Tag Archives: School Politics

WHEN NON-EDUCATORS GET INVOLVED

aba0375l

There are more layers to the student-generated slavery math questions. This site is more popular than I thought because Aziza Harding, the student-teacher from P.S. 59, as well as some of her well-wishers from NYU have found their way over here.

Taken together, their responses paint a telling picture. Let’s start with the first comment from an NYU email address. This person’s moniker is “GONNA KILL YOUR ASS”:

Have you lost your fucking mind? YOU ARE OFFICIALLY RETARDED!!! WHO SAYS THIS SHIT!!!! SOMEONE SPEAK OUT ABOUT AN IMPORTANT ISSUE AND YOU MAKE A MOCKERY OUT OF IT?? I AM REPORTING YOUR ASS TO EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE I CAN THINK OFF, CALL ME A WHISTLEBLOWER, AT LEAST IM NOT A PSYCHOTIC BORED BITCH!

The irony is that I am the one that needs to be reported when they are the person threatening to “kill my ass”. How dare a teacher exercise free speech?

But “GONNA KILL YOUR ASS” goes further, this time using a handle called “WATCH OUT, SERIOUSLY”:

IF YOU POST ONE MORE THING ABOUT THE COURAGEOUS GIRL WHO STEPPED UP FOR HUMAN RIGHTS I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL HUNT YOUR EVIL ASS DOWN. BTW, YOU JUST PROVED EVERY GRADUATE STUDENTS THEORY ABOUT SCHOOL MATH TEACHERS BEING ABSOLUTELY BRAIN DEAD! RETARD!

Does this mean that I should be worried because I am now posting “one more thing” about this issue? What, exactly, is so “courageous” about putting nothing on the line and having nothing to risk? This person obviously does not know the meaning of courage.

What is more, and what is a common theme for all the rest of the responses, is the anti-teacher sentiment expressed. Every graduate student apparently has  a “theory” about “school math teachers being absolutely brain dead!” I guess that would hurt my feelings if I was a math teacher.

And then Ms. Harding responded herself:

Hello!!! This message is coming from the “stupid” student teacher that you wrote about awhile ago. You are totally entitled to your opinion (I mean this is AMERICA) but your blatant disrespect by calling me out of my name, I found to be a bit troubling. If you check my remarks I surly didn’t call my teacher out of her name nor do I think she is a terrible teacher. I just think she had a major lapse of judgement when it came to assigning slavery math as homework. As for being ‘media hungry’ yep..that definitely WAS NOT my intention when speaking to my professor about the matter. All I wanted was advice on how to engage in a meaningful conversation with the teacher about why I found the assignment problematic. And it also looks like you didn’t do your research WHAT SO EVER. For one if you read any of the articles my Professor clear as day states that he alerted the media (with out any clear warning to me) and in a way hung me out to dry. When speaking with NY1 I expressed my concern over the assignment and ALSO noted that I was never able to speak to the teacher because she was out of town when this whole issue took place. I’m assuming you really didn’t take much time to READ. So when someone found your rant and passed it onto to read I was taken aback by your mean spirited words. “Not to worry, I am sure there are a few charter schools who would love to hire you for three years before spitting you out like bubble gum that has lost its flavor. Then maybe you can get a taste of how it feels to be on the receiving end of the process you help set in motion on others.”–> Well let me assure you I have no intentions of being a teacher and was student teachers only to earn some ex cash while doing my graduate studies. But I do hope that some good will come of this and that I actually use my words and actions for good..unlike you. It just looks like you have your own agenda to push and you accomplished it. I never wanted media attention, I don’t crave it and don’t care for it and to see people like you who twist the truth well… I guess that just comes with this whole ridiculous story coming out.

To which I responded:

Hello there yourself and thanks for stopping by. Allow me to address your remarks:

a) Your name was already in the papers. Don’t blame me for “calling you out of your name” since it is already plastered out there for everyone to see. Don’t want your name in the papers? Don’t talk to the media. It is as simple as that.

b) While your actions were, in my opinion, foolish, I never called you stupid. That would be too vicious even for me. Please quote the place where I called you stupid.

c) Your cooperating teacher is out of town. I am sure you don’t have his/her email, phone number or any other method of contacting them in the year 2013.

d) While your professor certainly helped create a firestorm, you played a role in this fiasco as well. You showed him the handout. You did obviously did not try to find out what was behind the handout or if there just might have been a decent explanation for such a handout. How much effort did you make to contact your teacher? Obviously not a whole heck of a lot. You said yourself your cooperating teacher was good. Why not give her/him the benefit of the doubt before you go showing it to anyone?

e) Your comments to the media were self-serving. After you create a media firestorm, you say how you want this to be a learning experience. You say you want kids to learn how horrible slavery was. According to the parents, their children DID learn this. Again, did you ever bother to get a full picture of what the students actually learned before you made your self-serving comments.

f) Wow, so you don’t even want to be a teacher. Thank you for demeaning the profession that me, your mentor and millions of other people make their life’s work. I guess that says it all, does it not?

g) Despite what you might think, I appreciate you stopping by and leaving your comments. I have seen teachers destroyed over things like this. I have seen people lose their livelihoods over an honest mistake. I have seen teachers pilloried and scapegoated in the media because of things “twisted out of context”, as you are so fond of saying. That is what the media does. They twist EVERYTHING out of context.

Do you know what it is like to be stripped of your identity, have to sell your house, have to see your kids go hungry all because a hypocritical system wanted to jump down your throat? Meanwhile, the people that do the real damage to our system: the administrators and political leaders who close schools and mismanage resources, not only get off scot free but actually get to move up in the system?

Of course you did not know these things. Of course you did not know the risk YOUR actions might pose to another human being. Now you do and, hopefully, you take it as a learning experience.

And the hits just keep on coming, this time from another NYU email:

a- “hare-brained educationists”

b- “Either Harding and McIliwain are really bad or really stupid people.”

c- Oh because someone really wants to receive a phone call or email about work when they’re on vacation in another country.

d- It seems like you’re basing a lot on the assumption that Aziza went to Professor McIiwain as a means of finding a way to create some sort of media frenzy. You could call into question what the professor is teaching, his lifetime body of work, and maybe, just maybe, that she went to him for advise on how to approach the situation. Furthermore, what besides ignorance could have been behind the premise for that worksheet? If a male teacher wrote a math problem for International Women’s day that read “14 girls were raped in Nepal. 3 girls were raped in West Africa. 2 girls were raped and killed in New Dehli. How many living girls were raped?”, how would you feel?

e- How are the children learning how terrible slavery is if they are the ones creating questions like this? Furthermore, how are parents confirming that something was learned when things like that worksheet were created? That is not learning in the spirit of inclusion, but learning just how superior one group is over another.

f- I missed the part where Aziza demeaned your profession. Meanwhile teachers are molesting students, calling them racial slurs, and having 8 year olds arrested. But not wanting to be a teacher is demeaning. Okay.

g- Irony.

Despite what this person or Ms. Harding might think, I never called anyone “stupid”. At the same time, the comments from Ms. Harding’s supporters do not speak well for her. Who would want their cause to be defended by people who threaten to kill someone else over the internet?

You can’t have it both ways. If this issue was so important, then why not text or email the teacher? I have texted and emailed people on vacation if the issue was important enough. If it is not so important, then it could wait.

The funny thing is that these comments are pressing me to defend the worksheet, something I never did. I acknowledged that the worksheet itself was foolish. My contention is that: a) the teachers should not be fired for this and b) Ms. Harding’s and Mr. McIlwain’s actions did nothing to improve the situation.

Since the person above “missed the part” where Ms. Harding disrespected the teaching profession, here it is again:

Well let me assure you I have no intentions of being a teacher and was student teachers only to earn some ex cash while doing my graduate studies.

I do not know exactly how this works, since student-teachers are usually not paid. It is sad that the person who left this reply does not see how Ms. Harding’s quote above is a disrespect to the teaching profession, especially in light of her actions. It is the same type of disrespect shown by Teach for America, who use teaching as a stepping stone. More importantly, it is a disrespect to the students who are subjected to an inexperienced teacher with no desire to improve or dedicate themselves to them. Furthermore, Ms. Harding’s actions not only helped endanger the careers of two teachers, it turned the school into a media circus. I still fail to see who won as a result.

Perhaps the students wrote such offensive questions because they were 9-years-old. This person is expecting 4th graders to have a nuanced or sophisticated view of  history. Children, by and large, lack empathy in general. The ham-fisted questions they created are not necessarily a reflection of everything they learned about slavery. Parents asked their children about what they learned and were satisfied with the answers. What is the problem?

However, the final part of what the person said above says all that we need to know about their perspective. “Meanwhile teachers are molesting students, calling them racial slurs, and having 8 year olds arrested. But not wanting to be a teacher is demeaning.”

Wow, does it get more disgusting than that? Of course Ms. Harding would not want to sully her hands on a profession whose practitioners are nothing more than child molesters, racists and supporters of the school-to-prison pipeline. The only thing teaching is good for is to make some “extra cash”.

Everything is very clear now. Why would people who hate teachers so much care one iota about potentially getting one of them fired? These people are scum anyway.

I remember I knew everything when I was a grad student as well. If people disagreed with me it was because they were wrong, not because someone could possibly see things differently. Being ensconced in books and academia has a way of numbing one to the real world. Being young and ensconced in academia has a way of simplifying one’s opinions. What is wrong is wrong and what is right is right. Everything is absolute and the standard used comes from books and professors.

And, if in our pursuit of doing right some people get hurt then “thems the breaks”, right? After all, what is a few measly careers when students are writing stupid questions? This is an injustice, a “human rights” issue even, and thank goodness the folks at NYU are here to call attention to it.

Out of curiosity, since P.S. 59 is in Williamsburg, where has NYU been for the past 10 years when Pharaoh Bloomberg has been pushing minorities out of the city through gentrification and stop-and-frisk? I forgot, NYU is one of the biggest gentrifiers out there. They are really nothing more than a real estate company that collects (overpriced) tuition for an education than can easily be had through the CUNY system. It is really no wonder that such an institution produces people so out of touch with reality and so in love with their own sense of justice.

Worry about a bunch of questions created by 4th-graders if you wish, those of us who actually care about public education will be at the protests against school closings, charterings and standardized testing. Those of us who actually have to work for a living, without mommy and daddy paying our ways, understand that jeopardizing someone’s career is not something you do on the fly because we are “offended”. Those of us with rent, bills, mortgages, children and taxes understand how valuable a job is to come by in 2013. Playing games with a teacher’s career is something to be done with a heavy heart when children are actually being abused.

It is telling that none of Ms. Harding’s defenders ever claimed that the school was better off for what her and her professor did. All they have are her good intentions. A perfect defense for a bunch of people who live in their own minds and not the real world.

THE REAL STORY IN THE MATH SLAVERY FIASCO

The hypocrite lynch mob is out in force for this one.

The hypocrite lynch mob is out in force for this one.

The media, DOE and the hypocrite circle are having a field day with the 4th grade math homework sheet that contained inappropriate word problems about slavery.

To summarize, students were encouraged to create their own word problems in an effort to fuse math and social studies instruction. These questions were then combined into a homework sheet that at least one teacher had already used in January. Earlier this month, another 4th grade teacher asked their student-teacher, Aziza Harding, to make copies of the sheet. Harding felt uncomfortable doing this, so she left a note requesting to speak with the teacher instead. She then showed the sheet to one of her professors at NYU, Charlton McIlwain. McIlwain contacted the media and the DOE is considering the appropriate disciplinary procedures.

Rather than jump on the faux-outrage bandwagon, I would like to start a bandwagon of my own.

First, Aziza Harding sets the tone for this faux-outrage:

 “Instead of these kids being desensitized to this type of violence, that they have a general idea that, ‘Wow, this was a terrible thing that happened to a group of people for over 300 years,’” Harding said.

Well, by this logic, since the students created these questions does it not mean that they are already “desensitized”? Is “desensitized” really the appropriate word to describe a bunch of 9-year-olds? How much empathy do 4th-graders have to begin with? Perhaps they can empathize with someone who is suffering in front of them. Can they really empathize with the suffering of people who lived 150 years ago?

To be sure, using this homework sheet was not a good idea for many reasons. It trivializes the issue of slavery. It not only trivializes the suffering endured by enslaved people, it trivializes slavery as a historical issue with which we are still dealing as a country. These student-generated questions should have been a signal that the issue of slavery needs to be taught with more gravitas to children who are so young.

This seems to be an issue of teachers under pressure to create “cross-curricular” activities. Or, it could be an issue of teachers under pressure to infuse literacy throughout the entire curriculum. Perhaps it is both. It highlights how meaningless cross-curricular studies and literacy-infused math can be when it is forced, whether by teachers or administrators. By “forced” I mean when done for the sake of doing it rather than being an organic overlap between disciplines.

There are just some instances when you cannot connect two disciplines. Math is best infused with history when it involves some sort of statistical analysis. For 4th-graders, perhaps they can be given the years of significant events in the history of slavery and be asked to add and subtract. “How many years between the Constitutional ban on the slave trade and Nat Turner’s Rebellion?” It does not seem that the math being taught in the ill-conceived slavery worksheet was any more difficult than that anyway.

The entire push behind cross-curricular studies and literacy-infused math is really one of the many hare-brained fads pushed on teachers by education researchers. Some researcher somewhere found that these things “work” with a group of children they used as lab rats, which means that teachers everywhere should use it. Not only should we use it, we must use it NOW because the “future” of children is at stake. We cannot afford to lose one more minute!

Speaking of hare-brained educationists, this brings us to the other untold part of the story. Aziza Harding supposedly left a note with her cooperating teacher. Yet, for some reason, she was just bursting at the seams with outrage that she had to show the worksheet to her NYU professor. And what does the professor, Charlton McIlwain, do? He does not advise her. He does not even call the school. He calls the media. What did he think would happen if he called the media?

Here is what will happen:

The principal said she’ll be meeting with families and all staff members will undergo related training.

The whistleblowing student teacher said she hopes that P.S. 59 students will get help understanding why slavery is a much more serious issue than these simple math problems.

Sure, just at the expense of turning the school upside down in the process. NY1 was at the school last week. The principal has to do damage control. Teachers will be walking on eggshells for the foreseeable future. You tell me: will this be a net loss or net gain for the children? Do you really believe Ms. Harding accomplished her mission in getting students to understand why slavery is such a serious issue?

There promises to be even more fallout from McIlwain’s ill-conceived phone call to the media:

After seeing NY1′s story, State Senator Simcha Felder, who is the chairman of the New York City Education Sub-Committee, emailed a statement that read, “While the city, state and unions are busy haggling over teacher evaluations, New York City’s students are being subjected to reprehensible and irresponsible educational materials. I am calling for the immediate removal of these two teachers.”

Felder also commended the student teacher for coming forward.

Yes, someone’s head must roll for this.

Either Harding and McIliwain are really bad or really stupid people. Perhaps they are both. If McIlwain is an education professor, someone who is an “expert” on schooling who presumably went through the rigorous infantile process to receive an ED.d, he has not the foggiest idea of how the media and the school system work. If his goal was to help children, he has accomplished exactly the opposite.

As for Aziza Harding, it is great to be outraged about things, is it not? It is so easy and costs absolutely nothing on your end. You can have a knee-jerk reaction to something, ring the alarm bells and end up being quoted in the media as some sort of enlightened crusader for justice.

Next time, why not actually talk to the teacher first? Furthermore, in the age of Google where employers are sure to look up anyone they are considering for a job, what principal is going to want an oversensitive, media-hungry nooblet on their staff?

Not to worry, I am sure there are a few charter schools who would love to hire you for three years before spitting you out like bubble gum that has lost its flavor. Then maybe you can get a taste of how it feels to be on the receiving end of the process you help set in motion on others.

HUBBA HUBBA

The New York Post reports this early this morning:

A retired teacher hated his East Harlem high-school principal so much, he created a scathing blog that portrayed him as a back-stabbing sex fiend whose head is shaped like a human behind.

Former math teacher Michael Thomas, 61, then stood outside Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics and gave students business cards that touted the Web site.

The targeted principal, José Jimenez — whom the blog calls “Jimanus” and “Prince Jimenez” — confronted Thomas about a block from the school on Jan. 10. He ended up on his back in the ensuing fight, and Thomas was charged with assault.

Unfortunately, Mr, Thomas seems to have taken down the content of his blog. Too bad because it seemed like a real hoot:

Thomas named his blog “MCSM Satire” — based on the school’s initials — posted under the name “Henry David Thoreau,” and dedicated it to Jimenez’s removal. It accuses him of seeking “pleasures of the flesh” at the school.

In a fake advice column called “Ask Jimenez,” a staffer is concerned about having an affair with a teacher that might jeopardize his career.

“Hubba, hubba!” the Jimanus character replies. “You should be giving me advice! There is nothing inappropriate about a relationship between two more or less consenting adults . . . Any teacher who reports or objects to the relationship is not a member of the school team and will be dealt with accordingly. You are living the dream!”

In one comic strip, Jimenez says, “All I need to know I learned in kindergarten . . . Be a bully. Do what you want. Lie if you get caught — and always play the part of the victim.”

It seems as if Mr. Thomas has a bit of a rebellious streak in him or maybe he just has a problem with bully principals who use their teaching staff as a personal harem.

Of course, the Department of Education goes out of their way to protect principals who pursue “pleasures of the flesh” and act like bullies.

As for teachers like Mr. Thomas who blow the whistle on that type of stuff:

In 2007, Thomas was banished to the Education Department’s notorious “rubber room” for throwing chalk at the board to get students’ attention, according to his lawyer.

That sparked a daylong protest by students and he was reinstated last year.

The popular teacher, who retired this summer after 19 years, has locked horns with Jimenez at least since 2008, according to Department of Education documents.

Thomas reported Jimenez’s alleged misuse of federal funds for high-poverty kids and falsifying of student results on the January 2008 Regents exams.

Funny how it is the popular teachers or the ones who don’t sit back and allow wrongdoing to take place who end up in the rubber room.

As for Principal Jimenez, it seems as if he is in the DOE doghouse not for any sexual misconduct or workplace harassment but for the one thing the DOE finds unacceptable from their principals:

Jimenez has also run afoul of the DOE. In a report released by the Special Commissioner of Investigation, he was found to have “failed to follow standard operating procedures” by not getting competitive bids on an educational trip to Asia or for a consultant that billed the school more than $25,000.

That’s right, only Bloomberg himself gets to fleece the public treasury through no-bid contracts and nobody else.

Ed deform may still be in retreat but it is the same ol’ DOE here in the big city.

Maybe Michael Thomas shouldn’t have showed up to the school to promote his blog. Maybe, being retired and standing a block away from the school, he was well within his rights to do so. Maybe the principal should have not been an insecure bully and confronted Mr. Thomas about it since he ended up eating concrete for the trouble. And, finally, maybe the New York Post is not providing many of the facts in this case.

It is obvious Mr. Thomas was rubber roomed for having a conscience. The fact that someone like Mr. Jimenez can rise to the ranks of principal shows the DOE values people without a conscience.

Just don’t steal any of that no-bid money. How will Joel Klein get his next contract if principals keep doing that?

How to Uphold Teacher Professionalism (Rule #1: Stop Snitching)

Having spent some of my childhood in the streets, I have a strong aversion to snitching. It was one of the absolute lowest things one could do, the fast track to becoming persona non grata.

Part of the reason for this was the dire consequences that could befall the “snitchee”. If one were to face consequences for something they do, then fine, but those consequences were not ours to give. The snitch takes upon them an omnipotent role, one not worthy of respect because it is so cheaply had.

Now I am a grown up and have been out of the streets for many years. I understand that, as a teacher, there are times when I might have a legal or moral obligation to play the snitch role. A few years ago, a female student came to me saying that a male teacher had propositioned her. I went straight to the administration. The student could not understand why I was making a big deal about it. I explained that I am a mandated reporter with the legal obligation to report any child abuse. Not only was it the legally right thing to do, but the morally right course as well.

Aside from that time, I never saw a reason to march into an administrator’s office to inform on a colleague. Whether I liked a colleague or not, if they were not doing anything physically or sexually abusive to a child, then there was really no reason to inform on them for anything. Just like in the streets, doing so could carry serious consequences. It is not my place to play God with people’s careers.

There is also the added reason that teachers are members of the same profession and union. No matter our personal feelings towards a colleague, a sense of solidarity should supersede everything else. As professionals, there is no reason why personal disagreements could not be ironed out face to face. It does honor to the profession to rise above personal animus and find common ground with someone you otherwise do not like. As members of the same union, nothing is more corrosive to workplace solidarity than a schoolhouse snitch.

The first year teaching at a new school is always challenging. You have to get used to the students, the culture, the expectations of the administrators and your colleagues. Usually, it requires revamping all of your lessons. There is a learning curve that, by the end of the school year, leaves you exhausted.

I once transferred from a school where I was the history department to a place where I was one among many. Instead of making my own curriculum, like I did in my previous school, I had to follow a department-wide curriculum. For the first few weeks, I went through an adjustment phase where, at most, I was off in the calendar of lessons by about a week.

My door is always open when I teach. My voice usually resonates across the entire floor, the acoustics of your average school hallway carrying it far and wide. A teacher on the floor, one who taught generally the same courses as me, came into the classroom one day during an off period to tell me I should be an announcer. I had a “nice voice”. I was also “cute”. This was not flirtation at all, just friendly banter.

At the end of the first month, it was time for our first department meeting. The assistant principal was not pleased. Apparently, not everyone was following the curriculum. He looked right at me and asked me where I was in the curriculum. I told him an answer he did not want to hear, at which point I was duly reamed. Seeing as how I was never “reamed” before, it was not a pleasant experience. It certainly took me down a notch in front of my new coworkers.

A day later, one of my colleagues came to me and said that the “nice voice” and “cute” lady was the one who ratted me out. I did not think much of it, because I was used to colleagues trying to poison my mind against others with whom they did not get along. I thanked her for the information, but quietly suspended my judgment.

It did not seem as if she was the type to rat. She was generally personable and had a decent sense of humor. She was also a common malcontent in the teacher’s lounge, deriding the AP as an “idiot” and generally berating everything the administration did.

Then, the next school year, I was charged with creating the uniform midterm and final exams for one of the grade levels, the same grade level for which I had been reamed for not following. I wrote up the exams and then emailed them to my colleagues to get their input. No input was ever given, so they were administered to the students as-is.

One day, the “nice voice” and “cute” lady told me the AP had reamed her for not handing back the final exams. She said she told him she did not hand back the exams because I used all old Regents questions, many had been recycled from previous midterms and finals. She did not want the answers to the two or three repeated questions floating around for public consumption.

I did not realize it until later, but she had pretty much admitted to me that she had, once again, ratted me out.

The AP had a “talk” with me about why I recycled the same questions. This time, I did not hold my tongue. I told him that all teachers received a copy of the exams two weeks ahead of time. They had plenty of opportunity to advise me on what they wanted changed. Furthermore, I had submitted each and every exam to him for approval before making copies. Why had he approved exams that had two or three recycled questions if it was unacceptable?

I really did not get to say what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say was that quibbling with a teacher over two or three questions was waste of a six-figure salary. It is unlikely that the students themselves would even notice the recycled questions. Even if they did, so what? I made it a point to recycle questions that had been recycled on the Regents exams themselves. You want high pass rates for the Regents, do you not? And, while we are at it, were you this harassing to the teacher who did not hand back these exams to her students? You know, the teacher that could have easily told me to change the offending questions, thereby obviating her need to withhold the results of the exam results from her students?

I was taking the fall for something that, in the grand scheme in the educational universe, meant absolutely nothing. On top of that, I was taking the fall for the actions and decisions of other people, especially the person that made the choice to not return those exams.

What happened next was the first and only time the street came out of me to a colleague. Shortly after this incident, everyone in the department was in the same room grading Regents exams. The snitch was hovering over me asking what I was doing. I looked up at her and, in so many words, told her not to worry about what I was doing and to go off and find something to do herself. Peppered in those directions were some choice words that the likes of Rahm Emmanuel would usually say, only said with a Brooklyn accent.

From that day on, she was a victim. I had spoken to her just terribly and she did not know why. Why not go tell an administrator after you cry in a corner?

After a whole school year of not speaking to me, she solidified her position in my mind as one of the most odious people I have ever had the misfortune of working with. One day, another colleague and a good friend had been “rubber roomed”. The accusations were frivolous, a result of a personal vendetta by the administration.

The snitch did not get along with this teacher. Once she was rubber roomed, not only did she say that the teacher deserved it, but deserved to be terminated as well. To be sure, what this teacher was accused of should not have been anything more than a letter to the file. If I did not know before, I knew now that this woman had no regard for the careers and livelihoods of her coworkers.

Towards the end of my time at the school, the snitch would find reasons to hover right outside my room when I was teaching with my door open. She would make an inordinate amount of trips to the water fountain and seemed to have a very hard time getting the key to the bookroom to work, the bookroom that was right next to my class. She certainly got an earful of history and, who knows, maybe the administrators received daily reports of what was happening in my class.

If I was a schoolhouse snitch, I would have had no shortage of ammunition myself. Every single day, this teacher would berate her classes. When we would be teaching the same period, my class would overhear her telling her kids to “shut up”. If it was not that, she would berate individual students for the smallest infractions. She would yell at individual students for calling out, spending more time yelling at the student than the student took in committing the infraction in the first place. In fact, every little thing seemed to set her off. She was always yelling. My students would overhear her and laugh.

Every school in which I have worked has had their schoolhouse snitch, usually more than one. Sometimes the snitch is the union leader. Invariably, the snitches are not the most exemplary teachers in the school. They are the ones mired in mediocrity, the chronic yellers and burnouts, the ones who do not give back exams, for example. It is not hard to see why: snitching is the most valuable role they play.

It is the teachers who cannot let their work speak for themselves who serve as the snitches. People who are secure in their profession, the ones who take pride in what they do, who have no time or interest in snitching.

Now, while the snitch deserves some blame for making the decision to be a snitch, administrators are the ones who create the environment that allow snitches to thrive. It is a common scene in most schools to see the resident snitch sitting in the administrator’s office, speaking in hush tones. It was the AP who decided to ream me out after the snitch had gotten a hold of him. This behavior encourages more snitching in the future.

We hear in the media that it is the union who protects bad or incompetent teachers. After 12 years of working in unionized public schools, I have a different explanation for why (the few) incompetent teachers remain in the system: so very many of them are doing petty favors for the administration. There are those few people who have little to offer in the realm of teaching, so they make up for it by undermining union solidarity.

Back in the middle ages, it was a cardinal sin for artisans to reveal the secrets of the guild. They knew their livelihood depended on an iron-clad vow of secrecy, lest they open themselves up to competition and get driven out of business. What they produced was craftsmanship that stood the test of time. Masons would adorn the face of each building stone, even the ones that would not be seen by the public, with finely-etched images. After all, God’s eyes were watching.

If only teachers would live by that same credo. If only we treated each other like professionals, no matter what our personal issues were. Unfortunately, it only takes one snitch to demoralize an entire staff; one snitch and the administrators that protect them.