Interview with Author of Yo Miz! 1 Teacher +25 Schools = 1 Wacky Year
My guest today is Elizabeth Rose, former high school teacher and author of Yo Miz! 1 Teacher +25 Schools = 1 Wacky Year.
JB: Welcome to OpEdNews, Elizabeth. Why did you write this book?
ER: Hi, Joan. Thanks so much for having me as a guest. Why did I write Yo Miz!...? I had been teaching in a small public high school near my apartment in Manhattan for 10 years, first part time, then full time. I taught songwriting, video documentary making and creative writing - lots of fun stuff. In my spare time, I raised over $300,000 in grants for my school to modernize its technology. Then, my position was cut. All this time, I had been a performing songwriter, developing a one woman musical comedy. In September 2011, the NYC Department of Education suddenly cut my job (along with 2500 other teachers) and, devised a plan to send all 2500 of us to a new school every week as substitute teachers [*ATRs]. They hoped to wear us down and make us so miserable that we'd quit voluntarily. I was going to leave and go back to my freelance life, but when I arrived at my first assigned school, it hit me like a flying eraser: I'm going to be sent to a new school each week! This is an irresistible set up for a writer. Journalists are not allowed into classrooms. I can tell my story. If I walk away from this, the gods of comedy are going to strip me of my sense of humor. So I stayed, took notes and voila! Yo Miz!
JB: One second here; I want to make sure I understand. You were at your school for ten years. During your tenure, you brought in $300k of "new" money. And they still cut your position. Weren't you mad? Hurt? Betrayed? Also, wasn't that a misguided, short-sighted move on their part, especially in a challenging economy?
ER: I was actually surprised. Not at all angry. Maybe a little disappointed. The principal, who had to cut my position, was brand new. He'd only been the official new principal since 6am the morning he gave me the news that I was out. We had been friends for 10 years at the school, we co-led a program for teachers outside the school, did some co-teaching. If I were in his shoes, I'd be a bit overwhelmed. I couldn't blame him. He had to lead a team and get the year going. Even though three positions in my teaching licence area had just opened, he didn't think to ask me if I'd like one. I guess I could have pushed. However, I was ready to embark on a new adventure. Over the course of my wacky year of rotating to a new school every week, several principals voiced their surprise that, after bringing in all that grant money, a principal would let me go. But, as I said, I didn't take it personally. He was facing big challenges. To this day, I'm not sure he was aware of what I'd contributed to the school.
You know, teachers often spend their own money and give great gobs of their own time, including weekends and holidays, raising money, creating programs, trips and all sorts of enrichments for their students. I imagine that in the corporate world, these personal initiatives would be rewarded with a variety of incentives like promotion or extra pay. In the NYC public school system, there is no such reward structure. Teachers do these kinds of things because of their deep commitment to their students and schools. Perhaps we can re-think this, right?