A Huge System Pivots

Mar 24, 2020 by

Months after much of our Navy was wiped out at Pearl Harbor, we scored a great victory at sea.  It was achieved by our massive industrial capacity and rapidly implemented logistical genius.  But the morale of the nation had a lot to do with it.  A nation is in a much better position to be at peak performance after sudden trauma when it is united.

Our New York City public school system is a microcosm of the country. We could have been in helpless and desperate disarray, and certainly there remains much confusion and details to be ironed out, but on the whole the challenges are being met.  It’s a tribute to educators, administrators, students, parents and even the vast bureaucracy itself.

Maintaining viable teaching and learning under circumstances that are not merely daunting but nightmarish is an experiment that so far is working out reasonably well. It’s much too early to assess, and no doubt there are big differences among districts and individual schools, but it looks like education communities are making the best of a situation fraught with  technical entanglements and other problems.

I doubt we’ll pull off a total miracle, but I think that we can be cautiously optimistic.  It’s not ideal, but we can catch up on curriculum if necessary.  But we cannot neglect to provide students with nutrition and social services and we must strengthen their continuing relationships with their teachers.  Students never had a chance to say “good-bye” in person, and this is a very serious concern especially for younger kids.

The public should be proud of our “war effort” so far, at least in areas of the City with which I am familiar.

Despite all the dislocations, it appears that we are all on the “same page.”  The UFT has been a guiding light, not just to its members, but the whole City, on all issues related to the current emergency. 

Judging from a letter to his members, Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the CSA is extending a friendly hand ( or bumping elbows!), in a show of partnership.

He references expectations that are “sometimes unrealistic” and affirms that his members seek to be “the calming, positive and steady presence (your) staff needs”. Their primary duty during this period is to “do the best to provide…quality learning opportunities.”  Cannizzarro urges his members to “…encourage and remain a source of strength for your teachers. Be available for them, model as best you can, and be open to their feedback and concerns.” 

He does not want administrators and supervisors to be bogged down with “minutiae” of micromanagement.  He recognizes the enormous scope and complexity of the task of maintaining quality education for kids and seems to be saying, between the lines, that he does not want supervisors to make unrealistic, unenforceable and unfair demands or to be rigid or overbearing.

It is a relief for teachers to know that they will not be disciplined if they get caught in an inevitable glitch and that their bosses are being specifically asked not to play gotcha.

Being humane is an enhancement to effective leadership

Planning online lessons, assignments, conferencing and other forms of communication among staff and with parents and students takes monumental know-how and requires technical support. 

Six months of planning has been squeezed into a few days.  The pressure is on.

Teachers are making themselves available to students in “real time”, taking attendance, and engaging parents. They are trying to keep students routinized  as much as possible, but many kids are lucky to have even a single online device that must be shared at home. In the spirit of professionalism, educators are checking in and being held accountable. 

Since state standardized tests have been cancelled, it will be possible to concentrate more on the edifying essence of education, albeit hampered by be restricted to online.

The public should be aware that teachers are continuing to go the “extra mile” ( even in cyberspace) for our students. Parents no less than kids should rely on what they may read on Facebook.

It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention”.  It is also the parent of sincere dedication to the quality of education for all kids.

Ron Isaac

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.