Monday, March 08, 2021

UFT Executive Board March 8, 2021--Still Chaos for Women's History Month

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Minutes are approved. Happy Women's History Month. Will be a celebration, details forthcoming. Friday is Lobby Day. 

Cassie Prugh--We will be meeting with leaders and chairs Thursday. Friday our PAC and DRs will be lobbying our city and state reps.

Barr--11,000 views of town hall. Link is available for those who wish to listen. CLs need to put election committees in place. Election chairperson must be selected. Email will go out to CLs tomorrow. There wil be electronic voting for schools. Will be balloting for functional chapters. 

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--One week away from anniversary of school closing. Finished APPR, did training. Still working on MOSL. Complaint process is available. HS opening 22nd. May be update. We don't know if staff needs to come in both days.  Will try for either or. Must make sure safety is handled.

PSAL starts when we return. Will have more clarification. Will be up to coaches whether they want to go through summer. 

Federal package passed. Schumer and Glillebrand did great job. Hoping it is done by Wednesday. Will help us quite a bit. Means we will have safety issues funded. We will push for what we need to do for trauma, enrichment. Process has been bogged down. We need to help get students college ready. We will have to do a lot ourselves and shame others into helping. 

Every school system in NYS is now open. LA has a multitude of issues. No matter what they solve, there is new problem.

Governor--We need a budget done. Sad to talk about what governor is doing on National Women's Day. This is very serious. We also have a very important budget. Besides education, state still looking at massive deficit. We want fed money to come in, not allow state to cut because of it. We have to focus on budget, and get it done on time. If this continues, something will have to change. Budget process must go on. I have great faith in Tish James. She will do this properly and transparently. 

We negotiated on HS, have two weeks lead time. Will see what happens with DOE as they get closer to end of de Blasio admin.

Vaccine program running quite well, have almost exhausted our list. If you know someone who needs vaccine, send them to our website.

Positivity rate in schools is dropping, now .5. Same in communities. State number for NYC is 4%. Vaccine working but not out of woods yet. NYS has aggressive vaccination program. 

Schools are set where they are. 70% of families have chosen not to send children to school, HS 80%. Starting conversations with city about next year. Won't be normal, but we don't know what it will be. Lots has to do with medical experts. Cannot be as bad as this year. Fortunately, our plan turned out to be the plan people were using. We consulted experts. 

We will focus on either full time remote, or in person, but we can't guarantee. We will see where we are. 

Thanks everyone for doing training together. Idea was everyone could hear same thing together. Wasn't great PD, but we won't have to deal with DOE not understanding. We all saw the same presentation. 

Questions/ Answers

We already have people working with situation rooms. Might seem complicated, but it isn't. We have a process. 

CDC has new guidance, waiting for breakdown. Not ready to discuss this yet. CDC recommends guidance, state then develops own policies. States opening are disregarding them. We will lobby state if we disagree. 

Q--HS teachers going in PT conference day. Will be hectic--Please consider.

A--Will try to have people choose whatever day, check classroom, and if any program change, have it dealt with.

We will take care of teachers who don't want to work summer keeping retention rights. 

PSAL--Are there school guidelines?

Waiting for them--Different lists for different sports, want some all outdoors. As soon as we have info, will share with coaches.

HS can be used for vaccines on weekends and after school hours. We will relocate sites. Recommend that everyone get vaccinated ASAP. B group 50 mil. C group triple size. 

Thanks everyone. Happy Women's History Month. Supposed to hit 60 degrees.

Friday, March 05, 2021

To Open or Not to Open? Depends What "Open" Means

Every day, and everywhere, you read and hear about opening the schools. Biden made it a priority, and to his credit, has managed to push out a whole lot of vaccine. He now envisions having a sufficient supply for all adult Americans by May. I spend many fun hours trying to get the vaccine, refreshing and revisiting various sites, and still feel it's a minor miracle I managed to do so. 

So Biden wants to open the schools in 100 days, and he's got 60 or 70 left. I think he can do it, actually. After all, NYC buildings are "open." Well, elementary, D75 and middle schools are, anyway. It appears that, within a matter of weeks, high schools will be "open" as well. Of course, that does not mean that we teachers are out there doing what we do. 

The NY Times is all excited about school openings, and seems to have been on a campaign for them, and against teacher union, for months. Just open the window, they say. They then give an example in which one window is open, and show what will happen. Who knows what happens if you choose a different window, or what happens when the temperature is freezing, stifling, or perhaps both, given the caprices of school temperature regulation? And hey, look at how that COVID sweeps around the teacher standing like a statue in front of the class. (The Times seems not to notice that.)

Of course, the class is socially distanced. You have only a handful of students there. So the Times, if you ignore my questions, has set forth an easy recipe for school openings. Except, of course, there are more questions. For one thing, if you only have nine students in a classroom, what exactly has become of the other 25? Here in Fun City, they're sitting in a Zoom class somewhere. So while you've technically got the buildings open, you've only got a fraction of students actually in attendance. 

Now there are exceptions. There are red states in which the governors have decided to completely ignore the pandemic that's literally killing their constituents. Have the governors determined they'll lose more opposition voters? That's entirely possible, considering that the virus seems to disproportionately hit minorities. Are Republican governors that evil? If so, calling them "neanderthal" is a relative compliment. 

In any case, Biden has made it a priority to vaccinate teachers. This is significant, because while New York has already done so, many states have not. Florida's MAGA governor, for example, is now going to have to vaccinate those teachers to whom he'd previously offered only a middle finger. He's probably the last governor who'd help educators, so it looks like teachers will finally be protected. That solves everything, right?

Actually it does not. The fact is the vaccine is not available to schoolchildren. It looks like that is changing, but what are the chances of vaccinating every school child before September? If that doesn't occur, how on earth are we going to fully open buildings? I work in the most overcrowded school in this overcrowded city, and even if every adult were to be vaccinated, would it be reasonable to expose all these teenagers in such stiflingly close quarters?

I cannot imagine how that's acceptable to any thinking person. 

The fact is, having 25-30% of students in school buildings, masked, socially distanced, and unable to freely interact is not precisely progress. It's hardly something worth battling for. It may appear otherwise, of course, if you rely on the NY Times for education information. 

Those of us who've worked for the NYC Department of Education have heard many, many iterations of doubletalk, and we see this "opening" for what it is. It's a sham. If we want to go back to in person education, we need to vaccinate everyone of every age. These half-assed solutions may be good enough for NY Times reporters, but they ought not to be good enough for teachers, students, or parents.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Teacher Evaluation--Not Quite Better than Nothing, but...

That quote and photo are of everyone's favorite evaluation expert, Charlotte Danielson. Evidently, after having taken tons of cash for her system, she disapproves of it. Of course, so do I. While her framework may have been helpful as a guide, it has reduced evaluation to exactly what she claims to be troubled by.

This notwithstanding, it looks like we have an evaluation agreement. I'm of the opinion that we ought not to be evaluated this year, but my powers over space and time are limited. ESSA says we need a federal waiver to avoid this, and that's not happening, especially given Biden's failure to waive testing. We'd also need a waiver from Cuomo, and that doesn't appear forthcoming either.

I've read several accounts saying we ought to approach Cuomo and ask. While that wouldn't hurt, neither would it be productive. First, it fails to consider that we need the federal waiver. Second, even a weakened Cuomo would not sign it. What's in it for him? Are we going to fight to keep him in office? I can't speak for leadership, but I've never voted for Andrew Cuomo. He's the first Democrat I ever declined to support. That's because, on his very first term, he ran on a platform of going after unions. I thought, with Democrats like that, why do we even need Republicans?

As if that's not enough, he enabled the IDC, the Democrats who effectively gave Republicans control of the Senate. He's taken suitcases of cash from charter supporters and whored himself out for Eva Moskowitz. And the allegations against him now make him seem even worse than we knew him to be. Sure, he's stood with us and helped us from time to time, but that was only to contrast himself with Donald Trump. Unlike his dad, who likely lost his job over a principled stand against the death penalty, Andrew seems to have no discernible moral center.

Despite his problems, I don't see how helping us benefits him. It would likely mean we'd have to defend him somehow. I'd vomit in my mouth if I thought we were supporting him at this juncture. And even if we did, I don't think it would make much difference. There'd be a story in the NY Post about how Cuomo was in the pocket of the UFT, and we'd still lack the federal waiver. 

Given all that, I don't see how we slip out of evaluation. So if we have to have it, what should it look like? Right now, it appears that anyone who's had a satisfactory walkthrough is finished for the year. In our school, earlier in the year, I got a lot of email from teachers wondering why supervisors were coming in to see them. There's no evaluation system, so why bother? I kept telling them that that these walkthroughs could not be evaluative, and couldn't be used against them, so there was no reason to worry.

Now it appears that they will count only if they were effective or higher, and all or most of the teachers who complained are done for the year. In my building, that means that evaluation is largely over. I was a little upset with the principal for sending all those supervisors to monitor us, but they do have the right to watch us teach, virtually or otherwise.

Now I'm getting email saying that Ms. Supervisor observed me, said it was fine, gave me a few suggestions, and does that count as an observation. I have to answer probably, since I can't read Ms. Supervisor's mind just yet. It looks like a whole lot of people who complained in the past are relieved in the present.

Given that March 2020 has raged on for 368 days and counting, this is probably the best result we could get. I'm not sure, given the evident impossibility of waivers, what could have been better negotiated. It's not better than nothing, but short of that, it's better than anything I can think of.

Monday, March 01, 2021

UFT Executive Board March 1, 2021--DOE Looking at HS Openings

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Minutes are approved.

VP Sterling Roberson--Friday was CTE virtual awards, educators and others honored. Thanks all who presented and supported. 

Rashad Brown--Black History film 4:30-6:30. History of BLM

George Altomari--Irish American committee met last week. 

Tom Murphy--Retirees doing benefit meetings, general membership March 23, working on election committee. Will have info on petitioning process. 

Cassie Prugh--Good evening all! Happy Monday! Reminder to sign up for our 3rd Mayoral Town Hall on Tuesday, March 9 @ 5:30pm here.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Chancellor--Appreciate what he'd done for three years. DOE still DOE and we have to get through this year. We will do our best to make September better.

We don't know what programming will look like next year, but are looking at SBOs. 

Town Hall Thursday. Will discuss CL election process. Hoping for better relationship with labor relations board.

We are in conversations about HS openings. We have a formula and know how many people we need. We want time before we do this. HS has less in person instruction because of low number of opt ins. Nothing changes on safety. All of it still kicks in. Was good to see in middle schools. Met distancing guidelines. We've just started these conversations.

APPR is out. City has finished with principals. Need to make sure it matches context we are working under. If you had earlier walkthrough that was effective or higher that is your observation. If not, you will have another. Same for tenured and untenured. Want to keep it simple for this year. Can only observe what is seen, Cannot ask for other domains. We will get you MOSLs and insure it is all fair. We have a complaint process that should work if there are shenanigans. 

Between now and next break we have a lot of work to do. Have to set up for end of school year, and we cannot wait until July to do programming for next year. Hopefully city has learned. 

Anyone working in person should have access to the vaccine. In person HS people should have access if schools open. 

We have to deal with emotional, academic and graduation issues. Ninth graders haven't attended HS yet, and this is important in determining how they will do in HS. Are seniors getting prep for college they need? We have concerns with graduating class. College enrollment is down. Imagine this being your last two years of school. I have called City Hall. We are only district in state with no PSAL sports. Heard that group of parents meeting with City Hall are being told UFT won't allow it, but they have never spoken to us. We have testing and can make a plan. 

Thankfully our HS division has been trying very hard to work things out.


No comment on allegations against governor. They speak for themselves.

Have spoken to new chancellor numerous times. Still have issues with DOE in leadership and education, and they hurt chances of successful chancellor.

Standardized testing is a mess. If we have to report, the only test we can give is standardized. We can't do a formative assessment, though we should. I doubt many parents will have kids sit for those tests. Parents can opt out and that's a position I support. It's important we do some sort of formative assessment so we have a baseline. Sitting for a standardized test that does none of that makes no sense.

Random testing--Done by DOE, if not done properly you have to let us know. Last week was best week for testing. Changes we've made have helped. Going to city labs and coming back quicker, but we still have problems.

Q--Vaccine test was moved. How will they open up HS if they are vaccination centers?

A--We told them if they wanted to open, they had to move out vaccination centers. If they can isolate part of building, we can look at it. About a dozen sites had to be moved so MS could open.

Q--How can they keep comprehensive campuses open for vaccines and open small schools for students?

They can't. 

Q--Principal says with everyone double vaccinated, can people rethink accommodations?

A--No. Accommodations are covered under federal law, at least medical. Others may become tricky, Number of kids coming in is quite low. 

Q--Kids who opted for blended will come back. Can principals invite others?

A--Principal has no authority to do that. City can do that. Now looking at maximizing in person days. We can look at reprogramming students who show up. MS have students at five days a week. We had large rooms for them. They did good job with students with IEPs.

Q--We got MOU quickly for eval. before principals.

A--Communications people did good job. We wanted to get it out in way that we wouldn't have to deal with DOE sabotage. 

Q--Principals got very short notice on graduation last year. Can DOE give more than two days notice?

A--That's on my list. Commencement is a big deal, so let's try to do better this year. 

We are adjourned 6:32

Friday, February 26, 2021

Hail and Farewell from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,
I hope you and your families are keeping safe and healthy, not that it would have anything to do with me or my actions. I’m writing today with some important news.
After three years leading the DOE, I will be stepping down as Chancellor at the end of March. Why wait until the new person comes in and get fired?
I am full of mixed emotions to leave the DOE family, because this is one heck of a gig. I mean, it beats working for sure. I am in awe of the huge salary. The work we have done together has given me a free house for years, and it truly sucks that I’ll soon be back to paying rent.  But hey, I’ve picked up a million bucks over the last three years, and expensed every cent that went out, so I’ll be cool.
When I started at the DOE in April of 2018, it was with a mission and a purpose: to help our system reach its full potential, so it could lift up as many children as possible in the way that only public education can.  Of course, once Blaz decided the schools had to stay open even after Broadway closed, I let them stay on in COVID-infested schools, along with you guys, while I sat in my office and played with the free paper clips.
Throughout my career, my guiding light has been the belief that public education is the most powerful equalizer for our young people. Public education anchors communities, and I left the buildings filthy enough that they felt like anchors to one and all. Public education makes it possible for a child who is poor, or who lives in temporary housing, or—in my own case—who doesn’t speak English when they enter the public school system, to catch COVID, and bring it home to his or her family. Truly, it is public education that expresses equity for all, except for those who, like me, can afford to send our kids to private schools that aren’t crumbling and neglected. My time here in New York City has only strengthened this belief, as I have seen it play out time and again in schools all across this amazing city.
So together, we got to work. Well, you did, anyway. And while our work is never “done”—there is always more to do to accomplish our dual missions of equity and excellence—we created a lot of change. We paid valuable lip service to ending the SHSAT, and while we’ve made no progress whatsoever on that front, people are still talking about that meeting in Queens I walked out of when it got too hot.
Together, we supported our students’ continued academic achievement. Our seniors kept breaking their own records as graduation rates and college enrollment kept rising higher, and the dropout rate kept getting lower. They keep passing those meaningless, vapid, Regents exams and leaving school with the valuable skill of passing meaningless, vapid Regents exams.
We made true progress in dismantling the structures and policies that are the products of decades of entrenched racism in the city and country. I myself tweeted just the other day that parents should opt out of standardized tests. Sure, Blaz dragged me into his office and barked at me for four hours, but hey, once I knew he was gonna give me the boot, I decided to resign and hope against hope that some other city would pay me to do my thing. Hey, if John King can become US Secretary of Education, anything is possible. 

We finally brought the mental health and social-emotional needs of our children into the spotlight and made it a major priority. Those of you who work directly with our students know that a child needs to feel welcomed, comfortable, and safe in their classroom and school community—especially now, when so many of our students are neither in classrooms nor school communities. And the ones who are, well, they’re socially distanced and wearing masks, and let me tell you, man, I’m glad it’s not me who’s gonna have to deal with those issues in years to come. 

And, of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic—a time none of us could have ever imagined—together we scrambled to appear we knew what to do at a time when none of us did. I myself made a handful of visits to antiseptic looking buildings that look little like the schools in which you work, and pretended your schools would look that way when you came back. 

This meant tireless hours preparing and teaching remotely; not for me of course, creating safe learning environments for children of essential workers; distributing 500,000 devices for remote learning; serving 80 million free meals; and our half-assed opening plan, the one that made three out of four New Yorkers say, “No way, Jose,” even though no one in charge actually holds that name.  

Throughout, I have been proud to prioritize what’s best for kids over what’s politically popular. I have never been afraid of hard conversations, except at that meeting in Queens where I turned and ran like a chicken facing Colonel Sanders. 

All of you, and all the children we serve, need and deserve both continuity and courageous leadership from your next Chancellor. I hope you get it, because you haven’t gotten it from me, Dennis Walcott, Cathie Black, Joel Klein, or anyone else I can remember. Good luck to my successor. This job is basically impossible if you do it right, which is why no one remembers anyone who has.  
More than anything, I am proud to have served with you, and so proud of the strides we have made. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I don’t know what’s next for me, but  you better believe I will pad my resume so that no one can figure what, if anything, actually happened during my three years here.

It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as your Chancellor. I am grateful to each and every one of you who does the work so I don’t have to.
In unity,

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Teacher as Living Martyr

That's the idealized version of what we do, and this is a great piece going into chapter and verse as to why. Who hasn't seen Stand and Deliver and decided, wow, that's what a real teacher does. Of course, if you get into the story a little deeper, you learn that not everything was quite as the film portrayed. This program didn't, in fact, materialize out of thin air with a bunch of kids who didn't know arithmetic. And it didn't last once Jaime Escalante left the picture either.

It's true, I guess, that there have been children who sat and composed symphonies before they were ten years old. This notwithstanding, the fact that you haven't doesn't precisely suggest your life is a failure. I'm sure Escalante was exceptional. I'm not sure he was as exceptional as that film portrayed. What I'm absolutely sure of is that he's not someone I'd use as a role model.

You're not a criminal because you want a life. You're not a criminal because you want a family. Sure, you may love teaching, but that doesn't mean you need to neglect absolutely every other aspect of your life and do it 24/7. Now there are people who want to be like that, or who at least want to appear like that. 

Maybe you have a colleague who gets up in front of the PTA and tells them what awful jobs the teachers in your school do. Maybe this person is the principal's favorite. Finally someone who will get up there and say exactly how much the staff sucks, and tell what a great visionary the principal is. This is a valuable employee, so naturally there has to be some comp-time job doing who knows what, because how could you let a talent like that go to waste teaching?

Of course, people who walk around tossing their brothers and sisters under the bus are hardly role models. I wouldn't want them teaching my kids, or yours. Of course, they won't be for long. Folks like that are on the administrative track. After a few years, they can actually be paid for the great service of telling teachers how much they suck, and compete with their colleagues for bragging rates over who told the most teachers how badly they suck. Then they can become principals, maximize misery, and everyone will wonder why students are so unhappy as the bad vibes trickle down to where they're least needed.

In NYC, we have to walk through a minefield of cruel and incompetent supervision each and every day. We haven't got time to be martyrs. We're too busy trying to focus on kids while ignoring the, I'd say, 25-40% of supervisors who are batty as bedbugs.

I don't know about teachers on missions. I saw some movie with Michelle Pfeiffer as a teacher. I think she brought a gun to school and climbed out a classroom window or something. I don't recall exactly what fabulous and miraculous thing she did for the schoolchildren. I'm 100% sure, though, that she'd be fired if she did those things in any school I've ever worked in.

What about Jaime Escalante, demanding he teach calculus in a school that didn't want to offer it? I remember he offered to resign if he didn't get the program he wanted. What would happen if you or I demanded a program and said we'd quit if we didn't get it? I'm absolutely sure we'd be taking the next bus to the unemployment office. 

Look, I liked Rapunzel, but that doesn't mean I need to set up my daughter in a tower and make her grow her hair 50 feet long. I don't measure children against fairy tales. Truth be told, it's time for the public and press to stop measuring us against them too. We are working to help kids get through life. That's a great cause, and that's a great job. It's an important job. 

All these people who want miracles? Let them go take a class in Fairyland. Here on earth, we're doing the actual work. We do our best despite all the slings and arrows the press and public hurl at us. Take my word--that's more than our critics could do, and that's more than enough.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Big Lie on Testing from Biden

The Biden administration is insisting on standardized testing for traumatized students this year. This is a huge disappointment. I remember the awful education policies of the Obama administration, and I remember Diane Ravitch writing that Obama gave Bush a third term on education. Don't get me wrong--I certainly don't miss Big Orange at all.

I was wary of Biden because of Obama's awful policies. I remember Arne Duncan making us all Race to the Top. I remember the insistence on evaluation teachers based at least somewhat on test scores. Despite the fact that it mitigates the judgment of insane supervisors, it was and is junk science.  It's not best policy to judge working teachers by junk science.

But Joe Biden came to Pittsburgh to speak to educators, and painted us a very different portrait of himself. Biden was low on my list of Democratic candidates. He wasn't the worst of the bunch. I would not have voted for anti-public education candidates Corey Booker or Mike Bloomberg under any circumstance. Biden got my vote, but I was very concerned he'd enable the sort of reforminess that Obama did.

The forum in Pittsburgh was really interesting, but when I got there I found no way to ask a question. I tried really hard and pushed everywhere I could think of. Here's the question I wanted to ask:

I recall Arne Duncan, who famously said Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans. This resulted, of course, in the charterization of the entire city, the loss of many union jobs, and the displacement of a large number of teachers. Fifteen years after Katrina, most New Orleans charters are graded D or F. Duncan also pushed test-centric initiatives, such as Race to the Top and Common Core; even so, NAEP scores remain flat. What was your position on Duncan's education initiatives? Has it changed? Why or why not?

I was given a message from the people at MSNBC that there was already one question about testing, and evidently one was the limit. In fact, I'm watching MSNBC right now, and the subject of testing is still, evidently, not worthy of mention. But the fact is, Biden told us he opposed standardized testing, and he's repeated it elsewhere.

Evidently, those who he's appointed disagree, and he's good with that. The notion of testing this year is absurd and counter-productive. I have no idea how you give a Regents exam online without having students look up the answers on Google. I have no idea how these tests will be graded. Are we going to view them online and grade them that way? Will second readers be on computers somewhere else?

It doesn't matter to the feds. They don't have to worry about it. We do, and that's fine with Joe Biden, because he evidently doesn't think we have enough nonsense to deal with. He doesn't think it's stressful enough for us and our students to deal with COVID. He doesn't think teaching remotely, or masked and socially distanced, is stressful enough for us.

Now, the geniuses in Albany will have to figure out how to do the impossible. This will be a big challenge for them as they aren't remotely qualified to keep up with the possible. This is Joe Biden's first huge disappointment for us. While it's better than Trump's lie every second, it's hardly desirable.

And it's absolutely not what teacher unions voted for.

Monday, February 22, 2021

UFT Executive Board February 22, 2021--Shortest Meeting Ever

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Minutes approved. 2nd Mayoral town hall tomorrow. Sign up to participate. Black History piece Thursday.

Rashad Brown--4-6:30 Black History Film Series, Stay Woke and LA 92. Next week will be panel.

Sterling Roberson--February 26, CTE Awards. Register to participate.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Hopes everyone had good break. Middle schools opening. Buildings are being checked, but eyes and ears will be building response teams. We will set up hotline, monitor testing. Schools should be asynchronous first day. Around 70% have opted out. We will see where that goes. 

Children are getting Covid. As we get vaccinated, we'll see what that means. What will school look like in September? What are social distancing rules? We will have to start process. Majority of adults will be vaccinated but children can get it too and bring it to their families. 

85% of people who've come to us have gotten a match. Last week no one got deliveries. All Pfizer delivered today, and Moderna will be delivered tomorrow. We will use schools and Advantage Care sites, and will have new locations. Positivity rates continue to go down. Vaccine is having an effect where there've been many vaccines.

This week we will finalize an evaluation system. Most people are in right frame of mind, except some in DOE. We don't want DOE central designing crazy systems. We need to keep schools running this year. They haven't been and won't be helpful. But we will deal with this.

Last week SED put out guidance that testing could not be mandated. We immediately shot back. Someone was running an agenda and made a mistake. May have to do with sports programs. Some parents want their kids in sports but not tested. We pushed back and got that rectified. 

Anthony Harmon and team surpassed 250K goal for We Feed NY. We appreciate that.

CTE is this Friday. We will move forward as best we can. 

We have to deal with plan on what is coming at is in terms of educational crisis, academic regression--there's a lot of damage. I expect no one at city to do anything real. Reaching out to partners to put something together. We can't let schools be hit with this.

CL election year--We are working on technology to make that happen. 

Best news is package at DC looks clear, like it will go through. We may be in a place where we don't have to worry about lost jobs, will have funding for things we need.


Q--Any news on high schools?

A--Starting process, surveying principals. Not sure yet. They're quite a ways off. We have to see how testing goes. They need to ramp up testing. They have money.  There are billions in federal cash to open up during Covid. We will have to run numbers and see how many testing teams we need. We are running out of capacity for people to lead teams. They will start planning, but it seems quite a ways off. 

Q--Spring break, retirement incentive?

A--We've started to slowly open up arbitration. If we can open up more, first will be spring break. Incentive seems to be moving fairly well right now. It's Alabany, and there is a process.

Q--Members who stayed home and thought they had Covid. Could they have days reinstated?

A--Will have M. Sill handle this issue.

We are adjourned. 6:18

Friday, February 19, 2021

Reflections on Apocalypse Teaching

I have an accommodation this year, so this picture describes me well. My classroom, since March, has been our dining room. We don't use it much, generally. Our little family can eat in the kitchen.

So our dining room table becomes a storage area, except on the rare occasions when we have company. Since COVID hit, we haven't had more than one outside visitor at a time.

When my students see me, they see a clean area with a painting hanging on the wall. What I see is a mountain of papers, books, and a few violins for good measure. I frequently have to hustle to find the materials on which we're working, as I misplace them religiously. 

It's symbolic, though, of the times we're facing. Everything is fine, we tell or show the kids. But as they know, and as we all know, everything is a perpetual shitstorm. Were that not the case, we'd be in school seeing and talking to one another, as opposed to viewing one another over Zoom, or whatever platform we happen to be using. 

I was extremely lucky this year, in that I was assigned to teach a level up from where I taught last year. This left me with a lot of students I already know well. I have gotten to know some of my new students well, particularly those who are extroverted, but they represent a distinct minority. Those who are shy, and a whole lot of newcomers are shy, take a long time to cross my radar.

There are a lot of people out there advocating for student privacy, and for them that includes the right to not display their faces online. About half of my students are now exercising that right. I need to frequently call on them to make sure they are actually there. About 25% of the time, they aren't. This represents an enormous waste of class time. Were we in the building, they would likely be absent and I wouldn't need to check. Or perhaps they'd be inattentive and I'd rouse them into at least pretending otherwise.  A constant frustration for me is that I've become someone I'm not--a teacher who sits at the desk and has little to no idea what's going on in the classroom. 

I don't know about every teacher, but this is not what I signed up for, and it's not what I love to do. I was once sitting in a lounge with a very frustrated colleague, who was complaining about the kids, the administration, and the general unfair nature of his life. 

"Do you like teaching?" I asked him.

"It's a job," he said.

He didn't last long. 

I remember when I first started, my first day, in fact, that several grizzled vets told me to get out of the system before I got stuck in it. I decided, right at that moment, though my new job was seriously overwhelming, that I never wanted to be like that. I'm proud to say I've managed to avoid it, and that I've been constantly inspired and surprised by my newcomer students. 

It's different online. I'd never have lasted in a job as an online teacher. We do more than provide instruction for kids. We are soundboards. We are role models. We can get involved. Students can tell us directly why they aren't able to pay attention. Now, they hide behind avatars and who knows what the hell is going on?

It's not learning loss that concerns me. They can learn English next year. They can take tests next year, if they absolutely have to.

The big question is whether we'll be able to be full face to face schools next year. A month or two ago, I'd have said yes. Now, with the uncertainty of vaccine distribution, and the understandable community lack of faith in our ability to maintain safety at acceptable levels, I just don't know. 

That's very sad. No matter how many misguided zealots try to put Humpty Dumpty together again, it's going to be very tough for communities to trust the system again. I hope I'm wrong, but I have little reason to think so now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Geniuses in Albany Strike Again

It looks like the folks in Albany, the ones who control education, have too much time on their hands. After all, there's a pandemic, a national crisis, and people are running around arguing about whether and how to open school buildings. In fact, people are hysterical over how the schools should be opened, and it's open season on teacher unions, even by media figures who generally appear not to be insane.

Albany missed the memo.

This is evident because one or more of the Albany geniuses has decided that willingness be tested for Covid cannot be a prerequisite for attending schools in person. For better or worse, NYC is frequently trotted out as an example of best practices as far as school openings. If Albany gets its way, that's finished. Once we allow people in who are exempt from testing, there will be no way to guarantee safety for anyone in school buildings.

In fact, the only way we've been able to open systems in the limited fashion we do is because we test, test more, and trace cases. If we have people who can't be tested, we will never know whether or not they have COVID. Despite all the nonsense trotted out by gung ho NY Times reporters, children can and do transmit the virus. European schools are closing for that very reason, but I guess they don't get that kind of story up in Albany. 

I'm not sure what it is that makes them make decisions like these. Maybe it's something in the water. Maybe it's waking up every morning to the smell of fresh cement. It's hard to say. I often hear people talk about how great the Regents are, but I've seen absolutely no evidence to support it. While Betty Rosa may not be a reformy fanatic like Merryl Tisch, she's made some of the very worst decisions I've ever seen on the behalf of English language learners. I thought she would fix it, and she's told me to my face she would, but this is even worse. 

This, if it holds, will destroy everything we've built in NYC. I have no idea what possesses these people. I regularly have students called out of my classroom because they haven't received required inoculations. I presume they are required because we would like to avoid the spread of disease. To me, that's well worth avoiding. In Albany, they seem to disagree. 

We're approaching half a million COVID deaths in the United States. Why on earth are our state education representatives so anxious to add to those numbers? Why do they think teachers need more risk? Why do they think students need it? Why do they think our families need it?

You'd have to ask the geniuses in Albany. Send them an email sharing your thoughts. I can't find Betty Rosa's email. Maybe she doesn't want to mix with the bootless and unhorsed. On the other hand, if it makes you feel any better, I doubt she has time to actually read mail from her constituents. She clearly could not care less what we think, and places safety last, an odd position for an ostensible educator.

Otherwise, she would never tolerate a blatantly idiotic decision like this.