Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Glad I Have a Hammer

Today's guest post is written by Graycie, writer of Today's Homework, one of my very favorite teacher blogs (though it's been sadly silent lately). Graycie blogs from the Blue Ridge Mountains, but administrators there seem every bit as capricious as those in the Big Apple.

[Background note: In our system, everything that must be delivered, filled out, taken home and returned, taught, collected, or covered in an assembly is done through English classes. We miss days of learning time throughout the year because of this. We also follow a block schedule, which means that classes last for an hour and a half, and we see classes every other day. This means that when we have to do something “today,” it means that two days are thrown out of whack, not just one. I see juniors on A days and seniors on B days.]

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As we all do, I arrived at school this morning with my shiny lessons plans all ready for the week. Yeah. Rookie mistake.

Brand new first-thing email from Downtown Admin told us that we were to give an online survey on School Safety to sophomores and juniors. This School Safety survey had to be done today and tomorrow.

There was no computer lab schedule for this surprise-no-warning survey. Apparently teachers would have to battle mano-a-mano for lab access. Once in the lab, the kids would have to type in a web site address of over 70 characters (I counted), liberally sprinkled with indistinguishable ones and lower case Ls, dashes, hyphens, and underlines. We were told that travel time to the labs, the fistfight for lab time, taking the survey, and return to classrooms would take about ten minutes. My dear children would take twenty minutes to type in the address and a couple would still never get it.

The bell rang, the kids came in and settled, the Moment of Silence began and . . .

Wait! Here comes my hall principal with news: the survey is for sophomores and seniors. And it’s not online, it’s for scantrons. She gives me hard copies of the survey. No more online. Good, I don’t think I could take Ms. S next door in the computer lab fight; she works out. It’s a big packet, a long survey; no way they’ll finish in ten minutes.

We stand for the pledge, sit for the announcements, I start to handout scantrons sheets and . . .

Wait! Here comes my department chair explaining that there are over 90 questions on this survey. He also gives me chocolate to avoid teacher-meltdown. It was Ghirardelli chocolate. That is a direct indication of the severity of the potential for high blood pressure, brain explosion and consequent screaming. No, I don’t mean the kids.

I surreptitiously eat the chocolate while the kids begin the survey. They are startled by some of the questions concerning their own personal experiences with alcohol, drug use, and the frequency of their sexual activity. Whoa. School Safety?

Wait! Here comes Ms. S from next door to tell me that this isn’t a School Safety survey; it’s a Youth Risk Behavior survey. (Oh. That explains the scary questions and the ultra-privacy built into the procedures.) I explain to the kids and reassure them of anonymity, privacy, and purpose and . . .

Wait! my hall principal is back to tell me that while this survey is for seniors, the original online School Safety survey is still to be given to the juniors and sophomores. Both A and B days shot for my kids and I’ll still have to fight Ms. S for use of the computer lab. (Aren’t the sophomores and their teachers lucky? By having to take both surveys, they have achieved the Survey Jackpot.)

All of this unplanned, un-notified, unheard of craziness is from Downtown Admin. None of it is in-house. It is insane. I wonder if the people who work Downtown have ever been inside a working school. I nibble more chocolate.

Tomorrow when I take my juniors to the computer lab in the morning, I’m going to carry my hammer.

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