Friday, May 1, 2009

You know you've screwed up when...

... you've made me feel bad for Nathan Saunders. (Our beef goes back to last summer when he told me that, because I'm a relatively young white male, I won't stay in DCPS. Racist and moronic. But I digress.)

The Washington Teacher has got a whole slew of emails and letters showing how WTU President George Parker is abusing his position and essentially forcing Mr. Saunders to return to the classroom or face dismissal from DCPS. It's obviously a little silly that the district is allowing Mr. Parker to do this, and other bloggers have posted about how this situation really boils down to a competition to see who can be a bigger douche.

Here's my real problem with this: the fact that, everywhere I read about this story, being sent "back to classroom" seems like such a punishment. If it sucks SO HARD to go back to the classroom, doesn't that mean that the union leaders aren't doing a good job? I get that it's unfair / maybe illegal to stop the union leaders from doing their jobs, but I also think that the union leaders have a lot to answer for in terms of their consistent inability to do what's right for teachers. Maybe Saunders, Parker, etc. should be sent back to the classroom for a while.

15 comments:

Glenn Watson said...

Sent back to the classroom with two weeks left in school? What is he going to do in two weeks?

Anonymous said...

Glenn watson - right -- what I think sucks about this story is that no one ever wonders about the impact this will have on the kids he's teaching - remember, the kids, who always come first, before adult interests?

No one, including Harry, has asked what these kids were doing for a teacher before Saunders showed up on the scene and apparently no one is interested in that part of the story.

Toby said...

I am quite interested in that part of the story, though I didn't include it in my postings on another blog. I expressed it to colleagues, who like me, are talking about this Rhee v Saunders v Parker saga. My question is how can you be an effective teacher when you're a full time union official, which is why DCPS has always given WTU officers a leave of absence. And I agree with you, Harry. There is the underlying irony of being upset that the guy is sent back to the classroom. This isn't the former USSR and he got sent to Siberia to some forced labor camp. He is a teacher representing teachers and he got sent back to teach. The way it was done was quite relatiatory. But at the same time I know people run for union offices, become math and literacy coaches or content specialists, anything, to get out of the classroom. Glad you finally posted about this, Harry. I was waiting for your take on it.

Toby said...

Y'all know I meant retaliatory. It's been a long week...

Anonymous said...

People do a lot of things to get out of the classroom - become a principal, start a teacher recruiting firm, go into private industry, etc., just the way they leave other jobs - for higher pay, for greater job satisfaction, because they think they'd be better at something else, etc. Leaving teaching, or any job, needn't be seen as giving up or being a loser or not caring enough about children.

Know anyone at Eastern? It shouldn't be too hard to find out what Saunders' new assignment is over there and how it helps children - our first priority.

Anonymous said...

Toby - the Saunders saga aside, I doubt you are in favor of forcing people in the classroom who don't want to be there.

That would be punishment - to the teacher and to the children.

Toby said...

Something I don't like at all was the tone of the directive Nathan received saying he was to report to Eastern HS or face termination. Why did it have to sound so harsh? Why not you have hereby been assigned to Eastern as your leave of absence status has lapsed? ANd yes, I know people do all kinds of things to get out of the classroom.

Kat said...

It's not a crime to leave the classroom, nor is it a punishment to return to one.

I left the classroom because I saw my motivation and creativity get renewed when I worked with student teachers, which I had to admit had declined during the years I was teaching children. So when the opportunity presented itself to move into a different facet of education, I jumped on it and became a PD.

This isn't an "us vs. them" argument, and no one should claim the higher moral ground for staying in the classroom. Aren't we all on the same team??

lodesterre said...

Well put, Kat. The question here should not be clouded by an argument about whether or not it is a punishment to go back into the classroom. I don't think that is how Saunders sees it and we certainly shouldn't see it this way. The question here is whether the way in which this situation has been handled has been above board and correct. I think that, so far at least, many of the responses here and elsewhere have answered that question.

Is this situation a paradigm for how all situations involving outspoken teachers and employees of DCPS are going to be handled?

Kat said...

Oh, there's something fishy going on, Lode, with Henderson (really, Rhee) and Parker working towards the same goal...when for months they haven't been able to agree on diddlysquat. I definitely smell collusion in the air. But you know what they say happens when you lie down with dogs...

Anonymous said...

Harry, upon further reflection, I think your entire premise is off. It's not going back to the classroom that is the punishment, it's being forced out of his job on a pretext. He could have been threatened to report to the White house or be fired and it would be the same thing, don't you see?

The kids are being used as pawns and you fell for it.

I'd like to see a Rhee supporter send her an email asking how sending Saunders back to the classroom in May helps the children?

I hear she's very good about getting back to people.

The Washington Teacher said...

This type of reasoning suggests that if it is okay to retaliate against Saunders, a union official than one could reasonably argue that it is okay to retaliate against teachers as well. Retaliation is never okay.

As a union body we elected a slate of candidates of which Saunders is a part. There are a lot of facts that you just don't have unfortunately. I encourage all to become more informed about what is happening not only in terms of DC but from a broader perspective. Also read Ed notes on line (NY teacher blogger @ http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com )

I maintain that Deputy Chancellor Henderson does not have the legal authority to force Saunders to return to the classroom or be terminated. I believe that this action represents an abuse of power which is not only illegal but unethical and also may constitute an unfair labor practice. Certainly students interests were not a consideration by Henderson when she made the decision to force Saunders to return to the classroom or be terminated, albeit briefly until this issue gets resolved. It seems to me that Henderson allowed her emotions to interfere with her sense of reasoning in this matter. Please stay tuned for additional information.

Many parents have weighed in on this issue and one parent advocate, Iris Toyer wrote a poignant entry in 'The Mail' which is a weekly on-line publication. Check out Iris' entry posted on my blog in the comments section in response to DC Teachers Deserve A Better Union President.

Iris J. Toyer said...

Comment posted from The Washington Teacher's blog:

Written by: Iris J. Toyer

A recent flury of E-mails alerted many of us that Nathan Saunders, Vice President of the Washington Teachers Union, had been ordered back to the classroom or face termination. The dispute seems to stem from the submission or lack thereof of a request for a continued leave of absence while serving as a paid elected union official. I am neither a union member nor a teacher. I believe that how our government treats duly elected representatives of our workers sheds a bright light on how employees will be treated. How this particular dispute will be resolved is anyone's guess.

What readers should know is that the Rhee administration has ordered the WTU Vice President back to the classroom. He is paid handsomely by the WTU to represent the membership. There seemed to be questions as to whether or not WTU officials are in fact employees of DCPS. In speaking with Mr. Saunders, I learned that paid members of the WTU do not come off of DCPS' payroll. They continue to earn leave and years toward their service, and when their term is over they return to the classroom. If I remember correctly, they continue to collect their DCPS salary and WTU pays them the difference between what DCPS pays them and the higher WTU salary, and also reimburses DCPS (at least that is supposed to happen). It would be so much cleaner if WTU paid the entire salary in the beginning. Nathan and one other WTU official did not collect their salaries from DCPS. His point is you cannot serve two masters.

Apparently the paperwork that is now being discussed by Kaya Henderson, Deputy Chancellor, is a new process. Formerly union employees used the same request for a leave of absence that an employee who is going on a sabbatical or on extended travel, etc., would use. I am not sure why Nathan was not informed of the change or who should have informed him. The fact remains that he is a duly elected member of the WTU executive team and will continue to be so. This action interferes with that relationship, which might be the intended purpose. I think union members ought to ask themselves: if they do it to Saunders in the morning, what's to stop them from doing it to me in the evening?

Mr. Potter said...

Washington Teacher-

I totally agree with everything you wrote. Obviously, Mr. Saunders should not have to deal with this crap. My only point was that everywhere I read about this issue, it was presented as if being sent "back to the classroom" is some sort of punishment. It's the tone with which people write about it (including Ms. Henderson in her letter) that bothers me -- like the classroom is where you go when you've done something wrong.

News Flash said...

Just in from WaPo's DC Wire: Rhee has restored Nathan Saunders back to fulltime WTU work and out of the classroom.