Thursday, October 24, 2019

Realizing A Vision

I've watched the Mulgrew-Carranza video five or six times. What they want is the moon, the sun, and the stars.

Now don't get me wrong--I want it too. I want it all. The issue, though, is how do we get there from here? How do we establish healthy working relationships with New York City supervisors, many of whom received training directly from Joel Klein's Leadership Academy?

Joel Klein most certainly didn't want to sing Kumbayah with the likes of me. Klein wanted to close my school and make me an ATR. As it happened, I'd already transferred to a school that got better grades than the one in which I used to work. I'm not stupid enough to think that was because of my sudden presence. It had a lot more to do with the neighborhood kids, who tended to get higher scores. Had I stayed where I was I'd be an ATR.

I transferred simply because my boss wanted me to work hours that would've precluded my second job teaching college. My transfer had nothing to do with school quality. It had to do with the transfer school being close to Queens College and having hours that would let me leave in time to do my second job. That way I could make the money I needed to pay my brand new mortgage. I happened to be very lucky, luckier than I'd imagined.

You see, my then-supervisor didn't care whether or not I could pay my mortgage. She told me that the Spanish teacher threw out too many kids, and I never threw out anyone. Therefore I was going to teach Spanish, not throw out kids, and she would spend less time dealing with kids who were thrown out. If not, I was gonna be on the late shift and lose my second job. The fact that I love teaching ESL, the fact that my English is way better than my Spanish--these were of no importance whatsoever. She needed her "me time," I had the Spanish license, and that was that.

As you surely know, there are plenty more where she came from.

When I became chapter leader, a teacher gave me all the emails for the department. After I sent the first email, another teacher in the same department approached me.

"I feel like I've been RAPED," she said.

"Oh my gosh,"  I said. "What happened?"

"You sent me an email, and I never gave you my address."

"I'm so sorry," I said. "Someone gave me a list. I'll never send you another email again."

"That's okay," she said. "You can send me more email."

That was taking passive-aggressive to a new level, I thought. Shortly thereafter, of course, she was promoted to supervisor.

As chapter leader, you see things other people don't. You ask questions.

"Why did you observe Ms. Finch on a half day when there were almost no students in the building? If you want to give her a chance, don't you think it would be better to see her when she had, you know, an actual class?"

Then the supervisor just says no, I'm not gonna do that. What's the point of even talking to people who think like that?

Tweed is full of people who think like that or worse. Schools, also, are full of Bloomberg leftovers. I know supervisors I trust absolutely. I know supervisors I trust almost absolutely. I know others who are good in some aspects, but funny in others. Then there are the ones who never, ever should have gotten those jobs.

Carranza and Mulgrew have a great idea. Still when Carranza fired or reassigned four people, the media was in a frenzy. What would they do if he suddenly decided that insane individuals ought not to be supervising teachers and fired them en masse? How many people who hate teachers and everything we stand for are still sitting in Tweed, drawing a salary for Whatever It Is They Do There? How many are working as supervisors of teachers?

Let's work together, improve our practice, and help the 1.1 million children who need our help, say Carranza and Mulgrew. How could anyone even begin to disagree with that.

There are a few people standing in the way of that vision.  How many do you know? Can we simply begin hiring people who aren't crazy and wait them out? Or do Bloomberg leftovers and Leadership Academy grads, like cockroaches and Rudy Giuliani, simply survive everything?

Can we work toward improving our craft, as opposed to living in perpetual fear and loathing? I certainly hope so. It's something worth striving for, worth fighting for. Is it gonna happen overnight? Of course not. But I figure a hundred thousand people who can teach 34 students at a time can do just about anything. We build a house brick by brick.

We just have to place them very carefully.
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