Pay attention, UFT
At the time of the contract dispute, I was on the fence. On one side of the fence, tutoring/teaching additional time without any additional prep time. And all that other stuff about letters in the file, etc. On the other side of the fence, doubt that our union would win a strike, doubt that we'd get better if we voted down the contract. At the time I didn't feel strongly enough about either side being right to take an active stand or rally others.
That said, a lot has happened in the last few months. The TWU went on strike, and won a much better offer than what they had before the strike (of course, then they turned it down, but that's their own little trip). They went on strike without the support of their parent union, without a strike fund to speak of, and it remains to be seen whether they are bankrupted and crippled by fees, but most people agree that they won.
It made me wonder why we allow negotiations to drag on for years before finally agreeing to something. Why doesn't my union put its foot down and say, Our teachers won't work until they know the conditions under which they are working? Why do we allow ourselves to be disrespected in this way? We should know from our classrooms that the tone you convey affects how people treat you. I think the correct tone for the teachers' union ought to be always-civil, but extremely firm: we don't work without a contract. Period. So what I'm telling you folks who represent us is that even some of us with pretty moderate views on the whole thing have begun to expect more, a harder-line. Anyway, if we take a stronger stance, maybe we could get the whole thing settled within a few weeks rather than letting negotiations continue in fits and starts for months and months.
For those who've asked, we did an SBO to combine the 37 1/2 minutes into two 75-minute sessions, primarily so that we could keep our after-school enrichment program more-or-less unchanged on Wednesdays and Thursdays. We also did an SBO to reduce the number of students each teacher is tutoring, because we did not have enough level 1 and 2 kids to fill each teacher's class to 10, and we wanted to focus on the highest-need kids. We sat down in December to divide up the kids into classes. I am tutoring 7th graders in math, which irritates me because (a) I'm not a math teacher and (b) I only teach some of the 7th graders but am 6th grade team leader BUT I am willing to accept because (a) I had some say in the matter and (b) the kids need the extra help in math much more than they need it in science and (c) I really don't want some of these 7th graders held over so I'll do whatever it takes to get them through those tests and on to 8th grade!
Everything seemed to be going well.
The ELA teachers found some books that take the kids through one skill at a time, providing clear directions to the teacher and a reading selection and questions, and that seemed all right, simple enough to run itself, which I always thought was one of the goals. Turns out, of course, that the books didn't get ordered when we thought they had been, so they have to make some stuff up for the first few weeks....
The Math teachers described to us, back in December, a program that they had on CD where the kids take pre-tests, are given practice worksheets based on the diagnostic, and work at their own pace from a folder of worksheets, moving from one to the next as they master each skill. The teacher helps when they get stuck or when they need a reminder of how to approach a certain type of problem. This, combined with homework help, sounded fine to me. The next time I spoke to them, it turned out these materials were only appropriate for 6th grade, but that they thought they could find something similar for the 7th and 8th grades. Okay. The next time I spoke to them (this Monday!), it turned out that, with a week left, they thought one book for 7th grade might be in the building somewhere, and that they could use some website to generate worksheets and anyway, that system was only supposed to be for maybe 20 minutes and they had all this other stuff they wanted us to do with the remaining time. So, when were they planning to tell us that?
Adding insult to injury was the fact that absolutely all the teachers on staff thought that Monday PD for the last two sessions would be spent planning this, when in fact, for some unfathomable reason, the first was spent in a fluffy workshop on giving feedback to other teachers, and the second on rubrics. There should have been plenty of time for us to prepare and to discover this miscommunication and calmly solve the problem, but there wasn't. Instead, everyone was panicking, including myself.
Finally, yesterday, in the middle of the last period of the day, which I was spending with a group of 6th graders who were ineligible for an ice cream social that we had for the others, my AP comes to me with a 5 page long packet that includes a lesson plan, for Monday.
In the lesson plan: direct instruction, guided practice, independent practice, plus a fluency drill, plus homework help.
Take a look at this, is it okay?
What's this about direct instruction? I didn't think we were doing that, I thought we were providing help as needed.
You don't have to do it as a lesson, it's just two problems to model the process.
Right, I didn't think we were doing that, or at least not as a structured, whole group activity.
You can just do it sitting next to them as a group, or on the board, or on the overhead projector.
At that point I realized I couldn't have this argument while simultaneously teaching, so I just shrugged and took the lesson plan. After school, after meeting with a parent, after meeting with my grade team, then I had an argument with one of the math teachers about the plan. And basically came off as the lazy, stupid b!tch, standing in the way of what they consider important for the kids.
It will blow over. They're probably right that this isn't really that different from what I would do anyway. I think what's really pissing me off is that for reasons that are everyone's fault and no one's fault, we have not had regular team-leader meetings for the last two months, and as a result, things that I thought were going to be done one way are being done a completely different way. And on a personal note, I really feel that the math department misled me and the other non-math teachers who are doing this, and I don't like the story changing so much at the last minute.