Monday, March 03, 2008

A Teacher By Any Other Name (Would Be Less Embarrassed)

As someone who works in the schools, but not for the schools, I often have a unique perspective of things. But part of me sometimes wishes I did work for them, just so I could be a rabble-rouser and call people out (in a bigger forum than this blog) when i see things that just shouldn't be happening. (It goes without saying that, if this were the case, I'd have to have some sort of trust fund or lottery jackpot backing me up, to cover the inevitable job loss that would probably come from speaking up.)

Some of my schools started a new trimester this morning, and I was at one of those schools. Evidently, they had some sort of procedure where they had to make sure that every teacher had returned all the unclaimed schedules from his/her classroom and possibly sent down some sort of acknowledgment that the rest of the schedules were handed out. So far, this is all well and good.

But what raised my hackles on this day was the process of calling out teachers by name if the office hadn't received these confirmations by a certain time. This just struck me as wrong.

Why? Well, first of all, changes to society have pretty much stripped away most of the authority that teachers used to have. Once upon a time, if a kid got in trouble at school, he or she would get in even more trouble at home because of it. Now, more often than not, the parents will be running down to the school and challenging the teacher, claiming that their little darling couldn't possibly have done wrong. And many times, the administration will back down and give in to the parents' demand, throwing the teacher under the bus in the process. Treating teachers as if they were students themselves by calling them out by name in this manner leads to further erosion of that authority.

But besides that, it just seems unprofessional. Virtually every teacher has a computer at his or her desk these days; just send out an urgent bulk email to those who are lagging behind at whatever task the principal is demanding at the moment. There's no reason to broadcast their names to the entire school, and besides, it interrupts the people who might be, oh, trying to teach something. And why would dedicated educators like to work under conditions like that?

(I'll be the bigger man here and not call out this principal by name...which of course means that the aforementioned lottery jackpot hasn't come yet, either.)

As always, there's an answer to this: The teachers need to regain control of the schools again. I can't say this enough...

Book 'em, Dano--on your own time, please: Here's another apparently common occurrence in schools these days that also blows me away: The students actually have to turn their textbooks in before semester or trimester exams! This makes no sense at all; wouldn't the days leading up to exams be when students need their books the most? Are they leaving everyone at the mercy of their own Mad Note-taking Skillz now?

The simple way to do things would be the way I thought it was always done--turn in the book at the end of the exam. (Thinking back, I can always remember the giant pile of books at the front of the room during exam week.) So why did it change?

The answer I've been given--at least what the students are told by the teachers--is that if they waited until the end of the term, the person in charge of the bookroom would have too much work to do at one time. Seriously.

I bet my jaw hit the floor when someone told me that. Umm, isn't the bookroom guy's job to handle the books? Wouldn't it be expected that he or she might have a little overtime at the "crunch" times of year? It's not like CPA's expect to knock off work in the middle week of April or something.

Again, what seems to have been forgotten is this: these people are here to serve the students. If certain times of year call for extra work from non-teachers, so be it. I shouldn't have to explain this to anyone.

Is it me, or has education really lost its way lately? Your comments would be appreciated.

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