Saturday, April 04, 2009

Life of a Public School Teacher 2009: Flash Non-Fiction Edition

Unlike the last post, it is not now April Fools' Day and I'm not just making stuff up. The little anecdote below is completely, absolutely true, but involves more Foolishness than any April 1st gag ever.

Yesterday morning, various departments around my school had a special 7:30 meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to go over a survey sent by some entity (District, NM Public Education Department) as part of our next step on the road to "Corrective Action" since we have "failed" on our standardized testing scores in the area(s) of Special Education Students and "English Language Learners" over the last few years.

All this "Corrective Action" stuff is vaguely specified in "No Child Left Behind" and has been put into actual practice/policy by the State, etc..

Anyway, as a teacher of "Humanities", I had a choice of going to the Language Arts meeting or the Social Studies meeting. I went with Language Arts for a variety of reasons, including the possibility that us Gifted "Humanities" teachers might become responsible for teaching Language Arts next year. This switch to Language Arts is unclear because we still don't have a schedule ready for next year, due to our inability to decide upon one yet. On April 3rd, we still don't know what we're doing on August 10th or so. Not a clue, really.

But that's a subject for another blogpost.

So I go to the Language Arts meeting. I get into the room, at my usual 30 seconds after it's already started time, and see that the multi-page survey, one filled with boxes and long, long "questions" about "leadership" and "common purpose", hazily projected upon a small screen via one of those "Elmo" document cameras.

The way the survey "process" had worked is that the survey was given to each of us. We were responsible for completing the survey, responsible down to the point of putting our initials on it as proof we did it (I'm 99% sure about this part, as I tried to repress the memory upon receiving the "responsibility" and may have this a bit wrong). We have then been instructed to meet in departments and come to "consensus" on the answers to the "questions".

So what I'm seeing, hazily, on the screen are computations of how many teachers put a certain X in a certain box alongside the vaguely worded survey "questions". Now I'm sitting at the back, because I was late to the meeting, and I notice that I can't even begin to read the "questions" projected on the screen. Others, even those sitting much closer complain of the same thing. Our very, very dedicated department chair fiddles with the Elmo a bit and the mumbo-jumbo gets a tiny bit more decipherable, but not much.

Two things are quickly decided: 1. We will just move on even though most of us can't really see the "questions"; 2. That we will not really discuss the survey questions, and will instead just circle the box where the most teachers put an "X" and get the thing to our school Administration post-haste.

And in about 150 seconds or so, we accomplish this, only stopping to read out a "question" or two and breaking a tie on one "question", even though nobody could read it.

Then we moved on past the survey and talked about spending some last minute money that suddenly appeared out-0f-nowhere, as happens each school year around this time. The survey will now go to our Administration, then on to some folks at the District/State/Wherever, where it will be turned into the rationale for doing something.

Almost certainly somebody at the District/State/Wherever will waive the "findings" of this survey around at a very important meeting, and use the "facts" garnered from the survey as evidence that "Implementation Step X" must, must ABSOLUTELY MUST be put in place immediately. The sentence "One big reason we MUST do so is because of the clear consensus generated in this survey!" will quite obviously be uttered. Yes, there will be an exclamation point to this sentence at the meeting. And yes, there will be significant nodding of heads around the table by those in attendance at the very important meeting upon this utterance.

And no, it's no longer April 1st, this isn't an April Fools' joke, yet each of us in that room yesterday felt far more foolish than any "victim" of an April Fools' joke ever has.

Have a good weekend, everybody.


Anonymous said...

Another form. Just middle management trying to justify their pathetic little jobs with the big paychecks. Ever wonder how much good could be done in education with the money we saved from getting rid of middle management from the PED down to the Towers of Power?
And yet these foolish teachers fill them out again and again, wasting their time and their money. Maybe we all deserve to be treated like children.

Sorry I sound so negative, but I'm amazed that on Friday I came upon 4 teachers who didn't even know that their paychecks were going to take a hit thanks to the legislators in Santa Fe. Wake up folks.

Abuelita2 said...

Why did the teachers agree to go ahead and answer questions they couldn't read????