Yesterday I spoke with a young teacher who told me this was his worst year ever. I asked him why and he told me it was the evaluation system. He says it has him and everyone on edge. I asked whether he had gotten a negative rating and he said no, he hadn't. He was just feeling a general vibe of uneasiness. He told me our school wasn't what it used to be four years ago.
One of the things I found really shocking was that this is a guy who generally complains about nothing, ever. He has this very positive vibe, and this makes me think he must be a great teacher. I would be very happy to have someone like him looking after my kid. He told me that, though there is a whole lot of focus on test scores, that he doesn't worry about that first and foremost. Who knows where our kids come from? Who knows what they have going on at home? It's our job to show them there's a whole world of possibility out there.
I agree with that. Particularly if home is a place of uncertainty, or worse, there's a need for kids to see adults who are getting by. There's a need for kids to see there is possibility, that there is a way to maneuver through this world while managing to stay happy. That's why it's counter-intuitive, not to mention idiotic, to stress out teachers to the breaking point. If this teacher feels stressed out, then so does every teacher.
It's easy for Michael Mulgrew, who has not taught in years, to stand around and say we have fewer bad ratings this year than in years past, so the system is a victory. I can only suppose it's also easy for Mulgrew to ignore the fact that this is the very thing that motivated Andrew Cuomo and his Heavy Hearts to worsen things for working teachers. For Michael Mulgrew, it really doesn't matter whether that plan causes more teachers to get bad ratings. Because there's always a silver lining. Under my leadership, 95% of UFT teachers didn't get fired this year.
Under UFT Unity leadership, the Teacher Improvement Plans were 8% less degrading and humiliating than last year. Under our leadership, 12% fewer teacher meeting weekly with the supervisors who rated them ineffective have contemplated suicide. Under our leadership, we haven't had a catastrophic natural disaster in over two years.
Unfortunately, when you live in a system where absolutely everything is a victory, no one feels it when things are bad. No one knows when things are bad. Things are not permitted to be bad. And the great thing is most representatives have actually signed an oath to perpetually agree that this is the best of all possible worlds, the best of all possible school systems, and the best of all possible evaluation systems negotiated by the best of all possible union leaderships.
I'm not sure what I would say to such people if I had signed the oath. I suppose I could trot out the stat about fewer people getting bad ratings. But I know if the guy I spoke to yesterday is stressed out, so is every working teacher. That's not how you treat role models for children, not if you actually care about those children.
Views expressed herein are solely those of the author or authors, and do not reflect views of my employers, the United Federation of Teachers, the MORE Caucus or any other union caucus.
Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.