Showtime’s “The Affair” features NYC Rubber Room

This past Sunday, Showtime’s Season Finale of “The Affair” featured a NYC rubber room!! I could not believe it. I thought that rubber rooms were reserved for documentaries like “The Rubber Room” or “Waiting for Superman.” As someone who is well versed in education policy it was great to see a mostly coveted education practice making its way into the public sphere through the realm of television.

Go here to see the only clip I could find featuring the rubber room

affair rubber room

The video doesn’t offer commentary. In the show, we see Noah, the main character having sex with another person in the school, then going into the  principal’s office, then showing up at the NYC Dept. of Education. There he punches a time card and sits down. He learns from his neighbor, Victor, that  Victor has been waiting 2 years for his resolution to come of the accusation. Noah asks if he can get a newspaper and the “proctor” says “If you leave this  room, you are quitting your job. In order to keep your job, you need to be in this room until 3:15 everyday.”

Noah asks if he can use the restroom and the proctor says “You need to give me your license and I’ll give you a hall pass.”

Later, when he admits to his wife that he’s been accused of sleeping with someone at his school and hasn’t been to work, she says to him, “You’ve been in the rubber room?” Like it is something everyone knows about! Except, apparently this reviewer of the show:

What the hell is a rubber room? Did I hear Helen right when she was talking to Noah about his many bed buddies during their time apart? That’s what she said when referring to him being caught with another teacher in school, right? Is that some sort of weird Montauk slang? I’ve never heard it, though then again, I could just be crazy.

Everyone else got it:

He casts a lascivious eye to a pretty fellow teacher at school and proceeds to have sex with her right there in the classroom. But he’s busted and sent to some sort of grown-up detention for disorderly teachers. He arrives at the Department of Education and learns that he just has to sit around and kill time indefinitely. His seat mate, Victor, who has read Infinite Jest twice is incredibly well read and has been hanging out in this “rubber room” for two years. Noah decides to make use of his time and start back on his book.

Sexual recklessness has had consequences personally and professionally. Helen has kicked him out of the house; schtupping in the classroom after school has resulted in Noah being removed from the classroom. (The idea of a detention room for teachers who are suspended with pay is a solution with ‘government bureaucracy’ written all over it.)

And even the commentors of these reviews know what a rubber room is:

Noah was sent to the infamous NYC Dept. of Education reassignment Center or “Rubber Room”, a not very nice holding pen where teachers who have been accused of wrongdoing wait for their hearings. They do collect full pay as they are technically not guilty of anything during the wait.

As a teacher of 39 years for NYC I am proud that I never had to spend a minute in the “rubber room”. They were supposed to do away with that wonderful establishment of punishing us and giving us secretarial duties in some cases. It was not a happy place especially if you did nothing wrong.

Interesting.. I’m a young teacher and have never heard of such a thing. Is it only for professors with tenure? Or is it something used on the East Coast?

New York City. You might be able to find the New Yorker article on it and there also was a documentary film made about The Rubber Room a few years ago

May be unique to the NYC Dept. Of Ed, but boy is it infamous here in NY.

I worked in the Board of Education for a couple years as a school secretary. There is a “rubber room” and they do nothing there, but get paid for it. Most of the time its cause the teacher did something indecent, immoral or aggressive.

I have a friend who has been in the Rubber Room for 2 years because one of her students jokingly reported to a friend that she never checks for homework 😦 even if true, does not meet any of the above criteria 😦

You can thank your teacher’s union for the rubber room!

How do anti-reformers blatantly ignore success?

Joel Klein’s new book, “Lessons of Hope: How to Fix our Schools” is on my holiday gift request list so I have not read it yet. However, after reading two opposing book reviews I am more at a loss than ever.

How is it possible that two different people have these two views of the same book?

Here is a segment from

Upon Klein’s departure in 2010, scholars from Harvard, the University of Virginia, and Research Alliance for New York City Schools weighed in on Klein’s tenure. They concluded that his reforms had significantly improved teacher quality in high-poverty schools, and had significantly improved student academic performance compared with a control group of students elsewhere in the state.

The benefit of distance makes results under Klein look even more impressive. Within the past month, two rigorous, gold standard studies showed that Klein’s controversial decisions to close failing schools and experiment with new approaches delivered gains in poor kids’ college enrollment and compensation for individual teachers.

Here is a segment from John Thompson:

In perhaps the most inexplicable passage in his book, Klein cites Anthony Bryk’s finding that school improvement requires trusting relationships. Because each person or group involved in school improvement is dependent on the actions of the others, Bryk explained that teachers, principals, parents, students and administrators must work together and build trust in each other. How that principle is compatible with Klein’s brass-knuckled approach is beyond me.

… Inevitably, Klein’s accountability system would reward some schools merely because they did well with the lucky hand they were dealt. Others would be punished for low performance and further damaged because bureaucrats were incapable of recognizing the full set of challenges that they faced.

My question as a public citizen and a person looking to advance education to ensure every student has a quality education is – Did Klein’s strategy work? Dmitri gave specific examples as to where Klein’s practices worked and John performed a literal research report on Klein’s book but didn’t tell me anything about the results (or even lackthereof) of Klein’s approach.

John also seemed to glaze over these tidbits that were certainly impactful for me, as I saw absolutely no mention of the havoc that union-sponsored behavior takes on school, teachers, parents, students & the public.

From Dmitri’s post:

Klein experienced bureaucratic inertia early in his career, when he taught sixth grade mathematics in Queens. Klein asked for permission to work with the students’ parents after school to help them understand what their children were learning. The response back was: “If you do it, the parents will expect the other teachers to do it, and they won’t want to, so they will resent you.”

This same deadening impulse met Klein decades later when he became Chancellor in New York. As he recalls, “The guiding principle was that rules, rather than trust, were the best way to run a school.” On his first day, Klein asked about a light on his phone. A secretary from the previous administration answered: “Oh, ignore that. It’s just an angry parent. If we leave it on hold long enough she’ll go away.”

Schools in poor neighborhoods did poorly under this regime. They suffered thousands of violent crimes, atrocious dropout rates, and decrepit buildings with major plumbing problems.

More, unspeakable truth from Dmitri’s post:

Wealthy New Yorkers asked for specific student, teacher, and principal placements, and reacted with rage when Klein demurred. For example, Klein met early in his tenure with three principals from the East Side (where Fariña had served as a principal).

These principals told Klein that the worst thing he had done was “sent us excessed teachers from another school.” When Klein responded that the contract required him to give those teachers jobs, the principals said: “In the past, we never got the excessed teachers, because everyone knew our community wouldn’t tolerate them.” Klein asked whose kids deserved those teachers, and the principals answered: “That’s your problem. Just don’t send them to us.”