Monday, June 25, 2018

The Stupidest Day of the Year

That would be today, Monday, June 25th. In high schools at least, grades are in, the year is over, Regents exams are done, and everything is pretty much finalized. But former chancellor Dennis Walcott needed his pound of flesh, and we're supposed to teach today. It's a little bit of a challenge.

You can't give homework, because the students aren't coming back. You can't start something new, because tomorrow the students won't be here. You can't really review anything in depth because you only have one day, and you aren't building toward a project or a test, or indeed anything. Every student knows this is the last day, and there are few consequences, if any, for anything that happens on this day.

This could've been different. For example, the Regents exams could've been one day later, and we could've taught one day before they began. It would be pretty easy. We begin Tuesday instead of Monday. Or Wednesday instead of Tuesday. You see how that works? Then there's one more day of actual instruction, if you value actual instruction.

Of course, if your goal is to waste the time of teachers and students by giving one more day of school after everything is essentially finished, you make today a full day of classes. As far as I can determine, that was the goal of Dennis Walcott when he insisted on a full instructional day after grades were in. The man was a prince. At least Bloomberg thought so, after what's-her-name, the executive with no educational experience, went down in flames after a few weeks on the job.

This day is yet another reminder that the ghost of Michael Bloomberg haunts the hallowed halls of Tweed. We're the largest district in the state, the largest in the country in fact, and it wouldn't be that hard for the chancellor to ask Albany for a schedule change. Push exams back one day and we won't have a day of massive student absence and wasted teacher time.

Of course no one asks me, or you, or anyone who actually does this work. It's important that we leave such pivotal decisions in the hands of people like Dennis Walcott. After all, he may have taught for five minutes somewhere,  Or maybe he hasn't. But he did show a bunch of students how he made waffles. Also, he didn't sully his reputation by going out and getting some stupid degree in school administration. He simply took over as chancellor because Michael Bloomberg wanted him to. And Bloomberg must know the right thing to do, or why would he have all that money?

I'm actually not going in today, because I have something personal to attend to. I'm glad because it was really tough for me to figure out what to do. But all over New York City, teachers are scrambling for things to do that will make sense to kids who know that today is largely meaningless. I envision a lot of video and playing hangman. That makes as much sense as just about anything.

Except, of course, changing the schedule to add a teaching day at a meaningful time. If we were to do that, it would be a whole lot easier for teachers to prepare. We'd be working toward something, and we wouldn't be facing a half-empty room.

That's common sense. Of course, common sense is the least common of all the senses, so we can only hope against hope that it prevails.
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