Saturday, December 03, 2022

UFT Leadership Establishes New Negotiating Policy

I'm increasingly impressed with what UFT caucus Retiree Advocate did. They got together with other city union members and supported the lawsuit that put a halt to the "savings" program so revered by our union leadership. 

Retiree Advocate did precisely what union does. Union organizes. Union fights. Union demands better working conditions. Union sets examples to improve its lot, and thus pull up other working people as well.

Our leadership, on the other hand, berates Retiree Advocate, calls them troublemakers, says they screwed up everything, and follows up by demanding absolute fealty.  Rather than organize against the city, the union demands we get on board with the "savings" program.

We now know said savings are entirely for the city, entirely at our expense, to the tune of 600 million a year (so far, until our brilliant leadership makes yet another deal). The way the city chose to save this money was by dumping all retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan OR charging $191 a month to keep the program they had. 

Of course, the city got a lot of help from the Municipal Labor Committee, a group of various union leaders, including ours. These leaders decided to mortgage our futures in exchange for modest salary gains, at or near cost of living. Somehow, they muster the audacity to call that a good deal.

These people are the worst negotiators I've ever encountered.  How do you trade something of such great value for salary increases that are just okay, but no big deal? While I'm sure these negotiators are highly compensated and can afford better drugs than say, working teachers, they ought not to take them while on the job.

I might retire soon. I was at first open to trying this plan. It sounded okay. All doctors who accepted Medicare would take it. And Emblem Health, my provider for decades, would run it. However, all of the above turned out to be untrue. Not all doctors would take it. And Emblem, viewing the gross ineptitude we see more of each and every day, dropped out.

Like many, I was left with even less faith in the people negotiating this program. 

The other day I had an MRI. Emblem Health approved it pretty quickly. I made it a point to select a RadNet facility, because I'd gotten an email stating the copay there would be $50. It was $100 everywhere else, due to the "savings" program. However, the RadNet facility charged me $100.

I contacted friends in UFT, who put me in touch with someone from the Welfare Fund. I may get my 50 bucks back. Regardless, this further underlines the incompetence of the people asking for our trust. They should have made sure RadNet knew about and acted on this deal, if indeed there was one. (Just like they should have made sure all doctors accepted that Advantage plan.)

The thing that irrevocably pushed me over the edge was the email from Mulgrew stating we needed to support changing the code setting minimum health care costs for city workers. If we didn't allow that, he said, in-service members would be charged $1500 a year for health care. Let's set aside the fact that health care needs to be negotiated, and Eric Adams cannot unilaterally impose charges. The fact is, that email pitted one faction of our union against another. That's absolutely unacceptable. That's not what union is or does. 

Union leaders ought not to be threatening their members. They ought to be threatening our employers. Instead of that, they're acting as shills for our employers and demanding we tow the line. They're lecturing us, saying we ought not to protest. They warn us of the consequences of disobedience, as though we're recalcitrant children.  In fact, we're organized labor. Protest should be in our DNA.

There are a number of things that can happen here. Absolutely none of them are good for membership. We're looking at diminished health care for the most vulnerable among us, those who can least afford having fewer options. We're looking at exploding copays and possibly premiums for Emblem/ GHI. Every possible solution will be loathed by some, if not all, of membership.

It is disgraceful that our leadership, faced with the consequences of a poorly conceived health deal they ought never to have made, would determine to simply sell out any faction of membership, let alone those who can least afford it. The fact is, even if they succeed, we have no guarantee they won't sell out some other faction in the very near future. Again, I marvel that anyone could negotiate so poorly.

Of course, UFT leadership cannot conceive, ever, that they may have done something wrong. That's why they ridicule those who dare suggest they're wrong. That's why they know better than Retiree Advocate. What, ORGANIZE? Why would anyone do that when you could simply CAPITULATE?

And we, the membership, are forced into the position of having to negotiate against leadership, rather than management. What we desperately need is leadership that will fight for us, rather than Eric Adams. Leadership does not, will not, cannot see that. As a result, its long unchallenged Unity Caucus may finally have issued itself a mortal wound.

They just don't see it. They can't and won't see anything. That, evidently, would violate policy.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

The Morning Class

I had a morning class earlier this year. There were 8 students in it. I really liked teaching it. However, the school killed it and redistributed the kids in other classes. I'm happy to tell you they're all doing well, albeit with far less attention from me. 

For a while, I had four classes. My beginning classes were, and are, difficult. I have to devote quite a bit of time toward discipline, or it will be chaos. I'm at school before 7 AM, and once it's past 7, I'm making calls. 

This week, the school reinstituted my morning class. this time as a beginner class. I previously had two beginner classes, one with 34, and one with 33. They have been keeping me hopping. I have a lot of students I suspect to be SIFE, or lacking in formal education. It's been quite difficult keeping them engaged. For a while, I taught the way I usually teach beginners, but I was losing over half the class. 

I started doing far more basic work with them. I have a picture dictionary and we're doing very rudimentary vocabulary and sentence construction, very slowly. I think that way I was up to 75% passing. But I still had some hard cases. 

It's very natural for people to want to speak their first language. If I were in China, I'd long to speak English. So kids who have a negative attitude about the US, English, or both will do all in their power not to hear the new language. If you move them away from their paisanos, they're likely as not to tune out out and fold into virtual cocoons.     

The first morning of my new class, yesterday, only one kid showed up. After that, I went to a helpful secretary who printed out the schedules of the other students, and I distributed them myself. This morning, eight of the ten students scheduled came in. 

And a miracle occurred. There is a boy I've thought of as an impossible case, a boy who's never paid attention or listened, who's never lifted a finger to learn English. Once, he stood up in class and announced, "No es me culpa si no se ingles." It's not my fault if I don't know English.

That made me very upset, and I did something I usually would not. I answered him in Spanish, in front of the whole class. I said, no, it's not your fault if you don't know English. But it's your fault if you don't try. It's your fault if you don't listen. It's your fault if you don't do the work. He remained unimpressed.

At 7 the following morning, I called his house. He never made another such announcement again. But he sat sullen and angry every day, and never lifted a finger to do better. 

When he arrived to the new class, late, he saw there was one small circle of students and pulled up a seat. We were talking about colors. I said, "I'm wearing gray and red." Then I got some students to say what they were wearing. I wrote my statement on the board.

Then, they boy said, "I'm wearing black and white."

It was the first time I ever heard him breathe a word of English. It was a small sentence, but worlds over the expectation I held yesterday. And it happened because he was in a small class. With 34 kids, I have to move some around away from others, and move myself like a whirlwind so as to preclude chaos. I don't need to do that in a small group. I can get everyone to participate. I can do a better job. 

Danielson doesn't account for things like this, but every teacher knows. It's criminal to place 34 kids who know virtually no English in a classroom for 40 minutes a day and hope for the best. It doesn't have to be under ten. But it just cannot work with 34.

We can do better and we all know how. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

UFT Leadership Says Letting City Pay Less=Improved Health Care

You can turn on Tucker Carlson, if you have a strong enough stomach, and see people comment on the Club Q shooting. If only we'd end this evil agenda of gender-affirming care, they say, this would stop happening. 

So we need to stop protecting these people, and then they won't be attacked anymore. Sure. That makes sense.

Using similar logic, UFT leadership tells us we need to revise the city code to allow the city to pay less money for our health care. It's a good thing, they say, that the city doesn't have to pay so much for the health care we expect and work for. You see, if we only let them spend less, our health care will be better

Sorry, but if they pay less, doesn't it stand to reason that we will pay more? Didn't leadership just go to the mattresses for a program that would have cost retired couples thousands extra?

That is heresy, they say. If you dare question this logic, you're ruining things for everyone. When this thing blows up, it will be all your fault.  After all UFT leadership tried to warn you the only way to get better health care was to permit the city to pay less to support it.

On Facebook, a highly compensated UFT official tells thoroughly uncompensated HS Executive Board member Nick Bacon that, if we don't allow the city to pay less toward our health care, the city will impose a premium on all in-service members. Also, they will dump all retirees into a lone Advantage plan. Here's a sample of how he speaks to Nick, who wants to preserve the health care retirees have earned and enjoyed for decades:

Your malcontent nature will never allow you to see the positive and beneficial. You could be given a bar of gold and would be upset you weren't given two. It's fruitless to engage a person like that.

(Shouldn't it be like you?) Let's forget about this guy's failure to maintain a simple subject. Let's even forget the fact that this guy, despite saying it's not worth it, is engaging anyway. (Passive-aggressive much?) This same union employee, along with many others, was very recently jumping up and down declaring an Advantage plan would be the bestest thing ever. But that was then and this is now. Why can't we be good soldiers and forget already?

You'd think leadership assumed we all just fell off the tomato truck from Jersey. They change their tune and improvise a new one on the fly. Then they demand we all dance to it or there will be consequences

This is not the sort of treatment we deserve from union leadership. We pay their salaries and they work for us. In fact, this is the sort of treatment I expect from abusive supervisors. Still, I have extensive experience being verbally abused by union employees. In 2005, we passed the worst contract I'd ever seen, giving up rights to grieve letters to file, and agreeing to work longer hours for more money while pretending it was a raise. (A raise is when you work the same time for more money.) There were other lowlights I no longer recall, but I remember personal insults galore. 

Ad hominem is the logical fallacy of personal attack. That's what you do when you have no argument and/ or little imagination. You attack your opponent. You mischaracterize arguments, more logical fallacy. You tell people they're dangerous. You issue appeals to fear (as the UFT official did here) to frighten your opponents into line. 

Only it doesn't work. Retirees are horrified that their health care is in jeopardy. The fact is the Advantage plan, despite explicit assurances otherwise by the UFT President, was not accepted by all doctors that accepted Medicare. Also, it was largely not useful to members who'd moved outside of NY or Florida. There would have been an almost $5,000 annual fee to keep the health care they expected. This is a significant expense for people living on a fixed income. Imagine how that would've impacted paraprofessionals and lower-paid DC37 employees.

As a prospective retiree, I have a very specific suggestion about what this union official can do with this "bar of gold."

I'll refrain from posting that here. I'll just say the only thing that actually protects us from exorbitant fees, whether we are in service or retired, is Administrative Code 12-126. It's time for leadership to get off their high horse and admit the 2018 health care deal, the one they made with no input whatsoever from us, was a spectacular blunder. Then, they need to start working for us for a change. 

Make no mistake--that's their job.

Monday, November 21, 2022

MLC Takes Us for Carnival Rubes

After looking at the proposal that we pay $191 to keep Medicare and our version of Medigap (a program to cover the 20% of medical expenses that Medicare does not), I thought Medigap programs must be very expensive. After all, if our union was proposing to charge us almost 200 bucks a month for reasonable coverage, it must be a lot more for someone who didn't spend thirty years serving the city of New York.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this NY Times article comparing traditional Medicare to Advantage plans. I'd figured Medigap programs must be prohibitively expensive. Otherwise, why would all those members be queuing to pay 191 bucks a month? How much was it? 500 bucks? A thousand? Here's what the NY Times says on that:

Medigap policies are not inexpensive; a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that they average $150 to $200 a month.

So not only were we not being offered a particularly good deal, but the price we were being charged was on the high end. I'm in my 38th year of working for the city, and I've been told to expect better than that, pretty much since the day I started. My father told me I wouldn't get rich being a teacher, but we had great retirement benefits and health care. 

He was right, to an extent. I'm very happy to be in a position where I can retire without taking a job unloading trucks at Best Buy or greeting Walmart shoppers. But I absolutely expected to be fully covered by Medicare, you know, the real one that doctors accept all across the nation. I will have that option, I suppose, even if I have to pay. 

But I did not expect that. Retirees already pay for prescription coverage, though I don't recall how much. It seems pretty unfair to tack on the unexpected costs to avoid being dumped into an Advantage plan. Thus far, it appears the only advantage there is saving money for a city rolling in unspent billions from the federal government.  

I've been pretty happy with the health care my family and I have received since I became a teacher. Sure, copays are inconvenient, but they beat the hell our of being uninsured. The thing is, though, that GHI is good in NY and Florida, but not so great elsewhere. When Mulgrew rolled back his promise that all doctors that accepted Medicare would take the Advantage plan, he modified it to say that all doctors taking our current plan would accept it. 

That's not bad, but not great either. In my meeting with UFT employees, one who now lived in New Jersey told me that it was very tough finding GHI coverage out there. Now me, I try not to go to Jersey unless someone pays me, so that won't be an issue. Still, there are a whole lot of states other than Jersey, Florida and NY. I know someone moving to PA who's concerned about health care, and who will have to pay if that's what it takes to keep standard Medicare. Why can't we keep standard Medicare with Medigap for city employees, and allow them to live where they wish without penalizing them?

I was originally open to the Advantage plan. Before all the various clarifications and screwups, I thought it might be what it was presented as. The biggest argument against that assumption was the approval issue. I had cancer once, and I recall being approved for various procedures. It was no fun, but GHI was good to me. These days, insurance companies are not altogether altruistic, and the Times piece has a sharp message about Advantage:

Advantage participants who are denied care can appeal, and those who do so see the denials reversed 75 percent of the time, according to a 2018 report by the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General. But only about 1 percent of beneficiaries or providers file appeals, “which means there’s a lot of necessary care that enrollees are going without,” Mr. Lipschutz said.

That's far from encouraging. Given Mulgrew's walkback of the contention that all doctors who took Medicare would take the Advantage plan, we know the advice he gets and relays to us is less than reliable. As far as I know, those same people are still sitting around, getting paid by our dues money, and giving him the same awful advice. There is no way I want to be at the mercy of some company whose profits are more important than my health.

Again, we've been promised standard Medicare plus our entire careers. But hey, if we're gonna have to pay to keep what we've been promised our entire careers, you could at least offer us a good deal. It's disgraceful that MLC (with the explicit encouragement of our elected leadership) seeks to treat NYC employees, who they ostensibly serve, like marks at some cut-rate traveling carnival.

Friday, November 18, 2022

I Meet With UFT to Discuss Healthcare

Yesterday I was called into a Microsoft Teams meeting with at least five people who work for UFT. We were only disconnected once, so for my money, MS Teams is improving. 

I got a little bit of flack for my Gotham Gazette piece. There were many arguments put forth. Some were more understandable than others. While they had a lot to say, I did not get a strong sense my responses were valued.

They told me the proposed Advantage plan, which does not actually exist anymore, were it to be replaced, would do everything the current standard Medicare plan does. It's absolutely necessary to change the code, they said, or the city will place everyone in some Advantage plan or another. Some disagree. Personally, I remain unpersuaded that changing the code is necessary, and I am not eager to enable the Eric Adams administration. 

I am also very much aware that multiple city unions, including uniformed unions who often score better contracts than we do, oppose this. I recall, years ago, going to an Urgent Care and being told there was a new $50 copay, unless we were NYPD, They managed to get themselves excluded from that particular copay raise. 

Why can't we do things like that? Why can't we all do things like that?

One argument they presented was that, despite asserting otherwise, I knew about health changes. They said I wrote about them somewhere here. I didn't suppose they would say that if it weren't true, and it turns out it was, so my apologies for not making those connections previously.

With the expert help of Jonathan Halabi, I found some links. There are various quotes of things Mulgrew said. Bottom line is I wrote of, and was thus aware of a side agreement on healthcare. I took notes at the DA on a pretty regular basis, including here, and I will quote two passages. These notes come from the question period on October 12, 2018, the day the DA voted to present the contract to membership.

Health care negotiated with all unions. Done six months ago. MLC thought something bad could happen with health care because of DC. We wanted to lock in a deal. No additional copays, but made a change for all unions. We tried to get plan in better place. Was proactive approach. Has been out for six months. Was smart thing to lock down our health care with no significant cost ships to union membership. Others pay 3200 out of pocket. We are only workers who can get plans with no premiums attached. If UFT members get cancer they can go to Memorial Sloan Kettering—this is with HIP, also Hospital of Special Surgery. Go read it before you tie it to this contract. 

I confess that I did not go read it, nor do I know where I would have done so. In fact, I don't know where I would do that now either. That said, I disagree that we "locked down" anything. In fact, despite the assertion otherwise, there are now additional copays. These copays appear to be a result of this agreement, and appeared only weeks ago. I would also disagree, with the health care coverage city retirees have earned and enjoyed for decades now imperiled, that there is "no significant cost to union membership."

Here's another assertion:

Health care has nothing to do with this agreement. We are only saying this should go to membership. They will have plenty of time to read. We rushed MOA out for that reason.

The fact is, the health care agreement was in the contract, in Appendix B, and we were not shown Appendix B. 

From the meeting, I conclude UFT leadership is very concerned about this issue, and that's a good thing. If I were in charge of UFT, I would do all I could to repair the damage this health care agreement has done. This is an issue that will not just go away. Were I running the Unity Caucus, or even part of it, I'd worry a lot about the significant loss of support in the last union election. I'd advocate to do whatever I could to turn that around. The fact that they reached out to me to discuss this may be a good sign.  

Not good enough to give up the fight though. Our retirees deserve what they have, as do we. I can accept that the health care deal was negotiated outside of the contract, but it was included in that appendix, and it is a mess. I remain highly unimpressed with whoever it is that negotiates for us. The ever-evolving explanations are frustrating. 

They said we were never lied to. I pointed out that we were told any doctor who accepted Medicare would accept the proposed Advantage plan. They told me that's what the people told Mulgrew. I don't believe he gets up and lies to us. I believe he gets bad advice and repeats it. But if that's the case, whoever fed him that information should be fired and replaced with someone competent. I've heard nothing about any changes in our negotiating teams. 

This is not easy for us as membership, and I'm sure it's not easy for leadership either. I'd say, for an acceptable solution, we all have to be involved. That, for my money, is what union is all about.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Why Fall Sports Are the Best

I don't like to brag, but I have a sports star in my class. 

Sure, I don't see him all that often, but his name is on my ledger and he does stop by once or twice a week. He sometimes, on leaving, reaches out to do a fist bump, you know, because we're good buddies. 

Except we really aren't. I'm a teacher, and he's a student. I kind of have different expectations, so I don't respond to that anymore. I used to, but it didn't help. I do other things, but they don't much work either. He was in my class last year, and failed because he showed up 40% of the time, if that. 

I have a bunch of students from China who are really tall and were trained, perhaps from birth, to be basketball stars. Some can't be on our team, though, because they're failing all their subjects. Perhaps in China, if you're a basketball star, that's what you are, The whole academic thing thing may not be a large issue. 

When I first started teaching, I had a basketball star in one of my classes. I recall being called into a assistant principal's office. She explained to me, that although the student had never actually shown up to my music class (I've taught many things.), that he had to pass. He was, you know, a basketball star. I was young and knew nothing, but everyone told me that was how it was done.

Things have changed, of course. I've changed, the system has changed, and I can't imagine an AP even attempting to deliver a message like that. But I wondered why my basketball stars were benched, and this guy was not. I've visited various APs around the building making inquiries. 

First, I asked why this student, who failed everything last year, was allowed to be on the team at all. Evidently, he attended a summer program where everything was translated into his first language. That makes things easier, of course, especially when one of the courses you need to pass is English. Once your English class is no longer in English, it becomes much easier to pass. Of course, the student didn't learn any English at all. But he passed something or other, somehow or other.

This next one is my fault. I didn't give grades for some time, since we didn't have a grading system. We still don't, though we're hopeful. When the student started cutting class, I went to another supervisor. "What are his grades?" asked the supervisor. "He hasn't got any yet." "Then he's not failing." I couldn't argue with that. 

When the student got his report card, I noticed he was failing five classes. I thought that might make a difference. Yet another supervisor told me that the athletic association that runs the teams does not consider letter grades, you know, the five "U" grades, to be failing. So the kid failed five classes, and there is no consequence. Clearly, this kid is smarter than I am.

I finally spoke with one more AP. I told him the whole story, and he was surprised. He pointed out that you could get away with murder in the fall sports, but you couldn't do it during any other season. That didn't seem fair to him. It doesn't seem fair to me either. 

But hey, if you're a failing student, take some summer program, learn nothing, go back and join a fall sports team. If you're a good player, everyone will protect you and no one will give a golly gosh darn that you are learning nothing whatsoever.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Beware The Zero-Sum Game

When Michael Mulgrew writes to say we have to make retirees pay more, or in-service members will pay more, he's engaging in a zero-sum game. 

Make no mistake--this is a desperate move. He's pitting us against other union members to try and dig himself out of the quicksand he secretly inserted in the 2018 contract. We were never notified of the health saving promised in that contract, and it's unconscionable that it was buried somewhere in there as we voted for what appeared a plain vanilla contract.

I wasn't actually sure what a zero-sum game was until I read The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. In a zero-sum game, every time one person gains something, another loses. The illustration at left shows only one person gets ice cream, when of course there could be more, or it could be shared. 

In the United States, zero-sum games cost us a lot more than an ice-cream cone. Whenever things like civil rights are promoted, opponents suggest if those people get rights, you will lose yours. And somehow, people buy it. 

This is why you get absurd movements like "defense of marriage." In fact, no one's marriage is threatened if we allow people to marry who they choose. If a man marries another man, that won't end Marjorie Taylor Greene's marriage. It turned out her adultery had a lot more to do with that than two guys somewhere who chose to share their lives together. 

On a more basic level, we're the only industrialized country on earth that doesn't offer health care for all. You'll read all sorts of nonsense, calling it "socialized medicine," but I've seen people die as a result of our miserable health care system. My father fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and toward the end of his life he was scrambling to unload everything he ever worked for. He could not afford appropriate elder care, and needed to qualify for Medicaid so his wife wouldn't lose their home once he passed. 

Job-related health care was a great benefit to people who could get decent jobs. Who do you suppose got better jobs after WWII? Here's a clue--my dad was able to buy a home due to the GI Bill. But people of color were largely denied this benefit.  In fact, people of color were denied standard mortgages and were largely cut out of the middle class boom that followed the war. Read The Sum of Us for chapter and verse. 

Remember when Obamacare started, and they vilified him for saying he lied when he said you'd get to keep your health care? It turned out the program set minimum standards for health care, and those companies that didn't meet them didn't make it. People would have to sign into Obamacare and get better policies. No one really lost, but you wouldn't know that from watching Fox News. The GOP tried very hard to kill it.

Of course Obama didn't get to offer a public option. That would've been dangerous. There would be no corporate profits to worry about and such an option would prove more than competitive. Perish forbid some rich guy sitting around in his mansion were deprived of a paycheck. Better people you and I pay more, so the rich guy can construct another chateau in the south of France.

Now, of course, we receive email from the President of the UFT saying if we don't change a law, so the city can pay less for our health care, in-service members would pay more. That makes our health care a zero-sum game. And it's not only Mulgrew doing this.

She's right about that. Still, I don't much love the implication that our salaries are the problem here. She's also been quoted as saying,  “The unions shouldn’t be taking this out on current retirees. Their changes should be effectuated on active employees or future retirees."

Zero-sum games hold us back and need to stop. Neither retirees nor in-service members should be penalized for wanting to be as healthy as possible. We need to hold together and draw a line in the sand here. 

Full disclosure--I supported the 2018 contract, and it's the only one I voted for in my living memory. It looked fairly innocuous, with raises that were at or near cost of living. Like most, I had no idea that UFT leadership had agreed to massive health care savings and kept it from us. As far as I'm concerned, none of us voted for this. Along with the overwhelming majority of UFT members, I was duped.

Unless I see the fine print, I will never vote yes on another contract. I'm sorely disappointed to see my trust broken. I won't let it happen again, and you shouldn't either. 

Contact your city council member and urge a NO vote on any changes to Administrative Code 12-126.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

UFT Leadership's Contract Plan

The odd message we got from the UFT President the other day has me thinking about contract negotiations. After urging the membership to cave in the face of a threat by the mayor, to throw the the retirees under the bus right now so rank and file won't get thrown under later, how do we take a principled stand on the contract?

I mean sure, there is a committee of 500 members working to craft demands, but I'm not persuaded that will make much of a difference. In the end, it will be UFT and DOE leadership making the deal, and given that committee members are sworn to secrecy, how will we gauge how much, or how little difference they actually made?

Everyone, myself included, would like to make more money, especially in a year of rampant inflation. Yet we're tied to pattern bargaining and you can bet Mayor Swagger is slithering about looking for the first lowball offer he can muster. Salary is, in fact, the prime consideration for most members, and pattern bargaining places it almost certainly beyond the purview of the committee,

Also, what does it matter if 500 members want something, or indeed if the entire rank and file want the same thing? Eric Adams now knows he can make threats and they'll likely as not be amplified by emails signed by the UFT President, along with mass tweets made at his urging. Imagine this:

Mayor Adams says if we don't agree to a 10% cut in salary, he will cut our salaries by 25%. Of course this is unacceptable to us. That's why I want you to write the city council and tell them to pass a bill to cut all municipal salaries by 5%. See the pre-written tweets below and share them.

Could that be an ask? Probably not, but there's now precedent for it. And how much will Adams offer, knowing that we actually went to battle for second-rate health care, trying to force our retirees to pay 5K a year per couple to keep benefits they've worked for and enjoyed for decades? If I were him, I'd feel like I was dealing with, essentially, nobody. I'd swagger here, I'd swagger there, and I wouldn't offer one thin dime in raises, let alone improving working conditions. Adams is sitting on unspent billions and pleading poverty. Our quest to cave to his demands has done nothing to help that.

Now sure, you say, but there are those 500 people on the committee. UFT is the largest local. How can we be ignored? Let me ask you this: Is there a single retiree in this city, not on a union payroll, who wants to give up Medicare for a half-baked Advantage plan that's never been tested anywhere? Probably not. In fact, given that this plan was bungled at every turn, I wouldn't be surprised if even people on union payroll were also wondering about it, albeit more quietly.

Can you even believe we're battling to change a law so NYC can charge premiums? If Mulgrew and Adams succeed in making retired couples pay 5K a year for the health care they were promised for free their entire careers, who's to say it will stop there? If Adams doesn't get to charge in-service members $1500 a year for GHI now, who can say he won't charge them 2500 next year? After all, in service members might be able to afford it better than retired members. Can't you imagine Adams making that argument? Can you imagine us supporting it?

This, of course, is all administered by the MLC. We're the largest union in the city, and the largest voice in the MLC. Meanwhile, the DOE sees us actively campaigning for worse conditions. 

It's very hard for me to imagine this administration feeling gratitude and offering us a fair contract. After all, we endorsed Adams in the general and he has yet to show gratitude for that. He's worried about vegan menus, because he's vegan, sometimes. He's worried about training in dyslexia, because he has dyslexia. He doesn't give a golly gosh darn about class sizes, because he's not attending a class. 

Mostly, the only person Eric Adams cares about is Eric Adams. Sure, he'll give the chancellor's girlfriend a gig if the chancellor will give his girlfriend one. But the fact that he'll create a scandal just to impress his girlfriend is just another testament to his monumental self-absorption. He now sees us as pushovers, and perceives that walking all over us may increase his swagger ratio.

Given that, the only way we can get Adams to offer UFT a fair contract is to make sure his pay depends on it. 

That's not happening any time soon. We're all in the same boat, we've painstakingly carved out a hole in it, and we're sinking fast. 

Leadership had better wake up some time before we hit bottom.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

UFT--If We Don't Surrender, We Will Lose

I was pretty shocked to get an email from Michael Mulgrew suggesting I needed to tweet out support for the City Council to change the law. 

The law in question says the city can't charge us for health care. That's why a lawsuit demanding the end of a charge to remain in Medicare with GHI prevailed. No matter how much swagger Adams has, he can't change the law. (To unilaterally change a law in NYC, you have to be Mike Bloomberg and buy everyone off.)

The email contained a passage that surprised me.

The city’s Office of Labor Relations sent a letter to the head of the Municipal Labor Committee giving the unions notice of its intent to enroll all Medicare‑eligible city retirees in a NYC Medicare Advantage plan and eliminate all other retiree health plans, including GHI SeniorCare. If the unions don’t go along with it, the city has threatened annual health care premiums of roughly $1,500 for all in‑service municipal employees.

So let's see if I've got this straight.  If we don't agree that retirees must pay $5,000 a year per couple to retain the care they've had forever, in-service members will have to pay $1500 a year. It's kind of hard to see the union in that. In fact, it appears we're pitting one section of the union against another. 

I just read Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse.  It's a wonderful book detailing the history of union in the United States. Nowhere in the book was there an inspiring tale of a union that gave up and lost rights. Nowhere was there a touching story of a union that pitted retired members against in-service members to prop up a privatized version of health care.

There were stories of inspired leadership facing bosses, sometimes with strikes, and sometimes with other creative actions that precluded them. Personally, I don't remember the last significant boots on the ground UFT action. Maybe someone can remind me. On Facebook, I see small protests that may include some UFT employees, but I don't see rank and file as a whole out doing anything anymore. 

I'm not sure most UFT members even know what a union is. When I was chapter leader and we were facing a strike, a member came up to me and said, "I'm going to be a scab." I reacted angrily, and the member was surprised. This member clearly expected me to laugh it off and say "Okay good buddy, go ahead and cross our picket line."

The MLC is moving us backward. If we are to fight, we must fight for improvements, not inferior health care. And again, it's unconscionable that one faction of our union is being pitted against another. This is not how we create solidarity. This is not how we inspire activism. This is not how we move forward. 

I've been writing for some time about this Medicare Advantage thing. At first I was willing to try it, but the consistent ineptitude of leadership has turned me off to it utterly. First they failed to recruit doctors for the plan. Then they failed to check applicable law and lost in court. Now they send us an email that feels like a gun to our heads--if you don't support a poorly conceived plan that has failed at every juncture for retirees, active members will have to pay.

That's not a particularly persuasive argument. We deserve better from our leadership. No, President Mulgrew, I will not be sending tweets demanding that city council degrade health care for retirees. We should be fighting to improve it. And once again, it's unconscionable that we oppose the NY Health Act

This is a quagmire. There is no victory in that email. It's the job of leadership to better our lot, not march us off a cliff.

MLC and UFT leadership need to work toward a better solution, or stand down for someone who will.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

UFT Health Care--Time to Abandon the Hamster Wheel

A few days ago, I had a column in the NY Daily News expressing support for the NY Health Act. I suggested this as a way to deal with rising health costs not only for the UFT, but for the entire state. New York State is as large as England, and if England can provide health care for all, so can we. Since I wrote that, Emblem/ GHI has raised copays

The UFT's line in the sand has been premium-free health care. I assume that line is shared by our fellow unions, or at least a bunch of them in MLC. While MLC ostensibly represents all city unions, some seem less affected than others. I know NYPD did not love the idea of $50 co-pays at Urgent Care, and was exempted from them. I also know if you choose Pro-Health Urgent Care, it will cost you a hundred bucks these days.

Premium-free is important, because once you get into that, you can never get out. Some municipalities offer raises, but then offer premium raises that render pay raises into nothing. Sometimes the premium raises are more than the pay raises and people end up making less. That said, there are other ways to attack your pocketbook, and increased copays are certainly one of them. 

We are in a mess, and we need more than hopeful words from our leadership. MLC committed to health savings, and these health savings have proved much more elusive than it seems to have imagined. While I was not overly preoccupied with having Emblem/ GHI manage an Advantage program, they're out of the picture, and I don't trust anyone else. In fact, I now have no confidence in MLC's planning ability, and given they couldn't even be bothered recruiting doctors before announcing this program, I don't think they could do it adequately with any company.

In fact, the sponsors of NY Health Act said that they would meet the same health coverage we have. The issues, despite what UFT leadership says, seem to be petty at best and disingenuous at worst:

Labor leaders say that they're hesitant to give up collectively bargained health benefits, even if single payer's architects vow that their healthcare coverage would be just as good under the new law; and they also fear that healthcare for all could reduce the appeal of union membership, since comprehensive health coverage has long been one of the sweetest perks of a union job.

This is absolutely not what we've been hearing from leadership. Furthermore, it's a poor talking point. Those who drop out of union still get health benefits from the city. It behooves us to drop this nonsense and figure out how to get off this hamster wheel. The fees go up, the "premium-free" health care costs more and more, and we desperately seek more and more extreme ways of sidestepping the premium while paying some other way. 

A whole lot of us barely even know what union is anymore. At its core, union is something to better the lives of citizens. We join together so as not to be exploited. We take stands. We don't sit and wait and hope. Every UFT member should read Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse. Those of us working in schools haven't begun to even contemplate what our union could be and do. Fixing health care for us (and for our brothers and sisters in NY State) would be a monumental accomplishment, and we're not even trying.

As to our immediate issue, there is a whole lot of talk about hospitals raising prices. If the state were to take over, prices would be much simpler. And personally, I wouldn't feel bad at all about losing those parasitic insurance companies. There would certainly be savings by cutting corporate profits to zero. There would be savings for medical offices that didn't need to maneuver between 500 different insurance companies. 

And hey, if you feel like going to some doctor that charges top dollar and doesn't accept NY Health Care, there's always New Jersey. 

You're welcome to it.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The No-Consequence Life

You'll have to click on the screenshot to see this. Look under the black box below, third from top, to see the charming comment a student left on my Google Classroom.

I sent the screenshot to several administrators. First they did nothing. Then I heard, third-hand, that nothing could be done unless I wrote it up. So I did, and it turns out the student is already suspended. So admin says there's nothing they can do. Supposedly, the kid should be disciplined from the suspension center. What are they going to do? Have the kid serve concurrent suspensions?

So I guess it's okay to post stuff like this where all my students can see it. 

And now, this kid will know there are no consequences for this action.  Can't wait to have the student return to my class, knowing that.

Of course, I can always reach out for help 😆.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

I''ve been off blog for a while...

....but you can read my new column in NY Daily News.  MLC and UFT are moving backward by weakening Medicare for retirees. That will only happen if they and Adams change a law. If they don't, in-service members will be picking up costs, and they might just do that anyway. UFT needs to get behind the NY Health Act, and again, you can read the argument right here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The MLC Medicare Advantage Plan

Bear with me for a few paragraphs, please. The other day I got a bill from Quest Diagnostics for $151.00. Evidently, it was a 20 dollar co-pay for one test, originally over 200, but after GHI sent them 8 bucks, I had only the co-pay. The other was the full, non-discounted amount. I was not happy.

I called Quest, got a message they were very busy, but if I pressed 1, they would call me back in twelve minutes. They did not. I called again, waited for twenty minutes, and got someone on the phone. This person insisted I call the insurance company, which hadn't paid. I called GHI and got a response immediately. The woman told me there were two conflicting codes, and that one had to be eliminated before they would pay.

I called Quest, waited another twenty minutes, and was explaining the situation to someone when we were disconnected. I called again, waited another twenty minutes, and the woman told me that only the prescribing doctor could change the codes. I didn't recognize the doctor's name, but she eventually identified the doctor's office, which I recognized. After losing an hour and a half over this nonsense, I called that office and left a message. 

Why am I telling this long, drawn-out story? I'm telling it because I am beginning to expect this very sort of nonsense from the Medicare Advantage plan MLC wants us to use. Its history is short, but utter chaos.

GHI has been pretty good to me, and their service is and has been better than other companies, like Quest for example. I was prepared to try the Medicare Advantage program endorsed by the city unions. However, Emblem/ GHI is no longer going to be the provider. It appears if Mayor Swagger and various unions change the law, the provider will be Aetna. I know nothing about Aetna, and I'm not prepared to trust my health to them.

This means when I (and eventually my wife) go to Medicare it will cost us $4584 a year out of pocket to get the medical plan city retirees have been getting gratis forever. And by gratis, I mean after having devoted twenty, thirty or more years to the city. I can swing it, I suppose. (Of course I'm not a DC37 worker trying to get by on minimum wage or thereabouts.) Still, I'm not getting what I was led to expect for the 38 years I've given this system.

Once we open the door to premiums, which we are doing here, we know well where it can lead. It leads to a friend of mine facing 12K a year, now, to keep health care if he retires. Of course that can increase, and it's done so disastrously and spectacularly, leading to red state rebellions. In fact, by changing the law, as Adams and various unions are trying to do, it means that standard Medicare prices can go up by pretty much any amount. Are we going to rely on Mayor Swagger to contain costs? (How is that a photo op for him?)

The Advantage plan sounded acceptable to me when GHI was going to run it. Of course, I live in the area, and I'm well-served by this plan. If I lived anywhere but here or Florida, that would be an issue. I have a friend in PA who's very concerned about this, and will surely have a $4584 annual expense if this goes through.

It's great that this plan pays doctors the same as standard Medicare. It's problematic, though, that MLC didn't bother to recruit doctors to participate. It's further problematic that this payment agreement can change at any time. In a further cost-saving method, the MLC could cut doctor payments, and effectively cut available doctors (assuming they actually bother to recruit any, which they thus far have not). Unlike many, I don't believe this is a Joe Namath Advantage scam. But it could easily degenerate into one. 

Unity is not thinking ahead. This plan is exactly why they won this year by the lowest percentage ever, and exactly why they could lose the next election. Having dealt extensively with the major opposition party, I don't trust them as far as I can throw them. It's beyond disappointing that this is all we can muster in such a potentially vibrant and effective union. We, the UFT, are poorly informed and not remotely as active as we could be.

In any case, the entire Medicare Advantage plan was abysmally planned. It lacked vision, and MLC didn't bother at all to prepare for the totally predictable outcry that ensued. Some leaders have their heads planted firmly in the sand, and are still insisting that everything is perfectly fine. However, this is a disaster, no matter how much makeup they paint over it. 

We deserve better.

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

The DOE Giveth, and Taketh Away, but It Giveth Crappeth

I'm finally using the DOE grading/ attendance system. Our school, for some reason, is piloting the system for attendance. The first time I used it was yesterday. I have a small class, and it was quite easy to use. Though I had pink sheets with me just in case, I didn't need to use them. The online system worked fine.

Alas, in my period 4, I could not get internet. While this was not necessarily the fault of the DOE, it meant that I could not use the system. This begs the question of whether an internet-based system is really workable at all. At this point I know most of my students, but I'm not sure I'd be able to recall which ones were and were not present after the fact. Utilizing a sign in sheet is a pain in the neck, and excessive paperwork if you have to record attendance twice.

I used the pink sheets and transferred the info later. I also made copies in case it occurred again. It didn't, but later on in the day I was unable to log in for minutes, and DOE informed me there was "no info found" on my classes. This suggests to me a buggy, unreliable system, everything I'd expect from a band of political appointee hacks who couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag. 

I was really apprehensive about the grading system, because today I'm giving an actual test, the grades of which I will have to record. I have refrained from grading anything until now, as my classes were broken into 20 sections. It was impossible. Seeking something possible, I looked at the DOE system and had not been able to figure out how to create an assignment or enter a grade. I hoped I could find a first-year teacher who knew better than I how to do so. 

Colleagues have horror stories. Some of them input grades and they simply do not take. Once they go to the next grade, the first is gone. Worse, some tell me that they've recorded grades that have disappeared. It appears our school has another issue--because we're so large everything takes longer. The system has to go through thousands of records to find the ones we need, and in typical DOE fashion, that's somehow an issue.

Also, if you want to weigh assignments, e.g. assign a quiz as 10% the value of a test, too bad for you. DOE, in its infinite wisdom, allows you to weight assignments at 50%, 100%, or 200%. Evidently they saw no value in consulting working teachers before releasing this atrocity. Nor could they contract with a system that's been around for years and is actually known to, you know, work. 

Our school, I learned this morning, is going to dump the DOE grading system and contract with a system that functions. I'm happy to hear that. I'll record my test in Google Classroom and hope for a better system very soon. 

I also want to thank the DOE for another innovation. Our new annex is pretty cool. In fact it's well beyond cool, because it's 48 degrees outside and pouring freezing rain. But we have no heat. An AP told me she heard official heating season doesn't start until October 15th, and that it would not, in fact, be initiated before people were trained in using it. 

I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Chancellor Soaring Eagle thinks he alone can determine beforehand how the weather will be, and can therefore determine the precise date, in advance, when heat will be appropriate. Of course, he's wrong on this, like with everything else.

In case that's not enough, right at the entrance of our annex should be a grate of some sort. It's not there, so the DOE geniuses replaced it with a piece of plywood, not precisely the sturdiest thing in the world. They then covered it with a rug so no one would see. Yesterday my friend slipped on it and twisted her ankle. I hear she's far from the first. 

Working for the DOE, you always know common sense is the least common of all the senses.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

They're Killing My Class

It's been an interesting year for me, so far. There's a lot of contrast between my first period class and the others. First period, I have six students, four or five of whom show up on any given day. 

We sit in a circle, go over the material, and talk about it, or whatever. I advise them to find opportunities to use English in their daily lives, and they listen, or they don't. But the experience is lovely, and all of them leave knowing whatever we covered that day.

My fourth period class, my next one, has been more of a struggle. Students want to speak in Spanish and Chinese rather than English, and I have pockets of students who, for whatever reason, are not motivated to learn the prime language of the country they're likely to spend the rest of their lives in. Some are lacking in formal education. I can tell this somehow. If I had Skedula, it would be on their records. Of course, what I have is the crap DOE system that breaks my five classes into twenty.

I've been told that this would be resolved two weeks ago yesterday, so I've held back on grading anything. I've assigned no homework at all. I'm lukewarm on homework in the first place. I usually give reinforcement exercises that should take no more than fifteen minutes. I'm well aware students copy homework, but I've been granting homework I don't carefully check a very low value. Of course the students who copy fail all other assessments, so they tend mostly to hurt themselves.

I'm hopeful that my DOE grading is consolidated soon. If it isn't, I'm using a paper gradebook beginning next week. I am not going to copy grades into the crap DOE system because that's redundant paperwork. I know, perhaps it helps someone, but I'm not sure who. I'm not inclined to support a chancellor and mayor who cry that reasonable class size is an unfunded mandate yet can't be bothered to give us the tools we need to do our jobs.

While my morning class would certainly not stay as low as it is now, I'm really sad they're killing it. Here's what I know--it's been very helpful to the few students who've been attending. They will be dumped into larger classes, and they will get far less attention from me. English will suddenly become a little less attractive, and distraction will become both more likely and interesting. There are good reasons why the children of people like Mike Bloomberg place their kids in private schools with classes of 15. The only reason our kids aren't is because people like Bloomberg don't like to pay taxes.

I'm very sad that actual high-quality education is something we don't deem worthwhile or affordable. My students will be dumped into classes that don't serve them nearly as well. Because I carry multiple certifications, I will be dumped somewhere I'm not needed anywhere but on paper, somewhere that will give a teacher who doesn't carry one license or another validity to teach classes he or she has already been teaching for at least a month.

Ostensibly, it's all about rules. But rules are made to be broken, and usually are. In the end, it's really all about money, and we can't afford to give a few kids a really positive and worthwhile experience. Instead, we dump them into classes of 34, and give them the same crap everyone else gets. 

Meanwhile, Eric Adams is getting Rachel Ray to design some vegan meals. He doesn't eat meat, so that's important. All the other meals will be the same crap as always. And while this program may be costly, it gets Adams press, so it's somehow worth it. It's got swagger!

Adams had us do a webinar on dyslexia, because he has it. Too bad for you if you have some other disability. For him, it's all about himself, and he'll fight reasonable class size tooth and nail. You'd best sit while you wait for that class size bill to actually take effect.

Now students can learn in this system. But Eric Adams and Chancellor Soaring Eagle aren't gonna make it easy for them. That's just not cost-effective.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Today's Message:

 If you get a bad observation, you can make it good by just thinking about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

We Need Lower Class Sizes Yesterday

The NYC class size reductions can't come soon enough for me, and almost certainly won't. Right now I'm finding it particularly egregious that English Language Learners are dumped into the default of 34 per class. I have one difficult class that I've already written about, and I'm slowly identifying exactly why it has these issues. 

Yesterday I got a new student with absolutely zero knowledge of English. Hello was a mystery to him. I sat with him a few minutes, trying to help him with the very basic work we were doing, but I had 28 other students I had to keep a close eye on. Within the next two weeks, I'm sure we will hit 34. Because of nothing more sinister than random grouping, this will be a very tough class. I'll complain, but my new students will have a much tougher time of it than I will.

This year, I'm moving more slowly than I have before. One reason is this class, as it requires more time for every activity. Another, of course, is that I want to include as many kids as possible before I give an assessment. I don't see a test in the cards for these kids for another week or two. In any case, I have twenty sections right now, and the crap DOE grading program is borderline impossible to navigate.

If I were Chancellor Soaring Eagle, there are a few things I would do differently than he does. For one thing, I wouldn't place people accused of sexual improprieties in key positions. I'd fix the crappy DOE grading software. I'd also reopen all the staff cafeterias and serve actual food that people, you know, eat. But there are other obvious things that desperately need looking at.

The biggest one, of course, is class size. It hasn't been reduced in well over half a century, and hey, times change. Of course, Mayor Swagger thinks 400 kids in online classes would be just fine. His mentor, Mike Bloomberg wanted to fire half of us and leave the rest in classes of 70. I teach high school, and I'd cap class size at 25. I'd cap it at 15-20 for ELLs, particularly those just beginning. 

The NY Post and Daily News editorial boards can rant and cry, but the fact is that's the only thing I know, and the only thing many parents and experienced teachers know that really improves the quality of education. Standardized tests are crap, and judging teachers by them is an abomination. My kids have been here for five minutes, and it's outlandish to determine I'm a terrible teacher, or a good one, or even fair-to-middling, based on scores that indicate I have no idea what.

We now have in place a plan to slowly pare down class sizes. I'd love to see it work, even delayed by a year, but somehow it seems to good to be true. The CFE lawsuit, if I recall correctly, started maybe thirty years ago. Somehow NYC has managed to slip away no matter what was decided. We have to keep a close eye on all the slippery politicians that will slither past us in these coming years.

You can take this to the bank--Any politician opposing lower class sizes in Fun City does not give a golly gosh darn about the children here. There are a million of them, and the only way we can reach them is if we get time with them. We haven't got nearly enough with the ludicrous class sizes we're saddled with. 

In fact, it was only very recently that UFT made an agreement with the city that ensured far fewer oversized classes. Before there was an agreement to have superintendents oversee class sizes, I was going to hearings twice a year to grieve them. Even when we "won," there were ridiculous settlements, like you keep teaching forty kids, but you get one day a week off from your C6 assignment. That helped nothing and no one. Now, miraculously, principals who don't want superintendent problems manage to get all classes to meet the very low standard we have.

That's far from enough, though. We really need to make sure this legislation is enforced. If it isn't, we should align with parents, students, community members, and everyone else and surround City Hall with torches and pitchforks. Nothing else will do, and however soon we do it, it won't be soon enough.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Teacher Teams and Me

When teacher teams were introduced into our school, it was via an SBO. We rearranged the day to accommodate one a week during the C6 period. (We also negotiated more prep time.) I was placed on a team with three teachers who did not teach my subject. 

My teammates were not particularly outgoing, and I ended up having to write up every meeting. I was very creative. Halfway into the year, I realized I was chapter leader, the school did not own my C6, and avoided these teams for a number of years.

Last year, I was not longer CL, so I was placed on a team with four teachers who actually taught my subject. We discussed classroom issues and resolutions. It was a surprisingly good experience. I was with colleagues I respected, and we bounced ideas off of one another. It was altogether a positive practice, and I'd hoped to do it again. However, this year we were presented with the following choices. I will spare you the descriptions in favor of my own commentary. 

Hallway beautification--I want to beautify the hallways like I want a hole in my head. I shall say no more.  

Cultural Acknowledgement--While this is actually related to what I teach, it speaks of monthly events. I have no time for monthly events, as it happens. Also, as a teacher of ELLs, I acknowledge cultures almost minute to minute. I am bone weary of being lectured on this topic by monolingual people who've almost never been anywhere.

Event Promotion--This appears to entail some monthly activity that I either cannot do or promote. When I'm not in school, I'm not promoting events. And if I were, I'd want to be paid for this. 

Teacher Care--I like this concept, but once again it involves some monthly event. I'm not an event planner. (However, one of the events was a book group, and I'll get back to that.)

College and career--I can't think of anything more helpful to the colleges or career of my students than teaching them how to use, and hopefully even to love English. I'm sticking with that.

Restorative Circle Mentors--This one is open only to people in the restorative circle program. I checked it anyway, because being ineligible, I have little chance of being selected.  

Bio-Chem with Algebra Geometry--I know little to nothing about any of it. I selected it. 

Physics with Trig/ PreCalc--Also not my area. I selected it. 

AP Physics with AP/ Calc--More advanced than the last, and about the same to me. I selected it.

APUSH with AP Language--No idea what that even is, but I wish the best to those who choose it.

Phys Ed Healthy Sports Medicine--Sounds good if you're a PE teacher. 

Art/Music--Sounds good if you teach art or music. 

Freshman initiative--Help the ninth graders get involved in all the school activities I've never been involved in, and won't be now either. 

New teacher connection--I'd have liked this if it didn't say dealing with lesson plans and stuff. I think new teachers need to learn how to deal with crazy administrators, and I'm pretty certain my input would be less than welcome. 

Curriculum adjustment--I used to sign up in the summer to write curriculum for pay. I no longer do that, and I'm not interested in doing it for free either. 

Data analysis--Just kill me now. 

After having sent in the required form, I spoke to several supervisors. I suggested "Supporting English Language Learners" as a topic, and it seems like it might have legs. It would be good for me because, you know, that's what they actually pay me to do. 

I also noticed that the teacher. care thing suggested book groups. I'd love to do that, but as part of this teacher team thing we do. Right now, I'm reading Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse. It's a history of American labor and it's blowing my mind. I think every UFT member should read it. I think every NYC student should read it too.  I would be more than happy to lead or participate in a group discussing it. 

I hope it works out. Otherwise, it's advanced physics for me. I'm happy to nod my head and pretend to understand it, if that's what it takes

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Perfect Plan

I'm now teaching in a brand new building, with brand new desks that kind of cluster together. I really like that arrangement, and I was quite excited about using it. I like to teach in a way that pushes student involvement as much as I possibly can. This is a big challenge when you're teaching an English class and a whole lot of kids don't speak it. 

There's also a big conflict in this sort of class--it's very natural for students to speak their own languages. If you and I, and others we know went to China, we'd probably search for opportunities to speak English. That would be counter-productive for us if our goal were learning Chinese, but hey, we're only human. Well, kids are human too, and teenagers are more social than we are.

That's why each cluster tended to be one language group. The dominant language groups in my classes are Spanish and Chinese, and that's how they arranged themselves. In fact, they were largely segregated by gender as well. I tried to fix that. I'd take three kids here, and exchange them with three there, and we now have a few clusters with people who speak both languages. My hope is that they will ultimately communicate in English, but we'll see how it goes. 

I did have one interesting development. A Spanish-speaking boy was sitting with another, and they were quite talkative, completely in Spanish. I moved him to a table full of Chinese girls. He was pretty upset with me for a day or two, but Friday I noticed him trying to talk to them, and appearing to fancy himself the luckiest person on earth. So that's good, as far as I'm concerned. 

However, one of my classes really started bumming me out on Wednesday, and then on Thursday. You see, I was VERY successful in promoting dialogue. It was continual. It never stopped. However, none of it was in English, and there was general disinterest in what I was presenting. After all, why listen to some old teacher when you can discuss important stuff with your friends? I singled out a few students, and thought I might call their homes.

Of course, I had no capacity to do that. The DOE, in its infinite wisdom, had shut down Skedula and substituted its not-ready-for-prime-time whatever, something that provided me with even less info than the spectacularly failed ARIS. I did speak to administrators, and finally managed to get one to send me a list with phone numbers, but by then I had an alternate plan.

I decided to rearrange the seats in this class. No more clusters. They would sit in rows. Also, I was going with a more exercise-based curriculum, with English from level zero. I don't like to introduce this so early, because I have new kids each and every day all year. The later I do it, the more of them I manage to cover. But hey, it's important that no matter what, I be the most crazy person in the room, always. 

So I set the seats in rows, which was a pain in the neck, and will continue to be. I'll have to do it every day, for a long while at least. And I tried the new material. And it worked. This was a great relief, because the day started very badly, with the worst Wordle of all time. And actually, some of the students who bothered me the most on Thursday turned into the most active participants on Friday. Having anticipated ten phone calls (which are borderline diabolical on Fridays), I made only one. I recorded it nowhere, because that is where the DOE software allows me to do so. 

I know. I should probably do it somewhere else. When things like this come up, I always say to my AP, "They can put a letter in my file."

She always gives me a very stern look, and asks, "Do you know who actually will have to write that letter?"

So to her I say, it's recorded right here. In the future, of course, there's that LIF option.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

On the Low Standards of Eric Adams and the Post Editorial Board.

Sometimes it's infuriating to just read the papers. The extreme-right NY Post editorial board excoriated Governor Hochul for signing a bill that reduced class size in NYC for the first time in over a half-century. They ignore the fact that there was a lawsuit mandating this for years, and ask why not the whole state. 

Well why not? I'd be good with that. I guess the Post doesn't know that NYC has had the highest class sizes in the state, or close to it, for decades. 

Of course Adams opposes lower class sizes too, despite his public talk about how much he loves our schools. He, of course, is the same man who's cut funding for public schools despite the fact that he's pretty much rolling in dough like never before. 

The Post and Adams can trash Hochul as much as they wish, but she will win in a landslide, and would have even if she hadn't signed the bill. At least now people like me won't have to seek third party candidates, or vomit copiously in the voting booth.

Adams and the Post, of course, fail to see what every teacher does--that the fewer kids are in a class, the more attention those kids get. Adams wanted online classes of 400, so we know exactly how much he cares about NYC's public schoolchildren. That's surely why he had no qualms about taking 6 million dollars in cash from charter interests. Forget calling him Mayor Swagger. He's the literal Six-million Dollar Man. 

And while he can rant about having to pay for smaller classes, calling it an unfunded mandate, or trash our union, the people who actually help children, the fact is education is a service. The city is supposed to provide quality education. By refusing to provide reasonable class sizes, they've neglected their job. The fact is, if they want to pay for it, they can tax big-mouthed Michael Bloomberg and all the gazillionaires who've profited as NY has suffered. Hell, they can sell Manhattan Island (and probably would if the proceeds went to Eva Moskowitz). 

Meanwhile, as the Post editorial board is busy trashing teachers and schoolchildren, they seem not to bother reading their own paper. It looks like an ambitious principal is demanding parents pay hundreds of dollars for school supplies, even though some of them are ultimately tossed in the trash. Some schools make parents buy from vendors that jack up the prices, in what looks like a shell game.

And hey, don't get me started on insane demands from administrators, the ones every teacher in NYC knows about. Don't get me started on principals who are found unfit, and either sit in their positions forever or get promoted to do Whatever It Is They Do at Tweed. 

The fact is some of the very worst teachers ever can't hack the job. They make it their mission in life to Get Out of the Classroom, and go on to torture working teachers, make ridiculous demands, follow whatever insane regs their more advanced Out of the Classroom buds create, and end up doing absolutely nothing of value for our children. 

You won't read about this in the Post editorial page, ever. Their target is the UFT, because we're a big union, and they hate big unions. They don't care if children learn in ridiculously large classes, and they wouldn't care if teachers were picked off the street to teach for minimum wage, being fired for arbitrary and capricious reasons, as their good buddy Joel Klein demanded

If you want to improve education in NYC, you'll reduce class sizes faster, provide sufficient facilities everywhere so it can happen, and tax even the Post's owner, Rupert Murdoch to pay for it. You'll stop targeting our union. In fact, if you really care about schoolchildren, you'll encourage the creation of many other unions. That's how you will provide them with better opportunities, if you actually care to do such a thing.