Wednesday, September 27, 2017

One Thing After Another

My friend teaches social studies. He's not having the best of years. For one thing, he has a class of 41. He teaches them in a non-air-conditioned classroom. I've also been teaching in one of those. It's less than optimal on humid 96-degree days like those we've been having lately. This year I don't personally have any oversized classes, but getting the attention of dozens of teenagers in the miserable heat is challenging. To be honest, it's challenging for me to do my job at all like that.

I mean, this is 2017 and the DOE still has something called "air-conditioning season." I don't remember when it begins and ends, but I do remember it's about arbitrary dates rather than actual weather conditions. When you work for the DOE, weather conditions can be the least of your concerns.

41 students is a lot. As if that weren't enough, my friend's class is an ICT class. That means it's a mix of general and special ed., and of course he has a co-teacher to support the special ed. students. There's a max of 12 in an ICT class, but of course his has 14. He also has two ELLs in the room, so there's an ESL teacher in there to support them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That way the school can say those two kids are served in English, despite the fact that they have exactly the same amount of time to learn about the Declaration of Independence as the American kids. Except the whole Tuesday-Thursday thing means they aren't really being served, even under the ridiculous Part 154 regs. Correction--my friend tells me an ESL teacher sitting in the class two days a week is sufficient under Part 154. Never mind that the students gave up an ESL class for that and instead are learning nothing whatsoever

But hey, if that school can get away with serving ELLs half the time they're required to, even though the fact is they aren't served at all, more power to them. I mean, really, does anyone think an ESL teacher lurking about is gonna make kids who don't speak English keep up with those who do? Only the geniuses in Albany are smart enough to do that.

My friend also complains about the matrix. He says the teachers in his school are frustrated with it. They tell the chapter leader, "You figure this stuff out and get back to us." I'm a little surprised by that. To tell you the truth, after years of rolling evaluation systems, the matrix is the first thing I've ever understood. I mean, you get a chart, your here on this axis, there on another, you point your finger, and there you are. Does this indicate validity? Who knows? But at least you kind of know where you stand, on the chart at least.

A lot of his friends don't care that the chart is superficially comprehensible. For one thing, they probably haven't looked closely enough to notice. They look at the rating and if it's effective or higher, they praise Jesus and move on. One more year without freaking out over being fired for no reason. One more year without an oppressive TIP plan in which I have to sit with people who rated me poorly for no reason and jump through hoops for them. And that's assuming they know the consequences of unfavorable ratings, which who knows whether they do?

Each year there's a new rating system. Each year UFT leadership tells us it's the bestest thing ever. Yes, last year's program was also the bestest thing ever, but now we've improved it. And leadership wonders why their message doesn't resonate. The problem is this--if last year's system was crap, and the year before's system was crap, and you were over the moon with both, it doesn't follow that we're gonna jump up and down over this year's system.

Mulgrew spoke well at the Executive Board the other night. This notwithstanding, when he praises the "growth" section of the rating, neither I nor any working teacher has the remotest notion what it means. We're looking at some test score compared to some other test score by a computer. Even when you look at the extended explanation you have no idea what the hell it means.

In my school, ratings were more or less the same in MOSL for all teachers until this year. Now it's different. If you score 15 you are effective. If you score 14 you are developing, and therefore you suck. I know, leadership will say developing doesn't suck, but teachers I know who get that score don't see it that way. Fortunately, in my building most people who got that were brought up by supervisor ratings. But what if you're in a school or system dominated by insane supervisors? Sit at the Exec. Board a few times and you'll hear about them.

When change comes every year we become wary. Sometimes it's change for change's sake, which is one of the worst rationales of which I can conceive. Other times you see Andrew Cuomo on TV saying we need change because the current system, the one I advocated and championed, is "baloney." Why? Because not enough teachers were fired. We need a system that will fire more teachers, he suggests, and it's in the pages of every paper and on every nightly news broadcast.

And as UFT leadership tells us how wonderful that system is, they marvel that we don't buy it without question. So what do they do?

The other day at the Executive Board, leadership and their Unity ducklings rubber-stamped a resolution to restrict resolutions. Maybe that will make them go away. What's going to go away, if they aren't careful, is the United Federation of Teachers.

Because ironically, though they expect us to casually deal with regular and radical change, they can't deal with any whatsoever.
blog comments powered by Disqus