Monday, November 23, 2009

Department of Ed Fail Of The Week

After an “observation” last week by AP Hellhound, she decided that her usual negative write-up wasn’t a sufficient medium in which to display her displeasure with my teaching methodology, and as such, scheduled a meeting with me to discuss the shortcomings of the lesson. In addition to the usual cavalcade of stupidity, she had this to say to me:

Hellhound: I was very confused as to what exactly you were doing with the students.

Me: You were confused? It was a Writer’s Workshop – the students had written an essay, and I was speaking to them individually in conference. You watched me for over 30 minutes, and even presumably read some of the students’ work over my shoulder. What, exactly, were you confused about?

Hellhound: Because I don’t know why you chose to do it.

Me: Two reasons: One, because they had just completed a first draft of the essay, and needed guidance on how to proceed, and two, because you told me specifically that I should incorporate Writer’s Workshop into the lessons.

Hellhound: I told you that?

Me: You sent me to five separate training conferences over the course of five days on the exact topic of incorporating student writing into the Balanced Literacy model! I was out of the school for three days and had to give up a lunch period. So yes, you told me that.

Hellhound: Well, I don’t think that the Writer’s Workshop was an effective use of instructional time.

Me: Whoa, wait, you’re going to have to repeat that, because it sounded to me like you said something completely asinine. (Yes, I do in fact talk to the supervisors like that, because at this point, a) it makes for great dialogue in my blog posts, and b) I just don’t care anymore). You’re saying that the Writer’s Workshop is a waste of time?

Hellhound: Don’t put words in my mouth, Mr. Outcast! I never said it was a waste of time. I said it wasn’t an effective use of instructional time.

Me: That’s pretty much the same thing. Waste of time / not effective use of time. I don’t see the difference. Can you explain the difference? Or would you care to stumble backwards and recant?

Hellhound: It’s not a waste of time! It’s not effective! That’s what I said!

Me: Even though you sent me to five workshops on using that exact method in class?

Hellhound: Yes.

Me: Hmm, ok. Well, since you think what I do in class is not effective, I need you to come in and model for me what is effective (Note – it is an administrator’s obligation to provide educational support to teachers, in the form of training, supplies, or by modeling lessons). So, when can I expect you?

Hellhound: Oh, I can’t do that, I’m extremely busy.

Me: So you won’t?

Hellhound: I didn’t say that! I am busy and couldn’t possibly model a lesson until sometime in December.

Me: Ok, well, I guess I’ll just continue on being ineffective then. (Exit, me).

For those of you not acquainted with Ms. Hellhound, she is the Assistant Principal in charge of English Language Arts and Literacy, and makes approximately $125,000 a year. And what, pray tell, has she been too busy doing over the past week? Photocopying spelling words. Yes, I’m serious.

If you have a child, and he or she is currently attending a NYC public school, then I respectfully submit that you should visit the main office of that school tomorrow, and pull your kid out so fast, he leaves skid marks on the linoleum.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Your Tax Money At Work, Part I

I was sent to a workshop today, which essentially means I sat in a room for five hours and listened to an overpaid Literacy consultant make a mockery of the educational system. How overpaid? How about $1200. You read that right - the facilitator of today's workshop makes $1200 a day, which pro-rates down to approximately $100 for every ludicrous thing she said. How much of a mockery? Without getting too much into detail, (I've been told I tend to be too verbose in my postings), keep this in mind while reading the exchange we had below.

1) The Facilitator of the workshop has never taught one day in a New York City public school.
2) The Facilitator of the workshop does not possess a New York State teaching certificate.
3) The Facilitator of the workshop is not even from the United States.
4) The Facilitator of the workshop spent five hours telling veteran, NYC schoolteachers that everything they do in the classroom is wrong.

Let me set the scene for you: Twelve English teachers sitting around a table, drinking coffee, and squirming uncomfortably in their seats while a middle-aged Australian woman flips through Powerpoint presentation slides at the speed of light explaining "the proper way to introduce balanced literacy into a writing workshop." Ok? Got it? Simple. A person who has never taught English Language Arts before is going to attempt to lecture 12 veteran teachers on the proper way to teach English Language Arts.

We were discussing the “workshop model” of writing. That’s just what Literacy consultants call “editing.” Basically, a teacher sits with a student, reads their writing, and then they “conference” about it. (I know; ‘conference’ is a noun. Ironically, Literacy consultants, staff developers, and other people not directly involved in the act of teaching love to turn nouns into verbs and make other syntactic gaffes). Here's the conversation that we had, in its entirety, for your reading pleasure:

Overpaid Idiot: Teachers should never write on student's work!

Veteran Teacher with 11 years’ experience: Um, why?

Overpaid Idiot: It's damaging to their writing!

Another Veteran with 6 years’ experience: So how do you correct grammar?

Overpaid Idiot: You don’t. You notice it.

Me: And once you’ve noticed it, what do you do?

Overpaid Idiot: You make it a point to conference about it at a later time.

Me: Wouldn’t it make more sense to correct it right in front of them, so they know exactly why it’s wrong?

Overpaid Idiot: No! It doesn’t matter. Self-expression is the most important reason for writing!

Me: It’s not an Art class, it’s a writing class. Shouldn’t we be, you know, teaching writing? Grammar, and spelling and conventions and all that? I mean, have you seen our students’ writing? It looks like a dyslexic ferret threw some ink on a piece of looseleaf.

Another Veteran Teacher with 33 years experience: When I was in school, we diagrammed sentences. We had a whole separate class for spelling, vocabulary and grammar. And you’re saying that we shouldn’t teach it?

Overpaid Idiot: (I swear she actually said this) Children today are not the same as children were when you went to school. They need to be taught differently. It’s a new century.

Me: You know, when they get to college, professors are going to expect them to know how to write properly. The guy that teaches Psychology 101 isn’t going to care about “self-expression.” He wants to see indented paragraphs and subject-verb agreement. In fact, I’m pretty sure the high school teachers are going to want that too.

Overpaid Idiot: (Again, this is her actual, unedited, unembellished response) It’s not your job to prepare them for high-school.

Me: What? Whose job is it then? I’m an 8th grade teacher. There’s no one between me and high school. So, I’m pretty sure it’s my job.

Overpaid Idiot: But it’s not.

6-year Veteran teacher: I don’t understand what you’re saying. We’re supposed to be teaching English, but you want us to do it without teaching English?

33 year Veteran Teacher: They learn grammar in Spanish class! They should do the same in English!

Overpaid Idiot: It’s your job to discover their strengths and weaknesses, and then base your lessons around that.

Me: So we should teach grammar, but not correct grammar.

Overpaid Idiot: Not on the students' papers.

Me: Because it be ‘damaging.’

Overpaid Idiot: Yes. We want them to be able to fully express what they are thinking without a bunch of red marks all over their paper. I don’t even own a red pen!

Me: Or a teaching license, apparently.

Much stifled laughter, as I exit to get coffee.

$1200 a day. Now, raise your hand if you were one of those brilliant minds who re-elected Michael Bloomberg? You were?

Shame on you.