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Monday, December 5, 2011

On Hidden Vacancies and Post-It Notes

It's been quite some time since we've had an article from our star contributor, Life in Limbo.  The following article makes all the waiting worthwhile. 

It all seems so simple and straightforward: there are two vacancies in my building that I KNOW of: an Art and a Reading AIS (Academic Intervention Services). In addition, the AIS teacher on my floor will be leaving on a long-term medical leave in a few weeks. She plans on being out for the rest of the year, and retiring in June, so this is a long-term sub position which will eventually become a clear vacancy. In any other situation, the response to these issues would be to hire teachers to fill the positions. But we are not in any other situation--we are in Bloomberg’s DOE, which makes a trip down Alice’s rabbit hole seem like just another day at the office. 

No one is interviewing anyone for these positions. How can this be when there are classes programmed to have Art and AIS? This is where it gets interesting. I have to give NYC administrators points for “thinking creatively” on this one, because I never would have thought of this on my own. How are they doing this, you ask? 

Professional duty periods. 

Yes, my friends. The C-6 assignment is being used to cover up at least two vacancies in my building. And here’s how: 

Any teacher without a homeroom has been given a C-6 assignment listed as “small group instruction” and assigned to either one of the Art or AIS periods in the designated classrooms for AIS and Art. Both these rooms are vacant, since there is no teacher, and there are no supplies, materials, or books in the room. There are even too few desks since the rooms have been pilfered for furniture and materials by other teachers scrounging for limited supplies. The computers in these rooms have been literally torn apart by the students, as have many of the books in the classroom library. In this situation, up to three non-homeroom teachers are assigned “small group” instruction during a single period. By assigning teachers three at a time to this class, the student-teacher ratio becomes 10:1 or less, and *voila*--“Art” and “AIS” are provided, at least on paper, without the expense of hiring an actual teacher!! Genius, isn’t it? 

Let’s just forget that the students are, at this point, so used to not having anything to do this period that the chance of getting them to do any “AIS” or “Art” work now, even with three teachers in the room, is slim to none. It’s even worse when a Science teacher, Tech teacher, and Math teacher are all assigned to cover an Art period with no art supplies, pacing calendar, or responsibility for actual lesson planning and execution. The result has been chaos in the classrooms and groups of students roaming the halls and wandering into other classrooms to cause disruptions because there’s “nothin’ to do in my bull****” class because we ain’t got no d*** teacher.” And the teachers who are stuck with this “small group instruction” period are just thrilled to have their prep time taken away for such a meaningful activity. 

I can’t wait to see the creative ways they manage to cover the upcoming AIS vacancy. The teacher is scheduled to leave in a few weeks, so stay tuned for more on that. 

So, with all of this going on–chaos, vacancies, “Art” classes that are not, “AIS” services that only exist on paper, the fact that only ten of my thirty students had a parent come up to receive his/her child’s report card, and many other dysfunctions in our school environment, what do you think the administration chose to focus on in this week’s faculty memo? 

Sticky Notes. Yes, the urgent issue of the day was sticky notes. Oh, I’m sorry–the 3x3 sticky notes many of us use to comment on student work is not a mere sticky note. It is a “FEEDBACK POST-IT” and is SO important to student success that there is now a SPECIFIC FORMAT to use when writing on a “FEEDBACK POST-IT.” This issue was SO URGENT that we were directed to immediately REMOVE ALL FEEDBACK POST-ITs which are not in the REQUIRED format and replace them, properly formatted, by the CLOSE OF BUSINESS TODAY. We were informed over the PA system that there would be walk-throughs that afternoon checking to make sure all FEEDBACK POST-ITS are in compliance with the required FEEDBACK POST-IT format. 

So my co-teacher and I furiously rushed around the room rewriting all of our information from the sticky notes onto new, officially formatted “FEEDBACK POST-ITs,” sure that these newly- formatted “FEEDBACK POST-ITs are the key to exponentially increasing our students’ test scores (even the ones who only come to school once a week)! We even reworded the feedback into the “language of the rubric,” as specified on the format. And a good thing too, because I think “sentences vary in length and structure to add variety and interest to the writing while enhancing the style” is SOOO much clearer than “Let’s work on making your sentences more engaging.” Hats off to you, oh wise administrators and network leaders. 

So we finish this exercise during our prep period, which was a much better use of time than, say, planning lessons and preparing materials for said lessons, I am sure. We high-five each other for being “in compliance” and prepare to show off our perfectly formatted “FEEDBACK POST-ITs to anyone who stops by. We thought we were done and then…the student walked in. 

The student was carrying a stack of notes, for which we had to sign. The note contained a new REVISED format for the “FEEDBACK POST-IT,” and said that THIS was the magic format that would exponentially increase student achievement and even throw in a load of laundry for you! (O.k., I exaggerated about the laundry.) My co-teacher and I looked at it and realized that this “new” format was EXACTLY THE SAME as the format we used on the original “FEEDBACK POST-ITs–the ones we just tossed in the trash ten minutes ago! So we once again scramble to remove the FEEDBACK POST-ITs we had just posted, to replace them yet again, with what was essentially identical to what we had taken down. 

But then the bell rang. 

How’s that for productivity?

Picture credits: 


1 comment:

  1. This is why we need teo degrees for the job. Nothing like autonomy for the teacher.