Sunday, September 29, 2019


What's more basic than trust? In just about every relationship in your life, that's what dictates how things go. Without trust, every relationship is that much more limited. You can't say this. You can't do that.

So far, I think my students trust me. There's a really good vibe in my classes. I hope I can maintain it, but you never know. A unique characteristic of ESL classes is they tend to double over the year, particularly if you teach beginners. Those who come in mid-to-end of year tend to struggle. (You also get students who are determined not to learn the language because, for whatever reason, they don't like being here. Some overcome it. Those who don't are pretty unhappy.)

The entire thrust of the Mulgrew-Carranza video is trust. This is a big ask. It's complicated by the fact that this entire rating system was developed as a battering ram to fire teachers. If you were reading the news or watching Andrew Cuomo at the time it came out, you know that all too well. Personally, I don't have great feelings about this system and never have. It doesn't matter that much what ratings you get. Well-rated teachers are nervous too.

This notwithstanding, I've come around on certain aspects of it. It turns out, despite my dire predictions, it has not fired a huge percentage of teachers. As many times as I've complained about the junk science of MOSL, it turns out that it helps a whole lot of teachers. They get rated low by supervisors and then seem to come up. I've spoken with other chapter leaders who tell me the same.

This leads me to a conclusion I've made more than once on this page. The prime obstacle to a reasonable evaluation system is more complicated than what the system may or may not be. When we rely on what is essentially a crapshoot to dilute the actions of our supervisors, those actions are suspect, to say the least. It's great that Carranza can talk credibly about the essential dignity of teaching, but do those below him reflect his spirit or actions? Ask any teacher, and you'll hear that no, they do not.

Some supervisors are terrible. How many times do we have to read about them in the pages of the NY Post before we ask ourselves whether or not there's a pattern there? How many principals and supervisors have to be reassigned before we ask ourselves how on earth they rose to those positions? And how many are bad, but not bad enough to stoke outrage in the tabloids?

Did your staff watch the video of Mulgrew and Carranza together? If so, did your principal stay in the room or leave? Did you then discuss what they actually said? How did your principal address Carranza's remarks about moving away from a "gotcha" mentality toward something approaching trust? Or did the principal just send a link knowing no one would bother with it? Did the principal simply say the number of required observations was changing but he could still do whatever the hell he felt like?

What was the follow up? Was there further discussion? Or did the principal, like many I've heard about, begin indulging in "pop-ins" or "drive-bys," depending on your point of view, just to show he could? If your principal did this, it clearly indicates no understanding whatsoever of the video. And if members all over your building are wondering why multiple APs wandered into their classes before IPCs have even taken place, that's not a promotion of trust, but rather an assertion of power--it's everything wrong with this system.

Have you ever asked your supervisor for assistance in a particular class? Did the supervisor offer to help, or say, "Well, if I come in, I'm gonna have to write it up." I've had reports of the latter. It's administration's job, in fact, to support teachers, not terrorize them. Imagine if a student came to you for help and you threatened her with a lower grade. You'd be a pretty terrible teacher. Maybe you'd even deserve a supervisor like the one I just described.

You probably aren't a teacher like that. If you were, you might want out of the classroom. The easiest way out, in fact, is studying how to be a supervisor. If that's what you want, you're likely as not becoming the one who threatens subordinates who ask for assistance. Supervisors like that are about as welcome as a cancer to those of us who actually do the work. The best thing you can do with cancer is get rid of it.

Until we do, trust is gonna be one tough ask, uphill all the way.
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