Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let's Have The Airing of Grievances Early This Festivus

In some ways, the Thanksgiving Break is a vile tempter (I'd say the usual "vile temptress", but that phrase has always struck me as sexist in the same way that women can be called "bitches" and men don't really have a identical word to be dropped on them).

I'm sorry, where was I...oh yeah, Thanksgiving Break can be a vile tempter-person. It is a highly anticipated break, especially in public school, but it's so darn short. Or maybe when you're conditioned to teaching summer and winter vacation, it seems like a piddly excuse for a respite.

Faithful readers of Burque Babble, all 20 of them, have probably noticed an even higher level of acerbity in recent postings. I'll admit It's been a bit of a tough haul these last few weeks heading up to Break. And, as usual, solving the ever-changing puzzle of how to best motivate and inspire schoolchildren has been a two-hour therapeutic massage compared to wrestling the broken puzzle that is Albuquerque Public Schools, K-12 education "policy" and the adult human population in general.

So when I read stories like the one in the Tribune yesterday (I'm guessing it was yesterday as see it online this morning) about teacher in-services, my acerbity-meter goes to eleven, at least on this first morning of break. I mentioned yesterday that APS seems to be in the news, almost always for the wrong reasons, enough to put out a daily newspaper entitled APS Sucks Post-Gazette. Perhaps the Tribune should be purchased just for this purpose.

Anyway, this story about in-services is maddening in that way news stories about your profession often are. It starts off with the fine premise that in-services are a complete waste of time. If one polled teachers throughout APS a strong super-majority would be in agreement. So I'm expecting a story with specifics about what a waste of time they are.

Then the story switches gears with this "graf":

An evaluation summary released this month for the September in-service day showed an 86.4 percent endorsement of the "usefulness" of the course material.
As the famous book title says there are "lies, damn lies, and statistics", but you've have to go way past "damn lies" to capture the uselessness of the 86.4 percent number above. This number doubtlessly comes from these little quickie eval forms that presenters pass out at the end of their in-service spiels. I'm here to tell you they are statistically worthless (unless your job is to defend your existence via useless evaluation forms).

There are two main reasons for this:
  1. Teachers are far too nice on these forms because they, too, are professional presenters and feel empathy for a in-service presentation regardless of how useless it is.
  2. Teachers know these evaluation forms mean nothing, that in-services will continue to be worthless as they have been from the beginning of time, and instead of ruffling feathers why don't I just circle a few Likert Scale 5s for "outstanding" and get the Hell out of this education-forsaken room and have a two-hour lunch?
I'd like to conduct my own survey for teachers. It would have one question on it. That question would be:
"Do you prefer an in-service day or a day teaching students?"
Even in my presently still-acerbic state it would be highly pleasurable to see the results of such a survey question posted along with a newspaper story entitled "Albuquerque Public Schools Teachers Ponder Worth of In-Service Days". In fact, I think I'll start my Thanksgiving Break winding down from the intensity of the past few weeks by daydreamingly contemplating the publication of such a survey.

I could then dreamily envision a special meeting in which the survey findings result in the decision to cancel all future in-services and burn all the Likert Scale evaluation forms in a ritualistic ceremony at APS Central Office. Then the fire from this huge bonfire of wasted paper would get out of control and start to engulf APS Central Office itself. Firefighters would try, but be unsuccessful as the APS towers burn to the ground, orange flames visible throughout the overly-gigantic district as ever-larger numbers of on-lookers rejoice and perform primordial dances of ecstasy.

Like I said, I think I need a longer break.


Natalie said...

'Burque Babble reader #9 tried to find an alternative to "vile temptress" but could only come up with "hooker", as in, someone who hooks and, unfortunately, that too has a sexist conotation. Yeah, I really should be brining my turkey but you are such an inspiration... ;)

I would watch the burn with much pleasure. It would be akin to Paula Maes' saying how people say they love their congressman but hate congress which, in her mind, is the same as saying we love our schools but hate APS.

This little theology explains all of the political issues now facing the American (and probably the French) people. Ha!

I'm thinkin' you are on to something with that Trib/APS Gazette idea. I was at one of those superintendent community input meetings (okay, let's face it; like the chump that I am, I was at all but two of them) and someone said (I actually think it might have been Paula but can't be sure)that the reason APS is in the news is because media reporting goes like this:
1. Marty Chavez/local government
2. Bill Richardson/pretend government
3. APS
4. APD/crime

I just threw in those hash marks. The conversation centered around how when there is no news, the media makes up news in order to keep the public stimulated.

I am not making this up.
But they were...

Enjoy your break. We have the boys home for 5 (count 'em!) solid days and, well, there will be a break in there... somewhere... but it might involve heads...

Happy Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scot,

I'm new here in ABQ from Portland, Oregon as of last March. Drive APS general transportation students for Durham, drove Special Ed for Portland Public Schools. PPS, like APS, has many in-service days. However, here, we bus drivers are not given the day off because instead of having entire in-service days, the elementary schools have half days. Which wears drivers out because we are stuck without any time between shifts.

Your columns are funny and yes, ascerbic. I admire your courage as a middle school teacher. Cannot IMAGINE having the little darlins longer than the way-too-long 20 minute ride to and from school! My particular group have some serious issues with cursing passersby and not remaining seated. It has been a character builder to say the least.

THESE KIDS NEED MORE EXERCISE!!!!! Does P.E. exist in the schools any more? They have WAY TOO MUCH ENERGY at the end of the day!

Enjoy your short break! I haven't even seen much of ABQ because upon arrival was immediately hired from a mild Internet inquiry into bus driving. Then was carjacked at my apt. complex in August (learned that the Hood is no place for naive gringas excited to be away from the rain). Car found in your neighborhood six days later, $2,700 worth of damage. I moved to NE Heights, not quite "white flight" but at least a bit safer than being held up in broad daylight.

This was week before school. In addition was training all summer/fall for a marathon in Dublin,Ireland for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which was an interesting tour of all the bike/running paths in town, but still not seeing much of beautiful NM.

The ABQ Tribune is a very impressive paper! There is no evening paper in Portland, either take the Oregonian (called The Boregonian by local progressives) or do without. I did without and subscribed to The Nation until it became so expensive I swapped it for Newsweek at a discounted price.

Really hope the Tribune can survive, it is very balanced and thoughtful.

Have a good (though short) break!
I am just thankful to be out of the rain and also alive.


history said...

A day in sensory deprivation could be endorsed by 86% of all teachers by the time that thanksgiving rolls around... actually I'm one of the people who generally gives high marks for the inservice presentations and not because I'm nice. More often than not, the presentations do provide a nugget or two to use in the classroom (maybe not yours). I'm of the position that no knowledge is wasted if it improves my practice (or validates it). You could waste hours online looking for something worthwhile and never find it, yet you probably will be back tomorrow looking. To me, a day at an inservice is like a lot like that, but I'm getting paid to be there (not so bad).