For the past 12 years I have been an assailed teacher. Before I got into teaching all I heard was how it was a “noble” profession. I would defer a high salary for the daily rewards of teaching and some job security. After I started my career all I heard was how lazy and overpaid we were.  Our students, our professionalism, our pensions and rights and our public schools are under assault by a small, narrow-minded group of “reformers” (see: deformers). We are all assailed teachers.

I teach history in the public high schools of New York City.



41 responses to “About

  1. Marvellous blog, We’ve got similar battles to fight in New Zealand, and your articles will prove very useful to us. Thanks.

    • Thank you. I would love to know more about the situation in New Zealand. On most charts I have seen, both the U.S. and N.Z. pay their teachers garbage wages. That is always a sure indication of how much a society values teachers.

  2. Your thoughts are right on. Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Wonder why so many teachers are apathetic or prefer to grumble in tiny clusters in the teacher’s room instead of standing up and being counted?
    My own experiences working with history teachers: half of them believe the subject is about minutiae (“What am I supposed to do with what I learned in college,” one demanded.) Lynne Cheney would applaud them. The others believe that history is constructed and thought about and worked at. It includes voices–all voices. Howard Zinn would approve. So would I

    • Thank you, Nancy. I think the deskilling of the profession, with programs like Teach for America, has a lot to do with all the apathetic teachers we see. Many of them are not in it for the long haul and therefore do not really care to take ownership of the profession like we need.

      It is amazing how people who were passionate enough about history to major in it in college just refuse to bring that passion to their students. Like Orwell said, “who controls the past, controls the future”. In this day and age when so many demagogues misuse history to push their own agendas, we need the Howard Zinns more than ever. With all the stress on math and science testing in the schools, history and literature are in danger of becoming expendable subjects. Here in NYC, the art and music programs are dying since those subjects do not have standardized tests. History seems to be next. I cannot imagine an education system that does not make history a top priority. With all that is happening in this country, citizens who know history are more vital than ever.

    • PS – Great site Nancy! Keep it up.

  3. Nice site….don’t give up.
    former teacher

  4. You’re awesome, and a great teacher. 🙂

  5. I know Mickey Mouse is evil but other than the squeak voice, capitalism excess and that business with Donald Duck, I really don’t know why. It’s a travesty what is being done to schools, and how teachers are being crucified to serve the 1% ‘s agenda. Last week all hell broke loose in LA over the Perv teacher. Notably our sup decided to hid the molestation from 23 families for 13 months. He lied about why and refused to address the potential harm he added to thier burdens, yesterday he announced the stag of the ES were being housed. His reasons are I vinous. He’s afraid they’ll rat out Lausd: my guess is the teachers did thinks something was wrong. Some reported it and got in trouble for it. We have a zero tolerance policy on whistle blowers. The point I want to make is , the rubber rooms are fill of people who are good teachers, they’ve been victimized by lies , petty reprisals, greed, or fate. My mantra is no one gets outta here alive unless you actually did something wrong.
    The pervs and abusive burnouts get treated much better than the innocent teachers. I hit me that his is because by treating them well, the district minimizes the kind of wrongdoing it’ll be sued for . Of course most of us are guilty of little to nothing so we are doomed. I hope you guys will contradict this, but when you get dismissed after displine a teacher is unemployable, true? Even waitress jobs are hard to score! .? Oy two master degrees and years of dedication and diligence tossed out by oligarchs

    • I know you guys over there in LA have been going through it for some time now. It is the city where the local rags publish student test scores, driving teachers to suicide.

      It works in a similar way here too. The system is designed to harass veteran teachers out of the system, meaning teachers who have actually done some wrongdoing are swept under the rug.

      And those veteran teachers end up paying for the sins for the pervs and incompetents. They are the ones that get false accusations and stigmas, making it very difficult for them to rebuild their lives.

      Our chancellor and your superintendent are parts of the corrupt system of 1% oppression.

      Thank you for stopping by. Don’t be a stranger.

  6. nice to find a fellow assailed teacher; sad to find a fellow assailed teacher. I have been teaching for 25 years in the UK. I have worked hard at the craft and method of teaching so that I can now confidently say that my experience, my instinct, my success, my thought, my resources, my offers and my legacy have all been rendered void, anodyne and ‘off message’! I simply do not register in an outcomes-led (value-bled) managerialist world where … ‘sorry, Mark, were you saying something?’ It’s funny, I thought I was quite a good teacher. It just goes to show how wrong you can be and how long you can be wrong. I moan lamentably – and sometimes quite eloquently – tucked away in the corner which I call my site. Please come and visit and take me for a walk sometime, but shh, keep quiet about it – no one ‘in education’ knows about it. I have found that the less edu-ticians have to make sure they ignore, the less cranky they are

    • Thank you for stopping by. It’s sad that even in the UK, which always had the reputation of having a superior system to the U.S., you are going through the same data-driven push to privatize schools we are facing here. The bankers and hudge fundies have a ton of power over there as well and it is they, along with do-gooder “reformers” that have made an unholy alliance to declare war on teaching. I wonder, do the Labor and Tory parties over in England agree on the school reform issue like Democrats and Republicans do over here? It is just about the only thing that the two parties agree on.

      Again, thank you for stopping by. I will be sure to make my way over to your site as well.

      • m lewis redford

        Well, let me tell you a story: in the mid 1980s teachers staged strike action and work-to-rule over pay which embarassed Thatcher at the time. She was predominantly interested in smashing the mining industry and over-ruling workers’ (and industry) rights in the name of the ‘bigger picture’ of economic ‘realism’ – tough decisions had to be made and she was the Iron Lady to make them. She built her reputation on having the balls to override individualism wherever it got in the way of nationwide progress and Greatism. Individualism – i.e. the exercise of expertese and professionalism, especially in tthe public sector, and especially where it resisted government regulation – was the enemy. In 1988 she inaugurated the ‘Great’ Education Reform Act which sought to regulate a National Curriculum (reasonable enough) but in the process brought in uniform measuring of pupil achievement, school league tables of results and the inevitable measurement of teacher effectiveness through something called Professional Development. The noble provision of enabling growth within the minds of young people had now become an arena through which to show how much you can make numbers go up and down. There was great hope that by the time Labour got into power in 1997 that all of this nonsense would die down and we could get back to the joy of teaching. However the first thing Tony Blair said was that the three most important concerns of his administration were, ‘education, education, education’. Agghh! The most depressing and disappointing three words I have ever heard a politician utter. Bastard! I lost all hope in Labour (they had been out of office for 18 years but they had hopelessly compromised their leftist ideology in order to get themselves electable in the world Thatcher had created) as the centralist, data-driven, outcomes-led drives to ‘improve’ education increased instead of abated. The same neo-conservative enzymes in whichever diet we have, left or right. They are not so much united as just stupidly continuing playing to the same agenda but calling it by different names. Presently we have a Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition – even worse, lurching towards privatisation. Stupid. So, so stupid.

      • Wow. Absolutely astounding. This is exactly what is happening here in the states. Everyone is love with numbers going up and down, but not worried about good teaching and thinking. Both parties are in on it because they’re in the pay of the corporations that make the tests and evaluation regimes. (Rupert Murdoch owns one such corporation). Our unions are worse than useless, to the point of being complicit. Now the turnover rate for teachers is so high, veterans have been pushed out and we are very close to having teaching be a temporary career where people are underpaid and overworked.

  7. Dear Assailed,
    I’m also a US History teacher in the now assailed state of TN, and I have been teaching for 10 years. I taught AP US History for four years until student enrollment in the class declined drastically, my high school is well over 60% poverty level white students.
    Despite this, as you state in your Value Added article, I achieve nearly 100% achievement with my students on the TN End of Course in US History, and I agree, our state exam is also cake!
    To this end, Value-Added has come to take a greater role in our state exams. Despite being qualified to teach Advanced Placement, despite having a Master’s Degree in Education, despite having an Undergraduate Degree in History, and despite having nearly 100% achievement on the state mandated exams I am still a bad teacher according to our new TN state evaluation system brought aboard by our Republican state legislature this year. Most of my students CANNOT demonstrate growth because they are at the top of the achievement bracket, but it is growth which now determines my success as a teacher and not the previous 10 years of excellent evaluations conducted by the same evaluators who say I’m bad now.
    Thanks for speaking out!

    • That certainly is a tragedy and a dark harbinger of what awaits teachers in NY. I know TN has been going through this RTT nonsense already. What are the people of TN’s feelings about this? Is there a hope of turning all of this back over there? What have been the impacts of this on your career, aside from the obvious psychic torture that must follow from it? Is there a danger of you losing your job?

      This is a shame and I am sorry that you are going through it.

  8. I’m a veteran teacher in LAUSD who is being harassed out of the system. I’ve been looking for a blog like yours for some time; glad I’ve found it. Just started one of my own today. Hope you can check it out.

    • Good luck to you. I am sorry that you are being targeted. Teachers here in NY sympathize with you guys and gals in LA who have to deal with the Deasys of the world. Hang in there. Make your story public if you think it will help you.

      There are many great teacher blogs on my blogroll that you may or may not have seen before. I will link to your blog there to help you get your word out if you want.

  9. Great blog! Have you seen my blog: nycatr.blogspot.com? I have linked to several of your articles recently.

  10. Great blog! Have you seen my blog: nycatr.blogspot.com? I have linked to several of your articles lately.

  11. I think that people had bad feelings in the classroom early on and as adults continue to have bad feelings towards teachers. Otherwise, I can’t explain the teacher bashing. I’ve never met a harder working, caring segment of the working population. It is a noble profession.

  12. I’ve nominated your blog for the Thought-Provoking Blog Award. What you have to do about it is here: http://mlewisredford.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/thought-provoking-blog/.

    It’s just a bit of recognition and publicity. If you don’t want to pick it up I won’t be offended.

  13. Haven’t heard from you for awhile – I hope you are well …

  14. Here’s our blog post about how teachers are going to be left holding the bag. http://ccssimath.blogspot.com/2012/05/common-core-national-cop-out-not.html

  15. I guess that you’re receiving what everyone receives. In every profession, in every trade, at every point in time there will be people who truly want to excel in what they do and there are those who want to get by with as little effort as possible. However, everyone suffers for the neglect of the lazy/bad/mean people. Teaching just happens to be particularly touchy. I say that if you can make your students start to love learning, you’re a good teacher, and you don’t deserve all the mean comments, abuse, and general hardship that people throw at each other.

  16. I’ve nominated your work for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award; to work out what on earth that means, go to http://mlewisredford.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/the-dragons-loyalty-award/ and become none the wiser; if you’d like to accept the award there are, as always, things you are obliged to do (but at least you get to wear a smart badge); if you don’t want to do those things I will sit in this corner of your blog, fold my arms and breathe little puffs of fume and smoke until you do

  17. Communist Teacher

    Just received this article through my NYCORE listserve. Great blog! Your narrative combining the endtimes passages with the current situation in our field was ominous and frightening to say the least.

    I seriously think that there can be no change to the system from within (legislating, marching, blogging, hand wringing,etc.) change will only come from direct action like we saw in Athens, Spain etc.

    “A war is coming. At stake: our lives, the planet, freedom, living. The government, the corporations, the rich, and the extreme right are prepared to coalesce into an Axis of Evil. Are you going to fight back? Will you do whatever it takes, including taking up arms?…
    I want you to see that revolution is a good idea, and that it has never been more necessary.”

    The Anti-American Manifesto
    by Ted Rall

  18. I just read the story about your mother. It was beautiful and touching. Thank you for this blog. I, too, am worried about NYC public school education.

  19. What are your thoughts on William Glasser’s Choice Theory and Carol Dweck’s research on mindset?

    These are staples in my classroom and have been pretty effective in working in my self-contained behavior disorder classroom with students from Robbins and Calumet Park (impoverished communities just south of Chicago). I am one of those teachers who is drinking the Kool-Aid and stresses to my students to rely on solely themselves, not allow their circumstance to become an excuse for why they turned put the way they did or why they perform poorly in any facet of their life. I’ve instilled in them that all current behavior is a choice, ultimately giving them confidence because they have an authentic grasp of who they are and where they are presently and, most importantly, they have absolute control over whether or not they become successful in life. I stop all lessons for teachable moments about life because I feel that of their worldview is in conflict of their direct personal success, they need to learn how to cope and overcome that situation before they are ready to deal with the content of the curriculum.

    After the first month of getting them to “march in formation” they begin to get things done in class and even become life coaches for newer members of our class who struggle with the concept of choices and how they have no one but themselves to blame for their present situation. They then teach eachother ways they’ve learned to cope with their significant adversities and found a way to overcome it via the growth mindset that Dweck’s research has found to be the true indicator of success in people.

    Am I wronging my students by doing all these things? I just read your article on self-esteem and feel as though my view on holistic education for my students is something that is wrong? I’m not trying to ruffle feathers or start an argument, just looking for different viewpoints on education as I am a younger teacher who has come from the same socioeconomic background as my students and as a result feel compelled to teach my students that instead of making excuses for the world they live in, they must find solutions to overcome the setbacks and become successful. I teach them that failure is feedback and only that. It isn’t meant to hurt their self-esteem (using self-esteem in my classroom is the equivalent of swearing), but rather feedback on where they need to focus their efforts moving forward with their education and lives. Maybe I feel so strongly because it wasn’t until I began reading the research you seem to hate so much that I understood how to view failure. I owe my new mindset to me overcoming my circumstance, learning from every failure (It took me 12 years to earn a degree in education), and growing a little more each time. And finally after those 12 long years, am finally able to say I reached my goal.

    I feel that the common core and high-stakes testing are just what we need to develop productive citizens who have a firm grasp on where their present level of performance. The grade they earn isn’t a judgement to feel bad about. But rather, an extremely accurate and systematic starting point to attaing mastery as it relates to the skills needed to be successful in the world they will soon be independent, free to choose any path they want, citizens of. So if they score poorly in math, they then should seek additional feedback from their teacher as to more specific areas they need to improve their math skills in and then use the technology available to them….be it a computer, smart phone, or finding a way to get to a library a town or two over with computer access to begin improving those skills.

    Please let me know how you feel about this approach and my viewpoint of common core standards. I do agree with you that the government, companies, etc. are profiting from common core. But my position on that is if it provides genuine starting points for my kids to begin their “Grapple with Greatness” as I call it in my classroom, then it is money well spent.

    The only change we need is in our choices and mindset and anything is attainable if a realistic amount of time exists for that person, like it was for me and the 12 years it took to earn my degree……did I mention I failed kindergarten and countless classes before finally reaching my goal of earning a degree and having the priveldge of teaching our future the proper way mindset to be successful in life……and for me it was simple…

    No excuses….ever.

  20. Wish it were that easy

    Hi Assailed Teacher,

    I wrote something on your post last year that came out the wrong way. In fact I shouldn’t have said anything at all. Im not one to act so aggressively but I felt bad for the person who was involved. I have the nyu email mentioned in a previous post of yours and I am sincerely apologetic for what I wrote on your blog last year. I would really appreciate it if you could delete the part in the post that includes my email. As I plan to apply for jobs your page is the only thing that comes up when my email is entered on google and I am worried that this will follow me back.

    Sorry for the trouble. I hope you understand.

    Thank you.

  21. NoraLee Klein

    I found your site by looking for the non-existent examples of successful tenure portfolios. I retired on disability 5 years ago at age 49, but I married a younger man, and he, after 17 years of service is getting tenured in yet another license.
    Love your blog. I would love to meet you for a late lunch or a drink one day. I WILL share with you a recent epiphany: I don’t understand all the fuss about finding and ridding the system of so-called incompetents. Those of us who have worked in schools know that incompetents, real incompetents, don’t last very long in NYC. An incompetent has poor classroom management, doesn’t hold students’ attention, and struggles to get through the day. The students, bored and under managed, find a way to rid themselves of this parasite long before the administration has its first parental phone call of complaint. I have seen incompetent teachers bitten, hit, punched, followed to the train station and taunted, and worse. The students make life very difficult for the under trained and the unfit.
    I am not advocated student violence against teachers. I am simply pointing out that most REAL INCOMPETENTS wouldn’t last 3 years in a city school, much less WANT to last 3 years in a city school.
    In somewhat gentler environments, students have been known to protest bad teachers, circulate petitions, sic the PTA on poor specimens, etc. There are many fewer true incompetents out there than one might think. Also, remember, teachers have to have Masters’ degrees. Most folks with an MS/MA want to take a job whose starting salary doesn’t qualify them for food stamps or Section 8 housing. Ok, a little hyperbole there.
    This whole tenure package thing is constructed to keep the labor cheap, and make sure that young Susie Cumberbatch or John BonGiovanni, fresh out of college, finds him or herself, after 4 years of teaching, in a better paying job with much better working conditions somewhere far from the classroom.

  22. Hi Assailed Teacher
    Did we work together at MVSS a decade ago? I taught Culinary Arts and 9th Grade Global. Drop me a line.
    Sean Ahern

  23. We are making a movie to dedicate to our front-line heroes who died. We would love to have more information and you can read about us @ http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/catastrophic-leave or email us @ atqentertainment@gmail.com or visit our Facebook Page, Catastrophic Leave.

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