Monday, October 8, 2012
Has anyone noticed a common thread between the stories of Patricia Dawson and Tiffany Webb (I've gone to some lengths to make sure her picture isn't posted in that link, btw)?
I see three things worth mentioning.
1. They're both describe as 'highly regarded'. It used to be that the department would only go after the type of professionals who they could describe as bad. This would make it easy for the average guy reading the paper on the way to work in the morning to say to himself 'eh, well..sounds like a bad teacher to me'.
It doesn't look the DOE is making any qualms about going after good, effective professionals anymore. They just don't seem to care about how the they or the department as a whole will be perceived. That's a shift. They're going after the good ones now. That's a real big shift.
2. Both cases associated with the internet. Webb's pictures had been circulating the internet for years (without her consent long after she stopped modeling). Dawson's comments came across Facebook (not just the internet, but that ubiquitous social network).
It's looking pretty clear that the DOE is is paranoid beyond reason about the effect the internet may have when it comes to their employees. While on one level, this may be a perfectly genuine concern (how does an institution as big as this grapple with the effects of inter connectivity?), it has to be pointed out that they are using their equivalent of their criminal prosecution arm in order to address this dilemma. That's abuse (imagine Mubarak turning to his one of his police forces to address the internet (Oh, wait, you can't. it already happened)). That's simple abuse.
But why are they paranoid about anything that comes across the internet?Well, if you ask fellow blogger The Assailed Teacher, it's because the department desperately wants to establish guidelines concerning employees and the internet that they simply can't establish through the normal process writing of rules (because some of the rules they might want to create would cross the line of limiting speech that would otherwise be free).
His reasoning -which I have to say I agree with-is that in order to establish these guidelines, they have to rely on the department's version of judicial precedent -which partially comes from the decisions from 3020A hearings. Essentially, there are almost no guidelines for charging anyone and getting them to a 3020A hearing (where Ms. Dawson landed). At the end of that hearing, if the arbitrator issues findings that the act was wrong (such as Ms. Dawson's comment on Facebook), then the department wins -even if the employee isn't fired.
Speech is limited, but the rule is established. I hate to say this, but I agree with the reasoning -and with the explanation.
(PS) 3. Ok...one more thing worth mentioning. Ms. Dawson's story is an example of what happens when the DOE charges someone WITH tenure. Ms. Webb's story? Well that's what happens when they charge someone withOUT tenure. In case you can't see the difference, let me explain it: Ms. Dawson still has her job with the DOE. Ms. Webb does not -and she is 100% innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever.
Something's changed here.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
In case you missed the chancellor's email to staff today, here it is. I liked the part where he invited us to be in touch the great work we're doing. I'm SO going to take him up on that
As we begin the 2012-13 school year, I would like to welcome you back from summer break and wish you the best in the year ahead. I talk often about the importance of high expectations, so as we get ready to kick off this year I want to briefly share what I expect from you and what you can expect from me.
Simply put, I believe that all of our students have a right to a high-quality education, one that builds their academic skills and behaviors so they graduate from high school with the ability to think critically, use evidence to support their arguments, apply what they have learned to solve real-world problems, and demonstrate resilience in the face of obstacles.
Each school year—and each school day —is a chance to fulfill our students’ rights to become ready for college and careers. This opportunity is also an intricate challenge, one that makes significant demands on us as educators and that at the same time promises deep rewards. Delivering on this challenge begins with high expectations and a refusal to make excuses. Having faith in students’ abilities will not, by itself, guarantee high levels of student achievement, but it is an integral part of the equation. For the sake of our students and the future of our city, we must rise to meet this challenge.
Of course, as we all know, student achievement is not possible without strong instruction. This school year marks the next step in our multi-year transition to the Common Core standards. We are asking students to do more writing, to read a balance of fiction and non-fiction, and to solve real-world math problems. We are asking teachers to provide multiple points of entry so that all students, including those with disabilities and English Language Learners, can access these more rigorous standards. We are asking school leaders to provide educators with feedback and guidance. These expectations come with support: we will continue to make a wide variety of professional development resources available, including through networks, centrally offered trainings, and online tools like the Common Core Library.
Tomorrow marks the first school day this year in which we can shape the future of our 1.1 million students. I will be visiting a school in each of our five boroughs, and over the course of the school year you can expect to see and hear from me regularly. Please be in touch to share the great work you are engaging in and to let us know how we can best support you in your efforts.
The stakes are high. One in 50 American children is educated here in New York City. We are in a position of unparalleled responsibility and promise. All of our students are important, no matter where they live or their life circumstances. I am confident in our ability to serve our students and their families, and I wish you the very best in your endeavors this school year.
Dennis M. Walcott
Monday, August 20, 2012
It's a self-assessment designed around Charlotte Danielson's Framework For Effective Teaching. It gives teachers a chance to grade themselves along the Danielson rubric in the same manner a supervisor might do so in the future (same areas. Same rubric). Using the self-assessment, a teacher can decide for him or herself just how well (s)he would score on each part of the observation rubric. At the end of the self-assessment, the teacher gets a check list identifying what level of competency the teacher thinks he or she has.
I just want to give you three reasons why you should consider taking the self-assessment.
- It's a good way to shake off the summer cobwebs and get your brain ready for teaching. All of us have the shake the cobwebs at some point. While I used to wait until the first few days of actual teaching, I've found that if I get this process over with in the final days of August, the transition into a work-life is much easier. I'm much more easy going as I prep and the kids have a more engaging time with my first few lessons.
- It'll help prepare you for possible agreement on the upcoming teacher evals. While most folks think the new system won't kick in until the next Mayor gets here, there is still an outside chance that the city and the UFT will come to agreement (thanks in large part to the Governor's promise to withhold state aid for all districts that don't reach agreement by next January). IF (and it's a big if) this happens mid-year, the eval process for many of us might change -in the middle of the year! That would be chaos for any teacher who wasn't well versed in the Danielson observation rubric (and if you have a bad supervisor, not knowing about Danielson might make you extremely vulnerable to unfair observations). Taking this assessment might get you ready for that possibility (maybe even more ready than your AP or P is). When you're done with the assessment, you can print the results and keep it in a file in your classroom (ever ready to show a supervisor that you've been thinking about this stuff in detail).
- It'll help any teacher who's keen on improvement. Most of the outstandingly good teachers I've worked alongside aren't into the whole improvement thing. While I don't think there's anything wrong with not embracing the whole "I must always improve" mantra, I have to admit that I do and there are things in this rubric from which almost every teacher can glean understanding to help them improve. While the need for improvement may not be worth giving up part of your summer for a whole course, a few minutes taking this self-assessment may not be so bad.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Alright, they won't. But when they come for us, they'll look like real schmucks to the whole world! So as I begin prepping for September, here are just a few questions I have about my students' experiences in my class:
1) If we want our students in a professional environment, why are we asking them craft "A Letter To The Editor" or "A Letter Home From ..." in history class? Why not simulate a professional environment assignment, like "Write a memo addressing .." Or "Write out a formal email to ..."?
2) If we want 10th graders to learn geography, why not have them use Excel to create a chart showing data like population of temperature?
3) If we have them create Powerpoint, why aren't the rubrics very tight and reflective of good Powerpoints (few words, reliance on the oral presentation and not the slidesshow, use of advanced animations that would wow an audience in a professional setting)?
4) If we want them in an environment of peer review, why aren't we having them do a homework on a blog and making them grade each other? At least having them peer grade their homework (I need to write about this at a later point in time)
5) When did social studies teachers stop doing formal, in-class debates?
Friday, August 3, 2012
So I'm sitting in the theater with my four year old 15 minutes before the movie -Ice Age 4- is about to start I'm eating popcorn, drinking soda and watching my daughter look around the theater. Suddenly, and almost out of nowhere, she proclaims a new rule.
"Dad. No more popcorn until the movie starts, ok?"
Huh? I didn't want to hear to that. There was nothing else to do until the movie started and the popcorn was all nice and warm and buttery. Besides, she's four! So I did what most adults do -I ignored her and kept eating.
After a few moments of this I heard her voice again "Um, dad. I said no more popcorn until the movie starts". Apparently, my kid was serious.
But she's also four years old and in my home, she is not the boss of me. Feeling a little indignant, I grabbed another piece from the bucket and took a bite. Then comes the voice again. "Dad, last time, no more popcorn until the movie starts".
Ok, reset. This kid is four years old and telling ME no? If there is such a thing as angrily ignoring someone, I did it. But this time, in order to avoid confrontation, I waited until her head was turned before I ate another piece of popcorn.
Her response was to turn her head and look at me -long and hard- just to make sure that she had my full attention before proclaiming; "Daaad, I've got my eye on you".
And then she kept staring.
It was a weird moment. She just kept starting at me (and I, at her). This kid is four years old and she was staring at me to make sure I didn't do something that I really wanted to do. And here I was -staring back.
A few silently intense moments like this passed before I -the forty year old educated man- reacted like a small child. I grabbed a fist full of popcorn, and stared at her as I took a big obnoxious bite -like I was taking a bite of an apple. And then got right in her face while I munched on the whole thing.
It was a knee-jerk reaction, and regrettably, a very sincere one. One that, in hindsight, probably wasn't my finest hour as a parent, but I wanted to let her know that this is what I think of being told "no" by someone who doesn't have the right to tell me no.
Teachers face moments like these all the time as we manage our classrooms. Students, like adults, don't like to be told what to do. They certainly don't like to be told "no". And they absolutely don't like being told "no" when they can't recognize any other (worthy) thing to do.
Hell, I'm forty and I still fell this way. But teachers avoid confrontations (like mine) by engaging students within the classroom experience that we offer (our lesson's activity or activities) and then managing their behavior toward the activity.
In this context, "managing behavior" becomes a very small component of student engagement. That's why they are two different areas of the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching (that's the framework upon which our observations and teaching artifacts will be based if NYC ever agrees to the new teacher evaluation system).
And, apparently, my four year old daughter figured this all out.
Because instead of slapping the popcorn out of my hand, or lecturing me a little more, my child completely changed tact. She gently rubbed my ear, gave me a little kiss on my cheek and said, "It's ok, da-da. Look. Just read what's on the screen to me, ok? Because I don't know all the words"
I then proceeded to read the movie trivia questions and answers to her out loud. As I did, I wasn't able to eat any popcorn (because I can't read out loud with food in my mouth). And my daughter just kept rubbing my ear while I did (in an awesome sign of trust, she even let me keep the popcorn on my lap!) Before long, the lights dimmed, the trailers began and she actually fed me my first piece.
Apparently, engaging someone in an activity in order to achieve the desired behavior is a somewhat natural thing.
My kid, the born teacher.
Friday, July 27, 2012
We all know the results of that, don't we? Turnaround as it was tried by Bloomberg, was shot down. But what happened to those Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers? Check out the letter the DOE sent them this week; they're under the bus.
Turnaround and Master Teachers received this: Dear Master Teacher,
We are writing to update you on the status of the Master and Turnaround Teacher program for the next school year. As you may know, these positions will not continue for the 2012- 2013 school year and we wanted to ensure that you have clear information on your next steps for the coming year.
The UFT and DOE have agreed that Master and Turnaround Teachers will take their rightful place in seniority order on the school’s Table of Organization as a regular teacher unless one of the following options apply and you choose to exercise it:
· If there is a vacancy in your license area at your prior school, you will have a right to return to that the vacancy until school opening only; it is the teacher’s choice whether or not to take this option.
· If you and your current principal agree, then you may go into excess rather than staying at the school. Master and Turnaround Teachers going into excess may choose to go into excess in the current district or the district of their prior school. Decisions must be made by August 7, 2012.
· All Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers will be invited to join the central Lead Teacher pool. Teachers in the central Lead Teacher pool may apply for and be selected into available Lead Teacher positions citywide through August 7, 2012.
· Consistent with the rights of all teachers, Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers may seek a position at a new school via the Open Market through August 7, 2012.
To facilitate your transition, we ask that you indicate your preferences for next year by completing this short survey by August 1, 2012. Should you not respond to the survey, you will assume a position in your current school’s Table of Organization.
This is what happens when policy -and the politics that go with it on the local level- shifts twice in two years. good, earnest people wind up having their careers set back at least a bit. This is the business model! And those schools? Still in need of improvement.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
1. Her case set an important PERB precedent that significantly limited the privacy of teachers. Because of this decision, statements that public employees make from their home on Facebook (even only to their 'Facebook friends') are now legally seen as publicly made comments. What we now say on Facebook is just as public as if we were to say it on TV or any other public forum.
2. Her case set another important PERB precedent; one that significantly limited the free speech of teachers: Because of Randi Lowitt's decisions, nothing we say on Facebook -if we reference our job or our students- is protected by the first amendment. Ms. Lowitt referred to this as the "teacher's hat" threshold. If we're discussing something that is a matter of public discussion, yet where our 'teacher's hat' by referencing our students, the first amendment doesnt' protect us.
3. The New York State Supreme Court agrees with the limited privacy and limited speech precedents set by Randi Lowitt's PERB decision. When she 'overturned' Ms. Lowitt's decision last February, Judge Barbara Jaffe did not overturn Randi Lowitt's 'findings' that limit free speech and privacy for teachers. In fact, the only thing she overturned in her decision was the actual punishment. She let the other findings stand.
4. The only 'teachers' rights' issue Ms. Rubino is fighting for with her appeal next month is the right to be fairly penalize for committing an infraction. She's trying to fight for those First Amendment assertions, but a full fledged fight would take much more money, time and resources than any member of the middle class could possibly afford). All she just wants is to be fairly penalized so that she can get back to work.
5. According to Betsy Combier's 'Parent Advocates' blog -and another person- the students that she had originally vented over with her comments in the first place went on to middle school, where ...wait for it ... they were involved in the blinding of another little boy in the cafeteria. -an incident that shocked the whole city last June. I won't suggest any significance to that whatsoever. You can decide whether there is for yourself. I just thought it might be something you that ...
...you may not know about the whole Christine Rubino case.