Wednesday, January 17, 2018

UFT Delegate Assembly January 17, 2018--Black Lives May or May Not Matter--Let's Not Go Out on a Limb

4:33 Mulgrew tells us to settle down. I’m eating popcorn with Mike Schirtzer.

Moment of silence for Doris Escaros, chapter leader from Queens.

Mulgrew, optimistic, welcomes us to February DA. Corrects himself, thanks us for not demanding a snow day today. Says we have one snow day left.

Federal—Things get crazier even when you think it isn’t possible. We knew there would be nothing but problems about profession, ability to have strong union, or for basic rights. We need to focus on state level. We need to solidify work in city. Not enough time to discuss federal craziness.

Union needs to remain focused on strategic priorities, or we’re setting ourselves up for loss. Our allies understand we are there for them. We support their issues. We must remain focused, and be there for allies who depend on us.

Says many people pressuring for resolutions, hitting streets, etc. But we must first prepare for Janus. This is about taking rights, benefits, and ability to advocate away from us.

EPA, Dept. of Labor devastated, and we hear about stupid tweets. We have to make it about our ability to advocate, push people, defend ed., community, and people we serve.

Asks delegation, as we move into firing line, to remain focused. Must be prudent on what we move on. We don’t need resolutions to go to Women’s March. We will be there. But must remain focus. If we fail, then all our causes will fail because we will not be there to help. UFT is largest most powerful union in USA.

State—Governor rolled out budget. Good things about public ed. Got large applause when he said NY State would protect union and workers. Proud NY State spends more on ed. than other states. Says we have educated him, are highly effective.

Budget proposal—two year process—have to meet minimums from last year—1.5% increase in education. Came in with 3% increase instead. He’s signaling he doesn’t know if he can get much further. Also, health care 3%. Important for students and communities we serve. We will not get involved in fights with health care workers, will have mutual support.

More important is idea of restructuring taxes in NY State. We will get a huge budget cut next year. Governor has taken lead and said in this. Federal tax plan specifically goes after 12 states, donor states, including us. We pay for services, 48 billion more than we get back. Being used in states that got tax break.

Now we are punished for not supporting candidates who passed that tax bill. Will cost NY 14 billion additional next year. Governor trying to give us deductions back. Will probably be used to give governor and corporations tax breaks.

NY State will create tax credit for charitable funds. 10K limit for state, local taxes, and mortgagee. Other piece is payroll tax, still deductible. We may lower income tax and increase payroll tax to use as a deduction.

Feds will call It outrageous. NY is acting like a corporation. Sad we’ve gotten to the point we even have to look at this, but if not, we will be hurt—individually, and our schools will hurt too.. We will work with governor to not allow fed scheme to hurt us.

Governor now gets student of the month, star on refrigerator, we must keep him there.
City—We are in agreement, except on middle management. We have sympathetic city council. Our visitors, Council Speaker Cory Johnson. Second most powerful position now held by chapter leader, Danny Dromm—also other CL Mark Treyger.

Johnson—Running speaker’s race was difficult. But there was someone who would call, ask if things were OK—Michael Mulgrew, thanks him for leadership. Thanks Paul Egan, Brigit Ryan, Anne Goldman and Dermot Smyth. Says thank you to UFT for being strong, progressive union that serves children every single day, through good times and bad. Members of this union show up every single day with a mission of service. No one becomes a teacher to get rich. You do it to make a difference, to improve lives of young people. It’s one of the highest callings. I was always a friend of this union. I stand shoulder to shoulder with you.

Dromm—Good to be back, for third and final term, as finance chair. Everyone in this room can do what we’ve done. Hope you are thinking about that. Thanks Mulgrew, calls him tough, strong, says he has created change. I was CL or delegate, sitting here, lived through Bloomberg and Klein, much better place. We now have great leadership. I came out as openly gay teacher, and people here supported me. Cory came out at 16. We speak out for voiceless. We want to change teachers thinking they are voiceless.

Politics is related to education—look at us, three of us, making change, with leadership of union. We will stand strong. Teaching is not a business, or business model—we need to push back.

Treyger—Says it’s good to be home. UFT was first and only union that stood with us in 2013, and we won. Proud product of public schools. I was a teacher and delegate. Started as paraprofessional. Made the journey. Was previously chairman of Hurricane Sandy recovery committee. Would ask tough questions. Mayor said I get fiery. Comes from Michael Mulgrew and my depth of knowledge DOK chart. I asked them critical thinking questions.

If you or your chapters ever had any doubt about power and potential of COPE, take a good look at this stage right now. Thanks to Mulgrew, to political directors, to leadership at UFT, to Brooklyn, we have the education dream team here. Speaker Johnson forgot one thing, that he and Dromm made sure we increased teachers’ choice. Had your backs. Message here is correct. Change begins at home. Must start from bottom.

I remember visitors with clipboards, quality reviews, etc. Now it’s our turn. Now we have the clipboard and I’m gonna ask questions of DOE. Where do we stand on reducing class size, paid leave, empowering children with IEPs and ELLs, making sure we have adequate wiring and AC, and on actually respecting educators?

Great to see friends at parades, but when it comes time for budget decisions you know where your friends are. We will always have your back in solidarity.

Mulgrew—Says we did this.

Lobby Day March 19th. Registration started today. May be someone other than CL.

Saturday, will rally 72 and Broadway, 11 AM.

Parental leave—started with social media, many emails, please keep doing that. Have to get there. All pols wonder about cuts. Important to do now.

Thanks schools fighting back against closings. Some schools make no sense. We need transparency. Keep telling them there are failures in leadership. They wait years, say we’re right, and close schools. We want to avoid that.

Can’t they find good principals?

Negotiating committee met. Signed confidentiality committee. Largest in history.

Membership teams—There is no way everyone in this room can talk to every member. Important we tell people what Janus means. Wisconsin union prez will be here to tell us what’s happened. Worse than I thought. Benefits, pay and rights at stake.

We need to have a real conversation about facts. Let us know if you don’t have a team, and we will help.

Asks how much you get from Welfare Fund. Average $1740.

What happens the year you need it, if you don’t have a plan? We have this because of our union. Ask your staff—do you think the city gives us the welfare fund? They don’t. We negotiate for what we can get, and then fight with many companies to make sure they don’t rip off members. Members need to understand.

Without this, we’ll pay thousands for pharmaceuticals.  We will have more door knocking. Face to face at worksite is pivotal.

Every time there’s a snow day, email is full of people who have to report. If they aren’t on school table of organization, they have to go to work. People need to know this is condition of employment. Stupid if they’re open for no reason. We have to negotiate this.

Next DA February 7th, in 3 weeks. This is national Public School Proud week. We will have coordinated activities. Suggests bear costume for Betsy DeVos. We do best job, because we take them all and educate them all. Let DeVos come here. Suggests we invite her. She can come see what we do every day. Ends 5:27.

LeRoy Barr—Speaks of Women’s March, invites us. Feb. 6, 12, 27 Black History Month film series. CTE Awards, Feb. 15. CL Training Pt. 3—March 3, 4. March 10—Para luncheon, also 14 annual school counselors conference. Early childhood 3/17. Next DA 2/7.

Questions

Q—Hearing Regents wants school year based on hours rather than days. What is our position?

A—Problem for almost every state system. Right now, you get credit when children are in partially. We are in discussion, with Regents and NYSUT. Do not believe it will work. Should be changed. Some PROSE schools have shifted schedules. Would be aversely affected. Would have to change calendar. We like it as is.

Q—How can we get repped on negotiation committee?

A—Adult ed. is already on.

Q—MOSL—we have students who have to take “Sandy Fast.” Principal has too high expectations—form 4 to 27. Some kids out for 7 months. Where do numbers come from?

A—Problematic when we look at challenging students. Someone will see you right now, who reps us at state level. She was able to help self-contained teachers.

Q—Class sizes—we have support from city council—How can we add over utilization to class size concern. Says his school at 187% (mine is higher). Says some are over 200%. How do we address this?

A—Most class size grievances settled, we win most. Some areas so overcrowded. This was failure of planning on behalf of city. They’ll rush to build schools where overcrowded now. By the time they do this, others will be overcrowded. System doesn’t work, no one has changed it. Hopeful that one of these folks you saw on stage today understands issues. We have finance and ed. chairs now. Never had this opportunity before. Ridiculous we don’t require developers to add school seats. Hudson Yards will have at least 10K students. City building only 210 seats. In five years west side will be direly overcrowded. No one talking of building schools there.

Must change our whole process. We have a census, need better transfer plan too. Real problem, working with city council.

Q—What is protocol for UFT members who have issues with one another.

A—Recommends CL not try to mediate. Used LEOC or peer mediation in his school. No easy answer. We will send people to help. We have counselors.

Motions—5:43—

Janella Hinds—In support of Women’s March.  Asks we vote on it this month.

Passes.

Safe and Supportive Schools—next month.

Mike Lowe—Encourages support—lays out problems and solutions. Suspension of students of color—leads to higher incarceration. De Blasio mandates reduced suspensions. Not real solution. Wants training for teachers. Have been pilots. 3 districts pushing non-punitive actions.

Passes.

Dermot Myrie—Resolution for Black Lives Matter Week—MLK says silence is a betrayal—this res. says UFT should participate with grassroots orgs Feb. 5-9. As we defend public ed., can we address equity for communities we serve. 60% students of color. Affects us all. BLM is not anti-law enforcement. Family members are police, DAs, correction officers. Asks that we support this action. Could be asset to Public School Proud. Could move cultural awareness. Urges endorsement.

LeRoy Barr—Speaks against. Not against movement, or saying we are unaware of racism. Passed numerous res. on these issues. Moved agenda on these issues. Worked with numerous groups pushing diversity. Did that work. Says father was cop. Spoke of this at AFT. Knows what it’s like to be child of police officer.

Said community policing was most important thing he did. Mom was teacher. Grew up in city, was stopped by cops.

I’m politically active in different groups. However, this is the UNITED Federation of Teachers. This is splinter issue, is divisive. With Janus on horizon, does UFT need to be engaged in activity that will split the membership. If you support this, other bodies will help you. You can do this work.

Many years ago, Vietnam War was splinter issue. UFT said, we’re not going to politically engage in that. Would take us away from main issues. Membership must be aware of attacks coming in next three months. We need to stay focused to stay largest and most powerful union.

Not speaking against issue, asking you vote down.

Point of order—To extend meeting.

Mulgrew will ask in 90 seconds.

Fails

Time not extended.

Res. 1—CHIP—children’s health program

Karen Allford speaks for, supplies free lunch, school based health centers, 8.9 million children enrolled. Helps poor and middle class. Ran out of money in September. Asks we urge funding.

Passes unanimously.

We are adjourned. 6:02

Why Are You Here?

What do you say when a student asks you that question? I mean, they pay you to come here. That's one reason. You might also speak of your zeal and dedication. You are here to help. You're on a mission. There is no place else you'd rather be. That can get a little flowery, and kids might not buy it.

Now if you want to be really difficult, you could say this--Let me answer that question in two parts:

As to the first part of your question--Why? Everyone asks why. For years, man has looked up to the heavens, and asked why. Some of the wisest people in our history have puzzled over this issue. There are those guys in India who sit cross legged and meditate. They say OMMMMM... until it ends, and no one knows exactly when that is.

Me, I'm just an English teacher. I can't tell you why.

As for the second part of your question, am I here? Well yes I am.

As it happens, yesterday I was supposed to give an exam. It was a midterm exam, or a midyear exam, or perhaps a final exam. I don't know, really. But it was definitely an exam. My department's exam day was yesterday. But I had a meeting, and I didn't want to leave it with a sub. My kids are mostly good, but I have no idea how they will act with a sub. (With me, they'll act like they do with me.)

The thing was, yesterday I had a meeting scheduled during class time. So I told them on Friday the exam was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday. They asked me why. Now I miss a lot of classes because I'm the chapter leader. I tried, one year, to tell my beginning ELLs that I was the chapter leader. They looked at me as though I'd just fallen from the sky.

The following year, and every year after that, I told them I have two jobs. First, I teach you English. Second, I go to stupid meetings. They asked why. I said because the principal asks me to, and he's, you know, the principal. They nodded their heads, and it seemed everything was fine. Except it wasn't.

My former principal liked to constantly walk the halls. He also liked to check the trailers. On this particular day, it was raining. I heard a knock, and opened the door. There, outside, was the principal, in his suit, with rain dripping from his hair. He walked in the classroom and looked around. A girl raised her hand.

"Mr. Principal?"

"Yes?"

"Why do you make Mr. Goldstein go to stupid meetings?"

He looked at her for a moment.

"I thought they were IMPORTANT meetings!" he said. He then turned around, walked back into the pouring rain, and let the trailer door slam behind him.

Yesterday, a kid walked in five minutes late. That's unusual in my class.

"Why are you late?" I asked.

"Why are you here?" he asked.

"You told us you were going to a stupid meeting," said another student.

"So you're late because you thought I wouldn't be here?" I asked the boy.

"Of course," he said.

"Sorry, but the meeting was canceled so I'm here."

Yesterday I actually gave out the work I'd left for the sub. I figured it wouldn't be fair to give the test I had ready, since I'd told them it would be today. The sub stuff was pretty good review for the test, but was a little more boring than what I'd have picked for myself. You always wonder, when you leave sub stuff. Will the sub get it? If the sub gets it, will the sub do it? Will the kids tell the sub they did it already? Will the sub believe them?

I don't know the answers to any of those questions. But I thought the kid had a pretty fair excuse for his lateness. I count myself lucky he was the only one. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Have No One to Thank but the UFT

So said a comment I read, complaining about something or other. I have deep and longstanding issues with UFT leadership. My primary issue is lack of representation. I'm a high school teacher, and my fellow high school teachers did me the great honor of electing me to represent them on the UFT Executive Board. I'm happy to do this. Of course, we're outnumbered 20 to 1 by people who've signed loyalty oaths, who show up and say nothing unless they're told to, and who vote on cue for however they're instructed.

However, that's not even the main problem. The main problem is we have zero representation on AdCom, which actually makes all the decisions which are invariably rubber stamped at the Executive Board, and later at the Delegate Assembly. We also pay dues to NYSUT, NEA, and AFT, where precisely zero people we chose represent us.

Now, in a way, the sentiment, "I have no one to thank but the UFT," is correct. After all, UFT set up the system that way, via leadership. And once that pesky Michael Shulman was no longer UFT Vice President for High Schools, leadership rigged the system so we'd no longer be able to choose our own VP. Doubtless this was approved by the rubber-stamp Executive Board and Delegate Assembly.

In another way, though, it's not correct at all. When I read statements like that, it sounds like the UFT is some sort of outside entity. Maybe it's a spaceship from Mars. Who knows? But that statement takes no ownership. I don't always agree with UFT President Michael Mulgrew, but once I saw him correct someone at the DA. The person said UFT did this or that. Mulgrew said, "You are UFT." That's absolutely right. That person is UFT, I'm UFT, and whoever made the title comment is UFT too.

A friend of mine said, "There are two problems with the UFT--the leadership and the membership." I'd argue that's wholly accurate. Hey, if you don't like Michael Mulgrew, vote against him. It's simple, isn't it? Yet in the last UFT election, three out of four members tossed their ballots into the trash. So really, if Mulgrew is this or that, whose fault is it?

It's our fault, of course. We all need to get off our butts and vote.

Now there are always other things we can do. For example, I've been writing this little blog since May 2005. I don't need permission of UFT leadership to write it. I don't need the mayor's permission either. They can shut me up at the Executive Board with inane points of order, but they can't shut me up here.

Nine years ago I became UFT chapter leader at my school. This is the kind of thing that teaches you humility. I mean, you're teaching for twenty years and you take on a new job about which you know nothing. Fortunately, after I do something once I kind of figure how to do it again. In learning to be chapter leader I've grown a relatively fresh appreciation for what it's like to be a new teacher. I certainly remember being overwhelmed with disasters I had no idea how to face, just like when I started teaching.

I write elsewhere, too. I've met and corresponded with a whole lot of journalists who actually do this for a living. (That's a pretty tough thing to do nowadays, with so much content online.) When I first started as chapter leader, I was able to get my school into the three major city papers one way or another. We were able to stave off the massive and unconscionable overcrowding they'd put us through for a while.

By the time circumstance reversed our good fortune, I was on the UFT Executive Board. When I brought up our issue, the very first time I spoke at the Executive Board, Ellie Engler set up a meeting with school construction and we were able to negotiate an annex to replace our crumbling trailers and airless converted closets. So while things are rough now, we have some form of relief in our future.

I'm just a teacher, like most of you reading this. I blame leadership for a whole lot of things, and I'm in their faces about it twice a month. Sure, some of them failed to send me a Christmas card last year. But if we're willing to go out on a limb and risk fewer Christmas cards, there are always things we can do.

We just have to think of what they are. Let's start by voting every chance we get, without exception, and build from there.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dr. King Saw Janus Coming

Today we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated in 1968. He's famous for his work in civil rights, but when he was assassinated he was supporting working people. He was protesting that black workers got partial pay on a day they were sent home while white workers got paid the whole day. But he knew what "right to work" was all about.

Almost half a century later, we're moving backward. Our lying, racist President labels countries of color "shitholes" and wonders why we don't get more people from Norway. Why Norway? Well, they're white over there. Why would someone from Norway come over here anyway? In Norway, they have cradle to grave health care. How many of them go bankrupt due to catastrophic medical emergency? As in most of the developed world, that number would be zero. How many of them can't afford college? Again, zero.

While few US citizens have pensions these days, Norway, rather than pump energy profits into private corporations, uses it to fund pensions. We teachers are very lucky to have defined pension benefits, and they are under assault by reformies who'd like us to use 401k funds and hope for the best. In fact, even the inventor of the 401k says it wasn't meant to replace pensions.

It's disgraceful that the President of the United States is so woefully ignorant that he regularly blurts out preposterous nonsense, and not only about Norway. Dr. Martin Luther King is likely as not rolling over in his grave. This is a man who literally gave his life for his ideals. Donald Trump has no problem rattling sabres over Kim Jung Un, another lunatic world leader, but took five deferments back when his fat ass was on the line. His feet were no good back then, but now that he's sitting around the White House watching three television screens and eating cheeseburgers before he goes to sleep, he's in perfect health.

I don't know how many states were "right to work" back when King made the above statement, but right now there are 28. After Janus, there will likely be 50. Mulgrew tells us that our new best bud, Andrew Cuomo, will work with us to circumvent Janus if possible. I'm not sure. The fact is Cuomo also enables the IDC, a bizarre arrangement under which Democrats help Republicans control the NY State Senate. Without them we might be looking at universal health care in NY State. With them, Cuomo might be able to say, "See, I tried to help, but I was blocked by those goshdarn senators."

The first thing we need to do to get closer to MLK's vision is to dump the GOP Congress and Senate. If we attain a Democratic majority, it's possible Trump could change his positions. After all, he has no moral compass, no integrity, and cares only about winning. And yes, I know we're all tired of winning, but if the only way our child-man President can win is by doing the right thing, maybe he'll come around. Of course, we have to get rid of the President ASAP too, because he's a blithering lunatic.

The next thing we have to do is let Democrats know that, if they want our votes, they'll have to start representing Americans rather than corporations. Americans want universal health care. Americans want tuition free college. Americans want better wages. I always marvel at how many of us watch the garbage on Fox and buy ideas that ultimately hurt us. I always recall being in East Berlin, seeing Pravda sold everywhere, and seeing no one buy it. What did they know that we don't?

We need to honor the memory of Dr. King. To do that, we have to fight our racist, nazi-justifying President. We need to fight for better lives for all Americans. As teachers, we need to foster critical thinking. That's a tall order considering the national movement toward reforminess, nonsensical tests, and charters that specialize in Drudgery 101, 102, and onward ad infinitum.

We need to stand together and fight post-Janus. That's a tall order, particularly considering local union leadership that opposes democracy almost as much as Donald Trump does. But it's 2018, and I'm up for both fronts.

What about you?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Here's the Real Shithole

I remember the day after Election Day. I woke up, thinking, well, Hillary kind of sucks, but at least she isn't as bad as Trump. I came downstairs and turned on the news. I watched returns coming in. Hillary was up in this state, and Trump was up in that.

Then a graphic flashed across the screen. "Donald Trump elected President of the United States." It was as if a bad joke had sprouted wings and began to fly right there in my living room. How could this happen? How could an ignorant racist galoot like that ever become President of the United States?

I have to admit I was delighted watching him defeat the evil GOP bastards against whom he ran. Their positions are odious. They don't give a crap about working people. They smile to our faces and stab us in our backs. I deluded myself in believing a preposterous clown like Donald Trump could never win the White House. I mean, the crap about Obama being born in Kenya? Demanding the death penalty for innocent teenagers? The bigoted blather on Mexico? Pussy grabbing?

This guy was the total package. I remember watching Saturday Night Live when Kate McKinnon, portraying Hillary, was pictured dancing and drinking, not even contemplating the possibility of loss. I was sure that morning I'd turn on the TV and see she was President.

That day I dressed all in black. People asked me if I did that because Trump was President and I told them of course. That night there was a UFT Delegate Assembly. I forgot to go. I just drove home. It was the only one I missed last year. People told me it was different and that Mulgrew let people speak. I guess it was a good idea. After all, AFT had been an early endorser of Hillary. I never liked Hillary until Donald Trump became the alternative. Once that happened, she looked relatively good.

Now Donald Trump calls El Salvador and Haiti, and African nations shitholes. A while back he talked about them living in huts. I think Donald Trump has never been anywhere. I mean, he's traveled to cities, I suppose, and stayed in first class hotels where they pampered him like he's always pampered. They fed him his well done steaks with ketchup and fetched him the cheeseburgers he needs to power him up for watching cable news.

But this man is a disgrace from A to Z. He's a national embarrassment. I grew up hearing jokes about banana republics with crooked politics. Look at us. Trump got 3 million fewer votes than his opponent and he's President. He musters the audacity to act as though he has a mandate, even as his popularity swirls the bottom of the bowl.

No, Mr. President. My students do not come from shitholes. They come here looking for opportunity, looking for better lives. They come here to escape violence. And what do they get?

They get Donald Trump. Every day I wonder more and more why they come here at all, and every day Trump shows the world we're not a melting pot, but a festering heap of garbage.

Every time I see his face I feel ashamed to be an American.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Chalkbeat Says Good Morning, and Waiting for Superman is Mainstream

I admit I read Rise and Shine from Chalkbeat every morning. It's kind of a cheat sheet to find out what education stories I might want to see every day.  Also, they email it to me every morning around 7 AM, when I'm sitting with my computer in a department office. I was struck by the part of the intro yesterday, which read exactly like this:


Plus, a new study estimates the cost to district schools when students leave for charter schools. Finally, are you wondering what Oprah would bring to the table on education policy if she ran for president? Chalkbeat has you covered.


What's a district school? Had you ever heard of such a thing in your life before charters existed? I'd argue this is a term they invented. Use of this term legitimizes charter claims to be public schools, but in fact we know that charters are public schools only when they want public money. Eva Moskowitz waged a war with City Hall over having to sign an agreement over pre-K. Moskowitz doesn't do agreements. Whatever Eva wants, Eva gets.

Here's another thing--you may have read about how Eva's students pee their pants rather than interrupt their test prep. That's outrageous and abusive, I'd say. In fact, not only do I say it, but Chancellor's Regulation A-420, which doesn't apply in Eva World, prohibits the use of physical force. As a parent, if you forced my kid to sit and work until she peed her pants, I'd want you charged with that. If that didn't fit, I'd want you charged with negligence, abuse or both. I'm absolutely certain if I were to make kids pee their pants I'd be up on some sort of misconduct. Maybe at Moskowitz Academies you get a gold star, a raise, a promotion, or all of the above.

Who knows?

Then there's Oprah. Of course Chalkbeat lets you know all about her educational policies. Let's look at the headlines they run:

She understands racism and poverty in America — and how schools can make a difference.


Yes of course. The only thing is, racism and poverty have yet to be ended by schools. If they had been, Donald Trump would certainly not be President. And here's the thing--Oprah is a remarkable success story. Painting her as the rule rather than the exception is ridiculous. It's like determining that because Bill Gates didn't go to college, your kid doesn't need to either. And Gates, who Oprah admires, has steadfastly operated on the theory that poverty is too complicated, so we'd best ignore it.

Then there's the talk about Oprah's school. It's not precisely all roses, as abusesex scandals, and other things make you wonder whether you want this school in your neighborhood. And even if you did, how could you judge American education by schools in South Africa? I'm not an expert on South Africa, but if I were looking for a country that really addressed poverty, I'd look to Scandanavia. Sit while you wait for Chalkbeat to do that.

She has given to education initiatives that cross partisan divides

Well that's all nice and well, but anyone following education knows that there are very few partisan divides. The Democrats suck, and the Republicans suck a little bit more. Charter schools are not viewed as a panacea by people who follow education. Of course, these people get little representation by Democrats or Republicans. Here's the thing--they get none in Chalkbeat either, even though it portrays itself as non-partisan. Maybe Chalkbeat failed to notice that Hillary, representing Democrats, failed to support universal health care, a living wage, or college for all. Maybe they failed to notice that the majority of Americans support these policies, and that they had no representation from the Democrats or Republicans. Who knows? The only sure conclusion is that Chalkbeat deems reforminess universal.

They're wrong, of course.

She’s also aligned herself with heavyweights of the ‘education reform’ movement

It's ironic they use the word also here. After all, they just said she was bipartisan because she supports charter schools. Who can forget the show she devoted to reformy Waiting for Superman, with Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and whoever else was the reformy flavor of the month? Last I heard, Canada walked away from his charter school, Rhee was hawking fertilizer, and Gates was still hammering away, undeterred by his record of utter failure.

Maybe ignoring poverty and blaming teachers for all of society's ills isn't the way to go after all. It depends what's important to you. Do you want to actually help the children of the United States? Then you're gonna need a new approach. On the other hand, if your goal is enriching Betsy DeVos and her billionaire BFFs, just keep reading Chalkbeat and chugging along the way we are now.

If you're looking for well-thought-out local information, though, you might want to check out Diane  Ravitch or Gary Rubinstein. They don't assume charter schools are better than public schools, and they don't assume charter schools are public schools, because they aren't. They are private schools that take public money.

Of course, that's my opinion. The difference between this blog and Chalkbeat is that I'll freely admit this blog represents my point of view. I'm paid by no one to write this. Chalkbeat takes money from Gates and Walmart, just to name a couple. They claim to be unbiased but they present the reformy view as though it's the Gospel.

President Oprah is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. Running a TV show is one of the worst qualifications for President I can think of. Of course, accepting reforminess as Gospel is just another. I wouldn't vote for Oprah on a bet. If she wants to do the country a service, she can take all that money she has, buy Fox News, and try to slow down the national plague of willful ignorance.

This notwithstanding, I won't be holding my breath.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What Makes You Nervous?

For me, it's new things. For the longest time I was locked away in the trailer, and I watched people work on PowerPoint presentations. I thought how lucky I was to be in the trailer with no technology and no need to worry about it. I also thought it was odd I felt that way because I'm drawn to computers pretty much all the time.

Three or four years ago I got a classroom, but the tech was broken. But I made it a point to hang my jacket on the broken smartboard. Whenever I got observed I would insist on getting credit for my innovative use of technology. Wouldn't you know my AP didn't see it that way? Not only that, but the following year, some diabolical force came in and put a functional computer and screen in the room.

So I sat with a young Chinese teacher and asked what she used in her class. She showed me PowerPoint presentations she made and I was impressed. I thought, "What if I do the same thing, except in ENGLISH?" Sometimes I'm brilliant like that. So I started using it a lot, particularly to introduce vocabulary. It turns out that the pictures I used to draw are really awful, and that the photos, cartoons, and GIFs on Google images are a whole lot better.

I started using Apple's Keynote and converting files to PowerPoint. Now I mostly use my own laptop and write everything in Keynote. I know a Spanish teacher who does incredible things with PowerPoint. Sadly, when she explains how she does them I have no idea what she's talking about. Also, all the advanced effects she does on PowerPoint seem unavailable on the Mac version.

The new thing I'm doing now is giving PD. I was trained last summer at UFT to offer CTLE PD. Two women from AFT came and we sat seven days in a row, eight hours a day, doing all sorts of things. One thing we did was eat lunch, so yes I'm a partial recipient of the 100K UFT spent on pizza and bagels last year. (Maybe over at the Post they all put on dark glasses and tin cups and beg for table scraps at lunch time. I'd love to see Rupert Murdoch doing that.)

Toward the end, we all had to give 20-minute presentations. It was pretty nerve racking. I had never, ever given a formal PD before. Even more nerve racking was expanding it to an hour and giving it in front of my staff in September. Actually, though, the only reason I went for the training was so I'd be able to offer the CTLE credit so many of my younger colleagues will desperately need.

Today, after school, I'm going to offer a two-hour version of this PD. It was kind of a long-term assignment to create a two hour version, and everyone in my summer group is supposed to complete writing it sometime around now. I'm always a little nervous when I try new things, but this seems to me the most nervous I've ever been. From years of masters-level classes and PDs, I can tell you that teachers are the toughest audience there is. I know well because I'm one of them.

Now the woman who runs it is asking me if I'll do it again. Maybe, but I'll have to see how it goes the first time.

Wish me luck, please. I'll surely need it.

Monday, January 08, 2018

UFT Executive Board January 8, 2017--We Change the World in 45 Minutes

6:02 PM—Howard Schoor welcomes us, wishes happy new year. Says there are no speakers. Crowd applauds.

Minutes—approved

President’s Report—Mulgrew is not here.

Staff Director—LeRoy Barr—Announces negotiation committee meeting. EB member automatically on. DA next week, Jan 17. February Black History Month film series, will be flyer.
Next EB Jan. 22.

Schoor—Report on class size

Keira from grievance department—UFT initiates class size grievances. Gets info 1st, 6th and 10th day. Day ten numbers are what demands are based on. Again in February. Last year were 526 demands. Many resolved, some went to hearings. for 17-8, were 437 demands. Will increase when HS reorganizes. Important chapter leaders tell when violations are resolved. 16-7—community districts 1320 schools reported oversize, HS 1148 oversized classes 2468 oversized total last year. This year so far CSD 1254 overages HS 1019 overages 2273 total. 200 fewer so far.

Some schools have extensive history. We keep track of schools with extensive history. We look very closely at about 19. These are discussed on labor management committee.  We work with DOE to come up with solutions. Susan Wagner on list, fewer than 10 this year. Had hundreds in past. Pathways resolved violations before hearing. Journalism resolved.. others resolved…we take some to get precedents in full blown arbitrations.

When grievance is sustained, school has five days to come into compliance. If they cannot, DOE has to come up with a “reasonable action plan in good faith.” There is no format. May be relief from C6. We have a compliance call. DOE presents its action plan. Only basis to object is if plan is unreasonable. Proposed a school aide provided relief—that was shot down. 250 resolved after hearing. Mulgrew concerned about class size cases being resolved after we have hearings. Position is we could get that done day before. 72 resolved prior to scheduling this year.

16-7 29 action plans 15 came into compliance.This year 5 completed action plans, 23 being scheduled.

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—How is C6 relief an action plan? When I have an oversized class, I need help right there in the classroom. Extra prep doesn’t help me.

Keira—Depending on history, I object to these things. Pushed for relief from more. Ultimately arbitrator decides what’s reasonable.

Mike Schirtzer—MORE—asks about Tottenville

Keira—Arbitrator ruled no more action plans

Jonathan HalabiNew Action--Who is pushing for DOE to waste our arbitration days?

Keira—I can’t say what DOE does. We maximize our days as best we can.

Schoor—I think they willfully try to violate contract. Welcomes new member of Executive Board

Mulgrew is here—6:22

President’s Report—

Comments on snow day, attendance on Friday—system around 50%.

February 26 oral arguments for Janus. Number one issue among members. Becoming more educated but we have more to do. We believe one on one conversations are very important. Training more door knockers. We have enough volunteers. We will start monitoring membership teams, training them. We don’t want this to be a big time drag. It means that teams will coordinate conversations. Our rights and benefits are in jeopardy.

You want a team that reps all titles in building.

State of State speech—Governor was educated and changed his mind. We give him credit for changing his path. He was trumpeting graduation rate and proud we invest more in education. This is important because federal tax plan could cripple our economy. Important to offset damages because of inability to deduct state and local taxes.  Township in NJ now have charitable contribution accounts. They are going after blue states, not hiding it. Doesn’t matter that we subsidize services for states who have no taxes. This is a middle finger to us. It’s an existential threat. Cuomo said he’d do something to protect unionized workers.

Not optimistic about getting cooperation from state Senate. They hate NYSUT and UFT.

City Council—we hope for cooperation. We hope they come through to help our school system and our city. We have six UFT members in City Council, several up for important jobs.

Searching for chancellor—told them we’re not giving names, but have issues with anyone who’s been through Broad Institute or anyone from certain think tanks. Many supes have been through programs—we want someone who believes in research, who’s been a teacher, and who believes in collaboration.

6;32—Mike Schirtzer--MORE asks about parental leave

Mulgrew—making progress but we have to kick it up a notch. We have a negotiating committee—They might be slowing this with us because of something happening elsewhere. Says it’s not about our next round of bargaining. Says we are making progress.

Schoor—many comments on our Facebook page about this—runs the gamut.

Questions

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—What’s our membership plan for weak chapters?

Paul Egan—There is a pilot program. Each borough sends chapter advocates to several schools. Hoping to find what works and doesn’t. We hope to address gaps and holes. Hope to have 100% by end of month.

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—I’m chapter leader of the largest school in Queens. A whole lot of schools like ours have been cut into little pieces and small themed schools, or charter schools. We managed to survive Bloomberg and thrive, which is a minor miracle.

A big factor in that miracle, for my money, is our JROTC, the largest in the country, and likely the most successful. These kids change the tone of our school very much for the better. And their teachers are some of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. When I show up at 6:30 AM, they’re already there. When I go to PTA meetings in the evening, there’s always some JROTC teacher doing something or other with 200 kids.

But none of them have tenure. None of them can get it because there’s no such thing as a military science certification in NY State. There is one in New Jersey. I hate being behind new Jersey. To me, it’s borderline criminal that JROTC instructors don’t have the same rights and privileges I do.

What can we do to change that? How can we help them have what every UFT member should have?

Schoor—Janella Hinds will research this.

Report from districts—

?—Sent check for 21K for Operation Aqua. Please send more if possible.

Janella Hinds—ON Saturday a team of HS educators went to Chelsea Piers. Had bowling party for women in need. Nice to bring young people in temporary housing, on frigid day, to warm bowling alley. Got movie tickets and 50$ gift care.

Legislative Report—Paul Egan—Eagles did not play—Mulgrew gave much of my report. We will be having our committee of 100, and Lobby Day. Hopes for 1,000 people. People need permission from principal.

Schoor—6 teachers on City Council of 51. One is Danny Drumm. Leaving ed. committee, hope to put another teacher, Mark Trager, on that.

Resolution in support of CHP—9 million kids could lose medical coverage.

LeRoy Barr—Supports resolution. Program pays for health care for low income and middle class children, many served by UFT. Began in 1987, was bipartisan support. Demands that GOP stops playing politics and passes this program. Asks for support.

Schoor—If feds don’t pay, state will have to.

Passes unanimously.

We are adjourned 6:47

Hey Gang, Let's Make Teachers Work for Sub-minimum Wage Plus Tips!

Chalkbeat, originator of teaching competitions it fancies reminiscent of Top Chef, lover of and advocate for all things reformy,  zeroes in on merit pay. Naturally, despite abundant failure, they find something good about it.

This is because there's some new government study favoring merit pay. Why? Because they say it raises test scores, which is of course the only factor worth considering in education.

It's not hard to find reason to question merit pay. For one thing, it's not remotely anything new. Diane Ravitch writes that it's been tried since the 1920s and has never worked. Nonetheless, the Trumpies, an entire stable of geniuses, declare that merit pay works better than class size reduction. Why get more attention for the students when you can give a few extra bucks to very few extra teachers and pretend you've done something?

Here's Diane:

The most rigorous trial of merit pay was conducted recently in Nashville by the National Center on Performance Incentives. It offered an extraordinary bonus of $15,000 to teachers if they could get higher scores from their students. Over a three-year period, there was no difference between the scores obtained by the treatment group or the control group. The bonus didn’t matter.

Roland Fryer of Harvard University just released his study of New York City’s much-touted school-wide merit-pay program. Fryer says it made no difference in terms of student outcomes and actually depressed performance in some schools and for some groups of students.

But hey, if numerous decades of studies don't produce the desired results, why not just keep repeating them until you find one that does? While I don't trust the Trumpies at all, Obama's education policy was almost as terrible, and of course there's a good chance this study was initiated while he was President. Sadly, I wouldn't trust any study sponsored by his people either.

Merit pay assumes that some teachers have merit while others don't. I'd argue that any teacher without merit ought not to be teaching. But if you want to prove merit pay works, you find a way to prove it. Test scores generally show little more than zip code. It's not generally a great challenge to get kids from, say, Roslyn NY, to pass more tests.

I wonder whether I've just been holding back all these years. Maybe if I could make an extra thousand bucks a year I'd be able to give this teaching stuff 100%. Maybe it would take 5,000. Maybe ten. Who knows what the magical number is that would make me do my job instead of phoning it in? I mean, we don't have merit pay, so that's what I must be doing.

There is an overabundance of dunces who wish to control education. Sometimes they're just stupid, but usually they also have a lot of money. The money thing leads them to think they must know everything and are therefore instant and final authorities. Oprah didn't feature Bill Gates just for his good looks.

In our school, as in all city schools, we have to figure out exactly which form of junk science is used to rate teachers. We choose, whenever possible, to have teachers rated by department or school wide measures. That's because we don't want kids coming to teachers for tutoring and being turned away. I mean, if I'm the sort of person who actually cares about ratings or merit pay, why the hell would I want to help one of your students? Why should I bother helping your kid when it would raise your rating, or your salary? I'm in this for me, so go screw yourself. That's the Merit Pay Way.

We kind of think, our administration and our chapter, that it's our job to help children. We kind of think that's why we wake up in the morning and do this job. Now I like money, and I wouldn't be surprised if our administrators like it too. I mean, they get paid more than us, but that's fine with me. I'd rather make less and keep the job I have. Nonetheless, we agree absolutely that it's an idiotic idea to put teachers in open competition with one another over test scores.

Of course, we haven't got the red hotline phone to Bill Gates, like Arne Duncan probably did.

Now even if money really is the root of all evil, I can always use a little more of it. I just got a new dog, and he has vet bills. He can chew through bones pretty quickly. Poopie bags don't grow on trees. In fact, I don't happen to live in a tree, and the choice not to has often proven costly. So yes, I would like more money. If I go to one of those 300-member committee thingies and Mulgrew asks me, "Would you like more money?" I'll say, "Yes I would, thank you very much."

But I'm a teacher. Like all teachers, I need a salary. If I wanted to work for tips, I'd be a waiter. And make no mistake, that's precisely the sort of job merit pay advocates would like ours to become.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Watch Out Padma, Here Comes Chalkbeat!

Chalkbeat is running some kind of teaching contest, and comparing itself with Top Chef. I love Top Chef. I started watching it years ago, and watched it just last night. There's a Mexican-American woman named Claudette who I think is great, and she just won Last Chance Kitchen, fighting herself back into the competition. She was judged by Tom Colicchio, an expert chef who owns restaurants all over the country.

Chalkbeat performs some interesting services, like collecting the morning education headlines, and making extra sure to find the ones from The 74 or Breitbart. They take money from Bill Gates and the Walmart Family. They run a feature every time Eva Moskowitz sneezes sideways. They let us know just how the former teachers who run E4E are doing in their quest to get teachers more work for less pay. They write a whole lot about the perfidy of ATRs and don't bother actually talking to them until outlets like this one ridicule them repeatedly

I went to one of their galas and they heaped praise on Some Guy who wrote a Book About Teaching. They showed videos of children being marched from one room to another like little martinets and were Very Impressed by how quiet they were. They made a big deal of some guy who passed out papers very fast, so as to waste less time. This guy could pass out papers so fast that the kids lost only seconds of whatever Valuable Stuff he was doing. (I'm thinking test prep, but what he was actually doing was not stressed in this video.)

It was funny, because that semester I'd put together a booklet of printed material that I'd planned to use over 40 days. I made copies, stapled them, and handed them to my students. I did not have any magical way of distributing them in 8 seconds. What I think I did was count the number of students in each row and hand them to the first person. Now they may have been in a semicircle, in which case I handed out a bunch here, then a bunch there, and waited until everyone had one.

Unlike the expert teacher in the video, I didn't worry whether or not the kids spoke to one another. I'm a language teacher, and I have this quaint notion that it's positive when students engage in genuine and spontaneous conversation. So there I was, engaging in this totally inefficient, time-wasting activity, and failing to monitor whether or not I could hear a pin drop in the classroom.

The thing was, despite my lacking the genius inherent in anyone referenced in the Book About Teaching, I distributed the handout once. They guy in the video, or the book, or wherever the guy was had to do it 39 times more than me. Now sure, I hadn't quite mastered the Art of the Joyless Classroom, and I haven't even read the Book About Teaching. I'm way behind on whatever groovy techniques they came up with. For all I know, they've read yet another Book About Teaching, and the old Book About Teaching could be yesterday's news.

Here's what I do know--teaching is not a competition. It's not a reality show. If it were a reality show, it would be judged by experts like Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris. The thing is neither of them would deign to participate in an exercise like this one by reformy Chalkbeat. More likely it will be an exercise in determining who can best read the Moskowitz Academy Scripted Lesson Plan, or who can make the Most Kids Pass the Test, or some other reformy nonsense.

I'm personally offended that Chalkbeat deems itself worthy of judging teachers. I've been reading Chalkbeat since it started. I rate it biased, reformy, ineffective, and totally unqualified to understand our jobs, let alone judge our work. We do not cook meals. We do not just do test prep. We deal with real people, and they have many more layers than the artichokes they prepared three ways on Top Chef last week.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Snow Day Two--Stopped in My Tracks

On CBS TV they tell me that there are 15 inches of snow where I live. I look out the window, though, and I see two feet of snow behind my car, and it stretches 20 feet behind. I have a little electric snowblower, but it's no match for this.
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I bought the little electric snowblower last year after I read about a 45-year-old guy who dropped dead while shoveling his dad's walk. I thought, I don't want to be that guy. I didn't want to have a big, heavy gas snowblower. Of course today, I kind of wish I had gotten one.

It doesn't seem worth risking my life just to get out of my driveway--and that's not all. Even if I were able to clear the snow behind my car, there would be the little matter of getting to work. Everything I see on TV tells me that's hazardous. There are going to be a whole lot of accidents tomorrow and I'd rather not be in one.

Also, even if I get all the way to my school without incident, parking is going to be diabolical. All the cars on the street will be plowed in, and all the spaces will be full of snow. It's going to be hell to park tomorrow.

Still, if I could get my car out of the driveway, I'd go. I usually go on every terrible driving day. Maybe I'm crazy. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you I do it out of extreme dedication to the kids. Honestly, I think a whole lot of them won't even be there. ESL students have better attendance than non-ESL students, but I wouldn't let my kid go to school on a day like this.

In one respect, it's good that Mayor de B. has kept the schools open for tomorrow. The fact is we only have two snow days before we start adding more days. There are few things people hate as much as giving up non-work days. When my daughter's Long Island school, which closed at the drop of a hat, opened Easter week days I told her to stay home.

There is a delayed opening protocol for schools. I don't remember when it was established, but I do remember it was only utilized once, during a transit strike. It's kind of amazing that none of the geniuses over in Tweed ever use it. Maybe they don't know about it. After all, with all that important information rattling around in their highly-compensated heads, you can't expect them to fret over details. 

Regardless, it looks like a long weekend for me.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Snow Day!

⚠️ WEATHER ADVISORY: Due to expected severe weather conditions, all New York City public schools will be CLOSED Thursday, January 4, 2018. After-school programs, adult education, YABC programs, and PSAL activities are also cancelled.

3:45 AM Thursday--The view outside my window is not very snowy. Nonetheless I give de Blasio props for going with the weather report and not making us wait until 5 AM. Later on it could be terrible.

3:55--My dog Toby came downstairs and expressed that we ought to go outside and investigate firsthand.

It's snowing pretty heavily and very windy out there. It's a good idea to stay off the roads. I'm remembering the day when FariƱa declared it was beautiful because Macy's was open. I'm recalling the four hour drive home that day and wondering what on earth provoked me to go in.

7:17--After a much-needed nap, Toby the Weather Dog and I went out yet again to explore the situation. It was really windy and miserable out there. After consultation, we decided to forgo the whole walk thing and stay in the backyard. While I strongly advised Toby to do his thing so we could go back inside, he chose rather to run around the yard playing soccer with a loose ball.

We are now safely back inside and can report that it ain't fit for man or beast out there.

11:28--Toby and I ventured out once again. There are snow drifts taller than he is and he kind of jumped through them. We once again hit the backyard. It seems like there's a foot of snow out there. Toby ran a little around a small area the snow hadn't yet hit, and then kind of waddled out into the thick of things. After he conducted some important personal business, he looked around at snow drifts larger than he was. I walked to the gate, signaling him to follow.

Toby barked at me, which was his way of asking how the hell he was supposed to get out of there. I started walking toward him, and he started jumping over snow drifts. We met in the middle, I carried him back inside, and it still ain't fit for man or beast out there.

Day One

It's always jarring coming back after a break. Everyone says, "Happy New Year," and asks, "How was your break?" I want to tell them, "You know, it was pretty good, but I woke up this morning and it was over." I'm always shocked when that happens. I don't feel too bad about going to work, but it's an adjustment thing.

The first thing I found when I got in was a broken elevator. My first classroom is on the third floor. This is because I am so extraordinarily classy administration has determined I need to be placed in the penthouse. It also has something to do with my morning class being so small it fits handily in one of the special ed. classrooms, but if I choose to delude myself with the former, who are you to stop me?

My morning kids were pretty good. Aside from one who wandered in late, they were all there. Not only that, but they were kind of awake and alert. One girl wandered in with so many layers she looked a little like a penguin, but after she waddled out of them she had the look of a normal human being. It's too bad we can't manage giving these kids lockers somehow. I'm sure there are reasons for that, but I feel bad for that girl dragging all those layers around with her all day.

I was lucky yesterday morning. For reasons I can't fathom, all the rooms on the east side of the hallway were freezing. My classroom, on the west side of the hallway, was toasty warm. It's a big change from the trailers, where it's somehow (and no, I cannot explain this) colder on the inside than it is on the outside. I think it's one of those quirks of reality, like Dr. Who's Tardis or something. You can't conceive of exactly how crappy a trailer is until you work in one for, oh, twelve years or so.

I have four periods free between my morning and PM classes, and they disappear in a blur. There are always union issues. I can't help everyone, but I can usually help someone, at least. Alas, I can't reveal private stuff here, unless it's about me. The problem is I didn't really do anything interesting enough all about me to record here. I'll work on that.

I'm working on translating my Gotham Gazette article about Part 154 into Spanish. I can speak and write in Spanish, but not nearly as precisely as English. My nephew is a lot better than me, and he translated the text over the week off. I sat with my friend, a Spanish teacher from Colombia, and he said he'd iron out the kinks for me.

For some reason, instead of quietly giving it to me at some private locale, he decided to walk into my classroom and hand it to me. This caught the attention of at least two Spanish speaking girls, who looked at the paper with all the corrections. They found it hilarious to see someone doing to me what I always do to them. There was poetic justice in seeing someone hand the teacher a paper with red marks all over it. Though it didn't carry a grade, they deemed it had too many mistakes and gave me a C minus. You know, when you're the teacher, and you have a big ego and stuff, and you're always lording it all over everyone how smart you fancy yourself, that's a tough break. I somehow managed to take it in stride nonetheless.

I continued my adventures of writing zeroes on pieces of paper and handing them out for no good reason. It took on a new dimension yesterday as every zero became a collaborative art project. One became some sort of space alien, another an insect of some sort, and the last one was kind of indescribable, for me at least. I should have taken pictures but I had to bring the class back to, you know, English and stuff. They pay me money to teach English and stuff. I try my best to maximize the English and minimize the stuff, but hey, stuff happens.

I hope some good stuff is happening to you. Anyone doing this job deserves nothing less.