Saturday, August 05, 2006

The UFT Questionnaire - What It Didn't Include

Today I received the UFT questionnaire on what we should ask for in the next contract. Of course most teachers want more money, better health benefits, low class sizes, and enforceable student discipline codes. However, I was more interested in what the UFT questionnaire did not include.

First, a priority for many teachers is getting back the two days before Labor Day. All the teachers I spoke to bring this up as a top priority, on par with a competitive salary. Why doesn't the UFT questionnaire include this?

Second, the reinstatement of the grievance procedure that protected teachers from overzeolous administrators who, if not kept in check, can give teachers Letters-To-The-File (LIF) at their leisure.

Third, the elimination of the 90 day unpaid suspension based upon a student accusation. Already teachers have been subject to these false accusations. Why didn't the UFT include it in the questionnaire?

Fourth, How come the UFT questionnaire didn't include changing the 1.67% factor for teachers who are vested to 2% in the pension plan. Instead they only seem to care for the 30 year teacher.

Fifth, why wasen't a limit of 183 school days, as is done in the suburbs, included in the questionnaire?

Finally, The UFT questionnaire should have had a question that read "should Randi and her lawyer friends negotiate the next contract rather than the classroom teachers?" I guess we all know the answer to that.

I know there are other items left out of the UFT questionnaire. However, I believe these are the most important.

I would like to hear what other teachers think.

16 comments:

mayqueen said...

Chaz,
First let me say, that I think you misinterpreted my posting. I am very pro-public-school. I have never expressed support for voucher programs or even charter schools, and I fully support the efforts of public schools, having spent the last 3 years teaching in 2 very challenging inner city public schools. What I meant by my comments about my sixth graders who attended a private school SUMMER program [on scholarship] is that it is a shame that these amazing students that I have taught do not have access to small class size or a classroom ALL THE TIME where behavior is under control merely because they are not able to afford to live in an area where the PUBLIC schools are better and that PUBLIC schools should be able to provide an environment like the one they experienced this summer. I don’t know where you teach, but the conditions in the public schools which I have taught are certainly not ideal for any student.
Secondly, any teacher who claims that tenure is having a positive effect on the public school system is out of their mind, or has been very lucky to work with a great staff. While tenure does protect teachers against malicious and unfair principals [like my first school], it also protects inadequate, lazy, abusive, and ignorant teachers from having to do any work at all. I am not just imagining this—it is a perspective shared by the 50 or so teachers I know personally, who are teaching in hard-to-staff public schools through out NYC. Teacher tenure would be very different if the evaluation process of teachers was not so entirely superficial and subjective, and if it didn’t take insanely egregious violations of the rules in order to be fired. From what my last principal explained, you need to get three “Unsatisfactory” ratings in a row in order to be fired! That means three years of general incompetence to lose your job or face any kind of consequences! I am tired of teachers who cannot string together basic sentences, arrive to school late every day, and live by the motto of “that’s not in my contract” in order to avoid doing anything they see as a less than desirable task. In no other line of employment would an employee get away with such significant neglect to the responsibilities of their job without getting fired.
Finally, I take personal offense to the fact that you called me a “three year teacher” as if I am forsaking education for a posh job somewhere to sit on my ass and do nothing—I am not leaving teaching because I don’t like it or “can’t handle it”—I’m leaving with the intent of getting an education degree that will qualify me to work in policy and work to reform a broken public school system and plan to stay involved in public schools for the duration of my career.
I am not trying to argue with the struggles that the union goes through for quality teachers who are victims of the system, but I find it hard to believe that you have not worked with teachers who are protected by a union who do not deserve to even be called "teachers."
Sorry to respond in a comment on your blog, but your words truly bothered me.

Chaz said...

mayqueen:

The best way to change the system is from within not from the outside. Further, tenure is given by the Administrators and if poor teachers are given tenure then blame it on the Administration not the teachers union. Moreover, it only takes two consecutive "U" ratings to be fired , not three. Your abandonment of the students does not bode well for your future plans to "fix" the broken public school system.

I wish you well in your future occupation but in my view you are just one of the 50% "failed teachers" that didn't last five years in the classroom.

jonathan said...

Chaz,

I just opened the questionaire, looked it over, and handwrote some comments (a few overlapped with yours).

Our reactions are similar. I will post something more extensive later this week.

jd2718

no_slappz said...

chaz, you wrote:

"Of course most teachers want more money, better health benefits, low class sizes, and enforceable student discipline codes."

You demand more money at the same time you demand smaller classes. In other words, you want more money for less work.

I'm not suggesting there are not inequities, but things NEVER work that way. Higher pay to teach fewer students. NOT EVER GONNA HAPPPEN.

Better health benefits? How can this be? How much better? What's lacking?

Enforceable discipline standards. Look, the concept of standards and personal responsibility was removed as a qualification for any government benefit when Lyndon Johnson created the Great Society in the mid-1960s. Up to that point, people hoping to becomce residents of public housing had to demonstrate good character before receiving apartments in tax-payer supported buildings.

Once such common-sense practices were deemed discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional, all standards of behavior for recipients of government services were wiped away.

You will spend your entire career fighting for changes that are unattainable.

So here's the question. Why fight a losing battle?

Why not investigate teaching at a private school in the borough of your choice?

What would you gain by working at a private school?

What would you lose?

I have many friends who began their teaching careers in public school who later switched to private school venues. Not one of them regrets the move. Moreover, if they chose to return to teaching in a public school, nothing stands in the way.

no_slappz said...

chaz, you wrote to mayqueen:

"The best way to change the system is from within not from the outside."

Not this system.

Your dependence on this silly platitude is disappointing. You apparently believe there are many elements within the system that teachers can change. In fact, you must believe teachers have the power to change enough elements to render a new system.

You must therefore be a rather cockeyed optimist.

As you know, the only changes that have resulted over the past four decades are declines. So much time has passed and so much ground has been lost that it's sadly unfortunate that anyone would believe the old tried, retried, tried again and un-true practice of the past forty years is worth another shot. Sometimes a whole new approach is what's necessary.

Meanwhile, if teachers really believed in change -- and more importantly, were truly motivated by the welfare of students -- they would either strike or quit.

Since striking is illegal, the alternative is mass resignation (and mass retirement).

If ALL teachers resigned (or retired) simultaneously, the DOE would have no choice but to negotiate with all departing teachers. There are simply not enough replacement teachers available to bail out the DOE.

Of course the union would have to suspend its one-salary-schedule-for-all strategy.

But all desired changes would follow from a mass action that is not prohibited.

However, we know such boldness is not a union characteristic. Thus, the union and the DOE will continue to muddle along -- the immovable object against the unstoppable force.

We know that no matter how much complaining issues from the mouths of teachers, they all show up to collect their checks. As long as they show up, the system will not change.

Chaz said...

no_slappz:

You certainlycan't change it from the outside. The only way to change the system is having teachers and administrators work together. However, presently DOE and the Bloomberg administration dictates policies without asking for teacher input.

no_slappz said...

chaz, yo wrote:

"You certainlycan't change it from the outside."

You claim the system is unchangeable from the outside, then you write the following:

"However, presently DOE and the Bloomberg administration dictates policies without asking for teacher input."

In other words, changes, small as they may be, are emerging from external sources -- Bloomberg, in this case.

I don't know why you continuously repeat claims that aren't true. There is ZERO evidence of any meaningful change in the education system in NYC coming from within.

You also wrote:

"The only way to change the system is having teachers and administrators work together."

Again, you sound like Rodney King. "Can't we all just get along?"

The answer is no. At least as far as public education is concerned.

Meanwhile, you still haven't answered my question:

What's keeping you from teaching at a private school where all your employment conditions would be met?

Chaz said...

no slappz:

Because the NYC public school students need me. There is no challenge to educate private school brats that know that good grades are required for mommy & daddy to pay their tuition bill. Anything less than 100% passing on the Regents would be shocking to me.

I like the challenge of working with the public school students who look up to you as a role model because their parents are too busy to be that to them.

NYC Educator said...

I think the UFT, like many purveyors of statistics, designed a survey with the results planned in advance. They purposely pitted class size against salary to get themselves off the hook when they once again do nothing to reduce it.

These are entrenched, lazy, self-serving politicians, who have nothing but contempt for democracy.

no_slappz said...

chaz, you wrote:

"Because the NYC public school students need me."

That's a bit operatic, don't you think? Moreover, that statement carries a disturbing understone.

My niece at Midwood in the Med/Sci program doesn't need you. You can be sure of that. My niece heading to Stuyvesant next month doesn't need you either. Nor do my kids. In fact, there's not one kid I know in public school who needs you. Many might think well of your teaching; many might benefit from attending your class, but "need" is not part of mix for them.

You wrote:
"There is no challenge to educate private school brats that know that good grades are required for mommy & daddy to pay their tuition bill."

Really? Brats? If private school kids are brats, public school kids are violent criminals.

The atmosphere may be a bit rarified in some private schools, but that hardly earns criticism for the students. On the other hand, a considerable amount of student behavior in public school violates many laws. In my work at the NYC public schools I have witnessed physical attacks, sexual harrassment, intimidation and I've been threatened many times.

Such activities don't occur in private school.

You wrote:
"Anything less than 100% passing on the Regents would be shocking to me."

Is success on that level something to criticize? Based on the tone of your statement, it is.

You wrote:

"I like the challenge of working with the public school students who look up to you as a role model because their parents are too busy to be that to them."

What keeps these "parents" so busy?

In what way are you a role model?

Since I'm sure you don't drink, smoke or consume illicit drugs while they're watching, it must be something else.

17 more years said...

I attended private school for 6 years, and now I choose to teach in a public school. Take my word for it- for the most part, private school students ARE brats. I was a lower middle class kid living in East New York, zoned for a District 19 middle school- my father worked 2 jobs to put me in a school where my physical safety would be ensured. It was- but I was never accepted by those brats because of where I lived.

My students do need me- I suppose you have never had a child write a letter to you at year's end telling you how you have given them a love of the subject you teach. I would imagine you never had a child thank you for taking the time to attend his parent's wake. Or have a teary eyed middle school student hug you and say, "you've been like a second mother to me".

Don't underestimate the power of role models.

no_slappz said...

17 more years wrote:

"I attended private school for 6 years, and now I choose to teach in a public school."

How long have you been teaching? Have you spent your entire teaching career in public schools?

You wrote:

"Take my word for it- for the most part, private school students ARE brats."

Sorry, I won't. Can't, in fact. I've been around public and private school students for a very long time. There are some private school students who are brats. So what? There are far more public school students who are juvenile delinquents. You seem to maintain an acceptance of their waywardness.

You wrote:
"I was a lower middle class kid living in East New York, zoned for a District 19 middle school- my father worked 2 jobs to put me in a school where my physical safety would be ensured. It was- but I was never accepted by those brats because of where I lived."

Implicit in your comment is the notion that you would have graduated from high school, graduated from college and become a teacher even if you had attended public school instead of six years of private school.

Are you rejecting your private school experience for any reason beyond your apparent lack of social success? Or where the academics insufficient too?

Also implicit in your comment is the rather odd notion that kids in public schools don't ostracize one another. I've witnessed intense bullying, intimidation and violence in public schools. The abuse of girls in public school is nothing less than shocking.

You wrote:

"My students do need me- I suppose you have never had a child write a letter to you at year's end telling you how you have given them a love of the subject you teach."

Apparently you believe the opening of a student's eyes and the lighting of intellectual fires occurs only in tax-payer funded public schools. If this were true, public school students would achieve far more than they do.

Meanwhile, there are a substantial number of public school teachers who inspire nothing more than skipping class.

The fact that you can supply one or two anecdotes about inspiring a kid means very little in the big picture of educating over a million kids in NYC every year.

You wrote:

"I would imagine you never had a child thank you for taking the time to attend his parent's wake."

I've attended many wakes in my life for many reasons. It's not especially touching or remarkable that a teacher attends the wake of a student's parent. Sorry, but you put too much weight on small acts that aren't extraordinary in any way.

You wrote:
"Or have a teary eyed middle school student hug you and say, "you've been like a second mother to me"."

Based on this comment, I doubt you have kids of your own. More importantly, you have expanded the role of teacher to include elements of a therapist and a social worker.

In other words, you are enabling a parent to forsake his/her role. Kids often need help, but too many parents abdicate their responsibilities without consequences because other adults replace them temporarily. While the self-less stand-in is acting generously, the irresponsible parents enjoy a free pass. Not every bad parent is in jail or dead.

You wrote:

"Don't underestimate the power of role models."

I'm not at all sure we are discussing "role models". A sympathetic person extending human kindness to someone in need is not a role model. Such a person is merely indulging his/her decency and kind-heartedness.

Chaz said...

no slappz:

We don't agree here. I'm sure you never had a student come to you and tell you what you meant to them. Therefore, you cannot understand how important it is to be there for the students that need your help.

17 more years said...

Chaz-

no slappz clearly has not experienced a lot of things, hence my refusal to dignify any of his comments towards me with a response.

no_slappz said...

chaz, you wrote:

"We don't agree here. I'm sure you never had a student come to you and tell you what you meant to them. Therefore, you cannot understand how important it is to be there for the students that need your help."

You are suggesting that no one other than a teacher experiences emotional rewards and compensation through work. That's shows a pretty narrow-minded view of the world.

no_slappz said...

17 more years wrote:

"no slappz clearly has not experienced a lot of things, hence my refusal to dignify any of his comments towards me with a response."

Unsolicited praise is always a big lift to anyone -- no matter what job they hold. Where's the news in that?

I think you're afraid to respond to my questions and comments.

At the very least you show an irrational bias against a certain class.