Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Horror of the Rubber Rooms

Imagine a life in which you are condemned to sitting in a trailer for eight hours a day. You have no responsibilities other than to clock in when you arrive and clock out when you leave. You may play games, read, study, surf the internet, or do whatever other activities you like as long as you stay in the trailer for the appointed hours. Finally, you are paid your normal salary, with generous benefits, and have three months of vacation per year.

Such is the horrific fate of New York state teachers who have been "accused" of incompetence, or some worse offense, and who are awaiting a ruling on whether their employment may be terminated. Some of these teachers have been consigned to their trailer - dubbed a "rubber room" - for as long as three years. They tell of how they develop a camaraderie with one another, how they support new "members", of how they work to make their little corner of hell a little more livable by re-arranging the furniture or decorating the walls. One is even working on her Ph.D. in education.

Those of us who work in regular industry are lucky. If we are terminated, it happens quickly, like ripping off a Band-aid. There is no slow torture in which we are forced to continue to get paid to sit around and do nothing why a union lawyer adjudicates our case. No, ours is a kinder fate: we are released back into the rat race, to sink or swim, to find another job.

So on this April 15, Tax Day, the day you symbolically pay those rubber-room teachers' salaries, spare a thought for these poor souls.

UPDATE: WNYC had a story about the rubber rooms today. Later in the day came the news that the city is now planning to shut them down. Apparently the hit to both the city's and the union's public relation was too much to bear.

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