Friday, February 24, 2006

Weekends

It comes to mind that my weekends are often just as much work as my weeks. I guess that makes me one of the millions who feel that technology isn't the timesaver it was cracked up to me. How can it be when I have to take attendance THREE TIMES for every class-one in my gradebook, one on the UIL attendance, and one in my online gradebook. Doesn't this seem like a duplication of effort? I assign papers and projects, grade same, and still every single weekend I end up in my classroom on a Sunday afternoon doing any number of deadline style projects. This weekend's project will be matting student work for the district art show. Sounds easy, right? NO....it's the most mind-numbingly tedious thing I can imagine. Measuring and cutting and measuring and taping and MEASURING and doing it over an over. And none of the sizes are "regular" and none of the shapes are consistent. All in all, it's the part of teaching high school art that I dread the most. I find no joy in a perfecting matted piece. I get no internal glow of a job well done. It' s just another chore on the long and neverending list of chores that I must do as part of my "Professional Obligation." Let me define that for those of you who don't work in a public school. Being under contract, we are obligated to be in class teaching. There are also a number of other things we are required to do in order to keep our contract in good standing. One is "professional development" Notice that is in small letters. This can be anything from earning a graduate degree to taking CPR classes. There's not a whole lot of oversight so there are some teachers who will read, or so they say, professional articles, periodicals and books. These people are quite often the more slackerish amongst us. I condone reading, but I think you should actually have to open the book at read it to take credit hours. Another "professional obligation" is hall duty. Hall duty is playing policeman in the hall to prevent PDA, food fights and various petty injunctions ranging from visible cell phones to MP3 headphones. It's a constant arguement in the making. Great fun if you enjoy that kind of thing. Another "professional obligation" is proctering state mandated testing and attending BORING BORING BORING in-service in order to make sure you don't inadverdantly slip the answers to the test to a student. We have to sit for over 2 and a half hours simply watching the kids. No reading, no grading, no computer access, just sitting and watching. At least the kids get to read when they are done. The security and the measures for breeching it are draconian in effect and method. There are teachers who live in mortal fear of having their teacher creds taken away because some dumb kid breaks the seal on the second part of the test before his or her dictionary is put away.
Is this any way to run an educational system?

4 comments:

Free Lancer said...

Thanks for sharing your though on the subject of plagiarism. You gave me a new angle to think about.

EllenK said...

Our district has licensing to an online program where the students submit writing directly to the service and the service sends it to the teacher with the precentage of plagiarized material listed and highlighted. I haven't used it yet, but I plan to for practice essays for my AP students.

Id it is said...

Great post!
An educator myself, I too suffer these restrictions and often feel suffocated by the watchdog environment that has enveloped the US education system.

EllenK said...

You can thank H. Ross Perot for most of this mindset. He was the great grandaddy of high stakes testing at the state level. Not being an educator, or even trying to inform himself on how children learn, he headed up the commission that gave our state the boondoggle that has morphed into what is now known as the TAKS test. Click on any Texas Teachers chatboard and you will hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The problems are many, but in a nutshell they break down to this-the test is not age appropriate and in the elementary levels often requires abstract thinking that most kids won't attain for five more years. To bridge that gap, teachers and districts spend MILLIONS to train teachers to teach kids the "tricks" of taking the test. A total waste educationally and in terms of stress, stupidly overwrought. The second issue has to do with actual content. A friend of mine, an AP Chem teacher that had recieved kudos on a state and national level, quit public schools because the tenth grade science exam asks questions that require Physics. On the surface this is not much, but in our state, most kids won't take Physics until junior year-a year AFTER the test. So many kids fail, end up in remedial courses cutting them out of other classes that may have more meaning and often delaying graduation. He tried to get this topic at a local state university for his doctoral research-"High Stake Testing and College Success"-but was shut down by the education department on campus because like all the state schools, they have faculty that are on the boards of the companies writing the tests. Talk about your incestuous relationships. So there is a short history of why we are where we are in terms of high stakes testing. If I could quit, I would, but with two kids in college and one headed there next year, my hands are tied.