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We fought the governor; We lost; We will try to get the vacation back, later in the year

April 1, 2020 pm30 3:38 pm

April Fools?

We fought the governor; We lost; We will try to get the vacation back, later in the year

April Fools!

Teachers (and parents and students) would have been unhappy about that message. But many of us would have understood.

But that is not the message the UFT shared with members last night.

First, a word about remote teaching. We started in New York City a week and a day ago. At my school, at many schools, we jumped in, with three days’ worth of confidence and trepidation. “Let’s get to break,” we said, “and evaluate from there.”

Turns out, we were trying to do too much. Way too much. Our kids are exhausted. And we are exhausted. I wrote about that yesterday. We were doing a lot of other things wrong, too. We are learning as we go. How do we assign things, when do we assign things, how we present lessons, how we answer questions, time we go live, time we answer e-mails – you’d think this was easy – but if you think about the importance of classroom procedures – that’s what these are – in a land where all our procedures just went out the window.

So we needed break. To catch our individual and collective breath. To catch up on grading (actually, yes). To reexamine what we were doing, to adjust, to correct.

So the news that Cuomo was demanding we cancel Spring Break was, mm, unwelcome.

How we got that news was another thing altogether. You’d think the UFT would resist. You’d have thought wrong.

I got a text from my District Rep at 8 yesterday night:

DR’s just finished a meeting with President Mulgrew and he just confirmed to us that we are supporting the Governor’s decision to continuing teaching during the Spring Break as the right decision for this moment in our history.

We are just doing what we always do. Being on the side of unity, compassion and solidarity. Please help us to inform our members that this is an act of community and not just for our City, our State, but also for our Nation.

Thanks for your understanding and do not hesitate to contact if any questions and/concerns.

Notice “… we are supporting the Governor’s decision…”  And no where any indication that the UFT resisted. I was not happy.

Next, 15 minutes later, the letter from Mulgrew:

I know it’s not fair, but it’s not fair for a lot of people right now. State health experts say the next two weeks will be critical in determining whether this public health crisis lasts for another six weeks or another six months.

Governor Cuomo believes public schools can play a critical role in keeping kids engaged in learning at home during this pivotal period so the virus does not have the opportunity to spread more widely in our communities. That is why he is using the emergency powers that he legally has to keep schools open during spring breaks throughout the state.

Therefore, UFT members will be off from Thursday, April 9, to Sunday, April 12, for the religious holidays, but starting on Monday, April 13, we will be working with the DOE to create a special week of family service and support. We are working now with the DOE to develop plans for that week, and we will communicate them to you as we finalize them.

Not a word about the UFT resisting. Not a word that recognizes why the break was important, and why losing it was painful. And not a word about fighting to get time back.

I wrote immediately. I took to Twitter, which I normally skip:

And I got push back from a UFT officer (who I have to say, is generally supportive and knowledgeable. I am angry at what they wrote, angry that they seemed angrier at me, just having been blindsided, than at Cuomo, who had just screwed us over, but not angry enough to denounce someone whose work I otherwise respect, and have relied on)

It looked like Unity Caucus sent out an e-mail asking their members to push in defense of losing Spring Break on social media. I saw it on FaceBook. I saw it on Twitter. I saw them hitting “likes” on posts that said that teachers were whiny. There were also Unity members who were clearly uncomfortable, and posted weaker statements about how this was important, without actually saying “we support the Governor’s decision”

But most teachers were horrified. Some understood that there was some logic to the governor’s order (keep kids inside), but that it was wrong-headed to think that keeping teachers on the job would accomplish that.

The messaging started shifting. This is softer:

At 11PM an Officer laid out the story very differently than my DR and Mulgrew had:

This acknowledges my frustration. I’m still would not have been happy, and would have liked to hear about UFT resistance to Cuomo – but I would not have lost it.

So what next?  We have lost this fight. I’m not sure the UFT engaged in any fight, but perhaps they did.

  • We need to press leadership to monitor the week, and to actively intervene to stop creep principals from making this full instruction.
  • I can’t believe I need to write this today, but we need to press leadership to actively check that schools are not running regular schedules. It is inhuman. And the members are often totally cowed.
  • We need to press leadership to get us something in exchange for these lost days – the best would be five consecutive days at the earliest possible date. (There’s talk about $$ compensation. 1) I think we need the time, not the $$, and 2) the $$ may be short.)
  • And we need to press the leadership to watch its tone when it addresses members. Someone wrote “we are supporting the Governor’s decision to continuing teaching during the Spring Break” and “help us to inform our members that this is an act of community” – that person should be retrained before writing messages to members again. Everyone who approved that should go through a mandatory communication workshop.

I wanted to write about something else. This should not have been necessary.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    April 1, 2020 pm30 10:46 pm 10:46 pm

    Didn’t the governor’s executive order only cover the period April 1st – April 14th, meaning that the UFT agreed to add three more unpaid work days, April 15th through 17th?

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