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UFT Unity: Give Up on Money. Give Up on Health Care. FIGHT for 150 Minutes of Weekly Teacher Torture
By Arthur Goldstein - posted with permission from the author -http://nyceducator.com
Let me begin by telling UFT Unity leadership that there are things we actually CARE ABOUT. No one whose employment depends on toeing the line will tell you what they are, but I will. Pardon my profligate use of all caps, but the older I get, the less tolerance I have for all things stupid.
1. We want a RAISE that meets or beats inflation.
2. We want BETTER, not CHEAPER health care.
3. We are GROWNUPS. We can better decide how to use our time than either the DOE or our spectacularly out-of-touch leaders.
I won't even bother to elaborate on points one or two. They're simple. If leadership cared about number one, they'd have organized MLC to demand a minimum raise, rather than diminished health care. If leadership cared about number two, they would NEVER agree to health on the cheap, and would ideally support the NY Health Act. As unionists, we should help EVERYONE, not only ourselves (and certainly not only those with patronage jobs).
I'm truly gobstruck at what our leadership will and will not stand for. Our UFT Unity leadership has drawn a line in the sand. What we need to fight for is 150 minutes of PD, parental contact, or if you're lucky, self-directed OPW (other professional work).
One of the things that really drives people from this job is the micromanagement. You MUST write the aim on the board. It MUST be in the form of a statement. No, it MUST be in the form of a question. You MUST have a DO NOW assignment on the board. It MUST be five minutes. If it's six minutes, you are ineffective. Since no one can agree on what the hell good teaching is, we NEED a frigging checklist. You must do 22 things. Or 7 things. Or whatever.
If you have a reasonable supervisor, there is flexibility. If not, Danielson is a deity, and the checklist is the Ten Commandments. If you have a REALLY unreasonable supervisor, the checklist is filled in by the voices in his head rather than what actually happens. I once helped a member grieve an observation for which we had video contradicting many of the things the supervisor said. How many other delusional observations had this supervisor conducted? (Me? I'd guess all or most, except for those of the attractive young women he tended to favor.)
Is UFT Unity helping with issues like those? No. They are, rather, mired in the minutia of what we do with these 150 minutes. The DOE, perhaps, wants a return to the good old days of 37.5 minutes daily tutoring, (Yes, they NEED that half a minute.) or small group instruction, or whatever. This, to them, is somehow a win. To me, it's ridiculous. In our perpetually multi-session school, we simply stretched out instructional periods. That was not so bad.
Then we worked out a nine-period day giving teachers more prep time. That was a good thing, but I'm pretty sure we're going back to longer periods. I feel sorry for people in schools where they're stuck doing PD. I'm sorry, but the fact is almost all PD I've been to has been a waste of time. A lot of big shots, like Carmen Farina and Michael Mulgrew, seem to think we're in need of direction and orientation. Since they haven't been in classrooms in years, they haven't got a clue.
The best example of this in my experience occurred when we went to remote for the first time. I had never used Google Classroom and hadn't even heard of Zoom. I sat through lectures on what it was for hours on the two days we were instructed to return, despite COVID raging everywhere. I listened, but it didn't really help.
Then I sat for five minutes with a tech-savvy first year teacher. He showed me how to use Google Classroom, and he showed me how to use Zoom. We set up my meetings together. I tested Zoom with another first-year teacher and it worked well. I was ready when I had to meet my classes.
Rather than trust us, they herd us into teacher teams and force us to look at tests and analyze scores. They give us frameworks on what we must do. They demand reports addressing points A, B and C.
The fact is we real live teachers talk ALL THE TIME. We discuss what happens in our classrooms. We exchange ideas. We DON"T NEED a schedule. We DON'T NEED supervision. But this is what the Unity Caucus battles for, alongside the clueless DOE. The only thing they disagree about is HOW to direct our time.
The DOE assumes we will spend no time helping our students unless they force us. This is also ridiculous. Again, we are grownups. If we really didn't care about our students, giving an extra 37.5 minutes with them would be a total waste of time. In fact, we discuss issues with students among ourselves, counselors, paras, social workers, and anyone else who crosses our paths. The first year teacher might know tech better than I do, but I'm likely to have good suggestions for actual classroom issues. We support one another, and thus support our students.
So I have news for UFT Unity. I have the same news for the DOE. Teachers don't need your help to plan our time. The DOE, in fact, is our adversary in negotiations. UFT Unity, rather than fighting them over things we CARE ABOUT, is bending over backwards trying to save money for Eric Adams.
Short term, Michael Mulgrew needs to listen to someone other than the fawning sycophants jockeying for position. Long term, he needs to go, and his caucus needs to be voted out. And for the record, it's not just Mulgrew. UFT Unity would gleefully cut off his head and let another grow in its place.
We need new leadership. And Unity can no longer count on retirees. I'm retiring from my job, but as a retiree, I'll work to get new leadership.
New leadership will help teachers long-term, and that will help our students as well. A happy teacher inspires young people much more effectively than an overworked drudge mired in the endless nonsense Unity leadership and the DOE cook up, whether together or separately.
Arthur Goldstein is an ESL teacher at Francis Lewis High School, former chapter leader and a former UFT executive committee member. And plays a dang good fiddle.
Find him on Twitter @TeacherArthurG.