One of the most helpful documents in New York City for teachers is Special Circular No. 28, written by then Chancellor Joseph Fernandez on December 6, 1990. It remains in effect to this day.
The subject of Special Circular 28 is lesson plans. Article 8E had just been put in the UFT contract in 1990 and Fernandez wrote the circular to clarify what it means. Article 8E says:
The development of lesson plans by and for the use of the teacher is a professional responsibility vital to effective teaching. The organization, format, notation and other physical aspects of the lesson plan are appropriately within the discretion of each teacher. A principal or supervisor may suggest, but not require, a particular format of organization, except as part of a program to improve deficiencies of teachers who receive U- ratings or formal warnings.
We now have ineffective ratings that are the equivalent of the old unsatisfactory. Chancellor Fernandez in Special Circular 28 went on to explain certain aspects of this contractual provision when he wrote:
Within the school community of supervisors, teachers and students, lesson planning is recognized to be a vehicle for furthering instructional outcomes and a way of enhancing professional development. If the development of a school instructional plan is a collaborative effort among supervisors and teachers, as part of that process teachers may be encouraged to share and coordinate lesson planning. Since the mechanical, ritualized collection of lesson plans does not further these goals, it is prohibited.
This is clear language on mechanical collection of lesson plans that has held up in grievance arbitration.
Fernandez then encourages teachers to ask for help from their supervisors. His words:
Professional supervisory practice includes an array of activities, such as time spent in classrooms demonstrating teaching techniques, assuring that professional development occurs and determining that appropriate curriculum outcomes are realized.
As the master teachers, supervisors are supposed to come in and spend time in our classrooms demonstrating the teaching techniques they want us to try. It has come to our attention that they don't do this. For example, too many Absent Teacher Reserves have been referred to websites. This is not acceptable and certainly does not adhere to the Chancellor's Circular which I repeat remains in full force today.
It is recommended that teachers send a form of the following sample letter to their supervisors if they are seeking assistance.
Dear Principal ___________________,
As per Chancellor's Special Circular No. 28, I am inviting you to come into my classroom to demonstrate the particular teaching techniques you are recommending that I utilize.
Special Circular 28 states, "Professional supervisory practice includes an array of activities, such as time spent in classroom demonstrating teaching techniques, assuring that professional development occurs and determining that appropriate curriculum outcomes are realized."
The students and I would benefit greatly by watching you demonstrate what it is you are recommending I do in class.
I look forward to hearing from you expeditiously so we can arrange a day and time for you to teach my class.
If the principal or assistant principal does the demonstration lesson for your class, you might want to write up an observation report.
If, on the other hand, they refuse to follow the Chancellor's special circular, please note it in writing and save it for the future. If you end up in a hearing, you will have evidence that you asked for help as per Chancellor's Special Circular 28 and you were denied it.
You can file a grievance also but I very much doubt our union will take it beyond Step I even though it is a violation of Article 20.