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

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dreaming of doing nothing

''Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say, in a given week I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual, work.''

"The thing is, Bob-- it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care." -- Peter, from Office Space

How many of you out there have ever worked with someone who said, "I know we should do _________, but I really don't want to work that hard" and clenched your teeth so tightly in frustration that you cracked a molar?


And this is certainly not just a problem in education, not by a long shot. There are also two levels to this situation: it's annoying when it's merely one of your coworkers, but it's absolutely maddening when it is someone with oversight capacity over you. If one of your coworkers (or even worse, a critical mass of them) has this attitude, then you know that you are going to get more work dumped on you to make up for your colleagues' lack of output and accountability.

But if it's a supervisor, good gravy! Sadly, my experience in my working life (and yes, in education) has been that we teachers have not really been led so much as herded. Moo.

If one employee abuses the sick leave policy, then everyone and I mean everyone has to fill out three forms and bring in doctor's notes even though the health insurance plan we get through work encourages doctors to merely dispense prescriptions over the phone because they see an average of 35 patients a day. And if a teacher punished an entire class for something that one student did, how well would that be received?

It's trendy to talk about principals as instructional leaders, but when they have no actual experience in instruction that lasted longer than five minutes or was from twenty years ago, then there's not much hope of that, is there? And really, to be fair, those that DO want to accomplish something are hamstrung-- when do they have time to be instructional leaders with all the reams of paperwork they are required to juggle and the endless meetings they have to attend and the data they have to gather-- all at the direction of someone else who has no actual experience in instruction that lasted longer than five minutes or was from twenty years ago?

Meanwhile, I have heard many of these same slacker coworkers dream of moving up to administration so that they "won't have to work that hard." They especially look forward to never grading papers again and never again having to use calculus in order to figure out when they will be able to go to the can without risking a bladder infection. Fair enough-- that WOULD be nice. They want to become department chairs so that they can arrange their own schedules so that they have time for their hobbies or can concentrate on their stipendiary duties, and that's the real attraction. One of the worst offenders with whom I have ever taught, of whom I believe it can be safely said never taught one iota of actual information to the students in this person's charge (and who told the students that high tide and low tide are the result of earthquakes on the ocean floor or some other such rot) was just given a job as an assistant superintendent-- and better yet, this person will be in charge of human resources at a nearby school district. Wow, that bodes well for the future of education!

In the business world, the dream is to move out of a cubicle to an office with an actual door. So that one can then close that door and stare at your desk for endless minutes in peace and comfort. I would like to even have a cubicle sometimes... that's sad.

And I? I and a few of my friends are delusional in our own way, because we can't imagine not trying to do an good job and trying to be responsible. Yes, I AM hopelessly idealistic and out of step with the mainstream. And to psychoanalyze myself, it is because part of my self-identity is defined as being a teacher. The people of whom I speak probably do not think of themselves that way. When they think of who they are, other words come to mind: "fisherman," "dirt-bike racer," "baseball coach," "carpenter," or whatever. And absolutely, this causes more work for myself. I am considered a chump because my attitude results in more tasks being dumped on me with the expectation that they will -- actually-- be-- accomplished.

Like Donna Summer said, "She works hard for the money."

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At 6/16/08, 1:48 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

Oh, Lady! Do I EVER understand the frustration and fury that inspired THIS rant!

At 6/16/08, 2:35 PM, Blogger SciGuy said...

Ready for some irony?

I don't think "those" teachers and administrators read or write teaching/education blogs either. :)

At 6/16/08, 3:13 PM, Blogger Fred said...

If only we had more accountability in education. If only.

At 6/16/08, 3:13 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I don't think they READ, period.

Snark, snark, snark. Meow.

At 6/16/08, 9:02 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

And Fred, we have plenty of accountability now, but NOBODY uses it, because lazy people LIKE lazy people around them. Competent people SCARE and unnerve them.

And that's true everywhere.

At 6/16/08, 10:09 PM, Blogger Lightly Seasoned said...

I feel ya. You might enjoy the rant I just posted, which is related. It's JUNE and I already want to kill someone. Bad sign.

At 6/17/08, 11:09 PM, Blogger Val said...

*applauds* I've only completed one year of teaching, and I've already seen far more of this than I want to. Frustrating doesn't even come close...

At 6/18/08, 1:54 AM, Blogger TeacherDee said...

This is the reason I left special education. (NOT the paperwork). I couldn't stand another year of pushing in to other people's classrooms where they were doing a downright bad job. It was only a couple teachers (ONLY!) but I knew I could do much better for kids if I were their teacher all day.


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