Friday, September 16, 2016

Chapter Leader Meeting Takeaway

The overarching theme at 52 Broadway on Wednesday was paperwork. There's a lot of paperwork, too much paperwork, paperwork is the scourge of civilization, and the number one concern of UFT members is paperwork. Principals are evil, among other reasons, because they don't hand teachers paperwork filled with curriculum, scope and sequence. Mulgrew goes off on tangents, makes in jokes with his BFFs, but every road leads back to paperwork.

I'm sure there are abuses of paperwork. I'm sure there are abuses in making teachers write curriculum. I've seen them, and I've moved to correct them. Now, though, there is a form for that. I certainly hope it's more effective and less restrictive than the APPR complaint form.

In my job, I get complaints all the time, from all sorts of people. In my building, at least, paperwork is not a particularly pressing concern. Members are more concerned with ratings. Why did this AP walk in and see things that didn't happen? How come when a dozen kids raise their hands, on video, my supervisor sees only two? Why does he always observe me last period on Friday before vacation in my worst class? Can Mulgrew really get rid of crazy supervisors? That would be something good for everyone, even remaining supervisors who aren't crazy.

Mulgrew shared some interesting news. We're going to replace the test-based junk science in the APPR system (the one Mulgrew himself had a hand in writing and creating) with authentic measures, or it's no deal. What will they be? Who knows? Portfolios perhaps. You may recall them rearing their heads maybe twenty years ago. You needed a portfolio for every student. It needed to be in the classroom at all times. If you didn't have one it was the end of the world. Until the next year, when portfolios were out, passe, utterly without value.

And with the new matrix, the portfolios, or whatever the hell there is, will count for half your rating. This, evidently, will reduce the principal's input to 50, rather than 60 percent (or perhaps less, with the magical outside observers who know nothing about you, your school, what you do, or who you teach). Of course Mulgrew vehemently denies that the matrix makes the junk science/ authentic ratings or whatever they may end up being 50 percent. But with only two axes, it's hard for mathematically-challenged individuals such as myself to fathom why they don't count for half. On the other hand, if they actually do not count for half, won't the principal still have the lion's share of control in evaluation?

Mulgrew spoke of the ATR, and said it's at its lowest ebb since his caucus created it in 2005. Evidently, though, provisionally placed ATRs, the overwhelming majority of whom will return to the pool in June, are not counted. And there are still hundreds of wandering ATRs without classrooms. I cannot tell you how unhappy I would be to be in that position, and I'm very sorry so many of my brother and sister teachers find themselves stuck there. I'd hope we'd give them jobs rather than lip service as to how few of them there are, but that's just me.

Ironically, after listening to Mulgrew lecture for hours on excessive paperwork, I went downstairs at the end of the lecture to find a huge package filled with--get this--excessive paperwork. I thought it might contain a revised chapter leader manual and various forms for my members. Instead, it contained two huge stacks of COPE recruitment cards and a big stack of forms which I'm supposed to give my hundreds of members so they can update their UFT information. You know, since we almost never do boots on the ground stuff anymore, we can send them emails and stuff and hope for the best. Ground up organizing is a thing of the past now that we're content to get paid interest-free a decade after everyone else.

Mulgrew was very specific that new teachers had to get bathroom keys. Now you can't deny that all of us, teachers of all ages, have certain biological imperatives. Yet the most new teachers ask me for bathroom keys is never. What new teachers ask me about, over and over, is tenure. They ask me if they're going to get it. They ask me whether they've already gotten it. They ask why it's delayed. Some in other schools ask me why they were discontinued and are involved in lawsuits stretching out over years after losing their jobs for no good reason.

Another thing new teachers, and not so new teachers, are pretty worried about is the new 100 PD hour requirement. I've heard exactly nothing from UFT on that, though a special rep seated next to me said they now have an idea of what the requirements are, and that they are not so onerous. She said under certain circumstances school PD would count. Hopefully she's right. I'd like to see something in writing to that effect.

I was also approached by several people who handed me Team High School pamphlets. There were a few Team High School people giving courses or something. As it happens, high school teachers voted against each and every one of those people. I know, because high schools selected Jia Lee as President and James Eterno as VP for Academic High Schools. Of course, uppity high school teachers, having chosen a non-Unity candidate decades ago, are no longer permitted to select their own Vice President. In fact, the only people high school teachers were permitted to elect for themselves were seven of us who actually won seats on the UFT Executive Board. Yet none of us are remotely involved in Team High School in any way, shape, or form until they need us to hand out their pamphlets. Go figure.

As for the smooth opening, I can only go by what I see. In my school, I reported 246 oversized classes. As I write this, three of them are mine (Update--all of my classes are now oversized). I just checked my sheet and my two classes of 43, which went up to 44 yesterday, are down to 43 again. My air conditioner doesn't work, and the day I went to 52 was particularly brutal for me and my students. The teachers working in converted bookrooms and closets with no windows were not precisely jumping for joy either.

But Michael Mulgrew, as President of the United Federation of Teachers, hasn't got time to speak to me, the lowly chapter leader of the largest school in Queens. Instead, he complains that I report on what happens at 52. Evidently NY Post reporters may read about what he said, and then, heaven forfend, ask him about it.  It appears that, while Mulgrew can easily duck talking to classroom teachers and working school reps who haven't signed loyalty oaths, NY Post reporters need answers.

I'm not sure why Michael Mulgrew thinks when he tells thousands of people something that it's remotely confidential. I represent fewer than three hundred people, and I don't place secrets in mass emails or announce them at staff meetings. I need to keep a lot of things confidential. They don't go out in mass emails, and you don't read them here.

As long as Mulgrew surrounds himself with people sworn to support whatever, as long as he avoids conversation with those of us who question the orthodoxy, as long as he's angry with those who report what he says rather than keeping it buried in his carefully crafted bubble, we're not gonna hear the message we need from leadership. Leadership says we win when we get VAM, we win when we get rid of VAM,we win when we get Common Core, we win when we lose Common Core. In fact, Mulgrew said we won all the political races in which we were involved. I was therefore pretty disappointed to learn later that the candidate we supported against a couple of reformies, the one I followed most closely, Robert Jackson, in fact lost his race.

From all I see, it appears our President is perfectly happy to paint a happy face on whatever and have us hear very little of substance. Unfortunately, there are substantial problems facing us. We're gonna need to acknowledge them, and do a whole lot more, if we're gonna help our current students and future colleagues.
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