Thursday, March 16, 2017

The 6th Class

In my school, a lot of people teach six classes. A lot of them love it. After all, if they're in a shortage area, they can make about 12K extra per year. That's not bad.

Like most things, it's not always good. In my own department, I was discussing how it's problematic. One of my colleagues said she really needed the money, and I certainly understood that. Life in the big city is expensive. I live 20 miles from Queens and even I know that. On the other hand, I pointed to another colleague, a very young woman who just started with us, and said if enough people had six classes, she wouldn't be here. In fact it's likely that some other teacher, just like her, is not here because some of our departments have so many teachers with six classes.

A few years ago, there was a woman in my department who was having issues. She was new and I try to help new teachers sometimes. I walked into her class the first time and she appeared to have no lesson plan at all. Kids were involved in some complicated procedure that some of them had completed, and others had not. The ones who had completed it plagiarized, absolutely positively. I told her she was lucky that it was me and not the principal. The next time I visited she had a sentence on the board, that, "Students will be able to do some thing or other." I knew that this sentence had some place in a lesson plan perhaps, but not on the board. This teacher left our school at the end of the year. Last I heard, she works in a charter. She had six classes and that didn't help at all.

I've presided over all sorts of fights over sixth classes. It's problematic in that most of our classes are annualized, the contract says they have to revolve each semester, and that sometimes they don't get posted. Also, sometimes people get appointed in October and say hey, how come my job lasts only four months and hers lasts five? Sometimes people work it out amongst themselves, which is kind of cool. Other times I tell people they won't prevail in a grievance and they file anyway. For me, that's sometimes convenient as I can write one grievance and recycle it ten times. Rotation, actually, is a pretty simple thing to figure out.

Of course, other times these jobs are available to everyone, so the fight becomes who doesn't take it. I'm an ESL teacher and in fact I'm now the senior member of my department. I am always offered an extra class and I always turn it down no matter what. I can't figure out how I keep up with what I'm already doing now. Yesterday I came in over an hour early, which I always do, and left over an hour late, which I don't always do. I don't even know how I find time to write the blog (though I have to say doing it so frequently has caused me to write a lot faster).

This September I learned something that has caused me no small amount of existential pain. For years UFT reps had told me that if you took a sixth class you gave up a prep period, and it does indeed say that in the contract. I took this at face value until I had a conversation in which someone told me to seek out and read Circular 6R. It turns out that it specifically says anyone who does this is excluded from the C6 assignment. This is not largely followed in my borough, at least. So I found a member to put this to the test. Sadly, the member later decided not to pursue the grievance.

So I'm looking at other ways to fix this. I'm sure I'll find one. I can understand how a principal might feel like, hey, I'm paying you all this money and you say you won't do potty patrol for me anymore? That's not fair. On the other hand, if I go out and call some kid a jerk, I'll be facing charges under CR A-421. I could say to the principal hey the kid is a jerk so that's not fair either. But that doesn't mean I won't get a letter in my file and face 3020a if I keep calling kid jerks.

Moral discussions are interesting. I like them. I have them in my classes sometimes. I'll have one with you all day long if you like. But right or wrong, I'm in trouble if I fail to abide by the contract or any number of chancellor's regulations. Then there are state and federal laws and all sorts of other things that hinder my self-expression. This notwithstanding, if I want to stand up at a faculty conference and warn everyone that the end of days is nigh, isn't it a violation of my First Amendment rights when the principal orders me to sit down and shut up?

Well, it isn't actually. And it doesn't matter if Trump is president and I actually believe the end is more nigh that usual. I can scream it on soapboxes and mountaintops, but if I do it in meetings and classes I'm likely to find myself shuffling papers somewhere while awaiting that 3020a. I guess, though, that screaming while I shuffle the papers couldn't make anything worse.

Do you teach a sixth class? Do you want to? Is it better to dole out the sixth classes or hire new teachers?
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