Friday, September 13, 2019

No, Tin Is NOT the Ideal Insulator

I'm glad, in a way, that I'm back in the trailers after having been out on leave for three or four years. I'd forgotten about all the little twists and turns and surprises they held, and I guess I needed to be reminded.

Period 7 yesterday I went to my class in trailer 4.  Several students preceded me, and were sitting in their seats waiting for class. It was nothing short of diabolical. The thermostat read 99 degrees. I was pretty surprised because it was cooler yesterday than it had been the day before. How could this happen?

Of course, the heat, which we likely as not won't have at all between December and February, was on. Why wouldn't you have the heat going full blast when it's 75 degrees outside? Heaven forfend anyone should be anything remotely resembling comfortable in one of those frigging boxes of tin.

I was pretty happy I had the foresight to wear a short sleeve shirt. I called and informed the main office that we were going to the auditorium. I also filed a grievance demanding trailers be closed until and unless they were fixed. Custodian said they'd requested an emergency repair but no one had showed. They were hoping for today. Hope springeth eternal.

I went back later and noticed a sign saying go to auditorium. Evidently I'd neglected it when I arrived, as did all the students in my classroom. Perhaps they shouldn't have left the doors open, which signified enter to my students and me. I closed the doors in the boiling trailers so no one else would enter. I worried some overly zealous new teacher would go in there and show the whole world that nothing would stop her, certainly not a thermostat reading 99 degrees, likely because it doesn't go any higher.

I met a teacher who told me her students were quite upset at how miserable the trailers were on Wednesday. She's Chinese, and the students kept asking her, "Is it because we're Chinese?" Can you imagine going to school feeling like you were dumped in an inferior setting because of your ethnicity? Unfortunately, inferior settings are something we all get to share in a place where there simply isn't enough space, a place where there is no limit on how many students can come in. Amazingly, Eva Moskowitz gets to toss anyone she likes out of her place, and for all I know, they all come to us.

The disgrace belongs to New York City. It's unconscionable to say there is no limit to how many students can enter a space. However, that's policy. Our school has done well for New York City. Bloomberg, frothing at the mouth to destroy every comprehensive high school in the city, never laid a glove on us. Instead, he just overcrowded us, hoping we'd burst at the seems. It seems we we outlasted the son of a bitch.

Of course, that can't last forever. We'll have an annex in a few years, which should add a little bit of breathing room. Even so, and even after they haul away those horrific miserable trailers, we'll still have spaces that no kid should learn in.

But hey, let's find a new place for Amazon. Jeff Bezos needs parking for his helicopter.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

If Principals and Custodians Have AC, All's Fine in City Schools

Yesterday didn't seem as bad as Tuesday. I looked at the thermostat in the trailer, which was not easy. Some genius or other had mounted it outside the bathroom close to the ceiling. That may be a good idea, actually, if you want people to feel like it isn't as hot or cold as it really is. School trailer bathrooms somehow tend to get heat and AC when those of us sitting in the actual room do not. So I looked up, put on my glasses, and even with the weird location it read 87 degrees.

Of course, if you happened to be by the windows, you were getting direct sun, and that was brutal. A young woman in my class sits there, and she wears very long clothing that looks heavy. I asked her if she wanted to move further into the classroom, away from the window and she turned me down. She's clearly made of stronger stuff than I am.

I usually wear suits to work. I started doing this when I was in the trailer, because trailers look like piles of crap. I thought the students should know that even though the city dumped them in the crap I felt differently. When I was finally paroled from the trailers a few years back, I kept wearing them. I now figure if I'm in meetings with the principal and the district rep, I ought to look the way they do.

Another teacher told me that he went the other way. He used to dress up, but thought the students related to him better when he dressed closer to the way they did. I said that was really interesting, and that maybe we were both right. He said it was good that sometimes people could see things two different ways and not fight. Other things, though, are really obvious to everyone.

For example, it's absolutely miserable sitting in a hot classroom. This doesn't phase the Tweedies, who talk of something called "air-conditioning season." This is a period of time that one genius or another pulled out of his ass and decided was good enough for NYC children. The standard is it should be no higher than 78 degrees. Why not 75? And why is it okay for temperature to go highter than that when it isn't "air-conditioning season?" Do they sit in their air-conditioned offices and determine people don't feel the heat at those times? Who knows what goes into Tweedie decision making? A coin toss? The age of their mothers when they got them the jobs? Could be anything.

One of the great privileges of being chapter leader is getting the plum programs. I teach four classes in three classrooms, and only one is air-conditioned. That room, of course, is only half a room. It's diabolical. When you give a test, you have to put up these ridiculous dividers. It's awkward and inconvenient, and creates new and exciting ways to cheat. Also, if the guy who gets paid to clean the room takes a notion to throw them out because the room wasn't clean enough for his discriminating taste, you're screwed.

Don't get me started about the trailers. I was in there for twelve years. I'd always ask for them because while everyone hated them, it at least kept me out of the crappy half rooms. Now I'm in both. An AP asked me last week if I'd swap out one real classroom with one of his teachers who had a trailer. Why not, I thought. I'm already like that cartoon Mexican mouse running around on three different floors. Why not run outside as well?  I said yes. This week, he casually let me know he was doing something UFT hadn't approved, in blatant violation of the contract, and thanked me for allowing him to do so. When I told him that was not, in fact, the way we do things, he informed that me that I had a choice of going along with him or screwing the kids. Thoroughly charming.

Of course, being an assistant principal means never having to say you're sorry. Sometimes I'm jealous, and think I'd like to run around uttering whatever came into my head whenever I felt like it with no consequences. Actually, though, I would get no joy whatsoever in issuing pointless ultimatums or treating kids like that. I want my class to be a relative oasis where students know I will be patient and help them get where they need to be in other classes.

I was lucky yesterday, My wife found a short sleeve dress shirt someone had given me as a gift, and it really made the day go easier. I was going to buy a few more after work. I saw an ad saying they were two for $29 somewhere. It turned out they were two for $129. That's way too much for shirts I'd wear only a few times a year. 

Anyway, no more suits for me until the temperature outside drops below 80, and the true trailer temp drops below 90. I like the kids I have this year very much. They're charming and funny. But I've got my limits. My standards may be low, but they're all I have.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

This Morning in Capitalism

I'm a creature of habit. This is particularly true because another creature of whom I'm very fond depends on me quite a bit to help him out. I walk him morning, afternoon and night if I'm free. Because work often makes me less free, my wife helps me out most weekday afternoons. When I have PM meetings, she often covers for me then too. But when school's in season, I'm almost always out on the street with him in the pitch black at 5 AM.

I'm not the only one up at that hour. I don't see many dog walkers, but now and then there's someone as crazy as I am. However, there's a big business collecting bottles and aluminum cans, which carry that five-cent deposit. I leave them in our recycling bin, and by 5 AM they're already gone. This bottle and can collection is serious business.

There's a young woman in a GMC van I see on the canal all the time. As far as I can tell, she's the most active of the three collectors I regularly encounter. The other morning I was trying to cross the street with Toby, and she came up the street maddeningly slowly. I wanted to cross, but unlike some people, I have this thing about walking in front of moving vehicles. I'm not Blanche DuBois and I'm loathe to depend on the kindness of strangers. Eventually, though, she passed us and my friend and I were able to cross the street without incident.

She's the most visible, and likely the most ambitious of our three bottle collectors. She spends hours out there. I know this because in the summer I was out around seven and I'd see her scouting for opportunity. Once or twice I've seen her in the afternoon, checking to see what she and her competitors left behind, or perhaps trying to find things before they waited until morning.

There's also a man who looks to be in his eighties. He drives a late model Toyota Camry. I often wonder why someone who can afford a relatively new car needs to collect bottles. Perhaps he doesn't need to and just does it for fun. Personally, the fun part of dredging through trash cans eludes me. If that's the case, though, is it ethical for him to compete with those who really need the money? Or did some generous relative simply gift him the car? Why didn't that person also gift him a little spending money too?

The third person I know is a really shadowy and elusive figure. The dumpsters for the Tropix bar are all the way in the back of a paved parking lot, a full block away from the club itself. Some mornings when I walk by there, I see a figure with a flashlight rattling through the dumpsters, and I hear the unmistakable rattles of cans and bottles being tossed into plastic bags. It's a little scary because all we can actually see is the flashlight. Actually, the last time I looked there seemed to be multiple flashlights, so perhaps this is a group effort. (After all, team work makes the dream work.)

Being as you can't actually see that person, or those people, it makes me a little nervous to walk by. But I've got Toby with me, and he's not afraid of anything. He barks at big dogs as if to say, "Yeah, I can take you. Come here if you dare." I think he's nuts, actually, and I tell him so. "Can't you see how big that dog is? Are you out of your mind?"

Collecting bottles is hard work. To make 15 bucks and hour, you'd have to collect 300 of them. To make 20, 400. It seems like there must be better ways to make money. I suppose there are worse as well. I wonder why such a culture exists while we're running around making America great again. Wouldn't America be great if we all had health insurance? Wouldn't it be great if everyone could afford to make ends meet without collecting aluminum cans? Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to divest ourselves of all our worldly goods to merit half-decent end of life care?

Maybe we need to make America decent instead of great again. Again or not, who cares? It's really sad that so many people have to live like that in the richest country in the world.

Monday, September 09, 2019

UFT Executive Board September 9, 2019--UFT Supports Dorian Victims, Census, Trump Victims and More

6 PM—Secretary LeRoy Barr calls us to order, welcomes us.

Barr recognizes new members. We applaud. Barr explains process.


Barr announces Smallheiser winners.

Barr—9/18 CL meeting. After will be 100% attendance celebration. 9/25—Tribute to founder Abe Levine 4 PM. Without Levine, UFT would not have come together. Brought factions together. Celebrated divergent thought. RTC meeting that day. CL training Oct. 5, 6. Oct. 20—Sunday, Making Strides even 8 Central parkt. Also Teacher Union Day 11. Sept 22, Alzheimer’s walk Coney Island, 9 AM.


Arthur Goldstein
—I’ve been a teacher since 1984, and I have never seen a test as useless as the NYSESLAT, which ostensibly determines English levels of English language learners. Last year I taught a class of supposedly advanced ELLs. Most of them were deemed proficient in English by the NYSESLAT. Many had passed the English Regents exam. Some who’d done both were unable to produce a coherent sentence in English. Almost none were able to produce a reasonable college essay.

This may work well for those of us who teach beginners, as we appear to be geniuses. But I have recently been hearing of teachers whose ratings have been dragged down by student performance on the NYSESLAT. What can we do to ensure the next commissioner is not insane, and what can we do to make sure the NYSESLAT is replaced by a test that isn’t a piece of garbage that any thinking teacher could improve upon with 90 minutes and a laptop?

—There has to be a test out there somewhere. Evelyn De Jesus is working on it, and will continue to do so. We will keep you informed. We want someone who understands the needs of people who are school based and that needs of members are at the forefront. If they are insane we will find sanity for them.

Michael Mulgrew—President’s report—Asks new members to stand—welcomes them to more applause. Hopes everyone had a restful summer, thanks those who worked. This year we have to focus on what we can get done during next two years of this administration, after which there will be a mayor’s race. Must focus on what we’d like to keep.

Thanks those who came to Labor Day Parade, and those who prepared.

School opening has been smooth so far. Met with 2000 new members. Seems like there will be 5000 new hires. Much drama over gifted and talented, Looks like it will stay and there will be more access.

December 23—We are continuing convos with state and city. Commissioner has resigned. Thinks we’ll get there. Should never have happened, they know they were wrong. Safety issue, under ESSA we have to report attendance. Thanks parents and teachers for getting voices heard.

Over last few years, we’ve run more and more programs—we now have a call center here at UFT. It became tough to answer phones before. We want people to look at us as a resource. We are now answering more calls than ever, more work but work we want to do. Proud to be seen as support for school related or other things. We need to be patient—improving every day. Thanks everyone who went for training. We will get answers people need.

Outside of political work, consultation was important last year. Must build on what we started last year. Will push reluctant principals. Will have empowerment plans for every district. This will help empower and organize school chapters. Will have reports on how many schools were involved. Schools that use this tool are getting results. Gives us documentation to do what needs to be done. Thanks us for taking the time to do this. Thanks those who provide food. Says it will be a long and interesting year.

NYC performs well and keeps great graduation rate. Only way to make good policy is to listen to people who work in classrooms. A lot of people resist that and blame schools for everything. That continues to be our fight. They are supposed to support us. Thanks us.

Barr—union initiated grievance over envision math—members got training rate—our position is they should get per-session as posted. We will fight to get them paid.

Carl Kain—Over summer three decisions on behalf of individuals. Are precedents. Regents scoring doesn’t have to be both January and June. Can be one or other.

ELA scoring and religious accommodations—DOE said if someone missed training on Saturday couldn’t come until next question—we won, and had people trained on Sunday instead.

Paras and DC 75—Para was terminated, but placed back to work. First, service in D75 will count toward para probation now, of one term. Also defined term as five months.

Reports from districts—

Serbia Silva—invites to welcome back fest Lex 3rd Ave, cosponsored UFT and CD 4 10-1. Will register UFT there. Sat Sept 14

Rashad Brown—Reports that June 30 UFT marched 50th anniversary Stonewall Riots. Didn’t go to big corporatized parade. This was anti-corporate march. Thanks Anthony Harmon.

Janella Hinds—Heard about caring kind Alzheimers walk. Many members impacted, especially among families. UFT has developed partnership—If you’d like to participate we will have our first ever team with Caring Kind. Looks forward to phenomenal group

Eliu Lara—Reports that past June 20 brought school community together—gave kids laptops, printers, scientific calculators, backpack of school supplies, had reps from all over state. Kids were very happy and thank all of you for support.

Karen Alford—thanks to borough reps, staff and all who came out for new teacher week. Signed up over 2K over that week. Our ranks are growing. Just signed 220 on line. Please look for new members and support them, meet greet and help.

One of our schools, PS 52, will be on Inside Edition. Every student will get backpack of supplies

Doreen Berrios Castillo—First ever new secretaries orientation. DOE only 110

Arthur Goldstein—I want to talk about our trip to Texas. Evelyn De Jesus, LeRoy Barr, Janella Hinds, Tom Brown. Marie Callo, and maybe others in this room went last summer. We met AFT teachers there who told us what life was like without collective bargaining. It was mind-blowing for those of us who take that for granted. I know they were very happy to see us, and to see there is another way of doing things. I also know we will continue to support them.

We visited one of Trump’s internment camps, where we were denied entry. We stood in front of the building and held vigil until some guy with a gun offered to arrest us if we didn’t move to the sidewalk. We did that, and when we were just about finished he came around with some friends and their guns and told us we would now have to move all the way across the street. They also had tow trucks and threatened to tow our vans.

Randi Weingarten told us all to get in the vans. She told me if anyone was going to get arrested that day it would be her, and explained to me that getting arrested in Texas was no fun at all. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and we got to visit a Catholic charities facility that supports newcomers. We gave them a whole lot of necessities, and it was gratifying to see little children playing with teddy bears we’d brought them.  Tom says the family to whom we gave money is very grateful and in touch.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, and I hope we follow up soon. I’m ready.

Tom Brown
—Met many people, but walked in and saw a lady and her son. We took a tour, met Blancita and her 16 year old William, spoke only Spanish. Had arrived 3 days earlier, had walked fro Honduras for three and a half months. Wanted to get apprehended, asked for authorities.

Were granted asylum, but then had all their personal items confiscated. Were brought to bus station with nothing. We met them, sitting in a corner at Catholic Charities. They were on their way to Houston where father was. Had gone there 15 years ago. After three days father sent them bus tickets. That evening they were headed to Houston. Had not seen husband for 15 years, Willie had never met him. Had no money, broken cell phone. Group came, gave them money.

William sent pictures with clothes he and mom bought with money we gave him. Started school last Thursday. Wanted to thank all of us, AFT and UFT. When we met in lobby they gave us t-shirts. I took off my AFT shirt gave it to William. Have photo. They are forever thankful to us.

To meet someone who walked 3.5 months—they came because they’d been abused. They had to get out. Father was in Houston. They are together now. Have to go to court in three months for official asylum. Was proudest moment of being AFT/ UFT member.

Legislative report—Cassie Pruitt
—More political—Please that yesterday at Columbia was successful training of union advocates to be presidential delegates. 200 showed. Will keep posted.

Thursday at 7 will be Democratic debate watch party. Will be special political guests.

Resolution to support Dorian victims
—Karen Alford—Stories like Tom’s are who we are. We want to help victims. Were 100 foot waves. Death toll rising. Tens of thousands in need of aid. Asks that you support this resolution.

Resolution carries.

Barr—trying to figure how to help people in Bahamas and what exactly they need. Working with AFT.

Resolution to raise awareness about 202 census—Sterling Roberson—Census every ten years. Important because in NY we are under-represented, undercounted, below national average. Impacts funding for public services. Important we improve count. Public schools, housing depend on this. UFT will bring full court press to NY communities. Will work with partners and organizations. Big but important job. Will require our due diligence. Asks for support.

Resolution carries

We are adjourned—6:53

Sunday, September 08, 2019

IO Classroom Sucks

I used to write that Skedula sucks, but it became the first thing you saw when you googled Skedula. I'm not sure whether or not that's why they changed their name, but they still suck. One of the reasons they suck is they are totally unresponsive. They actually sent someone to my school a few years back, and asked us what we wanted to see improved. Of course, no improvements followed.

This year IO Classroom sucks, but it's not 100% their fault. It's also the fault of the execrable Part 154, enacted by the geniuses in Albany to make sure that English Language Learners (ELLs) don't fritter away valuable classroom time learning English. Instead, we prep them for the English Regents exam. I'd argue the English Regents exam is the second worst test I've ever seen. The worst, of course, is the NYSESLAT, which theoretically measures English ability, but actually places students very poorly (and also rates teachers very poorly).

A particularly insightful idea the geniuses in Albany had was to group ELLs by grade rather than language level. Consequently, they decreed that students may be no more than one grade apart. That might make sense with very young children. For example, 1st and 4th graders may be at very different places developmentally. The Regents applied this across the board though, and couldn't be bothered noting that 9th and 12th graders may not have that issue. In fact, as someone who's taught them for decades, I can assure you they don't.

However, because of the directive by the Regents, I now find myself teaching as many as four classes in one room. (By "room," of course, I mean room, half-room, or trailer, all of which I teach in this semester. Thankfully, unlike the room and trailer, the half-room is actually air-conditioned.) There are several issues with this, the worst of which is recording grades for four classes instead of one. Actually, so far, there are only three, as four of my sixteen classes don't yet have students in them.

An administrator helped me the other day. There is, evidently, a way to combine classes within IO classroom. I thought that would solve my issue. To an extent, it did. I was able to combine my active classes together and rename them by period, as opposed to the long and incomprehensible letter and number alphabet soup mandated by the city. So I am now able to write, say, "homework #1," and assign it to three classes at a time. That's great.

Here's the problem, though--when I try to actually grade the homework, it shows up as three classes again. This means I have to separate the assignments into groups, or jump back and forth in those letter and number groups I don't recognize. This was not so bad last year, when I had only two groups in a class. After a while, I kind of remembered who fell into which groups. Three, likley four as I get more incoming, is beyond the pale.  If I had a paper marking book, I'd simply alphabetize all the students together and mark them very quickly.

This is redundant paperwork. IO Classroom ought to fix this instantly. If they don't, they'll have to deal with a UFT paperwork complaint, because I certainly won't hesitate to file it. Like every teacher, I haven't got time to jump through hoops on a daily basis in order to satisfy their lack of foresight and flexibility.

Friday, September 06, 2019

The Making of an Assistant Principal

Everyone wondered why Mr. Jones was so happy. The weight of the world seemed to be lifted from his shoulders. He had a spring in his step. His smile radiated 100% organic sunshine. Just last week he was a chronic complainer, but now he was reborn. No one knew why, at first.

A few days later, we noticed a harried young woman sitting in the cafeteria, frantically consulting books and writing things on her computer. She never spoke to anyone, so a friend and I introduced ourselves. She didn't want to stop, but she was polite nonetheless. It turned out she was Mr. Jones's student teacher. Mr. Jones had a comp-time job, sitting in an office somewhere, doing something or other, and only taught three classes. This young woman, with no experience whatsoever, and no evident support was prepping and teaching all of them.

As a student, she did this for no monetary compensation, while Mr. Jones sat in back of the classroom pretending to pay attention to what was going on. Nice work if you can get it, perhaps. It didn't pay well enough for him, so he tried to get a job at Queens College, where I happened to be working. He and a young woman I know applied at the same time, and both used me as a reference. I talked up the young woman, who was brilliant, and she was hired. When asked about him, I said I had no idea, and he wasn't hired. He called me at home on a Friday night to angrily ask why not. I had no idea, I told him. In fact I had no idea where he got my phone number. Shortly thereafter, he got a job at a different college.

Another colleague taught at Queens College, and had Mr. Jones and the same young woman in his class. He swears the young woman did the homework and Mr. Jones copied it. He also told me that one of his high school students was busily grading papers in his high school class. He asked why she was doing it, and was told they were the papers for Mr. Jones's college class. He took the papers and told the student to tell Mr. Jones to come ask for them.

I found that story hard to believe. One day, though, when I was working in a department office I noticed a young man across from me grading compositions. I asked why he was doing that. Mr. Jones was giving him extra credit, he said. Can you imagine paying for college and having a high school student grade your papers? I assume the kids did as good or better a job than Mr. Jones would have, but still.

A person gets tired, though, of not teaching and not grading papers. Who knows, for example, when someone was going to come and observe you? Sure, you wouldn't be teaching, but what if they asked why the student teacher was doing this or that? What could you say? You never consulted with her, and you hadn't been paying attention to what she was doing. Also, what with her grading all the work, you had no idea what the students were doing.

It was time for a new career, decided Mr. Jones, so he went to supervisor school. There was time, after all, since he didn't teach in the day, since he didn't grade night school papers, and since no one knew what exactly he were supposed to do at his comp-time job. Also, there was that paraprofessional who actually did all the, you know, actual comp-time work. Still, he had a ponderous, florid  multi-page resume enumerating in great detail all the things Mr. Jones did not actually do. But the resume used a lot of impressive big words, and why shouldn't it? Mr. Jones had paid a girl with a very high SAT score to write it.

Mr. Jones could be charming when he wanted to, and as soon as he had his administrative certificate, he snagged an administrative post. When the first school he worked in closed, he found another one. With every progressive gig, life became less demanding and tedious for Mr. Jones. Finally, he was able to spend more time doing the things he liked, whatever on earth they may be.

I hope he's not your boss today. Alas, the empty soul of Mr. Jones resides in many, many administrators.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't--Teacher Vilified in NY Daily News for Working Too Much

You know, you can't win. I'm forever reading about how lazy I am, how easy my job is, and how it's a walk in the park to stand around and have big fun with 34 teenagers in a trailer. On the other hand, if you work too much, you make too much money, and then you get dragged over the coals for that as well.

I gotta say, this piece caught my eye. The headline suggests outrage that a teacher managed to pull in 78K of per session. If you look more closely it also includes back pay, which evidently is also to be condemned. This teacher somehow did 1100 hours in addition to his teaching schedule.

A copy of Singh’s schedule for the 2018-19 school year reviewed by The News showed him teaching three out of eight periods a day, with the others devoted to scheduling, overseeing lunch, and coordinating coverage for missing teachers, as well as leading “senior activities” and a prep period.

Based on this, DN calls him a "part-time teacher." It's not clear whether or not the writer is aware that teachers do five classes a day, not eight. By that definition, I'm a part-time teacher too, since I teach four classes out of eight. To get this plum assignment, all I have to do is be UFT chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, the most overcrowded in the city. Doing this in addition to teaching four classes of teenagers is a walk in the park, and I have no doubt the reporter could do it in his sleep.

I was sorely disappointed to see this quote:

“I never see him staying with kids” after school, one teacher said.

It's not only that the guy is a programmer, and that this particular job does not entail staying with kids. It's not only that programmers do long hours, and that this often entails extra hours. It's not only that people ought to, you know, be paid for their work. It's also that it's disappointing to see UFT members trashing one another in the press. It's particularly egregious when their arguments have no merit.

Hey, if someone commits an atrocity, I don't expect everyone to get up and applaud. It's quite different to complain that someone whose job does not entail staying with kids doesn't stay with kids. This person doesn't even give a name.

Let's look at what's really wrong here, if something is wrong. That looks like a lot of per-session hours. Did this person really need them? If not, there is indeed fault. I'd lay it at the feet of administrators, whose job it is to post these hours and select someone to take them. In fact, it's on someone like me, the chapter leader and "part-time teacher," to make sure that postings go up and candidates are chosen according to contractual regulations.

It's disappointing to see something so misleading in the paper, aimed at instigating anger toward teachers. I can't really speculate on how much this teacher's efforts were needed or not. However, it's administrators who decide how to allot per-session hours. It's on chapter leaders, people like me, to make sure that they are posted and everyone gets a chance to apply.

Personally, I don't seek extra hours. I already lack sufficient hours in the day to do what I want. However, I worked for over twenty years as an adjunct professor. I didn't want to live in a tree, and it's tough to make ends meet. 

It's on members to speak up if they aren't being considered. I've found times when jobs were given to members without rotations, and I've corrected them when I could. Sometimes members will not complain, and will specifically instruct me not to complain either. I can't do much about that. The truth is I have no idea what's going on here, and it's disappointing that most people who read this article will think they do.

Finally, how does this teacher make 130K when UFT salary maxes out around 10K less than that?

There's more here than meets the eye. At the very least, there's more than reached the eye of the reporter, whose job entails, you know, reporting.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Startup Tips

Tomorrow is the first day we meet students. Here are some tips I wrote for new teachers. I'm sticking by them. If anyone has anything new to add, please do so in the comments.

I Wish Someone Had Told Me

I hope you are kind to children, and I hope you like and respect them. If you don't, you may wish to look elsewhere for advice. If you really care about the kids you teach, read on.

Practical suggestions were few and far between when I started out. I was an English teacher, with an AP who spent hours describing the difference between an “aim” and an “instructional objective.” To this day, I haven’t the slightest notion what she was talking about. She also spent a good deal of time describing the trials and tribulations of her cooking projects, and other utterly useless information.

Neither she nor any teacher of education ever advised me on classroom control. The standing platitude was “A good lesson plan is the best way to control a class,” but I no longer believe that. I think a good lesson plan is the best thing to have after you control the class.

I also think a good lesson plan need not be written at all, as long as you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, neither the lesson plan nor the aim will be much help. (Note--neither the DOE nor your supervisor accepts that, so have a lesson plan available anyway. I do.)

The best trick, and it’s not much of a trick at all, is frequent home contact. It’s true that not all parents will be helpful, but I’ve found most of them to be. When kids know reports of their classroom behavior will reach their homes, they tend to save the acting out for your lazier colleagues—the ones who find it too inconvenient to call. You are not being "mean" or petty--you're doing your job, and probably helping the kid. If you want to really make a point, make a dozen calls after the first day of class. Or do it the day before a week-long vacation.

Now you could certainly send that ill-mannered kid to the dean, to your AP, to the guidance counselor, or any number of places. But when you do that, you’re sending a clear message that you cannot deal with that kid—he or she is just too much for you. You’ve already lost.

And what is that dean going to do anyway? Lecture the child? Call the home? Why not do it yourself?

You need to be positive when you call. Politely introduce yourself and say this:

“I’m very concerned about _______________. ___________ is a very bright kid. That’s why I’m shocked at these grades: 50, 14, 0, 12, and 43 (or whatever). I’d really like __________ to pass the class, and I know you would too.”

I’ve yet to encounter the parent who says no, my kids are stupid, and I don’t want them to pass.

“Also, I’ve noticed that ___________ is a leader. For example, every time ___________ (describe objectionable behavior here) or says (quote exact words here—always immediately write objectionable statements) many other students want to do/say that too.”

"I'm also concerned because ________ was absent on (insert dates here) and late (insert dates and lengths here).

I certainly hope you will give _________ some good advice so ___________ can pass the class.”

If the kid’s parents speak a foreign language you don’t know, find someone else who also speaks it, and write down what you want that person to tell the parent.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone in your room, next time you have a test, get on the phone in front of your class and call the homes of the kids who aren’t there. Express concern and ask where they are. If the kid is cutting, it will be a while before that happens again. If the kid is sick, thank the parent and wish for a speedy recovery.

The kids in your class will think twice about giving you a hard time.

Kids test you all the time. It’s hard not to lose your temper, but it’s a terrible loss for you if you do. When kids know you will call their homes, they will be far less likely to disrupt your class. The minutes you spend making calls are a very minor inconvenience compared to having a disruptive class.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonable and supportive AP, God bless you. If not, like many teachers, you’ll just have to learn to take care of yourself. If you really like kids, if you really know your subject, and if you really want to teach, you’ll get the hang of it.

But make those phone calls. The longer you do it, the more kids will know it, and the fewer calls you’ll have to make.

Your AP, whether good, bad, or indifferent, will certainly appreciate having fewer discipline problems from you. More importantly, you might spend less time dealing with discipline problems, and more helping all those kids in your room.

Originally posted June 5, 2005

See also:

Ms. Cornelius with everything they forgot (or more likely, never knew about) at ed. school.   Here's something from Miss Malarkey. And whatever you do, don't forget Miss Eyre's excellent series on what no one will tell you about working for the DoE.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

This Is Me (and So Is That)

Lucy's not happy, and you might not be either. Every summer goes faster and faster, and face it, this one is gone completely. When people ask me how my vacation was, I'm gonna have to tell them I woke up today and it was over. I may or may not cry afterward, but it won't change anything. Also, at chapter leader training they asked us to cry as little as possible in front of members.

Nonetheless, summer's now nothing but a memory. Of course I enjoy a good sulk as much as the next person, but because I have to, you know, work, I haven't got the time I'd like to devote to it.

We all know how Lucy feels, and as we slump dejected into some meeting where the principal tells us how he can't wait to get back to work, how he feels energized, and how anyone who doesn't isn't a team player, you have to know that the principal looked exactly as Lucy does as he walked to his luxury car this morning. He derived very little satisfaction as he turned it off and the mirrors folded inward. Though he's got a parking space and you don't, he sat crying in his office for fifteen minutes before some secretary forced him to get up, wipe his face, and give the same pep talk every principal has given since time immemorial.

Thankfully, you don't have to get up in front of God an everybody and make that speech. However, in two short days you'll face a bunch of students who all bear the same face you see above. You're gonna have to dig deep and at least try to change your expression. Day one can't be, "Well, you're stuck here and I'm stuck here, and there's no end in sight." Even if you feel that way, it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is, of course, another way to look at things. You remember, at Thanksgiving dinner, your crazy
uncle with the MAGA hat telling you how your job is a walk in the park, how anyone could do it, and how you asked him why he couldn't, if the job were so goshdarn easy? Isn't it true, though, that you wouldn't want his job on a bet?

You never know what's going to happen in our job. Every day brings something new. You're not sitting on an assembly line attaching one thing to another, over and over until either your hand falls of or you're replaced by a robot (which is not to say Bill Gates doesn't want to do that). Nor are you sitting in front of a computer inputting tedious data day after day. 

Maybe today is traumatic. Maybe today is the toughest day of the year, or maybe the toughest day is Thursday, when you first fact the kids. But this shall pass. And unlike a whole lot of working people in America, if you actually need a break, you're always got one to look forward to. Once Christmas comes, you get a week off every other month.

That's one reason your uncle hates you so much. There's the old story of the Russian farmer who says, "My neighbor has a cow and I don't. I want his cow to die." That's your uncle right there. It's on us, though, to get him a frigging cow whether he wants one or not. That's why we're teachers. We know that making things better for this generation will make things better for the next.

It's our job to make things better for the next generation. That's why we teach. That's why it's on us to vote, and to do whatever we can to make sure our children and students lead the best lives possible. Don't let your uncle make you feel guilty. You deserve a job that allows you to think, to react in real time, and make a difference.

Make no mistake, we are one of the last strongholds of vibrant unionism in these United States. It's on us to preserve and expand that. It's on us to educate everyone. While your uncle may be too far gone to see the light, America's children are depending on us.

If we can teach 34 teenagers at a time, we can do anything.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Geniuses in Albany Set to Think for Two Years

The Regents will surely have many gala luncheons and soirees over the next two years as they ponder whether or not to replace the exams that bear their names. Now you don't want them to rush into this willy-nilly, since the exams have only been around since 1865. It's important that change happen gradually, so that as few of us as possible remain living by the time these changes are made. That way, by the time the decisions prove all wrong, the current Regents can simply blame them on those who made them 30, 40, or 200 years ago.

The gold standard, of course, is the English Regents exam. It's important that our children know how to read tedious crap and answer questions about petty detail. That way, when they go to college, they'll have experience hating everything placed in front of them. And when they go to work, they'll be utterly miserable. This is pretty much the golden standard for common core, as envisioned by David "No one gives a crap how you think or feel" Coleman.

Coleman is now the head of College Board. This is important, because one of the ideas the geniuses in Albany are running up the flagpole to see who salutes is substituting the SAT for the Regents exams. This is a WIN-WIN in that it not only replaces one tedious and useless exam for another, but also manages to enrich Coleman and his BFFs. Who could ask for more than that?

After all, why should we bother with nonsense like trying to make our children readers? Just because you or I may be engrossed in some historical novel or other doesn't mean that our children should be. Why on earth would we want to burden them with examining the feelings of other humans when, as per Coleman's trenchant analysis, no one gives a crap anyway?

And you know what that leads to. Pretty soon they'll be telling us how they feel, and they'll want us to listen. Or worse, they'll want us to read about how they feel or what they're going through. Let's face it, if your job prospects entail being Walmart associates, you won't have time to indulge in that nonsense. That's why Walmart sinks so much money into charter schools that teach children how to march from room to room like little tin soldiers. A pliable public is a Walmart associate public.

Expressing your feelings ought to be reserved for the more privileged classes. For example, the President of the United States just visited the African-American History Museum. Here's what happened:

“The president paused in front of the exhibit that discussed the role of the Dutch in the slave trade,” Bunch writes. “As he pondered the label I felt that maybe he was paying attention to the work of the museum. He quickly proved me wrong. As he turned from the display he said to me, ‘You know, they love me in the Netherlands.’ All I could say was let’s continue walking.”

You see, a great thinker like Donald Trump needs to reflect. Your kids and mine, not so much. To make sure they don't, the geniuses in Albany wholeheartedly accepted Common Core. While they no longer place Common Core in the test title, the tests are still the same, and the Regents think they are good enough for the children of New York State.

So let them sit around and think for another couple of years, while New York's children waste their time with miserable tests that display total indifference to love of reading, ability to express one's self in writing, or anything remotely resembling writer voice. Where's the urgency?

The Regents have made a deep commitment to sit around for two years, and maybe do something afterward. Or maybe not.

That ought to be good enough for anyone.