Saturday, March 19, 2016

ARE TEACHERS AT OUR BEST WHEN WE FORGET THE CURRICULUM?



I got this on Facebook yesterday from the amazing Beth Dimino. It is from elementary-teacher.com but it kind of fits for high school teachers too.

As a high school social studies teacher, sometimes I like a great deal of structure and a detailed plan but when the class heads off on a tangent, we often head to places I didn't think were possible.  Some of my best teaching experiences happened when kids ended up talking about something completely different from what was in the lesson plan.

I'm often criticized by my friend Norm Scott for writing too much about union issues and not enough about teaching.  He is of course right as I am known to separate the two in my head and this blog mostly concerns the union stuff with an emphasis on standing up for teachers.

ICE and MORE have stressed repeatedly that our working conditions are the learning conditions for the students. Are we better teachers when we kind of have an idea and go with it or should we have detailed plans that we follow to the letter? In my early days we were encouraged to take chances but one of the consequences of fourteen years of the Bloomberg-Klein-Black-Walcott, de Blasio-Farina regimes is that many teachers are compelled to watch their backs and can't take those chances that many of us took for granted back in the nineties.

In my mind if we are to recover our profession, teacher autonomy is so necessary to regain.  I don't mean we should do anything and everything we want and ditch curriculum and structure but we need to be able to take risks in the classroom and not worry about some administrator playing gotcha every two minutes.  Sorry Norm, I couldn't help but bring it back to union rights.

9 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Nice. Yes, the plans have become the focus of our evaluations. And, the criticism is always the same: "your Do Now took too long." The criticism is so ubiquitous, that an anonymous teacher mockingly tweeted this the other day.

Every Principal, AP, and Sup now wants detailed LPs after every surprise visit. In the plans they want to see mind numbing detail (minutes, objectives, and standards). The reason is because almost *none* of the Admins have any content expertise. Thus, they want to set arbitrary traps for Teachers. Admins aren't really qualified to evaluate the vast majority of teachers they observe. But, if they mandate adherence to trivial matters, then the admins can ding people whenever they want to without actually paying any attention to the instructional decisions that the Teacher has made (which the Admin is usually unqualified to perceive or understand).

This whole Danielson database is about control. The problem is, we are left dancing to trivia to avoid getting dinged. We have less time to focus on substantive matters. We're being over-managed. Beauracracy run amok.

James Eterno said...

Which is precisely why we have to repeal the law that created this garbage.

Anonymous said...

How's this for a qualified admin – I've had over the span of my career, dozens of administrators who were musically illiterate evaluating my performance as an instrumental music teacher. That's right, they couldn't read a stitch of music or play any musical instrument and yet there they were, sitting and evaluating my performance. Fortunately for them, none of the evaluations were ever rated unsatisfactory, So I just sat quietly and listened to their tripe. I am sure they were aware that I could've severely embarrassed them.

James Eterno said...

This is why the UFT should have never given up our right to grieve unfair/inaccurate observation reports.

Anonymous said...

I said as much to Mulgrew on the Brian Lehrer Show while he was negotiating this stinker.

Anonymous said...

Send a link to the show please.

Anonymous said...

http://www.wnyc.org/story/mulgrew-back-pay-and-working-conditions-teachers-key-issues-contract-negotiations/

Yasmeen's synopsis focused on what I said about backpay (which commenters were none-too-pleased with). But, my main hope in calling was to give Mulgrew heat on the greivence issue, about which I feel he dissembled.

Commenters said I sounded like I had only few years in. Not exactly true. I've been in the system way longer than the current contract (and the previous one). But, I also have a long way to go. And, if we don't see some improvement, I don't know how I'm going to make it.

Ultimately, Mulgrew took the commenters' approach and fought for the back-pay. After reading the comments I can understand the political calculations he made in doing so. But, I think we definitely made a trade. The loss in job rules is spread out for decades, and seems to be permanent.

I get why people want back-pay. But look at how little that amounted to. And, we have worse working conditions than before. Had we fought for better grievances, then us mid-career people wouldn't be walking around with such big targets on our heads. Instead, we didn't fight at all. Hence, anyone over 40 gets to look forward to being an ATR or getting terminated by junk science evals.

James Eterno said...

We should have gone for both the back pay and improved work rules, particularly when we saved the city so much money by taking 10% over 7 years 1 month and with healthcare givebacks thrown in for good measure. Thanks for link.