News broke in the tabloids yesterday (Daily News, Post) that a fourth grade teacher in Ozone Park, Queens allegedly chose a rather – how shall we say? – unorthodox approach to peer mediation. Miracle of miracles (and despite every idiotic effort he reportedly made to keep it quiet) Joseph Gullotta was found out as the promoter and referee of a wrestling match between two students. The ring provided, of course, was the classroom, and all students were told to keep to the perimeter of the room to avoid injury. Except, of course, for the two brawlers. One apparently suffered a busted lip, the other may have needed stitches. Yet in the infinite wisdom of Gullotta and aide Abraham Fox, the students were reportedly not referred to the nurse for two hours, and even then, were told to lie about how the injuries were incurred.
Hoowee! Where to begin?
I could launch into a diatribe about the lunacy, lack of professionalism, stupidity, immaturity, lack of common sense, and foolishness that goes into consciously making the decision to allow students to fight to settle a difference (no less in the middle of a classroom, surrounded by classmates, and aided by an accomplice. Although, to be fair, it takes some brainpower to hatch a cover up. Maybe next week they’ll rob a bank).
I could spout off about how utterly insane it is that the aide, Fox, is suspended without pay, and the teacher, Gullotta, is reassigned to that nefarious rubber room (thereby collecting his salary despite being out of the classroom – and also despite having some very hefty charges against him).
I could stand on my soapbox and scream to the rafters about the injustice of a system that rewards incompetence yet pushes caring, responsible educators out the door, all in the name of money and loyalty toward people who don’t deserve it.
And people wonder why teachers get such a bad rap.
There’s no question my initial reaction to the headline (which I treated myself to at 6:10 am yesterday – quite the way to wake up) was a resounding, “You have got to be kidding me.” This was followed by something along the lines of, “And you’re telling me this guy deserves a job over us neophytes next year?”
When I read that Gullotta was moved to the rubber room, I can’t say I was surprised. Where else would he be sent? At least there, students can throw each other against the walls and not be as badly bruised!
Ugh. What more is there to say? I am the kind of teacher who makes every effort to keep my students safe when they’re in my care. I become infuriated when I witness another teacher not doing the same. Teachers are charged with the safety and livelihood of other human beings. When I read about something as asinine as this fourth grade fight club, I feel my stomach twist and my gag reflex kick in. Here’s a guy, who, if it’s true, will continue to be rewarded with salary, even though he willingly and idiotically placed his students in very real danger. And here’s me, a damn fine teacher and a caring individual who, based on my lack of experience, stands to lose everything if the Bloomsday DOE layoff scenario comes to pass.
So congratulations to Joseph Gullotta. If these stories are accurate, he has succeeded in doing what might be the only aspiration of so many careless, inept teachers today: figure out a way to get into that rubber room, collect your pay check and posh pension, and never work another day in your life.
If only we were all so dedicated.