I just spend the two of the most miserable days in my teaching career doing nothing at my school. Instead of recharging my batteries on vacation and preparing for the next school year, I found myself subject to mindless (un)professional development, a principal who spent precious time telling us how great he is, and assistant principals who had a mind-numbing session on bulletin boards, hallway practices, and classroom sharing. We were also exposed to an afternoon of videos of "right to know" that drove most of the teachers bonkers.
You might ask. "How about working on the classrooms?" Well my school administrators didn't program time in for this in our very busy two days of mindless nothingness. But Randi said the two days were to fix-up the classroom? Well, tell that to the administrators because they didn't seem to care what Randi said. What follows is my two days of misery.
Thursday, August 31st started off with coffee & bagels as the principal spoke about how our school improved their Math & English scores over last year. Clap, clap, clap. Next he introduced teachers who came back from sabbaticals and informed the staff of the teachers he excessed. We did not lose any teachers to transfer using the open market system. Note; teachers don't usually leave large traditional high schools in Queens for smaller schools despite the best efforts of Kleinberg to make the smaller schools attractive. See my August 24th blog. Next, he informed us how he single-handedly fought the Tweed educrats on adding cameras, security officers, and a police presence in our school I thought it was a total effort between parents, students, teachers and some administrators? What do I know. Finally, he finished it up with how we should all work together and collaborate on issues that affect the school and that we are one big family. Boy was I getting sick of this phoney. My principal is a "cya person" and will stab you in the back if that is what his Tweed masters want.
Next, it was off to our department meeting for the rest of the morning where we discussed what should go on our bulletin boards. Should it be student work, or posters? What can go on the walls? Can student work be put on the hallway walls? Thankfully, the session ended for lunch as the assistant principal was explaining how three teachers can share one room.
The afternoon session consisted of two videos on the "right to know" what chemicals are being used in the school and what the procedures are to inform medical personnel. However, our right to know apparently does not include knowing if our students have Communicable diseases. We are forbbiden to know if a child is HIV positive, another reason why a teacher should not break up fights. By the time the videos were finished it was time to go home.
Friday, September 1st we are back to coffee & bagels and another speech by the principal. Charitably, he limited it to a half hour. However, he had a wonderful surprise for his teaching staff, a day-long professional development session. Of course, despite his statements that he wants to collaborate with the teachers, he didn't ask for teacher input or comment on the type or necessity of professional development. By the way the administrators were exempt from the professional development sessions. The professional development consisted of
non-educators telling us how we should be in touch with our feelings. What a wonderful waste of time and money. Yes, he used his budget to pay for this rather than saving the money for before/after school tutoring. This professional development was to extend to the end of the day but a revolt by the teaching staff truncated it to 1:50 pm. This allowed the teachers one hour to fix up their rooms!
Didn't Randi say that the two days before Labor Day will be used for teachers to fix-up their classrooms? Well I took a look at the contract and under section 6C it states that "part of the time on the days before Labor Day will be allocated to classroom preparation. " The question is what does part mean? Half a day, 2 hours, 10 minutes? Another, poor job by Randi and her lawyer friends that did not specify what part of a day means. Does giving us one hour on the second day meet the definition as part of a day? What about not having any time on day one? What are the penalties for non-compliance of the contract by the administrators? I suspect there will be no consequences for the administrators for violating the contract. Can you imagine if you refused to go to the professional development session? Yes, you would be charged with insubordination and at the very least receive a letter to the file and maybe even being removed from the school!
My miserable day ended with my assistant principal (who I have a good relationship with) coming into my room and asking me if I finished the Earth Science lab booklet. My response was "you must be kidding" I informed him that had I not been required to go to the professional development session, I would have been finished. He left my room and told me that I forced him to find a common lab paper to hand out next week. My heart bleds.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Joel Klein who does not understand the law of diminishing returns and thinks quantity means quality. Joel, more time in the classroom does not mean better grades if you overwork the teacher & students. I would also thank Randi Weingarten who first, agreed to the two days before Labor Day that ruined many a planned vacation and second, lied to us about how the two days were to be used. Finally, I would like to thank my school administrators who time and again fail to practice what they preach and use limited funds for professional development that nobody wanted.
Before I forget, I want to give special thanks to Randi & Joel for the precedent-setting 190 day school year.