Which seems to be the norm in the physical school building these days.
You need to understand something.
Every time you take away a teacher’s planning period – whether it be to cover an IEP meeting, use a teacher as a security guard in the cafeteria, sending someone to a training or otherwise – you are reducing the quality of instruction that teacher is able to provide that day.
And if you do it for long enough, you can no longer fairly judge that teacher’s annual performance by the same expectations you would have under normal conditions.
You need to put an asterisk next to her name for the year.
Meaning this isn’t the best she could do, but this is the best she could do WITHOUT HER PLAN.
Imagine an actor going on stage without having the chance to practice the play? Imagine an athlete playing in the championship game without having the chance to warm up or watch tape. Imagine a pilot flying your plane without being able to contact the air traffic controller or plan the route from one airport to another.
But I know what the excuse will be: this is unavoidable.
There are just too many absences and not enough subs. And to an extent that’s true.
However, what are you doing to alleviate that situation?
Have you reached out to local colleges to find teaching students who would relish the experience of subbing? Have you reached out to retired teachers looking for extra pay? Have you lobbied the school board and the legislature for more money to pay subs and teachers?
The people who are left want to be in the classroom because we love teaching. However, with all the nonsense heaped on our shoulders, the job has become less-and-less about that and more preoccupied with ancillary concerns – paperwork, endless meetings where nothing gets done, useless trainings so some corporation can get paid, and outright babysitting.
When you take away our planning periods, we can’t do our best for our students. And that’s why we’re here! To give our best!
When you take that away from us, you take away a lot of the satisfaction of the job.
No one devotes their life to something to do it half-assed.
Quality of instruction is not an excuse for us. It’s not a cudgel or a catchphrase or a policy decision.
These are all things I’d done before in previous years with remote students. But it never came off like today.
They put up hand raising emojis to indicate they wanted to speak and gave some of the most thoughtful comments I’d heard from them all year.
They talked about the main character, Ponyboy, and his responsibility to save some kids from a burning church. And others argued that he had no responsibility – it was the adults who should have watched the kids more closely. Or they argued that Ponyboy losing his life wouldn’t have helped the trapped kids any. Or they argued that it didn’t matter whether they saved the kids but whether they were willing to put more good into the world by trying…
I was astonished. We laughed. We pondered. It was a lot of fun.
How did this happen on-line?
I think it was a combination of several factors.
First, this was a high interest lesson of a high interest text.
“We have learned that two High School students, two High School staff members, three Middle School students, six Elementary students and one Elementary staff member have tested positive for COVID-19. Close contacts have been identified and notified. Thank you.”
What does it all mean?
One thing’s for sure – we aren’t taking this pandemic very seriously.
Judging by the emails in the last week and a half, alone, there have been at least 60 people in my small western Pennsylvania district who tested positive for Covid. That’s 17 in the high school (10 students and 7 staff), 22 in the middle school (17 students and 5 staff), and 21 in the elementary schools (16 students and 5 staff). And this doesn’t include close contacts.
However, with the new CDC guidelines that people who test positive only need to quarantine for 5 days, some of these people are probably back at school already. Though it is almost certain they will be replaced by more people testing positive today.
I have a student who just came back a day ago who’s coughing and sneezing in the back of the room with no mask. And there’s not a thing I can do – except spray Lysol all over his seating area once he leaves.
And today the scores still routinely fail Black and Brown people while passing whites thus barring many people of color from graduation or college entrance.
However, describing such a state of affairs as “racist” has been criticized by a self-described anti-woke backlash.
People as diverse as Fox News correspondents, old school neoliberals and contrarian progressive academicians have taken arms together to fight against what they see as an overstatement of the degree of racism present in modern America and an attack on free speech.
“…an old-school Black progressive who doesn’t hide his disdain for white liberals and what he considers their Black enablers in academia and the culture. He argues that the anti-racism movement of the “elected” is more performative than intellectually serious and that the white allies who provide the shock troops at universities and street rallies are just as gross as white supremacists because their virtue signaling hides their condescension.”
Ultimately Norman concludes, “I agreed with so much of what the writer had to say about specific hypocrisies of white saviors while disagreeing with much of its premise.”
As a white person, I make no judgment on McWhorter’s overall thesis because I don’t feel qualified to do so.
However, as a classroom educator with more than two decades experience teaching mostly poor and minority students, I feel qualified to address the issue of testing.
The very term “standardized test” means an assessment based around a standard. It privileges the kinds of questions white students are more likely to get correct. After all, that’s how test questions are chosen – not based on the quality of the question but on whether the majority (i.e. white people) get the questions right and the minority (i.e. people of color and others) consistently get it wrong.
It’s not just about knowing math. It’s about knowing the cultural terms, shared experiences and assumptions the math question is embedded in.
McWhorter sees nothing wrong in this. He thinks people of color simply need the tools necessary to pass the tests even if that means being taught to respond as a white person would and to make the same linguistic assumptions and have the same cultural knowledge as privileged white people.
I think it’s kind of sad that in McWhorter’s view Black people would have to engage in such a radical and complete double consciousness or more likely give up their own uniqueness and assimilate as much as possible just to be considered the equal of a white person.
However, another thing he doesn’t seem to understand is that even if he got his wish and the playing field were level giving all children the same chances on the tests, it wouldn’t change a thing.
These exams are made up of multiple choice questions. This is not the best way to determine whether learning has taken place on complex topics. How a linguist could ever suppose even the most rudimentary subtleties of meaning could be captured by a simple A, B, C and D is beyond me.
Wittgenstein, Jakobson, Chomsky… all just so you could choose between a narrow set of prewritten answers!?
“And yet it is considered beyond the pale to discuss getting the kids up to speed: Instead we are to change the standards—the current idea is to bring GPA, performance on a state test, and even attendance into the equation as well. What an honor to black kids to have attendance treated as a measure of excellence. What’s next, rhythm?”
However, it’s not a matter of adding ridiculous or insulting data to the mix to make Black kids look better. It’s about adding enough data to give a clear enough picture of a student’s learning.
At best a standardized test is a snapshot of a student’s learning. It shows what a student answers on a single day or even two or three. By contrast, grade point average (GPA) is made up of student assessments (informal, formal, formative and summative) over the course of 360 some days.
These tests are not just immoral because they’re racist, but they’re bad at the act of fairly assessing.
And part of the reason for that is their embedded prejudice.
An assessment that unfairly singles out certain groups not because of their lack of knowledge of the subject being tested but their different enculturation and lack of similar opportunities as the dominant culture can never be a good assessment.
But even if they didn’t do that, they would be like using a pencil to eat soup.
The systems of our society matter. Using the right tool matters.
Whether we call an appreciation of these facts being “woke,” “antiracist” or anything else does not.
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