strike changed everything, and I see now that I may have assessed the political situation wrong. The problem with telling you all how I voted is that now, posts which are intended to report on the extended time will be taken as whining. Please be aware that I fully own my decision and its consequences.

(On a side note, I found the rhetoric against the contract to be very off-putting and unpleasant, far less civil than that of the pro-contract side. Granted, it's always easier to be in favor of something than against it, but the comments on Edwize were so nasty that I did not want to be allied with people who would express themselves in that way. Sure, both sides made some unpleasant comments, but overall, the majority of the nastiness seemed to come from those against the contract).

What changes would you have liked to have seen in our contract and union?
I don't want to be a doormat any more - we need a new contract before or immediately after our current contract expires. I want more action taken to correct the root cause of so many teachers' problems: awful administrators. If we had better administrators, we wouldn't need some of the protections that end up shielding the bad teachers as well as the good, we woudn't be afraid of opening up the hiring process so that our principals have greater ability to choose their teachers. As someone who works at a school with a decent principal, I see how much better an organization is when it has leadership that pulls everyone together to work towards the same goals. Being able to choose your staff is an important part of that. I don't want to be part of a profession that is reactionary and defensive. Right now, I believe the key is getting really good people into principalships.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the rhetoric against the contract to be very off-putting and unpleasant, far less civil than that of the pro-contract side.

This will be the downfall of the anti-Unity faction. I'd equate their current strategy with the "Bush is stupid" campaigns of 2000 and 2004, and we saw how well those worked out. They may be right that a majority of members are dissatisfied with Unity, but many of those people will be turned off by the rhetoric you describe. Right now, the choice is between familiarity under Randi and uncertainty under crazy sounding people (not that I actually think they're crazy, but that's how they sound to a lot of people). Randi wins that one. The election needs to be a choice between stagnation under Randi and a clearly but not drastically harder line against the DOE under someone new. Sadly, I'd give the opposition about a 1% chance of uniting around a moderate candidate and designing the coherent message and disciplined campaign they'll need just to have a chance. Here's hoping they prove me wrong; a serious debate would be good for the UFT even if Randi wins in the end.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

In my experience, based totally on my observations, Teaching Fellows have a higher turn-over than TFA's. The few TFA's I know are still in the classroom but most of the fellows I know checked out after two years or earlier.

I guess I'm one of the few from "our generation" that took the traditional path into teaching but judging from the size of my department at NYU, there are lots of teachers out there my age who also took the traditional path into teaching.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

Ms. Frizzle;

I respect your decision to vote for the contract. However, the nastiness was on both sides. I was personaLLY attacked by Leo Casey when I kept asking him the defination of sexual misconduct, as defined by OSI/DOE, which could lead to a 90 day unpaid suspension for the teacher. Instead of giving me an answer, he chose to insult me and insinuate I was protecting perverts and pedophiles! When attacked, you attack back.

I do not speak for anyone but myself. I grew up in the mean streets of the Bronx and when one hits you, you hit back harder!

9:10 AM  
Blogger Jarrett said...

"The problem with telling you all how I voted is that now, posts which are intended to report on the extended time will be taken as whining."


It's all about the tone, not the content.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want more action taken to correct the root cause of so many teachers' problems: awful administrators.


Man, I wish I heard this more often, especially from academics and politicians! Why do we focus so much political energy on evaluating teachers, and so little on evaluating school admins (or, for that matter, bad school boards)? Why so little data on the effects of poor administration?

A kid can survive a so-so year with a so-so teacher, but not a so-so 4, 3, or 6 years with an so-so pricipal - or a bad 13 years with a lousy superintendent.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

In comparing TFA to Teaching Fellows, NYCTF teachers are mostly from New York City with a vested interest in the education of their city's children vs. TFA teachers who are members of a personality cult seeking to recruit ivy league do-gooders and entrepreneurs looking to exploit urban children.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Ana said...

TFA teachers...are members of a personality cult seeking to recruit ivy league do-gooders and entrepeneurs looking to exploit urban children.

Hi Jason,

As a TFA corps member in DC, I have to challenge your statement, which I think is extremely off-base. All, 100%, of the corps members that I have met are committed to making a change in underserved communities, to dedicating 2 years of their life to address a serious problem in our nation's society. Never, have I encountered a corps member who was interested in "exploiting" our nation's children.

I would just ask that you think before you criticize - what's wrong with trying to promote educational equity and give children a better chance? I admit that TFA is not perfect, but if we don't do it, who will? Are you a teacher? Maybe you should try going into the classroom before speaking so brashly.

- Ana

4:36 PM  
Anonymous A Proud NYC Teacher said...


NYC Teachers WilL, AND DO SO EVERY DAY! To imply that only your organization does is unfair.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi NYC teacher,

I'm sorry that you took my comments to be insulting; I certainly didn't mean to imply that one organization was "better" than another - as far as I'm concerned, we're all in this together.

I intended the "we" voice to apply to everyone in the classroom, not just TFA teachers. I think, unfortunately, that blog comments are often misunderstood in this way - which is why this is the first and probably last time I'll ever comment on the blogs I read. ;-)

So to clarify - no criticism of NYC teachers intended, at all.

Take care,

10:52 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Good to hear about robotics - I've been wondering if it was over and I missed the post. I just completed my 4-month-long volunteer stint at a local public school, introducing kids to creative problem solving (whew!). And I'm happy to report that I have no opinion about who voted for/against the contract. ;-)

Have you seen this document, re building with legos?

3:52 PM  

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