Patterico's Pontifications

3/9/2021

Oops: L.A. Teacher Union Members Do Themselves No Favors

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:38 pm



[guest post by Dana]

This past weekend, Los Angeles Teacher Union voted not to return to in-person learning until teachers can be vaccinated, despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that vaccines are not needed to reopen schools:

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the teachers union of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), announced over the weekend that all teachers would not be returning to classrooms unless their demands were met, potentially costing the LAUSD millions in post-COVID funding from the state.

The decision came following a vote by 24,850 UTLA teachers in which 91% voted to not return to schools. The UTLA had previously said that they would not come back unless Los Angeles County moves out of the purple reopening tier, that all school employees either receive or are offered the vaccine, and that all schools have proper safety conditions upon returns, such as proper PPE and sanitization.

UTLA maintains that not being vaccinated equals an unsafe working environment, with UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz insisting on vaccinations for all teachers before returning.

“This vote signals that members are prepared to refuse to accept an unsafe work assignment, but will instead remain committed to distance learning until the three safety criteria are met,” said Myart-Cruz during the weekend. “Our goal is to create as much stability and consistency for our students. No one wants to open only to have to close again, which is a realistic possibility if safety measures are not put into place first.”

One would think that the possibility of COVID infections is of paramount concern for UTLA members, since that is what we have repeatedly been told. And I understand that concern. Except, just days after the vote, a private Facebook group titled, “UTLA FB GROUP- Members Only,” which has about 5,700 members, posted a warning to members to not post any photos of their spring break vacations:

In one of the posts from the private group, teachers from the union are being asked to not share vacation photos or show that they’re traveling outside of the country.

“Friendly reminder: If you are planning any trips for Spring Break, please keep that off of Social Media. It is hard to argue that it is unsafe for in-person instruction, if parents and the public see vacation photos and international travel.”

This was followed by one member pointing out what should be obvious to all members:

Or better yet, don’t travel on spring break and set an example.

This warning about posting vacation pictures isn’t helping UTLA’s argument that teachers need to remain out of the classroom until their demands are met. The optics are just dreadful, self-defeating, and make it hard for frustrated parents and students to buy into their stated COVID concerns.

We know that parents and students alike are frustrated by the continued online learning situation. You can google any number of reports about school kids becoming depressed, and feeling disconnected, lonely, and withdrawn from being cooped up at home in front of a screen. The lack of socialization and interaction with their peers is taking a toll on young people. You can just as easily google any number of reports about parents trying to cope with at-home learning, technology snafus, managing with more than one student at home, and for any number of these parents, trying to fit their own work into the mix. On the upside, there are also those students for whom learning at home has been a godsend, and are thriving as a result. This report looks at how autistic students are benefitting from an at-home, online learning situation. There are also general ed students who are thriving at home too. You can read about some of these students here, here, and here.

Of note: I was traveling in another county today, and it was almost surreal to hear and see elementary students playing outside on a school field. Masked kids were everywhere, doing what kids do when they’re with their classmates out in the bright sunshine where an expanse of green upon which to race to and fro awaits them.

–Dana

76 Responses to “Oops: L.A. Teacher Union Members Do Themselves No Favors”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (fd537d)

  2. PATCO, please call the office.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  3. What do you think is the real reason teachers don’t want to return to school?

    It’s easier to work this way?

    This way there can be nothing to discipline any teachers for?

    This way there can’t be any testing of school children?

    Has nothing leaked?

    Sammy Finkelman (d9efdf)

  4. I hear many private schools are open. It would seem a good time to put a private-school voucher on the ballot.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  5. @3: They are still getting paid.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  6. Perhaps LA County or even the state should pay UTLA teachers to stay home over spring break like UC Davis is doing with its students.

    Dana (fd537d)

  7. Sammy,

    Pandemic or not, the Biden administration says standardized state testing is happening this spring.

    Dana (fd537d)

  8. @sammy@3

    1.It is not easier to work this way. Teaching is highly interactive and not having that interaction is as or more difficult for the teachers as it is for the students. You also can’t run labs, activities, or small groups, etc with distance learning and those are very significant parts of engagement. A lot of teachers are even still teaching on-site from their classrooms, so it doesn’t even save on the commute. The only thing that’s easier is that they don’t have to worry as much about classroom management and poor behaviors.

    2. Parents are often watching the lessons with their kids. If the teacher says a thing a parent disagrees with, oh boy do we hear about it.

    3. They are still doing regular testing AND state testing (many 4 letter words here). The logistics of state testing and distance learning ARE A PAIN IN THE SITUPON.

    4. Teachers don’t want to return at this point because there are safety concerns. There’s also the awareness that at this point in the year the kids have settled into distance learning and if they return (on hybrid at this point for basically everyone) there are only 8/9/10/11 weeks left (depending on district) which means that in a lot of cases that might mean only 10 days on campus, most of which will be relearning classroom behavior, learning the new school policies with covid, and probably 2-3 of those weeks will be state testing. There’s a perception that returning to school and disrupting the current routine may very well lead to additional learning loss. There’s also the factor that many parents are reluctant to send their kids back before there is a kids vaccine (we’re currently at 40% remain distance learning on my site, based on our most recent parent survey).

    @Kevin@5 Well they are still working, so….

    Nic (896fdf)

  9. Situations like these are why I love the fact that the United States amount to 50 laboratories of democracy. The states where students are attending school are shaming places like California.

    Somehow this country thrived for about 200 years without a Department of Education at the federal level. The only areas the federal government should be involved are those that the states cannot handle themselves.

    norcal (01e272)

  10. attending school in person, I mean

    norcal (01e272)

  11. I feel like I need to stick up for all the local districts that are bending over backwards to get kids the best education they can. My experience has been nothing like what’s described here and I feel a lot of sympathy for the parents and kids involved.

    Time123 (b4d075)

  12. I’m a teacher in Texas (high school).

    It’s absolutely a worse and harder job with distance learning.

    There is no “normal” school that is going to happen this year, largely because how are you going to do anything other than tell parents it’s an option for them to keep kids home. There will be plenty of unvaccinated parents unwilling to let their kids return to in person school. So at the point where LOTS of kids are at home, even in person school has to look like distance learning centers to be able to adequately serve those not at school.

    I’m pretty in favor of parents who want/need to send kids back in person doing so. For many kids, just having the structure of being at school is hugely helpful even if they are doing the same thing they would be doing from their room at home.

    That said, I think some are picturing normal school vs distance learning and that’s not really the decision at hand.

    nate (1f1d55)

  13. What subject(s) do you teach, Nate?

    norcal (01e272)

  14. Open the schools. The science says it is safe and the Democrats say we should follow science. So what’s the hold-up?

    Many of us who pay the teachers’ salaries are already back at work, in-person, worrying about what are kids are doing at home while they are “learning” virtually.

    If we have to go to work, so should they. Open the schools.

    Hoi Polloi (b28058)

  15. Nate (and Nic): Having spent the last year dealing with issues of a 20-country NGO as a Trustee, all by Zoom in the absence of several conferences, etc (and most normal activities), I fully understand your saying it is harder.

    Not only is the interactivity missing, but technical issues abound. Sure parents are looking in, otherwise the kids will be on YouTube or Snapchat. I thought parental involvement was a good thing, but I guess there can be too much.

    That being said, why the hostility to returning? It is almost as if it is being used as a lever by some teachers who really want that vaccine right the F now, not an overall health concern (the science says it isn’t).

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  16. @Hoi Polloi@14 As I said earlier, they are going to work. They are even often going to work on-site.

    @Kevin@15

    I guess there can be too much

    Nah, I’d much rather have the parents who call the school and tell us about the concerns they have about the teacher they were watching than the ones who call the school to complain that their kid is struggling because the aren’t on campus and then when we mention that we were concerned as well and have left a bunch of messages about having them join one of our small groups on campus we’re so glad they called, what do they think? who then say “(Student) doesn’t like the idea. We don’t want the small groups and will keep distance learning until everyone goes back” or their kid shows up for 3 days and then they call and say no, they aren’t interested after all.

    @commentors in general
    I don’t know why no one believes me when I list the reasons the teachers are reluctant to return.

    It must be a conspiracy- It’s not. It’s fear and anger and distrust and knowledge of what the school environment looks like and what is or is not possible and knowledge of what the school environment will/not look like under a hybrid model.

    It must be a plot to get (thing I think the teachers want). It’s not. It’s fear and anger and distrust and knowledge of what the school environment looks like and what is or is not possible and knowledge of what the school environment will/not look like under a hybrid model.

    It must be that the teachers are lazy- It’s not. It’s fear and anger and distrust and knowledge of what the school environment looks like and what is or is not possible and knowledge of what the school environment will/not look like under a hybrid model.

    Nic (896fdf)

  17. Hybrid model

    The worst parts of both.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  18. @Kevin@17

    Kind of. But it’s impossible to maintain social distancing with 100% on campus. The classrooms just aren’t big enough (and the ventilation systems SUCK and not in an air-suction kind of way, very much the opposite 😛 ).

    Nic (896fdf)

  19. I can’t read about teachers and spring break without immediately thinking back to a teacher from my days in high school. Mr. N___ was about 30 and a bachelor, reasonably good-looking I suppose but not exactly what I think the girls would call a hunk. He taught at a different high school than the one that I attended, but I had cousins who went to the school in which he taught and I knew Mr. N___ from summer recreation we both participated in. Anyway, he had the reputation for romancing the young girls. In those days you could drink 3.2% beer in my state at age 18, so there were still 3.2 beer joints that high school seniors and under-21 college kids would patronize. Mr. N___ would show up at these beer joins during the summer (but never during the school year) and try to score with the young ladies, since almost all of the 18-year-olds there had by then graduated from high school.

    Anyway, one summer I am hanging around with Mr. N___ and some other guys and he starts telling us about teacher spring break. Apparently he and another young bachelor teacher headed to Florida every year to party with the college kids. He and his buddy knew somebody who had a condo in one of the beach towns, so they would get it for that week and use it as their home base. Anyway, Mr. N___ was bragging to us about how easy it is to take some drunk 19-year-old college freshman home for the evening when you have a condo three blocks from the beach with your own private bedroom and she’s sharing a motel room with three other sorority sisters. Ever since then I have always wondered how many high school teachers party with the kids during their week off. Pretty creepy, yes, but still kind of funny.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  20. It’s fear and anger and distrust and knowledge of what the school environment looks like

    Here’s the 64 dollar question. How were other states/places able to overcome the fear and anger and mistrust?

    norcal (01e272)

  21. Great story, JVW.

    norcal (01e272)

  22. LAUSD has prepared an ongoing progress report answering specific questions about where they are at in preparing for reopening of schools.

    Interestingly, they address what the have done with the ventilation system, among other things:

    District modified the air conditioning system with special air filtration. Changed from MERV 8 to MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) 13 in every classroom. The higher the rating, the higher the number of more particulants it picks up, in other words more effective. It is considered hospital grade filters. It will be inspected every month and changed as required. Rewired the heating and air conditioning 24/7 to maximize the air into the system

    It doesn’t appear that the district has been resting on its laurels, but rather have been making efforts to make the sites safe and meet the demands of UTLA.

    Dana (fd537d)

  23. @ nic,

    @commentors in general
    I don’t know why no one believes me when I list the reasons the teachers are reluctant to return.

    I have not said that I don’t believe you or the veracity of your claims. I think the assessment is likely representative of the majority of teachers. And their concerns are understandable – as I clearly stated in the post. However, I think what concerns the public (and commenters) is the union’s determination to hold out until *they* get what they demand – even though the CDC has made it clear that at least one of their demands is not necessary. It is possible to hold these two seemingly incompatible views.

    Dana (fd537d)

  24. @ JVW,

    Ever since then I have always wondered how many high school teachers party with the kids during their week off. Pretty creepy, yes, but still kind of funny.

    While not illegal what he was doing (they were over 18) and assuming that he didn’t force himself on the girls, it’s gross when an older males take advantage of dumb, drunk college freshmen. Of course, in my high school it was Mr. H who was charming and youthful and carried on an affair with a classmate who was 17, so…

    Dana (fd537d)

  25. @norcal@20 No states are 100% open (even the very few that claim to be 100% open aren’t. They are still hybrid and at very least are still offering distance learning options to parents who aren’t comfortable with their students in school) with in person learning and in most states it’s a patchwork district by district. Almost every district is also on some kind of hybrid model if they are back at all. My guess would be that it’s probably very individual.

    @Dana@22 I’m glad they’ve upgraded their ventilation. I don’t think any of the districts in my area have done it. I’d be interested to hear how they managed to get the funding because COVID funding definitely would not have covered it (and what they are doing with that money in other years.) I have been told that the cost to replace the HVAC at the school-site where I currently work would be between 5 and 10 million dollars (the system currently there fails several times a year and is more than 30 yrs old)

    @JVW@19 My 9th grade year I had a very good looking geometry teacher who was in his 1st year, so he was probably 23? He only taught with us for one year and then left. At his next school he also only taught for one year. At a third school he only taught one year. I don’t know what happened to him after that. We never heard why he left my school, but I sure did hear why he was invited not to return to the other two schools. Apparently he liked to date the senior girls. Age of consent of the state I was in at that time was 16, so he wasn’t doing anything illegal, but unethical? You bet. Now that I work in a school I can’t figure out what he was thinking. They are all fetuses.

    @Dana@23 The CDC says that vaccinations aren’t necessary if masking, handwashing, and social distancing are faithfully practiced. The teachers can maybe get the kids to mask. While actually in their classrooms. They don’t have a lot of faith that that will be enough.

    Nic (896fdf)

  26. @Dana@23 The CDC says that vaccinations aren’t necessary if masking, handwashing, and social distancing are faithfully practiced. The teachers can maybe get the kids to mask. While actually in their classrooms. They don’t have a lot of faith that that will be enough.

    And yet it can’t be ignored that other districts that have reopened are doing just this.

    Dana (fd537d)

  27. @Dana@26 As I said to norcal, it’s really patchy and the levels of fear vs trust vs how districts are dealing with it is probably very individual. LA county’s numbers aren’t terrible, though, so they (you?) will probably go red soon and that will probably change the conversation some.

    Nic (896fdf)

  28. Anyway, Mr. N___ was bragging to us about how easy it is to take some drunk 19-year-old college freshman home for the evening when you have a condo three blocks from the beach with your own private bedroom and she’s sharing a motel room with three other sorority sisters. Ever since then I have always wondered how many high school teachers party with the kids during their week off. Pretty creepy, yes, but still kind of funny.

    Mr N__ sounds like a rapist.

    Time123 (653992)

  29. While not illegal what he was doing (they were over 18) and assuming that he didn’t force himself on the girls, it’s gross when an older males take advantage of dumb, drunk college freshmen.

    Maybe these 19 year old, inexperienced drinkers really wanted to hook up with an older high school teacher because he had a condo. But I doubt they would have done so sober.

    Time123 (235fc4)

  30. Amazing how grocery store clerks could work for the past year, interact with thousands a day and just do their job without public complaint, but others refuse to do the same or deal with similar conditions. Same with bartenders, servers, clerks, attendants, etc.

    I guess some animals are more equal than others.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  31. @30, which of those 30 people pent 7 hours a day in a small room with 30+ people who have demonstrated very poor hygiene?

    Time123 (235fc4)

  32. should be “which of those groups spent 7 hours a day…”

    point is the situations aren’t the same.

    Time123 (235fc4)

  33. norcal, Calculus and Algebra 2 for the past few years, although at the end of the day I’m teaching whatever they have me teach.

    I’ll echo everything Nic is saying. I’ll add that during the fall I was up working past midnight something like 3 days a week. Only about once a week at this point.

    Many of you seem to be wondering what the concerns with teachers to going back is. We are “back” (I use the words in quotes because there is no such thing as back this year; kids on campus are physically present, but not experiencing school in the usual sense at all) but I remember strongly some of the feelings pre going back.

    Before you go back:

    1) It’s hard to imagine how being back can be better for kids. You know what it has to look like: for the most part kids sitting at desks in front of computers doing distance learning from nearby because that’s what those who are at home are also doing, and unless you double the number of teachers, there isn’t the time to prepare both to be different, nor is there an ability to teach both at the same time differently so….

    2) It’s really hard to imagine what safety looks like. Hoi Polloi mentions being back at work (as most of our parents are). What’s the difference? Well, largely the type of exposure. I don’t think there are any other jobs where you are expected to sit in a crammed room with over 200 hundred (30 kids at a time, 7 times) people for an hour at a time, each of whom is doing the same thing with other people throughout their day. I remember in August looking at the number of cases in our zip code thinking “It’s impossible for us not to have 15 infected students on day 1 of being back. How on earth is everyone in the school not going to be sick within 2 weeks? Then we’re back to being shut down.

    For most jobs either a) exposures are very short term (you interact with a customer for 2 minutes) or b) you are in fairly close quarters with 10 people.

    c) It’s pretty impossible for districts to make exceptions for people who need them. Ok, my district decided that teachers 65+ would be able to work from home. Same with those who had some of the biggest medical conditions. But the teacher who had just finished up her last round of chemo? Had to be in person or lose her job. The teacher who (different culture) lives at home with her 70 year old parents? Back in person or lose her job. School doesn’t work when 20% of teachers aren’t there and there are no replacements.

    d) This is petty, but talking to kids over zoom, which already sucks, sucks even more with a mask on all day which obviously has to happen when at school than when teaching from home.

    Again I think the reticence/hostility comes from being in the know about what going “back” has to actually look like. Much of this changes once teachers can be vaccinated.

    That said, I am still in favor of a model that is somewhat along the lines of “Hey parents, it’s your choice, but if your student is struggling with getting their stuff done at home, or you need them to be not-at-home, we encourage you to send them to school. They won’t be doing different things than they are at home but we have a place for them to work. If they are learning well at home and you’re able, please keep them there.” It turns out having 7 kids in a class at a time feels incredibly safer than having 30. But for those 7 kids it’s often REALLY important (both for the kid and the parent) that they are there.

    Also, my response is mostly with high school in mind. In elementary school I lean towards “almost all kids should be in school in person, barring a family member having a medical issue that needs extra caution.”

    nate_w (1f1d55)

  34. One thing I don’t accuse the teachers of in this case is laziness. In my experience, online teaching is, if anything, much more demanding than face-to-face teaching. I teach at a university, so my situation is different, but I can appreciate the fact that K-12 teachers are working hard in a remote learning environment.
    But having said that, I have also come to recognize the severe limitations of online teaching, even for college students, who are (supposedly) better able to adapt to it. Elementary school students, I’m convinced, get far less out of it, and if they are from dysfunctional or disadvantaged families, they’ll get even less, or perhaps nothing. The science says that young children not only rarely contract the virus, but spread it far less than adults. As long as common-sense measures are taken, there is no convincing reason not to open elementary schools. Middle and high school might need to make other arrangements (hybrid, or whatever) depending on positivity rates in the area. But we need to get the young kids back into the classroom.

    Roger (e34354)

  35. Nate_w thank you for offering the perspective. I can tell you that my younger children are doing much better now that they’re back in a hybrid setting. Just being part of a peer group that’s doing the same thing in the same place has completely changed my son’s education behavior.

    Time123 (235fc4)

  36. Nic et. al. – I hear you and understand what you are saying. But the science says opening schools is safe. You teachers will be safe.

    And I hear you that right now, many teachers are teaching remotely from their classrooms. But the kids aren’t there. That’s the important thing.

    Pretty much everyone who is allowed to go back, is going back. Time for the teachers to teach in front of students.

    Hoi Polloi (2f1acd)

  37. Nic et. al. – I hear you and understand what you are saying. But the science says opening schools is safe. You teachers will be safe.

    And I hear you that right now, many teachers are teaching remotely from their classrooms. But the kids aren’t there. That’s the important thing.

    Pretty much everyone who is allowed to go back, is going back. Time for the teachers to teach in front of students.

    Hoi Polloi (2f1acd) — 3/10/2021 @ 6:27 am

    Well said.

    Time123 (653992)

  38. https://hotair.com/archives/jazz-shaw/2021/03/10/checking-texas-school-district-schools-never-closed/

    Leading from the front. What else have we gotten wrong thanks to the perceived experts?

    NJRob (6fd5e4)

  39. @38, I agree with you, the amount of uncertainty and lack of effective leadership on CV19 has been horrific.

    Time123 (7cca75)

  40. to add, Biden has so far done nothing to address that. We’re doing OK on vaccines, but he could have used some of his political capital to help bring us together on Risk. Not sure it would work but so far I haven’t seen him much trying.

    Time123 (7cca75)

  41. I’ve said a number of times before that population density plays a large factor in whether/how to reopen schools. Clearly, schools in L.A. County are going to have a more difficult time with classroom logistics than Mason County in Washington. In more dense areas, upper elementary classrooms are already congested with 30-35 students, let alone trying to socially distance them.

    Dana (fd537d)

  42. L.A. schools could reopen starting in mid-April under deal with teachers

    Los Angeles students are a critical step closer to a return to campus beginning in mid-April under a tentative agreement reached Tuesday between the teachers union and the L.A. Unified School District, signaling a new chapter in an unprecedented year of coronavirus-forced school closures.

    The agreement, which must be ratified by members, establishes safety parameters for a return to campus and lays out a markedly different schedule that still relies heavily on online learning. The school day would unfold under a so-called hybrid format — meaning that students would conduct their studies on campus during part of the week and continue with their schooling online at other times.

    Families would retain the option of keeping students in distance learning full time.
    ……..
    Under the agreement, members of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians, would not have to return to work until they have had access to COVID-19 vaccinations and have achieved maximum immunity — a period of up to six weeks. That duration period — plus the amount of time needed to get vaccination appointments — is the main driver of a district timetable aiming to restart elementary schools on April 19.
    ……..
    Here is what appears to be in the agreement:

    At the elementary level, students would attend five days a week in either a morning or early-afternoon session. The staggered schedule would allow for smaller classes, in keeping with state recommendations to keep students at least six feet apart.

    Middle and high schools would resume with even starker changes. Students would attend two days a week on a staggered schedule. But instead of moving from class to class, students would remain in their advisory classroom — similar to a homeroom base — for the full day.

    From their advisory class, students would carry out distance learning essentially as they are doing now; they would be trading online-from-home for online-from-a-classroom under the supervision of a teacher. Students would then “move” from class to class online — as they are doing now at home.

    Advisory teachers would have their own schedule of classes — which they would conduct from school, but not necessarily to the students in front of them. To avoid mutual distraction, students would be provided with noise-cancelling headsets.

    During one period a day the headsets would come off, and the teacher and students would work together on assignments and activities that are not part of the core academic work. These activities would include a focus on students’ social and emotional well-being.

    For the most part, however, secondary students will not have in-person instruction even when they are on campus.

    The approach to the secondary school day evolved from trying to combine strong safety protocols with the more complex scheduling of middle and high schools. Keeping students in their advisory class divides the school into small, stable groups. If a student becomes infected in one group, only that group would have to quarantine at home.
    …….

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  43. Mr N__ sounds like a rapist.

    By the standards of today, certainly. But the 1980s were a very different time, and if you didn’t live through them it’s kind of hard to explain it so that you would understand.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  44. @43, I was alive back then, but too young for that type of fun. From what women I know have shared with me having some guy you’re not really attracted to pressure you into sex when you’re drunk has never been a good time. I don’t think the impact on the victim has changed much over time, just our willingness to call it what it is.

    Time123 (306531)

  45. 20. norcal (01e272) — 3/9/2021 @ 8:51 pm

    Here’s the 64 dollar question. How were other states/places able to overcome the fear and anger and mistrust?

    To the extent that there is any, I would guess that fear and the anger and the mistrust was created by the school districts and the states that shut down, maybe announcing and implementing decisions suddenly, reversing them suddenly, and making what seem like arbitrary rules.

    According to nate_w @33 the distrust would seem to extend toward the CDC, also known as “the science.” Which is kind of reasonable, except that an independent look at it also indicates children in school, and K-8, or perhaps I should say P-6, is especially safe.

    The chief danger to the children, in fact, is not the normal kind of a Covid-19 infection but an overactive immune system. Which can even kill but also can be treated usually very successfully if someone is looking for it.

    Nic @8 When I spoke about the job being easier, I meant if a teacher doesn’t care about doing a good job.

    I understand it sometimes doesn’t even avoid the commute, and avoiding classroom management problems may not be enough to make it better overall for most teachers, particularly since maybe they don’t have classroom management problems. They have absent from Zoom problems, but this only matters if they care about the absent children not being there. Nobody is supervising them.

    I’m reading here that hybrid education is more difficult, more unpleasant, and usually involves Zoom in school anyway, with maybe the only benefit of in person schooling being that it amounts to child care (sometimes very valuable or even necessary), adds motivation, and that, for some children, depending on their living situation, school away from home may be a better place to work or concentrate than at home.

    Sammy Finkelman (d9efdf)

  46. Dana @7 (mandated student testing)

    Yes tests are supposed to be given, but whether they count for anything or not depends on the local school district.

    It would seem to be hard to do without all students returning to school all at the same time for a few days of taking tests. If they are not all there simultaneously, how are they to be given using the usual security protection of being given on the same date and time? You could use maybe several different versions of a test, but are the tests ready? Maybe yes, because there may be a backlog of several tests that weren’t administered, and some may always come in A and B versions.

    The other ways besides having all students go to school, would be for students to go a separate location for taking the test, like a Sylvan Learning enter or a private school (transportation could be a problem here)

    Or they could be given at home, but the usual precaution there is fr the computer to be equipped with a camera, and proctors observing that the students don’t take their eyes off the screen.

    Or this could be done under the honor system, which is probably what is going to happen with any school that retains distance learning. Which is also probably why they won’t count.

    Sammy Finkelman (d9efdf)

  47. I don’t think the impact on the victim has changed much over time, just our willingness to call it what it is.

    This is an argument for another time, but remember that this was the age of Camille Paglia’s second-wave feminism and Madonna’s overt carnal appeal. If the first wave of feminism in the 60s and 70s established that single women shouldn’t be ashamed of enjoying sex, the 80s version upped the ante to argue that single women should be free to unashamedly pursue casual sex in the same way that men were traditionally known to do. I’m sure that there certainly were women who became intoxicated and made decisions that they later regretted, as well as those who were compelled into situations that they did not consent to, but there were an awful lot of women who were every bit as interested in scratching notches onto their bedposts as horny men were. I have no idea about how Mr. N___ went about his business in Florida, so I am not going to make any assumptions either way. But I do believe, as I originally commented, that his behavior was at best pretty creepy for a guy his age.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  48. While I agree with your analysis at 47, JVW, call me old-fashioned, but I think that a gentleman would decline to take advantage of a foolish young woman who was obviously drunk and not in full command of her faculties. In my quaint world, the man in question would instead make sure that the drunk girl was safely escorted home, or left in the care of smarter girlfriends who could take care of her. A man doesn’t have to be a sh*tty person simply because the opportunity presents itself.

    Dana (fd537d)

  49. . . . call me old-fashioned, but I think that a gentleman would decline to take advantage of a foolish young woman who was obviously drunk and not in full command of her faculties.

    Absolutely. But gentlemen — just like ladies — have always been in short supply among the youth of our nation. And sadly, with each passing year it seems there are fewer and fewer of them among the adult population too.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  50. JVW, The fact that, per your story, the fact that they were drunk was an important really colors my thinking.

    It’s about consent, and how little honest consent is required. Back in the 80’s (and earlier) very little consent was needed. If you didn’t want people to stick things on your body you shouldn’t have been around them when you were drunk. Now we’re less tolerant of that way of thinking.

    I don’t really see how that has much to do with making it OK for women to want to have sex. If you want to have sex that’s as fine as if you want to give me money. If you don’t want to have sex/give me money but you were drunk so it was easy for me to have sex at you / get your money that’s not ok.

    Time123 (7cca75)

  51. I will now return to my story of teaching junior high science in the 1980s. It goes to the importance of in-class learning and in-person instruction.

    After I gave the lecture on thunderstorms, and a real thunderstorm actually happened that Friday afternoon, about an hour after school, exactly as I had described, my students freaked over the weekend. Monday morning the legend of Mr. C was all over school. “Mr. C can tell the weather better than the weatherman!” When I walked into class for first period, the students were all staring at me in amazement. I had become as a god unto them, all seeing, all knowing, all powerful. I certainly wasn’t going to disabuse them of that notion, just thought it was funny.

    It was that in every class the rest of the day, and in the final weeks of the semester. Even kids who were not my students would walk by staring at me during passing periods, as I stood outside my door monitoring the hall. Incredible, I had to laugh to myself–with one lecture I had freaked out the entire school.

    But I didn’t realize who widespread the legend of my powers had become, until the next year when I was assigned 6th grade science. See, the thing at this school was that a science teacher wasn’t really assigned a course, but rather a group of students, around 125 of them, that he was to lead or follow through 6th, 7nth and 8th grade. There were seven other science teachers, but none of them were as famous as me.

    I also had to teach a class comprised of students who had failed one or two semesters of science the year before. There were about 25 of them, bringing the grand total to around 150, but I only taught these students for one or two semesters. It’s the 125 I’m talking about. I was their science teacher for three years.

    Remember junior high? The hormones, the growth spurt, everything involved in the development from child to adolescent; these are the years of dramatic change. In other courses, these kids had a different teacher every year, sometimes every semester, but they always had one science teacher, Mr. C, and I was a legend. Other than their parents and siblings, I was the one constant in their young lives. We had a unique relationship.

    First day of school, hand out the textbooks, go over the syllabus, ask if there are any questions. “Sir, when are you going to make a storm?” Unbelievable, these kids were in elementary school when I gave the thunderstorm lecture, yet even they had heard about it, probably from an older brother or sister. “When I feel like it,” I told them.

    I was their favorite teacher, not really because every year they had science with Mr. C, but because we did a lot of experiments and dissections. I’m a strong believer in hands-on learning. Also, because I was the only teacher who would take them outside. Every week I would give them a break and take them on a tour of the campus, which had really nice landscaping because one of the other science teachers was a horticulturalist and a member of some national geographic society; she had designed the landscaping and she had good taste. There was also a nice gladed park with soft grass and shady trees just across the street behind the school. It was perfect for observing and studying nature.

    For the sixth graders studying physical science, it’s not like there aren’t experiments you can perform outside, but I knew these kids would be my students for 7nth grade life science and 8th grade earth science, and since I was a biologist, I centered my instruction around that.

    When we got to life science, I wanted to take them on a field trip to the university, just down the road. I told the principal it was to visit they natural history museum, but he wouldn’t approve a bus. Okay, fine, we’ll walk. The university was only two city blocks, a half a mile away from the junior high, about a 30 minute hike. All I needed was permission slips signed by the parents, which I got the next day. I shudder to think how my students would have reacted if their parents had said, no. This was a field trip with Mr. C, and these kids would not take no for an answer.

    So, Friday morning we all gathered outside the school, before class began. I gave them each a notepad and a pen. All right, line up. Forward march!

    On our short walk, some of them started to complain. “Sir, we went to the natural history museum in the 5th grade.” No talking in line. When we got to the university, I led them to the baseball stadium. “Sir, the museum is over there.” No talking in line. Around the back of the stadium, there was a giant leaf-cutter ant colony. This wasn’t an ant bed, hill or mound; this was an ant volcano! It was at least five feet tall, two feet wide at the top and four feet wide at the base, with thousands of ants pouring in and out of it, many carrying leaves over their heads, which it why they are also known as parasol ants.

    I had heard about this colony from a couple of graduate students who were living at the apartment complex, which is halfway between the school and the university. They were studying entomology, and told me about leaf-cutter ants, so I asked them to show me. Wow, that’s a really big ant colony. It freaked me out, so I did some research of my own.

    Leaf-cutter ants are the most complex of all social insects, with an incredibly intricate caste structure. Deep below the ground, as far a fifty feet, there is a chamber where the queen is laying larvae. There are nurse ants which feed and tend the larvae, which grow and develop into workers, cutters, carriers, soldiers, and farmers, and of course other nurses.

    The workers dig tunnels and chambers, and carry the dirt above the ground to build a mound, or in this case a volcano. The leaf cutters climb plants and trees to cut off leaves. The leaf carries pick up the leaves and take them back to the mound. The soldiers patrol the trails to protect the cutters and carriers, and they bite hard. The carriers take their leaves to a chamber where the farmers mulch the leaves and plant spores which grow into mushrooms. That’s what the entire colony feeds on, mushrooms. It really is an extraordinarily complex insect society, with chambers, tunnels and trails–hey, leaf-cutter ants will decimate your back yard, and that of your neighbors, in a matter of weeks, and they’re almost impossible to kill, because the queen and nurses are so deep below ground, they are impervious to insecticides. It takes highly trained specialists and a lot of work to remove one of these colonies.

    I explained this to my students, while they stood and stared in amazement. This ant volcano was bigger than they were! Then I let them run around with their notepads for a few hours, drawing the volcano, following trails, making maps, studying the ants. Watch out for the soldiers, I warned them.

    Okay, gather together, time to go back to school. Line up. Forward march! “Sir, you going the wrong way. The school is over there.” No talking in line. I led them to a Whataburger and bought them all burgers, fries, and the soda of their choice. I had called ahead a few days before and spoke with the manager, because I didn’t want to slam him with a large group of kids without notice. Look, I’m taking my students on a field trip, and we’re going to stop by Whataburger for lunch. Can you handle orders for 150 students on Friday, say around 1:00? Sure, he said.

    Of course, there weren’t enough seats in the restaurant for us all, but there was a nice grassy park with shady trees across the alley behind the restaurant, so that’s where we went to eat, while the kids talked amongst themselves. Okay, let’s clean up, no trash left behind. Line up. Forward march! We dumped the trash in the dumpster behind the restaurant and headed back to school.

    I allowed them to talk in this line, because none of them were complaining. “This was the best field trip ever! Mr. C is the coolest teacher in the world!” I just chuckled to myself. When we got to the school, I presented the principal with a bill for over $500 I had paid with my credit card. I knew the district had to reimburse me, because the district is responsible for providing lunch for students, even on field trips, not the teacher. He looked up at me angrily, but there really was nothing he could do. He should have approved a bus, but the lunch bill would have been the same.

    By Monday morning, it was all over school. That field trip made me more famous than the thunderstorm lecture. I had kids coming up to me in the hall during passing periods. “Mr. C”–even kids who were not my students called me Mr. C–“I want you to be my science teacher.” But I had to tell them, there was nothing I could do. You’ll have to talk to the guidance counselor and the principal, or have your parents call them. I don’t get to chose my students, and there are only so many desks in a classroom. Being in science with Mr. C became a badge of honor for my students, and they bragged about it all over school, just to make the other kids jealous.

    Of course, I had to revise my lesson plans for the rest of the semester, because all my students wanted to talk about was social insects, not just ants but wasps and bees as well. I had to follow the district curriculum guide, but I allowed for 15 minutes of instruction on social insects each day, because my students were now fascinated and obsessed with them.

    Now, this is what I’m talking about. No teacher could do anything like that today. Granted, it was a long time ago in a district far, far way, and I had a unique relationship with my students, but there is no way any teacher at any school would be allowed to provide that kind of instruction to his or her students–in person, in class and outside. It’s just not possible in these trying times, especially not with distance learning on Zoom.

    I miss those kids. I would return to teaching if I could, but I’ve spent the last eighteen years in vacant repossessed homes, so I don’t have any current references. I hardly met anyone involved in a real estate transaction, expect for the locksmith and the contractors who made bids for repairs; everything was done online. I know my way around a computer. But I do not believe in distance learning. A child, a student, cannot teach himself or herself. They require adult supervision, in-person instruction and in-class learning.

    Even if I could get a position, and everyone was vaccinated, I wouldn’t return to the classroom if I couldn’t have a personal relationship with my students. Zoom doesn’t work for that.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  52. Gawain, that’s a fantastic story. Also, your classroom management skills are impressive. Taking 150 students on a day long field trip solo is a massive accomplishment.

    Time123 (7cca75)

  53. Great story, Gawain’s Ghost. Thanks for relating it.

    My sixth grade science teacher was a guy with a credential as a PE teacher who had been given an emergency appointment to teach science fifteen years earlier during a teacher shortage, and had somehow (i.e. union rules) managed to grandfather in as a tenured science teacher even though he never did obtain the science credential. We watched films at least twice a week, some pertaining to such scientific pursuits as long-haul trucking. That was the only teacher I ever had where upon meeting him at back-to-school night, my parents demanded that I be moved out of his class (the district, in their wisdom, prevented me from transferring out until the first semester had finished, much to my parents’ objections).

    I think I would have much preferred your class.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  54. Wonderful story, GG. And that’s the thing: kids are hands-on, tactile creatures. Making them sit in front of computers for hours on end runs counter to their youthful curiosity about the world around them. But I think that can also be true in today’s classrooms as well. Trying to cram in all the required state standards leaves little to no time for creativity and free exploration.

    Dana (fd537d)

  55. It is interesting that the teachers’ unions, which are 75% female, are the ones most resistant to returning to in person instruction, when the vast majority of people who have had to quit their jobs because they had to stay home to take care of their children are women.

    Parents can see that their children are struggling and being dramatically underserved by ‘remote education,’ and they really want their children back in school, but we might as well be honest here: the entire academic year has been lost.

    The Dana in Kentucky (fa23a0)

  56. @Gawain@51 You are a brave, brave man. There is NO WAY that I would take 150 students on a field-trip by myself. I would be terrified of losing one. That being said, the kids do still get to go on field trips. One of our life science teachers used to take her classes to a nearish nature reserve and observe nature and collect pond water and our music department takes the kids to some kind of performance every year (they have a special deal for dress rehearsal and final play throughs)

    Nic (896fdf)

  57. RipMurdock — while I appreciate the goal of trying to minimize cross-group interactions and thereby limit potential spread, the advisory group thing for high schoolers sounds pointless. If the kids are just going to zoom in to their actual classes, what’s the benefit (for most kids) of having them come in at all?

    aphrael (4c4719)

  58. > Same with bartenders, servers

    most of the bartenders and servers i know (a) support the lockdowns *even though it means they make no money* and (b) have only worked for short periods of time during the last year.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  59. Aphrael,

    then you need to find more people to interact with. I’ve spoken to many and they are furious with the lockdowns that have damaged their livelihood and ability to support themselves and their families.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  60. Well, Nic, like I sad, I had a unique relationship with these students. They really, really believed I could control the weather. None of them were ever tardy to my class. No one misbehaved. Everyone paid attention during instruction. I never had to send one of them to the principal’s office, and that’s over three years. Every parent phone call I made was complimentary, your son or daughter is a good student, and I enjoy having him or her in my class. “Thank you, Mr. C”–even the parents called me Mr. C–“[name of student] loves your class.” I didn’t have to have teacher-parent conferences, because those are reserved for problem children, but each year on parent’s night, I met every student’s parents, and they all talked about how much their child enjoyed my class, and how each night at dinner they heard another story about what they learned in school. Or, actually, in my class, about science and nature; the kids didn’t say much about their other teachers, except when asked. The parents respected and trusted me, because I made their children interested in learning and they always got good grades. Especially the parents of the students who had failed science the year before but were passing science now, they loved me.

    So I didn’t have any reason to worry about losing a student on a field trip. That would never happen, not with these kids. Besides, I never let them out of my sight.

    Okay, maybe the reason none of these kids ever got out of line in my class was because they feared I would make a storm and cause lightning to strike their house. Kidding, just kidding, but not outside the realm of possibility (or probability).

    Thank you for the compliments, Time 123, JVW and Dana.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  61. Belated thanks for that story, Gawain’s Ghost. I had thought that I just missed the promised second part when I was away for several days.

    norcal (01e272)

  62. > Same with bartenders, servers

    most of the bartenders and servers i know (a) support the lockdowns *even though it means they make no money* and (b) have only worked for short periods of time during the last year.

    aphrael (4c4719) — 3/10/2021 @ 5:58 pm

    I know some that feel this way. But definitely not most. I don’t know anyone that’s happy about it. Agreeing that it’s the least bad alternative is about the most positive outlook i’ve seen.

    Time123 (6e0727)

  63. 54. Dana (fd537d) — 3/10/2021 @ 2:21 pm

    Making them sit in front of computers for hours on end runs counter to their youthful curiosity about the world around them.

    Well, maybe (there’s not too much of the world you can see from inside a classroom anyway) except, of course, for curiosity about computers and what you can do with them.

    Field trips (which don’t have to be on regular school days) are interesting, but they are only a few things.

    You may be talking about spending too much time in school.

    Sammy Finkelman (4227f2)

  64. > I don’t know anyone that’s happy about it.

    Well, sure. I didn’t claim they were. I said they supported the lockdowns, mostly because:

    > Agreeing that it’s the least bad alternative

    aphrael (4c4719)

  65. > then you need to find more people to interact with.

    shockingly, you and i travel in different circles and encounter people who have different reactions to things. the difference is you’re asserting that your experience is universal.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  66. 61.

    Belated thanks for that story, Gawain’s Ghost. I had thought that I just missed the promised second part when I was away for several days.

    norcal (01e272) — 3/11/2021 @ 1:13 am

    I missed or overlooked the first part. Where is it?

    Maybe it is something I read.

    Sammy Finkelman (4227f2)

  67. The New Yrk City teacher’s union wants some of the Covid stimulus money for schools to be spent for hiring people to (supposedly at least) help returning children cope with the epidemic – psychologists, social workers and I think guidance counselors.

    Sammy Finkelman (4227f2)

  68. That seems like a reasonable request, Sammy. Helping their students deal with the mental health toll of the last year will improve their students’ ability to focus on academics.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  69. I missed or overlooked the first part. Where is it?

    Maybe it is something I read.

    Sammy Finkelman (4227f2) — 3/11/2021 @ 10:10 am

    Part one was over a month ago, by my reckoning. I’m too lazy to search for it.

    norcal (01e272)

  70. @61 You’re welcome, norcal. I’m glad you liked it. There will be a third and final chapter forthcoming, hopefully this weekend on the open thread, about when I taught these students in the 8th grade. Not to give away anything, but they came to class that year expecting a thunderstorm when I gave the lecture, were disappointed when one didn’t happen, but there was something else going on that they were obsessed with. And it’s really funny. If you remember the late 1980s, maybe you can guess what it was.

    I never had a teacher-student relationship like I had with these kids in any course I taught for the rest of my career. I can’t explain it, other than to say it was a strange confluence of coincidental events that brought us together. The three years we spent together were some of the happiest years in my life. The last year, though, was hilarious!

    I quit teaching science and switched to English when they graduated to high school, taught for one more year, then went to graduate school to study for a master’s degree in Romantic poetry. I’ll bet you can’t guess why. That’s a sure bet. Well, there’s no such thing as a sure bet, so if you can guess what these kids could have been obsessed with in the late 1980s and why it made me disillusioned with “science,” you’ll win.

    You have until this weekend’s open blog, or maybe the next, to post your guess. But you must post it and get it right before I post the final chapter of teaching junior high science in the 1980s, in order to win.

    I’m not betting against you, norcal. I know you’re an intelligent man. So, think back, what was going on in the late 1980s? What would make me disillusioned with science? It wasn’t my students going on to high school, I’ll tell you that for nothing. I could have stayed at that school, teaching Science with Mr. C for the rest of my career, but I didn’t. Instead, I chose a completely different career path. Why?

    I’m betting you can’t guess. But I’m not just betting you, I’m betting Dana, JVW, Time123, Nic, and everyone else who posts on this blog. I’m calling you all out. Make your guess. Place your bet.

    The winner will be the one who gets it right, before I post the final chapter. I’ll see you all on the weekend open thread, or maybe the next. Tic tock, tic tock, tic tock.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  71. My guess is the ozone.

    norcal (01e272)

  72. @70 I was that roughly that age at that time and I can’t guess. But I was out of the country and we were all concerned more with the fall of the iron curtain where I was. Might be norcal’s guess but there was a heck of a lot of aquanet still going on at that point. Could be nascent enviromentalism in general. Lets see. There was a fair amount of space shuttle interest, but I can’t see why that would make you quit. The other vaguely sciency thing making the rounds with teenagers was the AIDS crisis. Chernobyl was a little earlier. There was a lot of sci-fi fantasy stuff going around. Please tell me you didn’t quit over Back to the Future or Tremors. 😛

    Nic (896fdf)

  73. . So, think back, what was going on in the late 1980s?

    I refer to the 80’s as the “lost decade” because it was babies, and diapers, and wakeful nights and incredibly demanding days, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t sit all the way through a whole meal the entire decade.

    Dana (fd537d)

  74. Nope. You guys need to think outside the box. What was going on in the 1980s? I’ll give you a hint. It was all over the news, every channel, every newspaper, every magazine. Then suddenly it disappeared.

    What could have happened that would make me question science so fundamentally that I quit teaching it and went to graduate school to major in the British and American Romantic poets, and write my thesis on William Blake?

    The answer might surprise you, but it will make you laugh.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  75. #74: Genetic engineering –> man playing God! Except it didn’t really go away, so that can’t be it.

    The ruminations of a world-wide-web providing access to every bit of information….would make it seem like man was trying to be God. Yeah that never petered out either.

    Paul Ehrlich’s feverish predictions that we were going to run out of everything, leading to mass global starvation…..that’s kind of 70’s….but it did come and quickly recede….otherwise I’m out of ideas

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  76. How about the repressed and recovered memory fad?

    norcal (01e272)


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