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A Field Guide to NYC Teachers

I think I have established the fact that the Administration of my school and I do not get along. And there are plenty of reasons for that, which, at one point or another, will come out on this site. But I don’t want anyone to think I’m merely a disgruntled teacher grinding an ax in the specific direction of the administration – oh, no, that’s not the case in the slightest. The administration is but one component of the Tetragrammaton of Idiocy which drives the NYC Public School System, albeit a very forceful and inept one. Today we’re going to explore the next weakest link in the chain: the teachers.

There are four types of people who decide to become teachers, types which I will enumerate below in order from the most innocuous and good-intentioned to the downright reprehensible. Keep in mind, that if you are a parent of a child in the NYC Public School System, your child has at least one of these types of teachers at any given time.

Type Number One: People who become teachers because they love teaching; Also known as “The Professors.”

They operate solely on the idea that imparting their wisdom and knowledge to multiple generations of American schoolchildren is the most noble and important thing a person can do. For them, teaching is a vocation, rather than a profession, and they are completely devoted to the art and craft of instruction. They usually have multiple degrees in the content area of which they teach (another way of saying they are experts in their field), have had “real world” experience outside the bubble of academia, and will most likely destroy you in a game of Trivial Pursuit or Scrabble. Professors have absolutely no patience for things like bulletin boards, rubrics, or lesson plans, have no need for a “teacher’s edition” of anything, and refuse to put smiley face stickers on essays. They are loved by students and parents, but hated by administrators (and the other teachers). These people make up approximately 10% of all NYC teachers (and yes, I like to include myself in their ranks), and their numbers are falling fast.

Type Number Two: People who become teachers because they love children; Also known as “The Mommies.”

Typically hold a “teaching degree” from some little Liberal Arts college somewhere, and possess the entire collection of Disney Films on DVD. They are good with dealing with children’s issues and concerns, but their eyes will glaze over if you attempt to discuss with them anything more profound than Judy Blume. They are characteristically sweet, good-natured, lively, and most likely have a pocket full of tissues at all times. As successful as they are in the classroom, Mommies will always be of the (erroneous) opinion that a teacher cannot be effective unless he / she is also a parent. Will, unfailingly, take maternity leave at least 3 times during their career. Parents, administrators and students under the age of ten love them. Everyone else thinks they’re insipid and annoying. They make up a full 40% of all NYC teachers, but their ranks are dwindling too.

Type Number Three: People who get into teaching because they think they are going to “make a difference.” Also known as, “The People I Want To Punch Repeatedly In The Throat,” or, more simply, “The Vacancy Fillers.”

Typically, they are Caucasian, fresh out of an Ivy League college, (where they majored in something like “Women’s Studies” or “Social Justice”), are from a wealthy family in the Midwest, and use words like “reductive,” “diversity,” and “mission statement” in normal, everyday conversation. Their teaching positions are the first full-time jobs they have ever held. If they owned a car, it would be an Obama-stickered Prius, but they don’t because their parents foot the bill for a pre-war brownstone in Williamsburg. Most likely they devour and regurgitate the dogma of so-called education writers like Lucy Caulkins and Lisa Delpit but will sanctimoniously wrinkle their noses at E.D. Hirsch and Diane Ravitch. Vacancy Fillers received their teaching credentials through an alternative certification program like Teach For America, and, consequently, are completely beholden to said program’s ideology, which usually has nothing to do with children’s education, and everything to do with children’s self-efficacy. They are under the misguided belief that every single child is capable of receiving a full academic scholarship to Harvard, but their theory will remain unproven because after two years, Vacancy Fillers will either quit the system altogether (to go to law school, of course), or enter an Administrative Training program. Students mock them behind their back and throw school supplies at their heads, but Administrators love them. Every other type of teacher hates every molecule of their existence. Unfortunately, they make up about 30% of all NYC teachers, and, equally unfortunate is the fact that every year, there seem to be more of them than there are of us.

Type Number Four: People who became teachers because they mistakenly believed it was an easy job. Most commonly known as “The Veterans.”

Sometimes, they are a combination of Types 2 and 3, but most likely, they are people with no other marketable skills. They passed the certification tests by the skin of their teeth, teach directly out of the textbooks, and give multiple choice tests for every subject. They clock in two minutes before the first bell and two minutes after the last, and throw a tantrum anytime they are expected to perform any task that falls outside of their narrow zones of proficiency or comfort. They take all ten contractually allowed sick days and never stay for any program for which they aren’t being paid overtime. During class, Veterans will sit at their desks, eating lunch or texting on their cell phones while the students are engaged in pointless busywork. They use the same lesson plans over and over for years, regardless of how ineffective or boring they might be. Every day at work is one step closer to retirement, and they will never let a day go by without reminding everyone within earshot of that fact. They are only loved by other Veterans. They make up the remaining 20% of the NYC teachers and you should thank the benevolent deity of your choice that their numbers are rapidly dwindling.

Coming soon – an in depth look at each of these types, complete with analysis, examples, and even more sardonic, arrogant mockery.

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