Friday, November 15, 2019

On Being Observed in an Unheated Trailer on a 21-degree Day

I'm just contemplating how I'd react to this. There are a few reasons that might not happen to me. One is, if I were in an unheated trailer on a 21-degree day, I'd probably say something like, oh, "HOLY CRAP IT'S 21 DEGREES IN HERE! LET'S GET OUT OF HERE AND GO TO THE AUDITORIUM!" Now that's just me. Of course, if some teacher sees an observer come in, wearing a winter coat and a sweater and all bundled up, he or she might react differently.

A teacher might think, well, if this person is coming in to observe me, then it must be okay that I'm inside an unheated trailer on the coldest day of the year. The teacher might observe that every single student is wearing a winter coat, so probably no one will die of frostbite. Maybe the biting wind doesn't blow in the trailers because after all, the walls are still more or less intact.

Now if I were a supervisor, and I saw the entire class wearing winter coats, and I couldn't take mine off, I'd probably say something like,  "HOLY CRAP IT'S 21 DEGREES IN HERE! LET'S GET OUT OF HERE AND GO TO THE AUDITORIUM!" Of course, I haven't been to principal school, so I lack the training and sophistication necessary to lead a department into glory. Maybe it has to do with the relatively basic way I think.

On the other hand, if you were to bring the class into the auditorium, where every utterance bounces off every wall and it's borderline impossible to teach, it could be the observer follows you in. Indeed, the observer could write you up as ineffective for not differentiating between the students who could and could not hear you. Who knows what could happen?

So you stay there, with your coat on, and the kids write the best they can with their gloves on. You ask a question, they raise their hands, and they answer. You marvel at how cooperative they are. You try to focus on their answers, but deep inside you wonder why none of the kids are saying, "HOLY CRAP IT'S 21 DEGREES IN HERE! LET'S GET OUT OF HERE AND GO TO THE AUDITORIUM!"

The supervisor leaves after ten minutes, so you say to yourself it's just one of those formative observations. You've gone through all that stress for nothing. No one has turned the heat on, and it drops dead around this time each and every day. What can you do about it? You can go to the chapter leader. He says, "My trailer was 99 degrees or thereabouts every day in September. I had a student who wore a hijab, and a robe from her neck to the floor. It was so, so hot, and I had no idea what that kid was going through"

"What did you do?" you ask him.

"I got the hell out of there and went to the auditorium. I filed a health and safety grievance that UFT decided not to bring to step two. And what if they did, anyway? Were they gonna build a time machine to go back and fix it?"

I'm not sure exactly what to do about issues like that. If I were the mayor, I'd knock the trailers down, get the kids out of there and put them in real classrooms. We're set to get an annex that might net us 12 classrooms the year after next. That will bring us down from 200% overcrowding to maybe 175%.

At least no one will be in trailers anymore.
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