The answer to: “What’s the worst thing they could do, fire me?”

Teachers, read this description based on the New York City public school system:

. . . although the teachers there receive their full salaries, the stale, spartan conditions and the absence of any physical or intellectual stimulation provide a ceaseless reminder that in some respects they are guilty until proved innocent. “There is a spirit of the K.G.B. about it,” Mr. Valtchev said in an interview on Monday. “Their main strategy is to destabilize the person, reduce his self-respect. It’s extremely oppressive. It’s regimented. It’s unhappy. There’s friendship and camaraderie among us in the room, but there’s a constant atmosphere of fear. And deep depression.”

If you are a classroom teacher, did you experience the same shock of recognition I did? Something like, “I don’t know who this Mr. Valtchev is, but he could be talking about my school, especially around mid-October!”

All jokes aside, this is not one disgruntled teacher’s skewed perception of his work environment. The above excerpt is from a shocking first-hand report about New York’s “reassignment centers,” windowless rooms around the city where teachers are literally detained — some for more than 180 days — pending disciplinary hearings. It was written by Columbia University professor and journalist Samuel G. Freedman, and he’s no slouch.Corridor in the Asylum by van Gogh

Now, go read the entire column, and then, well, I don’t know what you should do. Channel your rage into a therapeutic blog post? Hug your union rep? Or, just take a second to reflect on your own school climate? I dunno.

I’m feeling a little like the Rev. Martin Niemoller, myself.

Thanks to Gary Stager for pointing to Freedman’s amazing account, which appeared in the Oct. 10 edition of the Times. Every once in a while Mr. Stager has a doozy of a post that keeps me subscribing to his blog. I welcome his frequent jolts of wicked cynicism. They balance out my mostly golly-gee-wilikers sense of awe, especially in regard to instructional technology of late.

Graphic: Corridor in the Asylum by Vincent van Gogh (1889; Black chalk and gouache on pink Ingres paper), from WikiMedia Commons

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