Thursday, September 08, 2005

NYC School Chancellor: Reality Check- When does the idiocy end?

Sir, it is time for a real hard reality check for you and your administrators.

Please show NYC UFT teachers a floor plan of an honestly functional "typical size" NYC classroom that has:

  • 30-35 desks and chairs - arranged in cooperative groups (remember- larger children have larger furniture)
  • A teacher's desk and chair
  • A work space for an Educational Assistant. All adults deserve a chair. You have a chair, don't you?
  • The Famous Rocking Chair
  • A Classroom Library with a little space to browse.
  • Usable Reading, Math, Writing, and Science "Centers" that are not so crammed together that only one child at a time can fit at them.
  • A Word Wall
  • A Bulletin Board wall
  • A Chalk Board Wall
  • A Wall with Windows and
  • A Computer area

that allows a logical traffic flow that teachers and children can move around in comfortably. NYC school buildings were just not built for the class sizes we have today. 15-18 child classes are few nd far between. Ah, yes, and what about the classroom with double exposure- 2 walls of windows? That's a whole other problem. It's time for a reality check!

Now, what is all this nonsense that NO store bought decorations allowed in the classroom? Since when are all teachers expected to be graphic designers with professional layout experience. I hope your office has no professionally created artwork or posters. If NYC teachers are expected to waste time doing this, then it follows that you are capable of making all of your own decorations, etc.
It's time for a reality check!

Next, how do you "honestly" expect a "GOOD" teacher to always be on the exact item in a plan book as it is scheduled. Whatever happened to the teachable moment? What happens when there is an unexpected disruption? Unlike your fantasy land, real children have bathroom accidents, vomit, and act out sometimes. Administrators are not able to acknowlegde the variables that go into running an real classroom. Why? It is because of petty, ill conceived memos ordering them to enforce such foolishness.
It's time for a reality check!

If you ask teachers to anonymously say whether crime in the schools have gone down, they'll say loud and clear- "No!" The only thing that has gone down is reporting lesser infractions than felonies ;) If principals report it, they are harassed. After all, if this was a good principal, there would never be any incidents to report. So the principal must be bad. Everyone is so afraid to speak openly and honestly, that it is simply the only smart career move to stay mute. It is really sad what a reign of terror can do.
Who benefits from the silence? Well, the perpetrators and politicians at election time do, not the general school population. It's time for a reality check!

Why do you feel that NYC children are unable to psychologically handle contrasting colors? One could assume that you would never use a colored pencil or pen to make corrections for your assistants to note errors or omissions in your documents.
If you use a color other than black or blue, you will ruin the self esteem of your subordinates. Right? Did you have some horrible flashback of seeing an A+ written in RED on a paper of yours in elementary school that put you over the edge? Can teachers use GREEN or PURPLE, or gasp- Orange? I wonder what horrific effect those colors will have on NYC's young minds. How pitifully fragle do you think NYC children are that your supervisors make such mandates as to NEVER use red. Perhaps we should order all textbooks to come only in gray-scale, so bright colors don't scare NYC students. Then on the other hand, did red grade markings keep you from becoming a succesful man? No, it did not. You survived the horror of the RED COMMENT and you are just fine. It's time for a reality check!

Do you leave a simple short clear correction note, for your assistants regarding errors or omissions in your documents? Or do you give a long narrative for each error or omission. Are children unable to comprehend short, concise comments? Teachers are now told to NEVER write on top of a paper- Big Improvement, or Great Work, etc. Children won't know what it means? Does this mean kindergarten, first and second graders will be short changed in their educational experience because, after noting a dozen corrections in proofreading/marking, a short encouraging summary comment was written on the top of the page? Will a cute little sticker saying "Great Work" in a colorful picture (remember rebus?) stunt a child's educational development? Motivation to collect as many stickers with top comments is a bad thing? This micro-management is outrageous. It's time for a reality check!

After all of the above, prep periods and late days are tied up with useless "staff development" meetings, rather than providing time for teachers to implement these very time consuming petty policies. So instead, teachers go home with 3-4 hours of work every night. They are not paid for this extra time and have not had a contract for over 2 years! Do you honestly want to attract the brightest and the best teachers to work here? What ever happend to those imported teachers from Europe that were pranced on the TV a few years ago? Back in Europe. We all know why. Time for a reality check!

It is outrageous to claim that every child has individualized instruction. How many hours do you have in your day? Do you think teachers have more hours in their day than you do? This is just simple mathematics. You have DRASTICALLY cut Educational Assistant positions! Class size is as high as ever. How much individual help do you honestly believe a single teacher with 30-35 students in their class can give?
Let's not forget the classes like physical education, music and art where there are upwards of 50 students in a class with one teacher. The self discipline, creativity and self empowerment gained in these classes is indespensible. No child left behind? Time for a reality check!

If you really want to make improvements, monitor the regional beurocrats that micro-manage Teaching Professionals to justify their own positions. Hire genuine caring Education Supervisors who truely support the spirit of quality education. Supervisors run around buildings with tomes of check-off sheets for each teacher, to make sure that every classroom has every possible little item in a prominently visible location, so that just in case someone important comes around, they will be covered, and can prove that they did look in each and every room, and that at the time they were there, everything was in it's proper place. Micro-management to the Nth degree! Sad. How dare supervisors treat teachers as if they were little children that have to have a stern mommy on top of their every move to make sure they put their toys away and don't break the furniture! Wake up sir, your teaching staff is about as demoralized as they can get. This is not a good thing.
It's time for a reality check!

You are losing teachers at record quitting and retirement rates, new and experienced teachers alike, because the job of teaching in the New York City School System is not the kind of job they can see themselves commit to for the long term. It is just too stressful and stress kills. If you want to turn off people from teaching in NYC keep it up. No one is foolish enough to think this is a good career move. You will be able to pay lower salaries and save on pension benefits, but you will lose what you have had up to the past few years. Loyal, dedicated, seasoned teachers. It's time for a reality check!

Finally, stop trying to portray a Madison Avenue marketing firm fantasy land smokescreen and demonstrate that you have the ability to deal with classroom reality in an intelligent way. You are not a licensed teacher, but considering your big title, you should still be expected to think like one. After all you are the one everyone is supposed to look up to for genuine leadership.

All New York City Department of Education Teachers are New York State Licensed professionals. It is time to start treating them like the professionsls they are.

That said, isn't enough enough?

Enough is enough!

posted by An Educational Voyage @ 9/08/2005 08:01:00 PM  
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13 Comments:

At 9/08/2005 10:46 PM, Blogger yoga chickie said...

As a mom of a couple of PS 290 kids, I have to say, WELL SAID!

 
At 9/09/2005 2:41 PM, Blogger An Educational Voyage said...

Thank you for your comment.

A huge part of the problem, is that folks that are still working there, are terrified of reprisals for speaking out. No one has the nerve to say it like it is. Make no bones about it, teachers who voice opinions are definitely subtly targeted by administrators as fodder for harassment.

Bloomberg's MASSIVE personally funded spin machine paints a sugarcoated smoke screen on reality. My heart goes out to every NYC public school teacher who has to work in silence, as they are paraded around like bad little pupperts. I want them to know that people who use their grey matter know the truth. This is a reign of terror, where those making decisions are not concerned with "no child left behind." Administrators in fear say just do as I say so I won't be fired. The first lesson in reading comprehension should be- "Don't believe everything you see in print. Think for yourself!"

 
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At 9/09/2005 5:54 PM, Blogger iPhil said...

Yes! Go! It's stuff like this that really gets to me. Mainly because I love education, I really do - and the petty bureaucracy that gets into it nowadays is really too much. But, I mean - what're ya gonna do?

(That's a general, rhetorical, giving-up question, not a personal attack...)

iPhil

 
At 9/09/2005 7:56 PM, Blogger An Educational Voyage said...

Thank you for your comment iphil.

Oh, I know how you feel! All we can do is to keep voicing our opinions in the hope that enough people will hear the message and one of them will have the ear of someone who can actually enact positive change.

Since most of those in power are:

1. Power hungry
2. Filled with self-importance
3. Fear for their jobs, and so create foolishness to justify their jobs, and
4. Have so little, if any, classroom experience.

They are simply unable to comprehend the lack of practicality their dictates have.

It is sad to note that most school administrators have had VERY LITTLE CLASSROOM experience. Many that I met were grossly incompetant in the classoom and sought admin jobs to escape it. One administrator had 3 unsatisfactories in a row as a classroom teacher, was then assigned a cluster position to minimize the damage (not because of expertise in the cluster specialty,) fell asleep in the classroom and was rewarded by becoming a NYC principal. Now this untalented, lazy, failing teacher has the nerve to be incharge of others with the status of a principal. Sad.

The rule of thumb in the NYCDOE is that incompetance is rewarded.

I can say though, that there are a few very experienced, talented and dedicated administrators out there. Unfortunatley, they are the exception and not the rule.

The task is daunting! So, what can I do? I give moral encouragement to my colleagues who are still in the trenches, and I blog! :)

 
At 9/12/2005 7:41 AM, Blogger Mary1724 said...

Why doen't the UFT do something?

Why do the UFT Teacher Center people encourage and provide training on all these stupid DOE initiatives that make teaching impossible and create hours of extra work for teachers? Isn't this contradictory?

Could it be that UFT Teacher Center people fear being placed back in the classroom if they don't follow orders from the DOE?

Could it be that the DOE is in bed with the UFT? Shocking!

 
At 9/12/2005 2:02 PM, Blogger An Educational Voyage said...

This is a very complex issue, with loads of variables and dynamics. I see your point, and I can understand your concerns. However, the UFT gives this training to make it easier for teachers to satisfy the requirements of the DOE and the New York State DOE. The courses (at least any I took through the UFT) are priced VERY reasonably. Taking classes at colleges are VERY expensive. Many of these courses are short and sweet- with only specs that are really needed to meet requirements.

All of these issues I mentioned in the above post are very disturbing, but they are also very insidious. They creep up, one at a time, and slip by somehow. I think the union should be more aggressive, and a great deal has to do with the faculty at a particular school and the dedication of the UFT reps. There are some school where the staff and Rep are very vigilent in not allowing themselves to be pushed around. What I believe happens is a faculty gets comfortable and overwhelmed and just doesn't have the time or energy to fight back. In the elementary schools where teachers teach all of the subjects, there is just so much work and planning to do, that the petty dictates become too overwhelming.

I've also noticed that in many schools the Administration subtly gives reps good positions, and I think that can make reps a tad less anxious to do battle with the hand that feeds them. All of the above is of course exactly what the DOE counts on. Little things, piled up a little at a time . The straw that breaks the backs of teachers avoid grievances, since teacher just retire or quit. The save BIG money and hire younger teachers that don't know better, and who they can mold into good little soldiers.

We only have what we have because of the UFT. This is an era of union busting, everyone wants their "free sh*t", and the DOE is no exception. Between Gracy Mansion and Tweed, all the spin on fixing the schools by reinventing the wheel, will, IMHO fall flat and the children of this city will be the losers.

One has to wonder who made out in the deal to vchange all of the textbooks in the city. That was one major coup for whoever manipulated that. I also wonder about all the testing- who is making all the BIG BUCKS on that. I honestly do not believe that all of this non-stop testing is good for the students. Children can't just be children any more. Their lives at such young impressionable ages are filled with the CONSTANT fear of failure. There is no time for children to be children. This is again, IMHO much more hurtful than a red pencil!

On the bright side, we are at least not chopping wood and stoking fires in the winter :)

 
At 9/12/2005 7:21 PM, Blogger Ms. M said...

I'm already fed up with all of the micro-managing and It's only three days into my first teaching year. The scary thing is, I haven't even heard of HALF of the things you mentioned! I'm afraid to read the next memos that turn up in my box.

 
At 9/12/2005 8:02 PM, Blogger An Educational Voyage said...

Don't worry Ms. M. You'll be fine. Take it one day at a time. All the "busy work" aside, ust think of all the vacations and summers off you have ahead of you! :)

 
At 9/13/2005 7:18 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Great column. I'm glad to see folks out there calling Klein and his overpaid sycophantic minions what they are.

Please keep it up!

 
At 9/24/2005 3:39 PM, Blogger Tim Fredrick said...

So well said. You get the sense that the people who pass down these mandates don't know (or care) what goes into instruction. They take a good idea and mandate it to death! I despise the idea that the work we put up on bulletin boards has to be PERFECT. Who is perfect? What message does that send to kids? How are they supposed to be expected to take risks (the true necessity for any learning) if they are so afraid to make a mistake or their work won't be recognized?

Tim Fredrick -- http://timfredrick.myblogsite.com

 
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