Friday, February 20, 2009


It’s not over till it’s over.

I had no sooner escaped the “Worm Killer” charge when Principal P. wrote me a letter informing me that I was being brought up on charges of verbal abuse again. I was to come to her office with my UFT representative this time.

At the meeting Principal P. gave me statements written by four boys from one of my more challenging classes. They accused me of calling them and their families poor. Not only that, but I had insulted one of their mothers.

OK, so now imagine Principal P. salivating as she goes over her list and checks it twice.

1. Pedagogical Incompetence—Oh yesssssssssss. You have to be pretty damned incompetent to ridicule a student for being poor.
2. Mental Disability—I’ve got her now. Crazy as a Coot.
3, 4, No Cigar
5. Insubordination—Maybe I can goad her into saying something insubordinate—or heck, just make something up.
6. Corporal Punishment—No cigar
7. Improper Remarks—Verbal abuse. There you go! I’m going to get rid of her along with Adila. No more tenured teachers in the science department. He He He
8 and 9 Who cares? I’ve got her now.

I told Principal P. that I would reply in writing this time. The next day, I gave her this statement:

“This statement is in reference to statements written by four students on May 4, 2006. The four students are: Donny Osmond, Joseph Mendel, Maynard Crock, Jerry Vardpit. The students made several complaints which I will address one by one:

1. Students allege that I insult them and their parents by calling them financially poor.

I told the students that studies have shown that the number of years of education a person has is a very good predictor of how much the person will earn during their lifetime. The more skills and knowledge they had, the more they could earn. In addition, good manners, or people skills was also extremely important when it came to making a living.

Many students protested that this wasn’t true because Mike Tyson and various Rap Artists had dropped out of school, but they were still rich.

I replied by using an analogy. You’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean and it starts to sink. Someone offers you a lifeboat full of food, water, blankets, a two-way radio and everything you’ll need to survive. But you’ve heard stories about people who have survived after falling off a cruise ship and being in shark infested waters for days without a life jacket. So you say, “No thank you, I don’t want the lifeboat, I’ll just jump into the ocean, because I know that some people have done it and survived.”

Education is the lifeboat. Every year you go to school you add something that you need for survival after you leave your parents’ home.

In case some students had low self esteem and did not think that it was possible for them to get a good education, I made it clear that everyone sitting in the classroom could go as far as they wanted with their education. They just needed to put in the effort. They couldn’t play around, waste time, not pay attention, and not do the assignments. High School would be difficult, but if they hung in there,and they thought of each class as one more piece of survival equipment that they were adding to the lifeboat, then they could go as far as they wanted to go.

I never referred to their parents except to say that all their parents wanted them to get a good education, because they knew just as well as I did how important it was for their future.

I often refer to behavior as Excellent, Good, or Poor. An example of behavior that these four boys engaged in that I labeled as “Poor” was when they made farting noises in class. However, I do not make the link between poor manners and financial poverty every time I admonish the students for misbehaving.

2. Students allege that I threw little black pellets on the floor and called them rat poison.

During the first marking period, Joseph Mendel had a book bag with little round pieces of black plastic that could be torn off. Joseph or other students tore off pieces of the black plastic and threw them on the floor and then made jokes about the black pellets being rat poison. I was never able to find out who was actually throwing the plastic on the floor, but all four boys who wrote the statements made jokes about rat poison. In other words the behavior that they attribute to me was actually their own behavior.

3. Students complain about being blamed for losing science equipment, and taking the phone off the hook.

I complained to Mr. Angulo about these incidents but did not blame any individual students because I did not find out who actually did it. However, I am fairly sure that the individuals were students in class 8Z.

4. Donny Osmond alleges that I cussed out his mother and called her a “wh--e”.

This never happened. In fact, Donny made the statement that his mother cussed me out and called me a “wh--e”.

On the last day of school, Principal P. had me go to her office to pick up my checks and leave my keys. That is when she gave me this letter:

June 28, 2006

Dear Ms. Untamed,

On June 16, 2006 I met with you and your union representative to review an allegation against you that was made by Joseph Mendel. Specifically, it was alleged that on May 4, 2006 you called everyone poor and told him, “I don’t want to talk to poor people” in violation of Chancellor’s Regulation A-421.

After reviewing the complaint against you, the complainant’s statement, the witness statements, and your explanation, I conclude that you did not call Joseph Mendel poor.

Although I do not find that the above act rises to the level of corporal punishment (???), I conclude that you exercised poor judgment when you decided to have a lesson about good manners, people skills and education as a predicator of learning. In the future, please follow the science curriculum and pacing calendar. This leaves less room for students to misinterpret what you say.


Principal P.

Now that I reread this letter, I guess Verbal Abuse falls under Corporal Punishment. So what are “Improper Remarks?????”

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