Monday, February 13, 2006

Stickin' it to Stossel

Just got word that the NYC teachers' union is planning an anti-Stossel rally. I'm not much of a rallier or a union girl myself, but I do think John Stossel's a whack job on par with Tom Cruise. (Both smugly broadcast predictable party lines while actually believing themselves to be intelligent men.) But will protesting Stossel only make him more popular with his Libertarian fanbase?

Last month, Your Mama's Mad Tedious got some serious traffic after I turned on 20/20's "Stupid in America" and felt like barfing. Stossel insulted public school teachers for, among other things, not working hard enough. He did not have one nice thing to say about us. He did not mention the issue of low pay, and he conveniently blamed everything on unions. In lieu of actually barfing, I posted John Stossel: Stupid in the Studio, in which I pretty much spewed my anger about teacher voices in this country being muted and disrespected.

I wrote for my own sanity, but a lot of people seemed to relate. I got some thoughtful comments from people who truly want to see education improvements in America. I also got a few abusive comments from anonymous, anti-teacher Stosselites. This one's a gem: "Let me guess: You're an underperforming public school teacher, and an enthusiastic dues-paying member of the powerful and left-leaning NEA. Right?"
Holy knee-jerk. Dude didn't even read my post, in which I clearly say I'm not a union supporter. Some of us have minds and views that are not so easily pigeon-holed. But then again, I'm just a special ed teacher. I teach the troubled ones. Why would anyone want to consider my opinion on education?

If you want smug, party line politics, take a one-way ride back to Stosselville. And check out Cruiseville on your way. Your Mama's Mad Tedious is highly allergic to bandwagons, mindsets and all things predictable. (Which is why I love my students - true originals.)

Here's what the union is planning. Do what you want with the info - use it, bash it, cheer it - but by all means use your own mind about it.

From the UFT:

"Stossel needs a lesson: Video tapes of the John Stossel segment on 20/20 that bashed high school teachers and trashed the Unions (singling out the UFT) were distributed at our last Chapter Leader meeting ... It is infuriating ...The UFT needs your support on this. Hold a chapter meeting, show the video, get the signatures ... We will be delivering them at the rally in front of the ABC-TV studios on March 8. Show some pride in our efforts and fight back against the disrespect shown to us on national television. We work too hard and do too much good to let them paint us as the source of all problems and evil in the schools. Please stand up for us."

If someone were inclined to mocking unions and had a national TV news show to do it on, this might be a good opportunity. Just saying.

And just because I love mentioning his name, why would anyone watch 20/20 when they could be watching quality TV journalism on Anderson Cooper 360? Here's AC's take on what kids are doing in America's classrooms: "Dear Mr. Anderson Cooper." Just a bit different from Stossel's view. One of the kids actually wrote "Dear Ms. Cooper." Interesting.

Also, great words from Michael Winerip, a real education reporter: "By far, the issue getting the most ink is the need to reduce the time it takes to dismiss bad teachers - a pet peeve of the mayor's. While this is clearly a problem, the far bigger problem is holding on to good teachers. Last year New York City had 3,567 "regular" teachers leave, the most in memory, 936 more than the year before, and 1,100 above the previous three-year average. These are not retirees or troubled teachers - they're certified teachers in good standing."

Logical, lucid reporting. But something tells me "regular" may not include special ed teachers, in which case the NYC teacher turnover rate would be much higher. "Another One Bites the Dust" is the theme song for special education teachers in the New York City Department of Education. We drop like flies from a system that disrespects us and loves to label us "insubordinate" when we do our jobs and stand up for our students' civil rights. Why can't we just be pleasant and mute while our schools break disability laws, administrators wonder. How dare we challenge incompetence. How dare we be our students' champions. We are the insubordinate. We emerge from our dank, windowless classrooms at the edges of our school buildings to say, "This is wrong. We must change it." Our supervisors swat us away with petty warning letters that read, when you look between the lines, "Shut up or else." So we go back to our seedy rooms, to the kids that no one else wants, to the students who learn at the edges of society, to the only other people in the building who understand why we cry.


Blogger pablo said...

<<< Which is why I love my students - true originals >>>

Isn't this the reason you are a special ed teacher? I've been reading your blog for a while (thanks for commenting on mine) & the overall theme I see is your devotion to them.

Nahhhh! I don't see that as your song. Try this one on for size:

...But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise -
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race -
And I ain't gonna lose...

-Queen, We are the champions

1:53 PM  
Blogger Miss Dennis said...

Thanks Pablo. I updated my post to include a "We are the Champions" reference.

8:33 PM  
Blogger pablo said...

I like this ending much better! :-) I can feel your stand for your kids!

I thank you & I cry with you because I can relate. I was labeled a 'candidate for special ed.' I'm glad my mother stood for me and sent them all to h*ll.

The teacher told my parents that I was unteachable because I was VERY shy & would not talk (it was 2nd grade & I was just beginning to learn English). The teacher did not have time for 'NYC Ed Dept to waste' for me to understand her.

I'm glad you are taking a stand for your kids. A true hero is one who, despite being in the face of adversity, still acts.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous vanya said...

I sympathize with your plight as a Special Ed. teacher. I substituted for such a class 6th period yesterday in Ojai California. I asked the aide, "How do you manage to come in day after day?" She said, "I go home and take a nap."
These students may be "true originals" but very little education is taking place in Special Ed. classes - from what I can see. I'm not blaming anyone...just stating an observation.
On the other front - administrators. Teachers would like them to be looking out for them, but administrators didn't get to their position without making sure they did not make tsunamis. In fact, wouldn't you admit that a prerequisite for an administrator is to be a team player with other administrators, not with teachers or workers of in any industry.
Where is freedom and democracy in the workplace? A concept in ignorant, security seeking minds.
Any yet I see that I seek security too...

7:28 AM  
Anonymous dick dalton said...

Oh, yes! I've done some writing on that one, myself. There's a big push for recruiting new teachers without much time spent keeping the good ones we got.

I can also relate to being a trouble maker. My first year, I filed a 504 claim against my own school. I didn't make many friends in administration that year, but my colleagues (silently) cheered and I gained credibility amongst parents. All those administrators are gone, now. But I'm still here, turning the hair of a new crop of principals and ass't principals white!


9:21 PM  
Blogger yomister said...

You so eloquently stated how I feel as a special education teacher.

Well done.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Katherine said...

I love this post and I love you. =)

I taught special ed for 10 years (both severe and LD/BD/gangsters/what have you). Last spring I said screw it, and went to work for my husband's company. I miss the kids and the things I was fighting for every day, but I was literally killing myself with the toxicity of it all, and ignorant asshats like Stossel are to blame for a lot of that toxicity. I fought daily, hourly, for the basics that would allow my students a snowball's chance of learning something--ANYTHING--that would help them later on. And the horrid part is that I was fighting against my own district most of the time. It's utterly appalling.

Anyway...I get very, very sad when I think about the kids I am missing out on this year. I also feel very, very proud when I think of all the kids I did manage to help in my 10 years, kids that nobody else gave a crap about, kids that everyone else had given up on...and though I know I couldn't do it right now, I also know that I will be back, somehow, someday, in special education, because these kids need us. And they remember us, and they know.

And screw Stossel. I've never heard him say one thing that was worth listening to or that had any thought put into it at all. He is the king of verbal diarrhea, and he's going to be reincarnated as a headbanging autistic kid...or worse a special ed teacher. =)

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Julia said...

Yeah, but now that the UFT has nixed their own idea of having Stossel teach for a week, how do you feel?

He called their bluff and they're backtracking!


4:25 PM  

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