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.