If TPA’s Were Written Like Report Cards

Today was one of those days where I felt like I was truly earning that salary the public likes to decry. The school is having a new portable installed right beside mine, and someone, in a land far, far away from a real school – probably the board office – decided that jackhammering the tarmac outside of our portable at 8:30 a.m. was a grand idea.

Aside from the noise, which I nearly had to shout over, there was an incredible amount of dust. Each time a student opened the door (which was every five seconds once they discovered that there was a dust storm happening outside), the portable filled with airborne concrete particles and my drama kings and queens had sudden onset asthma and were unable to live life. Normally I would have just abandoned all hope and put the students to some independent reading [social time], but we’ve had endless interruptions including photo retakes, and one particular post-recess-whole-class-malfunction that resulted in a lengthy community circle I’m fairly certain just made matters worse. We really needed to do some math.  Plus, everyone knows that the first block of the day is the only time where any actual learning happens. Thus it was clearly the perfect time for jackhammering.

Aside from all that, I have been frustrated about a rookie colleague who is being eaten alive by the parents in their class and from what I can tell is receiving zero help. In fact, I’d say this person is being set up to fail. It made me wonder why we don’t support our new staff the way we’re expected to support our students. Where is this culture of growth and learning from our mistakes supposed to come from if not the top down? Then it got me to thinking how lovely it would be if our teacher performance appraisals were written the way we have to write report cards, and I started imagining what mine would sound like. For the sake of keeping my job, I will assume the pseudonym Pink Floyd, aka Mme Floyd.  (If you haven’t yet tuned in to the fact that “dark sarcasm in the classroom” is a Pink Floyd lyric, here we are.)

I think it would go something like this:

“Pink is developing her classroom management skills. She does a very good job of not using vulgarity when her students become challenging, although she does sometimes resort to sarcasm. She has somewhat effective strategies for managing her class, such as bribery and circular lectures. As a next step, Pink is encouraged to develop more intrinsic motivation among her students. She will be supported in this by having admin come into her class to show her exactly how the hell that’s supposed to be done.

In terms of her assessment and evaluation, Pink is very good at creating tests that will require the least amount of time possible to mark. She is encouraged to actually try the test she is planning to give, before she gives it, to find the questions that don’t make any sense. She should also be sure to look for typos as this will help to keep her blood pressure down, since she will no longer have to hear what typo she made exactly twenty-six times. Her admin will be happy to support her by creating her tests for her when she is feeling overwhelmed.

When lesson planning, Pink is able to create a pretty kick-ass lesson with five minutes left to go before the bell. Sometimes she even makes up her lessons as she is teaching them. Way to go, Pink! To further develop her lesson planning skills, Pink is encouraged to spend her evenings and weekends planning. This will ensure that all of her lessons include differentiated instruction, scaffolding, learning goals and success criteria, hands-on activities, formative assessment, self-evaluation, collaboration, inquiry, social justice, technology, mindfulness and, of course, fun.

Finally, Pink works well with her colleagues. She shares her resources whether her colleagues want them or not, and in turn, she makes sure to steal all of theirs. However, Pink is encouraged to stop stealing them from the photocopier, as this leaves her colleagues both confused and frustrated after making the arduous journey to the copy room. While Pink sort of contributes to the school community by running a mindfulness club that sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t, as a next step she can begin to spend more of her recesses running clubs, rather than hiding in her portable with the doors locked and curtains drawn. Her admin will be happy to support her in this by doing her yard duty for her whenever she needs a break.  Overall, Pink is a pretty average teacher. Keep up the good work! But if you don’t feel like keeping up the good work, take a break in the calming tent in the staff room, and continue keeping up the good work when you feel ready.”

What would yours sound like?

Dunce 2









First Rant of the Year

As you might have noticed, last year was a quiet one for ranting because I was at a new school in two new grades (split), and it left little time for putting into words the running narrative of criticism that occupies my mind. But here I am with something fresh to complain about, and a little spare time to do it! (This is only because I will, in fact, not be handing back the quizzes I promised for tomorrow).

After re-org, our main computer lab was dismantled to make room for a new classroom, and our smaller library lab has been taken over by another class waiting for a portable to arrive (where do they come from?). This loss of tech access in the midst of the Web 2.0/ Google/ coding era is dismaying to say the least. We’re constantly being instructed to create “21st century classrooms” without any real 21st century technology to use.

As a side rant to my main rant, which I’ll get to momentarily, what exactly is a 21st century classroom, anyway? So far from what I can tell, it’s teachers competing for the wildest “flex seating” (largely out of pocket), and children subsequently falling off of wobble stools. It’s a tooth and nail fight to sign out the Chromebooks, followed by another fight to get the children to do the thing they’re supposed to do on the Chromebooks. You know how students get so excited when we announce it’s Chromebook time? That’s because their minds do not in any way equate Chromebooks with work.  Their minds equate them with aimless digital frolicking. What Chromebooks really equal is the same goddamn work they were going to do on paper, produced at a much slower rate because they can’t type.  I understand the premise of being 21st century and all,  but right now it’s just another idea that’s better in theory than practice.

Back to my main rant, which, ironically, is actually about paper. I thought that we had narrowly escaped the copy paper crackdown that seems to be spreading, but it found us this year. Our head secretary announced a near moratorium on paper usage early in September, which is exactly when everyone is front-loading their photocopying. I use most of my copy budget getting things set up in the first month, and then cruise with the odd handouts until June, so this September abeyance has me wondering how exactly I’m supposed to set my routines up for the year.

I understand the need to be environmental and conscientious of paper usage, and I know there are teachers out there photocopying packages of worksheets that will never get completed (you know who you are). I am definitely not one of those teachers. I sometimes turn down resources from colleagues because I think they will use too much paper. However, when I asked for a package of paper to keep in my classroom for art, random idea webs, and the odd paper plane contest, I was denied. Denied! A pack of paper in a classroom! I could maybe accept this if we had 1:1 or even 2:1 technology to use, but we definitely don’t. We have not gone full digital by any stretch of the imagination.

How did things become so desperate that we can’t even provide a reasonable amount of paper in a school? Did EQAO use it all? Did we print one too many copies of the school improvement plan? Students need paper. We can play with base ten blocks for a few days, but at some point we need to actually write down an addition. If I only had ten students, I’m sure I could feel confident using only anecdotal observations to assess them. But I have twenty-six, and if they don’t keep some sort of record of their work, I have no clue what half of them are up to in a given day. In one of these idyllic 21st century classroom I guess they could be taking pictures of what they do, but as we discussed above, we don’t actually have 21st century classrooms, at least not where I teach. Plus letting students loose with cameras opens up a whole new world of things I would have to deal with, probably via angry parent email. I need things to end up on paper, be it the digital or tree kind, in order to do my job.

What maybe irks me the most is that I have spent a great deal of money buying digital resources to use from various sites like TeachersPayTeachers or otherwise. I haven’t asked for or received a new student resource in literally years.  I have become so accustomed to purchasing what I need that I’ve forgotten that we used to have a budget to order these things. We teachers have been directly subsidizing the education system by buying our own materials, and yet we’re being denied paper to print them on. What the eff! Sorry to imply a swearword, but seriously, what the eff!!!

Anyway, it feels good to be back.

Dunce 2