Monday, December 26, 2016

Beware of Chad, and you know what I mean

So, let’s talk about crappy teachers, of whom there are many.

What are the signs of a crappy teacher?  It all depends on the school, the subject, and the administrative oversight.  Administrators may think a teacher is bad because he or she doesn’t follow all the inane strictures placed on him or her.  That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  Some administrators are micromanagers, and they suck as well.

A parent may think a teacher is bad because the parent either doesn’t understand what the teacher is doing, or the parent is upset because the child isn’t getting what he or she considers to be due consideration.  Again, this view is subjective and can’t be taken as gospel.  Kids lie to their parents about school all the time.

Here’s a good way to gauge teacher crappiness – what do other teachers feel about him or her?  If one never hears positive things about this teacher from other staff members, then one can be sure that he or she is not looked on favorably. 

Teachers KNOW.  We know who lets class get out of control regularly.  We know who’s constantly calling in sick or running late.  We know who wastes time letting kids watch videos and movies in class rather than working through curriculum materials.  We know who loses papers, who gives “participation grades” to keep everyone from failing, and who really doesn’t know the material.  We know because we’ve either seen these teachers in action or those same teachers keep coming to others to get help. 

So how do you know if your kid is in a crappy class?  Ask other teachers in the department questions about the class materials.  If you ask about one teacher, and the person you are questioning quickly changes the subject or starts talking about ANOTHER teacher who is good, you have your answer.

You can also ask your child, but don’t ask, “How do you like Ms. Adams?”  Ask your kid how often the teacher is absent, or if he or she often “steps out of the room” during class.  Does he or she send students out to run errands during instruction time?  Does anyone get bullied, and does the teacher intervene?  My favorite question to ask is, “What interesting things does your teacher tell you?”  What a student finds interesting is usually strange or sometimes horrifying to an adult. 

Find out what the grade breakdown is, and see what your kid is bringing home for homework grades or test grades.  By the way, if your kid NEVER has homework for said class, that doesn’t mean he or she has a bad teacher.  It means your kid isn’t doing the work and is trying to hide it from you.  The exception will be if the teacher says that he or she never gives homework.  Then it reverts back to a bad teacher.  There’s no teacher anywhere that won’t have to occasionally give out homework.

Just so you know, whether a teacher is good or bad has nothing to do with how long he or she has been teaching.  Your first-year instructor may be fabulous and full of energy, or be insecure and have zero classroom management skills.  Your veteran teacher of 25 years may be an old pro or may have fallen into bad habits that are too late to change now.

Most of us are trying our best, and we may make mistakes.  But some people think that teaching gives them a license to do whatever they want in a room full of kids.  Remember Chad, the coworker who plays on the Internet all day, eats other people’s food in the break room and generally messes up his expense reports?  Sometimes you’ll find Chad in the classroom as well. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

The most blunder-filled time of the year

Once again, it's time to grade essays and weep over what my students submitted.  On the one hand, I applaud my students for trying harder.  On the other hand, I sometimes wish they wouldn't try harder, because you get writing like what you'll see next:

People should work together in unity to accomplish problems.

This is an exemplified example of what I’m talking about.

Many people believe that the Internet is capable of giving them a full education, which many underclass people are in dire need of.

The internet is slowly taking away the need of better experts, which is beginning the downfall of a corrupt society.

I resonate identically with this idea.

There are many websites that can alter facts and falsify actuality.

While these viewpoints can be considered valid, they are not as accurate as my viewpoint.

I think this last one is my favorite.  Who wouldn't want to have this level of confidence?  I mean, this student really shouldn't be displaying it, but still...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Definitely NOT a dual credit paper, in the end.

So, I’m sure I’ve told you that I tutor on the side.  I usually have some fun tutoring stories and weird experiences to share, but I have to say that this one left me reeling.

The other morning, my phone rang.  I didn’t recognize the number, but I often get calls from parents looking for a tutor or students checking my availability, so I try to answer if I can.  This one was a parent.

“Hi,” she said, “I’m looking for a tutor to help my daughter with writing, and one of the counselors here at (local high school) recommended you.  She said you worked with her daughter?”

“Yes, what kind of writing help does your daughter need?”

“She’s in dual credit English.  Are you familiar with dual credit English?”

I didn’t say “duh,” even though I wanted to.  “Yes, I am.”

“Mrs. Lennox said you specialized in writing, and my daughter has a paper due for this class.”

“Okay.  What’s your daughter’s name and what kind of time frame are we looking at?”

Long pause.  “Well, it would need to be soon.”  Pause again.

“Right, I understand…” Except I didn’t understand why she kept pausing.

“I’m looking for someone who’s not a teacher,” she said after hemming and hawing for a bit. 

“I’m sorry?”

Then it came out in a rush.  “She has this paper due for dual-credit English, and she has to turn it in by 2:30 this afternoon.  The teacher said he’d take it if she could have it in by then, but I want her to work with someone who can really WRITE, not a teacher, and I would pay very well.”

“Oh…” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  “I don’t think I can help you.  That won’t give me enough time to work with her, and I am an English teacher.”

“Okay, thanks.”  She hung up quickly.

I love the fact that a mother was contacting me to see if I would help her daughter cheat and get college credit in the process.  I would have loved even more to ask her why she would be a party to this, or why any self-respecting educator would damage their reputation by assisting.

But seriously, how much do you think she would have paid me?  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IWSG - NOT looking for the fountain of youth, because it's polluted.

What am I insecure about for this IWSG post?  Getting old.

Getting old is supposed to happen to other people, not ME.  Except it is happening to me.  I can tell by looking at my driver’s license and my scale.  It’s tough to look in the mirror and see more and more lines. 

The thing is, I actually like most of what comes with getting older.  I have a lot of life experience, so I can easily spot a potentially troublesome co-worker or problem parent.  I can tell when I’m getting into a situation I’ve gotten out of before.  I know what’s important and what isn’t, so I don’t waste a lot of time anymore worrying about things that don’t matter (like whether or not students like me.)  Plus, I don’t feel the need to keep up with pop culture religiously.  And I have a lot of great stories to tell.

But on the down side, I get tired earlier in the evening, and what used to sound fun and exciting now sounds… annoying.  My goals have become lamer, like trying to achieve a really great, tricked-out laundry room.  My feet tend to feel sore first thing in the morning.  And the best present I can think of is getting to sleep in. 

I guess I also don’t like what the aging process is doing to my appearance.  At the same time, I’m not willing to do anything drastic about it (like surgery) because people who do that look stretched and weird.  I’d rather look a little sad than freakish. 

I really never planned to live as long as I have.  Odd, right?  It's not that I really want to be young again.  It's that I want to have the energy I used to have, and the optimisim.  I can't say that I've become cynical - maybe I'm more accepting, or resigned?  That sounds marginally better.  

This came up because students were talking to me about things they hope to do after they graduate. One said she wanted to complete a major hike.  I said I'd always wanted to do that as well, and another student said, "But Ms. Marlowe, you're too old to do that now!"

Thanks, kid.  I did make sure he understood that he was not too young to say that without getting sent to the office. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The gift that keeps taking

So, it’s Christmastime, and you’ve decided to get your child’s teacher a gift.  What would be the best gift for him or her that he or she would like but wouldn’t cost you too much or be troublesome?

Here’s a major hint: nothing.  Don’t get the teacher anything.

In all honesty, I’ve never received many presents from students or parents.  Maybe I could take this as a sign that I don’t inspire much devotion, or that I’m not that good of a teacher.  Regardless, my experience with the few gifts I have received has been less than stellar.

I’ve gotten a couple of useless photo frames that didn’t match anything I had at home or were in a weird size, and I had no way of returning or exchanging them.  Rather than regift them, I just threw them out.  Twice students have given me a “world’s best teacher mug.”  I don’t drink coffee or tea (gross!), so what am I going to do with a mug?  My husband and I have quite a few, and they clutter up our shelves until we think about them and throw them out.

Candy or Christmas cookies seems like a safe bet, but they usually come to school partially crushed or stale if the student brings them.  For some reason, I constantly get those hardened, decorated sugar cookies that no human wants to eat, or something with peanut butter in it (yes, I hate peanut butter as well.)  Plus, by the time Christmas rolls around, most of us are sick of sweets.  We get way too many of them in our staff meetings as a token gesture that the administration cares about us, rather than taking the time to listen to what we say.

A gift card would be great since you can’t give cash, but I’ve never gotten one of those, maybe because a parent doesn’t want to put a dollar amount on how much he or she appreciates you helping the student.  Decorative candles are a useless gift for anyone, so just don’t even bother with that.  Maybe some people love them, but I’ve never met anyone who likes them or uses them unless they're trying to cover up a bad smell in their apartment. 

The best gift I ever got was a Yeti mug.  It was so unexpected and useful that I still mention it to the parent every time I see her.  I’m even using it now.  But the Yeti is still an anomaly.

I’d rather get nothing at all than having to haul home useless crap that I must pretend to be grateful for.  I imagine many of you feel the same about gifts from the office exchange or from family members. Getting a gift should be pleasant, not a chore or a trial.  

If you really want to give the teacher something, give him or her a letter or email, telling how much you appreciate his or her help or the influence in your child’s life.   That’s something the teacher will keep and appreciate. Plus it takes up no space, works in any home and doesn't cost you anything but a little bit of time.  See?  Now everyone's happy.