Monday, July 25, 2016

Choosing the Right School, I

"The hours of folly are measured by the clock, but of wisdom, no clock can measure."
-- William Blake

I am here today to help you find the ideal public school for your child. My credentials are as follows: I was a professor for 15 years at Rollins College, and I overheard a couple of students there say, "Dr. Starling's not bad." I then taught 15 years at Oviedo High School, where I heard two juniors and one senior say, "I've had worse teachers than Doc Star."* 

So I guess I know what I'm talking about!

Now I will provide a series of issues for you to consider during your search. I recommend that you cut these out of your computer, then take them door to door to all the schools in your area. 

When a school doesn't measure up (because it's really all about measuring), then get out of there and get out in a hurry. And now, the list:
Ideal Fla. public school teacher

1a. Does the school assume that kids of the same age should automatically go into the same class? For example, do they put all 15-year-olds into a sophomore class? 

Like most policies in public education, this one is a pedagogical disaster in the making and is merely a matter of convenience and budget restrictions.

Some 15-year olds are ready, academically at least, for college. There is nothing left for high school to offer them. Let's call these kids "Exes."

Other 15-year olds aren't ready for tenth grade yet. Somewhere along the line, they've missed a few puzzle pieces that fit together to create a sophomore. Thus, these kids will spend the entire academic year quaking, cheating, hiding, or goofing, and wind up feeling really crappy about themselves, and making their teacher wish she had followed her father's suggestion that she become a systems analyst. We'll call the unready students "Ohs."***

So now you have Exes (advanced) and Ohs (not ready) in the same room, and the teacher doesn't know whether to "shit or go blind" as they say on the streets. Who is her audience? Does she talk down to the Ohs while boring the bejeebers out of the Exes? Does she attempt (probably unsuccessfully) to elevate the discourse to the Exes' level while baffling and intimidating the Ohs?

When the teacher grades papers (if she actually does), does she spend 35 minutes highlighting and annotating the misplaced Ohs' blunders in diction, syntax, logic, exemplification, coherence and structure? And does the teacher know what these things actually mean and how they should be used effectively?

And, having driven herself to distraction foolishly trying to find, identify, edit and revise all the errors that make up Ohs' well-intentioned Pandemonium of Nonsense, does she do Ex the disservice of using her essay -- part Cicero, part Fitzgerald -- as a sabbatical from the rigors of discouraging the Oh from ever writing again? 

That is, since Ex's is so much better, hey, why bother teaching her anything? Just put a freakin' "A" on it and take a quick smoke break. She don't need no education!

Should the teacher give the same exam to the Exes and Ohs? Yes? Okay, Oh finds the exam unfair, and complains to her mom, who then calls the teacher and tells her Oh is a little lost and could use some tutoring before and after school, and, from now on, could the teacher please go over the exam with Oh the day before it's given?

Ex, on the other hand, finds the exam tedious and insulting, nods off halfway through and turns it in unfinished. Then his mom will call and tell the teacher she needs to "reach out to Ex more, because she doesn't learn the same way as the other, less gifted kids do." And the teacher will say, "But I have over 150 kids to look after. I simply can't do that for all of them."

Then both moms will call the teacher's assistant-principal-supervisor and she'll ream out the teacher, then later on address that teacher's single incident to the entire faculty as if all of them had experienced the exact same pedagogical crisis, and the embarrassed teacher will try to hide her entire body under the cellphone on which she has just been texting a reminder to her daughter to ask Ms. Carbuncle for extra help after school.

1b. Does the school allow parents to cram their kids into classes that they, the kids, are in no way prepared for, chiefly to assuage the parents' ego and maintain their standing in the community of student parents? And if teachers complain about this, do the administrators tell them to take one for the team and stop your whining and the teacher down the hall has 38 kids in her writing class and she's not complaining because she realizes we are all family here?

If so, now the teacher is faced with even more Exes and Ohs, making her less effective, meaning her test scores (about which we'll say more soon) are likely to plummet, and, when the faculty reconvenes in August, this shameful data will be trumpeted to the lot of them -- friend and foe alike -- while showers of blessings will be bestowed upon other teachers who, through primarily the luck of the draw, prepared their young charges to pass an exam that means exactly nothing.  

And good luck to that teacher when she turns in her "Classes I Want to Teach Next Year" wishlist. 

*Editor's note: The author is just being modest. He has dozens of teaching awards out in his shed, dangerously close to the lawnmower gasoline.**

**Author's note: Wait a second! I didn't know I had an editor. Where the hell were you when I made six typos in my last post?

***There is yet another group: Kids who have no desire for a traditional education, but are extraordinarily gifted in mechanics, computers, agriculture, carpentry, painting and landscaping, etc. Most of them don't give a rat's ass about the difference between a Shakespearean sonnet and a Petrarchan sonnet, nor should they. We don't have room for them in this piece. Most of them are down at the discipline office right now anyway.


  1. From a teacher who was once described by a student as "the most immature teacher I know", I approve of this message.

    1. They can get maturity from a robot or a systems analyst -- whatever that is.

  2. ^^^ My two favorite high school teachers and possibly favorite teachers I've ever had in all my schooling!

    1. That sounds like us alright! We sure loved teaching humans like you, and you're still making us very proud. (Don't worry, Kathy, I'm speaking for you. But not b/c you can't speak for yourself! I'm just saying!)

    2. When it comes to Emily, you can definitely speak for me. :)

    3. Butt out, Savage! We're TRYING to have a conversation!

    4. And THIS is why I teach science. lol (I actually DO know the difference.)

  3. LOL, very educational stuff here! Gotta love continuing education!

  4. Heart sighs. We know this is true. Why don’t we change?