Friday, October 27, 2017

If APPR Is So Great, Why Do People Want Out?

Last week at Executive Board, UFT leadership told us that the APPR system was the best thing since sliced bread and that everyone loved it. The proof, they said, was that there were so few ineffective ratings this year.

This is kind of like the argument that the Open Market system is better than the UFT Transfer system, the one that got me out of John Adams before all the Adams teachers had to reapply for their jobs. (If I recall correctly, most didn't bother.) Because more people transfer, it's better. Too bad you're an ATR with no chance of ever getting a job again, but those are the breaks.

At my school, when we opened, a few teachers were a little upset. They each taught one class and then accompanied their students to various worksites. For the last few years they'd been rated via S and U, but this year they were told they were under Advance, Danielson, and all the wonderful baggage that accompanies it. Despite what leadership told us, they did not get up and do the happy dance.

In fact, they asked me if I could get them back on the old system. Now why would anyone do such a thing if the new one is so cool and fantastic? But they did. Last I heard, their request was sitting on a Very Important Desk at 52 Broadway, and they haven't gotten an answer back. So I don't know. Maybe they're right.

There have also been several people with .6 comp-time jobs asking me about this. My understanding is if 40% of your teaching day is spent, you know, teaching, that you fall under Advance. So if you teach 2 or more periods, there you are. This is what people at UFT tell me too. Of course, I can't blame people for trying.

There are some things that District Reps and UFT employees don't get. The first thing they don't get is that leadership can be wrong. There's a famous quote from Upton Sinclair:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

That applies here. The best way to get ahead in the UFT, as far as I can see, is to sign a loyalty oath and swear utter fealty to leadership. Various UFT employees have explained to me that the loyalty oath is not a loyalty oath, but if it barks like a loyalty oath, and quacks like a loyalty oath, it's a loyalty oath. Every time I go to the Executive Board or the DA and watch them vote as a bloc I'm reminded. They all love the observation system, each and every one of them, even if they hate it.

They do hate it, of course, if they actually teach. All teachers hate it. The administrators, unless they are frothing at the mouth vindictive psychopaths who get off on making teachers' lives miserable, all hate it too. It's pretty well worth hating. Imagine you have 40 teachers in your department and you have to observe each one 4 times. Then you have to write them all up and hold meetings for each one. I can't figure out how you do anything else.

We hate it because it's hanging over our heads each and every moment. When are they coming in? Will it be on a day when I'm actually talking with the students instead of doing some rubric heavy piece of incomprehensible degrees of knowledge stuff? Will the kid who never pays attention not pay attention? Will I look bad because it's 95 degrees outside and 105 degrees inside? 

Those questions sound ridiculous, but teachers know they're not. The problem is that people in leadership are not really teachers anymore. Some of them teach one class, but they aren't rated as we are. They're rated by--get this--S and U, the thing they say is so awful that no one could tolerate it. No one in leadership has ever been rated by Advance. None of them understand the stress that causes people to go to great lengths to get out of it. In fact, a member once told me that his supervisor threatened him--if he didn't get a .8 position instead of his .6 position, he was going to rate him ineffective. That member died weeks after having told me that. 

I think of him every time someone comes to me with one of these questions. Leadership doesn't. It's funny that, on a state level, they supported the end of APPR but won't do so for us. They say it doesn't work for the rest of the state. Here's a news flash--it doesn't work here either. Having a demoralized and terrorized teaching staff helps neither us nor our students. 

And doing nothing about it won't help UFT a whole hell of a lot come Janus either.
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