Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Old, Old Story

The more I read about the new evaluation system, the more I go to meetings about it, the more I hear about its intricate, convoluted and inexplicable structure, the more I'm reminded of a story I heard when I first started teaching. I was an English teacher, I had five (!) preps, no idea what the contract said, and I was overwhelmed with paperwork.

It took me hours to write lesson plans each day, and as if that weren't enough, I had to give capsule plans on a weekly basis to my supervisor, who helped me not at all. She would call me in the office and tell me ridiculous stories about making meatballs, or the student she appeared to be shacking up with. I was completely on my own. As if the lesson planning weren't enough, I had a stack full of papers to correct and return that seemed to grow larger every time I got through one class set.

We didn't have access to copy machines in those days. Only the principal's office held a machine like that. We had to use rexograph machines. If we were lucky, they were automatic. If not, we had to hand crank every single unreadable copy. For the parts that were really unclear, you could clarify by writing on the blackboard, if you had a blackboard, and if you had chalk.

Anyway, one of the older English teachers was always holding court after school at a dive bar around the block. He spoke of dropping the papers down the stairs, and grading them depending upon which stair they fell. It sounded to me like a great solution. No more reading every single word and correcting every single error, only to find the paper, unexamined, crumpled up in your wastebasket at the end of the day. No more struggling to find the perfect comment, not too critical, and just encouraging enough. Of course it was absurd. I would never do such a thing to my students.

And yet, Reformy John King has just done about the same thing to me and all of my colleagues. Music teachers will be judged by tests given by social studies teachers. PE teachers will be judged by English Regents results. If kids they've never taught fail badly enough, that's it for them. Two years in a row and they'll be fired.

Does this make any more sense than tossing my essays down the stairs to grade them? If so, please tell me why.
blog comments powered by Disqus