563: Uh, oh……


Our little high school is purging old texts from its collection, and teachers were invited to come and select those books they wanted to keep in their classrooms, as well as just to take some for pleasure reading – yes, I do read for pleasure, and no, it isn’t porn, unless you count cheesy romances.


As I was sorting through the 400 or so volumes, I came upon a copy of Rascal, by Sterling North. It is a novel. About a boy and his pet raccoon. For tweens and high school youth. In the discard pile. I was flabbergasted. This novel was so popular they made a movie out of it. Why would such a book be in the throwaway pile, especially as it was certainly not yet worn out?? Flummoxed, I open the book at random and started reading a page – and then I completely understood.

With a few rare exceptions, our current high school students cannot comfortably read this book anymore. Its language, diction and reading level are above their capacity. As I put Rascal into my keep pile and sorted through more books, I found my suspicion confirmed by book after book that I opened to peruse, chock full of language our students cannot read and comprehend.

As we strive to keep every student in school, to educate every child, what we have done is created a couple of generations of functional illiterates. Yes, fewer of our modern day students are dropping out, and more are earning high school diplomas….but what does that diploma signify these days? We are slowing down instruction, shallowing content, and accommodating students of lower achievement at the expense of the brightest students, who get to sit in class just as long as the slowest learner in their class, because there are few options to accelerate learning if you are capable of acceleration. Lessons are tailored for the midrange – those who test in the ‘acceptable’ range, so the school does not lose face or funds.

One of my high school students (and I do not teach English, although I am certified to teach it) has a bright mind, who writes as though he is a Special Education middle schooler. His spelling is hit or miss (mostly miss) and his grammar and mechanics are atrocious. I referred him for additional help (since English is not one of the curriculum standards for my current courses) because he is bright enough to go to college, and he takes AP level courses. No dice – he tests well enough on the multiple choice, school and state mandated exams that no one will give him help during the school day to address his weaknesses in mastering his own language. He does not qualify for help. The best I can do is offer to tutor him after school, for free, if he wants to. Yeah, right.

He will get into college, because the SAT is a multiple choice test. But I fear he will not be able to stay there, because college is writing papers. *sigh*

The more days that pass, the more I appreciate the fact that I am close to retirement age.



379: Rant, rant, rant

A lot of what I read lately can be classified as ranting. Liberal, conservative, libertarian, employed, unemployed, student, male, female, in-between/undetermined, youth, mature, religious, sexual, racial, animal, carnivorous, herbivore, vegan, fruitopian, you name it, people are generally universally upset about whatever, and they are expressing their opinions about it in unambiguous, plain and simple language that makes it pretty clear that they are not thrilled with the situation at hand. Whatever situation that might happen to be, and whichever side of the issue they might have pitched their figurative tent upon.

At the moment, I am pissed off about people who cannot follow reasonable requests and directives who are part of a larger organization that needs its people to cooperate in order to function. And they are not cooperating. Which would indicate that the functioning part is less than satisfactory – and that would be an accurate assessment.

As a minion, a little cute, yellow dude who occupies one of the lower rungs of the institution in question as far as responsibility goes, your job is fairly simple. Follow the directives of the admins – those who are responsible for the parts of the organization that you, as a minion, never see and don’t have to worry about. If you do your job, the place should run fairly well. The problem arises when minions choose not to complete their job functions: missing their assigned duty station, which means that students who would ordinarily behave as humans because you are standing there, doing nothing, choose to misbehave BECAUSE you are not there, visible, doing nothing except standing there.


The request not to allow your students to make copies on the extremely expensive and particularly snarky copy machines, when ignored, means that every person within reach of that machine is pissed off because it is broken – because YOU sent a fourth-grader to make your copies, because you were too lazy to use your three hours a day of planning time to get your own copies done, in advance of the class you are in when you suddenly realize you need the copies.

That means that I, as a middle level drudge (not a minion, and not an admin) get to morph into a complete and total WITCH, denying everybody access to the copier once it is repaired at great expense, demanding that all of you (not just the miscreant) turn in your printing requests to ME 24 hours in advance, since I re-set all the printer codes so that NONE of you can print on your own anymore, because of the few who are not adult enough to realize that a rule/request from admin MEANS YOU, TOO, IDJIT.

My life would be infinitely simpler as a drudge if you acted your age, instead of your shoe size. And, because you have made my life complicated, I can, and WILL, get even with your lazy butt to the point where you realize that it is easier to do as you are told.

That is how the *real* ranting gets started.


249: SOME days……….

Some days it is truly not worth chewing through the straps to get out of bed. That is not my own saying, but it is certainly true. Most days are OK, pretty good in fact. A few days are simply incredibly amazing, partly due their very rarity. Some days are not-so-good, and some days just suck. BIG time. I WISH those days were a darn sight more rare than they are.

Today the administrator at my school came to me with an e-mailed complaint from a teacher at another school who accused me of unethically selling answers to student assignments online. For “proof” she cited a response (not an answer) I provided to another student, not the one she is teaching, TWO YEARS ago. What does it say about a college, university or teacher, for that matter, who has exactly the same questions for students on a course they are teaching now as they had TWO YEARS ago?

Plus, I am an online tutor for students. I work with a company based in Canada called www.brainmass.com. They are NOT a student cheating site, even though some students may be trying to use it as such. There are multiple places within the site where the wise administrators of Brainmass double-check with their tutors to be sure that students are not easily plagiarizing help they receive from tutors, and/or that tutors are not answering the assignment FOR the students, but instead are guiding and teaching them how to get the work done themselves, with tips, hints, suggestions, instructions and examples to model a final response upon.

So, I explained to my administrator how Brainmass works, and logged onto the site to show the administrator exactly how this student tutoring system works. I showed him the multiple places where Brainmass cautions tutors about delivering ready-made answers, and builds in suggestions to tutors about how to do this. Their training program for new tutors is very good. They are not in the business of cheating….but many students are.  I accessed the solution I had provided two years ago, and showed him how the comments I had posted for the original student did not answer all the points of the assignment, but that they did help guide the student into which direction to go. This professor’s current student apparently copied and pasted my comments word-for-word, and turned them in as their own work. Angry about that – why? *She* did not plagiarize – she looked up my profile on the site and sent her angry e-mail to the University I work for – about me.

Excuse me. If a student plagiarized, you address the student. AND you tweak your course so this semester’s students cannot buy the course’s answers from a last semester student and just turn it all in the first day of class. DUH.

59: School – YUCK

I am a teacher by profession. That means that I have pretty much been in school for all my life. First, the one I attended for day care, then pre-school, Kindergarten and then ten years of formal schooling in the American public schools, and YEARS of collegiate enrollment which STILL is not over. If I am not working on the school I teach, I am working on the school I am attending.

Teaching involves pre-reading tha lesson material, designing lesson plans, creating lesson handouts and assessments, actually teaching them and conducting the assessments, grading the assignments and the assessments, recording the grades, and returning them to students, discussing them and reteaching when necessary. And that’s only the stuff dealing with the normal school day when no one is absent and has work to make up, or the administrative stuff I have to complete that goes along with running a school.

Being a student is far, far easier. I have to attend class, listen, absorb material (usually by reading), and produce assignments as requested by the deadlines.

However, I have been a student too long. I actually prefer the more difficult and time-consuming teaching rather than the easier learning mode. It is not that I dislike learning new things, as I do enjoy that, very much. I simply have had enough of the student personna. When you are the student, your goal is pleasing the professor so that you achieve a passing score in their course. Often, that means producing a piece of work that you may personally have no interest in. OFTEN. You do it because the professor wants it that way, and being successful at school is the ability to meet the demands of the teacher, to THEIR satisfaction. Probably explains why Einstein sucked at it.

That is the aspect of being a learner that I dislike. I don’t like feeling like I have to toe the philosophical line of someone else’s convictions. And it is far too easy to discern where the professor camps their tent when there is a debate, or more than one point of view, on any particular issue. And frankly, it is not worth the cost of the tuition I paid, not to mention the trouble, of espousing a point of view contrary to the prevailing one (read: the professor’s). I dislike having to retake courses and repay tuition, especially since it is same song, second verse. It is much easier to wait to have a personal opinion until after I have earned the institution’s stupid degree, which is all the employers are looking for: those letters after your name. Once you HAVE a PhD, you can disagree all you like; in fact, there then is some cachet in disagreeing. Until then, you are taking your life in your hands.

And I now have only a few more months of student-hood to suffer through, and I DO mean suffer. My doctoral concept paper committee at the University has said that my proposed research study design does not have enough participants, in spite of the fact that very few of my reference studies hold their research in various locations (most had ONE, like mine) or have many participants (MANY had fewer than I am proposing). And this is like I can magically produce elementary schoolchildren who are willing to participate in my study. All I can do is ask, which I have been doing for  months. But, like  many other stupid professors I have been under (apt mental picture) they want what they want, for the reasons they want it. This means that for the third time, I must redesign and re-research a completely new dissertation research topic. Suffer. Suffer. Suffer.

And when and if I ever actually complete this degree, there is no inducement on this Earth that will tempt me to attend the graduation ceremony. MAIL ME the stupid piece of paper. And no one will EVER see that diploma on my wall – I will photocopy it when I need to prove to an employer that I have it. It has totally LOST any shine, gleam or glimmer of attractiveness it ever held for me. The only attraction it might still hold is the fact that I will earn a little extra money WITH the degree than I now do performing the exact same job without the degree. That’s about it.