Friday, October 26, 2018

Get Us Two Observations, UFT!

You sing 'em the blues
And then they ask for a happy tune
And when you start to smile they'll say gimme dat rhythm and blues
And when you give 'em dat rhythm and blues they'll simply smile and say
We didn't want to hear you play
We didn't like you any way...

~Ray Davies

I keep hearing that lyric. It reminds me a lot about the number of observations. People everywhere said there were too many observations. I agreed. People feel like they have the Spanish Inquisition marching through their classrooms.

My members complained about it. Even the ones who had supervisors who were Not Insane were on edge until they were over with in May or June. It was unholy and unhealthy. Worse, perhaps, it was stupid. It was a remnant from Reformy John King's original plan. Reformy John said six observations, but only four if you'd take a formal. I think CSA pushed back on that a little.

On the blogs I'd see complaints about it. If you don't get us two observations, UFT, we're gonna opt out of the union. I took that seriously, mostly because it was ridiculous that we were sitting through so many observations for no good reason. I stupidly thought that maybe if we actually won the two observations some of those people might be happy.

I was wrong, of course. We won two observations and people said, hey, why isn't there a maximum on observations? Why didn't you get rid of Danielson? How come we can't roll back time and make things the way they were in 1996? How come we have to still come to work even if we don't feel like it?

The one I really like is how come we didn't reduce class size. I know why we didn't reduce class size. It's because the DOE doesn't give a flying crap about class size. They told me so to my face, after I told them what it was like to teach a class of 50, and yes I have done that. With an oversized class, you get an "action plan" to give you one period of C6 off a week. I told them I needed help right there in the classroom, and the only thing I could do with those 45 minutes was seek therapy for the stress inherent in teaching 50 teenagers. These people who claim to put Children First, Always, only care as long as it doesn't cost any money. They didn't even offer to sell it to us, at least not while I was there, and I honestly don't think it should be teachers paying for something every kid needs anyhow.

I see people jumping up and down about the class size issue. Some of these very same people, when I brought an elaborate class size resolution to the Executive Board, were in my face about it. How dare I bring that up without consulting them first? Who the hell did I think I was. Here's who I thought I was--I thought I was one person bringing something to almost a hundred other people who didn't really want to hear it, and who would not receive it well. I did it anyway because I thought it was the right thing to do.

Now these same people who wanted to know who the hell I thought I was are the champions of class size. How could we possibly present a contract that doesn't win this? In fairness, a lot of these people spent absolutely no time whatsoever attending Executive Board meetings. Not only that, but they didn't bother with the Contract Committee either. Who but they would know better exactly how and what should be done, since they spent not one minute trying to make anything happen?

Those of us serving on Executive Board also fought for parental leave. You have probably heard that UFT members now get six weeks of fully paid parental leave. Once we got it, it was why didn't you get family leave? Why didn't you get the state program? That union's deal is better than our deal, because they got x while we got y. Oh my gosh, if we take the six weeks fully paid parental leave, we may have to work an extra six weeks before we retire! What an unspeakable horror, to have to teach for six weeks.

I'm absolutely certain if we had taken the state program, there would be other objections. Why isn't if fully paid? How come it's this many weeks? Why isn't it that many weeks?

And when you give 'em dat rhythm and blues they'll simply smile and say
We didn't want to hear you play
We didn't like you any way
It's very hard to please the people every single time
But look a little on the sunny side...

For me, the sunny side is this--I don't have to protest absolutely everything. I don't have to insist that because one particular group takes a position, I oppose it. I don't have to insist that because another particular group takes a position I support it either.

I'm chapter leader of a very large school. I have a job, and that job is representing these members. This contract makes most of them pretty happy, and they will vote for it overwhelmingly. In fact, I predict the entire city votes for this overwhelmingly. And yes, the 2005 contract sucked the big one, but that doesn't mean I will absolutely never support another contract.

The new agreement isn't perfect. I didn't get everything I wanted. But the nature of agreements is not that you get everything you want. We have moved forward, though. I want us to move further forward, and I will work to make that happen. I will work with anyone I trust, anyone I think has good intentions.

Honestly, though, we are teachers. Times change, and I change with them. If we aren't willing to change, if we aren't willing to learn, I'm not sure exactly how we are role models for our students and children. I am always looking for ways to get things done. If I find new ways that work I'm glad. The way to get fewer observations, by the way, is is to pass this contract. The way to make members ridiculously happy is to offer them a tremendous step forward in parental leave.

Standing around and screaming this sucks, you suck, and everything sucks, to me, is not a political stance. Refusing to associate with anyone who isn't social justicey enough is absurd. It's also as intolerant as a lot of groups that merit our abhorrence, and more to the point, not the optimal way to make things happen

I don't know about you, but I'm a little busy for that stuff.
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