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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Is it worse to be called a "bitch" or to be treated like one?

How often are you called a "bitch" at your job? If you're a teacher in NYC, then odds are you have enjoyed that moniker in English and/or one other language at least once in the course of your career. A much more frequent and debilitating occurrence is how often you're treated like one.

Let's start small. At my school, the principal announced that there was no money for after-school programs. Knowing this, several teachers agreed to work for free to: 1) prepare students for the specialized high school exam; 2) prep students for Regents exams; and 3) tutor low-performing students for the state exams. Meanwhile, it just came to light that she is paying herself per session for the days she deigns not to leave early. Bitch.

Let's move on to the city level. In NYC, we sometimes have a program called "Teachers Choice." I say "sometimes" because the funding comes and goes. Last year it went, this year it comes - sort of. Courtesy of the City Council, teachers will be reimbursed for the purchase of instructional supplies to the tune of $45.00. No you did not read that wrong, we will receive a whopping $45 though most of us spend hundreds of dollars each year. What other job do you know of where the employees have to purchase basic supplies and are NOT reimbursed for them? Does a fireman buy his own hose? Bitch.

Let us move up to the state level. New York state ties teacher evaluations to students' test scores but fails to fully fund schools so that there is no after-school money. Thereby putting teachers in the position of having to volunteer their time if they want any chance of pushing up student test scores and keeping their jobs. When it snows, sanitation workers get paid overtime. If a police officer stays late to complete paperwork, he is compensated. Why are teachers expected to volunteer their time? Bitch.

Let's move up one more level to the federal government which unrealistically demands through the No Child Left Behind Act that every child be proven through endless testing to be, as political scientist Charles Murray put it, "above average." This ill-conceived legislation narrowed the focus of the teaching profession from the development of the whole child to that of data reader and test preparer. And since one insanely detrimental program deserves another, the feds followed up NCLB with Race to the Top. RTTT sets school against school as they fight over pathetically small sums of money to implement policies and programs that will ultimately cost them more than they receive. And then there are the latest, much-touted, rarely tested cure-alls that we are told to implement and adhere to such as the professionally disempowering Common Core standards. Bitch.

And lest society as a whole think they are without sin, let us hold a mirror up to America's face. Hi America, here is what your stewardship of our economic and education system has wrought. In a recent Daily News article Juan Gonzalez revealed how employees at AIG enjoy many free perks.  Perks such as free Snapple, Starbucks, soda, Tylenol and Advil. The company also buys breakfast and lunch several times a week for its employees. The insurance bastards, who were saved from bankruptcy by sucking $182 billion from the public teat, have funds for this nonsense but at Intermediate School Who Gives A Fuck, teachers have to buy their own paper. What the hell, America? Get your priorities straight. Teachers who want to take their students on a trip to the theatre, ballet or Statue of Liberty must beg at the altar of Donors Choose because there is no money for such unholy "extras" but inept corporations (of which we still own 52%) get no oversight. Bitch.

Some of my friends think the most challenging part of being a teacher is dealing with the students. They're wrong. When an inarticulate and frustrated fourteen-year-old calls you a name, you can handle their momentary lapse in judgment. But when your administration at every single level, indeed your country, repeatedly and methodically treats you like a bitch, well that is a hell of a lot worse.