Archive for public school

Do as I say, not as I do…

Posted in teaching with tags , , , , on October 14, 2010 by Mike

…seems to be our admin’s policy these days.  Not to complain too much here, but the admin. has lately made a few decisions regarding the daily running of the school that have been relatively unpopular among the staff.

I’m not too upset about the lesson plans they have us submit each week – I (now) think that lesson plans can be valuable, though I often find myself diverging from them by the end of the week due to the fluid nature of English lectures/discussions.  If I (or the students) want to spend more time discussing a particular idea about The Tempest, I should have that ability to adjust the schedule.  It happens, and, without sounding arrogant, I hope, it happens all the time in “good” classrooms.

But then there’s the attendance issue.  We take attendance on the computer, which involves clicking “PRE” or “U” beside each student’s name.  We USED to have an “ALL PRESENT” button, but the admin. took it away b/c some teachers weren’t taking time to actually take roll (which blows my mind, honestly – HEY,  IT’S PART OF YOUR JOB), which resulted in some students being counted present for two weeks when, in fact, they had never set foot on campus.  So we’re all being punished for that.

The admin. also decided that all classes should have a minimum number of grades by the time three week reports come around and then a min. number of grades when the six weeks ends.  They decided upon 5 and 12, respectively.  Four of those have to be major, er, excuse me, “academic achievement” grades (another decision by the admin to change the terminology) as opposed to “academic practice” grades (once known as daily grades).  It doesn’t work too well for English classes because we like to have our students write, and grading writing in a meaningful way takes time.  It also doesn’t help that the six weeks periods this semester are actually “five point two” weeks due to a desire to have finals completed before Christmas.  Less time, more grading.  Yay.

Another decision made by the admin. concerns their attempts to curtail fighting at our school (it seems it’s a problem this year, though I don’t recall as many fights in previous years compared to the numbers that we’ve had this year).  The admin. has attempted to bribe the student body with off-campus lunch if we have no fights for a certain number of days (I think it’s 30 –  a fight resets the countdown).  Hasn’t happened yet – I think the longest fightless span we’ve had is eight days (could be wrong here).  Something about the futility of not thinking about a blue-eyed polar bear occurs to me at this point.

Of course, like many school districts, we have a “zero tolerance” policy w/ regard to drugs and weapons.  However, this policy often leads to  ridiculousness extremes, as evidenced by a kid who brought a toy gun to school and was expelled for a year, and another nine year old girl who brought a small swiss army knife with her sewing kit (for the scissors) and was narc-ed on by a little boy who will probably go dateless through high school.  Zero tolerance allows for no room/trust for a teacher’s discretion, allowing legal liability to commandeer common sense.

The point – that I’m admittedly incredibly slow in getting to – is this, raised beautifully by my classroom neighbor and fellow newspaper advisor: “If we are expected to differentiate and modify and motivate the unmotivated so that a ‘one size fits all’ education in our classes isn’t acceptable, why doesn’t the administration have this same standard for themselves?”

My usefulness pondered…

Posted in teaching with tags , , , on March 29, 2010 by Mike

…no, this is not a woe-is-me, I-don’t-mean-anything-to-anybody type of post.  I know I’m valuable – if only to reach the dishes on the top shelves of the cupboard for my wife.  At least it’s something.

Anyway, our illustrious department head brought news of certain changes being planned/considered for next year affecting the way we do things around here.  I won’t start complaining about having to write lesson plans, as I’m not using this post to bitch and moan about such matters.  I’ll leave that for another time when I actually have lesson plans to write.  But our dept. head started talking about time frames for grading papers and then started talking about requiring a certain number of grades per six weeks then started talking about prohibiting all food/drink from the classroom (including water) then talked about something else that I forget because I was fuming about the other things mentioned.

Anyway, a respected colleague and friend of mine (Foxy, as they call her these days), made a suggestion that we look into starting up a charter school and get out of public school and its rules while the getting’s good.  Tempting, but it seems like a lot of work to actually get it going.  And I didn’t get into teaching to actually work (heh – that’s a joke, people).

It was at that point I started wondering what it is I would (let’s not say “could” – that would be too damn depressing, I think) do if I weren’t a teacher.  I’ve known a few teachers to leave the profession and go into various sales positions: real estate, insurance, pot… but I know that kind of job would kill my soul; I hate talking on the phone, much less attempting to convince someone to buy something (sidenote: we’re reading Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and there must be some Biff in me somewhere: “…salesman, business of one kind or another… it’s a measly matter of existence…to suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation”).  Outside of teaching I’ve only held part-time jobs, and being a sandwich artist for Subway wouldn’t be a very satisfying career path.  I fooled around with the idea of becoming a pastor at the end of my college career, but a winter in Minnesota wised me up in that regard. That and I don’t think God wants me talking about Mark Twain and Huck Finn every Sunday.  It’d be too damn expensive to go back to school, and anyway I’d end up getting a doctorate in English because that’s what I’m interested in.

Writing for a living is really the most attractive idea right now,  but I’ve got a wife and kids and a house and dreams of driving a Camaro in a year or two (they’re so pretty!).  And yet I’m feeling a real yearning to write, so much that I can’t stand to look at the stack of papers on my desk.

I’m starting to think it’s time to get serious about what I’ve always felt is a calling.  I’ve wasted a shit-ton of time already.