Two Silly Things at Two Different Schools

First, my school.
Last week we had an all-day PD on Friday. I could probably just stop here and let you make up your own jokes, but I believe in working harder than that.

Questions I know you have:
1) Were there new acronyms?
2) Was there a PowerPoint?
3) Was the PowerPoint difficult to read both on screen and in the handouts?
4) Were teachers periodically asked to reflect on certain points and then share them with a partner at the table?
5) Did the presenter assure us that she had been to an “all-day” training about this?
6) Did teachers generally feel insulted and that their time was being wasted?

OK…Surprise! Yes to all.

But here’s what came out of that session. (I can only speak for my department, but presumably others were being given some similar directives.) In the afternoon we met as a department to work on curricular documents. This is often the only productive part of a day like this one…we sit and work on our stuff. But today there was a twist…something that we can see now had been foreshadowed in the week or two prior, but nobody really picked up on.

From now on, our lesson plans, calendars, etc. must reflect, and we must execute, the following commands:
–Every Monday we will give a lesson that incorporates the New American Lecture. My department chair, also a VP because teachers are not trusted to do this, gave an exceedingly half-assed, scattered introduction to this some time ago.
–This will be followed by Tuesday and then Wednesday. On these days we are to conduct “reading-writing workshops.” There has been scant specific information provided on what this means, perhaps to be sure that we will do it wrong.
–Then will come Thursday. On Thursdays we must have stations. We simply MUST. Everybody. Every Thursday.
–After this we will have Friday. In a spirit of goodwill and solidarity, teachers will be able to plan what they see fit on Fridays.

Naw…I’m just fucking with you. On Fridays we will be required to have Socratic seminars.

So that’s the latest and greatest from the Shit House. Our principal has such an all-consuming control fetish. I’m guessing she was raised by 1) Nazis or 2) acid freaks in a traveling circus. She has to be either carrying on a tradition or rebelling against something.

Now, my kids’ school. (The New S-word.)

My kids go to a public charter school. I used to teach at our neighborhood elementary school and there is NO WAY I would send my kids there. I loved the teachers and that was by far the best principal I have ever worked for, but the kids at that school were off the chain…as they would probably tell you themselves.

Anyway, we really love the kids’ school, but they get a little silly with the peace and love stuff sometimes.

Like today, for instance.

I came in to pick them up from aftercare. The aftercare teacher for my son tells me to make sure I look in his folder because there is something from the teacher. This is never good news and the boy does get himself into trouble sometimes. So I brace myself as I look at the “report”.

The report indicates that he had said the “s-word” not once, but twice to other students during reading time. OK…I really don’t like to hear that. But the report has something strange. Next to “s-word”, in the original handwriting it says “shit”. But it has been crossed out and next to it, in different handwriting and with a different colored pen, is the word “stupid”.

I thought my kid had changed it. Smart, but not that smart. (At least use the same color pen.)

I investigate. I know they are cracking down on any sort of bad language stuff. I find the teacher.
–It turns out that he had said stupid and not shit. The teacher had changed it on the report.
–He was talking about the book he was reading and not directing the comment to a person.
–None of this had been heard by a teacher, only reported by some loyal 8-year old brownshirts.
–On the report, this had been classified a “major incident”.

I was pretty pissed when I was talking to the teacher. I said, “You know this is insane, right?…writing a ‘major incident’ report based on hearsay that a kid said something in a book was stupid?” She said, “Well, yes and no.”

I took that as a yes.

I said that if this was a major incident then certainly if he had called you a mother fucker, that that would have also been major. And would there be a difference between the two? She said no. After a pause I asked her to give me an example of a “minor incident”; the other box that could have been checked on the report. After what seemed like forever she finally said “well maybe if he had snatched something from somebody.”

I could go on, but I won’t. It was a pretty stupid conversation.

Schools are pretty strange places. You can’t make this s*** up.

Mr. Teachbad

P.S. — Remember, it’s good to have friends.

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36 Responses to Two Silly Things at Two Different Schools

  1. teacher? says:

    ohhh socratic seminars… We hold them every other Friday. The topics are so confusing and the kiddos struggle, badly.

    • Kari says:

      Re: Socratic Seminars: Check out the Touchstones Discussion Project at touchstones.org. I don’t work for them or get any kickbacks, but I can’t pitch them enough–I’m not kidding when I say that starting to use them completely changed how I ran classroom discussions. Once I saw how well they worked, I started to create my own for my own core-curricular lessons, and it worked SO WELL. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT.

      They’re created for junior high, but I used them all the way through 10th grade college-prep and AVID, and I created my own based on those models for 11th and 12th, and they worked very very well!

  2. Orion Pax says:

    And all this is to improve education….how?

  3. Ed U. Cater says:

    You speak so many truths, and you do it in such a funny sarcastic way. Love reading your stuff. It’s nice to know that there are others out there that feel the same way about this big hot steaming pile of mess called education reform. Keep it up.

  4. Two Cents says:

    We are all so fucked–sorry “f-worded.” Now that Motherfucker, shit and stupid are all major incidents and stealing is minor, we can ignore that even the teacher used the word “snatch.” Using snatch after motherfucker icreases the offense exponentially. WTF kind of role model is that? On a more optimistic note, it’s good to know you are no longer being allowed to think for yourself. I feel more hopeful knowing the welfare of your students is in the hands of paid professionals rather than teachers. With this type of forward thinking, the American education system should improve enough to catch up to Uganda soon. From there, it’s only a hop skip and a jump to dethroning Somalia…the sky’s the limit!

  5. Heo says:

    Hey! We have those issues, too. We call them “consistent patterns” and for maximum inconsistency, they run on a six day schedule.
    Day One: read and “connect” to *differentiated* texts which will serve the needs of each learner, provided they exist as high, middle, or low for the class, and the classes do not differ in ability. Cotaught and honors classes are basically fucked. Also, we’re on an Informational unit right now. This “connecting” is extra awesome when teaching how to read graphs and maps n shit.
    Day Two: Introduce the concept you will be working on, and have *differentiated* graphic organizers, again for your three groups. Because three is the mystical number of perfection.
    Day Three: Learn for the 753rd time how to write a short-answer response. Watch the teacher model answering your question. Edit. Then write an answer to that question as a group, and then write an answer to the very same question, using the very same text, independently.
    Day Four: Vocabulary building day! All day!
    Day Five: Writer’s workshop, in which students peer edit the short answers they read the other day.
    Day Six: Grammar issues that came up on Day Five, provided they are also on the list of official objectives for the unit. You don’t know what a noun is? Well, fuck you, buddy, we’re learning verbals today! You’re an honors student and write clearer and more entertaining prose than half the faculty? Sucks to be you, today the schedule says we learn about commas.

    I would kill a man for the right to hold a socratic seminar once in a while.

    • gilda says:

      Whoa—something is VERY wrong here! On Day 4 you are actually allowed to DECIDE FOR YOURSELF how to teach vocab??? Obviously the deformist scheduler bees missed Day 4, because the way it’s presented, you actually have a bit of academic freedom. I thought all that loosey-goosey self-directed individual thought nonsense had been completely eradicated by now.

  6. Miss Friday says:

    I feel sorry for you, Mr. Teachbad and your son. Your son’s teacher should have been a 3 minute conversation (1.5 minutes with your boy, 1.5 minutes with the tattlers), and ended the matter. Who has time to document such trivialities? I never have enough time in the day to teach all the content I want to; the last thing I want is to waste time on discipline paperwork.

    I have a hard time with the notion that “stupid” and “dumb” are naughty words on par with the ones on George Carlin’s list. People and school activities can be stupid. It is rude to say so out loud. But not as vile as cussing with actual obscenity and profanity.

    Whatever happened to judgment and perspective?!

  7. chimpy says:

    I can’t believe they want to script out each day for you so precisely. There obviously can be no research that supports the approaches they advocate, in the order they suggest or any other. Its so arbitrary.

    That’s always been my favorite question when presented with bullshit at PD: Where is the research that supports this approach? Usually there in no response (besides the administration frowning me up and the presenter flustering to stay on message). If a study is cited, my favorite follow-up question is: Where is the research that is not conducted or funded by the organization selling us this shit that supports this approach? The only answer I get to that one is “its ongoing.”

    I guess the larger question is, why am I not slinging my own brand of bullshit around the country? I could L. Ron Hubbard the education world real nice, and make a fat profit, if I set my mind to it. All I’d have to do is create a program that requires whole departments, schools, or districts to buy in, uses language that contains a new Capitalized Lexicon that teachers have to adopt and use when in PD or in the classroom, and “rethinks the classroom” (or “school”) in a profound way. It should contain a lot of hoops for teachers to jump through, contain no accountability for administration, and should start with the premise that teachers are stupid, have no idea what they are doing, and need my philosophy to make sense of the madness that is their workday. The book the teachers should read to prepare for PD should be expensive, have pictures of happy kids and liberal, mommy pants-wearing but competent looking teachers on the cover, should be full of anecdotes (from real teachers!), and should help us “reframe” our “roles” as Facilitators (quotes and capitals arbitrary) of the education of our “young learners”.
    I could fly around the country and give seminars to schools in the form of rehearsed, clever, sometimes funny, but utterly forgettable bromides, paradigms, quotes, and fluff, and then make the teachers I ladle this shit on participate in silly activities and lopsided “discussions” to break up the monotony of hearing my own voice. Discussion questions would obviously assume that what I am selling is a concrete and cogent model of good teaching practice or enlightened behavior management, and would ask teachers how they could change what they do and have always done to reflect this new philosophy, even if what they already do works, has been working, and will probably keep working. These questions would allow no discussion of the merits of what I have presented, and will focus entirely on how the teacher must transform her or his practice in order get students to improve. Discussions could be supervised by roving administrators, require one poor slob in each group to record the stilted, scripted, and stale nonsense that is the product of the group’s “brainstorm” session on a big sheet of paper, and require another in the group to “share out” this nonsense, as if the rest of the faculty cares and can’t read for themselves, and don’t have the same list of shit on their own big sheets of paper.
    I could come for follow-up sessions too, unless your school finds out what kind of crap I’m slinging, or it gets bogged down with competing bullshit, or if I’m not too busy selling this dreck to other hapless teachers.

  8. We had PD on Monday. I took my mom to see lunch and to see Jim Carrey in I Love You, Phillip Morris instead. It was a great day.

    • Miss Crabtree says:

      That is what teachers in my district long for–an insevice day on their own anywhere except at school. Teaching looks way better than any inservice day.

      • Rebekah says:

        Amen to that! I would MUCH MUCH MUCH rather spend the day in my classroom teaching my kids than sitting in stupid, boring, meetings and the ever, lovely PD- we are now calling them “opportunities for professional development.” That is rich! I just love that phrase. How can you not like “opportunities?”

  9. Cupcake says:

    I was told on Tuesday that, as part of the campus leaders team, I will be going to a training one day next month that involves a book study.

    In other words, if I don’t leave my classroom and be someone’s audience, the presenters that work for our central adminstration won’t have a job (although calling what they do a “job” is really a stretch).

    Meanwhile, my “seriously at-risk” students who “require intensive intervention sessions” for “a bare minimum of 90 minutes a week outside of the regular school day” in order to “fully realize their academic potential” will suddenly be A-OK if they chill with a sub.

    At one of our earlier trainings, the presenter threw a snit fit and ripped down all the pieces of chart-tablet-paper hanging resignedly from the wall because our “reflections” were not written in complete sentences and that showed our LACK OF COMMITMENT TO THE LEARNING COMMUNITY.

    You seriously cannot make this stuff up.

  10. louise says:

    Socrates again? Toga parties every week? What’s not to like? Surely Socratic seminars need no data backing them – I’m pretty certain they were successful with some other Greek guy.
    Don’t get me started about Platonic love, and how to run the ideal Greek society. I can only mention it to the seniors (yes I check their date of birth first).

  11. Sean says:

    Mr. Teachbad, you are right, when I tell my non-teaching friends school stories, they look at me like “you’re kidding.” I always end my stories by saying, ” you can’t make this sh*t up.”

    Do lay people, those who are not in education, are they even close to understanding how f*cked up education is today? Or are they like me, I am a 30 year vet and I can’t believe how f*cked up schools have become….I am wondering what is going to happen in 5-10-15 years?????

  12. Not a Dog and Pony Show says:

    Dear Mr. Teachbad,

    I have a faculty meeting tomorrow. Could you please write a new blog I can read on my BlackBerry? We haven’t had one in a couple of months, so I’m sure this one is going to be three times as long.

    Plus, I haven’t done my homework yet. I have to justify my grades for my failing students and tell what I did to help them succeed last semester. So I’m gonna need some real entertainment, please.

    Speaking of failing students, I was in an interview and asked how many failing students I have per class. Was I supposed to lie and say none?

  13. Miss Crabtree says:

    Teachbad, oh, Teachbad,
    We love you, we do.
    There’s not nobody who
    We love more than you.

    Well, maybe the Slut at the Podium.

  14. Teacher of the F-ing Year says:

    We have been informed that the assessment we MUST do as a department is now common formative. This is THE ONE, as opposed to the year in which constructed responses were THE ONE, or common assessments were THE ONE (but they were, you know, summative therefore not really THE ONE even though the VP had been to an all day training which informed him that they were THE ONE). The new VP went to a different all day training during which he was given a book that told him we were DOING IT WRONG and needed to change our assessments AGAIN for the love of Christ! WE change them every year but the data is never examined to see what really works best. Oh, maybe teachers doing their own damn assessment would work best–but then the VPs wouldn’t get to go to all day trainings. FML.

  15. Rebekah says:

    I just read this out to my hubby and our two oldest (20 & 21). Oh. My. Word. My hubby, a high school teacher, says, “If I sent out every kid that used real profanity, I’d be sitting in an empty classroom writing up crickets for disrupting my lesson.” My comment was “Shoot, I’d be done by 7:55 A.M. many, many days” (and I teach third grade!). She’s just stupid! ;)

    You should enlighten her that if that is a major incident to her, she better stay where she is. The real world is an ugly place.

  16. Jen says:

    I love this blog and the comments are so funny (yet so sad because they are true). I’m surprised that no one mentioned the “speaker” who actually reads the powerpoint to us at PDs-word for word.

    Our latest directive is to do the rotational model. One of my teacher friends said if the rotational model is so effective, why doesn’t the administration teach us what to do at PDs using the rotational model?

  17. Dear Chimpy:
    Your program lacks on fundamental item — please don’t forget about the warm up exercise at the opening of each session. These warm-up exercises build trust among the participants and foster an atmosphere of intense comaraderie so that we may ultimately move into the classroom to enhance the student learning environment. Oh, yeah and point to your word walls because they now have to be interactive, especially when the suits walk in to your classroom. Just a thought. . .

  18. Debbi says:

    Oh. My. God.

    I’m glad I don’t have kids. The education system is so clearly messed up.

    I shudder to think of where it’ll be in 15 years!

  19. Ellie says:

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/teacher-the-worst-of-best-prac.html#more

    this is a great laugh and weep column on PD and research. Ha…who hasn’t had it happen to them.

  20. chiggins says:

    I think it’s incumbent upon you as a responsible, caring parent to teach your child as many synonyms for “stupid” as possible. Let’s see his teacher write him up for saying that his reading material “suffers from a hackneyed characters and contrived plot devices that hope to support an incoherent, naive moral philosophy”.

    Show them sonsabitches what a major (literary) incident looks like. Then do it again next week.

  21. Sushine and Greener grass says:

    Yaaayyy!!!! Guess what everybody, I’m quitting in June! I found a good job elsewhere and I am relocating halfway across the country for a better job, higher pay too!
    No more teachinngggggggg

  22. louise says:

    We had a day long PD on (a) using email and (b) the basics of using a computer learning system that we have been using since September. My room was a disaster when I got back – items thrown (marbles, pennies, scissors…), masking tape made into balls which were apparently hit with meter sticks taped together as a means of entertainment. Pretty much a waste all round. Oh yeah! Said training included 30 high school math teachers, and the talking head was miffed that teachers don’t listen.
    Just thought yours might be a tad better than mine.

  23. gateach says:

    At least it was on a Friday, all-day unlike the half-day, leave from school to go to the other side of town PD’s that we have had to sit through where we are told it is MANDATORY (yes in all caps) that we attend. sigh…

  24. teacher/parentagainstrepression says:

    I’m totally not surprised!

    When my son was 7, the teacher had a serious conversation about how ‘sucks’ is a bad word. It seems to me that ‘sucks’ comes from an old expression from the 40s and 50s maybe earlier “It sucks lemons’? The teacher clearly is repressed.

    This year at 14, he used a pen to write on an electrical panel. He wrote lolcats.com look it up. I dare you. It’s a cute little kitty website! He might as well have written hello kitty I love you. The discipline code says discipline should be educational and appropriate to the offense. Their idea of appropriate? 3 day out of school suspension for graffiti. Note the following:

    It was already covered in graffiti indicating gang affiliation.
    He wrote in pen, and could have washed the whole wall for all I care

    Since he is failing all his classes because he has special needs ADD and refuses to do homework at home because he’s totally tired……WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO IN SCHOOL SUSPENSION? DETENTION?

    Talk about people shirking their duties. I’m a successful college professor with an MEd and now I’m beginning to seriously consider the GED as a viable option.

    There is a serious problem with the administrators of MANY schools and a serious misunderstanding of what teaching really is.

    If my child needs to learn to be responsible, make him responsible through appropriate discipline. Don’t reward kids for bad behavior by sending them home on a vacation.

  25. miss m. says:

    My 13 year old son committed a Major Incident during 7th grade PE class that signaled to me the time had come to watch The Big Lebowski together.

    Here is the letter from the administration which documents this incident in school-house legal:

    “On ______, I informed you in my office that your son, ____ had been involved in a disturbance at school. I informed you of the following: (these are all nicely bulleted in the original)
    that ____ and other students were knocking down bowling pins in the lanes beside them; that after a conversation with the gym teacher, all students decided to stop; that ten minutes later another student started to knock down the bowling pins in _____ lane; that _______ then put his foot out and pushed the student to the floor; that the student had to be sent to the nurse for a bloody lip; that _____ will be suspended from school on _______.
    (It goes on for several more bullet points about staying off school property and the like; I believe this will be coded as a physical altercation in the state discipline coding system.) THIS WILL GO ON YOUR PERMANENT RECORD.

    Sometimes, you just gotta do it old school, and when some 14 year old ***** is knocking down your bowling pins, you gotta take action. My response as a parent? Rent The Big Lebowski so my son would understand the beautiful irony of his suspension. I didn’t know how else to respond.

    So on suspension day, while I was at work, my kid watched the NCAA tournament all day, received calls of congratulations from his proud uncles, and upon his return to school, was hailed as a hero by students and faculty alike: There he is–the kid who took on the bully in the bowling alley.

    So….I wonder what my kid learned from the Major Incident…in addition to his new- found appreciation for the Coen brothers. If what he did was such a Major Incident, why did he get rewarded with a vacation day?

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