Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Public Notice:

My story in Gotham Gazette was number 8 in their top 20 most-read op-eds. 

I'm very happy to know that people are keyed in to our struggle to protect health care for UFT members and other city workers.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Shirking--Our National Pastime

This is America from top down.  We see it every day. The buck doesn't stop here anymore. It rarely stops anywhere. From Donald Trump saying, "I don't take responsibility at all," to the student telling you she was late for your class because it takes too long to walk down the hall, nothing is anyone's fault anymore. 

Our employer, the DOE, removes the tool most of us use to do grading. While there's good reason to do that, they replace it with a piece of crap, and publicly defend it. They gave our school an attendance system that works most of the time, but is dependent on DOE internet, never a good thing. Of course, defend the program. Why bother actually repairing internet service citywide? That's not why your mother got you this gig sitting around Tweed doing Whatever.

When some administrator screws up some program or other to an embarrassing degree, and you point it out, you get to hear about how unforgivable it is you mustered the temerity to mention it. If the administrator is too chicken-shit to do it personally, you hear from the minions instead. How dare you point out how ineffective this program is! We went to multiple workshops!

There's no reflection, and no introspection. There's not even the echo of a thought that anything could have been done better. This is the way it is, this is the way it's always been, and if you would only clamp down your festering gob, it could be this way forever

I expect this sort of thing from morally bankrupt politicians, the DOE and  imagination-challenged administrators. Lately, though, it's exactly what I get from my union leadership. In 2018, filled with hubris from a 2014 deal, they made a supreme screw-up, one of their very worst. Self-funding a raise is a terrible idea even if it works, as it seemed to in 2014. When it does not, like now, it's far worse. 

Now we're looking at disrupting and downgrading the health care of our most vulnerable members. Perhaps this way, the fools in MLC who made a backroom deal can retain their credibility with the city. Of course, that's not something they should value over credibility with rank and file. This notwithstanding, they couldn't care less, and still manage to boast about their negotiation policies. Leadership assumes, correctly, that much of our rank and file is asleep, unaware, and indifferent. This, however, is nothing to brag about, and is also the fault of leadership.

To have a truly vibrant and effective union, we need to harness the strength of rank and file. Newspapers call us the "powerful" UFT to show their contempt for us. We need to rise up and become at least as powerful as they say we are. It feels like our leadership fears us and desperately hopes we remain dormant. That's really the only way we can tolerate this spectacular blunder. (It certainly appears they made their best effort to sweep it under the carpet at the last retiree meeting.)

I make mistakes too. However, if you persuade me I'm actually wrong, I admit to them and correct them. That way, I can move forward. We really need our leaders to wake up and admit to this screwup. Otherwise, it's just going to get worse. 

We cannot afford to change the code. We cannot afford to move backward. And we just can't take any more of this. 

UFT leadership needs to wake the hell up, now, and remember just who they work for.

Monday, December 19, 2022

No Blog Today...

...but I'm on NY1 talking about the stunningly crappy DOE grading system

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Who Spreads Misinformation to UFT?

UFT's Unity Caucus says dissidents are spreading misinformation. I guess I'm a dissident, now that I've decided retiree benefits should not be cut. Leadership's decision to encourage cuts by pitting in-service members against retirees goes against everything a union should stand for.

Leadership now cries anyone who doesn't follow the party line is a liar. This, of course, is their standard MO. And make no mistake, it's argumentum ad hominem, the practice of insulting your opponent rather than engaging in honest discourse. It's logical fallacy. That's what you go to when you do not, in fact, have an actual argument. 

Retirees have been thrust into the battle of their lives, trying to retain the health care they've earned and enjoyed for decades. Michael Mulgrew and the MLC want to replace it with a Medicare Advantage plan to save the city money. 

It's an odd position, because the city is supposed to be our adversary when we negotiate. Mulgrew sides with the city. He and his small army of UFT employees and would-be employees, the Unity Caucus, are now making us, the membership, his adversaries. They call us names. They ridicule us. They demand we stop fighting to preserve our rights. 

This is not what union is for. (If you're curious about what union is for, and what one can do, read this book.)

They claim they are fighting for choice. However, the choice they propose retirees face, as they get by on defined pensions, is the choice of paying 5K per couple, per year if they wish to retain the care the city has offered for decades. Otherwise, they will be saddled with inferior care that will cost them, at the very least, time receiving procedures that CVS/ Aetna doesn't feel like paying for. They will not have access to nearly the number of doctors that take standard Medicare, and if they live anywhere but NY or Florida, they will not be served well at all.

But let's talk about who really spreads misinformation. This comes from my notes on the UFT Delegate Assembly October 12, 2018:

Mulgrew—Health care negotiated with all unions. Done six months ago. MLC thought something bad could happen with health care because of DC. We wanted to lock in a deal. No additional copays, but made a change for all unions. We tried to get plan in better place. Was proactive approach. Has been out for six months. Was smart thing to lock down our health care with no significant cost ships to union membership. Others pay 3200 out of pocket. We are only workers who can get plans with no premiums attached. If UFT members get cancer they can go to Memorial Sloan Kettering—this is with HIP, also Hospital of Special Surgery. Go read it before you tie it to this contract. 

Let's examine that. UFT President Michael Mulgrew told us there were no additional copays. Shortly thereafter, it cost us $150 to go to an ER, up from 50. It cost us $50 to go to an Urgent Care. I don't recall what is was before, but that's a hike. We just learned that Pro Health Urgent Care will run $100. And if you want to go for an MRI anywhere but RadNet, it will cost you $100. 

Aren't those additional copays?

And pardon me, but isn't 5K a year to retain the health care you need in your most vulnerable years a significant cost? Isn't it particularly significant to members who retired with lower salaries, like UFT paraprofessionals and DC37 workers? 

Who is really spreading misinformation? Here's what Unity Caucus tweeted:


We know now that actual misinformation originated from Mulgrew, the number one Big Kahoona of the Unity Caucus. Let's look at their other accusation--spreading fear. The fact is UFT President Michael Mulgrew sent us an email stating that if we did not concede to the mayor's demand to demean health care for retirees, he would impose a premium on health care for in-service employees. Let's set aside the fact that the mayor does not have the right to do this unilaterally, and is bound to negotiate. Mulgrew's threat is a classic appeal to fear, more logical fallacy.

It appears Mulgrew's Unity Caucus, aside from indulging in various and sundry logical fallacies, wishes to project its own shortcomings on those of us who fight to protect member rights.

As for the "order," Jonathan has clear evidence, in Scheinman's own words, on why it is not, in fact, any such thing. 

It's absolutely disgraceful that the President of our Union fights tooth and nail to diminish our health care. And the fact is, by attempting to slap a 5K penalty on any retiree couple who wishes to retain standard Medicare, he is in fact imposing a very substantial premium. He's reducing our compensation, one way or another, via health care fees, just like Scott Walker and every other tinhorn anti-union politician did. 

The UFT needs leadership that will fight for us, not the mayor, not the NYC treasury, and certainly not CVS/Aetna.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Letter from the Deputy Chancellor


Dear Colleagues:

Aside from withholding as much money as we possibly can from funding schools, the safety of our students and staff is our absolute top priority. 

As such, we are advising you that the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has issued a universal indoor masking recommendation for all indoor settings, including schools and daycare centers, due to the current high rates of flu and other respiratory conditions. 

As always, we sort of follow the guidance of our health experts.  We're not gonna go crazy and buy air purifiers with actual HEPA filters, but you know. I mean, they say you should do this, and we they may just be right. At the very least, we don't want to take any responsibility if they're right and we aren't. Therefore, based on the recommendation of our partners at DOHMH, we are encouraging every student and staff member to mask up as we head into the winter season.

Of course, we’re not requiring it. so hey, if you feel like coming unmasked, go right ahead. Hey, if you want to spread COVID, RSV, or just the good old flu, go right ahead. Typhoid, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, or whatever, go right ahead. We’re good with that. After all, we encouraged masks. 


Doubtless if you’re a teacher you’ll understand. Perhaps one day you encourage your students do the homework, rather than requiring it. Sounds good, right?. If you’re highly effective, you’ll get 100% compliance. If you don't, we'll give you a crap rating, and good luck fighting that. And I know this well, because I’m the frigging First Deputy Chancellor, and I've already made up my mind you're guilty. And no, I never taught a day in my life. 

Wanna make something of it? Feeling lucky, punks? 

I didn’t think so. 

So don’t come bitching to us if you get sick. We encouraged everyone to not come unmasked, and we are not responsible if you come in and get sick from someone who was unmasked either. 

All schools and offices are equipped with masks. Not medical masks. Not masks that actually protect you. More like the kind of masks you get on Ebay three bucks for a hundred. Of course, in a special deal with one of the mayor’s close relatives or girlfriends (Who can keep track?), we managed to negotiate a special deal of a hundred bucks for three. And for those of you who wonder why we can’t fund schools, it’s important we make deals like this. Otherwise, how would we get gigs like mine where you go to gala luncheons and write staff emails three times a year, if that? Beats the hell out of working. 

As a reminder, masks should cover the nose and the mouth, resting snugly above the nose, below the mouth, and on the sides of the face. But if they aren’t, we don’t care. It’s only a recommendation.

To further encourage everyone to stay masked, we’ve decided to restrict your use of Teacher’s Choice to buy them. This is part of our comprehensive program to serve you better by serving you less.

We also continue to encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with all vaccinations, including flu and COVID. But if you don’t, who cares? No skin off my apple. 

Principals: A family-facing update about masking recommendations is being prepared to backpack home and will be shared soon. We'll recommend that the students wear masks, and if they don't, we'll rate you ineffective, just like those teachers. Also, you'd better not push the students too hard to wear masks, or we'll bring you up on charges. If convicted, you'll have to leave your positions, go to Tweed every day, and do Whatever It Is We Do There for the rest of your professional career.

If you have questions, please keep them to yourselves. It's holiday season, and we have super-spreader parties to plan. There's no way we're gonna tamp down our big fun by wearing masks. Still, we recommend you do.

Thank you for helping us keep everyone safe and healthy as we enter 2023! Lord knows we aren’t gonna do it!
Dan Weisberg
First Deputy Chancellor

Monday, December 12, 2022

UFT Leadership--We Are Superheroes. You Are a Contrary Galoot.

Not in those words, of course.  But they like to portray the UFT President as an infallible super hero, kind of like the one on the left. He's facing down impossible odds while you and I are whining on the sidelines. I can't sit through the Town Hall presentations any more, but James Eterno did, and kindly took notes:

We don't wait for something to happen.

They certainly don't. They made a deal, six months ahead of the 2018 contract, for enormous health savings (for the city, not us). That's why they wanted to dump all city retirees into an Advantage plan. They basically agreed to fund our own raise, a counterintuitive, stupid precedent that will cost us dearly in contract negotiations.

Other people just say no. That doesn't sit well with us. People will yell and scream and do other things. 

This is the stereotype they trot out any time any member dares disagree with them. You "just say no" for no particular reason. Actually, I've agreed with a lot of things leadership did. I loved parental leave. It's still a great improvement over the nothing we had previously. I supported the 2018 contract (with no idea the health savings they agreed to were so reckless and hurtful). 

Here's the difference between me and UFT leadership--when I make a mistake I tend to say, "Sorry, I made a mistake." Back when we had an online grading system, students would come up to me and ask, "How come I got a 10 instead of a 100?" I would say, "I type too fast," and fix it. Were I UFT leadership, I'd say to my students, "You are a whiner, always yelling and screaming and saying no." Then I'd fail the kid for no reason. 

If I acted like that, I'd be unfit. 

In fact, as someone who may retire soon, I was also open to the change in retiree health care. But once they failed to even examine the city code, and lost the provider, I didn't feel these people were capable of negotiating something worthwhile. Well, I was wrong to support the health care change, and I was wrong to support the 2018 contract. Color my eyes wide open, and call me a nattering nabob of negativity. I've been blogging since 2005, teaching since 1984, and I've heard way worse. 

We want to create the best retiree plan in the USA. We will not sign unless we believe the plan is better.

Leadership now distances itself from Medicare Advantage. Who can blame them, given their spectacular and very public failure? The fact is, though, there is no alternative for them that will pump millions of dollars into the city like Advantage will. The other is, NOT all doctors accept it. And however they do it, it's likely to be picked up by local doctors, just as GHI/ Emblem is. If you're planning to move anywhere but Florida, good luck. 

Want transparency. Want record of prior authorizations. Want to be able to go to an expert if there is a disagreement and someone is denied.

We want a lot of things. The fact is, though, that the only reason Advantage gets money from the feds is that it saves them money. And it does so by denying procedures. And the people who do so are always expert. Perhaps they're expert in saving money for the company, but they're expert nonetheless. 

Only one option if we don't change Municipal Code.

And that's because you are unwilling to fight for what's right. Evidently, you're unwilling even to negotiate. That's what happens when you insist you're right no matter what. That's what happens when you give up and refuse to fight.

There will be in-service vs retiree.

You already told us that, in an email.  UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote us saying that if we didn't screw the retirees, we'd screw in-service teachers. That's the classic zero-sum game, the same thing that's kept America from universal health care and a continuing robust middle class. It's among the very worst messages a union leader could broadcast. If you don't help us screw them, we're gonna screw you. This is a classic appeal to fear.

But it's too late for that. You screwed us all when you agreed to that health care deal in 2018. Your job is to fix your mistake, not blame or threaten us.

Disrespect toward people giving information is unacceptable. People attacking chapter leaders and district reps not acceptble. 

In other words, sit down, shut up, and don't dare disagree with us, ever. This is not how you build activism or union. We build activism and union via collective action, not by blindly agreeing with those who've failed us over and over, and certainly not by issuing them a blank check to do it again. 

UFT leadership sees themselves as Captain Marvel, but on this astral plane, they don't even measure up to Captain Underpants.

Friday, December 09, 2022

How Far We Haven't Come

The tech is different, but not much else has changed since Up the Down Staircase. It was a series of absurd situations, with one pronounced tragedy. There was a teacher who lacked the sensitivity of a number 2 pencil. In the current system, that guy would likely be superintendent by now.

In the novel, teachers would say to one another, "Let it be your challenge," or something whenever they were faced with absurd situations. Then they'd go their merry way and hope for the best.

These days, admin  still issues those challenges, telling you they're serious but not impossible. The actual challenge is managing to view them as impossible but not serious. You can do that sometimes. It takes practice, and no supervisor can show you how. Many don't know, and are supervisors simply because they couldn't handle your incredibly stressful job.

Last week we had to submit report card grades. Because Skedula is out, and because the DOE imposed a system that does not actually work, I held off a long time from giving grades. I finally started using Google Classroom to record grades. Controlled by our administration, it has its drawbacks. For example, a new section of my class opened up and ten students were transferred. As soon as that happened, all their previous grades disappeared into the ether. One student was transferred from one section to another, and his grades have disappeared to. Hope his parents don't come in and ask me about them today, our PT conference.

I did my grading last Sunday. We were sent an Excel sheet. I filled in everything and sent it back. On Monday, there was an announcement. Some grades were missing, and could we please fill them in online? ALL my grades were missing. I had to scramble to replace them.  I finished Tuesday morning, but by that time report cards had already been printed. So I did redundant paperwork for no reason whatsoever.

Then, of course, I had to lose class time while my students came up and asked why their grades were blank. I had to find their names on the Excel sheet (which thankfully I'd saved), handwrite grades (entering them a third time) and sign them one at a time. Of course, failing students were less inclined to ask. They got to go home and blame me for not giving them grades. I forwarded admin the email I originally sent with my grades, asking that they be posted for the next report.  Of course, they are Very Busy with Important Stuff and couldn't respond. 

We have a restorative justice program in our school. I got two letters after MP2, asking about how these kids can make up assignments and possibly pass MP3. Here's how I responded to one of them:

I have seen this student exactly two days this year. The only other time I heard from him was when he wrote, "Fuck this shitty class," on my Google Classroom wall. I deleted that message and muted him, and have not heard from him since.
I reported this action to admin, who did nothing about it. Or perhaps they placed him in Restorative Circle. Who really knows about these things?
Thank you for your inquiry.
Very truly yours,

Arthur Goldstein


I'm glad I don't have to write teachers asking them how students who cut entire semesters can pass classes.   

Then there are the PDs we must sit through. Highly paid DOE people come and tell you that all your ELLs, even the ones who don't speak English at all, MUST pass the English Regents exam. They don't care how you do it, as long as you do it now

There was one in which a principal told us to tell kids they must NOT be LATE. FAIL them if they are late! He then segued into what we could do to pass everyone no matter what. Ideas included sanctioned cheat sheets. One teacher said he let his students correct the tests after they were handed out, but only gave half credit for corrected answers. So a 50 becomes a 75. He's now an assistant principal.

There was one where a monolingual teacher lectured the language department on how to be sensitive to multiculturalism. Evidently, the secret is to give them a math project. Who knew? Like every other teacher in the room, I'd lived and worked in foreign countries, studied multiple languages, and acquired state certification in at least one. Why had I frittered away my time like that when I could have simply assigned a math project? Who knew?

Without all that assistance, I have no idea how I'd manage to teach students, 34 at a time, with no background in English, how to use it. The secret is to force them to pass the English Regents, fail them for coming late, allow them to cheat on tests, and give them a math project. 

Then we get flowery emails from various chancellors. They fight tooth and nail against reasonable class sizes, force you to come in when there's a deadly pandemic, and withhold desperately needed funds from your school. Then they write absurd missives from their air-conditioned offices and speak as though they're your colleagues.

It takes a special sort of person to do this job, and a more special one to keep it. Lots of people do it for one year, give up, and then write books as though they are authorities. Actually, these people are authorities on failure. Yet they pretend to have a magic secret to cure all the ills of a system that hasn't fundamentally changed in half a century.

You have to be crazy to do this job. You have to be crazier to keep it. I've been at it for 38 years. The thing that sustains you is the kids. They also don't change. You have to weed out the noise. The thing is, the new tech kind of turns the noise volume up. 

I don't have any magic secrets. But it wouldn't be all that hard to improve on the current system. In Spanish, they say that common sense is the least common of all the senses.

It's almost altogether lacking in the DOE.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday morning I was out walking with my dog when I saw a truck with lights flashing all over the place. I thought, oh my gosh, someone is really sick and getting taken away in an ambulance. I've been taken away in ambulances once or twice, and I recall it being no fun at all. As I approached, I noticed it was not an ambulance, but rather a flatbed truck, and as I got closer I saw they were taking away someone's Lexus. 

This, I thought, is really bad. Someone who couldn't afford to do so went out and bought a Lexus. Obviously, this person was concerned about appearances. I guess you look well-to-do if you have a Lexus, and I guess once you park it in your driveway, all your neighbors will say, "Hey look. They have a Lexus."

But then you miss a few payments, and they come and haul your Lexus away. They have lights flashing everywhere, and all the neighbors see. They say, "Hey, did you see them hauling that Lexus away?" Then all the neighbors, who you'd worked so hard to impress, find out that you couldn't afford a Lexus after all. You lose the down payment, you probably owe money, and you have to borrow your sister's 1990 Corolla just to get to work. The neighbors either gloat or politely pretend they didn't notice

I felt bad about that, but on the brighter side it was Tuesday. This was good, because I wouldn't have to pack anything to eat after first period. We have this cafe at our school, and they sell breakfast burritos in the AM after 7:45 Tuesday through Thursday. This is an offshoot of our culinary program. Our principal went out and bought furniture that makes it look like a cafe. This was pretty impressive, as most school cafeterias are pretty much indistinguishable from a typical prison mess.

So it was a good place to hang out. You could sit in a booth with a buddy, and you were pretty much socially distanced from most everyone else. At first I wasn't really impressed with the culinary aspect, because all they had were Pop-tarts, all sorts of other sugar-laden garbage, and bagels, not precisely the sort of empty calories I want before I start teaching. 

However, they won me over with their coffee. I really don't expect coffee to be good anywhere. When I'm on the road, I buy hazelnut coffee. I don't really like it, but it always tastes like hazelnut. For my money, hazelnut is better than crap. Anyway, the coffee at our school is actually very good. That's remarkable, because I distinctly recall getting the worst coffee on God's green earth from our traditional cafeteria. Being desperate for caffeine back then, I'd hold my nose, swallow it quickly, and hope for the best. 

But at 8:50 yesterday, they had only bagels and Pop-tarts. That meant I had to walk out in the rain to the grease truck near the school, where they would actually put things like eggs and cheese on a wrap, if you'd only pay them money. I trudged back to the cafe and bought coffee, but I'm not gonna chance coming in without my own food anymore. There's enough stress in this job without wondering what it is you actually ate from the grease truck. 

Toward the afternoon, I was pretty concerned because I had to run to a dentist appointment. That never puts me in a good mood. But then, there was an announcement, All teachers should check their email for missing report card grades. I did, and all my grades were missing. This was odd, because I'd submitted them all on Sunday. 

And it was doubly inconvenient because we don't have a grading program. I was pressed for time, and rather than go from my saved Excel file, checking 150 times back and forth, I looked up my grades on Google classroom and recalculated. Before I could finish, I had to run to the dentist. My dentist is in Jackson Heights, so before I get a huge needle inserted somewhere in my mouth, I get to go up and down the streets and see a fire hydrant or driveway where every space should be.

This morning I was giving a test, so I had very little prep to do. I was able to print out my Excel sheet, I checked most of my grades against it. They seemed okay. But then I found that report cards had already been printed, so I ran around like a chicken without a head for no reason whatsoever.

However, I'd brought my own food, so no Pop-tarts or grease trucks for me. 

And Warnock won in Georgia. 

I feel better times coming.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

UFT Leadership Establishes New Negotiating Policy

I'm increasingly impressed with what UFT caucus Retiree Advocate did. They got together with other city union members and supported the lawsuit that put a halt to the "savings" program so revered by our union leadership. 

Retiree Advocate did precisely what union does. Union organizes. Union fights. Union demands better working conditions. Union sets examples to improve its lot, and thus pull up other working people as well.

Our leadership, on the other hand, berates Retiree Advocate, calls them troublemakers, says they screwed up everything, and follows up by demanding absolute fealty.  Rather than organize against the city, the union demands we get on board with the "savings" program.

We now know said savings are entirely for the city, entirely at our expense, to the tune of 600 million a year (so far, until our brilliant leadership makes yet another deal). The way the city chose to save this money was by dumping all retirees into a Medicare Advantage plan OR charging $191 a month to keep the program they had. 

Of course, the city got a lot of help from the Municipal Labor Committee, a group of various union leaders, including ours. These leaders decided to mortgage our futures in exchange for modest salary gains, at or near cost of living. Somehow, they muster the audacity to call that a good deal.

These people are the worst negotiators I've ever encountered.  How do you trade something of such great value for salary increases that are just okay, but no big deal? While I'm sure these negotiators are highly compensated and can afford better drugs than say, working teachers, they ought not to take them while on the job.

I might retire soon. I was at first open to trying this plan. It sounded okay. All doctors who accepted Medicare would take it. And Emblem Health, my provider for decades, would run it. However, all of the above turned out to be untrue. Not all doctors would take it. And Emblem, viewing the gross ineptitude we see more of each and every day, dropped out.

Like many, I was left with even less faith in the people negotiating this program. 

The other day I had an MRI. Emblem Health approved it pretty quickly. I made it a point to select a RadNet facility, because I'd gotten an email stating the copay there would be $50. It was $100 everywhere else, due to the "savings" program. However, the RadNet facility charged me $100.

I contacted friends in UFT, who put me in touch with someone from the Welfare Fund. I may get my 50 bucks back. Regardless, this further underlines the incompetence of the people asking for our trust. They should have made sure RadNet knew about and acted on this deal, if indeed there was one (just like they should have made sure all doctors accepted that Advantage plan).

The thing that irrevocably pushed me over the edge was the email from Mulgrew stating we needed to support changing the code setting minimum health care costs for city workers. If we didn't allow that, he said, in-service members would be charged $1500 a year for health care. Let's set aside the fact that health care needs to be negotiated, and Eric Adams cannot unilaterally impose charges. The fact is, that email pitted one faction of our union against another. That's absolutely unacceptable. That's not what union is or does. 

Union leaders ought not to be threatening their members. They ought to be threatening our employers. Instead of that, they're acting as shills for our employers and demanding we tow the line. They're lecturing us, saying we ought not to protest. They warn us of the consequences of disobedience, as though we're recalcitrant children.  In fact, we're organized labor. Protest should be in our DNA.

There are a number of things that can happen here. Absolutely none of them are good for membership. We're looking at diminished health care for the most vulnerable among us, those who can least afford having fewer options. We're looking at exploding copays and possibly premiums for Emblem/ GHI. Every possible solution will be loathed by some, if not all, of membership.

It is disgraceful that our leadership, faced with the consequences of a poorly conceived health deal they ought never to have made, would determine to simply sell out any faction of membership, let alone those who can least afford it. The fact is, even if they succeed, we have no guarantee they won't sell out some other faction in the very near future. Again, I marvel that anyone could negotiate so poorly.

Of course, UFT leadership cannot conceive, ever, that they may have done something wrong. That's why they ridicule those who dare suggest they're wrong. That's why they know better than Retiree Advocate. What, ORGANIZE? Why would anyone do that when you could simply CAPITULATE?

And we, the membership, are forced into the position of having to negotiate against leadership, rather than management. What we desperately need is leadership that will fight for us, rather than Eric Adams. Leadership does not, will not, cannot see that. As a result, its long unchallenged Unity Caucus may finally have issued itself a mortal wound.

They just don't see it. They can't and won't see anything. That, evidently, would violate policy.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

The Morning Class

I had a morning class earlier this year. There were 8 students in it. I really liked teaching it. However, the school killed it and redistributed the kids in other classes. I'm happy to tell you they're all doing well, albeit with far less attention from me. 

For a while, I had four classes. My beginning classes were, and are, difficult. I have to devote quite a bit of time toward discipline, or it will be chaos. I'm at school before 7 AM, and once it's past 7, I'm making calls. 

This week, the school reinstituted my morning class. this time as a beginner class. I previously had two beginner classes, one with 34, and one with 33. They have been keeping me hopping. I have a lot of students I suspect to be SIFE, or lacking in formal education. It's been quite difficult keeping them engaged. For a while, I taught the way I usually teach beginners, but I was losing over half the class. 

I started doing far more basic work with them. I have a picture dictionary and we're doing very rudimentary vocabulary and sentence construction, very slowly. I think that way I was up to 75% passing. But I still had some hard cases. 

It's very natural for people to want to speak their first language. If I were in China, I'd long to speak English. So kids who have a negative attitude about the US, English, or both will do all in their power not to hear the new language. If you move them away from their paisanos, they're likely as not to tune out out and fold into virtual cocoons.     

The first morning of my new class, yesterday, only one kid showed up. After that, I went to a helpful secretary who printed out the schedules of the other students, and I distributed them myself. This morning, eight of the ten students scheduled came in. 

And a miracle occurred. There is a boy I've thought of as an impossible case, a boy who's never paid attention or listened, who's never lifted a finger to learn English. Once, he stood up in class and announced, "No es me culpa si no se ingles." It's not my fault if I don't know English.

That made me very upset, and I did something I usually would not. I answered him in Spanish, in front of the whole class. I said, no, it's not your fault if you don't know English. But it's your fault if you don't try. It's your fault if you don't listen. It's your fault if you don't do the work. He remained unimpressed.

At 7 the following morning, I called his house. He never made another such announcement again. But he sat sullen and angry every day, and never lifted a finger to do better. 

When he arrived to the new class, late, he saw there was one small circle of students and pulled up a seat. We were talking about colors. I said, "I'm wearing gray and red." Then I got some students to say what they were wearing. I wrote my statement on the board.

Then, they boy said, "I'm wearing black and white."

It was the first time I ever heard him breathe a word of English. It was a small sentence, but worlds over the expectation I held yesterday. And it happened because he was in a small class. With 34 kids, I have to move some around away from others, and move myself like a whirlwind so as to preclude chaos. I don't need to do that in a small group. I can get everyone to participate. I can do a better job. 

Danielson doesn't account for things like this, but every teacher knows. It's criminal to place 34 kids who know virtually no English in a classroom for 40 minutes a day and hope for the best. It doesn't have to be under ten. But it just cannot work with 34.

We can do better and we all know how.