Saturday, December 14, 2019

Charter Supporters Protest Us in Pittsburgh

I'm at the Westin, in Pittsburgh. To the left you can see a huge sinkhole that's right in front of the hotel. Up close, it looks as though the Avengers were here battling some comic-book monster set on ravaging the city. That's a pretty apt image for what's happening here. I just walked out in the rain and saw them, in a circle, chanting about choice.

Before I even mention why we're the Avengers and they're the monster, let's reflect back on years of pro-charter propaganda. Do you remember, on Oprah's show, when people like Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and every reformy star they could pluck from the universe appeared to hype the big-budget anti-public-school stinker Waiting for Superman, who the pro-public-school reps were? Me neither, because there weren't any.

Do you remember when candidate Cory Booker, also appearing on Oprah, with Chris Christie and Mark Zuckerberg, took 100 million dollars, ostensibly to fix the public schools he called "repugnant," gave equal time to public school supporters? Me neither. Do you remember Campbell Brown giving time to public school supporters when she did her presidential thing in 2016? Me neither. Did the reformies portray public school supporters fairly in Son of Waiting for Superman, or Won't Back Down (my sincere apologies to Tom Petty), or whatever they called Hollywood stinker number two? Of course not.

MSNBC is hosting our forum and livestreaming it. I vividly recall when they were behind something called Education Nation, a bonanza of publicity for reforminess that barely paid lip service to public education. I would not be remotely surprised if they turned around and did something similar this year to placate the protestors this year, surely a goal of theirs.

Bill Gates and DFER have big pockets, and big-pocketed friends. Let's take a look at charter schools. How many of them scream about the 100% of their grads go on to four-year colleges? Then you read Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris, or Gary Rubinstein, or any number of analysts point out that they've shed 60-80% of their students before arriving at that 100% figure. Oddly, schools like mine who take everyone and keep everyone who wants to stay do far better than that. Go figure. And it's us who take on the students who charters have let down, tossed out or given up on.

Then you look at charters right here in Pennsylvania that suck public school districts dry, leaving them to wither and die for all they care. And for what? For money, of course, Though politicians shed crocodile tears over "for profit" charters, in most of the country "for profit" charters are illegal. That doesn't stop parasites like Eva Moskowitz from pulling in almost a million bucks a year in New York City as she moves on like a cancer degrading and upending public schools. Then they have million dollar fund raisers attended by hedge funders who wouldn't send their kids to public schools on a bet.

As for those poor charter supporters can stand out there feeling sorry for themselves, but even at our forum, we have Cory Booker, who champions standardized testing, supports not only charters but also vouchers, and who was an early supporter of DFER, an organization that constitutes the reformiest of the reformies. He appeared before one of Betsy DeVos's from groups and called them his earliest supporters. He takes money from Gates, Broad and the Walmart family. They aren't paying him to support public education. Mayor Pete may have little to say about charters, but he's taking a crapload of money from them. I don't personally believe they're supporting him simply for his charming smile.

And Biden? I'm sorry, but he was Vice-President when we all lived through Race to the Top. Almost every state in the country was blackmailed into not only supporting charters, but also rating teachers by junk science. While Booker can jump up and down with glee over it, teachers nationwide suffered, and are still suffering by oporessive and idiotic systems. Great teachers, teachers of the year, brilliant young people lost their jobs over this. What did Biden have to say when Arne Duncan stood up in front of God and everybody and declared Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to NOLA education?

Crickets. Meanwhile, the entire school district was charterized and union is pretty much nostalgia, a thing of the past. All the schools that no longer have to Wait for Superman are rated F, or D if they're lucky. After over a decade of charters and reforminess NAEP scores are flat. Here's a fact--unless we do something about poverty,  homelessness, and health care in this country, as opposed to giving spectacular tax breaks to those who least need them, charters are a band-aid. Actually, since they don't really work, since they are intended to destroy a public good, and since it's repugnant to make robots out of children, they aren't even that.

Charters are overwhelmingly non-union. Teachers are fired for having a bad haircut. It's particularly egregious when charters are set on profit over serving the children. I know charter teachers who've been fired for trying to help children, as opposed to test-prepping them to death. Charter school teachers haven't got a long shelf life. Those I know who continue do so by going from school to school. They tell me it's a way of life. They never really manage to make a living, and haven't got a significant voice in improving learning conditions, let alone working conditions. I don't want my kids and students, or yours to grow up to a world with jobs like that. 

Let the billionaire-sponsored supporters hold their signs and complain. Clearly, they represent the sinkhole. If you want it to spread, go out and march along with them.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

UFT Delegate Assembly December 11, 2019--DOE Needs Lesson On Instructional Leadership

4:33 UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomes us.

National—Dumpster fire. We are preparing for state budget. National politics have direct effect. Saturday is AFT Presidential Forum. Remember when Michael Bloomberg was mayor? He did not do all of what he says. We will remind everyone when it came to public education and policing, his policies were destructive, helped neither education nor communities. Approval rating on education was 21% when he left office.

State—Health care budget in very bad shape. Medicare growth over 13%, state budgeted only 4. We are constantly fighting and trying to figure how to negotiate with health care companies and hospitals. We will continue to fight. They’re making a whole lot of money, think we can just pay, pay and pay. We have been forcing them to deal with us professionally. We now lobby with them. In Albany, they will try to pit us against health care interests, as used to happen in the past.

Rochester facing 200 teacher layoffs. Midyear cuts are horrendous. City already struggling. Working with NYSUT, trying to work this out. Rochester facing severe financial crisis. Hoping this forces them to come up with a plan and deal with issue rather than pushing it off. Teachers and students don’t deserve to bear brunt of city mismanagement.

NYC—We have issues with Instructional Leadership Framework. We have an agreement with CSA and DOE that we will work together to prepare NYC schools for changes in NY State assessments. ILF in direct conflict with work we’re trying to get done. Based on advanced literacy. We like it, but they only took a portion of it. Forgot that every teacher must have real curriculum, scope and sequence, expectations, relevant topics, not go to Engage NY, or here’s a book.

This happened with Common Core, and same thing can happen again. We won’t sit by and have people who hate public education call us a failure. Give CSA credit—they have no contract and have offered to work with us. Each school district has autonomy over curriculum. State may not issue one.

We will do this process. Will be tough. I see schools buying products aligned to nothing, things that will not help us move into the future. Blame DOE, who said they weren’t in the curriculum business. Chancellor has corrected that, says they now are.

Group of chapter leaders will have new online community. Focus group met with IT engineers. New tool will be used to collect info. Most schools don’t have a curriculum. DOE recognizes that. They point at principals, who run around and grab whatever they can.

If we can show that each school should give a curriculum and design PD off of that, we will have improved conditions in schools. We need DOE and CSA on board with this project. Test scores are not everything, but our enemies use them against us.

It’s awful that we make children fail tests for which they aren’t prepared. We need to address it. Will update in January. On Tuesday Regents said every school must have a PD committee that is majority teachers. We will keep pushing at this. Will work from February to May. Hope by June schools are aligned with curriculum and PD.

Political teams—Empower, organize and engage. Everyone should have a consultation team. That is a voice and right you have. If not, we will help. Asked each district to form political team of 5-10 per district. Long-term plan. First, we want members to be known as political entities inside district. Major challenge is census.

Our economy has to go down sooner or later. Met with over 400 people here, with Count Me In census group. We want our money back from DC. Sick and tired of NYC money building roads in Alabama. They’re laughing at us. Were we at 70% ten years ago, we might not be fighting 13 years for money we supposedly won in settlement. We were at 60, lowest performing in state. If we were at 70, we’d have gotten all our CFE money.

Last time we left it to those in charge to take care of it. They failed. We are taking active role in census this time. They screwed up. If we want something done, we need teachers and nurses. This will be first process of political team. We will take our teams in the district. Carving city into geographic maps. Want our teams to be hub of communication.

Don’t want to go back to years when Bloomberg tried to lay off thousands of teachers three years in a row. We have to get to at least 75% in census. After that, will move into elections and political action. Our teams will be able to support chapter leaders with problem principals. Will do a few weekends of prep. Can’t do all at one time. We will come up with our own plans.

Number one most uncounted cohort in NYC ten years ago was children. Every resident counts. There is a constitutional piece that says census info may not be used about anything but the census. Our enemies will threaten deportation, or throwing people out for over-occupancy of apartments. We have to get truth out.

All class size grievances are now finished. DOE wants to meet with us. They aren’t happy about it. Superintendents and principals upset because they weren’t told they were responsible. We want to meet. Think it can go faster.

We average over 10,000 phone calls a week, We are answering, getting to better place. Last Monday we had 11,000 calls. Answered all of them.

Consultation—was a big push. Last year, some of you said consultation was canceled and we counted it. We are now at 75%. We didn’t get near that until last May. Biggest obstacle of those left is people who say they have no issues. Once you give up a right, it’s gone. Is consultation only about problems?

For example, school wanted to have a dance. Did an SBO, moved parent engagement time, and found time to chaperone a dance, despite budget issues. If you empower people at the school they can figure things out. Outsiders come in and cause problems.

Number one issue is school policy and staff morale. We have a ways to go. Those schools should be saying we want better schools and putting their ideas on the record. There is now a record when administration fails to do the right thing.

A lot of people complain about Quality Review. Tied to principal ratings and complete waste of time. I applaud principals who understand and approach staff the right way. Similar to instructional leadership framework. With no curriculum, what is framework based on?

Thanks us—first full year of paid parental leave. Set our goals—Only two unions in city with contract done, headed into tough financial times. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for most important people in union—chapter leaders. Everything we do is to support you.

Gave up on Tweed years ago. Should be a museum. They want to know why I diminish their work. Because it’s useless. Operations and safety are improving. On instruction and teaching and learning—the worst part. That’s their biggest deficit. Can’t get out of their own way.

Thanks us but there’s always more to do. Never can do enough for kids, can always keep fighting, we are greatest union on face of earth and thank you.

LeRoy Barr—Points us to UFT podcast. Suggests we pass code around so all can listen, whether or not they come to meetings. We will have others.

Welcomes secretary delegates.

Kwanzaa event next week Brooklyn 4-8. Jan 6 Three kings celebration in Bronx. Next DA January 15.

Mulgrew—Two events—Thanksgiving and holiday events for homeless children. Thanks Rich Mantel, raised 40K and 700 coats distributed through city. Thanks Karen Alford for hosting event with children. I tell elected officials they should be ashamed for doing nothing. Deplorable that this city blames everyone and no one helps 114K children in homeless shelters. Happy we can at least give them a day of respite.

Questions

Q—Michael Bloomberg—trying to get Dem nomination. Imagine DeVos replaced with Klein—How do we support right candidate?

A—NYS performed well in last election. We vote in high percentages. Decide on different issues. At AFT we are pushing all state and locals to engage with candidates. Once UFT endorses, that will stop engagement in other states. Once we endorse, we won’t be able to engage in PA, Florido, Ohio, etc. We want to make sure they are actively engaged, having real conversations in these states. UFT doesn’t do endorsements. AFT does national endorsements. We need to have a thoughtful process, help states engage in more meaningful way. In terms of Bloomberg, it’s scary. Klein was more effective than Betsy, who’s like Cathie Black. We are watching very closely. Have communicated everything AFT needs to know about Bloomberg. He’s posing as a great educator. We will talk about how he tried to destroy public education. We believe in long run it’s important to actively engage AFT. We will make sure everyone knows about Bloomberg.

Q—Evaluation—in some areas principals are up to date. In some, it’s not going well. Deadline some time in January. What if they miss deadline?

A—We want principals to get in and do observations. Clearly talent coaches didn’t get message. Admin just walking around demanding compliance with rubrics. Teachers can grieve if they don’t get observed by January. I will put it in my consultation.

Q—D 75 in many schools, often colocated. Buildings not organized for us or staff. Has this been addressed?

A—Yes. Constant challenge for union. At times it gets better. Hoping as we move forward we see better participation. We want to get into a better place, but we’re not where we should be. We have to own this. Sometimes they are completely integrated, and that’s a great educational setting. We have to have conversations at work sites. We have same challenge with campus sites. We have a map of D75 sites. DOE doesn’t know where they are. They only know payroll codes. We have made inroads, but there’s always more to do. We will continue to push issue.

Q—New contract has worked well in my building. My building has almost 3400 students, 230 UFT members, most E and HE. An issue is that it’s two observations for those in the system, and they’re 15 minutes. Part of feedback is on losing option of formal. You get to sit down and work things out. That is felt as a loss. Our admin is happy to do a formal, but they can’t put it in Advance that way for those only due for two informals.

A—I will check. If that’s true, admin can only do two. Happy about your engagement. Was big debate among negotiating committee. Was big debate over ability to have a formal. DOE didn’t want to force them to do it. Many on our side said they didn’t want formals. I would like to have the option, but it’s a negotiation. Will look at it for next contract.

Motions

David Pecoraro
—Resolved, UFT opposes Trump admin designation of Judaism as a nationality. History of designating religious group as nationality is awful. I am an American. Born in Brooklyn. Jew by faith and anything else is false. Hope we can put on agenda.

Roy Whitford—With respect, motion based on early NYT report that has since come into question about validity. Washington Post says this is incorrect. Text of executive order not yet released. Need all our facts straight first.

Fails

Adam Marcus
—Resolution to provide CL and delegates with undoing racism training. Took undoing racism course. Changed teaching process. (speaks very fast, I can’t keep up) Speaks of white people teaching students of color, helps dismantle racist policies. Many policies based on racism. Will empower and engage.

Janella Hinds-- Important we analyze thinking we bring to our work with students. Oppose this. Want to find best ways to partner with community organizations on racism, gender discrimination. We are committed to doing this work. This is too far ahead of where we want to stand.

Fails

Marjorie Stamberg—this month—reminder that we are working class—Issue is not which Democrat or Republican—Democrats party of Wall st., have pushed racism and homelessness. To defend immigrants and oppressed, must oppose capitalism.

Michael Friedman
—thanks Marjorie for being his colleague upon her retirement.

Fails.

Mulgrew thanks her for always coming and being passionate.

Point of order—Peter Lamphere—Is it possible to ask body to extend motion period 5 minutes.

Passes

Mike Sill
—Resolution protesting Rochester teacher layoffs.

Placed on agenda.


Ryan Brokenthal—Motion for next month—in support of Democratic process in UFT. AFT said we could have own process. Want one member one vote process. Recognize taking time and not wanting to overstep locals.

Evelyn de Jesus
—We appreciate members that signed this but we have a representative process at UFT. Four VPs sit on council. Our union has variety of strategies to ensure candidates reflect our values. Would like 200 members who signed be PAC members in schools. Have forum on Saturday for this. Our job to make sure we rep your voices. This DA is elected and representative. I ask you not to support this, but to support our process going forward.

Fails.

Mulgrew
—Thanks us for all we do. Loves delegate assembly. Take time off. Relax, Be healthy.

Resolution—Lower drug costs

?—Supports HR3 to lower drug costs and act now. Seniors and all Americans will pay less and lower costs. Americans now pay highest prices in world. Last month, ABC news did a story about GA woman who lived in car. Couldn’t afford rent and prescription medicines. Wants prices in line with other countries like Canada, France and Mexico. Will be 2K cap on out of pocket costs for seniors. We will negotiate Medicare prices. Will reduce insurance premiums. Seniors, retirees and others can’t afford to wait.

Peter Selinger—calls question

Resolution passes unanimously
.

Mike Sill—Rochester is saying Merry Christmas wondering whether they’re going back to work. This is due to mismanagement. They can’t bail themselves out on backs of working people.

Kate Martin Bridge
—Calls question

Resolution passes unanimously.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Thing

Nothing strikes fear into a teacher's heart quite like the prospect of another day of PD on the New Thing. There are all these programs, based on the presumption that you're doing everything wrong, and trying to get you to correct yourself and do everything right. Right there you've already lost. It's like you're five years old and someone is telling you to drink castor oil for your own good.

First, no one wants to do anything for their "own good." Doing something for your own good is virtually always synonymous with doing something you don't want to do. More importantly, the people who claim to know what's good for you, well, they're often way off base. The implicit assumption of a whole lot of PDs is that we don't know what we're doing. I sat for several hours a few weeks ago while some highly paid corporate functionary told me what is and is not a good story.

It wasn't as bad as the first time they came, when we compared and contrasted crap with good writing, but all in all it was not a productive use of my time. I'd argue that if I, as an English teacher, were unable to distinguish between cleverness and crap there would be something amiss that a three-hour workshop would be unlikely to correct. The assumption that I don't know the difference, though, is insulting, and that's what you get from a lot of PD.

At a friend's school they simulated a sweat shop and had to make things. I saw pictures of baskets they created. This might be a great activity for a social studies class. In fact, given that I teach immigrants, it might be a great activity for my class. This is the sort of work my grandparents had to do when they came here. For all I know, this is what my students' parents are still doing. And in the US of A in 2019 working newcomers are reviled for doing work a whole lot of Americans wouldn't dream of doing. It's great to see someone break out of the New Thing Mode.

I wonder why PD can't consist of us going somewhere and doing something, perhaps as a model for something we'd go and do with our students. I once took my students to the Tenement Museum in Manhattan. It's pretty remarkable to see how people used to live. There's a Queens Museum a few miles from our school. I don't think I've set foot there for decades. Maybe we should be letting students know about their own neighborhoods. Maybe we should do walking tours. Maybe it should be the students leading us.

PD is, for the most part, the flavor of the week, or more accurately, of the year. Every year there is some New Thing, touted as the best and only thing, and we spend all year like dogs chasing our tails running after it. It doesn't matter whether or not we catch it, because next year will be the Newer Thing, and that will be all the rage.

PD sessions are almost invariably given uncritically by people who've accepted the New Thing as tantamount to the Ten Commandments. They believe in the Thing fervently, and the only possible way to be an effective teacher is to use the Thing on a perpetual basis in your classroom. There are good reasons for this. One is the only way to claw your way into the ranks of supervision is to be guided by the New Thing, whatever it may be. This is accompanied, of course, by an absolute willingness to drop the Thing in a New York minute once the powers that be come up with a new flavor.

We career teachers continue our work, even as supervisors continue to ponder why we fail to jump up and down at the prospect of each and every New Thing. Because they're 100% devoted to the Thing of the Week, it never crosses their mind that we may just as well have seen the Thing 15 years ago with a different name, and that 14 years ago it was discarded as trash, left in the pile with each and every other Thing of the Past.

We teachers just keep going. It's important that we remain critical and continue to ask questions, not matter how much that disturbs the powers that be. After all, our prime function is as role models to children.

Monday, December 09, 2019

What Would You Ask the Presidential Candidates?

A week or two ago, I got an email from AFT. They were seeking people to go to Pittsburgh this coming weekend to see and hopefully participate in the presidential education forum. It asked me," IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO TELL THE NEXT PRESIDENT ONE THING ABOUT WHY YOU’RE PUBLIC SCHOOL PROUD OR WHAT YOU SEE IN YOUR SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY THAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? "

I had to click on a link and respond, so I don't actually have a record of my answer. I'm pretty sure it had something to do with working behind the most overcrowded school in New York City in a miserable trailer that's hot around summer and cold around winter. I may have asked about how exactly a candidate would support and encourage union, not only for teachers, but for all Americans.

A few days ago, I was notified that I was one of 25 applicants who AFT had selected to send to Pittsburgh. If you aren't coming, you can still watch. AFT will be training me in solidarity and social media Friday, and I'll be able to attend the forum on Saturday. I will try to ask a question of at least one of the candidates. I've got just a few things on my mind.

It weighs heavily in my memory that candidate Barack Obama said he'd pass card check so as to encourage and enable union. To the best of my recollection, he never even tried. I also recall him saying he'd find comfortable shoes and march with labor, and that he never set foot in Wisconsin as collective bargaining was stripped from teachers and others. I recall candidate Obama saying something to NEA on the lines of, "I'll do it with you, not to you." I also recall Arne Duncan being selected as education secretary. Duncan, famously, said that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Now I recall very clearly what happened in NOLA. All, or almost all, the public schools were closed and re-opened as charter schools. Union is pretty much a thing of the past. Due process? Dream on. How many teachers were displaced? How many teachers of color lost their jobs? Who knows? How many had to come back to work without tenure or due process rights? How many are working in other states? How many didn't come back at all? How many died, along with other residents, in "the best thing that happened to education in NOLA?"

Do you remember Barack Obama firing Duncan for that remark? Do you remember him, or candidate Biden raising a peep about it? Me neither.

Are you troubled by being judged by junk science value-added nonsense? Are you stressed out of your mind because of the evaluation system? Do you, like me, think that Common Core exams are total crap, moving students and teachers backward rather than forward? Are you upset that the previous Democratic administration pushed Race to the Top, enabled charters, and pushed closures of public schools?

Have you got other concerns? Do you think it's ridiculous to object to public health care, or free college because children of the rich might avail themselves of it? Have you got other questions or objections you'd like to see answered?

Please let me know in the comments.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

On Ignoring Special Needs

In an ICT, or Integrated Co-Teaching class, you can have only 12 students with IEPs. That's the rule. However, in a non-ICT class, perhaps yours or mine, you can have 34. It's an odd phenomenon.

You see, there are rules regarding special education classes, and there are rules regarding special education students. Many are driven by student Individual Education Programs, or IEPs. But there are some curious oddities about IEPs. I'm far from expert, but I've learned a few things along the way.

One thing I've learned is that ICT classes, essentially classes with a mix of special education and general education students, are not required in high schools. They either have them or they don't. If they do, the notion appears to be that the special education students will be encouraged and/ or positively influenced by the general education students, and also get additional support from the special education teacher in the classroom. Of course the students will be selected for this program based on individual educational needs, and their IEPs will reflect them.

That sounds reasonable on its face. However, in practice, it may not be as good as it sounds. Some administrators will look at the classes, see that there are two teachers, and assign troubled general education students to them.

Look, this student has failed algebra twice, seems to act out in class all the time, and does not appear to be improving. Let's dump him into this ICT class and hope with two teachers he'll do better.

This is plainly detrimental to the special education students. For one thing, the extra attention they're supposed to get will be diverted. One or both teachers will likely have to deal with whatever issues the troubled general education students have, and the special education students will almost certainly get shortchanged as a result. Not only that, but by stacking the deck in this class the special education students are no longer mixing with a cross-section of general education. How will special ed. students be positively influenced by an overabundance of gen. ed. students with plainly negative histories?

I'd argue that administrators who assign troubled gen. ed. students to IEP classes hoping they will get extra help are ill-informed at best, cynical and dishonest at worst. They're clearly doing a disservice to special education students, and evidently care about them not at all.

There are further issues with ICT classes. Imagine your school has ICT classes for core subjects--English, math, social studies and science. Of course students take other classes. Let's say a student is assigned ICT for those subjects, and then she's placed in a mainstream gen. ed. Spanish class. It boggles my imagination to believe that a student needs extra support in her native language, but no help whatsoever in a foreign language.

We Americans are generally poor language learners to begin with. We live in a big country and seem to collectively assume little need of speaking foreign languages. I'd argue that all of us, not only special education students, need extra support in language learning. It seems likely to me that special education students would need even more support. Speaking another language can open up another world, but if you just get lost in the shuffle, the class is just another waste of time.

Now let's assume there are no ICT classes in your school, and that special education classes are largely self-contained groups of 12-15. Imagine that a student needs to be in small classes for English, math, science and social studies to function effectively. That same student could easily be in a class of 34 studying Spanish, or some other language. In fact, that student could be in a required music class with 49 other students.

Personally, I wonder how anyone can learn anything in a class of 50. Motivated music students request classes like chorus, band, or guitar. Perhaps a functioning music group with 50 members is an exception. This notwithstanding, the least motivated students can end up in required music classes of 50. It's plainly idiotic to place the least motivated students in super-large classes. It's even worse to place special education students, who likely as not need special attention, in such classes.

I don't write IEPs, but I suppose if I did I'd have to write them around courses my school actually offered. I understand schools are already overburdened and underfunded. My school is over 200% capacity and probably the most overcrowded school in the city. So it's not necessarily the fault of individual schools.

Still, students with special needs require special attention. In many cases, they aren't getting what they need. We're bound by this curious system, but there must be a way we can do better.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Boy, This Place Is Hard to Find

I hate it when students arrive late. It wouldn't be so bad if I could arrive late as well, but administration takes a dim view of that. They feel if they're paying me that I ought to be working. Who knows where they get ideas like that? Anyway, since I have to be there, I figure the students have to be there too. Of course they find that irritating, because it's far more convenient to just show up whenever you golly gosh darn feel like it.

I challenge them sometimes. "Why are you late?" They say I'm in room 215 and it's far away. The next day, if I'm free, I'll show up at the end of the period and walk them to my class. We are never late. Of course if you linger in the hall discussing all the vital issues of the day with your friends and acquaintances, that won't be the case. There are a whole lot of reasons to be late, and almost none of them are good.

Now I'll admit that I'm late on very rare occasions. Sometimes I'll be at a meeting in the principal's office and the bell rings. You don't always want to just get up and run the hell away. However, that might happen a couple of times a year at worst. I have students who are late every day, or every other day.

When I'm late for a class, or a meeting, or anything, I walk in and say, "Boy, this place is hard to find." It doesn't matter if I go there every month, every week, or every day. There's really no good excuse for me to be late. Why not go the dog ate my homework route, since no one will believe me anyway?

I'm tired of hearing my students tell me they had to wait for the bus, or their class is too far, or they went to visit some secretary in some office somewhere when they were supposed to be in English class. I'm particularly tired of hearing it from students who are late on a regular basis. I don't want to tell them anymore to catch an earlier bus, because it's now become a been there done that thing.

Now I tell them no more excuses. When you're late, walk in and say, "BOY, this place is HARD to FIND." For one thing, it's as good as any ridiculous excuse you're going to make up. For another, I can lean on them and demand emphasis and enunciation. If they say it like they're asleep, I make them repeat it.

The students who are frequently late are really irritated by this.

"I'm sorry," they say.

"What do you say?" I ask.

"Can I pass?" they say.

"That's not what you say."

Sometimes they say the right thing, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes they forget. However, the girl who sits closest by the door remembers. She will write it on a piece of paper and hand it to the latecomer. I give her extra participation credit.

Then I make them repeat it, with feeling.

I'm not sure why they hate it so much. My hope, though, is that they hate it enough to show up on time.

We shall see.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Bloomberg Reaches Out to Educators

Hi it's me again, your old pal Mayor Mike. I have a special message for you all. You remember all those things I did and said to you guys? Well, I'm sorry. There. I said it. Do I need to say it again? Don't you believe me?

Anyhoo, I'm a little upset that the guy in the White House, you know who, the one I won't name in my ad, has decided to boycott Bloomberg News just because it isn't delivering any news about Bloomberg. You know, me, Mike, your bestest buddy. How is that fair? I can't have people on the payroll saying bad things about me. That's unacceptable. I expect EVERYONE to pay attention to me, even if my giant news organization pretends I don't exist. AND IF ANY OF YOU LOSERS TRIES TO IMPEACH ME, I WON'T COOPERATE!!! Oh, hold on now, I didn't mean to raise my voice. That's what the other guy does. Okay, I'm sorry. There. Is it all better now?

Now let's look back at what I did for you FRIGGING LOSER TEACHERS!!! Wait a minute. I meant you respected and dignified educators, of course. Now look, I raise my voice now and then but I don't mean anything by it. This is just how very, very rich people express ourselves. Yeah, that's the ticket. Anyway, who was it who took a bold stand against white bread in school cafeterias? That was ME, BITCH! I mean, I did that. Didn't that make your lives better? Don't you enjoy your new svelte waistline, and isn't it all BECAUSE OF ME AND NO ONE EVER SAYS THANK YOU!!! NOOOOO, THAT WOULD BE TOO MUCH TROUBLE!!!

And how about all those new schools I created? Sure, I had to close a lot of old ones, and sure, the  public had no say. I know, you'll say I filled them all up with newbies so there'd be little or no union presence, and that I dumped all the difficult students in larger schools so I could close them too. Well that might be true, and sure, you'll say I built up charters to make a separate and unequal system, by giving money to people who could draw millions from private sources. Okay, I did insist we call them public schools even though the only thing public about them was that they take your money.

I SAVED THE SCHOOLS ALL BY MYSELF, AND ALL YOU FRIGGING TEACHERS COULD DO WAS BITCH AND MOAN!!! YOU'RE AS BAD AS THE NRA!!! SCREAMING ABOUT YOUR FRIGGING DUE PROCESS RIGHTS!! I HAD THAT LONG ISLAND SENATOR, THE IRISH GUY, WHAT'S HIS NAME, READY TO DESTROY SENIORITY RIGHTS, BUT NOOOO, YOU SOBS MANAGED TO WEASEL OUT!!!

Wait. What I meant to say was, we had our differences, but we worked them out. Hey, let's let bygones be bygones, okay? It's not asking too much. I'm a nice guy. Who else would give someone like Joel Klein a chance to be chancellor, even though he had no supervisory experience whatsoever? And hey, who else but me had an open mind enough to nominate Cathie Black, even though she knew less about education than a New York Times education reporter?

And hey, how about that Leadership Academy? Who could take regular people and turn them into slogan-spouting martinets with zero tolerance for almost anything? Who taught them the proper way to place letters in your file? Who told them how to place people on 3020a for any or no reason, and who allowed them to make you ATRs rather than take you back, even if you hadn't actually done anything?

Okay, I can see I'm not reaching you here. Hey how about this? Wasn't it me who spoke about rearranging desks? Didn't you all come in one day and notice that every room had desks in a circle? How cool was that? And if you, as a teacher, actually liked doing that, well, there you go. That was ME, you UNGRATEFUL... no, what I mean to say is I did that to help you guys.

Okay, now maybe once or twice I may have kept you waiting until 5 AM to let you know there were snow days, but hey, de Blasio got embarrassed once or twice because the snow didn't pan out and NO ONE EMBARRASSES MIKE BLOOMBERG, DO YOU HEAR THAT??? I MEAN NO ONE!!!!

Okay, now sure I may have spent a snowstorm or two in my private resort in Bermuda, but that doesn't mean I don't care about you. If I didn't care I wouldn't be trying so hard to buy your vote. And sure, my no-bid contracts with Alvarez and Marsall left tens of thousands of children standing around freezing with no buses on the coldest day of the year, but look on the bright side. At least they weren't my kids! Hey, that's a joke, I would never in a million years send one of my kids to a public school.

But please, stop giving me such a hard time. You know, I'm a very sensitive guy actually. Otherwise, why would I have placed a room air-conditioner in my SUV? I didn't want to lose one drop of my precious bodily fluids. I keep them in a jar in a special room in my townhouse. So when you read that I want to fire half of New York City's teachers, and create classes of 70, don't get all bent out of shape. I'm a businessman, that's all. It's business, not personal.

Let's get down to brass tacks. How much will it take to buy your vote?

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

A Winter Wonderland

First, I apologize for the lack of an Executive Board report today. Yesterday afternoon around 4 I was sitting in the lobby at 52 Broadway when I got an email saying our meeting was canceled due to weather conditions. I hopped in my car and spent two hours driving home in miserable rain, snow and whatever else you call what was happening out there. Happily, I made it without incident.

This morning was something else altogether. I have a ritual of walking my dog Toby every morning between 5 and 5:30 AM. Toby thinks that's too early, but usually I feed him beforehand. He's highly motivated to get up no matter what the hour when food is involved. Toby will eat almost anything, but he's quite fond of Freshpet tender chicken with vegetables and brown rice.

We always walk up the sidestreets to the canal, which people call the Nautical Mile. I'm not sure it's really a mile, but it's a great walk, especially when it's as beautiful as it was today. A lot of blogs I write are composed during these walks. I always run the ideas before Toby. Unless he
objects strenuously, I usually go with these ideas.

To the right you can see the park we usually walk through. There's a little house there that seems to hold supplies for the rent-a-yacht that you see parked there. I don't know how much you have to pay to ride on it, but in weather like this you'd have to pay me more than that to take it. In the summer, Toby and I often see crowds waiting to get on the boat. He stops and tries to say hello to everyone. He feels that God placed every single person there to give him attention. A lot of the crowd feels the same and obliges him, but not all.

Personally I don't trust people who don't like dogs. It's like not liking the Beatles, but I suppose there are those people too. Now generally, I don't love snow. I wasn't loving it last night on the long slog home. But this morning it was absolutely gorgeous. The snow blowing in my face and fogging up my glasses didn't bother me at all. Of course I have a pretty good winter coat. We dog-walkers take special care to have clothing for all occasions. I don't know whether or not the post office really goes out in snow, sleet, or dead of night, but dog walking is every day, several times a day, and no exceptions.

Here we're approaching a Christmas tree that represents the most festive portion of our journey. Fortunately, at 5 AM the home owners have their music off. However, if you go by here at 5 PM, they have a constant procession of muzak versions of Christmas carols they share endlessly. It's cute for a minute, but the people who live in the condos across the street have to listen to many, many minutes and often complain to Toby and me. I understand. In the summer, we often hear Mr. Softee trucks playing that calliope theme over and over again. It's maddening. I'm fairly certain if I worked on a Mr. Softee truck I'd turn quickly suicidal.

Nonetheless, it's absolutely gorgeous out there. Unless, of course, you have to drive to work. If you have to do that, I have to warn you it's quite slippery out there. Be very careful and take extra caution. Of course, if you're smarter than I am, you probably stayed home this morning.

In any case, I wish you a great day, and I hope you get outside and enjoy this beautiful snow!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

The Four Day Weekend

This is an idea whose time has come. I don't know about you, but it was perfect for me. On Thanksgiving we went to visit my daughter, who moved way out into Suffolk, evidently the only place anyone can afford to live nowadays. It was nice. We had fun, and my dog had a blast playing with her dog. A win-win.

The rest of the weekend I had no plans. I binge-watched season 3 of The Man in the High Castle, and started season 4, which looks to be the better of the two. I got a new iPad, and read a Lawrence Block book about Bernie Rhodenbarr, the affable gentleman burglar. I also walked my dog in temperatures ranging from freezing cold to merely cold. I feel like I've covered all the bases and now I'm ready to go back to work.

Weekends slip by too fast for me. It's like you turn around and whoosh! They've disappeared. Where did they go? No one knows. But this one was just long enough. I'm ready to go back to work and wear a non-flannel shirt for a few days. I don't know about you, but it's obvious to me that weekends should be four days year round. I'm pretty sure if I were to run for office on that plank I'd get wide support from people who actually work.

Being one of those people myself, I think I have a good feel for that sort of thing. Now I'm a teacher by trade, and perhaps you're saying, "Sure, NYC Educator, but what about the kids? What will happen to them if they only go to school three days a week?" Personally, I think they'd be a lot happier. It would be good if we let kids know we valued their time, as opposed to filling it with mountains of homework and pressure.

I've got a confession, and this won't be popular. After a while, I get tired of the summer. I love walking my little dog, but I'm not yet ready to make a career out of it. By the end of the summer, I'm more than ready to go to work. These days, when the principal says, "I hope you're back and re-energized," I actually am. I know that's not popular, because most of the room groans audibly at hearing that.

This notwithstanding, I think the four-day weekend will resolve that issue for all of us. Okay, I mean sure it might be harder for Michael Bloomberg to accrue another billion dollars if he has to wait on people to do his work for him,  but I for one am willing to make that sacrifice. Of course we'll need to increase union so greedy bastards like Bloomberg and Bezos can't go turn around and halve the weekend as opposed to doubling it.

But I think it's an idea whose time has come. What say you?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Mayor Pete Follows in Hillary's Footsteps

There are a whole lot of ways to lose to Donald Trump. We saw, in 2016, that the best way was to offer little to actually benefit those of us out here trying to make a living. Hillary Clinton had people who'd voted for Obama sitting out the election in numbers significant enough to leave us with the delusional narcissist who now occupies the White House.

I voted for Hillary against Trump, but I had enormous reservations about her policies. Why, exactly, did we need a Democratic candidate who said we'd never, ever have universal health care? I had lots of reservations about her educational positions, which were less than ideal. I also didn't much care for her position on open college, essentially that if we made college free, Donald Trump's kids would not pay.

Now Mayor Pete, frantically trying to position himself as a viable "centrist," has taken this very same position. This is a loser of a position, pretty much guaranteeing that no one gets the benefit, but it's bad on a level that's obvious to those of us who wake up every morning and teach in public schools. For one thing, the argument is absurd on its face. There is no way that rich people are going to send their kids to SUNY or CUNY when all they have to do is lay out a few hundred thousand for Ivy League. Donald Trump's children will get the most elite and exclusive education Daddy can pay for.

The argument is absolute nonsense. Neither Mayor Pete nor any sentient being really believes that Trump's kids are going to Queens College any time soon. This is just a shoddy argument to toss mud at candidates like Sanders and Warren, who want to help Americans who are actually in need. AOC calls it a GOP talking point, which I suppose it is, but they're at least as disingenuous as Mayor Pete.

This is exactly like saying we ought not to have public K-12. If we have public K-12, then Donald Trump's children will go to public schools. Here's the thing though--they don't. Neither did Michael Bloomberg's children. Or Joel Klein's. Or Bill Gates' or John King's, or any number of reformy demagogues who stand up and claim they know what's best for our children. They all sent their kids to schools with smaller classes where their kids got more attention from teachers, as opposed to Common Core crapola.

Does anyone believe that Michael Bloomberg would get up on his hind legs and declare we should have classes of 70 if his kids had to attend them? Does anyone think Donald Trump would send his precious Ivanka into a sweltering 99 degree trailer like the ones my kids suffer in? Does anyone think Joel Klein would allow schools like mine to be overcrowded by over 100% if his progeny had to fight their ways through the hallways?

I would love for Donald Trump's kids to take advantage of free college. That would mean his kids would learn alongside my students. While I'd certainly hope my students didn't come into contact with little Trumps (Who knows where they've been?), I'd be very happy to know that our children were learning under conditions acceptable to rich people. I'd argue that should be the case in K-12 too.

AOC argues that politicians only object to programs that help people, and she's absolutely right. It's sorely disappointing that "centrists" argue against universal health care, a living wage, and affordable college. These are programs most Americans support. The "centrists" take money from insurance companies, big pharma, and the reformies who oppose public education and vilify working teachers.

It's time for America to wake up, throw the bastards out, and reject the new bastards clamoring to take their place.