(I am writing two posts on disconnections, which are meant to be read in tandem. The other is here.)
The most jarring experience I have on a regular basis is the 70 minute trip I take once a month from my school in the North Bronx down the UFT headquarters in Downtown Manhattan.
I start on the fourth floor of my school, go down a stairwell that, by the end of the day, is often filled with food, condoms, or fresh graffiti, and head out to Gun Hill Rd. Across the street, I see an entire city block of shops that have been boarded up for the five years I’ve been working there, walk about ten minutes past littered filled gutters, past they YB gang that stands daily at the corner of Gun Hill and White Plains to terrorize our students, and take the 2 train.
I emerge from the train nearly an hour later at the Wall St. stop. I walk half a block, only to be met by the stair of George Washington in front of the neo-classical Federal Hall where he was innaugurated, take a left to go by the New York Stock Exchange, move past the tourists, and a few blocks later I am at the UFT headquarters. The experience is just as jarring going to the NYC DOE headquarters at the Tweed Courthouse, even more so if one enters the Gilded Age monument to corruption, but I take that trip less regularly. Tweed and the UFT headquarters feel a world, and a mindset, apart from my daily education reality.
At my school, I am the most experienced social studies teacher; at the UFT last Wednesday, I was the youngest in the room. There are important things that go on at the UFT, and I support most of their efforts, but there seems to be a large distance between what they do and what I do. Likewise, I am sure some things that happen at Tweed have a directly positive or adverse effect on my school’s dally existence. But when at the UFT High School Committee meeting last night, it was said that the UFT is now in a state of war with Tweed over school closings, if felt to me like a war between the Olympian gods where little thought or consideration is given to its effects, if there even are any, on the daily lived existence of most teachers and students in this city.
I stand with my brothers and sisters at schools that are being closed without warrant after being intentionally sabotaged by Tweed. I know the world is bigger than the 3rd and 4th floors of Evander Childs and the 500 students we serve there and that some decisions need to be made on the macro level I recognize at some point in my career I will need to stand up and take a side. But right now, I really just want to stand with my students today in my history class, and with anyone who will do anything to support them.