Tuesday, January 10, 2006

37 1/2

Okay, I know no one's really looking forward to the extended time starting in February.

And I know that PD has a record of being horrendous, in many schools, and occasionally horrendous in nearly all (including mine).

So I guess I should be happy that Randi Weingarten convinced the DOE to push back the start date to Feb. 6th instead of Feb. 1st.

She's right that it's a little weird to start a new schedule mid-week, although I think the intention was that the first two days - Wed. 2/1 and Thurs. 2/2 - could be used for planning and PD, preparing teachers and schools to start in earnest with students the following week.

And she's right that these scheduling decisions have to be negotiated. Fine, hold the line. I don't want to work any extra days that I don't have to.

But I think it was an awful idea to negotiate away the only scheduled time for teachers to plan for the extended day. Yes, yes, I know it's not really a class and we don't want to do anything to imply to our administrators that it could be treated as such... but even tutoring a small group of students requires some planning!

As it has worked out, I will be tutoring a group of six struggling seventh graders in math. We sat down during a Monday PD in December with the list of kids who need extra help in math and reading, divided them into very small groups, and we each chose a group. It was nice to be able to divide up the kids in such a way that each teacher could avoid the one or two individuals who push our buttons the worst, in favor of kids we work with more successfully. I think technically I could argue about this because it's outside of my subject area, but since it was a decision made with teacher input, and since our kids' abominally low math skills have a direct effect on my ability to teach science, I am okay with it if not exactly enthusiastic.

One factor making me okay with it is that in math, we are going to use a program that the math teacher already has which takes kids through a series of pre-tests, skill worksheets, and post-tests at their own pace, tailored to their specific needs. Apparently, the kids will be able to work mostly independently, while the teacher works one-on-one with those who are stuck or starting on the next skill.

But it would be so nice if we had a couple of days to get the worksheets and folders ready for the kids, go over them ourselves, talk to the math teachers about how to manage the program and about each child's specific weaknesses, etc. In my school, we've built some of this into our remaining Monday PD sessions because we consider collaborative planning essential to a successful extended day program, whatever the UFT and DOE might negotiate.

I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of a teacher in a school where the principal spends the first two days of PD droning on and on. I suppose that will happen in some schools, and teachers who are afraid of this are justifiably thrilled to have those afternoons free instead of spent on worthless "planning."

But then I imagine myself in a school where all the planning for the extended time is communicated to the staff in memo form. The first day is going to be chaotic: kids not knowing where to go, teachers not fully understanding new dismissal policies, or understanding them but finding them unworkable in real-life, pure & utter chaos. How much better it could go if the principal spent one or two afternoons in a question-and-answer session with his or her staff, making sure everyone was on the same page and putting everyone's heads together to anticipate problems and solve them ahead of time!

Regardless, I am really tired of the powers-that-be - both the union and the DOE - making policy based on the lowest common denominator. PD/planning time is often bad, therefore, let's not try to do it better, let's get rid of it altogether? What about those of us in places where it isn't bad, or where we actually wanted it?!

To be frank, this feels like the UFT throwing a bone to teachers who are pissed off about the give-backs and who reflexively hate PD, without really thinking through the implications of getting rid of the little time we have to prepare for the new schedule.

Then again, if planning time were really important to the DOE, they'd let us discuss and plan during that whole first week of February 6th and have students start attending the following week. Negotiations always involve two sides, after all - the UFT could keep the later start date while the DOE could keep the planning time.

I'm still waiting for someone - anyone - to implement some kind of feedback process for teachers to respond to how new policies got implemented in their schools and regions. That would be the first step in figuring out which administrators are good leaders, which are not, what forms of implementation seem to work well, what the common problems are, and what to do about it all. It could be as simple as a twice-yearly scannable (or on-line!) survey of teachers, with space for comments.

NB. Feel free to comment on the change in starting date, loss of planning time for the extended day, etc., but if your comment is along the lines of, "None of this would be happening if Unity hadn't sold us out..." please save it for elsewhere; that point has been made, loud and clear.


Anonymous Schoolgal said...

I agree that PD could have been used successfully. Every school was supposed to set up a PD committee, but when my school tried, the principal would not even listen to our input. So she controlled all the topics which were in no way related to what our needs or student needs were.

The Union was informed, but that went nowhere.

I know our school will also be doing math. Since I probably will have my own class, I will know what needs to be reviewed. However the out of classroom and cluster teachers (who at this point do not know which grades and students they will be working with) would like some information too.

It would be nice if we were able to use the last PD Monday on something we wanted.

9:32 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

Ms. Frizzle;

I will not say what we all know to be true. However, the lack of respect for the classroom teacher by the DOE is quite evident in the use of mindless PD rather than teacher planning. The UFT is also at blame as they are not pro-active (they don't attack DOE policies) but respond to the body blows. Each body blow gives back precious teacher time and reduces quality.

By the way how do you feel that Randi and company gave themselves an equal raise to ours without the givebacks!!!

9:46 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

At least the PD time is being discussed. I have gotten nary a memo, no meetings, no mention of what we're doing with the extra time...guess I'll find out on Feb 6th!

10:05 PM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

That's exactly my point, N. - one or two days of meeting to talk about what the plan is would help EVERYBODY - teachers, students, and admin.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Ms. M said...

Wow Ms. Frizzle. As usual, your school is light years ahead of mine. Aside from filling out a prefrence sheet, we haven't heard a single thing about what is going to happen in February. (Honestly, we're just trying to get through the ELA tests now and I can tell you that all is not going totally smoothly). Like Nancy I'm sure that we'll hear about what's going on the day before, if not the day of, the implementation.

10:43 PM  
Blogger posthipchick said...

I'm assuming PD stands for Professional Development, yes? I wouldn't actually know since we don't have anything of the sort in my district.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What nonsense. My gifted-class child must now report to school 20 minutes earlier to accomodate the kids channeled into the extra class at the end of the day.

This new class pushes back the start of after-school activities by 40 minutes, punishing everyone from children, to parents, to caretakers bringing them to and from school. Nice work DOE.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Schoolgal said...

Follow up:

Teachers in my school do not know what is planned for PD until that Monday afternoon when we find an agenda in our mailbox. Sometimes we do get a week's notice about some inane topic.

I blame both the Union and DOE for not following through on their plan for a PD committee.

Goodbye to detention, hello to an extra teaching period.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like Ms. M, I still have no idea what I'm going to be teaching when we get the extended time next month. I don't know which of my kids will be getting services (I haven't been asked). Every time I ask the AP she acts like everything is under control (with an "oh, all in due time....." attitude) -- but I am pretty sure it's just act.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

By the way Tweed wants a lesson plan, an observation, and 2 teachers to a room teaching 20 students. Wonderful negotiating Randi!

3:40 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

picture of zoroastrianism
Declaration of Heaven on Earth!
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Please chant this prayer to recieve heaven on earth:
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Dearest, greatest, holiest!
Please give us all, the full heaven on earth!
I thank you, & I worship you.
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3:18 PM  

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