Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Interview With A Disgruntled Education 4 Excellence Member.

During the summer I was contacted by a teacher who wanted me to hear his story about joining and eventually leaving Educators 4 Excellence (E4E).  I suspect his story is similar to many other disgruntled teachers who have joined E4E only to realize that this organization is a tool for education reform organizations and not what's best for the schools and the students.  To protect him I will call him "David".

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
was inexpensive and not tenured.  I took a position in Manhattan and decided to no longer be an active participant in E4E.    This did not stop E4E from contacting me repeatedly to help them recruit and keep including me as a member.  I finally, cut all ties with them when they refused to run a slate in last year's UFT elections and I soon realized that they were a fringe group that is not supported by teachers but is propped up by outside education reform groups that want to deprofessionalize teaching and make it a temporary stopover on one's path to a real professional job that can support a family.

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.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just as we all knew. Good job with the interview. I hope these misguided teachers realize E4E is a sock puppet for the outside interests.

ed notes online said...

Fabulous work. If E4E ever holds an event I will print this up as a leaflet. It is clear the DOE is giving them access to schools and giving political jobs to E4E loyal members who use that to get out of the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't believe that people don't realize that E4E does not represent teachers. I'm sick of the news media treating them as a real opposition movement.

Mr. Cantor said...

I met many E4E teachers at a Gates Foundation "Teacher Voice" event a couple of years ago at which I was one of only two or three teachers who weren't part of E4E or similar AstroTurf groups. The teachers I met were not fools, nor were they cynical opportunists. These young teachers believed the "commons sense" that tenure is bad for kids, and that unions are only tools for the selfish adults in the school building. These were idealistic young people who believed that they were helping kids. Some were very dedicated teachers... though I'm not sure how long they planned to stay in the profession. If we're going to counter these corporately funded "ed reform" organizations we need to reach these idealistic young people before TFA and E4E get to them. These are smart people and, like the teacher in the article, can make better choices given better information and support from real educators. We need to strengthen groups like SUPE http://studentsunitedforpubliced.org/ so they can have a powerful presence on campuses. Smart young people with a passion for education who are willing to do the work should become teachers... and support real, sustainable public education for all.

Mr. Cantor said...

I wrote a bit about E4E and the real role teachers can play in social justice education at www.phillipcantor.com

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