Thursday, March 08, 2018

We Don't Need No Stinking Teacher Certification for College Now

Twice a year I go to class size hearings. As they go, this year was not particularly awful. We had only a handful of disagreements, but one proved very interesting. I identified a health class with 39 students. The DOE lawyer expressed shock that I'd protest it, since it was a College Now class. I found that odd, because not only was it not labeled College Now, but also I protest every oversized class, be it College Now, College Later, or just, you know, regular, ordinary high school. (That's what I teach, by the way.)

I often lose the College Now class size grievances. I believe I've won only once. Personally, I fail to see which great service the college is doing for our kids when they dump them in classes of 39. The class in question was a health class. I was pretty shocked to hear that not only was it a College Now class, but that it was also being taught by someone from the college. Previously every one of these courses I'd heard of was taught by either active or retired UFT  members.

When you take College Now classes you get credit for both the college and high school classes. It isn't easy to qualify to teach high school classes. As a high school teacher, I had to be fingerprinted and checked. I had to take and pass tests. I had to be certified. In fact, I'm certified to teach three subjects. I had to pay for each certification. I had to get appointed to a school, eventually. I had to get tenure. I also have to be observed several times a year. I am rated on test scores, and if my rating goes low enough I can lose my job.

What do college teachers need? Basically, they need to get hired. I got hired by Queens College as soon as I got my Master's, and I worked there for 20 years. I've also taught at Nassau Community College. I didn't have to take any test and I didn't have to be fingerprinted. Mostly they left me alone. It was a great way to supplement my income, and I made 50% of my DOE salary at one point. As my DOE salary went up, the percentage fell. Once I became chapter leader, I dumped the second job altogether.

I mostly worked at the English Language Institute at Queens College, where students from other countries would try to work their way into the actual college via our program.  In this program, three teachers would split skills and share a class. Sometimes my colleagues would have discipline issues. They'd bitterly complain that this student did this or that. How could anyone deal with that?

Oddly, I never had problems with any of these students. I barely noticed whatever my colleagues were complaining about. Day to day I marveled that they couldn't handle students I found to be challenging me not at all. The biggest difference between high school and college, for me, was that I could cover material much faster in college. I didn't have to bother with discipline of any sort, for the most part. I don't know what I did differently than my colleagues, but I think my experience dealing quickly with nonsense showed somehow.

For all I know, the college teachers in my school (and I've now identified two of them) are wonderful. Even if that's so, why the hell do we have to jump through all these hoops, pay all these fees, and get all these certificates if the schools can just pull anyone from anywhere to teach anything? Are the college teachers more versatile than we are? Personally, I doubt it. It takes an entirely different skill set to teach high school than it does to teach people who pay for their courses. I'd argue that teaching high school is much more challenging. (I'd also argue it's much more important, and that's why I never pursued a doctorate so as to teach college full time.)

There are all sorts of rules that bind us, including chancellor's regulations. None apply to visiting college teachers. We can be disciplined and they cannot. And anyway, Article One of the Collective Bargaining Agreement says UFT represents teachers of every stripe. We don't represent visiting uncertified college teachers from who knows where.

I filed a grievance demanding that UFT teachers teach these classes. If I lose I'll file another complaining that we ought not to need licenses, tests, certification, chancellor's regs, Danielson, or any of the myriad of things we go through to do this job. I'll also demand they compensate us for all the tests and time and fees. We ought to be whatever, and do whatever, since DOE can choose to allow whoever to teach in city schools.
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