Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We're from the DOE and We're Here to Help

The UFT Contract calls for a remarkable volume of meetings. Most of my colleagues spend 80 minutes after work on Monday, and 70 on Tuesday doing all sorts of things. Those I speak with are not happy. Not even a little. I guess it's good to have time to contact parents, and if only the kids will cooperate by limiting their misbehavior or notable achievements to Tuesdays it may eventually prove to be a good idea.

Of course, multi-session schools like mine are supposed to figure out some other way to enable PD and all its wonderfulness. For months, we didn't. But we finally came to an agreement. We would have monthly sessions that would enable teacher teams, parental contact, other professional work and whatever else the UFT MOA demands. Our SBO passed by a huge margin.

But then we had to provide dates to the DOE. No, not those kind of dates. I know it must be tough for fanatical ideologues left over from the Bloomberg regime to find people who will talk to them, but that wasn't our problem. Our problem was establishing dates we could change our school schedule. It turns out it was too late for us to do this in December, and we could only modify three days per semester. After all, rules are rules.

Who cares if the UFT modified the contract and requires all this extra stuff? We have to follow DOE rules, no matter how nonsensical they may be. Let them bitch and moan that we don't have enough PD, but perish forbid they should bend a rule. It's OK to cut learning time absolutely every single day, but if you do it more than three days per semester the world may come to an end, even if you're demonstrably offering significantly more of it than most schools in the city.

So maybe the PD, parental contact and Other Stuff is not so vital after all. If it were, maybe they'd stop overcrowding schools in the first place. If it were, maybe they'd build us enough space to comfortably accommodate the students we already have. If it were, maybe they'd blow up the leaky moldy miserable trailers and replace them with classrooms that respect the kids we serve.

But they aren't going to bother with trivialities like that. They'd rather sit around in Tweed. After all, there are vital rules that must be protected.

Another way to accommodate the Very Important Stuff, a way that several of my neighbor schools adopted, is to shorten the classes to 40 minutes and have 40 minutes of PD before or after every single day. I am not hearing rave reviews of this system. One teacher told me she fought an urge to slit her throat during one of these never-ending sessions.

I suppose if I wanted my colleagues to tar and feather me and run me out of town by rail I'd float a similar SBO. But that prospect, for some inexplicable reason, does not much appeal to me.

It appears being reasonable toward those of us who wish to be reasonable is expressly against DOE policy. It's never been done that way.

I'm naive to even entertain the notion they'd help us help them.
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