Friday, December 16, 2011

I Am Educated by the DOE

I was called to UFT HQ in Manhattan for a discussion on the Izone. What the hell is the Izone? Well, it has something to do with innovation and/ or technology, and they showed us a flowchart that describes three ways it's used. Me being a mere mortal, I barely understood any of them, nor did I have the vaguest notion which category my school fell into.

Nonetheless, we got to hear Michael Mulgrew comment on how rarely the UFT and DOE get to do co-presentations.  He mentioned that education was the only area in which we get technology and it actually makes our lives more difficult. Any special education teacher dealing with SESIS, and any general education teacher performing their convoluted and idiotic attendance procedure can attest to that.

Then we heard from the DOE rep, who said it was all about the kids. He was careful not to use the usual crap about how it's usually all about the teachers, and instead said things centered around administrators. His goal, he said, was more personalization. For example, you'd be able to approach your student and say, "Hey, you look a little down today. What's bothering you?"

That's a worthy goal, but his very DOE has reduced the number of working teachers by 10% over the last three years, while also cutting budgets to the bone. This has resulted in huge numbers of oversized classes, and many, many more at absolute contractual maximum. I couldn't help but wonder, if they really want kids to get more personal attention, why the hell do they load them like sardines?

He discussed flexible learning settings--for example, do we really have to have a 45-minute period? He discussed various SBOs that had permitted innovations, and stated, "If it works well, chances are there are positive relationships." I agree with that.

Nonetheless, his boss, Mayor Bloomberg, has been systematically poisoning the relationships between teachers and admin for a decade. Over a year ago, he announced that teachers would not be getting the raise NYPD, FDNY, and everyone else got, despite his insistence on pattern bargaining when the pattern was crap. So yes, positive relationships would indeed help things to work well, and why on earth does the DOE work so hard to ensure so few exist?

The DOE rep said blended learning, entailing online activities as well as live teachers, was not intended to replace working teachers. I wondered then, why the hell Joel Klein would land working for Rupert Murdoch on some online learning enterprise. I'm afraid I would have to ignore quite a bit of history to believe this rep, even if he himself believed what he was saying.

However, his mention that the DOE had applied for "seat time waivers to enable students to receive accelerated credits" suggested to me that the DOE was indeed trying to replace working teachers. It's unfortunate they have fostered so much fear and loathing that nothing whatsoever they claim can be believed.

But that's Mayor Bloomberg's vision, and Lord have mercy on all of us if we can't put a stop to it soon.
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