Sunday, June 29, 2008

Audit Reports, Teacher In-Service & How Bozo Ended Up in Dante’s Circle of Hell

Ahh, the much ballyhooed (now, isn’t that a great word?) Dallas ISD $2 million audit report was finally released and no big shocker there.

According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, the report contained a long laundry list of reforms needed, but no indication of money stolen. The news article went on to say, though, that “the Texas comptroller’s office, the FBI and others have also reviewed the books and found serious areas of concern.”

I won’t bore you with all the details involved in that, but, of course, all of that got me to thinking about things like why I was grateful to be working where I work (sorry, Mr. Teacher), and it got me to remembering a time long, long ago, in a galaxy… oh my goodness Pizza Andy must be channeling through me…so forget the galaxy, but do make that a long, long time ago, when I actually was asked to teach at a professional development day for DISD. (Oh, pah-leese, no need to roll your eyes. It isn’t that much of a stretch, is it?)

So let me tell you my little story that I like to call…

How Bozo ended up in Dante’s Circle of Hell

My feet were as swollen as Bozo the clown’s feet, and I had a sneaking suspicion my hair didn’t look much better. It was Valentine’s Day, and for a number of reasons, it was a life-changing day. I was headed for Hillcrest High School in north Dallas zipping along North Central Expressway in my trusty blue mini-van.

I had taken the day off so I could teach an in-service for Dallas journalism teachers. I almost had turned it down given my penchant for in-service bashing, but I figured I could use the $400 and thought that, perhaps, just perhaps, I could actually impart some words of wisdom. So I stashed a bagful of newly created handouts and set out to discuss how to create a successful high school journalism program.

I called my session “Surviving Dante’s Inner Circle of Hell… how to create a successful high school journalism program and live to tell the tale…” or some such blustering.

My cleverness, as always, landed me in trouble.

When I arrived in my assigned portable building, there were a total of three—count ’em—three teachers attending my session. To make matters worse, they were all English teachers, not journalism teachers. None of them had read past “Surviving Dante” and believed we would actually discuss Dante’s Inferno. One teacher had even brought her own copy of the book.

At that point, I really believed I had entered the circle of hell. I was stuck for eight hours in a small room with three (did I mention three?) English teachers who were not even remotely interested in student publications much less the entire journalism program. Forget the Inferno, I had upgraded to Sartre’s No Exit.

I felt like the guy in the song “Alice’s Restaurant” with his “twenty-seven 8-by-10 glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one” and no one to show them to.

I had my 35 copies of my 14 specially created handouts to show eager new journalism advisers what had taken me more than a decade to discover. Instead, I had three beady-eyed, angry Advanced-Placement-type English teachers who were forced to sign up for an in-service class to garner enough mandatory hours to fulfill their teacher contracts when their peers were out buzzing around on Valentine’s Day eating chocolates with their honeys or shopping with their friends or sleeping late.

The experience was almost enough for me to swear that I would never again berate another in-service presenter if I could just survive that day. (Of course, that was too big of a promise for me to make.)

But overall, that experience did provide a level of clarity as to what my mother always called, “the state of education.” As with most professional development days, the topics tend to either be irrelevant or provided to those who have little or no use for them.

So you see, not only had I started that day looking like Bozo the Clown, I ended the day feeling, well, rather Bozo-ish as well.


Anonymous said...

You shouldn't feel like Bozo-the teachers didn't read the title-this is just like our students who ask questions before reading the instructions!

Melissa B. said...

OMG: As an alum of both Hillcrest High & the DISD, & an continuous critic of Inservices, I soooooo feel your pain! Not that HHS & DISD had much to do with it (your pain, that is). At least you pocketed 400 bucks for your trouble! I have to say, I laughed all the way thru your post! BTW--for another look at the lighter side of summer, please tune in to my blog Sunday for another edition of the Silly Sweepstakes! :) You have quite the funny caption-writing capability!

Anonymous said...

Of course no Journalism teachers attended. Who would be attracted to a presentation entitled "Surviving Dante’s Inner Circle of Hell"? It implies that you believe running a high school newspaper is a hellish experience, so either you are extemely bitter or incompetent because you don't know how to make it an enoyable activity.
And for the record, I was an editor of my high school newspaper. By the third issue the school shut down the paper and burned all the copies they could find. Good times....

Anonymous said...

A fellow teacher and I once signed up for what we thought would be a great half day inservice. To our suprise we both had misread the last word of the inservice title. It was not workshop but woodshop.

We discovered the misread that morning when we realized what room we had been assigned to.

It was one of the best inservices I have ever been to. We were all elementary teachers who had no idea what goes on at the vocational school. The woodshop teacher explained the program and gave us information about what students entering his program and the other voc programs needed to be successful. We had a great day and came away with lots of useful information.

askthehomediva said...

Well, anonymous who questions the reference of Dante… I'm sorry that you feel that way… but actually, I've never been bitter nor incompetent. Love my job and actually have quite a sense of humor to go with it. Sorry you feel the way you do…