Monthly Archives: June 2014

While Chicago’s Philip Arnold is a “Badass Teacher!”

Badass or Badapple?

Reading through my newsfeed (Yes, I actually enjoy ALL the posts from this group and the state groups I am a member of) and I have a couple of observations I would like to address.

1. This is the Badass Teachers’ Association. This is not a group for the weak minded, soft hearted, corporate reform driven personality. This is more than a “group”. This is a group of “teachers”, badass teachers. We are here because we are BADASS. We are badass because we care too much to remain silent and sit idly by while corporations profit off the prescribed “reforms” of the political arena. We are badass because we refuse to be bullied any longer by those who feel that their political affiliations and over stuffed pocket books entitle them to be the decision makers for OUR PROFESSION.

2. We will not always agree about the proper path to take or the correct words to use, but we all agree that we must SAVE OUR SCHOOLS. The name isn’t going to change, and it shouldn’t. We are the Badass Teacher’s Association because we choose to rock the boat, and this name is getting attention. Argue as you will the kind of attention, but attention is attention and we must continue to draw that attention to our cause. No one is forcing you to be a member. If you are not badass, then you should probably move on. No one is forcing you to agree or disagree with any particular stance. Discuss valid solutions to the “dirty trick” reforms and be a part of the change this cause is seeking, or form your own group with your own agenda and candy coat what you wish.

I AM A BADASS TEACHER! I am proud of the title. I was honored to be one of the first invited to this group, and I continue to be pleased with the efforts, discussions, and actions the founders put out there. If you find that you cannot stomach this type of advocacy, then maybe you are not a badass. If your goal is to disrupt this group by throwing us off task through your “disgust” of the name or because you feel your opinion is not valued, then maybe you are a Badapple. If that is the case, you probably do not want to be associated with the likes of the Badasses in this group.

When Teachers Marry Police Officers- Reflections on Race and Neighborhood Culture

During the controversy over the teachers who wore NYPD shirts to work in protest against their unions participation in the Staten Island March mourning the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, numerous commentators noted, correctly, that it is quite common in New York City for teachers to marry police officers.

This pattern is particularly common in certain New York City ethnic neighborhoods, many of which I became quite familiar with during my 15 years of  coaching Catholic Youth Organization basketball and sandlot baseball in Brooklyn Queens and Staten Island. Among those which immediately come to mind are Marine Park and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn, and Belle Harbour ( particularly St Frances De Sales parish) in Queens. In those communities, it was ( and in some cases still is) quite common for young women to become teachers, and young men to become firefighters and police officers, and for the former to marry the latter

I have great affection for these communities and the people in them. All produced more than their share of heroes during 9/11, some of whom were personal friends whose deaths I still mourn.

However, there is one feature of all these communities which has to be faced honestly- they had few if any, Black residents. People growing up in those neighborhoods had almost no contact with Black people unless they went to school outside their neighborhoods, and rarely had Black people as part of their social networks or extended families. This did not make people openly racist. The teams I brought into these communities, which were multiracial, were normally treated with hospitality and respect, though there was one important exception to this instance in a parish which was adjoining a Black community

What it does mean however, is that in those communities, people did not have a first hand, direct exposure to how Black New Yorkers saw the world, their nation and the city, and how their views and experiences might differ from those of most whites.

Fast forward to the death of Eric Garner. Given such a racially sheltered upbringing, it is easy to see how teachers who have police officers in their family might not grasp how difficult this event was for their African American co-workers, or the families of African American children in the schools where they teach, and what feelings of vulnerability it triggered.

The main point here is not to explain or excuse but to suggest we all- even the best among us- pay a price when we live segregated lives and live in segregated neighborhoods.

Standing Up for Children and for Freedom of Speech



As we approach the New Year, I am more and more grateful for the existence of BATS United Opt Out and Lace to the Top. Every day, I read, or am sent, stories of teachers being intimidated by administrators for speaking out against new curricula and evaluation methods, and micromanaged to the point that all joy departs from their jobs. Along with these come stories of children tested to the point of humiliation, and of families threatened for daring to opt their children out of excessive or developmentally inappropriate tests, or even asking questions about these tests.

Our public schools have never been perfect, and in some parts of the nation they have been troubled, but never has intimidation and the suppression of free speech become so epidemic in school districts throughout the nation, be they rural, suburban or urban, low, moderate or high performing. And the situation is even worse most of the charter schools which are presented as an alternative to public ones.

This poisonous culture of intimidation is not just a threat to public education, it is a threat to democracy itself. The imposition of Common Core Standards is a perfect example of this. They have been forced upon school districts throughout the nation without any field testing, without discussion, and above all without dissent. Those who raise questions are attacked, marginalized, sometimes threatened with loss of employment.

There is no polite way to fight this. It must be resisted fiercely, by people willing to speak out in and if necessary disrupt meetings, engage in marches, demonstrations and strikes, vote out candidates who support the testing and intimidation machine, and take actions to disrupt the flow of data that makes the system run.

It needs people who are bold, disruptive, and impolite- in a word BADASS.

There are tens of thousands of us now. There will be a lot more of us by the Summer.

There is no compromise with Abuse of Children and Violations of Freedom of Speech!

Why Charters Can’t Always Be Trusted to Serve Inner City Communities: A Buffalo Story

Henry Louis Taylor
· Buffalo, NY ·
This is about Betrayal

The struggle to regenerate the East Side is a protracted fight, which requires tireless dedication. In the late 1980s, a group of Buffalo residents and concerned citizens saved the St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church from being turned down and transformed it into a community center, early learning school, and neighborhood anchor institution.
The decision was made to anchor the neighborhood with a charter school, and over time, the King Center Charter School (KCCS) grew to 312 students, with grades from K-7th grade. Because of State law, the charter school was established as a separate entity, with its own board. The original intent was to grow the school and neighborhood in tandem. The axiom was you can’t change schools without changing neighborhoods.
Over time, the King Center has slowly changed the face the neighborhood in which it is located. It has completely transformed one block, torn down dilapidated housing, and set the stage for the next phase of regeneration– it has started the process of restoring hope that had been lost.
Now, the KCCS board wants to “disinvest” in the neighborhood by moving the school to a new and better location. Their message to the children is to escape from the problems in your community, rather than use your talents and skills to solve them.
They say the school needs room to expand, but the King Center has repeatedly said that would invest in the expansion. They would renovate the existing school to specifications agreed upon by the charter, but the charter has repeatedly rejected this offer.
They don’t like the neighborhood, so they want to disinvest in it, thereby setting back the work of the King Center.
When will “do-gooders” learn that you cannot transform the mostly Black East Side by playing a game of “musical neighborhoods”—disinvesting in one East Neighborhood and reinvesting in another East Side Neighborhood. This is a bad idea and the people of Buffalo should oppose it.

View From an Urban Testing Room- A Poem for Time Magazine by Terry Preuss

VIEW FROM AN URBAN TESTING ROOM

By Terry Preuss, NBCT, Career Public Educator, Badass Teacher & Author: Voices in the Hall

These are Important Standardized Tests…

All quiet!

All sitting!

All still!

One scratches his head…

One closes her eyes.

I tap her gently and say, “Please stay awake, this is an important test.”

She looks at me with eyes so fierce, they tell me that the night she went through, and the morning she is trying to forget make the presumed “importance” of this test simply ridiculous to her…

 

Important?

You think this is “important?”

Tell my mother to stop stealing the ADD medications I need to be able to focus.

She sells them when she is too short on money to buy her cigarettes.

And tell her “man” to stop coming in my bed…

Maybe then I can get some real sleep!

You say this is “important?”

Look at your smug self in your beige suit, and your blue jacket, and your closed toes shoes. 

Look at you!

You don’t know the meaning of the word “important.”

 

Then she picked up the pencil, clinching her fist and stared at the test to appease me.

And, I walked on to the next victim…

 of the “Important standardized test” starting to fall asleep in his seat.