Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Observations on Observations, and Forced Formality

I was pretty surprised to learn that teachers rated effective would need to have a formal observation this year. It wasn't how I remembered our agreement with the city, but I got several messages saying this was the way it was. 

I then got a whole bunch of inquiries asking me why that was, and I had no idea until yesterday. You may recall the year before last we were suddenly working from home, and that no one got ratings that year.

Evidently, under the scenario of no rating one year and an effective the next, you are in line for one informal and one formal observation. A lot of effective-rated teachers were upset by this. Why were they facing consequences for an apocalypse not of their making? That's a reasonable question. 

I would further argue that having another person in the room for an entire period lessens the possibility for distancing and increases the risk of COVID infection. Ideally, we'd have as few people as possible in a classroom at all times. There are likely a whole bunch of classrooms that can't handle even a single observer without violating protocol. 

Personally, I'm not terribly upset about being observed. However, that's only because my supervisor is Not Insane. I'm afraid that's not the case for many of my colleagues. A good number of supervisors were trained in the Bloomberg era to be hateful and critical for the sake of reflecting Bloomberg's education philosophy. Half-man, half predatory bird Joel Klein ran around kissing Eva Moskowitz's ass and vilifying those of us who woke up each morning to do the actual work.

Then there are those supervisors who took the extra coursework to "get out of the classroom." They never respected our job, couldn't wait to slither our of it, and now get to stand around issuing directives to those of us who actually do what they could not, or did not want to. Those are just a few reasons why so many NYC supervisors are out of their minds.

Given that, it's not surprising that many teachers want to spend as little time as possible with these supervisors. I knew one teacher who had a-fib episodes every time he got near his supervisor. I had to sit through many meetings with this supervisor, making pompous pronouncements about whatever crossed his feeble mind. I'd sit there thinking there are a lot of people smarter than I am, but this guy just isn't one of them. 

A formal observation can be helpful if you trust your supervisor has something of value to share. Sadly, with so many terrible supervisors, that's far from the norm here in Fun City. There is, however, also the advantage of planning a lesson together. If it doesn't work, you can always ask, then, just why the hell they asked you to do it. And it's better than a drive-by from a Boy Wonder supervisor who picks the half-day with 15-minute periods when fewer than half your students show up, just so he can write you up for not inspiring them to attend.

Ideally, it would be up to us to decide whether we wanted formal or not, That said, the current agreement is better than the previous one, with three, four, or 200, or however many observations it demanded.

Now you can tell from what I just wrote that I'm not an expert on this or any evaluation agreement we made. However, someone at 52 Broadway is. Furthermore, this was a predictable issue, and that expert ought to have not only anticipated it, but prepped for it. Said prep would entail going to the city, explaining that no one had anticipated a pandemic under which no one got a rating, and either substituting the previous year for that one, or working out something else reasonable under the circumstances.

In fact, it's not too late to work something out right now. If that mystery expert at 52 is reading this, it's time to wake up, call whoever you talk to at Tweed, and get something rolling. Maybe you could persuade Tweed. just for the hell of it, to let effective-rated teachers choose whether or not they would benefit from a formal observation. This would have the added benefit of pissing off the supervisors who escaped from the classroom. They'd be at our mercy if we wanted to drag them back in for full classes.

Heck, maybe those supervisors would learn something. Stranger things have happened. Still, anything that gives power to working teachers is worth pursuing.

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