Saturday, August 17, 2013
My Interview With A Disgruntled Education 4 Excellence Member.
David was graduating from a Midwest college when he was recruited by "Teach For America" (TFA) to teach in a low income urban school. He always wanted to go to New York City and got his wish. After receiving his five week training he was assigned to a school in the South Bronx in District 7 where he was greeted by the Principal. The Principal explained to David and the seven other TFA teachers that his school is the "proving ground" to see if you have the ability to survive the demands of teaching in New York City. On the first day, I was introduced to the "Chapter Leader" who told the staff that over 40% of the teachers we had last year are gone from the school. At the time I didn't understand why there was such a turnover of staff. However, I soon found out why. Many of the teachers left because of the challenging student population, lax discipline, and Administrative demands that required teachers to take up extra duties on an unpaid basis. Many teachers stayed to 6pm just to complete the paperwork and prepare for the next day, all for $46,000.
Within the first week, I received a flyer in my mailbox that invited me to join an organization that represents the views of the teachers who are new to the school system. At the time I thought this was simply part of the union and I eagerly joined this organization (E4E) since they claimed to want more pay, better working conditions, and a say in education policy. It was easy to convince me after E4E plied me with booze and food while pitching their program at a get-together at a local bar..
During the first semester, I was contacted weekly by E4E to volunteer my time to convince other teachers to join the organization and to come to meetings about supporting the Bloomberg Administration's policy on eliminating seniority rights, and the evolving teacher evaluation system. At first, I believed everything E4E was advocating and it helped that my school had many E4E members and the Principal actually supported the organization by giving them access to the school. It was only near the end of my first year did I slowly realize that E4E was a small group, even a cult, that had only a handful of schools represented and these schools were staffed by TFA teachers and experienced high turnover rates, just like my school.
With the summer off and time on my hands, I started to read the education blogs and blogger posts about E4E and was shocked and disappointed how the bloggers felt about E4E. They called them tools for Bill Gates, and Eli Broad, a fifth column, and how many of the E4E leaders were not even classroom teachers! I decided to start asking questions to my E4E coordinator once I started my second year and quickly realized that they were uncomfortable with me questioning them. At the first meeting in my school where E4E welcomed the next batch of TFA teachers the Principal had recruited (we had a 30% turnover rate, less left because of the recession). At the meeting I asked why E4E is not working with the union on common issues of interest? You would have thought I asked them to commit suicide. Their response was hostile that E4E represents the views of the 21st century teacher and not the old and stringent contract requirements that the union represented. I stayed as a E4E member but did very little work on behalf of the organization. The more I knew about E4E, the less I wanted to be part of the group.
By the end of my second year, I became so disillusioned with E4E's increasing demands and rhetoric for its members, that I quit the organization. However, I found out "that once you're in, you can't get out". They wanted us to go to other schools and network with new teachers to invite them for food and drinks to encourage them to join. I was unwilling to waste my time doing that and I noticed that many of the E4E leaders were no longer classroom teachers and had no classroom assignments. When I asked one who I was particularly close to in my school how did he get out of the classroom and into a job as a "coach" in his third year of teaching. He smiled and said that the E4E leadership encouraged the Principal to make him a "coach" to reward him for his loyalty and recruitment success to the organization. Yes, it seems my Principal not only hired TFA teachers but was one of the select schools that encouraged teachers to join E4E and rewarded them for doing so.
In my third year, I went on the Open Market Transfer System and received many job offers, since I
I will be starting my fourth year in teaching and hopefully receive tenure as I now realize what a dope I was in thinking E4E cares about the teachers in the trenches (classroom). Rather they are a tool for outside interests that want to destroy the power of the teacher unions and make the teaching profession a low wage, temporary job. Finally, I have realized that the goal for many of the mid-level E4E members is not what is best for the students but the quickest path to achieve an education policy position and leaving the classroom as fast as possible.