Friday, March 31, 2017

ESL Quiz

Please write full sentence answers to the teacher's questions, unless the teacher asks otherwise.

1. Where does your friend live?

2. What does your teacher do every day?

3. What are you doing right now?

4. What is your friend doing right now?

5. What are you going to do after school?

6. What were you doing at midnight?

7. What did you eat today?

8. What did you bring to school today?

9. How did you come to school today?

10. You don't have to answer this in a full sentence. 

For many years people have had conflicts. Sometimes there are conflicts with our neighbors. Sometimes we have conflicts within our families. We always try and find ways to resolve our conflicts. Sometimes we talk them out. Sometimes we shout at one another. Sometimes we end friendships.

When countries have conflicts, they have various ways of dealing with them. We have diplomats who meet and try to find solutions. Sometimes we make deals or trades. Sometimes, however, countries cannot come to agreements, and then we have wars. There have been many wars through the years, and of course while we try our best to avoid them, they seem to happen. Of course no one wants war.

Here is your question---When was the War of 1812?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

College Board Allows ELLs to Use Dictionaries, Gives No Time

Our school is administering the SAT and PSAT on April 5th. With approval, students with IEPs can get time and a half. However, if you DON'T KNOW ENGLISH, too bad for you. You are expected to use a word for word translating glossary and hope for the best.

On a very basic level, this is absurd. If this test is designed to measure college readiness, it doesn't begin to do so. In fact, you have no idea how much knowledge or readiness a given student has when you give them a test in a language they don't understand. Such absurd and misleading use of testing is more or less and American tradition. I've read of speakers of other languages being classified as mentally deficient due to their lack of knowledge of English.

I'm just a little bit put out by this, as ALL of my students are beginners in English. In fact, most of them are taking these tests. What on earth their performance is supposed to prove? I have no idea. It's been a while since I've examined an SAT exam, but I'm pretty sure not knowing English is a fundamental disadvantage. In fact, I deem it cruel when they make newcomers sit for the NYSESLAT, the preposterous piece of nonsense that NY State purports to be a measurement of language acquisition. This is even worse.

I don't know how much College Board is getting for this citywide administration, but whatever it is it's too much. They're raking it in hand over fist for AP classes, and lots of schools let pretty much anyone take them, whether or not they sit for tests. I have an issue with a profit-motivated entity having this much sway over college admission, and maybe Harvard University, which just dropped its SAT requirement, does as well.

I've got some serious issues with stupid, and I can think of no other way to characterize this decision. If we're being reasonable, imagine that you and I are taking a test. You understand the language way better than I do, but I'm permitted to use a translating dictionary. Doesn't it stand to reason that every moment I spend using the dictionary is a moment lost to me? Is that so hard for the geniuses at College Board to comprehend?

I hear they are sticklers about fairness. If the test gives you 45 minutes, you damn well better not take 46 minutes. That would give your group an edge on every other. Given that, how can they allow ELLs to spend valuable test time looking up words? In fact, why the hell not give the test in other languages? Since they've so carefully estimated the precise measurements for how college-ready people are, why can't they find a translator?

Would that give an edge to my students? If it did, there are issues with the test. Actually I can understand how vocabulary might not be precisely translated, but they could make up for that with good translation. If I can read 100 Years of Solitude in English, College Board can translate its tests.

If they don't, they ought to give up any and all pretense of this test being fair. If they think it's fair, they can go to China with a dictionary and take college placement tests over there, with no extra time. I'll bet we'd discover a whole lot of the geniuses over at College Board are not college or career-ready after all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

School Survey ALMOST in Your Language

One of the factors about the school survey that appeals to me is it's given in the home languages of my students. So they can say whatever they wish, and actually understand what they are talking about. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Chinese, though, which many of my students speak, is problematic. Students from mainland China, the overwhelming majority of Chinese speakers I serve, are taught to read and write in simplified Chinese. The survey is given in traditional Chinese. My co-teacher happens to be from Taiwan, where they use traditional Chinese. It was pretty odd for me to see her running around translating Chinese for speakers of Chinese.

How on earth did the geniuses at the DOE manage to be unaware that traditional Chinese is not the norm for most Chinese speakers? Why do I know this while they don't? I guess at my lowly level my job entails actually talking to real students and teachers, and therefore I learn things they simply do not. In fairness, many words are the same or similar. So students can guess. But when you're issuing a survey, and you want precise answers, you ought to know your audience.

The College Board runs AP classes. I understand that, in AP Chinese, students may choose between traditional or simplified Chinese. In fact, the city offers a LOTE language exam, which is a substitute for the former NY State language Regents exams, with that very same option. (New York State, evidently, deems language unworthy of value, which is surely why they dropped language Regents exams. It's also ESL teachers have largely been reduced to assistant teachers via Part 154.) So here's the thing--if the city knows the LOTE needs to be written two ways, why hasn't this knowledge been shared with the writers of the student survey?

It's been a number of years since I had to submit paperwork to the DOE. I'm sure things are different now, but I remember having to bring my college transcripts a number of times. I say "bring" because I stopped mailing them stuff once I realized they pretended to lose absolutely everything you sent them. On one occasion, while I was demanding a receipt for the most recent copy I'd brought them, I asked, "Why do you need these? I just sent them in a few months ago."

"Oh, that copy is on the fifth floor sir. We're on the ninth floor."

You know, you'd hope that, with computers, such problems would become fewer and further between. Still, I can only surmise that the people on the fifth floor, the ones who write the LOTE, do not converse regularly with those on the ninth floor, the ones who write the survey. And who wins? Why bureaucracy of course. Things are complicated and incomprehensible for no particular reason.

How do you feel when you hit snafus like that? How would you feel if you got a survey, everyone told you how vitally important it was, and it was almost written in English? I don't know about you, but I'd be fairly pissed off. Would I trash the school for it? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'd think the people who designed the survey were idiots.

If I were around fifteen years old, like my students who took the survey, that might color my opinion even more than it does now.

Update--A teacher friend of mine tells me that Regents exams are also offered only in traditional Chinese.

Monday, March 27, 2017

UFT Executive Board March 27th, 2017

Note--Most of the Executive Board was in Albany for Lobby Day. Meeting lasted 26 minutes.

Howard Schoor welcomes us, points out many members are in Albany or on way back.


President’s Report—Mulgrew not here.

Staff Director’s Report—LeRoy Barr—Education forum successful. In Rye, CL training Part 3. Next Monday Exec. Board again. Today is Lobby Day, most members are there. Over 800 members there for second go round. Spring recess April 10-18. When we return, we have DA.


Arthur GoldsteinMORE—-CEC voted to keep JHS 145 open, while PEP voted to close it. What are our next steps to support our brothers and sisters in JHS 145?

Schoor—Lawyers will check. Not sure it is illegal, but we prevented 19 schools from being closed. We will not allow them to violate law. Will keep you updated.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—When people are brought up on charges sometimes they can return to teach, but are placed in ATR pool. How can we stop this?

Schoor—Big issue for UFT. One way is they get fined and become ATRs. We are in negotiations with DOE. That is part of our discussions but we don’t have an agreement yet. Went back to 2011 agreement. Was lawsuit lost that said any kind of discipline and person can be moved. We are trying to change that.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Colleague has son with IEP. Also at public school. We cover for her so she can make it to IEP meetings. Do we have any way so staff can attend IEP meetings?

Schoor—School by school decision. We do have personal business days. A-601 says principal may allow people to come late but doesn’t have to. Bring it up in consultation.

Carmen Alvarez—There is no right by law. You have to negotiate with your school.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Re: CPE and AFT campaign against Right to Work. Randi Weingarten just sent a petition against this. CPE is progressive school fighting abusive admin. I feel strongly about this, having experience. Great teachers and unionists protected me and that’s why I can stand here. Randi said pols have to make economy work for working people, respect voice. Made me think of CPE. Two parts—what do we know about AFT campaign around RTW, and second, what does UFT leadership think about organizing around CPE as a way to actively demonstrate what Randi is talking about, voice in workplace, and fighting unions.

Schoor—RTW already in majority of states. We’ve gone to states to organize. Several people sitting here have helped people sign up. Not sure about AFT campaign but I will make sure we do what we have to do here. We will bring that school up to chancellor to see what they are going to do. Watched video, is compelling. We will bring it up and report back.

Report from districts

Schoor—Working on professional conciliation, article 24. Not just in teacher contract, but also in several others. Way to try and resolve matters. Had two high schools with issues in choosing a novel. We are trying to make this a more professional situation where we have voice. We did a survey and 72 schools reported no curriculum whatsoever. Board used to have a division, for every subject. Board had experts. Bloomberg did away with that. There are now funds, but not mandated curriculum.

Legislative report—Paul Egan absent

Schoor—Demonstrations around city against GOP Senators who support charters. Around state were demos against other GOP Senators. Very close to charter folks. Many uncertified teachers in charters. Budget due on Friday, may be extended

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Doesn’t Cuomo take money from them too?

Schoor—Sure he does. Many pols do. We have to make sure people we support get elected.

LeRoy Barr—In support of health care for all—Our President is giving a lesson in politics. He thinks his political situation is like business, that he decrees and it is so. Glad he is getting his comeuppance. Glad to see town halls with people raising voice. They didn’t realize they would take health care away from 24 million people. We want to make sure whatever they go forward with, that it’s responsive to people’s needs. We oppose GOP act, want to improve safety net. Most sensible course is single payer. Want to mobilize members to fight for all people having affordable health care. Either they have access or you will have other issues. Please support.

Passes unanimously.

We are adjourned.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The NYC Investigator

Yesterday I was visited by some charming representatives from the City of New York. They were doing an investigation, and I got called out of one of my classes. A member was sitting there. It was not very difficult to know what to say.

"Please give us your card. The member will be happy to speak with you as soon as we have representation."

I've been chapter leader for eight years now. I was trained to say this, I tell all my members to say the same thing, and that's the protocol. In the last eight years, I know of only one member who failed to follow this advice. He was fired. I'm not saying that wouldn't have happened anyway, but I'm absolutely certain it didn't help.

Every time I've given the card speech, the  rep has handed the card, and the member was represented. One of these guys was different, though. He was indignant.

"Do you know what this is about?" he asked.

"No, I don't."

"Do you care what this is about?"

"No, I don't."

Whatever it's about, the protocol is the same. The investigators from are not our friends. I've seen them drag people through the mud for no reason.  They might say you aren't the target and target you anyway. But this guy, he had an answer.

"YOU don't care about CHILDREN! All YOU care about is protecting TEACHERS!"

There was some back and forth and I told him that was a strawman.

"YOU don't know what a strawman IS!" declared the investigating genius.

In fact I know very well what a strawman is. A strawman is a logical fallacy. It's when you fabricate or misrepresent your opponent's argument in such a way to make it look ridiculous or impossible to defend. It's when you tell your opponent what he thinks. Actually, though, this was also an attempt to rattle me. And it worked. I was pretty angry. I work for children every day of my life. I will not hesitate to go to jail for them if guys like this one come into my classroom. 

I went outside with the member, who told me what the issue was. We then went back inside. I decided to make him mad this time.

"We've discussed the issue. NOW I know what we're talking about. Please give us your card and the member will call you as soon as we have representation."

The DOE guy got visibly upset, screaming more about how I don't care about children. Evidently, if I cared about children I would advise my members to give up their rights to due process. I would tell them to submit to the lies and manipulation of guys like these without question. Then the kids, the ones this guy cares about and I don't, could grow up into a world in which they unquestioningly submit to guys like this one.

I asked the guy if he fancied himself the Amazing Kreskin, what with his reading my mind and all. I told him I'd be filing a complaint about him. I don't much appreciate being slandered and vilified for doing my job. He then turned to the member, and shouted, "Well, if you won't talk now, we're not coming back here. You'll have to come to Manhattan, or maybe Brooklyn." Threats and intimidation designed to make the member give up due process.

You know what? Everyone should get due process. Accused murderers get lawyers. Whatever happened, my member needs to be protected. If my member isn't protected, the children this man supposedly cares for won't be either.

Later that afternoon I called 311 to file a complaint. After much conversation they told me they were switching me over to DOE, and that I could file the complaint anonymously. I told them I didn't want to be anonymous and they said that was OK too. I told them if it was DOE I'd like to do this through UFT instead, so I hung up and reached out to someone there. I figure a complaint from the United Federation of Teachers will carry more weight than it will from just me.

But if they don't do it, I'll do it myself. Whatever happened in this case will come out, and the city is simply going to have to follow procedures to make that happen. Their bullying and intimidation tactics change nothing. I guess, though, that they work sometimes, maybe often, and that's why we need to answer them.

The only thing I regret is that I lost my temper as well. Clearly that was this guy's intention. That won't happen again. When kids do that to me, I'm ready. I respond to provocation with complete calm, offer gentle reproaches, and think about what I'll do next. That's what I'll do the next time this or any other city rep tries to intimidate me.

Correction--I'm now told that this agency is not part of DOE, despite what 311 told me. I've revised the piece to reflect this.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Julio Awaits

It's been a non-stop week for me. On Monday I was at UFT Exec. Board, Tuesday our school had School Leadership Team, Wednesday was the UFT Delegate Assembly, and last night was a parent-teacher conference. On TOP of all that, I actually had to show up to work each and every day. In fact, I'm here now as I had to do it again today.

I've been to a lot of parent-teacher conferences and there is a certain art to it. For example, you need to get your message out, listen to the parent's message, and see if you can come to some agreement. This notwithstanding, you have to keep an eye on how many parents are around and calculate just how much time there is. Some of your kids are great, and you just want to sit and talk to them all night, but that can be a problem. There's always some list of parents who don't get to see you, and you need to call each and every one of them in that case.

So you sit and calculate how much time you have, and you conclude the meetings once there seems nothing more to accomplish. Of course, if you have a co-teacher that doesn't always work out. Let's say, for example, that you stand up and say thank you for coming and she doesn't. What exactly is the etiquette for that situation? I'm not sure, but what actually happens is you stand there like an idiot while she concludes the conversation. This can be particularly awkward when the conversation is in Chinese and you haven't got the remotest notion what the hell they're talking about.

If you happen to speak Spanish, you can wreak vengeance by dominating the conversations she doesn't understand. Sadly, that's not a practical strategy. You've got two and a half hours, and after getting up ridiculously early each day and staying out each night, the prime directive has to be getting out on time so you can get that precious 8 minutes of sleep your body craves. So you whisper things like, "We've got eight more parents waiting for us," and hope for the best.

But sometimes things go awry. For example, I rushed my co-teacher to finish with a girl who disappeared semester one, only to return two weeks ago. We didn't really have much to say except she's only been here for two weeks. I later discovered that her dad was about to reveal the mystery of her disappearance and I ended the interview just before it was solved.

Now it's not an ideal situation. One way I prepare is by making actual appointments to see parents of students with major issues before these events. I actually had a conference with a parent Wednesday, and while it may or may not have been successful, at least I didn't have to spend an extra half hour at work last night. Sometimes it's practical to hang out, I suppose, as there could be a parent you really need to connect with. Nonetheless, I managed to get out on time.

My co-teacher, alas, was not so lucky. As chapter leader, I teach four classes rather than five. Some parents of students she teaches solo showed up, and she had to stay. She appealed to my sense of justice. "You're my co-teacher so you have to stay with me," she said. That didn't fly with me.

All my family was out having big fun somewhere or other, and I had priorities. I've got a little boy at home, pictured above, who depends on me. If I didn't get home ASAP, he was going to explode. I rushed home, got Julio out of the house quickly, and all was good with the world.

It's all about priorities.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

UFT DA March 2017--UFT President Shuts Down Move to Amend JHS 145 Reso

  • Announcements

Mulgrew thanks us for being here.  Moment of silence for UFT members who’ve passed.

President’s report—Michael Mulgrew

National—Says we’ve set out a strategy and now have to adjust to changes. We can now officially get rid of Friedrichs and say Janus, out of Illinois. On schedule for fall docket of SCOTUS.

Said our strategy has to be to protect NY from DC. Says he will call President 45. Plan to repeal Obamacare will be voted on tomorrow. Congressman Collins from Buffalo bribed for his vote. Still has to go to Senate, but if it passes Congress, it’s now shifted a huge cost, 2.4 billion, to NY State. Until we extend or expand millionaire’s tax, we already have 3.5 billion deficit.

We’re within 12 days of budget. If we have to put plan for additional 2.4 billion, it’s a big problem. Mayor and governor working together. NYC reps understand this. Points to Andrew Pallotta from NYSUT, says he’s working with us.

We are in constant attack politically, besides challenges in workplaces. Won’t be easy. How many times can we say Public School Proud and we have to do this and that. Says we are the leadership and we have to keep pushing or they will win.

If NY pols want to screw NY worse than anyone else, they will hear from us. Says he wants to show John Oliver but language is too bad.

Likes that we can use Trump’s ed. budget to say we told you so. ESSA is still the law. Once you pass a law, it’s then up to the agency, which sets regs. Law remains and regs give guidance. ESSA regs have been rescinded. Looks like they will leave ESSA rescind regs, and thereby enable budget.

Additional funds for Title one, without regs, can be a billion dollar voucher program. Title 2A is teacher PD, Saturday, after, summer school. Trump’s person said nothing proves after school or feeding children makes them do better in school.

They want to defund, destabilize public ed. and say it doesn’t work. Want more money for charters, no transparency or accountability. Says pols are either for local public school or against it. Says we now have the most famous Secretary of Ed. in US, for wealth and incompetence.

Says this relates to Lobby Day and we will tell state officials. Education and health care are biggest pots of money and we are working together. Thanks Paul Egan for reorganizing after blizzard. We need to say Feds want to destroy public ed. and ask if they are with us or against us.

Talks snow day. Says some people have to report. It is not contractual that you report. City makes decision school based personnel have to report. Mulgrew asks why others don’t, and is told they have to take personal days. Union didn’t and wouldn’t agree to this. We have no more snow days. If we get another blizzard day added on at end of school year. Next year’s calendar has two snow days. In my heart I stand with people who say St. Patrick’s should be holiday, but torn as union leader.

Tonight there is a PEP panel closing schools. You will hear a lot about Renewal Program in mayor’s race. Third doing well, third stable, and third moving down. Tonight they are voting on 145 in the Bronx. If no supports are offered we need to tell the tale. We have reformers saying public schools are failing, will use closing schools as examples. If nothing is being done by DOE behooves them to change what’s going on. I go to Banana Kelly which is all of a sudden in better place and see a happy staff with collaborative leadership.

Teachers. counselors and secretaries have bosses. We follow directions. Administrators also have bosses, superintendents responsible to chancellor. Fault rises up when there is failing leadership. If we don’t move all of our schools reformers us this against us.

Proud of mayor for saying ICE won’t enter schools without warrant, as students were fearful. You can’t tell us our job is to protect children and ask us to step aside when people come into our buildings. ICE said we will not enter buildings except under exigent students. We don’t know what that means but we’ll see. Parents have said they are fearful.

Despite all that Public School Proud working well, will push after budgets. Will report next month.

Vouchers and tax credits across country are unprecedented. Outside NYS people are disgusted. Fewer people in ed. schools. This isn’t helpful. Still we need to educate children.

Feds no longer fund community learning schools. Teacher choice, dial a teacher and BRAVE we will push.

OPW under teacher discretion. Exception when principal mandates something, Part of arbitration.

Speaks of success in paperwork complaints.

Says principals are departmentalizing everything, including kindergarten. From K-3 departmentalization requires SBO.

4-6 ELA and math are posted positions but preference sheets must go out before decision. Departmentalizing anything else is SBO.

DOE is now approved CTLE vendor. We worked to help them because was in member interest. We can’t do their work for them. They have to do paperwork to be approved. They also have to get approved instructors. We have quite a few approved, but Monday PD is not approved because NYSED wants to know how DOE will be sure it meets criteria.

We started last June but putting CTLE together took a lot of work. DOE doesn’t work as fast as we do.

We have to stick to our plan, insulate NY, push people on public ed., renew coalitions. Saturday this place was full of guidance counselors. Thanks chapter. Saturday PM 1100 paras celebrated. Previous Sat. early childhood. College and career fair last week. Thanks Janella Hinds.

Says this is righteous fight. We’re right, they’re wrong. We’re good they’re bad. Says we take fight to them, support friends, we win. 5:10

Staff Director’s Report—LeRoy Barr

College and careers called future in focus 460 students, 26 unions, made sure children are college and career ready. Thanks Janella Hinds. Early childhood conference, guidance conference, para luncheon, March 25th, Men in Education Forum starting at 9. CL weekend. Please call and fax and thank those who participate. PEP meeting tonight, asks people to leave and show support for this school. Rich Mantel there now. We have resolution there. Go to Tweed and show support for school, against Moskowitz Academy. Enjoy break.


CL—DOE hired Randy Asher. Is DOE really trying to help ATRs or will he try to fire them?

We try to protect ATRs. We went five years with no contract and didn’t sell them out. Would have made us at will employees. Have spoken with Asher, willing to work with him. You could utilize existing agreements. I don’t know their intent. We’ll see where it goes.

CL—How can we coordinate with other unions against constitutional convention?

We are coordinating. We’ve done more school visits and may be ahead of curve. They say we only care about our pensions. Of course we’re concerned about them. Shows they don’t understand constitution. Pension is agreement. We pay this, you pay that, and this is what we get when I meet conditions for retirement. Reason is that many people didn’t get what was promised. NY State said agreement was agreement. Pols used to protect working people.

You will see this amp up after budget is settled. Great piece in New Yorker about reclusivee billionaire, donates to Trump, and a lot of money for constitutional convention.

CL—Charters—original concept was collaboration, laboratory, been eroded and made negative. Can we put forward Shanker’s view instead of DeVos’?

This was not Shanker’s idea. He changed position when he realized it was about privatization. No one remembers that. We have many examples of good ideas being mutated into bad ones. DeVos thing led us to good place with state officials. If charters solve problems, fine. If they make money or don’t take all kids we don’t want them.

History of vouchers was to avoid segregation. Some in south closed public schools and gave vouchers. Deprived African American students of school. This history will be told again. You don’t have choice if voucher covers pittance or if you’re cut out. No choice when you destroy public ed.

CL—Members worried about TRS letters saying they are at a deficit. They are receiving lump sum based on retroactivity, Pension contributions problematic.

Don’t freak out. Retro can’t be included in final pension, but is part of pay that must be included in pension. Ask Tom Brown and we will help.

Delegate—CTLE hours. Paras concerned. Having hard time getting to UFT. Issue is it’s good idea but it’s coming so much during our time. Paras don’t get paid on our level and teachers not paid on level of being constantly certified. Police laugh at us. We are giving away a lot of time. can we do this during school hours?

One of the reasons why we helped DOE become CTLE certified is this. We have four more years to get 100 hours. We will develop more in regular day.


Paul Egan—UFT supports proposal to keep people in homes and save people millions. Home stability. Passes.

Peter Lamphere—MORESupports JHS 145 and DA adjourning to join PEP in solidarity. Defeated

Political Endorsements—Paul Egan—Recommends endorsement of Stringer for Comptroller. Record as great advocate of our union. Stands up for our pensions and NYC fiduciary responsibility.

Michael Freedman—CL—Says he defeated Moskowitz for Manhattan borough prez.

Marjorie Stamberg—opposes Democrats and Republicans. 40% of people prefer socialist.

Question called.

Endorsement passes.

Egan—Recommends Laticia James—Didn’t defeat Moskowitz but has great track record in NYC.

Question called.


57th Anniversary UFT—Resolution—Mel Aaronson—In 1960 UFT formed through merger, and many other groups joined. Teachers all over America benefited from our work in becoming first local in country to have collective bargaining. Took a lot of work including three strikes, but this thanks those who came before us. Pledges our continued fight for what we look forward to, better ed., civil and labor rights.  Further supports fact we will support each other in safe and healthy workplace. Urges everyone to support.

Dave Pecoraro—calls question

Mulgrew asks veterans from 1960 to stand. Much applause. Standing ovation.

Regents Grading

Janella Hinds
—This resolution covers scoring for Regents exams. Says what happens in January and June is waste of time and resources. We seek better system. We would like tests moved and people to remain in their schools. Asks for support.

Arthur Goldstein
MORE—For the last few years, midyear Regents exams have been a mess at my school and others. One year the principal decided that we would proctor school midterms that week. It was a disaster, as no one remembered that ESL students also take tests, and administration for students with special needs was virtually impossible at this volume. We had a new and improved plan this year that also did not work with members, who had a ton of mandated projects and no time to grade them.

This will also save the city a ton of money, which could be used for a whole slew of purposes more worthy than correcting tests. The state raises cut levels to make us look bad, and lowers them to make politicians look good. I understand that they might therefore assume we are as corrupt as they are. I’d argue there’s no reason we shouldn’t grade our own students, but since regulations rule that out, I’ll argue there’s no reason we shouldn’t grade other students from our schools. In fact, smaller districts all over the state do just that. Honestly if we aren’t honest or capable enough to grade papers, i have no idea why they even hired us.

But since they did, I urge you to vote for this resolution and restore some small degree of teacher autonomy.

CL Bryant Georgia ?—speaks against, says this is opportunity to meet other colleagues, says principals will pressure teachers, and there’s good per session.

Retired teacher—Says if tests are changed and moved, doesn’t believe principal of one school will ask you change tests for other schools. Saves money and makes sense.

Question called.


Carmen Alvarez
—Support of Immigrant New Yorkers—Speaks of undocumented and fears. Federal threats chill our young people and their families. Asks we support them.

Marjorie Stamberg—Wants to amend. Would like to add to stop broken windows arrests, which undercut claim NYC is sanctuary city. Would like to not permit ICE or other immigration officials in our schools, will stop deportations.

Stuart Kaplan—
opposes amendment—says resolution speaks to supporting immigrants. Says it supports families. Amendment would take away from nature of what resolution is written to do. Says we should stand with what DOE says.

Retired teacher—Understands amendment is illegal. If ICE has subpoena they can come in.

Speaker supports reso opposes changes. Compliments Stamberg. Says reso says to city you are doing right thing.

Question on amendment called.

Amendment defeated.

CL—Asks to close all matters.

Resolution passes. 5:55

Karen Allford—Supports Juvenile justice reform. Our goal is to make sure all kids read by third grade. We’ve seen coaches, libraries, after school programs but with 1.1. million kids some may be incarcerated. We don’t want 16 and 17 year olds with adults. They are children and we must support them to raise the age. Only NY and NC do this. Please support.

Question called.

Passes unanimously. 5:57

LeRoy Barr—Supports Resolution in support of JHS 145. Spoke about this a lot. Don’t want it replaced with Moskowitz Academy. We should attend tonight and make DOE do their job. A school that wants to succeed needs opportunity to do so. Please support.

Delegate from Adult ed.—Was heartbreaking to see students, former students and teachers say what they had not had. DOE sat there and said it was done deal. Moskowitz has already advertised she has space. Didn’t make a difference. Time to become rowdy.

Dave Pecoraro calls question.

James Eterno calls to amend—

Mulgrew says it is a courtesy—after back and forth rules Eterno out of order—doesn’t allow him to speak.

We are adjourned.

Update: Here is Eterno's proposed amendment.

When Students Step Up

When you have a co-teacher, a lot of things are different. You can immediately deal with a student issue by taking that student out in the hall and discussing whatever there is to discuss. Immediately things get better. Or worse. Or stay the same. But hey, at least you tried. Forgot that handout? You can go get it. Sent a student to the nurse's office and you suspect he's walking the halls having big fun? Go check.

There are some things that you do, and some things your co-teacher does. You develop a routine. You write a lesson, and she makes it look more Danielson than you would. Is that a good thing? Who knows? But if it's Danielson it's better when someone is observing, even if Danielson herself doesn't buy into that train of thought. Maybe your co-teacher decides she should take attendance, and maybe she does it better than you would. Maybe much better.

But if you're gonna be absent, you have to alert your co-teacher. You can't just leave her hanging. Are you the one who wrote the plan for the day? Will she be the one hanging in the wind when the Part 154 police come to make sure you're doing whatever the hell it is they want you to do? Regardless, you have to be careful. I haven't actually been absent this year, though I've had a few times I thought I would. But as chapter leader I have to go to meetings all the time, so she's been on her own on more than one occasion.

On the other hand, I hadn't taught solo since last year. I was actually pretty nervous one day last week when my co-teacher didn't show up. I didn't tell her that, of course. Don't worry, everything will be fine I said. Actually it was. One big reason was that one of my students got up and decided it was her job to help. When I asked why this student was absent, she identified two more. When I had to hand out papers she took half. When I had to call people to the board she said, "I'll do it."

In fact, she sat at the teacher desk and kept an eye on what was going on. She gave people looks. You know the look. Usually only teachers have it. But this kid saw a need and she filled it, having never done anything like that in her young life. Then a boy who sits in front decided that he was going to help too.

Sometimes when there is a need people just step up. Like when the most verbal student in your class is placed in another class, suddenly another student becomes the most verbal. It makes you wonder just how much verbiage you've left untapped. I guess we never will, and the best we can hope is that those groups and pairs you set up actually result in more worthwhile conversation. Of course you can never know whether the ones you aren't watching are just gesticulating and pretending to make sounds so you will shut the hell up and leave them alone.

But I'm encouraged when kids I like and respect step up and give me new reasons to like and respect them. I'm particularly encouraged when they just step up and do it on their own without any request from me. It's really more than I have any right to expect.

Monday, March 20, 2017

UFT Executive Board March 20, 2017--CPE1 in House, JHS 145 Reso Watered Down

Secretary Howard Schoor tells us there will be five speakers tonight.

From Central Park East 1—James Schoff—Thanks teachers and parents. Says new principal came to school, was less democracy and teacher voice. Progressive school, practices do not match standard curriculum, principal was disruptive. Tenured teachers pushed back and were under investigation for various charges. Some unsubstantiated, others ongoing. Whenever she is challenged there is investigation. Supe refused to engage, but met some with parents. Only 3 tenured teachers left in school. 5 teachers left last year. 2 currently under investigation. As far as he knows, charges unfounded. New untenured teachers afraid to speak. If teachers can still teach we want them returned to our school. Without them our school will fail. They are talented and to make them ATR would be a crime.

Bonnie Massey—parent, UFT social worker, son went to CPE 1 because it was democratic and progressive, staff was empowered. Since new principal, kids are learning something other than democracy. 70% of parents want her removed. We have worked very hard, and been ignored and insulted. Principal has lied to parents, tried to pit them against one another, created unsafe environment. Oversaw largest drop of scores in city last year. Traumatized teachers and children over lies, targeted CL and delegate. Hostile and unsafe work environment. Asks for your support. Mulgrew said he would protect our children, and we need support. Offers info packets.

Marilyn Martinez—CL of CPE 1 sitting in rubber room, going through process. True they have not put in grievances. As school they wish to take care of issues in democratic way. Has been impossible with new principal. I am going through 3020a for my involvement and opposition. High teacher turnover rate should raise flags. Teachers disappearing. Teachers not receiving support, facing removal procedures. Teachers forced to leave. Fears for colleagues still in school, wondering who is next. Who is Monica Gart and why is she so privileged?

Fran Myers—Adult Ed.—Says it is weakest link of our union chain, can be used to break union. Expresses solidarity with CPE1. Says we need to be visible and support one another. Similar things happening in adult ed. since Rosemary Mills is supe. All old principals are out along with many APs. Some retired and other couldn’t take her directives to unfairly U rate people. Signed non-disclosure agreements. Asks for investigation of her hiring practices, says they are from one part of the world.

Schoor—Give us a list of issues and we will take it up with DOE.

Minutes—approved. EB and Adcom.

Mulgrew arrives—6:17

President’s Report

Federal—Budget—Says he will say 45 instead of President’s name. Was all we expected. Using this in Albany. Knew they would come after public schools. Title 2 gone, no community schools, no class size, no PD. Base title 1 left intact because it was in legislation. Suspended and killed ESSA guidelines and regs. Says they don’t want to open it up again. SCOTUS started today but no one listens because of Russia investigation. We want to use Fed things to gain state influence. NY Senate had egregious charter language, we’ve faxed and visited all over. We say they are DeVos puppets. Most well-know Sec. of Ed. is DeVos. If you know her you don’t like her. We have to push.

Dept. of Labor cut 20%, hurts seniors, jobs, safety.

I said there was a storm coming, it’s here and we are prepared. Saturday we had a para fest. We packed room with guidance counselors. Early childhood conference packed. All had PD, all were here, and we talk of how we have to work with parents and push back. We had faith based breakfast. Texas has no vouchers because ministers work to lobby for public schools. Texas minister came here and we will try to organize them here.

DC constantly in disarray. Some people say it’s on purpose to slide things through when no one is looking.

Second snow day. We don’t want a third. Snow days not contractual. Some members have to come in—all city workers except school based personnel. Two snow days next year. If we have to make up time they will add it at year’s end. Says members should know about snow day limitations.

Dave Hickey will do presentation on finances of UFT in a few weeks for EB. Says there is fake news about UFT being two months behind on dues. Says we are never behind on dues. In January city collects them and we don’t get them until March. We’ve always been on time. We have solidified financial shape of union. People who’d hurt us start investigations that we pay for.

Our expenses have gone down and extra money goes into service. We did a resolution when 45 won and we filed and refinanced our properties. We didn’t wait for interest rates to go up. We have our own politics with DOE. We still have friction. Our biggest issue is their lack of responsibility reigning in principals. Everyone has a boss and principals can’t do whatever they wish.

I am going after superintendents because they are responsible for principals. They are the reason we had to put up with bad principals. We have to also do work in Albany. This is not a fluke that’s going away. People in government want to kill public education and destabilize school systems, introduce privatization.

Our union will be strong financially, prepared for attacks, but we are the ones at the forefront of this fight. In state houses controlled by people who don’t like public ed., controlled by rich people, it’s a very tough fight. We will amp up the fight. Thanks us for work we’ve been doing. Amazing that our events are full. Activists know what is going on.

Mulgrew moves resolution up. So moved.

Refinancing passes.

Mulgrew says this is our fight and we’re not going to lose. Everyone loves neighborhood public

schools. DC wants to snuff out education for millions of children.

6:37 Mulgrew leaves

Catlin Preston—teacher at CPE 1 for nine years. First signer of letter to principal, eleven days later had first LIF for insubordination, 11 days later, second, one year ago was reassigned. March completed 3020a. Pattern of administrative abuse. Teachers suffer, no consideration for children, asks for action. 

Staff Director’s Report—LeRoy Barr

Speaks of conferences for paras and counselors. DA Wednesday. Saturday Men in Education Symposium. CL Training next day. EB next week.

Arthur Goldstein MORE—Regents week has become problematic for some large Queens high schools, including Francis Lewis and Bayside. It’s also hugely expensive for the city, which now has to pay a whole lot of money for things we used to do as a matter of course. I’m thinking money like that could be better used, for example, to preclude higher medical copays for UFT members. In any case, I’ve been told that if the Exec. Board passes something and it doesn’t go the DA it becomes UFT policy. First, is that true?

If so, I’d like to ask when you are going to discuss Janella’s resolution about Regents week with the DOE.  IF not, I’d like to know when this is going to be introduced at the DA. (People on dais seem to think it's not true. Michael Shulman, from audience says it is and Schoor says he stands corrected.)

Schoor—Will be resolution 2 next week.

Janella Hinds—Regents has been problem for last two years. Is high on agenda. Hoping to pass it Wednesday.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Thanks speakers, says President spoke to issue. CPE was a particularly progressive school People who applied wanted to work there. Family at my school said it’s important we support Marilyn. Would like this to be poster child for Public School Proud campaign. Gratified to hear superintendent would hear from us. Would like to hear reports on supe who undermines type of school she runs. Looking forward to report. Can we hear specifics about this?

Schoor—We are open and respond to questions. We will respond.

Mike Schirtzer
MORE—We got an email from Mulgrew about Trump plan that we could lose 140 million in funding. But we are going to the state and NY State Government owes us, according to AQE, 1.9 billion dollars based on CFE. Are we doing something about that on Lobby Day? What’s our plan going forward. If we get that money we could give big middle finger to Mr. Trump.

Paul Egan—Lobby Day is always about budget. That’s why DOE allows us to be released. All our discussions will be about that. Will we get 2 billion? I don’t think so but we will keep pressure on them. We want NYC to get its fair share. In Albany more elected Dems than GOP but GOP controls. We need to get along with IDC but will hold all accountable.

Reports from districts

Janella Hinds
—reports event that took place March 9th—College and careers. Students from 30 schools. Got great feedback and very proud. Will be second next year.

Ellen Dreisen
—District 20—May is public school proud arts month. Schools will do performances. We’re very excited. Superintendent invited DeVos

Shelvy Abrams
—Saturday over 1000 members. Many new, had never been to such a function. Many honored by their peers. Thanks everyone.

Arthur Goldstein MORE—A few weeks ago several teachers and I joined Vice President for Education Evelyn de Jesus at the NYSABE, or NY State Association for Bilingual Education Conference., I’ve never been in a group so large where everyone had such a razor sharp focus on the kids with whom I work every day. Everywhere I went were people focused on their future. We sat at tables with superintendents and principals, people of whom I’m generally suspicious, and the thing we mostly discussed was how we can keep our kids safe.

Michael Mulgrew told NYSABE if they came for our kids they’d have to arrest us. I was very happy to hear him say that and I’m ready to join him if it comes to that.

Evelyn can’t be here right now, but one thing I heard her say several times, was that she was ready for whatever happens. She said in Spanish, better than I could, that she could dance if they wanted, or fight if she had to.I’m happy to say, though, that in this union, in this city, and at NYSABE, there seems to be no sunlight between our positions on protecting the children we serve every day.

Paul Egan—Legislative report—Lobby day postponed because it was on blizzard day. We started again and booked again. As of now we have 750 people. Sadly day before testing. Still time to sign up.

We will also be doing district meetings at month’s end talking about budget issues.

We will be doing many endorsements. This month we are doing for comptroller and public advocate. Recommends Scott Stringer and Tish James.

Schoor—We recommend that.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Do they have opposition?

Egan—not significant.


Tish James endorsement—

Paul Egan—Petitions haven’t been circulated yet. There may be opposition later, but no one who hasn’t started now is serious.


Resolution—57 anniversary of UFT

George Altomare—NYC special, never know where you’ll get inspiration. Real inspiration comes from within. In 1960 we had nothing more than dreams. 1200 of 50K teachers wanted collective bargaining, equality at table, had dreams. Was crowded on train today. Gentleman, well dressed, started chanting or singing. Said over and over, in the land of dreamers, dreams come true. That’s what we were as NYC teachers 57 years ago. No one expected us to survive or grow. We are a citadel of good will and humanity. We won a strike, won a union, won collective bargaining, and we thought that’s it, now we can just teach.

That wasn’t true. We had some big strikes. Strike of 68 tested us. In 75 the fiscal collapse, when we thought it was over, we survived and so did the city. Then we faced Bloomberg, and now we have today. We have to remember one thing Jefferson said—Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. When we get to a situation like this—Vigilance is price of liberty. Are we willing to pay the price?


Mike SchirtzerMORE--Raising resolution in support of JHS 145. Threatened with closing. On PEP agenda, will vote whether to close. Have been in media. Rich Mantel has been fantastic on this. Community made it to Brooklyn, Bronx. JHS is a community school. Should not be closed. Wasn't provided what it was entitled to as renewal school.  We’re endorsing de Blasio Fariña should be on our side. This is Trump-DeVos agenda. A non-unionized charter would replace it. Latino and Muslim students. We ask to adjourn DA early and go to PEP to show support as union. We need to do more, to come together. If we can send a bus to DC, we need to go to Tweed and say closing community schools is unacceptable.

LeRoy Barr—Wants to echo comments. Rises to amend. First resolved—UFT will continue to take stance against closing. Strike rest. Strike second resolved that DA attends. Says many people will attend. We are up against a lot and can’t adjourn business of DA, but I will encourage all to show at PEP.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—supports original resolution, supports edits to first resolved but wants to keep second. How often can we give union support to our brothers under attack? Person who receives solidarity gains much. Person who participates also gains. No business more important than letting our members stand in support to each other. Nothing more important than giving that sense to all our members.

Eliu Lara—supports amendments. Says Lehman open because we fought. Clinton HS open. We fought for that. A bunch of people from that school will go. We are supporting 145.

Janella HInds—speaks in favor of amendments. We only have DA once a month and need to get through agenda. LeRoy will announce from podium.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Speaks in favor of original resolution. Understands we have important business. We live in peculiar times. Normal protocols no longer apply. Politics of our country, political leaders, don’t respond to a seat at the table. Don’t address our concerns in democratic and respectable fashion. This is why people are hitting the streets all across the country, Occupy, BLM, Women’s March, our institutions are disconnected. We have public schools in neighborhoods that serve low income black and brown students. We’re talking about closing that schools with union-busting, segregated corporate model. That’s catastrophic. We’ve gotta draw a red line at some point. Our union is formed out of fight, protest, solidarity. This is our calling right now. We’re in a generational fight for soul of our city and country.

Karen Allford—Supports resolution as amended. We know how to balance our priorities. We have to get through DA and have folks there. We have a good enough ground game that we can finish at 6 and have people there. We are smart enough, we can juggle schedules, and get both things done. We have to get through business of budget, alert members about DeVos and we can balance both.

Kuljit AhluwaliaNew Action—Stands in support of original resolution. We need to get involved. We can pick a time that doesn’t interfere with union business.

Vince Gagli—Moves to close debate.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—point of information—Why are we striking part about march and rally?

Schoor—Mr. Barr said what he wanted. Not open to debate.

Debate closed.

Schoor—Resolution before us, keeps whereas, strikes last resolved and amends first.

Passes resolution as amended.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action--Did we vote on everything?

—Calls vote. Says yes agrees with Barr.


Revotes for resolution as amended.


Resolution passes.

We are adjourned.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Art of Co-Teaching

A lot of people complain about supervisors. I hate to admit it, but I tend to get along well with mine. Whenever we have a conflict, she sits me down and talks until I agree with her. I actually recognize what she's doing, but she manages to persuade me, and once I agree with her there isn't much left to discuss. But she also has a perverse streak.

Three years ago I said to her, "Well, I'm gonna be in the trailers forever." They'd pretty much become part of me. So what does she do? She pulls me out and puts me in a real classroom for the first time in over a decade, using some flimsy excuse about a turf war with the English department.

One of the little-known things about us trailer trash teachers is that we don't use classroom technology. This is largely because no one puts expensive equipment in some trailer. The classroom they moved me into, though, had a computer and a monitor. In the beginning I panicked, but fortunately the impressive looking computer equipment didn't actually work. I would hang my jacket on the monitor and demand credit for using the technology. (The next year, when it actually worked, I started using it, but had no place to hang my coat. You can't win.)

Last year, there was a lot of Sturm und Drang over ESL. We weren't real teachers because Part 154 said teaching a language didn't involve actual subject content, so we had to pair up with other teachers and hope for the best. I was lucky, though. While my colleagues were pairing up with English teachers, it turned out I was a licensed English teacher. Who remembered that decades ago that was how I started? I could never manage to get a job as an English teacher, so I went into this ESL thing.

Co-teaching wasn't a new thing, but it was more concentrated in special ed. before this. I watched various pairs of teachers having conflicts. Once I was appointed, with another teacher, to break up a class between two teachers who simply could not function together. Later I was forced to get involved with several pairs who needed to separate but could not, with various unrewarding resolutions. I thought, "Who the hell needs this?"

But then I made an egregious error. I told my AP, "I don't ever want to co-teach with anyone." For some reason, utterances like that get my AP thinking, and what do you know, the next year I had a co-teacher. That wasn't my only mistake, though. For a good part of the previous year, I'd been commenting to the AP that one of our new teachers was very quick-witted and personable, and I repeatedly said good things about her. These two things together kind of sealed my fate.

So now I have a co-teacher. As co-teachers go, we get along well. We have conflicts. I work very quickly. I cannot survive otherwise. She likes to think about stuff. I'm like, "WHY are you THINKING about stuff? It's not EFFICIENT!" But she just sits there thinking anyway. Our classroom is an odd place. I am running around like a lunatic, with kids constantly telling me to calm down. I tell them, "I AM PERFECTLY CALM!!!" My co-teacher is thoughtful and patient, forever working out ways to get things done despite all the noise.

On Monday there will be a class size grievance for my school. Two of the oversized classes are ours. I'm pretty sure they will stay that way because we have two teachers. Nonetheless, I'm gonna complain. After all, if I don't do it, who will?

I have to conclude, though, that my AP has persuaded me once again. I pride myself on being a huge pain in the ass and the craziest person in my classroom. I'm fairly confident that few of my students or administrators would begrudge me that description. This notwithstanding, as far as I can tell, my co-teacher and I get along a hell of a lot better than a lot of pairs I know.

This is what my AP planned all along. I hate it when they are right.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Art of the Spiel

BREAKING--President Trump today offered to restore the cuts to Meals on Wheels if Nordstrom's would restore the Ivanka Trump line of fine Chinese-made clothing. He said it may not have been selling well, but blamed President Obama.

Nordstrom's CEO, Roger P. Duvernoy, replied, "Is he off his meds or something? No one wanted to buy that crap, so we took it off the shelves."

Sean Spicer, in his press briefing, said it was not President Trump, but rather Duvernoy who'd be ultimately responsible for the cuts. "Look, we tried to work it out. We made a very reasonable offer. But hey, if Nordstrom's doesn't wish to support the First Family, they're clearly un-American and don't care about our elderly. This was a good faith offer."

President Trump was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Most Popular Politician in America is Bernie Sanders

That's what this poll says. And it breaks my heart to think we played it smart by going with Hillary, the sure thing. I am really angry with people who still tell me we made the right decision. I am really angry with people who tell me Bernie couldn't have won. Hillary Clinton lost an election against perhaps the most unpopular candidate who ever ran. While she got more votes than he did, she lacked the vision, the foresight, and mostly the popularity to defeat a person who should've been an easy target.

Donald Trump is targeting Meals on Wheels, a program that costs a whole lot less than his Florida vacations or providing security for Melania and the kid here in Fun City. While he visits his own resort every weekend and we peons pay the bills, he plays golf. He relentlessly criticized Obama for doing the same thing a whole lot less.

Trump's heath plan is ridiculous. We cut and cut, you're screwed and screwed, and millions of Americans will be on their own. Meanwhile, Trump blabbers about his bigot wall, about keeping out Muslims, and about how tough he is. He's gonna bring down ISIS. You know how you bring down ISIS? Put them on Trumpcare.

And still on Twitter and Facebook people lecture me that running Hillary was a good idea. She had all that experience. So what if she took all that money from Goldman Sachs and won't tell us what she said? So what if she's massively unpopular? So what if she was compromised in other ways as well? So what if she failed to offer any significant improvement to the lives of American people, things like universal health care, a living wage, and college tuition for those who can't afford it?

The fact is that Donald Trump went out there and promised significant change. While he's a pathological liar, a malignant narcissist, and likely delusional, he resonated. He certainly picked up the bigots and xenophobes among us. And they certainly feel empowered with white supremacist Steve Bannon sitting in the White House.

The prevailing wisdom among those who pushed Hillary above Bernie was that he was too extreme. Several people have cautioned me that you can't elect a Jewish socialist. It's interesting to see people who are ostensibly progressive say Jews can't get elected. They said the same about Catholics when JFK ran. And they said the same about African Americans when Obama ran. People just don't like that group. I suppose they said the same about women when Hillary ran.

Then there's the socialist label. Bernie actually refers to himself as a Democratic Socialist, which means he embraces practices like those in Europe, where people have, you know, universal health care, a living wage, and cost-free higher education. But the people lecturing me on social media can't be bothered with that stuff. They just say you can't elect a Jewish socialist, and of course they aren't bigots, because maybe they are Jewish, maybe they have a friend who's Jewish, or whatever.

And they aren't prejudiced against socialists, because they don't even know what socialists are. Certainly they haven't bothered to do the most cursory research on what Sanders means when he calls himself that, because hey, he's a Jewish socialist, a Jewish socialist can't win, and they're very keen and incisive so they've decided to go with the sure thing. Hillary was the winning bet and why take chances? It was her turn. She's been around for years and years and years and anyone grasping for genuine improvement for America is crazy and demanding too much.

The result of all this brilliant thinking, in case it isn't crystal clear, is President Donald Trump. Time for all you supporters of mediocrity and hollow talk to give up the ghost, renounce neoliberal nonsense, and work toward bringing Americans what they need. In case I haven't made that clear, it's universal health care, a living wage, and cost-free college.

Every time we thoughtlessly reject those who'd actually help us, we risk moving even farther away from what we need. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The 6th Class

In my school, a lot of people teach six classes. A lot of them love it. After all, if they're in a shortage area, they can make about 12K extra per year. That's not bad.

Like most things, it's not always good. In my own department, I was discussing how it's problematic. One of my colleagues said she really needed the money, and I certainly understood that. Life in the big city is expensive. I live 20 miles from Queens and even I know that. On the other hand, I pointed to another colleague, a very young woman who just started with us, and said if enough people had six classes, she wouldn't be here. In fact it's likely that some other teacher, just like her, is not here because some of our departments have so many teachers with six classes.

A few years ago, there was a woman in my department who was having issues. She was new and I try to help new teachers sometimes. I walked into her class the first time and she appeared to have no lesson plan at all. Kids were involved in some complicated procedure that some of them had completed, and others had not. The ones who had completed it plagiarized, absolutely positively. I told her she was lucky that it was me and not the principal. The next time I visited she had a sentence on the board, that, "Students will be able to do some thing or other." I knew that this sentence had some place in a lesson plan perhaps, but not on the board. This teacher left our school at the end of the year. Last I heard, she works in a charter. She had six classes and that didn't help at all.

I've presided over all sorts of fights over sixth classes. It's problematic in that most of our classes are annualized, the contract says they have to revolve each semester, and that sometimes they don't get posted. Also, sometimes people get appointed in October and say hey, how come my job lasts only four months and hers lasts five? Sometimes people work it out amongst themselves, which is kind of cool. Other times I tell people they won't prevail in a grievance and they file anyway. For me, that's sometimes convenient as I can write one grievance and recycle it ten times. Rotation, actually, is a pretty simple thing to figure out.

Of course, other times these jobs are available to everyone, so the fight becomes who doesn't take it. I'm an ESL teacher and in fact I'm now the senior member of my department. I am always offered an extra class and I always turn it down no matter what. I can't figure out how I keep up with what I'm already doing now. Yesterday I came in over an hour early, which I always do, and left over an hour late, which I don't always do. I don't even know how I find time to write the blog (though I have to say doing it so frequently has caused me to write a lot faster).

This September I learned something that has caused me no small amount of existential pain. For years UFT reps had told me that if you took a sixth class you gave up a prep period, and it does indeed say that in the contract. I took this at face value until I had a conversation in which someone told me to seek out and read Circular 6R. It turns out that it specifically says anyone who does this is excluded from the C6 assignment. This is not largely followed in my borough, at least. So I found a member to put this to the test. Sadly, the member later decided not to pursue the grievance.

So I'm looking at other ways to fix this. I'm sure I'll find one. I can understand how a principal might feel like, hey, I'm paying you all this money and you say you won't do potty patrol for me anymore? That's not fair. On the other hand, if I go out and call some kid a jerk, I'll be facing charges under CR A-421. I could say to the principal hey the kid is a jerk so that's not fair either. But that doesn't mean I won't get a letter in my file and face 3020a if I keep calling kid jerks.

Moral discussions are interesting. I like them. I have them in my classes sometimes. I'll have one with you all day long if you like. But right or wrong, I'm in trouble if I fail to abide by the contract or any number of chancellor's regulations. Then there are state and federal laws and all sorts of other things that hinder my self-expression. This notwithstanding, if I want to stand up at a faculty conference and warn everyone that the end of days is nigh, isn't it a violation of my First Amendment rights when the principal orders me to sit down and shut up?

Well, it isn't actually. And it doesn't matter if Trump is president and I actually believe the end is more nigh that usual. I can scream it on soapboxes and mountaintops, but if I do it in meetings and classes I'm likely to find myself shuffling papers somewhere while awaiting that 3020a. I guess, though, that screaming while I shuffle the papers couldn't make anything worse.

Do you teach a sixth class? Do you want to? Is it better to dole out the sixth classes or hire new teachers?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Making Nice With Governor Andy

 I was pretty shocked that UFT leadership declined to join a pro-education march because they were trying to maintain a good relationship with Andrew Cuomo. To me, it feels a lot like cozying up with a scorpion. I mean, maybe it seems like a good idea at the time, but after a while you're gonna get stung.

Andrew Cuomo was the very first Democrat for whom I declined to vote. I had never heard of a Democrat whose platform entailed going after unions before. It didn't seem like a good idea to me so I voted for Green candidate Howie Hawkins. Cuomo was lucky to be running against frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic Carl Paladino that year, and seemed invulnerable for some time thereafter. His sheen is looking a little tarnished lately, but I don't buy it.

It appears, though, that UFT leadership does. After all, he's withdrawn his "principled" opposition to the millionaire's tax, and with the advent of Trump,  is trying to remake himself as Bernie Sanders Lite.

I got a recent email from a friend who pointed out several things with which our newly-minted progressive governor is still not precisely supporting us:

Elimination of foundation formula that drives more funding to NYC and other high needs districts--That doesn't sound so good, does it? I'm writing this from my chronically overcrowded building, where you're lucky to make it up the stairs in time for class. We're facing massive potential federal cuts, what with Betsy and her tax credits, and I'm not at all certain how we could endure cuts from one source, let alone two.

Raising of charter cap in NYC
--Haven't we got enough buildings that have dumped libraries so as to accommodate Moskowitz-branded test-prep factories? Don't enough kids pee their pants while "slamming the test," or whatever the hell it is they do in those places? Haven't we already done enough to accommodate a two-tier system where Moskowitz does whatever the hell she pleases, refuses to agree to conditions everyone else takes for granted, and then trashes us for the crime of taking and keeping every NYC kid no matter what?

More funding for charter schools statewide per student--I don't know if you've thought about where the money for that will come from, but I have no doubt it will come from us. We'll be told to do more with less. Sadly, we're already doing that. There comes a point when you end up doing less with less, and if we haven't reached it yet, it's a miracle. If Andy's our friend, and this is how our friends treat us, who needs enemies?

More funding that we have to pay for their space in NYC if DOE does not co-locate them in our public school buildings--I don't suppose I have to tell you where that money is coming from. It's preposterous and outlandish that Bill de Blasio, even with so-called mayoral control, is compelled to support charters he, and we the people who elected him, do not even want. This rule came along three years ago, and a highly-placed source in NYSUT told me that Michael Mulgrew supported it. While I haven't got the proper equipment to read Mulgrew's mind or search his soul, I can say that UFT leadership did not raise a peep in protest when this happened.

All of which would be terrible for our schools--That's true and I don't personally trust Andrew Cuomo any farther than I can throw him. It's nice that he placed his finger up to the wind and determined that people in NY are very anti-Donald Trump. But it's not hard to determine that Andrew Cuomo is a self-important, self-serving, morally bankrupt windbag who does whatever suits his relentless ambition.

Andrew Cuomo is already running for President in 2020 and will say and do anything he deems necessary to suit that goal. Nonetheless, he's still the same scorpion he was when he first ran for governor, stated he would go after unions, and pretended to be a Democrat.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

De Blasio Makes a Good Call

I don't know about you, but I just made breakfast and I'm sitting in my cozy living room drinking coffee. I'm pretty happy for 1.1 million schoolchildren and over 100,000 DOE employees who are not going in today. I heard almost immediately yesterday when de Blasio made his call to close the schools, and I ran around the halls and offices telling people. I watched kids and teachers literally jump for joy.

This is a far cry from the Klein era, when I'd be up and blogging at 4 AM wondering whether or not the schools would be open. I'd see my car snowed in and the guy on channel 2 would be shaking his head that the city had yet to make the call. It would be maybe 5 AM when they determined that yes, it was a terrible snowstorm and they were closing.

I took my dog out over an hour ago. He hates this weather and I knew it was only gonna get worse, so I dragged him out of his little bed and pulled him reluctantly outside. He still hasn't spoken to me, but I expect he'll get over it. Hopefully later my wife or kid will take him out and he'll be thankful I did so before things got so bad.

I absolutely recall days as bad as this or worse when I went in. The only concession I made was not dressing as I usually do. I figured if they made me shovel my way in and out of work that I'd dress the part. I'm very grateful, this morning, to not be in my car and listening to Mayor de Blasio announce that everyone should stay home. Instead, he actually made it possible for all of us to do so and is putting his money where his mouth is.

I understand the thought that this inconveniences parents who do have to go to work. I understand that this may cause some of them to stay home, and that there are two sides to that coin. But here in Nassau County, they've always closed the schools on days like these. People like me often had to go to work when that happened. And despite all those school closures, our island has not, in fact, broken away and floated into the Atlantic. I expect New York City will survive this day as well.

Bill de Blasio set a precedent last month when he made an early call to close the schools, a precedent he followed yesterday. He gave parents and teachers adequate notice. He didn't make them sit by the radio. He didn't make thousands of teachers get up, shovel themselves out, set out to work and turn around. That's happened to me at my chronically overcrowded school, which I've had to to report in as early as 7 AM. Now, at least, parents who need to make preparations won't need to make a mad rush at the last possible minute.

Could this be ushering in a new era of treating snow days in a manner that is not insane? We can only hope. Now if he'd just unload the Bloomberg-era DOE lunatics.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Will They or Won't They?

 Update--Mayor Bill de Blasio has closed NYC schools tomorrow, March 14th.

I'm really wondering whether they're gonna close the schools tomorrow. Snow Day Calculator says there's a 99% chance, but this is New York City, so you never really know.

I hear there will be 12-18 inches of snow. De Blasio closed them last month for far less, so perhaps that sets a precedent. I hope so. I usually go in no matter what, but I remember two nights where it took me four hours to get from my school to my home, a distance of 23 miles. Right now, I'm wondering whether that's such a good idea.

On snowy days, I like to stay home and hang out with my dog. He's just a little guy, and he's utterly bewildered by the snow. What the hell  is this stuff, he seems to wonder. Why can't he get into my backyard, which he sees as his private restroom. Why should he have to suffer the indignity of pooping on the front lawn? You don't see humans doing that, usually. Why should he have to do it?

Given the last snow day was a lot milder than many days I've gone in, I'm thinking a big snowfall will make de Blasio call Carmen Fariña and tell her no it is NOT a beautiful day and don't you dare say so. I'm in total agreement. A beautiful day is NOT a day in which you drive west on the Long Island Expressway with cars constantly crashing to your right and left. A beautiful day is NOT a day when you drive home at a speed of five miles an hour and have to pull over to manually wipe off your windshield. And a beautiful day is NOT a day when you drive in and hear the mayor, your boss, say, "Jeez it's awful out there. If you don't have to come in, for goodness sake, stay home."

On the other hand, a ridiculous snow day when only half the kids show up is a good excuse to give a ridiculous quiz that they all get a hundred on. Talk for five minutes about the wonders of art and the different forms that have existed all over the world at different times, and then ask them what color the whiteboard is. Talk about how language has shaped politics, how it forms the way you see the world, and how the Eskimos have twenty words for snow. Then ask the kids what language people speak in China. Give them ten questions like that so they get a high score and feel like it wasn't a total waste of their time coming in.

On the other hand, on days like that don't you feel like the people who didn't come in are smarter than you? I don't necessarily feel that way while I'm in the classroom, but oh, during those four hour drives home I don't feel so smart at all. And as much as I like to see the intrepid souls who are as crazy as I am on days like that, I think if I see a foot of snow outside I'm gonna give up immediately and stay home. I have a feeling that if it's that bad, de Blasio will close the schools.

One thing--last month Mike Mulgrew told the DA that we had only one snow day, and that any day more than one would have to be made up. However, I've now heard from both Mike Schirtzer and a very meticulous school secretary of my acquaintance that we have 182 days this year, and that we can actually take another without having to make it up. So let's hope Mike 2 is right and Mike 1 made a mistake. While you can never be 100% sure about Mikes, my school secretary friend knows everything, as far as I know. (Of course, that's only as far as I know, and I can't promise to know more than either Mike.)

What are you gonna do if Snowmageddon 2017 arrives tomorrow morning? Will the mayor's decision affect yours or have you already got your mind made up?

Update--My most reliable UFT source says we have TWO snow days, so we would NOT have to make up tomorrow. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Can You Teach an Old Democrat New Tricks?

Shaun King has a lucid and chilling column on the future of the Democratic Party--or lack thereof. At a time when Donald Trump is the least popular starting President, the Democrats and Hillary Clinton have managed to make themselves even less popular. That's a remarkable achievement. King explains it very clearly--the Democrats fail to stand for anything. They oppose Trump, but take the same corporate cash as the GOP and fail to put forth a much-needed alternative.

No one knows this better than teachers, having lived eight years under an Obama administration that treated us, incredibly, even worse than GW did. in fact, Diane Ravitch wrote that Obama gave Bush a third term in education. The Democrats, in their zeal to "triangulate" and get donations from anti-labor causes, embraced Bill Gates and so-called Democrats for Educational Reform. When teachers are rated by junk science test scores, they have Barack Obama to thank for it.

Then there are, of course, those of us who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Bernie spoke of universal health care for all Americans, as opposed to the compromises of Obamacare, which it appears we are likely to soon lose anyway. He spoke of a living wage for Americans. He spoke of free college for all.

Hillary and her supporters told us that was pie in the sky. You can't have that. You are "Bernie Bros." In fact, just recently a UFT employee attacked me for being a Bernie Bro, and went so far as to say he should not have been allowed to run. Of course, this person misses the point entirely. I had no problem voting for Hillary when the alternative was Donald Trump, but a lot of Americans felt, with a choice like that, they'd just sit it out. I voted. I got everyone I knew to vote. Of course, in our twisted and preposterous electoral system no votes from NY State mattered anyway.

The question then becomes where the Democrats go from here. They just failed an important test by selecting a Hillary supporter rather than a Bernie supporter to run the DNC. In case it's escaped your attention, Hillary was a tremendous failure, one of the worst in the history of this country. It was her turn to run, so she ran, and like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, electoral results showed that being your turn did not translate to becoming President.

All evidence suggests the Democrats are planning to go their merry way and hope for the best. And all results suggest that is a failed strategy. I am personally very angry with the Hillary supporters who berated me during the primary. I am incredulous that they muster the chutzpah to continue blaming me, or worse, Bernie for their miserable, hurtful and humiliating loss. It's like they don't see what's right in front of their faces, or they simply refuse to.

I'm a teacher. A lot of my job entails talking to students. Sometimes I have to explain what they did wrong and try to show them how they can do better. With die-hard Hillary fans, this is tough. Okay, take this gun and don't aim it at your foot again. If you aim the gun at your foot again, it's highly likely you will end up shooting yourself in the foot again. Oops. You did it again. There goes your foot. Let's go back to the emergency room right now before Trump kills Obamacare.

Democrats need  a message more effective than, "We're not Trump." I see no evidence of any such message and that's a shame. Of course we can possibly raise another party from the grassroots, but that could take years. We could easily sit through term two or more of Trump while we wait.

Forget What's the Matter With Kansas. What's the matter with all of us? Can't we do better than this?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Happy Students Learn More and Happy Teachers Teach Better

I wish I could tell you I thought of that title, but it's a direct quote from Texas superintendent John Kuhn. Don't you wish all superintendents thought that way? Imagine looking toward being productive and helpful rather than vindictive and petty. I know, it's asking a lot, but it's kind of common sense. Of course, there's a Spanish saying that common sense is the least common of all the senses, and I must say I'm a subscriber to that train of thought.

Every day I read articles everywhere on the perfidy of teachers. We don't want to work. We get health benefits and we don't deserve them. Our jobs are easy. We should get rid of all those messy certification requirements and let just anyone do it. Let's judge teachers by test scores. Let's ignore the fact that this is utter nonsense and never, ever question whether the tests are even valid. Let's assume that Moses carried the tests from Mt. Sinai alongside the Ten Commandments. Let's open charter schools because they're all about saving the children. Public schools are dropout factories.

It's tough for us because if you just read these pieces and take them at face value, the arguments appear to not be insane. But when you're in the classroom each and every day, you see things the bureaucrats don't. You see things the papers don't. When some genius in Albany decides that teachers shouldn't grade the tests of their own students it might make sense. After all, if teachers are rated by the tests, they have an incentive to juke the stats.

Now that's true. But why are we being rated by tests when the American Statistical Association says teachers change test scores by a factor of 1-14%? Of course there's that assumption that we're crooks. Now I will freely admit that I want my kids to do well in my classes and on tests. But that only means I'll help. It doesn't mean I'll cheat. Of course, if I were in Albany, where they lower the bar when they want to make politicians look good, and raise it when they want teachers to look bad, I might assume that cheating is rampant. After all, since they cheat as a matter of course, it's only natural that they assume everyone else does too.

Then there's the assumption that teaching is an easy job. You just sit on your ass and watch kids work. Some people say that worked in the 50s, but I don't believe it. Teenagers may wear their hair and clothing differently but they're always teenagers. Me, I would not want to sit unprepared in front of 34 random teenagers and hope for the best. I prepare every day. If I just sat around and handed out worksheets the kids would probably toss me out a window. Not everyone can do this job, no matter what self-styled geniuses like Nick Kristof write in the NY Times. There are very good reasons why half of all new teachers leave in the first five years. In fact, I've seen inspiring and brilliant young teachers walk out of my school, generally a better place to work than many others.

It's not much of a miracle to attain good test scores when you select only students who have proactive parents. Let's take a look at so-called miracle charters. First of all, they are not a default--they require parents to take the step of finding a school and entering a lottery. That in itself sets them apart from the public schools everyone attends. When you add to that the fact that charters can dismiss students who don't attain desired test scores without replacing them, the field becomes even less level. Kids who are dismissed from charters get sent back to public schools, who are then labeled as failures for the scores of those very kids.

What's really amazing is, with all those advantages, charters don't tend to do that much better than public schools. And consider what it would mean even if they did--if you chain kids to their chairs until they pee their pants their test scores can be higher. Who the hell wants to treat children like that just so they can get a few points on some test?

Not me. I believe it's our job to find joy in life and share it with them. I believe that kids should be able to laugh, even if they have to laugh at me. I want my kids to look forward to my class. It doesn't mean that I won't give them tests, but it means they won't necessarily be sitting around in my classroom waiting for the bell to ring, or death, whichever comes first.

John Kuhn is onto something. Someone send the memo to school leaders, up to and including Betsy DeVos. Of course that's a joke. Fanatical ideologues don't believe in joy.

But I do.