Sunday, March 25, 2018

Famous Last Words

I'm a rule follower--I once heard an incoming assistant principal make this declaration. I'm not sure what it was meant to clarify or express. Oddly, the person who said it had no regard whatsoever for rules. She would sit in front of my face and declare there was no way she could give this teacher the class on the preference sheet.

Then, when I moved one Delaney card into another box, this person declared, "Well, it's no good for the children if we change teachers this far into the semester. Actually it was fewer than 48 hours into the semester. At the hearing, in front of the principal, she declared I offered no ideas as to how she could accommodate the grievance.

Back when this person was a lowly teacher, I got her department's personal email list from someone in her department. When I sent out my first email, she approached me and said, "I feel like I've been raped." Oh my gosh, I said, I'm so sorry. I certainly intended nothing like that. I'll take you off the list immediately. "No," she said. "It's OK. You can keep sending me email. And that, my friends, is the sort of passive aggressive unstable personality that may be deciding where you fit on the Danielson Rubric.

Only bad teachers need the union--I'd argue that bad teachers need something more than the union. Kids can be brutal, and you see them each and every day before you face administration. But everyone needs the union. It's always there for when you get in trouble. We are a collective and we support one another. It's like health insurance. Only sick people need it, but you could become sick at any time.

Also, if you have a supervisor like the one above, you serve at the whim of a lunatic. And honestly, you need not be in the eye of a complete lunatic to have problems. Some supervisors are perfectly lucid 50-98% of the time, but suffer from blind spots. If you happen to be in one of those blind spots, you'll be targeted for nonsense that would be ignored 95-98% of the time, and ought to be ignored 100% of the time. If you're in that situation, you really need someone who will enforce the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Make no mistake, any change of supervisors could place you in this position.

My first invocation of the contract was transferring away from a school in which I'd been punished for doing my job. Specifically, I'd just bought a house, and my supervisor told me I'd either have to teach all Spanish or stay late and lose the second job I needed to pay my mortgage. She did this because her Spanish 1 teacher threw kids out of the class and I didn't. She'd have fewer disruptions by forcing me to teach a class I was not inclined to teach nor particularly good at.

Legal told me it was OK--Legal thinks anything any principal does is OK. They're ethics-challenged lawyers who appear either not to have ever read the Collective Bargaining Agreement or to think it applies only to one side. They're a bunch of overpaid holdovers from Bloomberg who think they're in the Wild West and anything goes. It's their job to tell the principal that things written in black and white were actually written in invisible ink. I've been to half a dozen Step Two hearings this year testing the druthers of legal, and I've got another one this Tuesday. The problem with Step Two hearings is that they're heard by the chancellor. Sadly, Chancellor Fariña has proven to be not much different from Chancellor Klein and most Step Two rulings go against us.

That's why we have arbitrators, who are less likely to interpret things that are not open to interpretation. Alas, arbitrators don't rule with the surety of a King Solomon, so you sometimes get bad decisions from them as well. I'll have to see. In my first eight years as chapter leader, I attended only one Step Two hearing. But hey, if legal wants to test whether day is night, I'll show up each and every time to express otherwise.

You don't need it in writing. I've heard that from DOE. Make sure you send each and every thing to them return receipt requested, because there's a 100% possibility it will get lost otherwise. If you choose to personally hand something to them, be sure you get a receipt for it. I am fortunate that I appear to have sent them all the papers that need sending, but you never know. I was once on one floor at Court Street and they asked me for my college transcripts.

"You already have them," I said.

"Yes, but they're on the seventh floor."

Well, you don't expect people who work in the DOE to walk up and down stairs, do you? You don't think they should take their valuable time and use an elevator? Maybe they should computerize things so we don't have these issues. Maybe they have by now. Who knows? But doubtless they've invented new hoops for hapless new teachers to jump through.

Children First, Always. Give me a break. This from the people who fight me twice a year so they can get away with violating class size regulations that already allow for the highest class sizes in New York State. And yes, that's one more service that "legal" provides.

What famous last words have you heard? Please share them in the comments.
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