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Welcome to Vacation Week

April 12, 2020 pm30 11:20 pm

My calendar says that this is vacation week. My calendar is now wrong. School buildings in New York City are shut, but schools are open. Teachers are “remote teaching” from home, including during what was originally scheduled as vacation week.

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered us not to have vacation (actually, it was a funding order, but same effect). My union, the UFT, was unhappy, talked to him (did not negotiate. Discussions, not negotiations), and looked at his favorability ratings (upper 70s) and decided not to fuss. How could I call it “caving” if they were not entitled to negotiate? I don’t know.

Cuomo’s rationale was that we are babysitters, and without us giving lessons in trigonometry or grammar, 1.1 million Juniors are going to run amok in the streets. Now, plenty of kids are afraid to go out now. And for the others, many will listen to the Governor and the Mayor and their parents and Samuel L Jackson and stay… Let me try again. And for the others, many will listen to the Governor and the Mayor and their parents and stay home. And for the others…  lessons in grammar and trig? Not sure they will sign in. Cuomo should have gotten them all Animal Crossing. That would have worked.

In any case, we are on for the week, and the UFT and Carranza work out a deal. “Working with the union, the DOE has devised a series of themed days of activities that focus on family, community service and social emotional learning.” Not quite Animal Crossing (they should really think about that – community building with cute animated mammals), but not a bad idea. The suggested activities – not so great – but at least the idea was ok.

Of course, since many of the activities were not ready out-of-the-box, many teachers got slammed with more exceptional planning. This has not been right. Give teachers time to do some decent planning, and we will do our best. But without time? Come on.

But there will be a world of difference between “The Plan” and what’s happening in schools.

  • Some schools will do the theme days, more or less as written. (I’m betting mostly elementary schools)
  • Some schools will do the theme days, but then add teacher responsibilities for paperwork, or for particular live hours, etc, breaking the spirit of the agreement.
  • Some schools will not really do the themes, or not do them at all, but will dramatically decrease the workload on students (my school. Probably most high schools?)
  • And some schools will not really do the themes, or not do them at all, and will maintain the same overload of work on teachers and students that they have been doing the last three weeks.

So here’s the question, here’s my question, what are we (the union) doing about schools in the second, and especially the last category?

  • Are we waiting for members to “discuss” differences with the principals so that there is no UFT intervention until Friday when it is too late?
  • Are we jumping on the complaints, and is the DR bringing them to the principal and then the superintendent in the same day?
  • Or, even better, are UFT Reps checking in on each school, making sure they are complying with the spirit of the agreement?

The emotional/physical damage being done to members in schools with abusive scheduling, paperwork, planning, and reporting practices is an order of magnitude worse when we are isolated in remote learning environments. We literally do not have a colleague in the next room to help us, or just listen to us.

And this goes beyond “Spirit Week” – this changeover to remote teaching is draining, and exhausting every day. A lunk principal hurts our colleagues badly. Extra meetings, excessive contact hours, bizarrely impossible demands to recreate a “normal” day – these things take a daily toll that is incredibly destructive. The “Go Slow, Go Cautious, Wait Until Members are Ready to Fight” approach was always wrong, but today it would be cruel beyond belief.

If the UFT is pivoting to more vigorously keeping principals in line, we should hold all the reps to the standards that our best reps set. And if that pivot is not happening, we need to find a way to name the schools where the abuse is occurring, and to push the reps and their higher ups, (and also to reach out to parents and politicians)

It’s true more than ever. An injury to one is an injury to all. And one day of abuse is one day too many.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    April 13, 2020 am30 7:14 am 7:14 am

    I do not always agree with your takes, but this post is right on the money.
    This system needs to be uniform throughout this entire week.

    Chapter leaders need to keep principals I. Line witg the support of the Uft.

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