Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Get out and stay out

I was dreading yesterday's parent/teacher conferences. We usually hold them on a Thursday, so that at least when I get home all drained from the hours of talking, the next day is Friday and I can roll out of bed like a zombie knowing that the weekend was in sight. But this time around, it was a Tuesday and it was bound to be the Longest Week Ever.

We have a two and a half hour break between the afternoon and evening conferences. I usually use that time to catch up on a buttload of work that might otherwise never get done were I not virtually forced to spend an extra two and a half hours in my classroom -- during November's conferences, for example, I single-handedly rearranged all the furniture in my classroom and have been much happier with the new layout.

Yesterday I was planning to grade and organize all my math tests and goals for our upcoming unit on fractions. At 3:10, I was settled in my room with my green pen, my hole puncher, my math binders (I now have two, since my class can't fit into just one) and a thick stack of papers.

At 3:15, the principal got on the loudspeaker and announced that due to last-minute budget cuts, no staff would be allowed to remain in the building from 3:30 to 5:30. "Please don't make security come upstairs and get you," she said. (My school, by the way, also will not let teachers into the building one half second before 7:00 am. We all gather outside shivering in the cold in front of the locked school doors. Because, sure, when you have dedicated staff members who are willing to be at school at the crack of dawn, you don't want them coming into the building early!)

I was so aggravated. I threw my giant binders, and my hole puncher (!), into my teacher tote and jumped in my car to drive home (at least I could drive home -- I'm sure there were dozens of teachers who had no choice but to hang out at some neighborhood eatery for two hours). I printed out my goal sheets at home and wrapped up whatever filing I could before it was time to head back to school.

And then, today, I got observed in math. (For those of you who may be wondering: Yes, my school is still blatantly flouting the union rule that says teachers must receive written notification of a formal observation. Our observations are total surprises. Surprise!) After I was at school until after 8 pm last night for conferences, on a day when I got kicked out of the building for two hours during a time I would normally remain in my classroom doing work. And my math stuff was not nearly as organized as it would have been had I not lost all that time. (Exhibit A: I accidentally left the hole puncher at home, a vital tool for organizing my endless binders.)

My kids behaved like buttheads in front of my AP. Oh, and today is still only Wednesday. Oh, and on Thursdays after lunch I get to teach fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh periods and extended day (that's 10:55 am to 3:15 pm -- 4.5 looooong hours) without any preps, push-in relief or one freaking second to use the bathroom.

Oh, joy.


Ms. M said...

Ugh! That sucks! I totally agree with you about the Longest Week Ever. I woke up this morning wondering how it was ONLY WEDNESDAY?? Fall conferences (for us at least) happened just before a holiday and it was glorious! Teachers at my school never stay in the building during the break though. We sort of have a tradition of going out to eat. Since it was Restaurant Week in Brooklyn about 15 of us went to a fabulous restaurant with a view of Manhattan and had a leisurely 2 hour lunch. It made the day bearable!

Miss Eyre said...

Man, that sucks. I wish had something more eloquent to say. But it just sucks.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing in the contract that requires an administrator to give notification to conduct a formal observation.

miss brave said...

Everything in the Q&A on the UFT website (which I'm not linking to now because I'm on a Blackberry) says that (1) pre- and post-conferences are required and (2) written notification must be given, under Article 8J of the contract. For what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing in the actual contract requiring notification. Read the actual document.

Anonymous said...

There is also a provision that "notification" can be as simple as your administrator stating they are starting formal observations during a Faculty Conference or in a weekly bulletin. They do not have to give you written notice of the period they plan to visit.

miss brave said...

Well, then I stand corrected. 5 points for my adminstration. 0 points for me!

Schoolgal said...

It has been 3 years since I was in the classroom, but I thought informal observations were still legal. However, it would be professional to have an assigned time. And doing it the day after a long conference is really insane.

Your principal obviously doesn't believe in any advanced notice about anything important. Not to keep the school open twice a year when the majority of teachers don't live near the school is not a cost-saving action, it's pure evil. I hope your chapter leader can do something about this.

miss brave said...

I was under the impression that administrators were contractually required to give notice of formal observations, because when you Google it and read about it, that's what it says. But the above Anonymous is correct that the actual contract doesn't specifically state that.

Of course I concur that my administrators have the right to walk into my room at any time. But my school makes no distinction between "formal" and "informal" observations. Our principal and APs show up unannounced (except they always seem to show up without pens and have to borrow mine), take extremely copious notes (by "extremely copious" I mean that my observation reports literally say things like, "At 12:43 pm, you asked the students to join you at the carpet"), and then write it up and hold post-observation conferences with us weeks later. Like, so much later that I retain little memory of the lesson.

In her announcement on the loudspeaker, my principal claimed that she herself had just received notice of the budget cuts. I haven't heard whether or not this happened in any other school. It still sucked.

Ms. Peace said...

Luckily at my school, no one cares if the building has no security. I can't BELIEVE they actually kicked everyone out for two and a half hours. That is just disgusting!!! Yet also totally unsurprising.

Schoolgal said...

I was also taught to take copious notes when I took my admin courses.
However, it's just the findings that count and the overall rating.

FYI: Even if an admin is in the room, don't be afraid to discipline. If kids are talking when you are trying to teach, stop the lesson and glare at them. As soon as one person stops, thank them and keep glaring until you get the room quiet. Some teachers take out a marking book and red pen and quietly stand, look around the room, and put zeros in the book. That can settle them down too. Try different methods til you find one that works for you and use it when an admin comes calling.

Anonymous said...

Last year I had the morning after PT conferences observation. That was in spite of an agreement hacked a few days before between the principal and district rep that I would do the alternative performance review.

When the ap walked in, I reminded her that I was doing the alternative performance review. Her response was, "I haven't decided yet."

Bottom line is some of us are working in hell.

Anonymous said...

I went from an AP who asked when would be a good time to observe, to an AP who tended to observe without notice any class in which you told him you were having problems, to an AP who chooses the date but tells you in advance and has a real pre-observation conference.

Guess it takes all kinds.