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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jia Lee Becomes MORE's Candidate for UFT President

Lee speaks with Earth School student Jamir Geidi and his mother Fatima Geidi about their positive experiences at her school in contrast to the treatment they received at Success Academy. photo credit: Julia Neusner
Video of Jia Lee

Megan Moskop (252) 367-0908
John Antush (917) 734-3907

Jia Lee voted in as Movement of Rank-and-File Educators Presidential Challenger to Michael Mulgrew and his Passive Unity Caucus
As NYC School Crisis Continues, Jia Lee Leads Teachers and Community to Challenge Unaccountable Union Leadership and Defend Public Education

NEW YORK: Educators, parents, and community members cheered the announcement of Jia Lee as their choice for UFT presidential nominee at the State of Our Union, State of Our Schools Conference on Saturday. Fed up with overcrowding, underfunding, and overtesting, educators are coming together with the community to take back their union, and bring change to their schools through the 2016 UFT elections.

“Our schools are in crisis, in large part part because our current union leadership is complicit in bad policy and continues to tell us that this is the best they can do. It’s not the time for us to re-negotiate what has already proven to be disastrous. It’s time for teachers to come together with the community and chart a new course for our union. We are going to take back our union and lead a fight for the schools our children deserve,” said Ms. Lee.

Saturday’s conference, organized by the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) in coalition with a host of community organizations, was the first step in defining a platform for the upcoming UFT election and 2018 contract negotiations to defend and enhance New York City’s public schools. The conference  featured discussions ranging from “Bringing Democracy to the UFT” to “Making Black Lives Matter in Education.”

In the upcoming UFT election, Lee will head a joint slate of teachers representing a united front of MORE and the New Action caucus. As a parent and a teacher since 2001, Jia Lee is at the forefront of the growing movement to opt-out of high stakes testing. She has served as a UFT Chapter Leader for the past 8 years, and is a conscientious objector who has steadfastly refused to administer tests that reduce her students to test score. Last year, she brought this testimony to the U.S. senate hearing on ESEA.
Educators and have lost patience with Michael Mulgrew and the Unity caucus’ leadership of the United Federation of Teachers and are joining the community to continue building a movement for change– in their union and in our schools. Mulgrew has been president of the UFT since 2009 but has been unable and unwilling to effectively challenge the corporate onslaught against public education. He has agreed to high stakes-test based teacher evaluations and a contract that delayed earned pay raises for teachers.

In the last union election, in which 75% of working educators did not vote and the majority of ballots came from retirees, the MORE caucus earned 40% of the vote in the high school division and 23% of the active teacher vote overall. This year, in partnership with the New Action caucus, MORE seeks to increase voter turnout as active teachers reclaim their union.

ABOUT MORE: The Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), is the social justice caucus of the UFT and largest force for change within the teachers union. In the upcoming elections, MORE has formed a united front with New Action Caucus  to challenge Unity Caucus, the bureaucratic political machine that has dominated New York’s teachers’ union for the past 50 years. Over the past decade, Unity has led the UFT into crisis, signing off on harmful policies such as overuse of standardized testing and pay increases that fail to keep pace with inflation, while using union funds to pay UFT President Michael Mulgrew over $260,000 per year and dole out salaries of over $100,000 per year to over 100 Unity Caucus political operatives on UFT staff.

The Movement of Rank and File Educators is the Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers.  To learn MORE, visit

Wendy Bradshaw: Why I Resigned From The Polk County Public Schools

“Today I resigned from the school board.” From Teacher Wendy Bradshaw PhD
Teacher Wendy Bradshaw PhD from Florida handed in her resignation letter today. Her letter speaks the unspoken words of thousands of professional educators across the country. Her letter is the cry of what is in the hearts of teachers who, also, can no longer harm the children.
Please share her words so just maybe, we can once again have schools that love and tenderly care for the well-being of our most precious gifts – our children and grandchildren. #DoNoHarm

“Today I resigned from the school board. I would like to share with you what I gave them. Feel free to share it if it strikes you as important.
To: The School Board of Polk County, Florida
I love teaching. I love seeing my students’ eyes light up when they grasp a new concept and their bodies straighten with pride and satisfaction when they persevere and accomplish a personal goal. I love watching them practice being good citizens by working with their peers to puzzle out problems, negotiate roles, and share their experiences and understandings of the world. I wanted nothing more than to serve the students of this county, my home, by teaching students and preparing new teachers to teach students well. To this end, I obtained my undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees in the field of education. I spent countless hours after school and on weekends poring over research so that I would know and be able to implement the most appropriate and effective methods with my students and encourage their learning and positive attitudes towards learning. I spent countless hours in my classroom conferencing with families and other teachers, reviewing data I collected, and reflecting on my practice so that I could design and differentiate instruction that would best meet the needs of my students each year. I not only love teaching, I am excellent at it, even by the flawed metrics used up until this point. Every evaluation I received rated me as highly effective.
Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for. However, I must be honest. This letter is also deeply personal. I just cannot justify making students cry anymore. They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard.
The children don’t only cry. Some misbehave so that they will be the ‘bad kid’ not the ‘stupid kid’, or because their little bodies just can’t sit quietly anymore, or because they don’t know the social rules of school and there is no time to teach them. My master’s degree work focused on behavior disorders, so I can say with confidence that it is not the children who are disordered. The disorder is in the system which requires them to attempt curriculum and demonstrate behaviors far beyond what is appropriate for their age. The disorder is in the system which bars teachers from differentiating instruction meaningfully, which threatens disciplinary action if they decide their students need a five minute break from a difficult concept, or to extend a lesson which is exceptionally engaging. The disorder is in a system which has decided that students and teachers must be regimented to the minute and punished if they deviate. The disorder is in the system which values the scores on wildly inappropriate assessments more than teaching students in a meaningful and research based manner.
On June 8, 2015 my life changed when I gave birth to my daughter. I remember cradling her in the hospital bed on our first night together and thinking, “In five years you will be in kindergarten and will go to school with me.” That thought should have brought me joy, but instead it brought dread. I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer in good conscience be a part of it myself. Please accept my resignation from Polk County Public Schools.
Wendy Bradshaw, Ph.D.”

Are Teachers Under Too Much Stress?

Teachers expect to work hard but should not be expected to devote every minute of their lives to their job, writes one union leader
I was speaking recently at a joint ATL/NUT meeting on childhood and adolescent mental ill healthwhen I was silenced by a young man who told me that while he was very concerned about adolescent stress, he was even more worried about his partner, a primary school teacher.  Increasingly, when he came home from work, he found her crying on the kitchen floor. 
Even more recently I heard of one young teacher who had, as a performance objective, the instruction that she must not cry in the staffroom. She did not know what to be more mortified about – that she had cried in the staffroom, or that her line manager could propose such an objective without any thought about what might cause her to cry in the first place.
Tales like these are told to me just too often. It seems that teacher stress is increasingly being regarded as par for the course and part of the job. A newly qualified teacher, asking for help to deal with an impossible workload which took up every evening until 11pm and all of the weekend, was told by her line manager –"that’s the way it is in teaching".
Well, it should not be that way. Teachers, as professionals, expect to work hard but should not be expected to devote every minute of their lives to their work. Teachers need time to relax, to pursue hobbies, to talk to their families and friends. They need time to be human.
In no other profession would this entirely reasonable view be contested. Teachers, however, too often are expected to sacrifice their health, their relationships and their happiness to the job. I speak to too many teachers who are exhausted from the constant stress of never feeling they are on top of their workload; who know that there is always something else to do. They never really relax, apart from a week or two in the summer holidays. Constantly on the alert for the next thing, struggling under the weight of impossible demands, they are leaving the profession in increasing numbers, often with no other job to go to, worn down and worn out by the voracious demands of their work.
The education system cannot afford to be so profligate with its teachers. At the moment England is in a perfect storm of rising pupil numbers, falling teacher recruitment and poor teacher retention. Official figures show that the country will need nearly 160,000 additional teachers over the next three years, to cope with a projected 582,000 rise in primary and secondary age pupils by 2020. If our education system is to meet this immense challenge, it needs to value its teachers as its most precious resource, and treat them accordingly.
School leaders could start by collecting data on what is happening in their school. How many hours are their staff working, and on what? ATL members complain about the hours spent on pointless bureaucracy which adds not one jot to the quality of their teaching or their pupils’ learning. Over-elaborate lesson plans; triple marking (have you got your green pen to hand?); taking photographs of their pupils’ practical maths work (to prove they have done some practical maths); stamping pupils’ books with "verbal feedback given" (to prove that they have given verbal feedback). These activities are pointless and unprofessional.
They betray a worrying lack of trust between school leaders and their staff, and this underpins activities which are, frankly, a waste of time. In the end, school leaders who make these demands are acting unprofessionally – because their key role should be to lead effective teaching and learning in their schools. The activities I have listed above do not, in any way, characterise effective teaching and learning. They are a waste of teachers’ valuable time.
Mary Bousted is general secretary of the ATL education union
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