Are You Paying Attention? Is Anyone?

July calendar

Image by Vanessa Pike-Russell via Flickr

Sometimes I wonder if logic has totally departed from this world.

Example 1: The NY State Board of Regents

This well-educated group of fifteen or so individuals who set education policy in the state seems to have lost touch with logic. At a time when almost everyone, including teachers, is saying that the school system as we know it needs more-or-less radical change, the NY Regents are proposing four more weeks of school per year.

Yes, you read that right.

They want to do more of what isn’t working.

I often tell my students that if the approach they’re taking to solve a problem isn’t working they should try something else; that doing more of what isn’t working in the first place and expecting a different result is a form of insanity.

I think the air conditioning in their offices is making the Regents stupid because they now think that having school until the end of July is going to produce smarter kids. I guess it is possible.

The problem is that the Regents won’t recognize the real smart kids. They’ll be the ones who refuse to spend the summer sitting in sweltering classrooms doing the same stuff that hasn’t helped them learn during the previous ten months.

Example 2: People who still want to be teachers.

Teaching requires more education for less pay than almost any other job. Plus it has the added benefit of getting blamed for all of society’s current problems and, likely, all the ones in the next 50 to 100 years should society last that long.

The paperwork is overwhelming, and you’ll have to pull money out of your pocket to pay for supplies, some of them very basic, that the taxpayers either can’t or won’t pick up the tab for.

Teachers put in long days during which bathroom trips need to be scheduled in advance, then take work home in the evenings and on weekends, all the time listening to people who have never done the job and probably couldn’t tell you how easy it is.

It is said that teachers tend to come from the bottom of their graduating class. I can prove it. Despite all the attacks and everything else, people still want to become teachers.

There’s got to be something wrong with them.

I once proposed that people who want to be President of the United States should be disqualified from the job because their egos are too big.

I now think that people who want to be teachers should be disqualified from the job because their egos are too small.

Example 3: You

You’re still reading this, after all.

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15 Responses to Are You Paying Attention? Is Anyone?

  1. Karen says:

    It does start to feel like we’re living in a world where the Emperor has no clothes.

    Perhaps one of the Regents will come help you build your library.

    Another could go teach with one of my preservice teachers, in a school where no homework is given because the kids won’t do it anyway, probably because they don’t go to school all that often either.

    A third could go teach with the young woman who was written up in the Times yesterday, the one who got rave reviews from principal, colleagues and students but won’t get tenure because when all the data from her kids’ test scores got put into The Formula, she ended up in the bottom 7% of all NYC teachers, even though all but ONE of her kids didn’t get a 3 or a 4 on the @#$% test. Maybe that Regent could do a better job.

    I think plenty of us are paying attention. We’re just shell-shocked.

    But I don’t think that’ll go on forever. And then things will get v e r y interesting

  2. […] Deven Black: the Board of Regents shouldn’t add four weeks to the school year. (Education on the Plate) […]

  3. S says:

    I’m a teacher in Wisconsin… I was in the Top 10% of my graduating class… and in recent months, I’ve begun to wonder what I was thinking.

  4. […] Deven Black: the Board of Regents shouldn’t add four weeks to the school year. (Education on the Plate) […]

  5. John says:

    Whats even more puzzling is that they are also going to eliminate the seat time requirement for receiving course credit.

    So on the one hand extend the school year and on the other hand eliminate the necessity to be in school.

  6. Katie M says:

    I find it interesting that I always hear teachers complain about how they never have enough time for all their objectives and now you’re complaining/protesting against more time…. why? is it cutting into your vacation too much?

    • Deven Black says:

      I’m not complaining about more time. I’m complaining about the idiocy of doing more of what is not working. If more school were what it took for my students to succeed I’d be the first one in the door, just like I am every day of the school year. I’m also one of the last ones out.

      I don’t know what you do for a living, Katie, but I’d like you to try my job for a week just so you have some idea of what you are talking about. I’d gladly try yours, too.

  7. Katie M says:

    I’m a student teacher- so I’ll gladly switch you if you want to do my homework and do lesson plans and pay for it all…

    I might have sounded a bit harsh. I guess I’m confused on why your reaction is so strong. I wasn’t following your logic so I sense there is more behind the situation than what is expressed on this post. For instance, either deep down you aren’t happy about having to work more or ____________. Hopefully, it’s the latter.

    Thank you for your civil response to my cynicism which was also written in frustration as I’m sure this post was.

    • Deven Black says:

      Been there, done that, and I’m doing it again — I’m getting a second master’s degree, this time in library science.

      I’d quit the amateur psychology (“deep down….) and pay more attention to comprehending what you are reading. I think I’ve made it clear in both the post and my comment to you that my objection is not to working more or harder, but instead to the folly of forcing kids to spend more time in schools that clearly aren’t providing what they need the ten months they already attend. You may disagree, and that’s fine, but don’t try to attribute feelings or attributes to me that you don’t know me well enough and aren’t qualified to analyze.

      Good luck on your eventual teaching career. Maybe after you’ve been in the classroom a while you’ll come to understand what I’m saying.

  8. Katie M says:

    I wouldn’t call it “amateur psychology.” I was trying to be honest and explain what I was thinking as well as giving you a chance to explain yourself further since I didn’t completely understand you the first time. Yet you did what bad teachers do and repeated the same thing. If it didn’t work the first time why do think it will work the second time?

    I will just accept the fact that you think I don’t know anything and leave you alone. FYI: you give off the vibe that whatever you are doing no matter what it is is more important than what others are doing which people don’t appreciate. But don’t take anything I say seriously because I’m just an amateur.

    • Deven Black says:

      I’m sorry if I misinterpreted your comment. Perhaps neither of us are communicating as clearly as we want. Let me try to make my thoughts clearer.

      Children are in school ten months of the year. Billions of dollars are spent on teachers, books, computers, maps, counselors, psychologists, standardized assessments, furniture and much more, apparently — if one listens to the critics, believes the international comparisons or listens to the news media — with little good effect. Many think schools are merely warehousing children to keep them off the streets and not even doing a very good job of that once the students reach ninth grade.

      If it is true that what we are doing now is not working, and I am one of those who believe that to be the case, it is not readily apparent why four weeks more of the same teachers, books, computers, maps, counselors, psychologists, standardized assessments, furniture, etc. will produce a better result than was gained in the preceding ten months. I suspect that the children who are bored, disinterested, alienated, discouraged or just plain angry at school will not be any less so during those four extra weeks. I suspect that teachers who are not reaching those children for whatever reason, will not suddenly become more effective.

      In fact, I think the teachers will become less effective for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that many of my colleagues do as I do, spend the summer attending seminars, classes, lectures, workshops, conferences and taking part in other forms of learning with the aim of improving subject area content knowledge, methodologies, technical proficiency and other aspects of becoming better teachers. This is not to mention the reactions students might have to spending sweltering July or August days in classrooms with poor air circulation and no air conditioning.

      ‘Data-driven instruction’ is surely a term you’ve heard repeatedly in your teacher training. Should data demonstrate how having an 11-month school year would produce any different outcome than the current 10-month school year does, I would endorse the plan; so far I have not seen any evidence. What I have seen are estimates of how much extending the year would cost — roughly ten percent more than is currently spent on K-12 education, this at a time when budgets are being drastically cut, teachers are being laid off, class sizes are rising, taxpayers are rebelling and the nation, states, counties, cities and school districts are not able to maintain the system we have now.

      Instead of extending the industrial model of schooling it is time to rethink how schools are structured, how we teach and what we teach so that schools work on a model more in tune with the non-industrial world to which our students will graduate. What that might look like, and how we might get there, is more than I am capable of dealing with in this comment. I can recommend several blogs you might find interesting if you wish to pursue thinking along those lines.

      I hope I have made my thoughts clearer. I look forward to your feedback.

  9. Katie M says:

    Again, I’m sorry that I was harsh in the beginning. As I said, I wrote it out of frustration- frustration from listening to teachers incessantly complain about everything and anything. There are definitely some things that warrant complaint but it just gets wearing after a while. I will make it a goal to better monitor myself when writing on emotion or at least give it a day before posting.
    So, you’re probably right in that “neither of us are communicating as clearly as we want.” So, emotions aside, thank you for explaining in detail the situation for those outside of New York. I should have asked in a different way to begin with.

    I also appreciate your detailed reasons for supporting teacher unions in Why Teachers Like Me Support Unions since most of what I hear is blanket statements that say they are “good” without any further explanations.

    • Deven Black says:

      Well, I’m glad we managed to get past our early communication difficulties and are still talking. I understand your frustration about whining teachers, that’s why I try not to complain. I knew what I was getting into when I took the job.

      The teacher unions have their problems, too. I am not a blanket supporter of my union’s policies but I’m happier and safer having them behind me than I’d be without them. Are you in a right-to-work state?

  10. Katie M says:

    I’m in Michigan and it HAS been unionized but I heard a rumor that a bill was passed restricting union rights similar to what has happened in Wisconsin. Don’t know what was actually in it and when it will be finalized but we’ll see how it goes.

  11. Frederika says:

    Deven: You are kind and patient and quite articulate. Miss Katie was being a aggressive and snarky and you called her on it. “Is it cutting into your vacation?” was uncalled for. Your original post was quite clear and easy to understand. Whiny teachers? Teachers in my school are enraged. Enough is enough. I have just stumbled onto your blog. Good reading and well-written. Take a look at my edu-blog

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