Wednesday, May 05, 2021

The School Calendar and Losing 15 Minutes of Fame

During the apocalypse I've gotten repeated calls to appear on the news and give opinions about various situations. It was easy to talk about the botched and delayed school openings, as well as the tone-deaf responses of de Blasio and the Mariachi Chancellor. Lick their fingers, place them in the air, and hope their responses would prove popular. Given their actions were more or less the opposite of leadership, that tended not to work out very well. 

Mostly I've been interviewed speaking of the ridiculous nature of these decisions, along with the fact that they tended not to make sense. I'd been an early admirer of Chancellor Carranza. His calls to end the racism inherent and obvious in the SHSAT were long overdue. He seemed to stand with teachers, coming to meet and speak with us, and literally marching with us during a Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Then, of course, blithering de Blasio demanded all hands on deck for his meandering and inconsistent school plans, and Carranza rejected a petition signed by over 100,000 of us demanding buildings be closed during a raging pandemic. Carranza declared we needed 100,000 epidemilogists' signatures in order to receive his consideration. 


Yesterday I got a call from a journalist to interview me for television. We had a Zoom meeting. The school calendar, she said, contained some remarkable changes. First of all,  on days like Election Day we'd be expected to teach remotely instead of getting the day off. Second, snow days would no longer be days off, but would also be remote teaching days.

In fact, I barely recall the last time we had Election Day off. That's too bad. The entire country ought to have Election Day off. It should be a national holiday to encourage maximum participation. For the last ten years or so, we've been coming into school buildings to have meetings. I don't know about you, but I'd argue that 98% of the meetings I've attended have been a total waste of time. Topic A: Students should not be late to class. Tell them they should not be late to class. In fact, fail them for not coming to class. Topic B: How can we pass absolutely everyone without exception?

Given Election Day is not a national holiday, and given it's not likely to become one anytime soon, I'd personally much rather be teaching than sitting through meetings. Even though I'm not overly fond of online instruction, it beats the hell out of going to a meeting, or PD, or whatever you want to call it. Given the choice between doing something or nothing, I'll opt for the former. I've taken exactly one day off this year, and that was a meeting day. In fact, the meeting was a disaster that cost me a ton of work as chapter leader, and I remain delighted that I was at least not there to participate. 

I understand that some of my colleagues will feel differently. I know people who gush over PD. Some of them provide it. Some of them are ambitious and hoping to become administrators. I know there are probably newer teachers who take it more seriously than I do, but I've got 36 years in, and the value of PD, with rare exceptions, has eluded me utterly. On a handful of occasions, I've approached PD providers and praised them effusively, shocked and happy that their presentations might contribute to my daily practice. 

More frequently, it's people stating the obvious, often being paid to do so. I always remember some company that came to our school to train us on how students should write college essays. They presented us with one written by some underprivileged twit complaining about a trip to Europe paid for by her parents, and another by a guy who grilled burgers as a summer job. The first was crap and the second was charming, and we were challenged with the question--Which is better--crap or charming? 

My day would've been better spent doing just about anything else. 

The second question the reporter asked me was about snow days. I told her that I was glad we were going online during these days. If we were fortunate enough to have a mayor who isn't insane, like Mike Bloomberg, we could have more snow days, rather than fewer. This would keep a hundred thousand UFT members and a million kids from traveling on hazardous days.

I remember one day, driving into work on the LIE, cars crashing to my left and right, and Rudy Giuliani saying oh my gosh, don't go to work unless you have to. I think I wrote that on the board as my quote of the day, as I met two or three students in each class. I remember other days driving halfway in, only to hear on the radio that the genius mayor had finally decided to close the schools.

When I turned into the broadcast last night, I only heard people saying how terrible it was that we were going to lose snow days. My interview didn't run at all. Given the angle of the story, I could see why. Kids were sad. They needed a break. Of course they're right. Over my career, however, I can't even count the number of days when suburban schools closed and we went in. Not only that, but next year there will be only 180 school days. If we miss even one, we'll have to make it up during a vacation week, or perhaps even in July. 

All in all, I'm glad for this calendar. I may be in the minority, but we're better off. Teaching online sucks, but it beats the hell out of tens of thousands traveling hours in a blizzard.

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