Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Today in PTA (Pass Them All)

I was pretty surprised to hear we needed to give 7 to 12 comments for each student receiving a grade of NX this semester. According to what I've heard, DOE was originally demanding 40. Of course that's fine with them. After all, they don't have to do the actual work, and it surely won't ruin anyone's gala luncheon plans over at Tweed.

I assume, by 7 to 12, they mean 7. I'm not going to plod through a bunch of comment codes looking for extra busy work. For one thing, all my grades are online already. Anyone who can't simply look at them and determine what the issue is won't be helped by seven comments, let alone twelve.

Just in case the notion of 7 comments isn't enough, they've asked us to cut and paste them from a list somewhere. You see, Skedula, which we use, can only handle three. Rather than allow us to select three from the list and copy and paste four, we have to cut and paste them all. Because in the DOE, the way to spell efficiency is to waste as much time as possible.

Now the DOE isn't wasting their time, because after all, how many gala luncheons can you attend in a single day? Sure, there are dinner parties, but they're after hours. And before and after lunch, they have some failed principal act as guru and plan retreats at elite hotels upstate. Meanwhile, lowly UFT members are busy cutting and pasting comments. Tweedies have Very Important Stuff to do so they can't be bothered creating a simple program just to help you out.

Let's go beyond the tedium of cutting and pasting comment codes for a minute, though. Is that really the only way a summer school teacher can figure out what each student needs? For one thing, summer school classes aren't subject to standard class size regulations. Imagine having 50 students, all of whom have seven comments. Imagine that some have up to twelve, due to teachers who are ambitious, masochistic, or both. What exactly are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to prepare 50 individualized lessons so as to meet the needs of each student?

Oddly enough, summer school has been around for a long time now, and no teacher has ever needed seven to twelve comments for any student, ever. I don't teach summer school, but if I did I'd try to give as much of the course I possibly could. I'd try to have my students proficient in whatever the course entailed. It would not be at all helpful if I had to read a thousand comments and somehow meet the needs of each individual student. I've known supervisors who'd have no issue directing people to do just that.

Given all that inconvenience, it makes you wonder whether this is a last ditch attempt from Tweed to browbeat teachers into just passing everyone. Hey, who cares that Dave was failing before the apocalypse, that he hasn't shown up to a virtual class, and that the one solitary occasion he did homework it was clearly copied from that smart girl in row two? So what if you had to call her and verify, and what's the difference that he copied and pasted an entire composition from her and thought you were too thick to notice? Maybe you should just give him a 65 and save all those comments.

That's what Tweed wants, isn't it?

And in case that's not enough, maybe it'll save you the trouble of having to check all the copied work that's sure to flow into your Google Classroom for the next ten days. Who wants to bother checking everyone else's homework to find out exactly who Dave is copying from? Who wants to go back and lower other people's grades for letting Dave copy after having already submitted them once?

Still, I'll stick with failing students who've done nothing. I was flexible with one student who really had trouble getting online, but I got her online and she's flourished (what with being brilliant to begin with). I have another student who cut class between September and March, showed up for one online class, and for a movie review, cut and pasted one off the net. It was so obvious I was able to paste a paragraph in Google, identify it in a second, and send it back to him with a well-earned zero.

I'll cut and paste for the DOE because they're paying my salary. That's a MUCH better idea than simply asking us to write explanatory paragraphs about each student. Left to my own devices, I could do that easily. Perish forbid we should say what we actually think when we could pass hours cutting and pasting canned comments. That's not only a much better use of our time, what with the absolute tedium and lack of flexibility, but it's FAR more useful to both the teacher and the parents.

Seriously, I'll bet dollars to donuts my time will be wasted, along with that of tens of thousands of my brothers and sisters. They couldn't pay me enough to teach summer school, be it in person, virtual, or in any other realm. Nonetheless, if I did, I'd teach one lesson plan without veering into 7 times 50 degrees of separation. (I always figure differentiation is your approach to individual students, and that if you aren't a total galoot it just comes naturally.)

And to those of you actually teaching summer school, you have all of my sympathy.
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