Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Getting Out of the Classroom

I've been giving a lot of thought to that concept of late. Norm Scott was on fire at the generally staid Executive Board meeting last night, and excoriated crazy administrators, of which there are many. How many times have you gotten bad advice from administrators? I sit in meetings with them all the time, and I get a very good picture of who's on the ball and who isn't.

Once I sat for forty minutes while an administrator lectured a teacher on the virtues of formative assessment. In short, this entailed equipping students with cards of red and green. When the students understood, they'd hold up green cards, When they didn't, they'd hold up red cards. I honestly couldn't see why this method was any better than asking, "Does everyone understand?" Kids nod, you move on and hope for the best, and who knows what's really happening? But hey, use the cards and you're highly effective. Don't, and you suck.

Anyone who harbors an ambition to get out of the classroom ought not to be a teacher. The best administrators I know love being in the classroom. They're thrilled to work with kids and want to do so more often. These are inspirational leaders, and these are people to whom you pay attention. Alas, they're not the only ones around here doing this job.

There are the others, the ones who don't want to do this job but have it anyway. They're the ones who hear about some outlandish thing like the cards and determine it's the only way to teach. And indeed, it may be the only way they know. After all, the classroom was such a terrible place they had to get out. How do you think people like that feel about skilled teachers who do the job? How do they feel about imaginative individuals who create classes they couldn't?

Norm spoke of communities rising up at CPE 1 and Townsend Harris. This was what removed two principals who never should have had the job. There are plenty of communities that don't rise up as well. I thought it was foolish when Howard Schoor gave all the credit to Michael Mulgrew for improvements at CPE 1. If I were Mulgrew, I wouldn't want that credit, because with it comes all the blame for all the vindictive and crazy principals still sitting at their jobs.

In fact, a whole lot of UFT employees have gotten out of the classroom. Eight days ago I listened to a bunch of people who never taught under this system tell us how wonderful it was. They say they're in schools, but who knows what that means? Do they visit the Unity chapter leaders to find that yes, this is still the best of all possible worlds? Do they ask the ones to whom they've given patronage gigs how good the system they negotiated is?

Whatever they hear is not remotely what I hear. At our UFT meeting today, teachers wondered why leadership didn't endorse our initiative to reduce minimum to two, as per state law. Further observation could be reserved for teachers needing more support, or better ratings. I don't buy the argument that it's difficult to fabricate multiple observations. Liars are fairly consistent. Once people break my trust, I expect them to lie all the time.

We had a chance to have a leader who was in the classroom under Danielson. In fact, the high school teachers chose James Eterno as Vice President. Because Unity cannot tolerate dissenting points of view, because they know what's good for us, and because they know everything, they rigged the system so as to disenfranchise high school teachers. And rather than work with us, they sneer and go on doing What They've Always Done, because it's the only thing they know how to do.

That's pathetic. If you can't figure out how to work with anyone who hasn't signed a loyalty oath to never question you, you have no business being a teacher, let alone a union leader.

With Janus on the horizon, that's where we stand. I hope some Unity leader knocks on my door, but I'm not holding my breath. It's for lowly teachers to do the work of perpetuating the Unity machine in the name of preserving the union.

I believe in union. I don't believe in leadership that sneaks around behind my back for no good reason. I don't believe in paying dues to NYSUT and AFT but having no representation. I'm particularly upset at my 20,000 high school brothers and sisters being shut out of the leadership of our own union.

What does leadership say to that? Who knows? The silence is deafening.
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