Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mr. Mulgrew Writes Me a Letter About Certification

Because I'm a very important guy, Michael Mulgrew, UFT president, wrote me a letter. OK, actually he sent me the same email he sent tens of thousands of other UFT members. But that's not the point. What's the point? Well, the point is more what he didn't say than what he did.

When my students show unwillingness to get up and ask questions, or move into groups, I tell them that I'm an old man with one foot in the grave, and if I can do it, they can too. So maybe that explains why I'm in the situation I'm in.

What exactly is that situation?  I hold permanent certification, and in three areas. I used to use only one, but now that Part 154 demands dual-certified teachers, I use two. Anyway, in August I'm gonna be even older than I am now, and that means I'm gonna have to register. After all, how will NY State know that I exist unless I let them know? There are excellent reasons for this. For example, if a piano were to fall on my head this afternoon, they'd need to make sure I didn't come back as a brain-eating zombie and endanger those with whom I teach and work. But do I have to register three times? President Mulgrew didn't tell me, and no matter how important I deem myself, he can't be bothered answering my email.

Now if I were a more recent teacher, I'd also need to register. But those with more recent licenses also have to count PD hours. What we still don't know is what PD hours actually are. I mean, it's great that we can start the count from zero and not worry about the last few years. Nonetheless, we have no idea what will be counted as PD in the future. Will the school PD, the ones so adored by Carmen Fariña, the ones memorialized into the Memorandum of Agreement, count toward the 20 hours? Will some of them? Will newer teachers have to take online courses? Go to approved PDs? Write a paper on the History of Cement? Who knows?

And while we're at it, how the hell are we going to be evaluated next year? Chalkbeat NY reported that we need not even come to an agreement until December 31st. This is really troublesome. For example, who, if anyone, is going to observe classes? Will it be our supervisors? Outside observers? Will Andrew Cuomo observe the classes himself to ensure they aren't "baloney?" What if Preet gets his ducks in a row and puts Governor Andy in a cell with his pals Dean and Shelley? Will they observe us via remote? Who knows?

It's nice that Mr. Mulgrew takes his valuable time and writes us a letter. I know he's got many other important things to do. But the letter answers one question while leaving many unanswered. A defect I see all too often in UFT leadership is a fervent unwillingness to say, "I don't know." But that's actually the best answer you can give when you don't know. A lot of people have issues admitting that. Maybe it's worse with teachers, as we're expected to know everything.

But I get questions about this stuff every day. I do indeed say, "I don't know." It must be a great burden to have to pretend to know everything all the time. I'm really glad not to have that problem.

Actually, I'm a lot more impressed with people who tell me when they don't know something. While Mulgrew has simply avoided the topic, I've been at meetings with UFT employees where they seem to make stuff up. It's very inconvenient. My default mode is to trust people until they give me reason not to. Maybe I'm naive.

But once I get burned by someone, I don't make the same mistake twice. 
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