A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, November 04, 2005

My word in Lights Redux....

One of my friends had a hard time finding my post that was highlighted a couple of weeks ago on the Education Wonks, so I've copied it here. If you've already read it, then skip it. The original questions was posed by Greek Shadow: "When will all the paperwork bullshit end?" Then Graycie talked about how she makes kids and instruction her first priority, followed by parents, then paperwork. Polski3 then talked about mandates from the new discipline plan at the jr. high at which he teaches, and EdWonk gave some info about the creator of this system. Then I said:

I am afraid it all goes back to the fact that what teaching actually entails is a mystery to most parents, and, sadly, many administrators. People think that because they went to school, they know what teachers do. That's like saying that because I've been operated upon, I know what surgeons do (which, from my last surgery, is apparently to tell your patient that an infected incision was "actually worthy of an A minus," which once again proves my point that non-teachers don't understand teaching).

The Greek chorus of politicians and administrators and parents chants that they want instruction to students to be the first consideration, then layer on the bureaucracy.

My students and I were having a conversation in US history class about outsourcing the other day. We talked about the role technology has played in making outsourcing possible.

I looked at the computer on my desk as I spoke. When I began teaching in this district, we didn't even have a phone or intercom help button in our rooms. If there was an emergency, you had to have a trusted student run downstairs to the office and get someone (after the first emergency, I had to amend the instructions to include, "Stand there and loudly yell for help until an administrator actually comes with you right then.")

Then we all were "given" computers as long as we agreed to take 12 classes on various pieces of software and pass assessments on them-- classes after school or before school on our own time, unpaid, BTW (Can you say, "Job security for the technology diva?").

Once computers were on everyone's desk, our school district went online, and grading and progress reports and email to parents became de rigeur. But you can't enter grades from home, and although we are supposed to check our email frequently during the day, we teachers are given a time limit for how many minutes each day you leave the email on-- exceed it, and you are cut off, even if you are waiting for an urgent response from an administrator or counselor. You are not supposed to be online during instructional time, and could be fired for doing so, but the community is told that the internet is used as a tool by the teacher during the school day- say, to show students the answer to a student question or whatnot.

Parents can set up the system so that every time a new grade is entered for their child, they are emailed, which can lead to about 20 emails a day from parents, all of which have to be answered. I had one parent who checked her daughter's grade 897 times between October through the end of May. I am not making this up-- the counselor and I had a bet on it.

Yes, we teachers are supposed to stay off the computer, which means no grading or answering the zillion parent emails-- unless there is a "situation," then the principal comes over the intercom to tell all teachers to drop what they are doing to check their emails immediately for a special announcement, right in the middle of instructional time. Oh, and don't tell the kids what the email was about, although they have all watched you go over and read it.

We were told that technology would make our teaching lives easier. All I see is that it's actually caused me to spend exponentially more time on non-instructional tasks. This is not the fault of the technology. It is the fault of the restrictions placed upon our use of technology by administration.

At least I don't have to turn in lesson plans detailing the district, state and essential curriculum standards I cover and how this relates to testing blahblahblah every week. It could be worse.

And the funny thing is, I just got a new iMac today after making another deal with the diva because my old machine kept freezing up. I got another 30- some hours of training to sit through in order to be able to do my original job-- teaching.


At 11/7/05, 7:23 PM, Blogger Fred said...

897 times? Really? Holy cow!

I get one or two emails a week, if I'm lucky. I prefer them to a phone call, though, as I save all the documentation.

Wouldn't it be nice to shut the system down for a few days? I'll bet life would go on with no problem. Maybe we'd talk to each other more.

At 11/8/05, 10:25 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I am SO not kidding. And this woman was a federal government employee! Your tax dollars at work! It was really interesting watching her stalk her own daughter.

At 11/8/05, 10:34 PM, Blogger Talia said...

Hey Ms. Cornelius :) I'm working on a research paper focused on media and how it's affecting the education of children ages 8-18. I love some of the insight that you've provided and thus, have a couple questions for you. I'd love to chat so feel free to contact me (livingshade@gmail.com) if you're interested or have any questions about the project. Thanks!


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