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Using Fellows for what they weren’t intended

June 17, 2008 pm30 4:35 pm

So, the NYC Department of Education hires lots and lots of Teaching Fellows to support the nasty organization and ideas behind The Teaching Fellows, to use these (generally younger) teachers as temp workers, to sow disunity in the teaching force, to weaken the union, to play divide and conquer.

So, what should we (UFT, chapters, teachers) do about this?

Subvert it.

Get them to keep teaching past their commitment. Turn Fellows, as many as we can, pro-union. Get them involved. Help them teach. Help them survive the system. Help them stay.

How to do this is a big question (more posts coming). What issues? How do we address Fellows? How do we reach them? What will they listen to?

But here’s 3 things we shouldn’t do:

Don’t hate/shun/ignore Fellows, or hope they go away. That feeds disunity, hurts us all.

Don’t celebrate their newness like it was something fresh and wonderful. New teachers, generally, start out pretty bad. Lie to them, and eventually they will figure it out. And at the same time, such celebration rightfully pisses off good, experienced teachers who think they are being slighted.

Do defend their rights. But don’t do it with the expectation that this is a 2-year non-investment in a temp worker. If we do the minimum, everyone pretty much figures out that that’s what we are doing.

More posts. Ready to start getting specific.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2008 am30 3:34 am 3:34 am

    Sorry, I can’t by into accepting the Teaching Fellows. Because of them and TFA teachers we have an ATR crises and “rubber room” overcrowding.

    Accepting teaching fellows helps the DOE with their recruitment over retention policy.

    By the way a question. If a teacher is excessed from his school but stays on at the school as an ATR. Who’s budget is the ATR assigned to? I believe once you are an ATR the district/central picks the salary up.

  2. June 18, 2008 am30 5:21 am 5:21 am

    And the Fellows who are ATRs?

    Sorry, Chaz, once they are new teachers they need and deserve all the assistance that every new teacher should be getting, and all the protection that every teacher, both new and experienced, should be getting (save those rights that are due to tenure).

    Those who feed disunity, feed Bloomberg. Bad thing to do.

  3. June 19, 2008 am30 2:54 am 2:54 am

    What about if a bunch of us NYCTFs and TFA people who stayed on stared a caucus in the union specifically to address these issues? What is your take on this?


  4. June 19, 2008 am30 4:57 am 4:57 am


    We disagree here. I do not equate the Teaching Fellows and TFA teachers with us until they put in the three years. I noticed you didn’t answer my ATR question.

  5. June 19, 2008 am30 6:25 am 6:25 am

    @Chaz, At least at first the teacher in reserve remains on the excessing school’s budget. I don’t know how long they stay there. In the case of D79 teachers in reserve, it worked differently…

    Three years? If we don’t support them for their first three years, why should they listen to us when we talk to them at the start of Year 4?

    @AW, I think there are good things that Fellows (and even TFAers) can do… first of all, they can stay beyond their minimum commitment.

    In the context of this union, “caucus” means something different from what you are expressing. Still, the easiest way to subvert the DoE is to simply NOT be temporary teachers.

    You like that? Keeping a job is a political act.

  6. June 20, 2008 pm30 2:48 pm 2:48 pm


    I am not going to get this “caucus” thing swept under the rug that easily…We fellows really do have special needs, and we are becoming a bigger and bigger piece of the union all the time. If the union organized us (fellows) from the beginning…we wouldn’t be so anti-union. It is easy to see why we are anti-union when we get put into these really bad schools, file grievances, and they get lost. (You know what I am talking about.) We loose faith in the union.

    This organizing could be done in such a way that we were also supported. For instance, the union could implement its own mentoring program. Hell…they could hold benefits meetings at the NYCTF sites. These fellows don’t know shit about their rights…no one tells them, and then, they wonder why we are so annoying. We get scared for our jobs. Some of us pick up our entire lives for this and others of us left very lucrative careers for this. We really care, and no one wants to step up and help us. Least of all the union…who we pay to do this by the way.


    You get my point. What do you think?


  7. newbee permalink
    June 21, 2008 am30 3:52 am 3:52 am

    hey folks,

    just wanted to add on to what the person before me said.

    i’m a fellow. i went back and forth about whether or not to accept the fellowship precisely because i know how ridiculous it is. ultimately i decided to take it because i figured if not me, some other poor soul, and at least this way i’d be 1) teaching and 2) able to make some changes from within the program, hopefully politicize some folks along the way. subvert, as someone phrased it in an earlier post.

    i do think the uft needs to have a stronger presence in the fellows programs. the fellows i know are excited about union perks but know little about the political work of the uft.

    i want to give you a little insight into the fellow experience and how we are trained to think. honestly, the indoctrination is enough to make you dizzy. i have been led to believe that:

    – the system is broken (no disagreements here)
    – fellows are THE solution to the broken system
    – we are better qualified than other teachers
    – unpleasant interactions between ourselves and other teachers will occur because “they” feel threatened by “us”
    – fellows are equipped to close the achievement gap on our own — it doesn’t matter if we’re in a flailing school with no administrative support.

    The intangible stuff is really important, too. We are made to feel superior to/separate from other teachers. At my university we don’t take education classes with any non-fellows — the administration of the university disagrees with this, but apparently they are following the instruction of the DoE. We are made to feel an extraordinary amount of pressure to perform (i.e. ultimately burn out quickly, because the reality doesn’t match our expectations).

    Finally, I agree with your general assessment of the fellows -very young, white, unfamiliar with the city, and a bit arrogant. (Not me, of course!) But in short, clueless. Clueless about how they/we are being used as weapons against existing teachers, to destabilize the union.

    That said, most fellows (even if this is just their break before moving on to their “real” career) are really well-intentioned, and want to be good teachers. So please, be patient with them (God knows I’m trying!) and let’ see if we can find some allies among them and keep them around for a while.

  8. June 21, 2008 am30 6:58 am 6:58 am

    Thank you, Newbee. I think you hit it, spot on.

    The question becomes, what to do next?

  9. anne permalink
    September 29, 2008 am30 4:13 am 4:13 am

    Hey, I’m a Fellow. But I’m also 46, an experienced teacher (who fled a city-in-budget-crisis for this one thinking I would be able to get a job, my MA -I already have an MA in field) and a place to work until retirement.
    Instead I find myself in an expensive city with a saturation of teachers. I am a loyal laborist–but I needed a job. Unfortunately, I found myself in a position teaching out of field (excessed the day school started) with no real prospects.
    So I am leaving this great city to haul my narrow butt back down south where I can go into lateral entry based on my MA alone, THEN work on full certification. Not all of us Fellows are inexperienced, anti-labor hacks, nor are we out to take your jobs. I feel sorry to say that I bought into the whole line of crap the NYCTF sold me…but I’m gone, so that’s one less…

  10. September 29, 2008 am30 4:22 am 4:22 am

    Hi anne,

    I think we can subvert the NYCTF by helping Fellows stick around. So I am sorry to hear that you are gone so soon; it’s bad for any teacher, experienced or brand new, to get abused by this system.

    And I wish you luck back home.

  11. Jen permalink
    December 17, 2008 am31 7:32 am 7:32 am

    I’m a fellow and completely shocked by what I’m reading here, -particularly by the other fellows! At no time during fellows training were we subjected to any information that would lead us to believe that we were “better” than anybody else. Quite the contrary – I still feel consistently humbled by the experienced teachers I work with, and am willing to learn what is needed to make a school run. I feel self-conscious of my lack of experience but am anxious to learn from the excellent teachers at my school. Careerhunters need to find a different career if they are inclined to be arrogant. It’s hard to pull that off when the restrooms in your building have a 50/50 chance of containing toilet paper when you need it. As for the union, the fellowship enthusiastically described the perks involved and encouraged us to learn as much as possible about all that was made available to us, so the suggestion that we’re anti-union is a ludicrious one to me. I intend to retire from the NYC DOE. It’s union all the way for me, Baby!

  12. December 17, 2008 pm31 3:18 pm 3:18 pm

    I am a Teaching Fellow and I must say I am relieved I have gotten
    support and unity from my school’s admin and fellow teachers. They
    treat me like a real teacher, with real work experience that just happens to be in another area, and like a person who wants to be the kind of teacher students need.

    I can’t believe it’s even a debate whether or not we should be
    supported. Each of us got into teaching for, potentially, the same
    reason as most others – and yet we’re part of some plot to undermine the UFT and other teachers? Not all Fellows are in this forever, perhaps, and probably shouldn’t be if that’s their outlook, just like some veteran teachers are shells of their former selves and should have given up long ago. We shouldn’t make lump statements like that.

    newbie: that wasn’t my experience at all. And that shows two things:
    one, the biggest problem with the Fellows is their *lack* of
    organization and two: pretty hard to “indoctrinate” people when you’re inconsistent with the indoctrination.

    For one, fellows in my cohort who go to CCNY DO take classes with non-fellows.

    Yes, we are told we will likely get resistance – which is true – you
    don’t have to me an advocate of the NYCTF to see that as a possibility to be prepared for – for exactly the same reasons those who spoke against the Fellows have written. And, in fact, they tell us to get “prepared” by getting to know veteran teachers as potential allies we can learn from.

    My cohort was told:

    – fellows are A solution to the broken system that has extreme shortages
    – teachers who set ambitious goals and make plans to meet them are capable of closing the achievement gap — even without administrative support.
    -not only were we encouraged to join the union (our training was done BY veteran/current NYC school teachers!!) but our schools provided a whole meeting just for Fellows on what the benefits of joining the union are.

    The idea of failing schools was hardly ever mentioned. I think the
    largest problem with the Fellowship is that they lead professionals to
    believe they WILL get a job because there is a significant shortage;
    professionals then quit their jobs to student teach, go to classes,
    and search desperately for work. But they are left in a ditch when
    they don’t find a job within an arbitrary time limit.

    I’m not an *uncritical* fan of the Fellows at all — I was on crutches
    after falling the night of orientation and wasn’t given any extra time
    to find work or given any kind of support from the main office (other Fellows and our advisors were very helpful). However, what is nasty about their message that, as new teachers, we should be trying to be innovative and set high expectations? That is what ALL teachers should do, no?

    I agree with Jen – I plan on retiring as a NYC school teacher.

  13. December 22, 2008 am31 1:18 am 1:18 am


    I love your attitude.

    and Ms. Flecha, yours too.

    However problems with relations between Fellows and more experienced teachers are absolutely not universal, but indeed they do occur. And they shouldn’t. It is my observation that the “attitude” problem has grown somewhat less over the years, but it still exists.

    And administrators do play new vs. old. There are Fellows who fall into some of the traps I outlined in previous posts (Here’s a short listing of the posts)

    And at the end of the day, this stuff here is the most important. There are fellows who want to teach. And be teachers. And as much as we should support, encourage, and protect all teachers, we should make extra efforts to keep our newer, more vulnerable members in the job.

    I wish everyone took home the message that you guys did. I’d like to make sure that more do.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    September 27, 2011 am30 11:49 am 11:49 am

    Hi there,

    I am a 40 year old Technology professional with 12 years exp. I wanted to switch over to teaching and help out. But after reading this it really worries me that my dreams to help out in my community will be a terrible experience. Is it better to work in westchester county as far as pay and working conditions go? I went to Newtown HS in queens when I saw how bad things had gotten I wanted to help but not at the expense of starving my checking account and risking my life :-)


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