Thursday, August 29, 2019

Principal's Message, Annotated

I'm so happy to see you all back here. I know you're all re-energized and ready to work. Pretty soon I'm going to put up a PowerPoint and read it to you word for word so you don't miss anything. Because it's so precisely worded, I'm not going to vary at all from the text. Also, I haven't actually seen it yet since I made the APs write it. But this is very important information, and that's why I made them write it.

I'm so over having PowerPoints read to me.  I don't like to brag, but I actually know how to read. I always wonder why the person can't just send me an email. I might not read it, but I'm most certainly not paying attention when you read me a PowerPoint. Sorry, but that's a fact, Jack.

When I went to chapter leader training maybe ten years ago, UFT VP Sterling Roberson stood up, used a PowerPoint, and did a pretty funny commentary on Joel Klein using a magic mirror. I thought, "That's what this thing is for." Actually if you watch John Oliver you can see that sort of usage. You don't need to be hilarious or anything. You just need to use the display as a backdrop for introducing info that isn't on it, or you explain what is on it.

Before that, I'm going to give you the school handbook. Now I know none of you are actually going to read it. To tell you the truth, I've been so busy forcing the APs to write the PowerPoint that I haven't actually read it myself. I'm not even sure who wrote it, but it's been around for a long time, and every time the Principal's Weekly says to inform you of something, I have a secretary tack it on. Also I sometimes just make stuff up and write it there. 

The school handbook is not, in fact, anything that the city and UFT agreed upon. They can write they want you to be in a half-hour early, or that you need to go on weekend retreats, or that they want written lesson plans a year in advance. It doesn't matter. It's not actually enforceable when they write stuff like that. If, on the other hand, if the handbook includes information, like where to get keys or something, you might have something useful there. Who's read their school handbook? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

If you get in trouble, I'll have someone look something up in the handbook and probably place a letter in your file saying you violated whatever it is that you violated. Now sure, you have some kind of Collective Bargaining Agreement that is, you know, an agreement, so we're bound to follow that. Fortunately, though, the DOE has a department called "legal," and whenever I call them to ask whether or not I have to follow stuff in the contract, they say I don't.

This has been a problem since time immemorial, or at the very least since Mike Bloomberg enabled "legal." This is basically a clown car full of people intent on wiping their overeducated posteriors with the collective bargaining agreement. A teacher friend of mine who's also a trained lawyer was recently offered a job with them. (He turned them down, complaining they offered him absolutely no credit for years of service.) Absolutely every time I've had a conflict between a UFT source and "legal," UFT was right. I'm not persuaded these geniuses even bother to read the contract they're supposed to interpret, and a former employee of theirs assures me they do not.

Of course you have no voice in the handbook, and no one has agreed to it, but legal says it's okay for me to write whatever I want there, so I do. And be aware I reserve the right to amend it any time I see fit, in any way I see fit. Let's say, for example, that I don't like the way you say hello to me in the morning. I may, in that case, add a requirement that I like the way you say hello. If I fail to like it, that's a letter to file. If I repeatedly fail to like the way you say hello, you will be brought up on charges and reassigned.

That's ridiculous, of course, and it probably wouldn't fly. But principals can threaten you with anything and everything, so they could easily say something like that. I actually know someone who got in trouble for failing to say hello to her principal in a way the principal deemed satisfactory. "I am the instructional leader here," this pompous principal proclaimed, and went on to harass my friend over this and other such meaningless nonsense. She didn't bring my friend up on charges, though. Even vainglorious and crazy has limits.

But I digress. Right after I get through the PowerPoint I'm going to read aloud, we will do Right to Know, which is the same thing we've been doing every year for the last thirty years. We're required to do that, because we always assume you weren't listening the last 29 times. That's why we do it again. I feel that this will be the time you actually pay attention. And don't worry, if you don't, we'll just do it again next year.

Actually this is not on the principal, who's actually required to do this every year. But bear in mind when he ends that and starts the three-hour lecture on why it's bad for students to be late, that the DOE calendar says Tuesday, day one, should be primarily dedicated to preparation for the school year, to wit:

On September 3, 2019 the following staff report: Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Guidance Counselors, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, and Educational Paraprofessionals. School Secretaries, Psychologists and Social Workers report for a regular work day. Employees in titles not listed should consult the applicable collective bargaining agreement. This day shall be utilized for preparation and planning for the new school year. If time permits, the remainder of the day may be utilized for professional development.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty nervous about prepping lessons for students I haven't met before. I really need time to do that well. I haven't got any books yet, I don't know when or if I'm going to need or get them, so I'm going to have to rely on my own resources and the copying machine. That copying machine will be in intense demand day one. I usually get in ridiculously early so as to have a small advantage. On day one I'm not worried about my AP catching me unprepared, I'm worried about my students catching me unprepared. They will not.

This, alas, doesn't preclude that vital three-hour lecture the following day.

Remember, students shouldn't be late, because they shouldn't. Lateness is bad. Make sure you tell them they're late, and give them a hard time about it, but not too hard a time about it, because that's verbal abuse. Also, fail them if they're late. But don't say you're failing them because they're late because you can't do that. Say you're failing them because they missed the classwork or something. But definitely fail them. Now let's move onto our next topic. How can we pass absolutely everyone in absolutely everything no matter what?
blog comments powered by Disqus