Saturday, September 12, 2020

Who Makes the Change?

This morning I woke to some comments explaining to me what a terrible person I was, and instructing me precisely which arguments I was prohibited from using in response. I'm not engaging in discussions like that. I'm actively trying to make change in and out of the union. Perhaps there's a better way to do it, and when I find it, I'll use it. The whole self-flagellation thing doesn't work for me, but thanks anyway.

I work with people who support me, people who support those I represent, and I won't come here and throw them under the bus. If you don't like that, I can live with it. If you don't like this blog, read another or start your own. All you have to do is open the blank screen every day and stare at it until the words come out. If you have a more productive way to spend your time, that's fine too.

Perhaps if more of us focused on what we could do, rather than what other people should do, more would get done. Like it or not, I'm already doing what I can do. I'm chapter leader of one of the largest schools in the city, and I haven't kept the job for 12 years by being asleep at the switch. If you want to make a change, run for chapter leader this April. It's a pain in the neck, and frequently all-encompassing, but it's very rewarding. I have no regrets.

I always try to help people who ask, but I don't always succeed. A while back, a member complained to me about something, but didn't want me to share the complaint with anyone. I said, "You can't resolve it if no one knows what it is." The member said absolutely not. I said I would certainly complain, but the member said, "Yes, but you are YOU." I had no comeback for that, except I'd have confronted the issue. I was sure, in fact, the member would face no adverse consequence raising the concern. But I was unable to persuade the member otherwise. Sometimes I'm simply unable to get results.

A week ago, someone wrote me asking about temporary leaves resulting from a federal program. It sounded really interesting. I researched it on the net, and found out what it was. Then I contacted someone I know from UFT. My UFT contact sent me a DOE memo, which I shared with my correspondent. I also shared it with my entire staff and posted it on Facebook, Twitter and this blog. I was pretty surprised to get an angry response from the correspondent suggesting we, the UFT, were keeping this thing a big secret. UFT sucks and is evil. I'm evil. Okay. In fact, the memo was only two days old. Not only had my UFT source shared it with me, but I'd shared it with the questioner immediately. I was pretty surprised the person didn't just say, "Thank you." That's what I would've done. 

Of course the person who wrote me is UFT too. Despite many people writing about UFT in the third person, we're not just Michael Mulgrew. It's me. It's you. And we don't need to all agree on everything. There are a whole lot of us, maybe 100,000 in schools. I don't love our plan to return. Maybe you don't love it either. Is it necessary to go back all remote? That would've been my first choice. Will we be able to teach in person at all under Mayor de Blasio's plan? I'm not at all sure, actually. He's messed up everything at each and every step. The person in charge of it just walked off to work on Maya Wiley's mayoral campaign

Our hybrid model depends on a whole lot of teachers that don't exist. (Hey, it would be great if de Blasio hired another 30,000 teachers, instead of offering to fire 9,000 of us.) I know of one school that's been told by DOE to dump all comp-time jobs, give all teachers five classes, and make all administrators teach two classes. I think all administrators should teach, but other than that, I'm not loving that plan. There still won't be enough teachers to form the impossible hybrid. I'm not persuaded we'll be able to do much more than remote by the 21st.

If I'm wrong, are there risks? Of course there are. Will we come through this unscathed? Probably not. At least 22 members have tested positive before we've even begun. On the bright side, at least we and they now know it. They can seek treatment and make sure not to spread it to others. But be sure to get tested. I had a cough last night, probably because of a ragweed allergy. Still, I canceled a dental appointment this morning, and got tested again. I don't think I have the virus, but I'd rather know before inadvertently sharing it with anyone.

Now I'm not going to tell you that everything is perfect, or that it will be. I woke up one morning thirteen years ago only to have a doctor tell me I had cancer. I didn't expect that at all. Because I'm UFT, I was able to take a medical sabbatical and get paid for six months while undergoing treatment. Now, because we're UFT, we can get accommodations if we want to and qualify. I have one, along with over 100 members from my building. I just got a comment from a NY teacher whose district has something very different.

In my district, no one is allowed to work from home. People with medical accommodations are given things like preferential work locations in district (you get a window!) or extra PPE (n95). 

Not everyone in NYC will seek or get an accommodation,  It appears, thought, as more information comes to the forefront, we will continue to see fewer students opt for face to face learning. About 60% of students in our very large school have opted out, and there are more each day. Meanwhile, we have to check the conditions in the building and make sure they live up to our agreement. Will de Blasio be able to pull that off? Evidence, including Mulgrew's statement last night, suggests otherwise. Can de Blasio effectively monitor 1800 schools? He can't even show up on time for his own press conferences.

This isn't about only you or me. It's about looking at the circumstances and trying to find the best we can possibly do right now. It's about looking at the big picture, and repainting it as best we can. Of course, if you have better ideas, that's great. If you want to lead, you'll have a chance in April. If your chapter leader sucks, if your delegates are asleep, if you don't like the way votes go at the DA, that's fine too. Run and get a position. That's what I did.

Maybe I was crazy to do it. Between that job, teaching, the blog, and other things I do, I'm pretty busy. I like helping people though, and I do it whenever I can. It's more gratifying than you might think, in the long run. I recommend it highly.

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