Wednesday, June 30, 2021

NYCBOE Screwup is Everyday Event for NYC Teachers

It's remarkable to read about the fact that the NYC Board of Election sat around for a week only to come up with election results that included 140,000 ballots that didn't belong. You sit and wonder how they could do that. How can they screw up the only job for which they exist, and do so this publicly? What were they doing the week they were supposed to be counting? How did no one notice there were 140,000 ballots that weren't there before?

One year I took a job as LAB-BESIS coordinator. I had to coordinate testing of ELLs. I'm not sure what else that job entails now, but when I had it, it had to do with making reports from a preposterously outdated computer system. Of course, the reports could've been computerized, saving me days of tedious work, but no one at the DOE had bothered to do it. After all, they had Very Important Stuff to do there in Tweed, and why should they worry about efficiency, let alone utterly unnecessary work?

I remember finding an issue with one student who was clearly a native speaker of English. He was locked into ESL classes for reasons I don't recall, and his mom refused to allow him to take the test. There was a missing record or something, and when I called the people at the DOE to help, not only did they refuse, but they threatened me. I was going to be in Big Trouble if I continue to pursue this. It was clear to me that whatever I did, I would never be able to help this kid. I quit the job in June and haven't spent one moment regretting it. 

Another time, I helped someone with a grievance about an untimely letter. Admin had come to us with complaints of things that happened years before, and very helpfully documented it for us. When I went to step 2, the DOE genius wrote, "the incident was not an occurrence." I had occasion to show this letter to generally loquacious Chancellor Carranza, who had no comment. We took this all the way to an arbitrator, who sustained that argument. 

I once grieved the fact that we didn't receive full schedules at year's end, as per the UFT Collective Bargaining Agreement. Someone from admin, rather than comply, simply cut up our current programs into strips. They then inserted the strip with the person's name in that person's mailbox. It was cynical, to say the least. People whose terms as deans were ending were getting the jobs again all of a sudden. It was a miracle. 

I took this to arbitration, and the arbitrator, a very curt and loud person, objected when I spoke, saying I ought not to argue with the principal. He then ruled that the practice was fine, and we had to write specific language in an SBO to preclude its use. How the hell can anyone plan when they have phony programs based on nothing but the administration's convenience?

These are just a few examples of the gross incompetence we see every day. The DOE can claim it places "Children First, Always," but at contract negotiations, some DOE bigshot told me straight to my face they had no interest in reducing class sizes, and thus, as far as I could tell, children didn't matter at all. In fact, they only use that slogan to let us know that those of us who do the work don't matter either. Alessandra Biaggi has a theory to explain why the BOE issues exist:


 I can believe that. I can believe it about the DOE as well. It's unlikely any DOE employee who does the actual work could imagine anything else. The dysfunction is palpable. The next mayor will likely as not be a product of this dysfunction, so I'm less than optimistic about any significant changes coming our way.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Dear Mayor de Blasio--You Can't Put 5,000 Humans in a Violin Case

DOE agreed with UFT that it had to do something about extremely overcrowded high schools.  This notwithstanding, While I am, as usual, impressed by the valuable lip service they're seen fit to pay us, I'm not at all persuaded they'll take the next step.

If we were Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, ostensibly progressive Bill de Blasio would call in every chit, and do everything possible to move heaven and earth to make sure we got huge premium space and a frigging heliport. Alas, we aren't.

To the left you see my dog Toby sitting where a violin should go. Now I didn't put him there, and I wouldn't put him there. He doesn't belong there, but I thought he looked cute so I snapped a photo. He's actually quite lucky I'm not from Bill de Blasio's DOE.

If I were from the DOE, I'd work tirelessly to close that case with him inside of it. I know this because I've spent the last few decades working in a school that's at over 200% capacity, and the DOE is fine with that. 

Believe it or not, reps from our school, along with reps from UFT and CSA, were able to go to Bloomberg's DOE, right in the belly of the beast at Tweed, and negotiate a way to lower enrollment. We would actually check whether enrolling students lived in the district. We gave up a few dozen selected students in certain programs and recruited them from zoned students instead. I don't remember what else was in that agreement because we made it about 12 years ago.

I know that when de Blasio came in the entire agreement disappeared. They started shoveling students in like pieces of coal in a hundred-year-old DOE furnace. Do you really live in the district? Who cares? We take everyone, no questions asked. There are absolutely no limits to the incredible accommodations at our school. It's not really clean or anything, because every time a custodial employee leaves we don't bother with replacements, and who cares about stuff like that anyway?

Now we've faced a pandemic, and we know well what can happen. I have a colleague thirty years younger than I am who spent weeks in a hospital fighting COVID. I have multiple colleagues who've lost parents, and who will spend the rest of their lives wondering whether they brought COVID home from work. It's not their fault, and you can tell them that. However, people who've been through experiences like that almost never find ways to really believe it.

But that's no skin off of Bill de Blasio's apple. He's got tons of money, and that's why we didn't see an early retirement incentive. (Frankly, I'd have taken it because I can't resist a bargain.  I'm going to get back at him for not following through by sticking around and being even more pissed off than I was last year.) This notwithstanding, there's no money to, you know, buy a frigging building and accommodate our kids. We aren't Jeff Bezos. 

Over the years, nearby properties have been available. A large office building that used to house a local paper was sold to St. John's, which curiously put classrooms there, because they needed space. And two hotels were built right across the street from us, so I guess you could rent a room and enroll in our school. The DOE, in its favor, is building an annex behind our building. Of course, once they bulldoze the moldy, decrepit trailers and reconvert the airless, windowless rooms back into closets we'll net only a half a dozen additional classrooms. 

It's remarkable that an alleged progressive can treat children and working people like that. Imagine how sometimes-Republican, sometimes Democrat Eric Adams, having taken millions of dollars from people who want to privatize education, will treat overcrowded schools. 

On the bright side, it would take a lot of effort for him to do any worse than de Blasio.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

NYC Could Take a Giant Step Backward with Adams

It appears very possible we're going to be stuck with Mayor Eric Adams for at least four years. This is a huge disappointment, as he was bankrolled by the very slimiest charter supporters we know. They don't back candidates based on altruism, and what they want in return will be nothing good for us, for public education, or for NYC's children. 

I've no doubt that Adams has a very fine-looking education platform that someone somewhere wrote for him, but whether or not he's ever read it is an open question. Adams himself is woefully ignorant on this topic. Otherwise, he would not have made the preposterous assertion that, with remote education, one teacher could handle 3-400 students at a time. As someone who's actually taught Zoom classes, I have to say that's one of the stupidest statements I've ever heard.

Adams, evidently, thinks you just sit there, explain that 2 plus 2 is 4, and 400 kids suddenly understand addition. He has no idea that we sit in front of a bunch of icons representing students who are asleep, playing video games, walking in the park, or doing just about any other thing you can imagine. This is because Adams, like Bloomberg before him, listens to who he listens to, and that particular crowd does not include those of us out here doing the work. 

You can bet, if he gets in, he'll be listening to Jenny Sedlis and all the corporate whores who helped him raise six million dollars to buy yet another NYC election. It's very sad, in a progressive stronghold like NYC, that we insist on moving backward. In fact, even when we elect an ostensible progressive like Bill de Blasio, he turns out to be Bozo the Clown sans wig.

While de Blasio is a Bozo, Eric Adams appears to be Eric Adams, and that's considerably worse. Where did we go wrong? 

I was initially delighted when UFT decided to endorse Stringer. I will never forget going to PEP meetings and watching a fake school board do any damn thing Mike Bloomberg wanted. I will never forget watching Joel Klein ignore the proceedings and play with his Blackberry, showing absolute contempt for teachers and parents who showed up to share their concerns about the largest school district in the country. I will also never forget that Scott Stringer appointed Patrick J. Sullivan to inject a little bit of inconvenient truth into this sham of a board. 

When Stringer's first accuser popped up, I was wary. I understand about the Me Too movement, but I've also seen and represented people falsely accused of fairly awful things. This accuser's ties to Yang, and curious behavior patterns were less than persuasive to me, at least. When the second accuser coincidentally was repped by the same anti-union lawyer who repped the first one, I wondered about that.

There was one thing, though, that I didn't wonder about at all. Stringer's defense, if there were one, was awful, particularly with the second accuser. I knew he was done and focused on finding a viable candidate who was not insane. For me, that was Maya Wiley. I'm not sure what goes on in UFT leadership regarding changes in direction. Perhaps they value loyalty. Perhaps, having gone through an endorsement process, there was no option of turning back. I don't really know.

For me, though, there was no point going all out and continuing to support an obvious loser. Of course no one could've predicted that these accusations would pop up at this point, having been dormant even as Stringer clobbered public school enemy Moskowitz. This notwithstanding we'd clearly have done better, and given ourselves more flexibility, if we'd pushed ranking and recommended who to rank. At some point, UFT sent messages to not rank Yang or Adams, and I agreed. However, I have no idea why we didn't ask to not rank Garcia, who favors lifting the charter school cap and protecting landlord interests over those of tenants. 

It's certainly good we got rid of Yang, clearly steered by gazillionaire Bradley Tusk, who referred to the candidate as an "empty vessel." In that, Tusk was correct, and Yang would've been a disaster for anyone who hadn't paid to fill said vessel. Alas, I have similar feelings about Adams, though he's at least not simply famous for being famous. 

Good riddance to one of the worst candidates ever. Still, I can't help the feeling that we're moving backward for no good reason. Why on earth, in the most progressive city in the country, can't we elect a progressive, forward thinking mayor, ever?

Monday, June 21, 2021

UFT Executive Board June 21, 2021--Winding Up for the Year

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Minutes have passed. 

Shelvy Abrams--Speaks of Para fest--was very successful.

Ellen Dreisen--TLC with District 20 started rough, but became successful webinar. 

Rashad Brown--Speaks of singing with Pride event and another that raised 5K. 

Michael Friedman--Campaigning with Bridget, who thanks us,

Tom Murphy--Thanks group called Comro. Last retiree meeting tomorrow.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Can't believe this is our last meeting. Has been a long year. We have never really stopped since March. Thanks us for weekly meeting. Says it helped guide us, were great questions. Hopefully we are near the end of this. There will still be challenges. Many conversations with Mark Canizaro. Mayor says there will be no remote, but we have schools that can't fit all kids with social distancing. State upset with DOE non-compliance. When things aren't right, we will say something.

September will look different. There will be changes but we will tackle them, be smart about it, make sure people know what's going on, and be there for one another. Next year we will decide whether or not to use regular Exec. Board schedule. Hybrid DA, Town Hall are new tools we can continue to use. We want to have a very large contingent on July 7 ticker tape parade.

Next year we should celebrate our families, our support systems. We will enact program to memorialize members who passed, who we can't ever forget.

Elections tomorrow. Board of Elections say results should be available July 12. Thanks political team. UFT is alive, well and aggressive on our campaigns. We need a sympathetic city council. Comptroller also very important. 

Questions/ answers

Mediator should make health care recommendation this week. In a group plan, we can manage the group. Now getting questions about what sort of expertise workers will need to advise company. Whichever company is not recommended will not be happy. MLC votes are weighted. No one can veto anything, but two closest groups are us and DC37. 

Bad principals--DOE decided to do APPR. Above 95% HE or E before MOSL even kicks in. We will go after anyone who doesn't do this correctly. Contract ends next September, not this year. Was mistaken at DA. We want to use entire year to start this. Not sure if de Blasio is even interested. If there is opportunity, we will take it.

Carbon free healthy schools--We should go in direction of net zero school. Now filming MLK HS, much improved in months and prime example of what you can do with existing school. Will use this to lobby. 

Not sure how to deal with Content Specialty Test CRT, at this moment. SED trying to get back in office, but governor has not deemed building open. Building across street deemed open. When they get in, we will have conversation. We will see how many buildings get AC in September.

Thanks all for coming to meetings every single week. Kept us focused at all times. Exec, Boards and DAs make me focus on things. Time now to try and get together safely. We made decisions that guided the union. We are here, in very strong position, met goals, but we can always do things better. That keeps you humble. 

Every week for a year and a half we got together to make sure we kept focused. You care about this union, and this union cares about its members. 

LeRoy Barr--Thanks everyone for staying on track for over a year. Wishes everyone a great and relaxing summer. 6:21

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Mayor Asleep as DOE Shows Wild Insensitivity to Newcomers

Usually, I teach beginning English language learners. I request these classes, and most of my colleagues do not. They prefer to teach more advanced levels. I really like teaching the beginners and watching their rapid, often amazing progress. Some students learn faster than others. Sometimes a kid will struggle through a whole year, repeat the class, wake up one morning, and tell me, "I don't know what happened. Suddenly I could just speak English."

Though I always liked teaching beginners, I used to like teaching advanced classes as well. I'd teach novels, piece by piece, and discuss them in detail with the kids. Sometimes kids would thank me for forcing them to read a book in English. They had never done so before, and were very proud they were able to get through it, despite all the work I'd so cruelly given them.

The last time I taught an advanced class, I once again tried to teach a novel. I selected The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a great book with simple language about a woman in Botswana who decided to break with norms and use her talent in an unexpected fashion. What was unexpected for me was the fact that, with the crappy NYSESLAT exam we now used to place these kids, at least half of my so-called advanced kids belonged in beginner classes. They couldn't construct coherent sentences, let alone paragraphs, and the book I'd assigned was a near-total flop. Many of them had passed the NY State English Regents exam, a test almost as crappy as the NYSESLAT. As far as how much English they knew, it signified nothing whatsoever.

I say all this as prelude to something I learned yesterday. I am in the process of giving final grades to my students for this semester. While it's true some may change as students desperately make up missing work, I have a pretty good idea how they will end up. Because a large number of students simply did not show up or do anything, I will be failing a larger percentage than ever before.

However, in NYC, failure is not an option, Instead, we give a grade of NX, and some poor (albeit paid) teacher will have to bug them next semester to make up the course, or more likely courses, they missed. This makes sense in some cases. I know some students who have very tough stories to tell, and I'm sure you do too. However, one size simply does not fit all, and my students are a case in point.  

There is usually a grade I can give newcomers indicating that they are not passing through no fault of their own. It's been reflected as L for late arrival, or NL, for I have no idea what, and likely other things in other buildings. It's a grade I personally promised at least two of my students this semester. Yesterday I learned that the DOE, in its infinite wisdom, is not allowing this option. This is shortsighted and cruel,

For my newcomers, in fact, the NX grade is a lose-lose proposition. First, they ought not to fail, It isn't their fault that they arrived so late in the year it was impossible to catch up. They ought not to eventually have a failing grade of any sort on their records. However, they ought not to pass either. They have not mastered the material, and it's wholly inappropriate for them to be asked to make up a bunch of work and get a passing grade.

As usual, the DOE, like its wholly ignorant state counterpart, knows nothing whatsoever about language acquisition. What my students need is not made up assignments, More importantly, they do not need to be promoted to a class that will be even more frustrating than the one they just took. What these kids need in September (not in summer school) is a beginning class that will make them feel comfortable and embrace English. I'll be teaching that class, probably, and I'd welcome them.

Instead, they'll likely be promoted to the next level. This is the kind of thing that could frustrate them and cause them to resent or reject English to one degree or another. To the likely surprise of no one, this shows no vision whatsoever on the part of the DOE. It's nice that Bill de Blasio thinks every student in the city should be promoted to the next level. It's also incredibly ignorant, and absolutely not helpful to many of the kids I serve. 

I told my students to find me in September, and that I'd do everything I could to have them placed properly. It's clear, as usual, that the DOE will be no help at all.

And that, frankly, is nothing less than a disgrace. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

UFT Delegate Assembly June 16, 2021--Hybrid DA Passes

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--Welcomes us to last DA in COVID year. Says NYS has reached herd immunity, and we've been talking about it since last March. We're not past it, but in a better place than we were and we have served union, schools and city well. Many of us have losses. The idea that we reached 70%, compared to where we were--In August we had 3K building response teams who handled and helped through changes. 

Everything became about testing, tracing, positivity and guidelines. City and state had different numbers. Schools opened and closed repeatedly. Remote learning was not easy, were thousands of operational complaints. Led to many members being compensated. Finally we see positivity rate declining. UFT opened up school system, added BRT, dealt with craziness of competing programs. Looking back, it sounds like utter chaos. This delegation and others have made a great accomplishment, keeping safety upfront, even it the view ofa attacks from some parents and media.We kept moving. People can be crazed, are passionate and sometimes can't be reasoned with. 

We just had our first full live UFT event, the 5K run. We will have more, including Teacher Union Day. Majority of us turned our homes into mini broadcast centers or went back and forth to school with lots of PPE. We thank those who've supported us throughout this. We'll see what CDC says, but would like everyone to take a deep breath at this moment. Herd immunity is a milestone, Thanks all on call.

National--Infrastructure bill. Trying to make it bipartisan, though some Dems want to do it on their own. This bill will help our economy. We can't have COVID money running out and economy crashing.

We had to move quickly with ventilation and things. We need this bill to retrofit schools and build clean, green schools. MLK campus could not be opened without a whole lot of work, but you can take an old ventilation system and install up to date MERV 13 system. We were able to take ultraviolet lighting and put in wellness lighting. I want to do that work in all city schools. We need federal help and will push very hard to make this happen.

NYC has a net zero building, school that produces more energy than it produces. That's a model. We are working with science groups and national groups to get this for our schools. All children in that school are climate warriors, concerned with fixing the planet, evidently because adults did not. 

State--Very strange end of session. Was info that Albany was going to do "big ugly." When Senate, Assembly and Governor get bills and vote on them as one. Did not happen. Senate passed many bills. For us, biggest was automatic enrollment of paraprofessionals in pension system. Have seen paras who thought they were enrolled and didn't have pensions. This is a big deal. Will talk to governor to see it gets signed.

Pensions are at 7%--they wanted to drop it lower. We opposed and were able to block it. Lots of special ed, bills. Chickens have come home to roost for DOE and how it treats kids with IEPs. 

APPR--Ruled that school district does not have to do it, but can do it. If DOE wants to do it, they will have to plug in MOSL. Good we have agreement in place. We believe with MOSL agreement we will be in good place. Waiting to see what they do. We will deal with whatever they do.

We believe Assembly will not come back, but Senate will. 

NYC--Glad to see ticker tape parade for essential workers. Important we celebrate that and be out there. Will get out details when available. Will have UFT bus, float, band, and kids there.

Tuesday primary day. City budget not done, will be done after primary. We are involved in 50 races, never had so much contact as this year. Thanks participants. No one knows what to make of ranked choice, but we will learn from it and make sure we set a structure with all our friends who get elected. We don't know where mayor race will go. News not good for our candidate, but they all have plan to dismantle DOE bureaucracy and put money into schools. Whatever else happens, we will deal with it.

Our kids need campaign going well. Will be 6K new hires for DOE. This is why they opposed ERI, they said. Without a specific program for how newcomers will be used, this will be a problem. We are focused on class size. We know we have a big challenge, and some schools overcrowded. We know we have some that are not, and we can reduce class sizes. If children will need more time, only way to do that is to reduce class size. It's one thing parents and us completely agree on. Hopefully we'll have something out next week. We've been trying for decades, thwarted by courts and city hall, which has ignored CFE. 

Teacher's choice should be back, Mayor took it away last year in temper tantrum. We have a lot of things in city council budget and should be in good shape.

DOE--Summer school--Looks like if you apply you will get it., Large enrollment uptick, We will follow safety regs. UFT will visit all sites. Watching carefully--they don't want to do Big Apple Games, but something different. We say those who've always done work must be recognized.

SBO season alive and well. Will try to extend. Changing hours, and four day instruction popular. Staffs had more time to meet and it appears people liked it. Many schoolwide SBOs give groups time to work. That's what people are gravitating toward this year. We will bring this to negotiating committee as contract expires in November. DOE showing more SBO flexibility now. 

Programming next. Goal is not to end up where we were last year, which is no programming done until September. We need some expectation of what we are dealing with. Try to get rough programming done before you leave this year, even if it's subject to change. 

Special ed.--DOE is under corrective action plan on compliance, because US told state they had to do it. Amount of time and money we spend fighting special ed. compliance is insane, and goes back to Klein and Bloomberg. Schools don't make programs to comply with IEPs, and make IEPs conform to existing programs. Principals deny violations that are documented. DOE repeats that and it goes back and forth. When they finally admit it, principals say they have no money. DOE says it's not their fault. This is why we've seen bills given independent hearing officers new powers.

DOE will likely blame principals. UFT has been fighting this whole time. Hope to get something in place and get CSA to work with us. Bloomberg and Klein didn't care about lawsuits, but this will be a big deal. This is sad, frustrating, and ridiculous, but kids need services. It shouldn't have come to this, but this is what needs to be done to get kids services.

UFT--We have issues to deal with. Will have health care report. Retiree plan being done through MLC moving to Medicare Advantage Group plan. Mediator involved has not made a decision on which group to recommend. Recommendation not binding. Group plans are better than individual plans. This one will keep same services, same doctors, and use savings to create new services. All of our health care negotiations are done through MLC. We would not be able to afford prices we have now if we weren't doing it as a group.

When people send in motions and resolutions--If we were forced to say we couldn't use MLC, we'd be on our own, which would immediately increase our health care costs. We negotiate together because we get a much better deal.  We want better services and savings to put back into our health care. We have had a significant increase in our senior care program, though city picks up only 20%. We need intervention at federal level on health care costs. Drug companies, hospitals, and medical groups driving prices way up. We need to keep premium health care for in service and retirees. We cannot be passive users. On our own, we couldn't get deals we do now. MLC gets together, takes a vote, and we abide by it. 

Contract--We've informed city our temporary agreement sunsets on July 1st. Grievance department ready. First arbitration will be for appropriate compensation for working last spring break. We may need short term agreements on other things. Filed for impact bargaining about principals mandating virtual classrooms. If we need something temporary for this year, we will come to it, but this will be part of our next contract negotiation.

This will be our last DA, and our temporary DA agreement is sunsetting. How do we take what has been good and bad about this and deal with it? I think people came up with a good idea. This year was like a lesson. We always try to make things better. Will it ever be perfect? No. At this point, what they've come up with, beginning in October, is a way to engage more people, even if they can't be in person. People have participated in DA in record numbers this year. 

We think it's good for more people to get info, and we want to keep remote option. We also want to incentivize people to come in. Heard all arguments from both sides. We're proposing a hybrid DA. Has to be secure. We have many enemies out there. People can choose to be only remote, Some people said people could only participate if they came in, but those people came around. We want to allow them to participate. Everybody gets to vote, in person and on the phone. We will upgrade second floor wifi. 

We will follow traditional rules for people in person. Remote participants can vote, ask questions and speak. We experimented with some things that did not work. We will revisit this at the end of next year. 

Mid November contract expires. Won't have new mayor but will know who it will be. We may not know until July. Would like volunteers for committee at October DA. We will go through training, have lists of demands, discuss things. Chapters are intertwined and rely on one another. Will put together that plan over summer. We may need a resolution. Staff will work with chapters, who will work with DOE directly. Each chapter needs real voice.

Will also need committee on digital work.

Wants next year to be about celebrating our work, supporting our families and loved ones. Membership did a great job. We protected them, our protection and livelihood, Was horrible to deal with losses this year. Hope we can come together next year.

LeRoy Barr--UFT is involved in making schools clean and green, installing solar panels. Juneteenth June 19, AFT holding panel discussion tomorrow. June 22 primary day. Don't forget to vote. Thanks to all for signing onto virtual DAs for past 15 months. Have great summer.


Q --Will we maintain Google classroom next year?

A--DOE says they can mandate. We say they can't and may go to arbitration. We had agreements for that for this year. We will go forward, and hopefully come to agreement for this year. We should be compensated. 

Q--PT conferences--If we do SBO for six hours and 50 minutes, how many conferences?

A--Think you have to do four, but remote.

Debbie Poulos--If you go to six hours and 50 minutes, you only have two. If you stay with reconfigured, you do four. 

Q--Untenured teachers excessed and extended by new principals--Anything that can be done?

A--We will talk to new chancellor. This is not CBA but state law, so not collective bargaining. We have had some, but not all of these rectified. Depends on superintendent.

Q--Will ratings be used even though observations at our school were canceled?

A--Depends whether ratings were done before or after agreement. If before, no. If after, yes. DOE has been good enforcing this.

Q--When will we have SBO votes?

A--CL can start arranging them now. We are all set up. We have online voting system. 

Q--What will instruction look like next year?

A--Mayor says business as usual, but it won't be with kids coming back for first time in a long time. Frustrating that only we are thinking about new programs. It won't be regular. We will push DOE to put out plans instead of saying schools should figure it out on their own. We need this DOE dismantled and rebuilt. They just say they're looking at that, and that's it.

Q--ERI--What is status?

A--We had until May 31st. City said with fed money they wanted to increase head count, and not incentivize people to leave. That ended the negotiations. There is no ERI.

Q--Grievance process--Will it be fully open? CLs have grievances we want to file. Do we have to wait until September?

A--Grievance dept. will put out guidance. Will probably be for September. Will handle summer school and reorgs via operational. 

Q--Managed care has high out of pocket costs. 

A--Why do you think we would subject retirees to that? Advantage care has two programs. Individual ones you see on TV are what you described. We would never enter a program like that. We don't know if we will move to that program, but that won't happen in one we agree to. All doctors they go to, all hospitals will be available. We will manage, with provider, our services. People are using this as an internal political issue. We want better care, at a better cost. We will be the second or third largest group in country. Individual programs are not relevant to what we are going to do. We will look at program, and MLC will make a decision, or consult us. Our retirees, and we all hope to be them, ought not to worry about medical and health care. We don't want our senior care program to cost more out of pocket.

Q--683--Those who choose not to work will not lose their retention rights this summer--If someone were not in person first day, would there be a problem? Also, a person accepted the program but may not be able to work,

A--Both of those people should contact Michael Sill tomorrow and we will deal with both of those issues, It has to happen tomorrow.

Q--Additional counselors and smaller classes--When will we know if our school qualifies?

A--Pay attention to city budget. We may have update next week. City hiring mostly social workers, but we want counselors too. We have proposal before city council. After Tuesday may move quickly. We will keep you posted. Hoping this thing will grow. Have been pushing for class size for years. 

Q--Fall--We are working hard to give every teacher program. Principal's weekly promised orientation, social and emotional support. How can we get ready for all those in need, without even knowing whether we'd have social distancing?

A--This is why we meet weekly with DOE.

e will keep pushing. We were supposed to deal with this in summer school. They're not ready. They want to test for learning loss with no baseline. I don't have a lot of faith that they will do they work and a real program. I will meet and discuss it. Our goal is to have real materials, programs and support systems. There will be unanticipated situations. Will keep you updated. Still waiting to deal with really overcrowded schools. Hope to resolve by August 1

Q--If we have hybrid DA, telephone or Zoom?

A--Phone right now. 

Q--Can we push for not only solar panels, but also green roofs?

A--We would like that. Will definitely be part of what we're pushing for. My generation screwed up. Children we met yesterday were very nice. Clear to me they know our earth is in trouble. We have a lot to do on that, and education should be at center.


Peter Lamphere--Resolution ruled out of order is about motion coming in a few minutes. 

Mulgrew--Made sure everything was done in order it came in.

Lamphere--Withdrawing resolution number 2.

Seung Lee--This month's agenda. Move resolution about anti-Asian hate crimes to top of agenda.

79% yes--carries.

Ellen Brody Kirmss--This month--retirees understand UFT and MLC negotiate health care. Concerned about transparency in process. Retirees financially vulnerable. Understand big orgs get better prices, but Advantage companies are for profit, look good initially, but often are not. None of my doctors, for example, take GHI anymore. To reduce stress and allow planning we want transparency. 

Mulgrew--Last resolved problematic. UFT doesn't have right to stop MLC process. If MLC moves forward, we can only stop them if we don't want to participate in MLC negotiations anymore. Calling it out of order because we don't have that right. Other things can be brought back, and all will be out there. We are already working with for profit groups. In service has for profit providers. 


Seung Lee--UFT should condemn hate crimes against Asians. Rise in crimes exponential. Many don't feel safe. UFT at very least, should recognize and condemn this. First step in tangible change to make schools safe and welcoming for all students. 

Janella Hinds--Seung said it all. Would like to call question for all matters.

93% yes. Carries

LeRoy Barr--Moves to extend through hybrid reso.

85% yes. Carries

Barr--Virtual format hasn't been perfect, but we've been working on it. Still working through glitches. We correct them as we find them. Our virtual DAs and town halls much improved. Doubled participation. Decided we must to all we can to increase participation. Propose hybrid model. For over 16 years, you had to be present to vote, speak or ask questions. All members present will have ability to vote. Goal is to increase rights by providing new option to participate. Ask you support. 

Jennifer Rogers--Supports reso. UFT delegates can best engage in vigorous debate from floor, encourage yes.

Nicole Puglia--In favor. Loves idea of having choice. Like option. SI 90 minutes each way. 

Sean Cafregolia--Against motion. Over past year we stood together, Much lost by not standing together at 52. Time to safely stand together in person.

Rachel Bulla--Supports as we move away from fully virtual. Hybrid good compromise. If people need to speak, will show in person.

Mulgrew asks to call question.

92% yes. Carries. 6:11 PM

Mulgrew urges us to relax in summer. Thanks us for taking on leadership role through this.

Monday, June 14, 2021

UFT Executive Board June 14, 2021--Hybrid DA Proposal

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Minutes approved, will vote on hybrid DA resolution tonight. Have met with chapter leaders, and are bringing this forth to debate and vote.  

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--CEC meeting tonight, will be leaving early. Good news is we have hit 70% mark which represents herd immunity. Has been long time coming. Happy that we are at high % and members embrace it. Temp agreement with DOE ends June 30th. We filed for impact bargaining since some schools are forcing digital classrooms. 

We will try to come to an agreement and roll it into new bargaining. We would like to start negotiations in the fall and open a negotiating committee. Each chapter will bring forth demands.

On July 1st we hope to file arbitration on last year's spring break. 

First live UFT event since last March, 5K run and walk. Thanks those who participated. 

Will meet with lawyer and negotiator on retiree healthcare. Nothing done yet. 

Volunteers are doing phone banks and leafleting, for over 50 races. We are doing unprecedented work. Comptroller's race tightening, and all races should tighten. No one knows how ranked choice will play out. There will be some candidate with no money or campaign who wins, perhaps. 

Working on DOE APPR. Called City Hall. We have a pretty good agreement, but this can't just sit. On the table with DOE and need them to decide which way to go. Most principals have submitted evaluations already. Assuming since work is done, they want to move forward. We are in pretty good shape with no one being harmed. 

Hot classrooms are an issue, and AC was supposed to be resolved three years ago. All mayoral candidates have agreed to dismantle DOE bureaucracy. Will speak to all Wednesday.

Resolution on hybrid DA--All will be able to vote. Motions and speakers will be in person. Proposed through June of 2022. 

Liz Perez--Motivates--Was a lot of discussion and compromise. Want all members to be engaged and this addresses that. Members have a choice to come in person with ability to vote, speak, present and amend motions. Members from home will be able to speak, vote and ask questions. Want to make sure all members are engaged. 

Barr--People participating via telephone will not be able to make motions, Will have option to appear in person. 

Camille Eady--Rises in support. Members have been supportive. Flexibility unparalleled. Will give opportunity for those uncomfortable with appearing in person.

Mike Schirtzer--Favor of option, thinks participation has been great, opposes motion, disenfranchises members. Want everyone at 52 but not all will fit. Some can't make it, hybrid should have all with full privileges.

Joe Sapri--Rises in support as written. Believes UFT has taken advantage of what has occurred and given delegates more opportunity to participate via virtual system. If someone is unable to make a motion, can share info with other people. Only thing it will do is increase engagement. 

Michelle Ferraro-If someone wants to speak, address a motion, that person can make arrangements to come in in person. This blended option increases engagement. Have seen it in other workshops, People can choose to come in when necessary. Supports resolution.

Rashad Brown--Are we also going back to regular time for QA Period?

Barr--Was extended for fully remote, going back to traditional rules.

Patty Crispino--Calls question. 

Melody Anastasio--You can plan ahead for child care, but not for an illness. I have experienced that. If something comes up and you are sick, you lose the right to make a motion. 

Barr--For multiple reasons, people may not be able to make it. We had those rules in place for now because things were difficult to manage. It has been impossible to manage the way we did when we were in person. Not trying to disenfranchise anyone. Question was called. 

Motion passes. 94% 

Barr--Looks forward to seeing people at DA. Goodnight.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

29 Minutes and 48 Seconds of Sexual Harassment

That's how long it took me to take the DOE's sexual harassment webinar this morning. I've been wondering what exactly the point was of making us take it over and over again each year. Now I think maybe I've figured it out. There's always stress on how you should report things you see as a bystander. Maybe now, when incidents are reported, they'll be able to point fingers at people who were uninvolved and say, "Hey,  you didn't report it, so it's YOUR fault."

After all, a big stress was on notifying OEO. I don't want to burst any bubbles, but I've seen how OEO works up close and personal more times than I care to remember. On any given case, OEO has six months to investigate. I have never, ever seen them complete an investigation in six months. In their favor, I will say their treatment of people is absolutely equitable. Whether you've committed an atrocity, made a minor error, or done nothing whatsoever, they will contact you, terrify you, and make you wait years before they decide on your relative culpability.

Now on the positive side, if you've done nothing wrong and they decide you did, there's really nothing they can do about it. They can't put a letter in your file once they miss their deadline. On the other hand, if you actually do commit atrocious acts, whether or not they've discovered them, they can't really do anything about it. It's kind of amazing they can't complete investigations within six months. Judge Judy does it in 15 minutes. To my mind, at least, it makes sense to interview people immediately while their memories are fresh rather than waiting months or years. Of course, I'm just a lowly teacher, not an expert investigator doing my job ever so carefully, making sure to miss every deadline. (If I missed every deadline, I'd be a lowly unemployed teacher.)

Too bad we didn't have the harassment training earlier. For example, years ago I taught in a school where a friend was going to be excessed. I wasn't a chapter leader or anything, but I knew the AP's favorite had less seniority than she did. This friend of mine told the boss, "Arthur says you can't get rid of me unless you get rid of Miss Wormwood first." The APs fondness for me declined sharply at that point.

I don't really know why. I was pretty cooperative. She asked me to give one of my students 100%. It happened that this student's brother, a now-graduated student, was a particular favorite of the AP. In fact, she was pregnant by him and eventually had his child. It happened that the sister was a great student, and I had no issue giving her 100. But it was kind of undue pressure. Maybe I should have reported the AP to OEO and waited a few years to see what they said back.

On the other hand, things were about to get tougher for me. I had just bought a house, and I needed my college job to make ends meet. Because the Spanish teacher threw kids out of classes (which was inconvenient for the AP, because she then had to meet with the students) and I did not, she said, "You will teach all Spanish 1 next year, or I'm giving you a late schedule and you'll lose your other job.

This was disturbing. Should I have called OEO, lost my job and hoped for the best? What I actually did was look at the now-defunct UFT transfer plan. Because I was working at Queens College, I selected two nearby schools, neither of which had late schedules at the time: Francis Lewis and John Bowne. The principal, upon signing my request, quipped, "You'll never get into Francis Lewis."

Six weeks later, the DOE called and told me to report to Francis Lewis. A colleague told me, on the first day, that the AP was walking around asking, "Where is Mr. Goldstein?" (I guess she had to find someone else to teach Spanish.)

A few months later she came to our school for some meeting. She saw me in the hall and upbraided me for not saying goodbye to her, or coming by to explain my abrupt departure. In fact, I had considered saying many things to her and thought I showed great discretion and restraint by having kept my big mouth shut. I assure you if I spoke to her, she'd have liked my words far less than the nothing she received.

Anyway, pardon me if I doubt the DOE would provide anything beyond lip service to any complaint I made. It's nice that they put out the webinar, but they're absolutely the last people I'd go to if I had a problem, then or now.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Check Out the Mayoral Candidates

The mayoral race, for us, is a mess. We have three toxic candidates--Yang, Adams and Garcia. Under ordinary circumstances, they'd be competing with one another. However, with ranked voting, the charter lobby can pretty much hedge their bets by voting for all of them. It's not a particularly good year for progressive New Yorkers.

With the NY Times, the Daily News, and even the Chief Leader having endorsed Garcia, she probably looks good to a whole lot of New Yorkers who haven't read anything like this. They don't know she wants to lift the charter school cap over to Eva Moskowitz and the hedge funders who prop her up. They don't know she's wary of rent stabilization, standing for landlords over people who have to pay to live somewhere. 

Every day, Eric Adams looks more ridiculous. He lives in a basement in Brooklyn, or maybe in his office, or maybe at some girlfriend's house in Jersey. Who knows? And Andrew Yang sounds okay, but if you know anything about the subjects on which he speaks, you realize he doesn't even know what he's talking about. But hey, let's not make a big deal over that. After all he's famous. What's he famous for? Well, he ran for President and he wears a MATH pin. That should be good enough for anyone. 

And alas, the UFT endorsement does not seem to have done quite what we'd hoped. This seems to be our curse, I'd argue, at least this time, that's not our fault. At the time we made the endorsement, Stringer looked, to me at least, like the best candidate. I will never forget Patrick J. Sullivan on the PEP, speaking sense to Bloomberg, albeit while woefully outnumbered. Joel Klein sat playing with his Blackberry and clearly did not give a crap about his constituents. Were he a classroom teacher behaving like that, he'd have been up on 3020a charges, and justifiably so. 

Stringer has not done a good job defending himself against his accusers, both of whom are represented by the same scummy anti-union lawyer. In a perfect world, he'd step down and endorse Maya Wiley, who from all I can tell, appears to be Not Insane. This notwithstanding, stepping down is not the sort of thing politicians do. What we need is a list of five candidates who are sympathetic to public schools, and we need to GOTV for them. If we can't manage that, it looks like Yang, Adams, or Garcia, any of whom would be terrible. 

So now we find ourselves scrambling to put together a City Council that isn't awful, and that may be within our sights. However, with mayoral control being more like mayoral dictatorship, it will be a tough four years under any of these candidates.  Though we've dumped a whole lot of money into the Stringer campaign, we haven't got the hedge fund bucks that float Yang and Adams, and we won't be able to just ship suitcases of cash in the direction of the new mayor.

Alas, with this ranked voting, they don't have to hang their hats solely on Yang. They have Adams too, and from all I can see, they've also bought off Garcia. Get ready for a roller-coaster ride if any of them win. Me, I don't love roller coaster rides. 

Don't forget to vote!

Monday, June 07, 2021

UFT Executive Board June 7, 2021 Ranked Choice Voting, Arbitration for Break Pay, Possible Rating Waiver, and More

UFT Secretary LeRoy Barr--Rally Thursday 3:30 Brooklyn Borough Hall--Hedge fund billionaires want sway in City Hall and we will speak against it. 

UFT President Michael Mulgrew--ERI--Problem was city wanted to increase rather than decrease head count--lots of federal money. Wasn't about titles anymore. They just didn't want to cooperate, and do not want people to retire. They can't fill the need in many titles. It was us, DC37 and DSA. Once federal money came in, city changed position. 

We are expecting teacher evaluation to be waived again. Not passed yet. Thanks to everyone for staying on top of issues. 

Will be changes in special ed. plan due to corrective action plan. Hiring psychologists and social workers should see changes. DOE has completely abdicated responsibility in IEPs.

Next year--not sure about masks for next year

Overcrowded schools--76 very problematic--and 200 merely problematic--looking into rental space and creative solutions. Want them to understand these schools need help even if there is no social distancing. 

Politics--very stormy out there--Thanks to people who are doing phone banks. We have challenges on mayoral side. No one knows what to do with ranked choice voting. We have some bad people trying to stop us. 

Retro--Agreement said we would get it on second paycheck in July. City has agreed to do it on separate check July 22nd. People have been asking for that. Worked for both them and us. If you want to change TDA you have to move quickly. 

Debra Penny--Email will come tomorrow. You can change back from July 1 to 15th. Will be email tomorrow. 

Questions/ answers

What will happen now is if ATR has a positive rating, they will be placed permanently. Has cost a lot of money. Principals were reluctant to hire senior teachers.

Mike Sill--Has been a long fight. They tried to make people miserable via weekly rotation and senior teachers had it rough. Now they will be placed permanently and their positions will be funded. Amazing how principals' issues disappear when money comes with them. Our enemies won't be able to use existence of this pool against us anymore.

Mulgrew--This is common sense. Talking with DOE, trying to open up everything officially. Governor said today that all COVID safety procedures are gone when everything hits 70%. We have an agreement that when this ends, grievances and arbitrations are open. First will be spring break. 

Summer school--I don't believe there will actually be 700 sites. Looking at safety. Still doing social distancing. Checking on AC. Waiting for DC to come back first and verify which sites will be utilized. Won't be anywhere near 200K. Over 14K applications

Bad principals--Keep filing things, stay on top of them and shine a late. Less than normal craziness this year, but always bad apples. 

Bryant--lots of turnover, terrible ratings, what can we do?

We will keep pushing issue, and at end we usually get result. Shame it can't be automatic. Principals say we make things up. Bryant on radar.

Single session--Will we go back?

This was about getting parent teacher conference remote, and we also got pre-approved SBOs. You don't have to fight at school level. Elementary can have 30 minutes in morning for planning. We can sunset it on yearly basis. We are filing impact bargaining claim against principals who insist on digital classrooms for next year. Sent letter today.

Last day of school, full day?

Will meet with them and ask for time to pack up classrooms. They suggested during prep periods or lunch break. That's unacceptable. 

We will monitor what happens in the state and focus on city budget. We will do a push for city council and deal with ranked choice. 6:26

Saturday, June 05, 2021

The Chief-Leader Endorses Anti-Union, Pro-Privatization Garcia and Adams

It's pretty shocking that a publication that caters to working New Yorkers would support candidates who work against them. However, that's just what The Chief- Leader did a few days ago. 

Never mind that Adams is being pushed by no less than the anti-union, pro-charter Students First NY and that the charter lobby now runs a super PAC trying to sell him to us. Never mind that he used to be a Republican, and like Mike Bloomberg, goes with whatever political party that serves his personal advancement. Never mind that he supports the overtly racist stop and frisk policy so beloved by Mike Bloomberg. That's all good with The Chief, evidently. 

If you're a teacher, Eric Adams isn't your friend. Students First NY were the darlings of Mike Bloomberg, and for years we've had to put up with all their quotes and notions in Chalkbeat and the NY Post. If you think it's great to work a non-union charter with no job security, taking forced trips to Albany to whore yourself out for Eva Moskowitz, Adams is your guy. If you want our children, our students, and our incoming brothers and sisters to do that, Adams is a great choice.

However, if that's what you like, Adams isn't your only choice. There's Yang of course. And Kathryn Garcia wants to lift the charter school cap, because there aren't enough children test-prepping 200 hours a week. There aren't enough children on Moskowitz got to go lists waiting to be tossed out of elite charters and sent back to public schools, so that we can be vilified for what is, in fact, the failure of charters to perform their promised miracles. There aren't enough students peeing their pants during test prep rather than taking breaks because they're, you know, human. 

After saying very little about education for most of her career, Garcia is a sudden convert to charters.  It's not awfully hard to guess why. Billionaires are pushing pro-charter Yang and Adams, and why shouldn't she pick up a few suitcases full of cash for the cause? Why shouldn't she have some MAGA PAC pushing her, just like the one that pushes Yang? After all, isn't America the land of opportunity for people with big bucks? And how on earth is Kathryn Garcia going to buy herself a piece of that opportunity if she can't get the big money to flow in her general direction?

In fact, it looks like Garcia will be a thorn in the side of not only unionized teachers, but also New Yorkers in need of places to live

It is difficult to imagine Mayor Garcia allowing the same to ever happen on her watch. In a recent interview, she expressed skepticism about rent-stabilization and sympathized with landlords who she said have to contend with rising costs. “We need neighborhoods to be stable, and rent stabilization does that, but we also need to make sure that we’re not having unintended consequences of folks of not having the money to do the renovations on vacant apartments,” Garcia said. “We have a lot of small landlords. They control an enormous amount of the rent-stabilized housing stock and they have to be able to make it here as well.”

That's something else, isn't it? Standing up for the "small landlord?" Not only that, but she does so at the actual expense of the even smaller tenants, you know, those people who work to pay them rent. I guess it looks better to stand up for the small landlord than Donald Trump, but the fact is real estate interests also donate quite a bit to political campaigns. If you think Garcia is catering to "small landlords," I have a bridge in Brooklyn with your name on it. 

If you want higher rent, vote for Garcia. 

We need a friend in City Hall. Stringer has had a tough week, with a second accuser coming forth. He hasn't been particularly effective in addressing this accusation. Perhaps in a perfect world, he'd step down and endorse Maya Wiley, opening the path for our union to do the same. (In fact, AOC endorsed Wiley just  today.) Personally, I haven't seen much of a perfect world this year. We really need to ID five candidates who don't hate us and everything we stand for, and we need to work hard to make sure one of them wins.

I can understand the Times and the News endorsing Garcia. Their editorial pages are not particularly pro-union. But I'm sorely disappointed that The Chief would endorse these candidates, who ought not to be rated at all by anyone who supports working people. I wrote a letter to their editor saying they were free to endorse who they wished, but if they didn't support working people I couldn't support them. I told them to cancel my subscription and return whatever portion I hadn't yet paid for.

It's really a shame. I genuinely like reading The Chief. On the other hand, I don't get out to my local library enough, and this will give me the incentive I need to get over there more often.

Friday, June 04, 2021

The Good Blues in a Bad Year

Like most people, there are few things I enjoy more than a good sulk. Naturally, after finding out there was no early retirement incentive, I've been devoting a lot of time to feeling sorry for myself and sitting sullenly in various dark corners. I've acquired a Bill de Blasio voodoo doll, which is a fairly good stress reliever, except it's so tall it doesn't easily fit anywhere. 

But this has been a year like none of us have ever seen. Who could have imagined that a pandemic would essentially shut down the world? (Obama and his staff, did actually, and Trump tossed their plans for it in the trash.) And yet that's what happened. Now it was bad that we didn't get the ERI, but not as bad as I've seen it portrayed elsewhere on the net. What's the worst that will happen? You work another year, and with the increase in pay your pension will be close to what it could've been. Or retire now with a little less money, if you like. 

Here's the thing--the reason we didn't get the incentive was that the city was no longer broke. Weigh that against having the incentive, and the possibility of layoffs despite fewer senior teachers to pay. Weigh that against a budget emergency. Imagine being shuffled around to another school to teach 50 kids. Imagine clauses of the Collective Bargaining Agreement being overridden by a budget emergency.

I've heard these things described by teachers older than I am (and yes, there ARE teachers older than I am, thank you very much). This would be a disaster for public education, and a disaster for the city. When I weigh that against my personal issue of having to go to work, the ERI doesn't seem like such a terrible loss. Sometimes in life a person has to make the supreme sacrifice and go to work. There's just no way around it.  

If Biden had not won,  we'd still have Trump, and we'd still have the ERI. However, we'd have left a pretty awful mess for those who follow in our footsteps. I'd rather see the bigoted, juvenile execrable Big Orange sulking in sweltering Florida, even if it means I'm doing a little New York sulking myself. We can't raise our children well with a self-serving, self-centered, self-important lunatic as the number one role model.

That's not our sole good fortune, though. Go ahead and criticize me, and go ahead and criticize UFT leadership to your heart's content. The fact is we were very lucky to weather this worldwide disaster as well as we did. Businesses all over the country failed, millions of Americans lost work, and Donald Trump did not give a golly gosh darn about any of them. Biden isn't perfect, but he's head and shoulders better than the would-be fascist, still spouting delusions about being "reinstated" after having lost by six million votes. Now I won't contest the fact that he won the 2016 election by every possible measure (except votes cast, of course).

Here's another thing you may not know. A lot of us received accommodations this year and were able to teach from home. That, in itself, is remarkable, and a few decades ago would have been impossible. There would be no Zooming on AOL, or with no internet. I was contacted by teachers outside of NYC, and for them accommodations consisted of rooms with bigger windows, or some other such nonsense. 

I also know a lot of teachers who complain about technology. How can they make us do this? Well, the alternative is to be without work altogether. I love technology, for the most part. However, I really do not like teaching remotely. Everything I love about this job is in the real classroom, seeing real people.

That said, I am extremely grateful we had these options, and very lucky to have been able to take advantage. Could things be better? Of course they could. Things can always be better.

Let's work to make them that way. (For those of us who remember Bloomberg less than fondly, a good start will be this--Don't rank Yang or Adams.)

PS--Don't rank Garcia either.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Are You There?

There will be no early retirement incentive. I'd have retired if there had been one, as I can't resist a bargain. The city will pay for its intransigence by having to further deal with me.  However, I'm not really dying to stop working or anything. I actually like teaching very much, for the most part.

That said, this year has brought me closer to burnout than any other. The first day I taught, ever, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I met a lot of older teachers who advised me, "Get out while you still can. Go work on Long Island."

I thought I never wanted to be like that, and I'm very happy to say that I've managed never to be like that. Now I'm not perfect. People do things that make me angry, and that certainly includes my students. But I've learned to keep my mouth shut when I need to, and I've learned to be much quieter than usual whenever I feel angry. That's when my students should be concerned. If I'm screaming like a lunatic, I'm happy and enthusiastic and putting on a show.

This year I'm no longer facing students. I'm facing images. Now some students show their faces every day, and I really appreciate them and the fact they do this. I know them better, and truth be told, I probably call on them more and pay more attention to them. For one thing, when I call on them I know they will answer, even if just to say, "I don't know." And that's fine because they don't need to know. I need to know, and one thing I need to know is when they don't know.  

Of course I do actually call on students who choose to show icons. I've gotten to know which ones I can regularly count on. But every time I call and they don't answer, I ask, "Are you there?" If I get no response, I know they're playing a video game, sleeping, at the park with their phone on, or doing just about anything but paying attention to the class they're pretending to attend. 

It's an enormous waste of time, in fact. I hate it. And I'm not sure exactly who's being fooled, because most, or likely all, students who are never there when I call on them are failing. Of course there's no failure anymore, and they'll get NX. That means they'll get even more time to not do the work before they get actual failing grades. 

I have one student who just stopped coming earlier in the year. He doesn't like going online for school. I know this because his dad told me when I called. He's a great kid, actually. I had him in my class last year, when it was a live class. He's now failing everything because he just will not study online. I feel bad that he won't pass, but I respect this kid a lot more than those that are pretending.

It's really hard for me to understand, though. I have made my classes easier than ever in my career. I do the homework as a class activity, and all they need do is hand in what we've done together. Yet many, of course including the students who are there but not there, don't do it. 

Last week, I asked my students whether all their teachers constantly ask, "Are you there?" Some told me no, some other teachers call on them, and then mark them absent. That makes sense to me, and I don't know why I didn't think of it, or why I still don't do it. I pride myself on my evil nature, yet somehow I fell like I have to be consistent. After all, the grades of students who do no work are fairly consistent whether or not they are marked present.

I will be happy to be in a classroom in front of live students, and I will be happy to look to see who's there, rather than having to ask. I will be happy to pass by sleeping students and wake them up, rather than sit on my ass. Actually, when I give students work I've been calling the homes of students who are absent, particularly those whose great misfortune it is to speak a first language that I speak as a second language.

But I will be happy each and every day I don't have to ask, "Are you there?"

Are you with me?