An Englishman in New York.

Over on Jose Vilson’s blog there’s an interesting debate about whether teacher unions block innovation.

Scott McCleod, who writes an ed tech blog that I enjoy and learn from, insisted in a comment that he knew of a school where the union filed a grievance against its members for meeting off hours in a professional learning group.

“You know this first hand,” I asked? You know first hand that everyone in the group wanted to meet off hours and weren’t pressured administratively or by others?

“Yep,” replied Scott. “Not hard to believe, is it?”

Well…yes it is. I didn’t believe a word of it.

And when another comment writer pointed out that it was illegal for a union to file a grievance against a member, Scott changed his story.

“Sorry, Nancy. I didn’t mean to imply by my reply to Fred that the union filed a grievance against its own members.”

But Scott didn’t imply it. He stated flatly that it was true.

This takes nothing away from Scott McLeod’s knowledge of technology.

But I hear stories about what goes on in schools all the time by people who never step foot in one as teachers.

Is the rest of what he “knows” any truer than what he knew first hand about the union filing a grievance against its members?

I keep my skeptical radar on, because these people are like an Englishman in New York. What they say they know, and what really is true are not necessarily the same thing.

8 Replies to “An Englishman in New York.”

  1. You’re correct, Fred. I misspoke on Jose’s blog in the haste to get my comment out. I’ll own the fact that I should have been a little more careful with my comment but I’ll also note that I IMMEDIATELY owned it AND clarified when Nancy asked me. And while I appreciate the kind words about my blog, I’m not too keen on you calling me an “Englishman in New York” nor am I keen on you belittling my veracity, particularly when you know very little about the situation and almost nothing about me or how much time I spend in schools (which is quite a lot, actually). Uncool…

  2. Scott,

    You are right. I am not very cool. My kids tell me that all the time.

    No. You didn’t immediately own it.

    You still haven’t.

    You said you mistakenly implied the union had filed a grievance against its own members. But you claimed it as a fact. Even after I asked for clarification. If you own it, why the conditional ownership?

    Parsing words? Perhaps. But as you say, I’m not very cool.

    And as much as people say they “spend time in schools,” my point is that you still may not know.

    You may not know if a meeting is called, and some teacher wants to be home with her kids but will feel like she’s breaking ranks with her colleagues if she doesn’t attend a so-called small learning community meeting or a Teacher Talk or some such grouping, unpaid and off hours.

    You may not know if there is unspoken pressure from administrators who will use attendance at these meetings on the teacher’s next evaluation. You won’t be there to know that.

    You may not know if working these meetings will impact the contract in other schools in the district. You may not know if the specifics of the labor law in your state will rule that allowing these meetings negates negotiated language in the bargained agreement. It does in my state.

    You may think you know. But you may not know.

  3. Yoo hoo, the words of f hours tell me that they did this on their own. Nobody blocks innovation due to time “consstraints,” because there is plenty of time allotted where I am for professioal development, meetings of grade groups etc. The curriculum is not set by us to begin with, so if it’s not innovative or we don’t have time to expound on basic subjects that are taught, that’s not the province of the union.

  4. Come on Fred. If there weren’t stories about schools with no basis in reality, what would Bill Gates do? What would the Walmart family spend their money on? What would Oprah talk about? How would Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee stay gainfully employed? You don’t want people like that out wandering the streets of Chicago, do you?

    What would Davis Guggenheim make new films about? Hey, man, get with the program!

  5. You guys are hilarious. For one, I’m honored someone would use my name as a tag. More importantly, I think it leads us into a discussion about how the unions (because there are more than 1) promote themselves to younger teachers. I don’t think the union leaders have always done the best job of relaying why they’re a good thing to have besides “contracts,” or even saying “we are the union.” I fortunately had that part entrenched in my thinking from the beginning.

    I’ve never known this Englishman in New York, but I’m at least happy we can engage in snarky dialogue without starting an Internet flare war. -wipes brow-

  6. Takes more than combat gear to make a man
    Takes more than a license for a gun
    Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
    A gentleman will walk but never run

    If, “Manners maketh man” as someone said
    Then he’s the hero of the day
    It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
    Be yourself no matter what they say

    I’m an alien I’m a legal alien
    I’m an Englishman in New York

    -Sting, A Englishman in New York

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