A continuation of a series called “Unsatisfactory Teacher” You might want to quickly read Part 1 here:Unsatisfactory Teacher Part 1- The Birth of this Evaluation
[NOTE: I apologize for thedelay.I had planned to post this earlier in the week, but had to depose former DOE Executive Director of Employee Relations Andrew Gordon. He was the guy who together with Chancellor Faria’s top attorney, Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, made the horrible decision to remove me from IS 49and send me to the rubber room. Especially when there was no sound basis to do so. It only cost the taxpayers close to a million dollars. This pastTuesday I received over 700 pages of communication between Andrew Gordon and many others including DOE top brass. The contents should anger and enrage the taxpayers. Those involved should probably be concerned.I hope Principal Linda Hill of IS 49 was worth it Marisol, Robin(s) and Kathleen.]
Let’s move on with the show, shall we
When you are an educator, you can be observed and evaluated at any time. I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with, and will be addressing, is the subjectivity of the evaluation process. The best teacher in NYC can be evaluated by the worst administrator and be rated ineffective or unsatisfactory. I want someone to tell, and show me, otherwise. You may want to quickly read my post from lastyear:
On September 11th, just a week after school began, the principal and two assistant principals came into one of my nine Italian classes. If you read my previous post then you’ll know I don’t speak Italian. Non Parlo Italian But I Will Teach ItMore on that observation soon. This post isn’t about that observation. After the administration left, my phone rings and the principal tells me that my field supervisor is here to see me and I should meet her at room 112. For those who do not know, because I am an ATR (Ambassador Teacher on Rotation), I am evaluated and am supposed to get support from a field supervisor that rotates and visits ATRs across thecity.
On September 11, 2014, I metEdele Williams, a Teaching Fellows assistant principaland former assistant principal of PS 230 in the Bronx. I wondered if she had been told anything about me or my history. In any case, I acted and was dressed professional as usual. I explained that I never had Common Core training, nor any Danielson Framework evaluation training. I told her that I had actually been prevented from even going to professional development sessions for thelast two years of educator exile. Read my post Professional Undevelopment. She made no effort to get me the training. More about this later.
Ms. Williamsmade me sign all these papers to show that I read and was aware of several Chancellor’s Regulations. There were only several listed, but when am I supposed to read them Are we responsible for reading and following all of the Chancellor’s Regulations Sure. Know how many there are There are 94 amounting to thousands of pages. I smell a Union Initiated grievance coming up.
We continued withour pre-observation conference. Now those of you foreign to teaching should know that there are informal (surprise) and formal (planned) observations. Planned formal ones actually requireplanning as in “I plan to come this period while you are teaching this specific class doing this specific lesson and I want to see blah blah blah…”
That didn’t happen. Instead I received what all other ATRs receive, which is a very general and vaguelist of expectations.
So just as with any checklist, you would think that if you do what is on the list you should be OKas far as evaluation goes. Just like a restaurant owner has to follow health and safety checklists. Great and effective teaching has become just that…checks on a piece of paper.
I informed Ms. Edele Williams that my license is in Science and I have been given nineItalian classes and three health classes in addition to my two Science classes. She responded something such as “I am a fair person and to be fair I will only evaluate you when you are teaching in your license area.” That soundedfair, but didn’t address the fact that I had 14 classes and over 450 students on my roster that I had to evaluate, pre-assess, post assess, educate, contact parents, and address their specific needs while not having access to their Individualized Education Plan (IEP)etc. Oh and I had to learn Italian so I could effectively teach it at thesame time.
She did not seem to care about these issues I was raising, or at least I did not feel as they were being addressed so I can better educate these students. She looked at my schedule and told me that she will come to observe me during my 6th grade Science class on Tuesday the September 16th, made me sign some papersand I left.
Ok, now try to follow along as this may get confusing.
On Saturday September 13, 2014 I receive this email from the DOE ATR Office. I was summoned to appear for a mandatory interview in Queens on the same date and time of my scheduled observation with Ms. Edele Williams.
The first problem was that I, as well as all ATRs, had to be sent to open vacancies only in our district or borough and only in our license area. I live and worked in Staten Island and this interview was in Queens. Nonetheless, I was going to go to the interview until it was sorted out.
Then Monday September 15, 2014 came around. I had emailed Ms. Edele Williams about the conflict and she replied with the following response.
Then a very strange incident occurred at school before my class walked in. I was counting rulers for my first period Science classand a woman I never saw before unlocked my classroom door and came in. We both must have had a look of “…and you are” She told me she was substituting in that classroomthat day. I looked at her schedule and indeed it was actually a duplicate of my own. “There must be a mistake.” I said and went down to the main office to get clarification.
I was then informed by an assistant principal that there was a “program change” and I would be covering the suspension room that day. I was not given a reason, but I knew something bizarre was occurring,especially since the suspension room was already covered by other teachers throughout the day and there were no suspended students. “Ummm…no students Already another paid teacher to cover the class Wait a minute…am I back in the Rubber Room” More on that in the next post as it relates to the Italian class.
Back to Ms. Edele Williams and the observation we had scheduled for thenext day.
At some point during Monday, I received an email that my interview was cancelled.
I emailed Ms. Edele Williams at 3:30PM that she should call me as there was a program change and it would be a shame for her to come all the way to the southern tip of Staten Island to observe me sit at a desk all day.
Did she call me No. She asked for my number the first day we met, but no call was made so I can update her that I am no longer teaching science. Instead she sent an email 9PM at night telling me she is coming to observe me as originally scheduled. Guess who doesn’t check their DOE email at 9PM at night.
In any case, because of the program change, I did not plan a specific lesson for 6th grade science. I mean to plan a lesson for a class I do not have anymore would be useless, right Do I have general lesson plans on science and engineering Sure, but usually I am supposed to be left plans by the regular teacher and execute those specific plans when I am an ATR.
…and here come Tuesday morning.
My routine of getting things ready for my regular classes had now been replaced by a my new routine; a morning stop at theprogram office. Who am I today Suspension room Chorus teacher Dance teacher Math Drama ELA Social Studies Italian
I received the following program for that day. Keep in mind I did not know that Ms. Edele Williams had emailed me, because again I had not logged in to the DOE email system.
Notice how period 3, the period scheduled for observation, was set up for me to teach Foreign Language It was for another Italian teacher’s class and again the subject is foreign even to me. Keep that period in mind as you continue to follow the switch and set up that is about to happen.
I received the above program and begin to find the appropriate teachers that I will be covering to touch base and get their plans. Even though it is called Absent Teacher Reserve, the teachers are not always absent and sometimes pulled into meetings or professional development sessions instead.
I found theteachers and theyupdated me on what they want to cover. The Italian teacher gave me her plans and worksheets. I then get a call at theend of first period and am told that Ms. Edele Williams is here to see me. “She is”
“Didn’t you get my email Ms. Williams” I asked as I approached her. “There has been a change in program and I am not teaching my classes anymore.”
Ms. Edele Williams: “Mr. Portelos only I can make changes, so just assume that if I don’t change anything it is still happening. I told you last week that I was coming to observe 3rd period Science.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was thegist of what she said)
Next thing I know Ms. Edele Williams speaks to the Assistant Principal of Science and she runs out of the room with her walkie-talkie. As I begin to update Ms. Edele Williams, on the bizarre behavior of theadministration and my sudden removal from all 14 of my classes, the assistant principal returns. She returns with a brand new program (below) that now indicates I’m no longer teaching Italian 3rd period, but my former 6th grade Science class again. I assumed they took the substitute out just for that one period and had her cover Italian.
See how easy it is to change a program so I teach (and get observed) in license Amazing.
Now here I am, standing at staring at theseprograms above, thinking about what I went through the last two years. I think to myself “OK, another round I’ll go another ten. Let’s do this.“They tried to take my original program (showing Italian) away from me, but I said I will be keeping itfor my records and held on to it. If you read our Educator Survival Guide, you would have seen that DOCUMENTING is extremely important.
I politely excused myself, from the two supervisors, so I can go write a science lesson plan since Ms. Edele Williams came to see me teach science. I had about a periodto create one…To the staff lounge!
I opened up SMART Notebook and began typing away, searching for worksheets online and thinking “Is this just bad communication or a set up” I pecked at the keyboard like a woodpecker. I came up with an “Introduction to Measurement in Science” and found a printer to print to. I’m not going to get into all the details of thelesson, but gist is this:
The above slide was on thescreen as I handed out measuring worksheets to assess what they know and get the discussion going.
After giving them time to do the work and then share their results with table groups we went on to their Observations and Inferences on the below picture. I had started teaching them the difference between thetwo before the principal pulled me out and sent me to thesuspension room.
The class raised their hands to share what observations and inferences they made. They sometimescalled out and corrected each other. “It rained.” “There are posts.” There is a table.” “It is Fall.” etc. I was happy with the results and theanswers and especially happy with the questions where they thought more critically and out-of-the-box such as “Well how do we know those leaves came from those trees” or “What if it didn’t rain and that water is from sprinklers”
We then went on to their answers for themeasurement and I shared thebelow picture I found of myself from 2003. I believe they shared with me that was when they were born and then I cracked a joke about feeling very old.
“Class, what would happen if Mr. Portelos told his bosses that there were only 20 linear feet of asbestos, the road was closed and workers went to remove it to find 120 feet”
6th grader “You would get fired.”
“Maybe, but do you think measuring is important or can I just guess and hope I’m close”
“Class, my son Alexander was sick the other day and his mom and I were giving him medicine. we had to measure it in a syringe that looked very much like your cylinders on your worksheet. If the doctor told us to give 1 mL of medicine, can I give him .5 mL or 3 mL”
Class in unison “Nooooo.”
“It might not be enough or too much and he can get sicker.”
“Right, measuring exactly is important in medicine and science in general.”
“Class, what would happen if we were building bunk beds and we didn’t measure the height of the ceiling properly”
I then went on to do a pretty bad drawing on theSMARTBoard of someone lying on the top of thebunk bed with only inches of space. “Is this a problem” I asked and followed up with the very important life lesson of “Measure twice. Cut once!”
The 96 meters per second squared had to do with my story of how at Polytechnic University my professors would mark the answer wrong, even if work was shown, when the units were left out.
“Units are very important class. 96 what 37 what Did you know that some Americans had paid fora pool to be built at a children’s camp in Greece and the contractors in Greece read the measurements in meters, not feet as originally designed Guess what happened.” A discussion ensued and they found thatthe pool was built about three times bigger.”
Even though they were no longer my students I gave them homework and thebell rang. Ms. Williams closed thelaptop where she was writing her notes and left.
I actually thought it went pretty well considering thelast minuteplanningof it.
For the next week and a half I continued to cover a very eclectic range of classes. As often as possible, I would go in to classes and connect my laptop to the SMART Board projector and teach the best I could.
Little by littlemy students were finding out I was no longer their teacher. I received several messages from parents including this one:“Hello Mr. Portelos, We have recently learned that you will no longer be teaching Science at —–. In just the short time that my 6th grade son —–knew you, he thought very highly of you. Hope you have ventured on to do something good for yourself and family. We wish you the best! ~ Ms.——– “
I met with Ms. Edele Williams a few days later. She asked me how I thought it went and when I started mentioning thescheduling issue she interrupted me saying “That is no excuse. I told you from theweek before I was coming…” This caused an argument that lasted a half hour and I told her that this issue and switch should be reflected in the observation report since she was so “fair.”
She went on to commend me on many things including use of technology to address the needs of a variety of students and theoverall atmosphere of theclass thatI help create and foster. The bell rang and thehallway got loud. Out of nowhere, as I’m getting up to leave because I had to go teach a class in the basement, she states “By the way this lesson is rated unsatisfactory.”
I didn’t expect this post to go this long, so I will go into detail in a follow-up post.
- “It didn’t align to any Common Core Standards.” and Ms. Edele Williams has been unable to tell me which standard I should have used.
- “The lesson did not meet theobjective. Meaning lessongoal was not met-Students will begin to understand the importance of measuring in Science after review of observation and inference.“
- It did not show good planning.
If you have any experience with Field Supervisors, please share them here as we are keeping track now. DTOE.org/ATR