Friday, May 05, 2017

Where Credit Is Due--UFT Paperwork Committee

From time to time, I may be mildly critical of UFT leadership. I mean, there may be one or two things here and there with which I do not concur. But this notwithstanding, I have to admit when they do something right, they do something right. At some point or other, Mulgrew told the DA that the biggest problem teachers had was paperwork. I didn't agree with that. I'd say the biggest problem is the evaluation system, which is totally off the wall. But he pointed to successes with the paperwork complaints, and I now have some firsthand experience I'll share.

Earlier this year, some DOE genius put out a memo about participation. It differentiated between ways of measurement. For example, one teacher judged it based on her memory, and that was a no-no. After all, how can you rely on the memory of some teacher? You don't actually expect anyone to have fundamental respect for the judgment of a teacher, do you? Instead, it gave the example that Johnie brings his pencil and notebook each and every day. Now that is participation, because you can quantify it, and to some DOE genius, that indicates student effort.

In our school, there were meetings and discussions. How do you measure participation? Some teachers said they placed check marks whenever someone spoke. Others spoke of two-point rubrics. The default, they said, was everyone gets two points each day. It's easy because you only take a point off if they don't do something or other. I could not envision recording each and every student each and every day on this scale or any other. On the one hand, I absolutely could rate every action of every student. I know this because I often go to meetings and take copious notes. Alternatively, I could teach. But I could not do both.

I was extremely surprised when teachers who never, ever complain about anything whatsoever came up to me and said that this mandate was impossible. I mean these were straight arrow types who would rather eat a live toad than file a grievance. So I asked a friend at UFT whether this merited a paperwork complaint and got a very spirited hell yes in response. This complaint made its way to Contract Enforcement head Debbie Poulos, who mentioned it in passing to some DOE bigshot. Said bigshot demanded to know which school it was, and what do you know, the bigshot agreed it was ridiculous to demand documentation for participation. This makes me suspect the DOE may have hired an ex-teacher or two somewhere or other, but who knows?

Another thing that has bothered me ever since I became chapter leader was the fact that teachers who took six classes were required to also do a C6 assignment. OK, well it didn't bother me that much, because sixth classes have been available to ESL teachers for years and I've never pursued one. But there was one special education teacher in particular who had these classes and never seemed to be able to keep up. UFT told me Article 7O says that you take these classes in lieu of a prep. I looked it up, and there it was. So I figured, well, you take the sixth class, and that's what happens.

But last October I had a conversation with James Eterno, and he instructed me to actually look up Special Circular 6R and read it. And who would've thunk it, it said right there in black letter that anyone who took that sixth class didn't have to do a building assignment. So I ran around and found a senior teacher with six classes to file a grievance. For reasons that escape me, it took four months for Queens UFT to take this to step two. For more reasons that escape me, by that time the member didn't want to go through with it anymore. I couldn't file the grievance myself because I didn't have six classes. Also, I didn't have another four months in the school year.

Now in our school, we break up the C6 assignment. We do the C6 for three days, we do one day of Other Professional Work, and we give one day toward the infamous teacher teams. The teacher teams entail paperwork, so at UFT"s request, I went and filed another paperwork complaint saying they ought not to do it since Circular 6 says they get a prep back. This one was done by the book, and went local before it went central.

Wednesday night my DR informed me that UFT won this complaint. I asked him if I could get a big bass drum and walk up and down the street beating it while screaming at the top of my lungs. He said yes I could, but I needed to wait until I got a call from Debbie Poulos first. Well, that call came shortly afterward. Alas I could not locate a bass drum. But I took my dog Julio into the back yard, where he had a barking contest with the dog next door. Next best thing, I guess.

Barking contest was pretty close. I can't say exactly who won.
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