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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.


Lisbeth said…
$1200 a day? I want to vomit and cry. I had suspicions of what I can only consider criminal negligence going on at the NYC Dept of Education and now I almost wish I had not read this post. When are parent going to start caring about their kids and turn off the stupid boob tube? Parent's can give you a run down on the latest "celebrity reality show" but don't ask them for their kids teachers name you get a blank expression. I for one did not vote for his Royal Highness Bloomberg
tiagombp said…
Your blog is really a joy to read (albeit the tragic reality it pictures sometimes)!

I'm a bit curious, though: are your co-workers (and Warbear, Hellhound and the others Beasts of the Apocalypse) part of your 11 readers?

I wonder how they react to the things you write here, since identifying you from your writings should be straightforward...

Please write more! And pray excuse my english, for it is not my mothertongue.

Regards from Brazil..
Valannin said…
Lisbeth, I vomit and cry almost every day. It's a hell of a way to live...

tiagombp, if my so called supervisors could read, I doubt they'd still understand what I was saying...
Lisbeth said…
I am not a part of the educational system. I don't have children, but there is a part of me that wants to believe that something can be done that as broken as the system is it can be salvaged and that kids are worth investing in. But maybe I am just a silly idealist.
Valannin said…
Lisbeth - the only thing that can be done is to completely dismantle the Department of Education and completely privatize it. The government has no business sticking their nose in education....
Lisbeth said…
I have often heard people talk about privatizing public education, forgive my ignorance what would the model for privatizing education look like?
Raven Grimaldi said…
You consistently delight me. The sarcasm, the cynicism, the wit. I'm envious because my own blog is waiting for sustenance of same and starving for lack of time. I am, however, inspired. I too have been a tool of the so-called educational system, knowing well its horrors, but opted out due to frustration and the call of filthy lucre. Keep it up, the misanthropes of the world need you.
Valannin said…
Thank you, Raven; I very much like being counted among the misanthropes of the world.

Lisbeth, a post on that very topic is coming...

...stay tuned
Natalie Orders said…
I like a lot of what you have to say in your post from 19 Dec, but I believe the argument could have been made without enumerating your own racial stereotypes. The detailed descriptions in the "rankings" make it clear you exert far too much effort in generalizing the academic potential of your students. NYC's kids face enough obstacles already. They don't need a teacher who assumes they're lazy and stupid based on the way they look and speak. It is plausible that the city’s schools might be improved if a nominal tuition were implemented, but I am more certain that your school would benefit if you chose another career.
Valannin said…

See, the thing is, they're not "stereotypes." They're fairly accurate generalizations made after close to a decade in the NYC Public School system. And there's nothing "racial" about them, either; I made it perfectly clear that their behavior and work ethic comes from culture, not race. The "urban" or "ghetto" mindset shared by many American Blacks and Puerto Ricans is indisputable, and unique only to the so-called "inner city." American Blacks raised in the suburbs are as successful as their White counterparts.

I appreciate your comments, but it is clear that you missed not only the point, but many details as well. I, as their teacher, do not "assume" anything about a student based on their appearance, nor do I generalize their potential; I merely observe and analyze. And what I have observed over the past 9 and a half years is exactly what I wrote in my post. And it is exactly true. Come to terms with the truth, and maybe a beneficial dialogue can follow.

And how, pray tell,would my school benefit if I chose another career? Because I speak the truth? And it is truth, despite your liberal assertions to the contrary. It is culture which determines the behavior of people, and the vast majority of people within the DOE are severely lacking in culture. No thank you - I'll stay right where I am - as the fine line which separates order from chaos, and ignorance from enlightenment.

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