Monday, September 18, 2017

Open Up Another Can of Teachers

Chaz has a great piece pointing out the hypocrisy of the NY Post editorial board, which cries bloody murder when teacher certification requirements are reduced, but also supports charter schools who basically want to hire just about anybody. You know, it's too inconvenient to run around looking for certified teachers, so basically let us certify anyone we feel like.

I read that over at Eva's place teachers don't write lesson plans. They have them, they give them to you, and you do any goshdarn thing they tell you to. There's no scrambling for the right textbook. There's no worrying whether you should skip this part or emphasize that. You just look at what day it is and do whatever the hell they tell you to do. Teacher voice? Give me a break.

And hey, if that's not enough, the gazillionaire who runs Netflix wants to just stick every kid in front of a computer, and expand charter schools like they've never been expanded before. He uses New Orleans as a model, where 90% are charterized. I'm surprised it isn't 100. So basically, teachers become non-unionized, at-will employees doing any damn thing they're told. That's a great role model for our children, of course, if you want them to become non-unionized, at-will employees doing any damn thing they're told.

I think this is one of the last really good jobs there is. It's not because the pay is fabulous or the hours are short. Like a whole lot of my colleagues, I work well beyond what the clock requires. Honestly, though, the day they tell me they have scripted lesson plans for me to follow will probably be the day I retire. Let them teach a monkey to read and get him to do the job. A big plus would be they could pay him in bananas.

There's this steady drip, drip as teachers become less teachers and more technicians. Sit the kid in front of the computer and have the computer decide what chapter she's on or what question she gets to answer. That way she'll get a better score on the test that measures the questions the computer has decided to ask. And sure, it's not exactly fun to learn that way, but it's probably not fun working at Walmart either. The people who run Walmart probably fund all this reforminess for that very reason.

And while this wave has not yet enveloped NYC public schools as a whole, there are plenty of principals obsessing over it. After all, the principals get rated too. In case you're wondering why you're assigned to some teacher team, New York City has decided that teacher teams are the bestest thing since sliced bread, and that your principal sucks if your school hasn't got them.

In our school, we gave up one day of C6 for teacher team, and in exchange we got one day back for teacher-directed Other Professional Work. It seemed a fair exchange, and our members voted for it overwhelmingly as part of an SBO. In other schools with weak or no union presence the principal just says, "Everyone is doing a teacher team one period a day," and that's pretty much it, And in charters? Hey, when Eva comes in and says everyone is going on a bus to Albany tomorrow you don't bring up your carsickness. You ask Eva for permission to use the bathroom on the coach bus while the kids do homework. Or maybe you puke on the floor, just as the kids pee their pants.

Who knows?

Actually we should have high standards for our teachers. If we don't, it means we don't have high standards for our children either. We also need to preserve this profession as one of people serving people. I don't want to place kids in little cubicles with computers working out little problems to prepare them for tests. It's not my job to teach them how to adapt to cubicles. I already have a job. I complain an awful lot, but never about actual teaching, and never about the kids I serve.

We need to model a better way for children. We do that not by making them little tin soldiers, and certainly not by being bigger tin soldiers ourselves.
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