Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Training in Compassion

Compassion is different from pity.

"Compassion is a far greater and nobler thing than pity. Pity has its roots in fear, and a sense of arrogance and condescension, sometimes even a smug feeling of "I'm glad it's not me."  As Steven Levine says:  'When your fear touches someone's pain it becomes pity.  When your love touches someone's pain, it becomes compassion.'  To train in compassion, then, is to know all beings are the same and suffer in similar ways, to honor those who suffer, and to know you are neither separate from nor superior to anyone."  Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

Training in compassion: You don't want to start with something you can't handle. 

It is as impossible for me to feel compassion for Principal S. T. as it is for me to lift this barbell.

In the last five years I have felt compassion for holocaust victims, lynching victims, witch trial victims.  I could reach out over a great distance in time and space and say to them, "My situation is no where near as grave as yours was, but I have new insight into what you must have gone through. I'm sorry for your pain." 

It was more difficult to feel compassion for the people in the Rubber Room.  We were not separated by time and space.  We were too near to each other.  Our fear, anger, and pain literally resonated off the walls.  I am sure that someday they will invent a means to see the energy of suffering the way we can see X-rays today.

There was no way to idealize these all too human individuals.  We annoyed each other endlessly.  Some enjoyed pushing others over the edge and then testified about their "unprofessional behavior" at their 3020a hearing.   Others loved to go around bad mouthing teachers and pronouncing the judgement, "And that's why he's here".  Did people act this way to each other in the Nazi concentration camps?  I think that they must have.

It is very difficult to feel compassion for other people who are in the same bad place that you are.  You would think it would be easy, but it's not.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Hatred is a poison and it's antidote is compassion, according to the Buddha.   I was raised a Christian, and that is basically what Jesus said too, in different words, but Christianity didn't help me deal with the Bloomborg like Buddhism did.  Meditation, focusing on the breath, living in the moment.  That's what helped and continues to help--but compassion for them?  Not feeling it.  Can't even imagine feeling it.  The best I can do is live in the moment where Principal S.T. and the rest of the Bloomborg do not exist.  They are not here.  I don't have to think about them.

If I do think about them, I hate them.  I thought with time and distance the hatred would lessen, but it has actually grown.  It has grown to encompass everything related to education. 

I have to stop here to say that I have no plans to do damage to persons or property as a result of my anger and hatred.  Those people aren't worth the effort to do the crime,  much less the pain of doing the time.  I deserve to suffer less, not more.  Therefore, whatever suffering they might find in life, and I hope it's a lot, won't be because of me.  I can't speak for others, but the fact that not one New York City teacher has gone postal after everything they have put us through,  shows that I am not the only one who has been able to deal with negative emotions without resorting to violence.

So let's see, how much do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways.

I hate the word "differentiation".   You never heard that word before the Bloomborg invaded (except in Earth Science class) .  Now people are slipping it into their discourse with smug self-satisfaction as though mouthing the word somehow proves what a good teacher they are.  Slave brains.

I hate everything written about testing and teacher ratings as if it's all about improving the educational system for the dear little children.  That's a big fat lie.  It's about privatizing public education for profit--not for children, but for money.  Emphasize it.  Repeat it.  Money, Greed, Profit. Hedge-funders.  The 1%. 

I hate it when people begin a sentence with, "Of course, we all know teachers who should not be teaching, but....."  Come on, stop it already.  It's been a decade since Bloomberg began to cleanse the profession of "the few" bad teachers.     I don't have access to the data (does anyone?) but I'm willing to bet that they've gotten rid of half the teachers who were teaching when Bloomberg first came into office.  But it's not enough.  The bad teachers are still there--just look at the teacher ratings.  Face it.  If you have tenure, you're a bad teacher and your days are numbered.

I hate the way the UFT treats, as an isolated case,  each teacher up for termination and each school slated for closure.  Once the Bloomborg locks onto its target, the result is inevitable.    Wake up, people, it's death by a thousand cuts.  Stop allowing teachers and schools to disappear without a fight--a unified, citywide fight.

 I hate most of what is written about education and the people who write it.

I hate it when people say they don't hate the person, they hate what the person did.  What does that mean?

I hate what you people did to me, and I hate you for doing it.

Five Year Anniversary

Well, as it turns out, I would have had to resort to something much stronger than aspirin to keep writing about test scores, and it wasn't worth it.  I think I made my point in two or three posts, anyway. 

Why do I keep writing here?  Old time's sake?  No.  I stated the purpose very clearly in my first post.
That was on March 21, 2007, and I just realized that it's been almost exactly five years to the day.

"...I am going to make this a very public shaming, shunning, or what-ever-you-want-to-call-it. This isn't going to happen in some little dark corner of Bloomberg-land. So, if you want to see the step by step destruction of a very long, and, I think, very proud teaching career, then come for a visit.

Why have I chosen to display what could be a very painful process? Well, as a science teacher I have noticed that germs don't grow as well in the light as in the dark. Lies are germs. And truth is light.

This blog is my truth."

 I don't know what my expectations were.  I actually don't remember, so I'll just have to take my own words for it.

 " I am going to make this a very public shaming...." 

It didn't turn out that way.  Not many teachers found their way to my blog.  A few people read what I wrote--I'm sure Principal S.T. did--but despite the fact that Bloomberg stepped up his assault on teachers exponentially with each year that passed,  not many people searched the internet for answers to what was happening to them, their friends, or their loved ones.

They would have found me if they had--and if they hadn't found me, they would have found Education Notes, Chaz's School DazePissed Off Teacher, and many more.  There should have been thousands of hits on these blogs every day, and I know for a fact that there weren't.  Teachers were suffering in silence, and alone, and they were not using Google to search for answers. 

"This blog is my truth."

"Nobody cares", was the reaction I got from P.B., my chapter leader when I told him about the blog (which is how I know that Principal S.T. also knew about the blog).  He was right, of course.  But I am very glad that I wrote as much as I did.  I wish I had written more.  The reaction that my mind has had to all those years of suffering has been to blur it over.  I really don't want to think about it.  The book I threatened to write has not been written.  I've had over a year, and I should have gone through the mountains of paper they used to bury my career, but I can't bring myself to touch them.  All I  have is what I wrote in this blog and my responses to the disciplinary letters they wrote.

So I was thinking of closing this blog down.  I've moved on.  I'm Occupying.  :)

However,  the story's not over.  I'm different because of what I went through.  There's a lot of my so-called "truth" that I wish were not true, but it is.  The rage, the hurt, the anger... the hatred.  I wish I could say that I have moved on and don't care, but that is not "my truth".

I have been working through it on my own, and I don't really need to write about the process in this blog.  I mean, why give S.T. the satisfaction of knowing that she still has power over me?  When you hate a person, that is what happens--you give them power over you.  I hate that I hate her, but I do.

If I don't write about it here, I won't write about it at all.  Someday I won't hate her.  No feeling will connect us, and I will be free.