VERGARA: TEN YEARS IN THE REARVIEW In the 1990s, I was teaching again in Los Angeles at a Westside middle school with a mostly inner-city student body. A majority of the teachers were good people and hard workers, but there were a few who weren’t. Bill, a PE teacher, had an interesting ritual between classes. He would go to his car, parked on campus, and open his trunk where he kept a large cache of hooch. By the end of the day – every day – he was obviously pickled. But he knew that no matter how slurred his speech may have been, getting plastered daily was an activity he could indulge in without professional consequence.
Back in 1975, I lost my 6th-grade teaching position in New York City. As a newbie, it was explained to me that this happened because the city was going bankrupt, and had to lay off several thousand teachers as part of the corrective process. I was told that the reason I was being shown the door had nothing to do with the quality of my teaching, but rather it was due to the seniority or last-in first-out system insisted upon by the United Federation of Teachers which was spearheaded by teacher union godfather Albert Shanker at the time.