Thursday, May 05, 2016

Marcus McArthur on Test Prep and the UFT Election

I'm very proud to be running for High School Executive Board with Marcus McArthur. In the video below, Marcus talks about the difference between teaching and test prep. This hits home with me. I spent several years helping ESL students prepare for the NY State English Regents Examination.

Actually, my students ought not to take that exam at all. It's the height of ignorance to think that both native and non-native speakers of English have the same language needs. I mean, it's great for students to read To Kill a Mockingbird, but if they don't speak English, they have other priorities. Still, the geniuses running NYSED decided my kids couldn't graduate high school unless they passed, and my supervisor asked me to help, so I did.

I worked out a formulaic approach to essay writing that satisfied the requirements of the rubric. A lot of students passed. But I was acutely aware that all I'd taught them to do was pass a single test. I did not teach them to love or appreciate writing, and I certainly did not teach them anything whatsoever about my approach to writing.

It was a shame, because many of the students I taught would not be able to pass, say, the CUNY writing test. They would surely be identified as non-native and forced to take expensive, non-credit remedial course to get their English where it needed to be. I actually taught these college courses and was perfectly capable of giving my high school students what they needed while they were in high school.

Instead, I had to prep them for a test. My Chinese-teaching friend recounted and translated this conversation:

Student A: Man, I don't know what to do. I have to pass the English Regents and it's really hard.

Student B: Oh, you should take Goldstein's class.

Student A: Really? Is it good?

Student B: No, it's terrible. You will hate it. But you will pass the English Regents.

I guess I can take some small degree of pride in that. But I'm a teacher, and as a teacher, it's my goal to trick students into loving English. That's a lot more important and helpful than simply preparing them for a single test.

Listen to Marcus, look for a ballot in your mailbox, and for goodness sake vote for MORE/ New Action.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Who Knew? Turns Out Michael Mulgrew Is the Purveyor of Myth After All

The more I think about Michael Mulgrew declaring bloggers to be purveyors of myth, the angrier I get. I mean, Mulgrew says he doesn't read blogs. I know he isn't on Facebook or Twitter (though he sees no contradiction in asking us to be), I know he can't be bothered answering email, and people tell me he carries a flip phone so as not to even have to consider it.

Nonetheless Mulgrew was horrified when those awful bloggers dared to question his health care plan. And yet, here we are, still standing. A lot of us are wondering what the contract vote would have looked like if our President, who so reviles myth makers, would have told us outright that our co-pays were doubling and tripling. Oh, and by the way, this is just the first year of money saving. We've got three more to go.

Now I'm as impressed as anyone when Arthur Pepper gets up at the DA and tells us how good we have it. After all, they aren't deducting money from your paycheck. Instead, you're paying triple when you go to the ER, and more than triple when you go to the urgent care. You know, those are the ubiquitous places where you go when you have an emergency and don't want to go to the ER. Those are the places that were pretty goshdarn convenient until Mike Mulgrew decided they would cost you fifty bucks a pop.

So what's next? We have no idea. And Mulgrew was certainly not forthcoming with details when selling the contract, or even now. I mean, since co-pays don't mean anything, why not double and triple them again? After all, as long as the money isn't coming from your paycheck, UFT leadership has decreed it must be OK. Unfortunately there is absolutely no guarantee that once the copays start to look too high, the money won't come from your paycheck anyway.

Women have been approaching me and saying this contract is discriminatory since they have to go to gynecologists. Things happen, and they have to pay extra simply because of their sex. Not only that, but there are not a whole lot of these advantage care joints around. There's only one close to me, and evidently it's a part-time doctor office and a part time urgent care. Are the urgent care doctors the same MDs that work there all day? Are they trained in emergency medicine like the great doctors who work the urgent care in my home town? Who knows?

Long Island is a big place, and there are just a handful of these joints. There are 10 OB/GYNs, my friend tells me, and if you live in the Bronx, she says, well, too bad for you. Drive over the bridge to Queens if you don't want to pay. And if you've retired and moved out of the area, well, too bad for you.  

One of the great things about GHI, the reason why my family and I have used it all these years, has been the wide choice of doctors you could have. However, by raising copays for doctors we've been seeing for years and removing them from the few in their preferred network, they're making you pay, and in some cases quite a bit, for exercising your choice.

In fact, they're pretty much urging you to restrict yourself in the same way HIP users have been restricted.  I don't know exactly how much choice HIP users had, but one of the reasons I've never opted my family into HIP was that I wanted to be able to change and choose doctors. Now of course we did get raises in this contract. But our raises, the ones we won't actually get until 2020, don't make me jump up and down. Why should our copays go up by 200% or more immediately when our raises are a fraction of that and don't kick in for years?

Michael Mulgrew makes several times our salaries and has never met a giveback he didn't like. When you get your ballot this week, be sure to let him know how much you like his work by voting MORE/ New Action and sending him back to a classroom. And by the way, Mike, I hope you engage your students a whole lot better than you engage your members.

Otherwise, the Danielson checklist mandates 24 months before 3020a dismissal charges, with the burden of proof on you, just like you negotiated for us.

Thanks to Wendy

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Lauren Cohen on Teacher Voice and the UFT Election

I've known Lauren Cohen for about two years now. She really impressed me with her quiet dignity as the UFT Unity loyalty oath signers tried to bully her into shutting up at a NYSUT Convention. But Lauren is more than that. She is quick-witted and analytical, understanding things instantly and responding intelligently. In short, she's the sort of person I'd want representing me, and as it happens, she's running for VP of Elementary in the UFT election.

In the video below, Lauren speaks of the new and coming thing, scripted and timed lessons. I've read about them and they sound awful. I mean, if you are a teacher, you should have something to offer beyond being one chapter ahead of the kids in the textbook. I say that as someone who taught out of subject for years, and actually was one chapter ahead. I'm much more comfortable teaching what I know well, and my students benefit from having a teacher who can actually answer their questions.

I have heard of teachers being timed, spending five minutes on this, two minutes on that, and actually timing themselves so they wouldn't go over. I'm very grateful to not have been subject to such things, as I'd probably have to reserve the last two minutes for jumping out a window. One of the great joys of this job is interacting with the kids. I don't see how you do that when you're on a tight schedule.

"Sorry, but I've already used up the eight minutes I'd allotted for this section of the lesson."

I'm just not feeling it. In fact, the very best lessons I've ever given were only that way because some crazy kid, or some crazy group of kids, moved them in directions I hadn't expected. If a kid gets up, pushes me aside, and takes over my class, I'm not gonna tell the kid to sit down because I had a minute and a half of silent reading scheduled.

Teachers need to guide and move the conversation about what good teaching is. I'll bet any kid in front of Lauren Cohen every day has a very good notion. I ask you to vote for her, to vote for me, and to vote for MORE/ New Action 2016.

Monday, May 02, 2016

A Historic Moment

In just three days, ballots go out to UFT members, and we will have a big choice to make. That choice is between status quo and change. If you think the union has been moving in the right direction, vote for Unity. After all, the UFT Unity Caucus has been in charge of the union for half a century.

On the other hand, if you think we've been moving backward, there's only one choice for you and that is MORE/ New Action. It's remarkable that the most active and vital caucus, MORE, has been able to unite with the first opposition caucus, New Action. This is a testament to the reason and determination of the leaders of both caucuses. They saw an opportunity and grabbed it.

But you also have an opportunity right now. If you think that teachers are not only under attack, but that union leadership has enabled the attack, you need to vote for MORE/ New Action. (In particular, if you've agreed with the voice of this blog, you need to vote MORE/ New Action, because this voice happens to be on the ballot.)

We are hundreds of activists united to empower teachers. I kind of hate that word, "empower," because every time we accept a crap contract, enable junk science rating, or approve of a checklist that fails on multiple levels to define who we are or what we do, UFT Unity, or our reformy enemies, presents it as something that will "empower" us. But they don't know what we're about.

We're about tens of thousands of working teachers, all of whom have their own voices, and many of whom don't fit directly into the cookie-cutter mold designed by Charlotte Danielson, the one even she now rejects. We're about standing up to the endless testing regime enabled by politicians bought and paid for by DFER and their various BFFs.  We're about the common sense approach of Diane Ravitch. Unlike Unity, we don't pretend to support her ideas and then enable our enemies when we think she isn't looking.

We are the diversity of teachers, all over the city, from every background, young, old, and in between. We listen, and we don't ask anyone to sign a loyalty oath. We stand for this profession and don't apologize for trying to improve it. We reject the notion that teachers are pitted against students. Our working conditions are our students' learning conditions, and our present is their future. We will fight to protect their future, and we will fight to support union. We believe union will help raise all boats, particularly those of our students, and we believe they deserve better than a future as Wal-Mart associates struggling to make ends meet.

We are not afraid, and we will speak for the voiceless. We will speak for teachers who are abused and demoralized. We will do all in our power to bring them to the forefront, but the first step is not in our hands The very first step disenfranchised teachers have to take is placing an X on the UFT ballot for MORE/ New Action. If they throw away the ballot, as 83% of teachers did three years ago, they are placing their fate in the hands of those who cheer as we initiate second tier due process for our brothers and sisters in the ATR. Throwing away your ballot grants approval to carte blanche on our rights, and a continued open season against our voices.

We cannot allow that. We need a President who knows how to get along with people. We need a President who can listen to a diversity of voices, acknowledge and understand them, and move forward in the best interests of both us and the students we serve. We need a President who can build bridges with not only various UFT factions, but also our communities, parents and students. The only candidate who fits that criteria is Jia Lee.

And Jia will have a whole lot of help in the combined communities of MORE and New Action. In just a few days, you can join us. This is our moment, this is our year, and this is our time to move ahead.

2016 is the year we make our voices heard. Join us and help us help you.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

On New Suspension Policies

Recently we had a consultation with our principal in which we discussed a member being cursed out in the hall. We asked what could be done about it. From the consultation notes we sent membership:

AP Security quoted the city discipline code, which indicates suspendible offenses but offers notable exceptions:

Level 3—“Defying or disobeying the lawful authority or directive of school personnel or school safety agents in a way that substantially disrupts the educational process and/ or poses a danger to the school community (this behavior does not include Level 1 or 2, uncooperative/ noncompliant or disorderly behavior, such as using profane language, B15; or wearing prohibited clothing, B09; or bringing prohibited items to school…

Note—This basically says there are very mild consequences for things like hats, phones, or mouthing off to teachers. They talk very tough, but the most extreme thing you can do in most of these cases is teacher removal from class and a parent conference.  AG

We were pretty shocked.  Read my column in today's Daily News for more.

Related: A former NYC teacher left this comment on Facebook: I worked in an NYC middle school for 10 months. They had outlawed detention and told me that I was supposed to simply call a parent when a student acted up. There was also no in-school suspension. Result: Absolute chaos I had no power to control. I wasn't even allowed to intervene when students fought. I had to call security and wait around 20 minutes for them to come and separate the students. Then I'd have to call the janitor to come clean up the blood. It was a nightmare.

MIchelle Baptiste on the UFT Election

I'm excited and proud to be part of MORE/ New Action 2016, offering hundreds of involved, activist candidates as an alternative to the Unity machine that has monopolized our union forever. Win or lose, we are all in. I'm running for HS Executive Board, and I'm excited about having real opposition voices inside the union for the first time in years.

Below is a video by my friend Michelle Baptiste, who I meet at various events and demonstrations around the city and elsewhere. She's just one reason, one person, of many that I'm excited about. I love her quote about how teachers are not supported and how they should actually expect to be supported. It's the Wild West for us, and if you don't happen to have a supportive supervisor, you're on your own.

We'd like to offer teachers alternatives other than 40-50% junk science. We'd like to have, for example, a fair contract. And we'd like to move the conversation from, "All teachers suck," to, "All supervisors ought to be competent." I realize that's a big ask, but doing absolutely nothing about it hasn't precisely worked to our advantage either.

Of course Michelle can speak for herself.

Friday, April 29, 2016

UFT No Longer Supports Working Families

Our union backed the Working Families Party for a long time, but those days are over. The Working Families party supported Bernie Sanders, and the United Federation of Teachers has no use for anyone who doesn't do what they say. That's why every single person who represents us in NYSUT and AFT has to sign a loyalty oath

I was very upset with the Working Families Party in the past because they endorsed Andrew Cuomo. This was really a terrible move as far as I'm concerned, because I'm a working person and Andrew Cuomo hates me and everything I stand for. I mean, what the hell is the point of a party that declines to support someone like Zephyr Teachout against Andrew Cuomo? In fact, what the hell is the point of a union leadership that can't see the value of someone like Teachout?

In fact, UFT failed to support Teachout in her bold challenge to Cuomo in the Democratic primary. Perhaps they thought this would make Cuomo like us or something. Far from that, Cuomo went and pushed the most anti-teacher legislation I've ever seen, raising the percentage of junk science, adding strangers as observers, and placing schools under the threat of receivership. For this, UFT President Michael Mulgrew thanked the Heavy Hearted Assembly. 

Of course Randi Weingarten endorsed Hillary. This happened early, and it was based on what the AFT called a "scientific" poll. I haven't got the faintest idea what that means, and I've never seen the questions they asked. It was entirely predictable that AFT would endorse Hillary, and New York education bloggers were universally not surprised. I got onto an AFT call regarding the endorsement, and the very fist speaker happened to be a NYS Unity propagandist who'd written a really nasty article about me. Randi tweeted the piece, which was how I saw it. It called me a part-time teacher and a part-time union rep. Randi was OK with that until I pointed out it offended not only me, but each and every working chapter leader in the city.

Perhaps it was a coincidence this guy got called on first, and perhaps there was indeed a scientific survey randomly asking people their opinions. All I know is I work in the largest school in Queens, and no one ever asks me or anyone I know any of these questions. When teachers are polled and come out in support of Common Core, I can never find any teachers who agree. But what do I know? I talk to teachers all day long, and I guess the only way you can really be in touch with what's going on is sitting in an office in 52 Broadway.

But here's what's clear--UFT leadership cannot abide dissenting opinion. When Working Families decided to endorse a candidate that actually supported working families, that was the last straw for Michael Mulgrew and company. And while it's a great honor to financially support the Hillary Clinton office at 52 Broadway, a whole lot of politically active teachers I know do not support her. I don't know whether that office is paid for exclusively by COPE, but I do know my union dues keep the lights on over at 52.

It's a disgrace that once the Working Families Party takes a clear stand for working families Michael Mulgrew takes his ball and goes home.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Common Core Not Doing Its Job. Too Bad for You, America

Naturally, I'm as shocked as anyone to hear the NAEP scores are not skyrocketing. Reading scores are stagnant and math scores are actually going down. Who would've thunk it? After all, we've made kids do close reading. What could be better for a student than reading and analyzing the Gettysburg Address with absolutely no context? It's about time we got rid of those ridiculous methods that insist we actually understand what we read.

And now we can stop wasting time reading novels. Finally we can take excerpts from them and analyze them until the end of time. What's more valuable than that? Or we can take a short story and analyze it for 17 days. What motivates students more than that? I, for one, am sick of all this "loving literature" and "loving to read" nonsense, and it's about time we let kids know that reading only exists so that we can answer questions about it on tests.

Along with that, of course, is the new visionary approach to math. I mean, finally we're doing away with simple equations and making things more creative. I mean, why make math simple when you can make it complicated. There's nothing people like more than solving problems in ways that are more complicated than necessary, and using common core math will surely make people love math as much as it makes them love reading, which is to say, not at all. That's what we call "rigor."

And the point of "rigor," of course, is to develop "grit." Once you have "grit," you can accomplish the most tedious and pointless tasks in the most inefficient fashion, and still get up and say, "Thank you sir, may I have another?" After all, children are work product for our highly respected corporations, and someone's got to do this kind of work. Our friends over at the Walmart family contribute big money to refominess, and of course people trained like this might not run screaming to jump out of tall buildings after lives as Walmart associates. That's good for Walmart, as the alternative might be to pay a living wage or something.

Fortunately, we have Common Core champions, like Hillary Clinton, who will make sure our children continue to be trained in these things. The fact that they don't actually benefit anyone is neither here nor there. Hey, it must be OK because even AFT President Randi Weingarten supports it. And if that's not enough, UFT President Michael Mulgrew will punch your face and push it in the dirt if you don't.

The fact that none of this actually helps our children understand anything better is neither here nor there. Bill Gates spent a bazillion dollars funding this stuff, and that ought to be good enough for anyone. So shut up and sit down, America.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Good News

Perdido Street School returns.

Hillary's Haters

Now I may have spoken a word or two against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. After all, she's got some rich history. But I'm surprised at the reaction I've gotten. I've been told that I hate Hillary, that I hate women, that I'm stupid, that I'm a "Bernie Bro," and that I don't understand high school civics. I've been told I support Donald Trump. I've been told that I have to vote for Hillary. I have to! I've been called a fanatic. (This writer is hearing pretty much the same.)

What is a fanatic, exactly? I think a fanatic is someone who has one point of view that supersedes all others. But that's not enough. A fanatic is someone who says, "This is the way I do this thing. Everyone else must do this thing this way too." So I'm gonna defend myself against the charge of fanaticism by saying I don't insist everyone else do as I do. I mean, it would be great if everyone voted for Bernie. It would be great if he'd won more contests. You vote for whom you like. I won't insult you. But whatever happens, I'm not planning to vote for Hillary.

I may have mentioned, somewhere or other, that I'm a teacher. I may have also mentioned that I'm a UFT Chapter Leader. In my capacity as chapter leader, I get to hear what anyone wishes to tell me about what they go through. I'm not hearing the love for Race to the Top, which imposed junk science ratings on me and everyone with whom I work. The lone exception is when I go to UFT meetings. In these meetings, people from the President on down, none of whom have ever been rated by Danielson, toss out statistics and easily proclaim that things are incontrovertibly better.

And yet, each day at work, people tell me how unhappy they are. Young, brilliant teachers tell me they can't take it any more. The most relentlessly positive people I've ever seen in my life get up and walk out. And let me add, I work in one of the best schools in the city (in my highly prejudiced opinion).

But in my school, like in every school, there are all kinds of pressures. Sometimes the pressures ease. No more letter grades. But you cut off one head, and another grows in its place. Test scores no good? Close the school. Fire everyone. Put it into receivership and give it to Moskowitz. Test scores good? First overload the school to triple capacity. Then yeah OK, the scores are good but you're not asking the right questions. What's the point of having 97% of the kids passing the math tests if they can't have profound and reflective discussions about whether or not one plus one is really two? I mean, why is it two?  You can't reserve these discussions for works of literature, and anyway we don't do those anymore. We close read pieces of them with no context, and analyze them until we're blue in the face.

And if you do get those good scores, they're not really good unless you have teams of teachers discussing the work. They have to sit every day and analyze it just like the students analyze out of context fragments of literature. If it's perfect, then they have to figure out how to make it more perfect. And for God's sake there has to be PD. Who cares if 99% of the PD you've sat through for thirty years has been useless? You never know. This might be the one. This might be the one percent. And anyway, since the support networks have been broken up, there are all these companies that charge tens of thousands of dollars for PD. How the hell are they supposed to make tens of thousands of dollars if no one pays them for PD? Have you even considered that?

I've considered it. I've considered it in great detail. Every day when another thirty-year-old teacher tells me how lucky I am that I can retire, I consider it even more. I consider that Barack Obama's children attended the Sidwell Friends School, a place that subscribes to absolutely none of the Common Core tests or junk science ratings that so torture my young colleagues. I consider that Hillary Clinton sent her kid to Sidwell too, yet thinks Common Core is good enough for the rest of us peasants and our children. I consider my beginning kids taking the NYSESLAT exam, answering ridiculous and redundant questions about Hammurabi's Code and whatever other Common-Corey Crap the geniuses over at Questar have dreamed up for them.

I'm not voting for people who enable this crap. Not anymore. I've had enough.

Hey, if you want to vote for Hillary, be my guest. But when you come at me with ad hominem nonsense, when you tell me I have no choice, I'm not the one who's fanatic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Danielson Dials it Down

Charlotte Danielson, she of the Danielson Framework we all know and love, has penned a missive in Education Week. Danielson is concerned with the way teachers are rated. Let's get right to this jaw-dropping statement:

I'm deeply troubled by the transformation of teaching from a complex profession requiring nuanced judgment to the performance of certain behaviors that can be ticked off on a checklist.

Me too, actually. Maybe they don't have irony in Charlotte Danielson's neck of the woods, but she actually wrote the damn checklist and took a pile of money for having done so. I'm not altogether impressed by her crocodile tears years after the fact. If she's so troubled, she could always give the money back on principle and insist her framework not be used in this fashion.

My former co-blogger Arwen wrote a fabulous piece comparing the old process and the new one. It's quite clear which offers more value to a working teacher, and it isn't Danielson's model. A thoughtful and helpful supervisor could evaluate a lesson and offer valuable advice to working teachers. Of course, like many teachers, I would not take it for granted that supervisors are thoughtful or helpful. Danielson, of course, fails to consider that and why should she? It's not like she has any familiarity with or experience in the system she helped create, or even the largest school district in the country, the one that's using her system.

Where does Danielson go when she needs information? In her article she cites only only a few sources. One is TNTP, formerly The New Teacher Project, formed by Michelle Rhee, and another is Bill Gates, who funded a project called Measures of Effective Teaching, or MET. I've found TNTP to be less than thoughtful or credible, but of course I'm a New York City teacher, and unlike Danielson, I'm familiar with the system upon which she's inflicted her framework. I've also seen Gates MET program up close and personal, and found it less than impressive.

Charlotte Danielson doesn't look that closely at such things. She takes them at face value. Has she read Diane Ravitch? Who knows? What we do know is whose opinions she values. Those of us living through this reformy era know precisely what those opinions are worth.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of principals and supervisors have never taught under Danielson's system. Some may understand it, but there's really no evidence to suggest they do, or how many do. With Carmen Fariña openly advocating its use as a gotcha system, there's no reason to presume its validity. Fariña actually instructed some principal about a teacher she wants gone. Does any reasonable person think that teacher is going to get a fair observation, rubric or no rubric?

Full disclosure--there's a lot to like about the Danielson rubric, in my opinion. But it ought to be used as a growth tool rather than the gotcha tool it's become. That is, in fact, how Danielson first conceived it. For her to complain now, after having sold her idea for a whole lot of cash, that it's being misused, is the height of hypocrisy.

Again, if she really wants to impress us, let her give back the money she took and fight to withdraw the right of New York City to use her framework as a tool to fire teachers.

UFT Unity Demands Fairness

In a surprise move, all UFT employees took to the streets yesterday demanding equal treatment. UFT President Michael Mulgrew spoke first.

"Well, I personally haven't taught a class in years. But I'm demanding to be rated on my performance anyway because the whole Danielson experience is so wonderful. Every single one of the people with whom I speak, all of whom have signed loyalty oaths, tell me it's the bestest thing ever."

"Anyway, it's unlikely we will get the whole Danielson experience, what with so many of us who don't even teach at all, but as long as we're out here demanding it, well, it looks like we care about this stuff, and that's what's important, if you know what I mean."

Special Representatives in the UFT do not teach at all. District Representatives and officers in the UFT only teach one class and are therefore not rated by Danielson. Most of them, in fact, have never been rated by Danielson and have no firsthand notion what it's like. Of course, that doesn't mean they haven't got strong opinions.

"I'm tired of getting this S and U and being rated entirely by the principal," said District Representative Beatrice Babosa. "It's not fair that the teachers have all the fun. I can't wait until they finally observe me six times a year and hand me a checklist that neither I nor anyone else actually understands," she said. "After all, since we relentlessly criticize our opponents for opposing a junk science-based system, the very least we can do to demand that we participate in it."

The District Reps say they will march each and every day until the DOE awards them the equity they demand. "All of my staff is unhappy," said Mulgrew. "It's quite unfair that only working teachers are afforded the fantastic benefits of this system. Why should they be the only ones facing the burden of proof when the DOE tries to fire them?"

Martin Menteur, UFT Vice President of Truthiness, had this to say. "It's not fair that all of my colleagues get to be judged by Danielson and all I get is this stinking S or U. That's 100% based on principal evaluation, and that's unfair. I demand to be rated on the test scores of students I may or may not teach, just like all my colleagues."

Tempers ran hot, but cooled down just before noon, when all parties left to go to a gala luncheon at the NY Hilton.

"It's tough running off to gala luncheons day after day," said Menteur. "Sometimes you just don't know what to order. Sometimes I miss my old job," said Menteur, who then appeared to be overtaken by sudden spasms of uncontrollable laughter.

When this reporter asked Menteur whether he'd rather eat at the school cafeteria with his colleagues, he said, "No comment," and rushed into a stretch limo, from which several popped corks seem to emerge all at once.

But the Unity reps say they will be out protesting each and every day until and unless they find something better to do.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fariña Wants to Fire Her Way to Success

I've read and heard a lot from Michael Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus about how fabulous the new teacher evaluation system is. Obviously Mulgrew cannot be bothered lowering himself to mix with rank and file teachers who haven't signed his caucus loyalty oath or he'd be hearing a different song altogether. But they have their talking point set, and they're sticking with it.

This is the talking point--if you oppose the junk science/ Danielson system, you therefore want to place 100% of the rating power in the hands of principals. The junk science somehow mitigates the principal evaluation even though it's largely a crap shoot. So, therefore, ipso facto, shut up and stop complaining. That shut up and stop complaining theme is very popular among Unity folk. It's pretty much their greatest hit, and I've personally been hearing them sing it since 2005.

But then along comes Michael Mulgrew's BFF, Carmen Fariña, and she's singing another song altogether. In fact, she's talking about "purging bad teachers," counseling them out or firing them, whatever it takes. Now this runs counter to the Mulgrew talking point. Mulgrew says only 700 teachers were rated ineffective this year, as opposed to 2,000 unsatisfactories under the previous system. We are, therefore, supposed to spring up on our hind legs and applaud wildly.

The problem is, though, that teachers don't much feel like applauding. Teachers feel the Sword of Damocles over our heads. We feel tremendous pressure to do all sorts of things that may or may not benefit our students. We worry that we will be fired for no reason. While Mulgrew can boast about the wonders of junk science and how it mitigates the judgment of those awful principals, I personally know a great, smart young teacher who was rated ineffective last year solely on the basis of test scores. Had this teacher not moved schools last year, another such rating could've led to a dismissal hearing.

On one issue, I think Mulgrew is right. A lot of supervisors are incompetent. I know plenty of people working for various Boy Wonders, and their lives are a misery. I mean, if you're a vindictive, small-minded, self-serving narcissist, it's unlikely you'll inspire great work, let alone enable or encourage it. And the fact is teachers with figurative guns to their heads are not likely to be of the very best service to children we serve.

But here's a fun fact--Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus have done absolutely nothing to improve the quality of administrators. It doesn't seem all that well-known that it's the  job of administrators to help teachers improve. Adminstrators seem shocked when I bring that up at meetings. Rather than help those who need it, adminstrators walk around checking off boxes and consigning teachers to Danielson hell. I know supervisors I very much doubt could perform better than the teachers they relentlessly criticize. People driven by ambition rather than care for what they do are not necessarily "effective." Those who rose in the ranks to "escape the classroom" weren't good teachers, and can't be good leaders of teachers either.

I question whether Fariña, who is on a mission to fire rather than support teachers, is really contributing either. It's pretty well known that this was her MO when she was a principal, but the fact is she not only selected the teachers, but the kids as well, rejecting 6 of 7 applicants.  I am unimpressed with those who lead highly selective schools and then boast of their results. For those of us who teach in community schools and serve everyone, it's apples and oranges. If Fariña, or Moskowitz, or anyone reformy wishes to impress me, let them go to Detroit and work their magic on a crumbling school full of high-needs kids.

Until they do that, this whole blaming the teachers thing isn't going to make me jump up and down, let alone actually help children. And as long as Fariña is trying to fire her way to the top, Mulgrew's happy talk isn't going to resonate with those of us on the front lines. Maybe it's time for Mulgrew himself to be "counseled out," and turn over the reigns of our union to a working teacher.

Boy Wonder Strikes Terror in the Hearts of Teachers

This is gonna be great. No one will mess with me after this. Let me just drop this casually.

"I'm gonna be out tomorrow. I have to go testify against Mrs. Grubelwitz at her 3020a hearing. What's that? Oh, that's when we fire a teacher."

Heh. This one's a blabbermouth. She's gonna tell everyone.

Once this gets out, no one is gonna miss another voluntary mandatory meeting. That old bat Feinstein missed one last week, and I want to put a letter in her file. But that bastard Chapter Leader keeps saying that if I call the meetings voluntary people don't have to come. Doesn't he know that they are voluntary mandatory? Why does he keep harping on the voluntary part? Once we fire Grubelwitz, I'll put letters in anyone's file if they miss a voluntary mandatory meeting. Let me stop this new teacher.

"Hey I'm gonna be out tomorrow. Send me an email if you need anything. Yeah, I have to go and testify against Mrs. Grubelwitz. Yeah, we're gonna fire her." 

It's all finally coming together. I used to have to worry about bulletin boards but now, with almost everyone going to voluntary mandatory meetings, I have the bulletin boards full of all sorts of crap, with rubrics and everything. That damn mock election was a gold mine. I mean, here I am in New York City, with all those liberals, and I have all the bulletin boards covered with the life stories of just about every Republican candidate for President. I mean, sure most of them have lost, but where else is there an entire bulletin board full of stuff about Carly Fiorina?

The only thing is people keep talking about that bastard Walsh. Why can't he just go away? He looks old enough to retire. Everyone here is all, "Oh, why didn't you go to his ceremony?" The next time someone asks me that, I'll just say, "Hey, I had to prepare my testimony so I could support firing a teacher, and maybe you'll be the next teacher we fire." Screw with me, will you?

Look at them out there talking. They're starting to look worried. Yeah that's right, you could be next. Look at me the wrong way and I'll have you up on charges, you bastards.

I wonder what they have to eat around that place. I'm thinking Mexican. Maybe I can grab some enchiladas around lunchtime. Yeah, that would be good. Maybe I can get home early and take a nap. Here's another one I can tell.

"Yeah, I have to cancel our meeting tomorrow. Yes I know I've canceled five times, and it's been two months since I observed you, but I may be popping in again next period. Or maybe not. Who knows? Anyway, yeah I gotta testify against old Grubelwitz. Two strikes, and she is outta there! You like baseball don't you?"

This will be the talk of the department. They will tremble as I walk by. The voluntary mandatory meetings are gonna be full. That stupid Chapter Leader can shout that the sky is falling, but he can't stop mandatory meetings as long as they're voluntary. Jeez that guy is a pain in the ass. I hope the sewers of Rangoon back up in his breakfast. Wait a minute, let me strike up a casual conversation.

"Oh, hey, listen, Mr. Washington, I won't be able to attend your mandatory voluntary meeting tomorrow, but could you please take copious notes and post them on Google Docs? I'd like to check them out in between testifying against Mrs. Grubelwitz. Oh yeah we're gonna fire her. You see what happens to people who don't do voluntary mandatory meetings? Could you be next? You never know. Nah, just kidding. Or am I?"

Keep 'em guessing, that's what I say. This is gonna be a great week. And next year I'll get that bitch Feinstein too.