Stop closing schools for NJEA convention (Opinion)
All across New Jersey public schools will close on Thursday and Friday November 8th and 9th. It will be a four day weekend for your kids. The first of two this month. Which follows some schools also being closed on Election day, meaning students go Monday, not go on Tuesday, go again Wednesday, then take four days off to forget everything they learned Monday and Wednesday.
Teachers are big on discussing the "summer slide," which is the theory that with all those weeks off and the loss of routine and momentum students tend to lose some of what they absorbed the year before. Indeed the first several weeks of a new school are filled with reviews for this very reason. Yet some of these same teachers think nothing of the interrupted schedule come November when schools close down so they have the chance to attend the NJEA teacher convention in Atlantic City.
In full disclosure, my wife is a public school teacher. And she belongs to the NJEA. That being said, it is absurd that school closes down for this and that we parents have put up with this for so long. It is a bill of goods sold to us as professional improvement yet most teachers don't even go. Nothing requires them to. Sure, meetac.com boasted in a recent year that about 35,000 teachers and professionals show up for the convention. But in the 2016-2017 school year there were 116,351 full-time teachers in New Jersey. So about 80,000 don't go.
In fact, this week is known as New Jersey week or Teacher week in Disney World because so many New Jersey families take advantage of the long weekend to visit the resort, and those families include many teachers not attending the convention.
Those who do go? Here are some of the workshops they can attend this year. For math teachers, I'm sure they'll get a lot out of Moana The Navigator: Polynesian And Celestial Navigation happening Friday 11:30 to 1. For language arts teachers, Let Freedom Ring: Using Children's Literature To Teach Social Justice on Friday 9:30 to 12:30 and Teaching Inequality To Encourage Students To Speak About Justice from 9:45 to 11:15. Or, here's a thought, how about just teach language arts?
Then for phys ed teachers, there's LGBTQ Inclusive Sex Ed: Strategies And Skills For Educators. That's Thursday from 3 to 4:30. But be careful with the schedule; I'm not sure if Friday identifies as Thursday.
For social studies teachers there's Creating Globally Aware Students on Friday from 11:45 to 1:15 and Teaching For Social Justice With Students In The Suburbs, whatever the hell THAT means, from Friday at 11:45 to 1:15. Lots of use of the word 'justice' at this convention.
The bottom line is this. If a convention that is so important in making educators better (and which most educators don't bother attending) is necessary, then have it happen in August. After all, if we buy into how it will improve the quality of teaching shouldn't this happen BEFORE the new school year begins? This way they can start the year fresh with all these new techniques, right? Here's why it doesn't happen. If the convention were held in August outside of the calendar year in which these two days off were negotiated and built in, they would likely go under professional development status and attendance would be required. Once attendance would be required, the school districts would have to pay full day wages to the teachers. So it's not ever going to happen.
As someone who's district's start was delayed by almost a week this year due to mold issues, then is closed down Election Day, I'd like to see the consistency of routine and momentum by getting rid of these two days off. I'm sorry if that would cut into tens of thousands of teachers partying, but education is supposed to be important, right?
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