Sunday, April 17, 2005

More Daily News Slander Via a Chicago Sun-Times Columnist

Neil Steinberg, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, says teachers are "inept" at "holding the interests" of New York City public school students.


Steinberg is reacting to the Daily News story earlier in the week that criticized teachers for preferring to perform a "professional period" over doing lunchroom duty, schoolyard duty, or hallway patrol. Many schools have had to cut off recess periods or playtime for children because of this rule in the teachers' contract, known as Circular 6R. Thus teachers are failing to hold the interests of New York City schoolchildren by abiding by Circular 6R and forcing schools to cancel recess and playtime.

But as I already have written, the controversy over Circular 6R is more complex than either the Daily News or Neil Steinberg let on. First off, teachers are not given the authority to responsibly and respectfully discipline students whose conduct is out of bounds. Here are two examples: You chase a kid down the hall for smoking marijuana in the stairwell outside your classroom. You can be brought up on charges for harassing the student, both verbally and physically. You stop a kid from leaving your classroom without a reasonable excuse. You are liable to receive a letter in your file for verbal harrassment (if you demanded the student stay in class where he or she is required to be) or dismissal for physical abuse (if you stood in the kid's way to ask where he or she was going).

Teachers know that they can only limit a child's behavior by requesting a child to act accordingly; they cannot demand proper behavior. So, why should teachers put themselves at risk by performing duties for which they have not been given the needed authority or power?

Secondly, Circular 6R was offered to teachers in the contract in lieu of money; therefore, to revoke Circular 6R will cost the city money in the next contract. How many employees would accept a perk in their contract with their employer in lieu of financial compensation, then give back that perk without getting any financial compensation in return? Indeed, how many company CEO's would do this? The answer is obvious: few to none.

Therefore, if teachers are going to be required to patrol hallways, schoolyards, and lunchrooms, two actions must be taken:

1. Teachers must given the power to control the improper behavior of students and to respectfully and reasonably discipline students when their behavior is beyond the limits of acceptable conduct. I am not talking about allowing teachers to physically discipline students; I am talking about requiring the student to pay a penalty when they act out (cursing, cutting, lateness, fighting, etc). Schools can't even hold detention anymore because detention is considered "abuse". Perhaps that rule could be adjusted so that students came to learn that there would be a penalty for acting out other than being told "Don't do that again, Junior!"

2. Teachers must be compensated financially for the loss of the Circular 6R professional period.

Teachers are not grinches. Teachers do not want to keep kids from playing in the schoolyard or running around in the gym. In fact, many of the reasons why schools have cut off recess and playtime opportunities for kids is because of the climate of high-stakes testing that the Bloomberg Administration has forced in the third and fourth grades. Mayor Mike and President Bush are as much at fault for the lack of school playtime as the consequences of Circular 6R. Nonetheless, teachers will not simply give up Circular 6R just because Daily News editors or Neil Steinberg wants them too.

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