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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Behold, I Send You Forth as Sheep in the Midst of Wolves

“Behold, I Send You Forth as Sheep in the Midst of Wolves”
Posted: March 26th, 2008, by learnersinherit
Posted by learnersinherit

There is a Great Divide between old and new teachers, but according to the welcoming committee at the NYCTF New Teacher Ceremony, the reason is because “older teachers don’t like you. And they shouldn’t. They are afraid of you because you have the power to do what they can’t. You can change the schools. You are young, fresh, and full of ideas.”

That was the speech that echoed throughout the large auditorium housing over 1,850 newly inducted NYCTF. But this was not the first time I heard it. In fact, this was actually a tame version of what I had been hearing all summer from my Fellows Advisor (who by the way, was teaching in a middle school somewhere in Manhattan and despite her insistence that we dress professionally as teachers, wore low-cut tops and high-cut skirts, stiletto heels and told us that it was alright to hug our students- but, I’ll get to that in another post). And sadly, she was not the first person to mention the hatred that veteran teachers had for Fellows.

Months earlier, I was accepted into the program as an Emergency Fellow because there were so many mid-year vacancies that needed to be filled. During the weeks of my training, I was told by yet another Fellow Advisor (who was about 22 years of age and spoke to us in awkward ghettobonics obviously picked up from his students) that we would only find friendship and understanding from our- wait for it- “Fellow Fellows”. He would say many times throughout the course of our 3 weeks together that the Fellows were better than other teachers because we were hand-selected out of hundreds of applicants.

I was a little naive back then. I thought that maybe this program was a good one because I always root for the underdog. And we were the sheep amongst the wolves, who, with the theology of the NYCTF behind us, could conquer anything. I had such high hopes back then.

To be honest, I did not want to believe that the Fellows program was being underhanded. I hoped that my first Fellows Advisor was just a snot-nosed little kid, with no concept of reality. This is part of the reason that I deferred my participation in the program until the following summer. I was hoping that I would receive better advice as part of the regular program.

But, something always seemed out of place.

Why did these Fellows Advisors have to play-up our importance in the system? Why did they consistently and conveniently alienate us newbies from the experienced teachers?

There was something sinister in the way this played out. I realized early on that this was brainwashing. We were not supposed to fraternize with the jaded members of the old regime. The Fellows program is a type of political engineering used to destroy the morale and compassion of an already dwindling population of educators. It is guerrilla warfare. We are being pitted against one another from day one all in the name of educational progress.

I remember during my 3rd year teaching, asking a 1st year Fellow at my school to take a coverage that was given to me because I was not feeling very well. Another 1st year Fellow jumped into the conversation and told him not to do it. She looked right in my face and said, “us Fellows need to stick together and not let the old teachers take advantage of us.”

I was livid.

This is exactly the kind of stupidity that is killing our schools. But it is also the doctrine that is sermonized throughout the Fellows program. As a 3rd year teacher, I am considered a veteran and despite being a Fellow, I am not part of the clique- the enemy. I have been tainted by my interaction with non-Fellows. I am friends with experienced teachers who I look to for guidance and words of encouragement. In truth, I am not a “Fellow Fellow”.

But I never was.

I don’t believe that it is an “us against them” system. I don’t think that the Fellows program produces great teachers who, without the help of others, will lead the children of NYC to the promised land. Unfortunately, I know that I am an anomaly. I know that there are so many Fellows who succumb to temptation of pride and vanity preached by it’s leaders.

We are in this together. The veteran teachers have been fighting the good fight for so long and we as “newbies” need to embrace their tried-and-true philosophies and incorporate them into our own practices. Only then will the students of NYC receive an education that is comparable to that of the suburbs.

We are not sheep amongst wolves. We are all ants hoping to dodge the satanist with the magnifying glass trying to burn us alive.

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