Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Another Day, Another Corrupt Administrator

Michael Blomberg made it a point to close schools that got low test scores, and that specter haunts our schools even today. Though Mayor de Blasio made it a point to do things a little differently, he still closes schools, including Jamaica High School. Though that was closed on false pretenses, neither he nor Carmen "It's a beautiful day." FariƱa could be bothered checking on them.

Though it was a new day, there was a lot left over from the old one. De Blasio doesn't close schools quite as quickly as Bloomberg did, but he closes them nonetheless. Now they are renewal schools, which means they suck. However, sometimes they are dropped from the list. A friend from a school that was dropped told me, "It's very gratifying to know that we suck less."

Of course, if you're a principal, and people say you don't, in fact, suck less, that can be a problem. I mean, it doesn't threaten your job or anything, since you can cost the city hundreds of thousands in fines for, oh, sexual harassment or malfeasance, and the worst that happens is you're assigned to watch paint dry at Tweed for full salary. Still, it doesn't look good, and if you're intent on being superintendent, chancellor, supreme leader for life or what have you, it's important to take precautionary measures.

Over at Dewitt Clinton, they have a system. If you fail, they give you a packet. What's in the packet? Who knows? A question? A test? A ping pong paddle with a rubber band and ball? Whatever it is, you take it home, you get your smart girlfriend to do the work, you copy the answers off of the internet, or maybe you draw a horsie, and there you go. You passed.

It doesn't matter if you haven't shown up to class all year. Showing up to class is for losers. What a bunch of idiots, showing up every day, doing homework, taking tests, answering questions, and showing respect to their teachers and classmates. Everyone knows that's a waste of time. You can stay home, watch TV, take drugs, have sex, and do whatever. It doesn't matter. When time's up, all you have to do is open the packet, do something or other, return it, and there you go. 65. Who needs more than that? Well, maybe there are standards:

One student who has returned the packet “did not demonstrate mastery” — and will fail, the teacher said.

Oopzie. I guess it isn't smart to do the work yourself. Maybe slip twenty bucks to one of those losers who showed up every day. Heck, if you really want to pass, make it twenty five. Thank goodness you don't have to pay off the teachers. I have a friend who has a student who didn't show up all year. One day in June the kid dropped an envelope containing $265 in cash. Though my friend returned the envelope the following day and failed the kid, we now know the going rate to bribe teachers is 265 bucks. Students can be bought off more economically, and with inflation and everything, DeWitt Clinton is the economical choice.

Of course it's somewhat predictable that things like these happen. In a high pressure system in which test scores determine whether you live or die, Campbell's Law predicts that the more pressure you apply, the more corruption there will be. Thus you see principals changing grades all over the place. At least this guy handed out the packets and pretended to make the students work for the grades.

It's too bad we can't simply allow students to pass or fail on merit. Evidently, when students fail in NYC, it isn't their fault. It's the school's fault. It's the teacher's fault. It's the fault of the ATR. It's the union's fault. It's my fault.

The only thing you can be absolutely sure of is it's not the principal's fault. We know this because no matter what principals do, the very worst thing that can happen to them is they get sent back to Tweed  to sit around in some office somewhere at full salary. Assistant principals may be at fault, because I have seen occasions where they are punished severely. I mean, it depends what they do. I know one AP who got caught having sex with a principal on her desk. I think he got transferred to some other school or something.

In extreme cases, though, APs are given the ultimate punishment. They are bumped down to teacher. What a terrible fate. How demoralizing, to have to do actual work after having been in a position of authority. That's why it's always best to hold off on being thoroughly corrupt until you become principal. Then you can do any damn thing you want and no one can touch you, even if they write about you in the New York Post.


Monday, June 18, 2018

UFT Executive Board June 18, 2018--How on Earth is Fair Student Funding Fair?

6:01 Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Minutes—approved


Staff Director's Report--LeRoy Barr—Puerto Rican Day Parade—thanks Evelyn de Jesus. NYC Pride March June 24. Labor Day Parade 9/8—UFT will march first. Saturday, Poor People’s Campaign in DC.—Met with Forest Hills HS teachers, CSA superintendent, will keep posted.

President's Report--Michael Mulgrew—No Janus today. Still 20 outstanding cases. Will be a release on Thursday. Event in Brooklyn, UFT has 1,000 cards signed already. Will continue.

Negotiating committee met. Waiting for new date. Will negotiate during summer. New chancellor wants contract finished. We have a lot of demands. Still working behind scenes on paid parental leave. Hoping members can use it soon.

We are number one at Labor Day Parade. Went from last to first

Proud of colleagues around state who have held line against Senate. All about screwing NYC. Our colleagues have refused to do so for APPR. Thanks us for serving this year. Wishes us a great summer.

Schoor—demands based on member surveys.

Questions

Arthur Goldstein—Right now, if you read the papers, it looks like it's ATR season. Evidently a self-appointed a bunch of budgetary geniuses are upset that ATR members receive salaries.  It appears they’ve studied the situation in detail and determined the city could save money by not doing so.

It doesn’t occur to them to simply put the ATR to work as full time teachers. It also doesn’t occur to them that this could reduce exploding class sizes that are already the largest in the state. The reformy education blog Chalkbeat calls that idea controversial, saying that principals will simply hide vacancies. Evidently principal insubordination is not controversial at all. Chalkbeat also makes baseless assertions about teachers getting bonuses--I've been teaching since 1984 and I've never gotten one--and seems to believe teachers being brought up on of charges is the same as being convicted.

Meanwhile, back on planet earth we have this thing called fair student funding. This makes schools responsible for paying teacher salaries, and can certainly discourage principals from hiring experienced members in the ATR and out. It’s also my understanding that a lot of schools just get a percentage of it. How on earth is it fair if your school only get 88% of what the city’s literally calling “fair?”

What can we do to enable principals to hire the best teachers and school based personnel, in or out of the ATR, regardless of salary, and how can we make sure our schools are adequately funded?

Schoor
—You were at negotiating meeting. When we sit down with them, we will talk about the things you mention. Attorneys say we can’t negotiate about how we fund schools, but there is a direct effect on our members. Leon Goldstein HS is a great school, runs out of funds, doesn’t have per session. If school were funded differently would be better. We will see what city is thinking.


Speaker—Nancy Simon—Adult ed.
—Egregious abuse of evaluation under Rosemarie Mills. After teacher 30 years retired last September. Mills distinguished herself with hostile, toxic work environment. Multiple grievances, letters calls. Contacted mayor and government. In news, most recently two weeks ago. Lawsuits settled and pending. eval. process abused, huge rise in U ratings.

Has been successful. Number of U ratings will be as bad or worse this year as last, which was highest on record. Had to use FOIA to get figures. K-12 has 1% or less ineffective last four years.  Adult ed. 13-14 7%. 14-15 9%, 15-6 7% 16-17 15%. Expecting same this year. Numbers are red flag, along with all other evidence of wrongdoing.

Please take steps to make this info known, to prevent reoccurrence, to move botched leadership out.

Schoor—Adult ed. is part of bargaining demands. Ellen Procida will report.

Procida—Union and individual grievances, trying to resolve as package. Have resolved for 22 who will get money for unpaid hours. Coverages will be paid at higher rate. Teachers will be placed in license and seniority. You will get sufficient hours to complete programs. Will be time for adult ed. teachers to prepare and do paperwork. Adult ed. teachers will be able to cover for colleagues. Ind. grievance will be emailed.

Debbie Poulos—paperwork—166 paperwork reports this year, 100 fewer than last. 76% resolved as we speak. Other 25% being resolved, two going to arbitration. Resolution sheet we gave out had an impact. When CLs used it, principals resolved issues. Continue to work on QR and PPO related paperwork. Let me know if that’s happening. Being resolved immediately. Finding out after QR and PPO, unfortunately. Have new process for that. Will have joint agreement, we hope.

Schoor—Two best things are agreement for OPW and also one about lesson plans and collection, duplication. Debbie has worked hard on this.

Mike Sill—Personnel—On ATRs, was article in News, this is DOE created problem from school closings and false charges. FSF definitely issue. 800 people in ATR now. Numbers only take into account plusses in ledger, but ATR saves money by not hiring as many subs. ATR saves schools money, articles don’t reflect. We have put out numbers, are waiting for corporate media to publish, not holding breath.

Open Market not working for ATRs with seniority. Not enough to just sign up. Principals don’t know how to manage number of resumes. Suggest they contact schools directly, or visit if possible. Things get lost on Open Market. Resumes printed out look distorted. Many transfers but not working for many.

Jonathan Halabi—Do we have an idea of how many probation extensions?

Sill
—Will have them later.

Reports from districts

Rashad Brown—Pride parade Sunday 15th St. between 7 and 8th Ave.

We are adjourned. 6:34

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Who Are We?

That's the chant at the increasingly rare rallies and demonstrations we attend. Education VP Evelyn de Jesus used this chant at the Puerto Rican Day Parade a little, and that's why it's sticking in my head.

Since I ran for a NYSUT post a few years back I've been very conscious of what UFT means. Former PJSTA President Beth Dimino, who essentially drafted and prepped me for that run, very specifically told me that I must always say leadership when I was criticizing union positions. After all, she said, you are UFT.

Of course she was and is right. So I often think of that when I read questions like, "What is the UFT gonna do about this or that?" If I were asking that question, I'd ask, "What is leadership gonna do about this or that?" Increasingly, I refrain from asking even that. Instead, my first thought is what can I do about this or that?

Admittedly, I'm in a unique position. I have this blog, and have had for a while. I can write elsewhere too. UFT high school teachers elected me to the Executive Board, and as such I have the ear of leadership a few times each month. It's also not very hard for me to reach out to various people in leadership positions.

Of course, that's not to say you couldn't do the same. Most everyone has a chapter leader. If you don't, or if you have one you don't like, you can move up the ladder to the District Rep. You can contact the person who runs your borough office. You can write to pretty much anyone and everyone. I know I do.

We say a lot of things at Executive Board, but we don't get a lot of things passed. We also don't always get clear or satisfactory answers to our questions. This notwithstanding, we have an influence. We've brought a whole lot of people to testify at Executive Board.  We've been able to draw attention to a whole lot of inequities. Some continue, like Adult Education, and some have been improved, like CPE 1. The push for parental leave came through us, and while it's not yet resolved, it seems to have legs. (I love the button UFT put out, even though it only has tiny feet.)

I've been instrumental in getting only a few resolutions passed. The first was for the ELLs I serve, whose direct instruction has been sorely cut by the newest version of CR Part 154. UFT resolved that ELLs need more instruction, not less, and NYSUT soon followed suit with the same thing. Another was very recent, when we condemned Mayor de Blasio's vulgar stereotype of UFT sexual harassment victims as having a "hyper-complaint dynamic."

I've also been instrumental in having a large number of resolutions go down in flames, to be perfectly frank. We asked for a chapter for ATRs. We asked for an option for fewer observations. We've asked for many things, more than I can recall right now. We've made several appeals toward class size. Our most recent class size resolution passed, but Unity cut the particular targets we'd demanded. We now have a class size resolution with no particular target class sizes. I think I missed the DA in which that was proposed, but I'd probably have voted against it. What's the point of a class size resolution that fails to address class size?

Here's the thing--I'm a realist, at least some of the time. I don't expect leadership to hop when I click my fingers. I mean, it would be okay with me if they chose to go that route, but I don't envision it happening in this lifetime, at least. I do believe, though, that they hear us. They hear us even though they vote down a good number of our initiatives. Just because our resolution is voted down, I don't believe it's dead in the water.

There are not a whole lot of touchy issues that come before the Executive Board. That's largely because the only people on it who bring up things beyond mom and apple pie are the high school reps. It's true that a lot of people will make reports from districts on this or that event, but they're not controversial. The UFT got a whole bunch of people together for a meeting, or gave prom dresses to hundreds of high school students. No one I know questions any of these things.

It's important, though, that real member issues come before this body. It's important that people know this body exists, and that people know they're allowed to address it if necessary. I think this blog and our Executive Board blog, by recording the meetings, have contributed toward this. If I recall correctly, Emily James, when addressing parental leave, said she'd previously been unaware these meetings even happened, let alone that she had the right to address them. Hopefully we're changing that in some small way.

I'm now entering my tenth year as chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, and my viewpoints are evolving. I can no longer simply say the UFT should do this, or failed to do that. I will act. I will speak. I will vote. I will write, and I will try to move the union into a new position. These things don't happen easily. They also don't happen without the cooperation of the majority caucus. I have issues with that caucus and how it's run. I have issues with what that caucus sees as activism. But the leaders of that caucus can accomplish a lot if they choose, so why not give them a push in the right direction?

That said, no caucus leader, no union president, can simply push a button and negotiate absolutely everything for absolutely everyone. When is everyone gonna be happy? Probably never.

I know a member who will probably not pay dues after Janus. This is because one decision didn't go his way. I worked pretty hard to help this member, but the superintendent had the last word, and it wasn't the one we wanted. I always try to win, but I'm not always successful. I try to think of ways to increase the odds. Who can I call? Who can that person call? What can I write and where can I write it?

Sometimes I win. I always want to win, but sometimes I lose. This happens in my dealings with union leadership, with my school administration, and with the DOE. I understand why this member thinks union is 100% a failure, but it isn't. Even if the contract sucks, it's a whole lot better than the alternative--the nothing many New Yorkers have. This is an "at will" employment state, so without a contract, your employer can dump you for a bad haircut.

Union, like health care, is something you don't worry about until you need it. I am acutely aware of when union helped me most. Years ago, before I was chapter leader, I spoke to a NY Times reporter about two students I had in my ESL classes who spoke English fluently but were illiterate. When the reporter sent a fax with my name in it to the DOE, a former principal waged a small war against me, which included calling me into his office at odd times and making me report to him before I went home at the end of the day. This was for the offense of reporting his mistake that affected my students. I didn't reach out to anyone, and no UFT employee needed to intervene, but this man would've fired me if he could have. UFT saved my job via its mere existence.

Years later, I've become a worse and more enduring pain in the ass than that principal or I could've even imagined. I have no idea how many reporters I've since spoken to, both on and off the record. I am enabled and empowered by union. Unlike my member, who I doubt will pay, I know that one fight does not define who I am, or who we are. I know that one loss does not negate a major and ongoing win. I know I want my daughter and students to have the option and protection of union.

I will do everything in my power to sustain union membership in and out of my building. Screw Janus and the rock from which he crawled out under. Screw the Koch brothers and the Walmart family, and everyone and anyone who financed him. Screw Donald Trump and the judge he cheated into SCOTUS, after his party denied Obama his appointment, with Trump's explicit blessing.

I'll work to make the union better, but I'll also fight to make sure not only we, but also those who follow us have it. That's the least I can do.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Co-Teachers, Good and Bad

 by guest blogger Frustrated Co-Teacher

A few days ago I wrote about co-teaching. I asked for responses and this was the most interesting. I thought I'd heard everything, but I never heard anything  quite like this before.

Over the years I have taught with many co-teachers. I was always the lead content teacher and I’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of teaching with the greatest, the mediocre, and the worst.

The greatest is a wonderful woman I’ll call “Christine.” Christine modified every single one of my lessons into Spanish. Christine is a devoted mother and during the school year her daughter fell extremely ill and had to undergo a kidney transplant. Christine took two weeks off and came back and never complained, never slacked off, even though she had every excuse to. She and I became close outside the classroom as well. We share extremely similar views about politics, life, and whatnot. Christine is wonderful. Alas, Christine is departing for better pastures the next school year. 

There were some mediocre co-teachers. One was a first year teacher. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do because he’d never taught before. Finally we set up a parallel teaching system where he took one group of students, I took another, and it mostly worked. I was never close to him, but having a functional working relationship was enough.

But unfortunately sometimes you run into the nightmare teacher. And I ran into one. I’ll call her “Jasmine.” Jasmine started out seeming like she’d be great. She was young, energetic, jumped right into the job in the middle of the year when my other co-teacher took a maternity leave. She also had an earthy sense of humor. I liked her … for the first week or so.

But one day I was running a bit late because I had to deal with a student issue and walked in on her sitting on a desk with a group of girls around her. A girl was telling her that she was proud of getting a job as a saleswoman at T-Mobile. “F__k T-Mobile I’ll tell you where you can really get bread,” she said. She then described how she used to work at a strip club, and made “1 grand, easily, on a good night.” She then proceeded to tell the girl the name of the club, the phone number, who to refer to, and wrapped up this College and Career Readiness talk with “You have the right body, you just need to lose maybe 15 pounds.” 

I was horrified, but tried to teach my lesson. I didn’t realize this was just the beginning of Advice from Jasmine. She told kids that she’d be celebrating Friday in a park, and where they could meet her. She said she had the “good s__t” and showed them. I reported this to the principal before someone else did and blamed me for it. There was a meeting. She proceeded to cry hysterically and say that I didn’t understand her “culturally.” The principal gave her a stern warning and made her sign some document. 

From then on it was warfare. She put her feet on the desks, and was in the back of the room and she would point and laugh at me when I was trying to teach. Another meeting called. More hysterical tears on her part. One day I was out and she had students write “confessionals” about how they felt about me. She gave them to me when I returned. 

This got to the point where a student I was very close to got angry and wanted to fight her. Fight her, as in deck her. I had to stop her. But truth be told, I didn’t really want to. 


Nevertheless this student and a few other students were constantly fighting with her from thereon out. More meetings, in which she’d turn on her headphones and dance on top of tables in defiance to the admin. Finally they said “You just have to deal with it for the rest of the year.” It was hell. Every day felt like a war zone. I looked up numerous diagnoses online. Borderline personality disorder? Sociopathy? Psychopathy? But mostly I think she was just a nasty, unpleasant person.

I used to love jasmine rice. I can’t even watch Aladdin anymore. Anything “Jasmine” is ruined for me forever.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Chalkbeat Blathers Otherwise, but We Are All ATR

As the city enters contract negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers, reformy Chalkbeat is, predictably, running a hit piece on the Absent Teacher Reserve. I'm particularly fascinated by Chalkbeat's assertion that ATR teachers are collecting "bonuses." I've been a New York City teacher since 1984, and I've never collected a bonus in my life.

A bonus is a one-time payment you get when your company gives you something beyond your pay scale. I watch a show called Billions on Showtime, and the traders get bonuses based on their performance. While the city has tinkered with various schemes that gave bonuses to schools and a few odd positions like "master teacher" or something, I don't recall merit pay to individuals ever being a thing here. If it ever was, it isn't now. And if it ever was, ATR teachers weren't on the receiving end. They certainly aren't now.

What Chalkbeat is whining about is the fact that our brothers and sisters in the ATR are subject to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and that they get step raises just as the rest of us do. Like all teachers, they get credit for education above and beyond a BA. And hey, if Chalkbeat and the commission who wrote up this hatchet job wish to correct it, they can alter the pay scale so that all teachers reach maximum at eight years. I don't think anyone in the ATR will object.

The fact is the steps given for time are not bonuses. They are in our contract not to award us for breathing, as readers may gather from this typically uninformed and biased article, but rather to avoid having us hit maximum salary as quickly as we once used to. Because of the steps, the city saves millions and millions of dollars by putting off paying us, and by never paying max to teachers who don't hang around for at least 22 years. It used to be 20 when I started. The higher that number gets, the more money the city saves.

As far as I can tell, this "nonpartisan" commission did not consider any solution so radical as placing these teachers in full time positions. Reformy Chalkbeat considers this common sense solution "controversial," saying principals would hide the positions rather than allow the city to fill them. Evidently, principal insubordination is not controversial in Chalkbeat World. Since principals get away with sexual harassment and grade fraud and keep their salaries, I'm given to wonder what exactly they have to do before things become controversial.

One thing I really love about this story is the headline, which ominously warns, "New York City's Absent Teacher Reserve could get pricier as teachers collect raises, bonuses." Let's ignore the usage of English conventions, and let's ignore the previously addressed nonsense about bonuses. Let's just dig a little into the piece. After the various reports about gloom, doom, and costliness if offers us this:

Still, the commission’s report found that the Absent Teacher Reserve overall will cost less than previous years. 

Well who would've thunk it? Didn't the headline warn us about all those expensive ATR teachers? And yet they could become more costly. Also, they could become less costly. Also, for all Chalkbeat knows, money could start falling from the sky, and if enough ATR teachers pick it up, they could retire and save the city a ton of money.

Let's examine another assertion from Chalkbeat:

The reserve is comprised of teachers who don’t have a permanent position because their schools were closed, or because they face legal or disciplinary problems. 

That's not entirely true, but why should Chalkbeat trouble itself with fundamental understanding or research? Stuff like that takes time, and maybe via shortcuts, Chalkbeat saves money. Judging from this article, saving money is more important than trivialities like truth. Teachers who face legal or disciplinary problems are reassigned. The only ones who end up in the ATR are those who've already faced them. In fact, if they were deemed unfit they'd have been fired, not placed in the ATR. But hey, it's Chalkbeat, and Gates and Walmart don't contribute to them to hear stuff like that.

On this astral plane, the solution to the ATR issue is not firing them. Make no mistake, if that happens principals will be able to throw trumped up charges at any or all of us, dump us into the ATR, and fire us after a certain amount of time. While Chalkbeat says it's been done in places like Chicago and DC, they've proven disastrous for union and working teachers there. Of course I don't expect Chalkbeat or a "nonpartisan" commission to care about that.

But just like we'd be perfectly willing to allow top salary in eight years, thus averting those awful "bonuses" so bemoaned by Chalkbeat and the commission they dug up, I'm confident UFT would be perfectly happy to agree that all ATR teachers to be placed in positions. If they're as bad as the scary rumors propagated by Chalkbeat suggest, let the city prove it. The fact is they've failed to do so for each and every working ATR teacher who's faced charges. Otherwise, we'd be talking about ex-teachers.

As much as I and others have complained about the 2014 contract, we could have secured it earlier if the union had given up the ATR. Doing so would have placed targets on all our backs, not just those of ATR members.

No raise would make that worthwhile. Maybe the city should stop placing problem codes on the records of teachers who it's failed to fire. Maybe the city should stop sending them all over the place to work as subs. Maybe the city should place ATR teachers, if for no other reason, simply to reduce the highest class sizes in the state.

In fact, maybe NYC ought to stop attacking working teachers, stop forming "nonpartisan" groups that don't know the facts, and start a productive and fruitful relationship with those of us who devote our lives to teaching the city's children.

Me and my crazy ideas.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Another Day, Yet Another Abusive Administrator

Lots of us wonder exactly what administrators have to do to face consequences. As a chapter leader, I'm well aware of everything that happens to UFT members, but I have little to no idea what happens to administrators, if anything. Actually, it's none of my business. I only know what people tell me and what I read in the papers.

Given that, all I can say is holy crap, administrators are getting away with murder. I sit at Executive Board and marvel that people who are so narrow-minded and hostile can advance. It's an odd system. I always think that people who want to "get out of the classroom" are not only the worst teachers, but also the worst leaders of teachers. (I understand a little better the need to make more money.)

Then you read stuff like this, and you think, "How do these people end up in these positions?" You wonder how they get away with so much crap for so long. Here's an assistant principal accused of sleeping with four teachers and up to four students. Who knows how long people knew about this, and how would they not? Evidently it didn't become an issue until someone brought a $2 million lawsuit against the city.

This is important, I guess. The alleged actions, not so much. After all, Mayor Bill de Blasio says this stuff is all blown out of proportion, and that 98% of sexual harassment complaints at his DOE stem from a "hyper-complaint dynamic." I don't know exactly who gets paid 200K a year to sit around and dream up phrases like that, but you have to admit that it beats working.

This notwithstanding, it reflects pretty poorly on the mayor that he doesn't listen to ideas like these, say, "What are you, out of your mind?" and throw the overpaid morons who say this stuff out of his office. What this phrase does is stereotype 80,000 working teachers as a bunch of whining windbags. So what if your boss propositioned you? Why the hell can't you just laugh it off and get with the program?

Actually, in the case of this particular administrator, it's not merely the sexual harassment, but other elements as well.

In 2016, the suit states, “Morrison was caught creating fake online classes and passing 172 students in the fake classes in order to boost the graduation rates of the school.”

The Education Department found the accusations were substantiated, and he received counseling, the department said.


Wow. This is what you call a renaissance administrator. Not only is this person said to be fluent in the sexual harassment that fuels the "hyper-complaint dynamic," but he's also been found guilty of education fraud. What's the result? Counseling. Don't create fraudulent online classes and pass scores of kids to make yourself look better because it's, you know, bad.

I'm trying to imagine what would happen to me, a lowly teacher, if I got caught committing fraud. Somehow I'm thinking reassignment and 3020a.

It's funny because you read the papers, you hear about all the teachers who can't be fired, This one was accused of that, and that one was accused of this. How can the city continue to hire people accused of this or that? It's a horror, enough to motivate failed journalist Campbell Brown to splash it all over the papers, before finding a better-paying gig over at Facebook.

Yet when administrators are not only accused of misconduct, but also convicted of it, they continue on their merry way, get in more trouble, and don't get removed until taxpayers shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to bail them out. Then they sit in cushy offices and twiddle their thumbs, for full salary.

Nice work if you can get it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Co-Teaching

It's a marriage, you know. Sure, it can end after a term, or after a year, but it's a marriage. Even if you only do it one period a day, if the chemistry isn't right, you may need a separation agreement. But even if you get one, there you are every single day, having to lead a class without killing one another. That can be harder than you might imagine.

A few years ago, a co-teaching couple I knew had irreconcilable  differences. The principal, after various interventions, decided there was no way they could work together. He determined to break up this couple and leave them each with half the class. The teachers each selected an advocate, and I was one of them.

We were tasked to sit together in the principal's conference room until we'd worked out a division. We sat and looked at the records of each student. We rated them in terms of their records. I don't remember exactly how we did that. We flipped a coin for who'd get first pick. We then went down the list, making little adjustments and deals as we went, and split the class in two. Neither of us were happy for the kids, who'd have to feel the palpable hatred embedded into that division.

More recently I've been called to other feuding couples that weren't working out. In some of these cases, one teacher was assigned to lead the class while the other was given a supporting role. There were various factors that went into these decisions, but I felt like there was a winner in each. I wasn't at all sure this was a victory for students.

There are a lot of co-teachers now for two reasons. One is that special education students need to be in least restrictive environments. These days, for a lot of these students, that means being assigned to a general education class with extra support in the form of a second teacher. The other is the new version of CR Part 154 that reduced a whole lot of my ESL colleagues to co-teachers.

I'm much more familiar with ESL situations. In small schools, this often entails giving an ESL teacher five co-teachers. That's because there's likely one ESL teacher who simply has to do everything. In these situations, there's really no possibility of co-planning. Often the ESL teachers go in with no idea what's going to happen in a given class, and no possibility of planning how to support the teacher.

A lot of subject area teachers are now taking the magical twelve credits and becoming certified to teach ESL. This is often because it's easier to get hired when you have this certification. A supervisor can pick you up and save the expense of a dedicated ESL teacher. It's practical. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean that teacher really wants to pursue anything other than a job opportunity. I'm not remotely confident that these teachers can take, for example, my place.

I'm in a very large school, and we handle this situation better than most. We pair ESL with English. I'm certified to teach English, and a good number of my colleagues either have the certification or are pursuing it. But we still have co-teaching for both ESL and special ed., and with a large number of pairs we have our share of problems.

In fairness, our school does continue partnerships that work. I'm thinking of one pair that's been together for years. Despite this, new pairings are often made via the tried and true "eenie, meenie, miney, mo" method. Alas, this does not always achieve the optimum success level. It's kind of like, well, you're free and she's free, so there you go. There's no particular training and no compatibility test.

One day, after refereeing a particularly mismatched couple, I told my AP that I never wanted to co-teach. This proved an irresistible temptation for her to prove me wrong. She paired me with a new teacher who I'd told her I found smart and quick-witted. She knows I like people like that. It turned out we got along very well. We didn't follow any particular program. We would discuss our plans and whoever was going to lead that day would get the fun task of writing the lesson. I was persuaded co-teaching could be a thing.

Alas, not everyone thinks or plans like my AP. And no matter how well you get along with anyone, no one can successfully navigate more than one or two co-teachers. It's probably not a good idea for the state to declare from now on, there will be co-teachers. There ought to be more regulation on the roles and responsibilities. While I was fortunate enough to fall into something thoughtful that actually worked, it's just as easy to step into quicksand.

I'm not saying it's necessarily good or bad. I'm saying there needs to be more direction. There ought to be mandatory training, even if the state has to (gasp!) pay for it and/ or give teachers time off to learn about it. The current status quo, saying, "You and you, go teach together." is short-sighted and untenable.

And that's being nice. I know a lot of co-teachers who'd use much stronger language. If you have any co-teaching stories, please feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Puerto Rican Day Parade 2018

I really loved the parade last year, so I went again this year. Post Hurricane Maria, there was a markedly different tone, My friend and colleague Mayra, who's from Puerto Rico, has the message in her hand. At this point, we were in front of Trump Tower.

A lot of people were wearing hats that said 4645. That was well over the President's cheery estimate of forty some-odd lives lost. Throwing a bunch of paper towels was far from an appropriate response, and his profoundly insightful observation that Puerto Rico was a big island surrounded by water was not particularly helpful either.

Puerto Rico is under siege by vulture capitalists set on bleeding the island dry, closing the schools, reducing services, and doing pretty much whatever they can to squeeze every last drop of profit from the island. The United States could pay off the debt and free them from this nonsense, but chooses not to.

I was curious about the different colored flags. You can see in the picture at right that some are lighter blue than the others. I'm not sure why that is or what it signifies. Maybe nothing. My Puerto Rican friend couldn't explain it either.

I also saw some in black and white, and a lot of people dressed in black and white. I'm told that's a sign of militancy, standing against the vulture capitalists who have their eyes on decimating the island because they haven't yet acquired sufficient millions of dollars. A group pictured below sends that message to the President.

And despite that, there was still a lot of visible celebration. Though I didn't see him, I heard Andrew Cuomo was around. A lot of people had signs that said Cuomo's name and proclaimed Puerto Rican pride.I was very glad not to have seen him because I hear if you accidentally touch Andrew Cuomo you have to scrub your whole body with Brillo pad. (Otherwise, you might find yourself eating Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa cake,  which can be detrimental to your health. Lee is a Food Network personality and Cuomo's girlfriend, the one who helps Andy evade taxes by locking out home inspectors checking for unlicensed and untaxed improvements to their house.)

Here's the thing about parades--they involve a whole lot of waiting. Here you see the front of the UFT parade contingent. I don't remember what time it was when we took that photo, but UFT asked us to get there by 8:30. I missed a train and didn't make it until ten. We were supposed to start marching at 11, and I don't think we made it out until 12. So my advice, if you go to the Labor Day Parade in September, is get there at 9:30 instead of 8:30. The toughest part of a parade is standing around and waiting for it to begin.

This notwithstanding, for us it was a great celebration. We gave away t-shirts, flags, fans and bandanas. I tried to give them to children and the elderly, but there's something in America that pushes us to do anything for free stuff, and I sometimes gave in to demands. The most treasured item appeared to be the "Yo soy Boricua" t-shirt that most of us were wearing. Next was the bandana. My friend Mayra had a huge stack of them, but seemed to give them only to people who either cheered relentlessly or praised teachers. She criticized me for giving away stuff faster than I could replenish it.

We still haven't fixed the sign at left, which says, in English, "Union of teachers and professionals." It should probably say, "Union of teachers and other professionals." As is, it kind of says that guidance counselors, nurses, paraprofessionals, secretaries and others are professionals, but teachers aren't. That's not really fair. I mean, just because I'm unprofessional, it doesn't follow that you are. Actually, I'm not always sure it's to our advantage to call ourselves professionals. It's kind of in opposition to calling ourselves working people who need, you know, unions and stuff.

This is an odd year, and I find myself in an odd place. As a longtime critic of union leadership, I've disregarded a lot of warnings. "We're facing Giuliani, so now is not the time for criticism." "We're facing Bloomberg, so now is not the time for criticism." "We're facing Cuomo, so now is not the time for criticism."

I found none of that persuasive. In fact now, very much like Puerto Rico, we're facing an existential crisis. As far as I can see, there's never a particularly good time to stop telling the truth. Side effects of ignoring truth include Donald Trump and the crisis in Puerto Rico, among other things. But we're still the biggest teacher local in the country. Our fight for survival is crucial to us and all who'd follow in our footsteps.

At the parade on Sunday, we saw protest and celebration come together as one. On the right is my friend Alexandra, who was dancing to the ubiquitous loud music while a whole lot of us were standing around and complaining about how long we had to wait for the parade to begin.

In times of crisis, it's always hard to find a balance. I think the Puerto Rican Day Parade struck it on Sunday. Now all the rest of us have to do is figure out where the balance is each and every other day from now on.

Piece of cake.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Cuomo Wants Teachers to Have Guns Removed from Student Homes

A teacher friend told me a story, after we heard about Anthony Bourdain. He was teaching his last class on a Friday before a break. He wished the students a great break. Everyone was happy, giving high fives, and walking out of the classroom with smiles on their faces. One girl lingered behind.

When everyone left, she remained in her seat. "I'm gonna have a great weekend," she told the teacher. "I'm going to kill myself."

He sat and talked to her for a while. When she became quiet, he managed to get up and call the principal's office. They sent in a social worker and a guidance counselor, who took charge of the situation. They sat and spoke with the girl for hours. The parents came and got her. My friend doesn't know what happened during the week off, but he remembers that the girl came back, not having killed herself.

The girl's parents both called and visited the school to thank him. I don't suppose there were any Danielson points for this. After all, no one had observed the questioning, and no one can accurately determine the degrees of knowledge the questions in this conversation entailed. Most importantly, there's no evidence any of this actually raised test scores.

Now Governor Cuomo has burst into the arena, on his 2020 white steed, proposing that teachers should be able to have guns taken away from the homes of troubled students. This is not actually a bad idea. If there were fewer guns, there would be fewer suicides. But it's kind of a small niche Cuomo's forged with this, a remarkably small one actually.

My friend's story is unusual in that few students are likely to just open up like that and give a direct warning to a classroom teacher. It's actually a great and lucky thing that the girl decided to open up to him at that particular moment. What if he didn't stress the great weekend? Would she have said anything? Who knows?

Cuomo's idea is likely directed more against school shootings than suicide, though who knows what exactly is rattling between Andy's ears? How many school shooters are likely to drop hints or tell a classroom teacher they're gonna come in tomorrow and kill everyone the next day? I'll take a wild guess and say few indeed. Cuomo may earn some brownie points with some voters for this, but it's not likely to fix the issue.

In fairness, this issue can't be resolved at a state level. With other states having relatively lax laws, with the gun show loophole, and with a Congress bought and paid for by the NRA, anyone can cross a border or two and buy whatever. There's an issue that really needs to be addressed.

Meanwhile, in the rare to nonexistent instances that a student advises a teacher that he's got an arsenal at home to shoot up the school with, I suppose teachers will be able to request they be confiscated. I guess if it happens, we shall all be relieved. It seems, though, very much like a band-aid on a gaping wound--like it will affect virtually nothing. How does Cuomo even think of this stuff?

We've got a President who's in the bag for the NRA, along with a whole lot of Senators and Congresspersons. Until we dump them, we're not going to be able to do much but apply band-aids. Cuomo will probably get some Brownie points with someone or other for doing this, but I'm left wondering how we live in a country where this is even possible.

When I posted the article on Facebook, I got a bunch of responses wondering where this would fit into the Danielson rubric. Will you get rated effective if they find guns in the student's home? Ineffective if you don't? Who knows? Will you get a letter in your file for making the student feel bad after they took the guns out of his house? Isn't it incredible that our minds even go to those places?

And yet there we are. I suppose it's better than the usual "thoughts and prayers" nonsense. How much, though, is an open question.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Two Observations

That's the state minimum, and that's what a lot of us would like to see in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. If I were a supervisor, I'd jump for joy at the prospect. I don't know how it is where you work, but my school is enormous. I think my AP has 40 people to observe four times a year, and then she has to write each one up and meet with everyone. I write very fast, but I would find that daunting. So I don't think CSA will be fighting us on that.

There's a school of thought that if administrators are kept busy doing observations they won't have time to do other stuff, like put letters in people's files. Alas, I'm here to testify that's not true. If it were, I might be asking for fifteen observations. In fact, if they had to observe us fifteen times it might work. But it still wouldn't help.

Teachers are nervous wrecks. No matter how many times I see people say only one percent of teachers were rated ineffective, or whatever it is, I have people come to me nervous and unhappy. Why am I developing for this? How could I have been doing this for fifteen years and be told I'm making baby steps? I understand. My former co-blogger Arwen wrote a great piece comparing old and new observations. There's quite a difference between thoughtful and/ or spontaneous reactions and a checklist.

Most teachers I know look at the thing, check to see everything is effective, take a deep breath and move on. Then they relax for a few days, thinking the supervisor probably won't come in so soon again. That, of course, assumes the observation from January has been written up before June, which it may or may not have.

Anyway we're stuck with this system. The rubric thing may or may not change with the next contract, but who knows how? Assuming it stays the same, every working teacher I know would like fewer observations. Maybe two, with at least one announced, would be reasonable. Who wants to sit around and wonder when Boy Wonder is going to come in, put on his blinders, and record whatever utterances the voices in his head make? Even teachers with great supervisors and great ratings feel the stress.

We have to look closely, though, at the option of two observations. Supervisors come and go, and if your Not Insane supervisor decides tomorrow morning to travel to Arizona on a Vision Quest, Boy Wonder could take over your department. What if you've taken the two observations and they both suck?

I think the two observations should be an option if you and your supervisor agree. Two good observations and your minimum is fulfilled. Let Boy Wonder observe everyone four times. He can't and won't help anyone anyway. Let the good supervisors focus on helping those who need further support.

An argument I've heard against fewer observations is that people do better with more. I don't doubt that. So let people who need to do better have more. If I've gotten rated effective twice, let's cut bait and start again next year. If students report that I'm dancing instead of teaching, let the supervisor come in and check. Let her write me up if it's true. If it's not, we've still got our two done.

Make no mistake, I'd like to scrap this law and system altogether. Meanwhile, this is my best idea of how to improve the current system as long as we're stuck with it.

What's yours?