Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And This is Your Brain On Testing and "Don't Do Drugs Ever" Assemblies

Prologue: I promise to make the posts shorter. I promise to make the posts shorter. I promise to make the posts shorter.

Observation #1: When a blogpost starts with "Prologue" it's probably going to be way too long.

Finishing up on yesterday's point about the number of school days spent testing, a commenter beat me to the punch line. I mentioned that between the infamous SBA tests and the under-the-radar A2L testing, and the totally invisible NAEP kids lose about 12/13 days of classtime. In a 180-day school year that might not seem like too much (okay, it already sounds like too much), but, as the anonymous commenter noted
"Sounds like one almost one day out of 10; especially when you take into account all of the non-test related interruptions..."

So yesterday, the first day of school, while trying to get a read on my new students and struggling to get my throat back into "teacher voice" mode the back part of my brain tried to list as many "wasted days" of a school year as possible. You know, those events that tend to decimate the learning process and remind us teachers that we're really only here for the babysitting when it comes down to it.

Observation #2: Some items on the following list are truly important education opportunities and are worth missing math class for...others, not so much.

Wasted Days List
  • "We have this speaker coming to talk about the Holocaust and he's really good and can your students attend his presentation in the Library,because he's good and this is really important. Huh, can they, huh?"
  • "Teachers, there will be a surprise fire drill 3rd Period. Remember...a surprise, totally unexpected fire drill later today during 3rd Period."
  • "Look, it's snowing outside! Wow, it's snowing! Hey, Mister, Miss...can we go outside and play in the snow, can we, huh?"
  • "An important announcement: Teachers and students, today we will have an extended Zero Hour assembly featuring the "Don't Do Drugs Because They're Bad And We Will Do Magic Tricks For You As Long As You Promise to Never Do Drugs" Magic and Mime Troupe of Silver City. This should be really exciting. Students will be able to make 'I Won't Do Drugs Ever' pledges at booths set up in the Big Gym and will receive a free pencil for making such a pledge." (btw, this one also includes "Promise Never To Have Premarital Sex" at Catholic schools, as I understand it.)
  • Attention: 8th Grade Students, you're invited to a special assembly in the cafeteria. Folks from Albuquerque High's athletic programs and ROTC will be on-hand to answer questions on trying out for the AHS football team, the "Bulldoggies" cheerleading squad and, uh, the military. So, if you'd like to throw a football, dance suggestively in a creepy outfit in front of people during breaks in a basketball game, or hold a fake rifle while walking in fascistic pattens through the school portables, please attend this very special assembly."
  • The first week of school...which is pretty much a waste because it's the first week and, on top of the general chaos of opening a school year, roughly 1.25 million schedule changes will occur moving students in and out of your class to the point that you stop bothering to take attendance or assigning work of any kind.
  • The last week of school...because it's the last week of school.
  • Speaking of the last week...there's not only "Going to Cliff's Amusment Park Educational Field-Trip Day", there's long, long, long announcements about who is eligible and ineligible to go to Cliff's and why and how we have to behave on this very, very educational field trip...blah, blah, blah.
  • "Students, as you know we are on an Abbreviated Day Schedule today because there were a few snow flurries up in the Northeast Heights and the District freaked out and put us on a two-hour delay. Yes, I know it's currently 48 degrees and sunny. People are sunbathing on the roof of the school...but we are on an abbreviated day.

Okay, that's a decent start, I guess. If anyone wants to chime in with other "wasted days" causes, feel free to comment below.


Anonymous said...

On the topic of assemblies, I think one of the all-time winners of 'wasted days' is the surprise hour-long assembly for the entire school to congratulate their cheerleading team for winning State (although only high schoolers get this opportunity for frivolity).

Or, thinking back to last year... "I have an idea! Let's fake a car crash and the death of some popular students at this school to scare kids into driving more safely! We'll explain everything in the assembly later, so there won't be any permanent damage when students find out they have just been punk'd." And the rest of the day is spent either as an emotional mess, because you've actually lost somebody in a car accident, or making fun of the assembly, because it was so cheesy and dramatic.

Anonymous said...

best and most useful post you have ever written imho

Anonymous said...

Please send so and so to the office, the too precious child is being picked up 5, 10 15 minutes before the bell rings so parental units can get in and out without the traffic nightmare. Please, for the fifth time, send so and so to the office. So and so is ditching, busted!

Lazz Hands said...

Hey. I'll have you know that the Bulldoggies are not creepy, but fantastic dancers. Don't compare them to the cheerleaders, because those cheerleaders ain't got nothin' on them. Baahahaha.

As for the first comment, that also happened at AHS, assuming that the comment wasn't about AHS. It was horrible and they made Mrs. Rutter cry so that they could knock some sense into the students.

And the rest of the wasted days? Well. I just assumed that the teachers couldn't care less that they don't have to deal with the babychilds every once in a while.

Oh, and a most footnote of post scripts: We were asked who the author of The Great Gatsby is, and I decided to announce, to the class, that it is F. Scot Key. Just something to be proud of. Although you can choose the reason why you'd be proud, and whether or not the pride is teeming with sarcasm.


Nora said...

Also, Bulldoggies get to wear these weird glittery green ensembles that make them look strange and reptilian, which is totally worth missing class for.

Kelsey Atherton said...

I think we should add lockdown drills to that list, though my favorite was the bomb evacuation drill we had at Madison that did nothing except teach us more appropriate locations for bombs.

Oh, and the fake car crash thing? Boingboing covered one, and the commenters were all kinds of furious:

Amber in Albuquerque said...

180 "instructional" days. Minus four for parent teacher conferences. That's 176. Minus one for Election day. That's 175. Minus three "professional development days". That's 172. Minus (at least at my kids' school) one 'playday' at the end of the year (which is fine by me, but let's count it to be fair). That's 171. Minus 1 full day every two weeks (or one half day for every early dismissal on Wednesday). Forgive me, I didn't count the weeks. When we're already down by 9 days (with the half days, that would be two 'full' instructional weeks) what's the point. Want to know why the kids aren't learning what they need to? Combine all of the 'scheduled outages' I just noted with all the testing, assemblies, and other BS and see just how much true 'instructional time' remains.