Thursday, March 5, 2015

You always get a second chance to implement your first bad idea.

Dumb people can absolutely have good ideas.  You’ve heard the saying that “even a stopped clock is right twice a day”?  It’s true.  But it’s truer still that stupid people typically have stupid ideas.  Fantastically stupid people or organizations have ideas that are staggering in their stupidity. 

I realized this today.  Public school is full of bad ideas, like “differentiated instruction” for a class of 30.  That can work, right?  Collaboration, group work – that can only be good and can never have a downside.  Even though our business is learning, public schools don’t seem to learn from their mistakes.  Bad ideas are leapfrogging off the corpses of previous germs of mis-inspiration. 
Take TCS, the cradle of idiocy.  Two years ago I had to contact our yearbook rep and tell her that I was cancelling the book on behalf of the school.  We had so many problems that I think it was in a burst of optimism that the school decided to continue the yearbook class.  “Let’s commemorate a disastrous year” was the motto.

I’d never taught yearbook before, so it was a trial by fire.  I spent the summer preparing lessons, trying to learn the system – everything I could possibly do to make the year go well.  It didn’t help.  I had 30 students crammed into our library space, which only housed four computers.   Four computers for 30 students doesn’t work, especially when the book is constructed entirely online.  There was no budget, no cameras for student use, and no realistic expectations.
“You should do really cool photo cut outs and effects with the pages!”  Yes, I suppose we should, huh?  “You should have the kids sell ads to businesses!”  Except that the administration wouldn’t let the students make sales calls from the school, nor would they let me print out ad price sheets to distribute.  “You should have polls and surveys on each page!”  That’s assuming we could get students to even respond to the polls and surveys.  “You should really put more effort into these pages.  They seem kind of amateurish.”  I smiled, reminded the teacher that it was a STUDENT product, and then went out and keyed that teacher’s car.  (Kidding!  Sort of – he never noticed because his car was a piece of crap anyway).

After struggling all year to get permission to cover events or advertise properly, and repeatedly being denied permission to use the computer lab or the laptop cart for the class, I called and cancelled the book.  It was April and we had only sold 19 books anyway.  Students didn’t want it, nor did they care.  Plus, we still hadn’t paid or bill from the year previous, so I had to deal with harassing letters and calls about our bill being overdue for the next four months.  The principal was angry, but I had to remind him that he'd thoughtfully blocked our efforts.  The next year, we didn’t have a yearbook. 

Today I got a text from the teacher who took my place at TCS, Winnie.  She’s a sucky instructor, overall.  Winnie’s way too eager to be friends with the students and she wastes instructional time, usually by talking about her drinking binges and the ugly guy she picked up at the bar the night before.  At least I assume he’s ugly, but only because I’ve seen Winnie.

I knew I was in trouble when the message began “Hello friend!”  People usually begin that way before saying, "I hate to ask you this..." and then trying to hit you up for cash.

It was worse.  The principal asked her to be in charge of the yearbook next year.  She wanted me to help her come up with lessons and find a vendor. 

I would have laughed, but I was too horrified.  My year was so bad, the school didn’t even attempt it the next year.  NOW they think they’ll be able to have a yearbook?  Why would they think that having a LESS experienced teacher and even FEWER students interested would equal success?

But hey, they want to do it, and she now wants my help.  I texted her back, “You should do cut-outs and really cool photo effects on the pages!”