Don’t Give Up – 1

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Give Up – 1”

  1. How timely. We have had a big change at school. Our Principal of 40 years, who took the time to listen to me and to watch me work, retired. He was the one who came to a Tri-State meeting just before he left just to “hang out” with a bunch of dedicated teachers on a Friday afternoon after a long week. I always felt that he appreciated my efforts.

    He has been replaced by a “Dean of Curriculum and Instruction”. He is mid thirties and until this year, he was our band/orchestra leader. He went and got a masters in something and now he is in charge and watching the way we all teach. I have learned over the years from many of you, the pitfalls of working in the public schools – the great, the good, and the ugly. The pitfalls of working in a private school – in some cases lower pay, lack of a solid pension plan, and health benefits in retirement, but what I always could count on was academic freedom.

    Now we have electronic forms for everything – pre-observation forms with boxes to check, lesson plans, post observation forms, standards. All of that is bad enough, but the worst is being observed by someone who lacks any kind of scholarship or gravitas. I have never seen our faculty in worse shape.

    Among the many changes made to date, the administrators are tweaking the Open House procedures. We are tasked with giving on-going 10 minute demo lessons – 3 per hour, and visitors would be able to drop in and see faculty in action. I was actually excited and not at all in doubt about what I would do. I had just spent the summer working with Donna Tatum-Johns and Katya Paukova in Reston, with Judy Dubois and the Europeans in Agen. I had spent two days with C4C, so I was all about the demo. My colleagues were stumped and to make things worse for them, we had to do an “audition” lesson in front of the committee – some people were even told to re-do their lessons!

    Friday was the demo. My Spanish colleague went first. She had mnemonic devices to help her beginners remember the meaning of infinitives – chants of silly sentences in English. One example was “dar” and the sentence was something about Bart giving darts to someone. You get the idea. She had a handout to match the infinitive to the drawing that matched the English sentence. My two structures were wants and goes. I asked the participants to write their names on a folded paper and to draw or write the name of something they want. One observer drew a Coach handbag and my new dean of curriculum drew a Black Ops 3 which I learned was a video game. So I began to circle with the time I had left and gave a quick three question yes/no at the end. Fine.

    His affect during the lesson was that of a 9th grade boy who was not ready to engage – kind of embarrassed about what I was asking him to do – uncomfortable in his own skin – lots of muttering in English. Had he really been a student, I would have been in his face about his 50%!
    The coup de grace was when we were walking out and he mumbled something about language teaching is all the same, we need to cover the same stuff, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The two demo lessons he saw could not have been more different.

    In that moment, I lost any respect that I had been trying to cultivate for this young man in a new position. I have zero desire to even try to educate him on language acquisition. He exposed himself as someone who thinks he knows everything when in reality, he knows nothing – a real light-weight.

    I have heard stories like this from many of you and now it’s my reality, so thank you, Ben, for re-posting this blog entry. It reminded me that I am not alone.

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