Wednesday, May 01, 2019

NYSED, December 23rd, and Wasting Time and Money

 It was 1985 or 1986 that we had to come in on the first day of Passover. I was at John F. Kennedy High School. I went in, but most Jewish teachers did not. It was a disaster. We couldn't even show movies, because there were almost no teachers to sit in the classrooms with students.

I recall directing many students to go to the field, others going to the auditorium, and no classes whatsoever taking place. It was a complete and utter waste of time. I was a pretty new teacher, and I was pretty amused by the absurdity of it all. It appears that NYSED thinks days like that are a good idea.

Who knows what goes on in the hearts of administrators? Who knows if some even have them? I'm hearing that MaryEllen Elia wants to leave her imprint on the state, and one way of doing so is by not counting passing as part of the school day. Therefore we need to add more hours, and in this case those hours are added on December 23rd.

Not counting passing would be a good argument if schoolchildren and teachers were magically transported home during breaks. But it wouldn't be that good, because really, what can you do in just a few minutes anyway? Maybe if we had some Star Trek transporter technology to move from class to class we could eliminate the time. Otherwise it's school time.

"Profiles in Stupid" kind of describes how I feel about NYSED at this point. They give tests that are abysmal, they know less than nothing about language acquisition, and yet they set themselves up as authorities on everything.I've gotten a lot of feedback on my Executive Board notes, and some of it is really interesting. Some of it is predictable. There are a few points I'd like to address, though.

I've gotten a lot of messages saying Long Island does this and that. Well, Long Island doesn't do this or that. There are a whole lot of individual districts in Long Island, and each one is different. Some come in in late August. Some, like us, take off the Lunar New Year. None are on our schedule, and all do things differently. Some add in days to be used as snow days, and some return snow days at year's end. More frequently, in my experience at least, they have to add days to make up for excessive snow days. I never made my kid go on those days.

Some people have told me Long Island only works 180 days, and that snow days are built in. That can't be true. 180 is the minimum required by the state. If a district with 180 days took snow days, they'd need to make up every single one. Last year we had one snow day, and we took it. The year before we had two, and we took them. This coming year we have four, so it's ridiculous that we have to come in on the 23rd for a wasted day. I guess if you sit around in some fancy Albany office all the time, it's easy to imagine that working teachers do nothing all day, just like you.

Some people are arguing that 184 days are too many. I'm not sure about that. For one thing, I recall Mulgrew going on about how we only had two days, or one day. That suggests to me that usually we had more. My understanding is we are contracted to come in on a certain day and end at a certain day. The number of days varies with the number and location of holidays. When Jewish holidays fall on weekends, for example, we work more days in September. As far as I know, though, there is no good reason for us to go in on the 23rd.

When people tell me let's battle for fewer school days, or to get back unused snow days, I don't see that as a mountain I want to die on. There are reasons not to do that odd Monday, and they're not just my own selfishness in wanting to take an extra day off. An odd day like that is ridiculous. Multiple people have told me it's quite wasteful to open the schools for only one day, and as a teacher there are a whole lot of things I can't do on a day like that. If I know very few students are going to show, I won't be introducing new material. I won't be giving a test or reviewing one. If I do anything of importance I'll have to do it twice.

I don't show videos in my classses, except to support things I'm already doing. But a few times on Lunar New Year, when I had maybe three students, I was able to pull Netflix up (It's now blocked.) and show Wallace and Gromit to them. It just didn't make any sense to do anything else. I was glad when de Blasio declared it a school holiday and made us all stop wasting our time.

I hope UFT is able to talk sense to the brain trust in Albany. Even the DOE seems to agree with us, which is very odd.. Nonetheless, it's absolutely nuts. Can you imagine families having to roll back vacations by three days so their kid can sit in school doing nothing? Is that the vision of the geniuses in Albany?

It wouldn't surprise me in the least.
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