Forty years or so working in education led me to the formulation of Rosenfeld’s Law, Never discount stupidity as the cause of a problem you are facing. I had occasion to see some of the leaders of my local union the other day. It wasn’t long after meeting them that I found myself and listening to them talk about an issue they are confronting that I had the opportunity to say to them, “Remember, never discount stupidity as the cause of your problem.”
Their problem at the moment is our school district’s decision to change our heretofore common understanding of the clause in our contract covering staff development. From out of the blue they have decided that there is no longer any make up for missed”mandatory” staff development. Even though the word mandatory appears nowhere in the contract clause in question, and even though there is a whole paragraph that describes how missed staff development is to be made up, district leadership has advanced the following stupidity: The district owns all twelve of the staff development hours. Mandatory staff development sessions are so important that they cannot be missed, and if missed, they can’t be made up. Those who fail to attend these sessions are threatened with discipline.
The district believes it has vital information to pass on to teachers in these mandatory staff development session, but if for some reason a teacher can’t make a session, like having to pick up a child from school, feeling ill at the end of the work day etc., they won’t work with her to see to it that she gets this vital knowledge. Instead, teacher will be punished. In some unexplained way, management clearly believes this approach will benefit students.
While I’m now in a position to laugh at this latest example of Rosenfeld’s Law, the fact is it is not a laughing matter to the teachers involved. The issue is especially galling in that in the last round of contract negotiations our union presented a detailed plan for the incorporation of staff development into the regular work day where it belongs. Had our plan been agreed to it would have obviated most staff development issues and ended once and for all the perception of most teachers that staff development is tantamount to detention and in its present iteration serves a very limited purpose at best.