Friday, January 05, 2018

Watch Out Padma, Here Comes Chalkbeat!

Chalkbeat is running some kind of teaching contest, and comparing itself with Top Chef. I love Top Chef. I started watching it years ago, and watched it just last night. There's a Mexican-American woman named Claudette who I think is great, and she just won Last Chance Kitchen, fighting herself back into the competition. She was judged by Tom Colicchio, an expert chef who owns restaurants all over the country.

Chalkbeat performs some interesting services, like collecting the morning education headlines, and making extra sure to find the ones from The 74 or Breitbart. They take money from Bill Gates and the Walmart Family. They run a feature every time Eva Moskowitz sneezes sideways. They let us know just how the former teachers who run E4E are doing in their quest to get teachers more work for less pay. They write a whole lot about the perfidy of ATRs and don't bother actually talking to them until outlets like this one ridicule them repeatedly

I went to one of their galas and they heaped praise on Some Guy who wrote a Book About Teaching. They showed videos of children being marched from one room to another like little martinets and were Very Impressed by how quiet they were. They made a big deal of some guy who passed out papers very fast, so as to waste less time. This guy could pass out papers so fast that the kids lost only seconds of whatever Valuable Stuff he was doing. (I'm thinking test prep, but what he was actually doing was not stressed in this video.)

It was funny, because that semester I'd put together a booklet of printed material that I'd planned to use over 40 days. I made copies, stapled them, and handed them to my students. I did not have any magical way of distributing them in 8 seconds. What I think I did was count the number of students in each row and hand them to the first person. Now they may have been in a semicircle, in which case I handed out a bunch here, then a bunch there, and waited until everyone had one.

Unlike the expert teacher in the video, I didn't worry whether or not the kids spoke to one another. I'm a language teacher, and I have this quaint notion that it's positive when students engage in genuine and spontaneous conversation. So there I was, engaging in this totally inefficient, time-wasting activity, and failing to monitor whether or not I could hear a pin drop in the classroom.

The thing was, despite my lacking the genius inherent in anyone referenced in the Book About Teaching, I distributed the handout once. They guy in the video, or the book, or wherever the guy was had to do it 39 times more than me. Now sure, I hadn't quite mastered the Art of the Joyless Classroom, and I haven't even read the Book About Teaching. I'm way behind on whatever groovy techniques they came up with. For all I know, they've read yet another Book About Teaching, and the old Book About Teaching could be yesterday's news.

Here's what I do know--teaching is not a competition. It's not a reality show. If it were a reality show, it would be judged by experts like Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris. The thing is neither of them would deign to participate in an exercise like this one by reformy Chalkbeat. More likely it will be an exercise in determining who can best read the Moskowitz Academy Scripted Lesson Plan, or who can make the Most Kids Pass the Test, or some other reformy nonsense.

I'm personally offended that Chalkbeat deems itself worthy of judging teachers. I've been reading Chalkbeat since it started. I rate it biased, reformy, ineffective, and totally unqualified to understand our jobs, let alone judge our work. We do not cook meals. We do not just do test prep. We deal with real people, and they have many more layers than the artichokes they prepared three ways on Top Chef last week.
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