Monday, August 15, 2011

Back-to-School, Top 5 Dream Killers & Educational Polyjuice

Somehow I wish the start of the school year resembled the train to Hogwarts–filled with real magic, owls and wizardry.

Instead, my train resembles an out-of-control freight train like the one in that movie Unstoppable or that barreling bus in Speed.

Harry Potter summons his Patronus to protect him.
Still, my back-to-school runaway train is filled with its own magic of sorts–stuffed with hopes and dreams. But it's also filled with all that invisible stuff, too, and I'm not talking about Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility either. I'm talking about all that scary invisible stuff, and I know you know what I mean.

Instead of dementors, we have dream killers. Unfortunately, I have no wands to distribute and no Patronus to protect us.

If you will pardon the continuing Harry Potter references, then let's take a peak at the Top 5 Dream Killers or Things That Suck the Life Right Out of Teachers across the country this time of year…

#5… The Dolores Umbridge Budget…
I have teacher friends who are lucky to get no more than $50 for school supplies for the entire school year. Maybe those teachers can find and dispense those quills like the one's Hogwarts professor Dolores Umbridge used on her students—the ones that used her student's blood instead of ink. As an added bonus, there's a going green factor involved, too. Since the quill writes on your skin, you save paper and trees at the same time, and all that goes a long way to stretching that paltry budget—a much needed necessity since surveys show teachers shell out an average of $356 out of their own pockets for classroom supplies.

#4… Copy That! Or, Just Try To Copy That–The Hedwig Solution…
Is there a school district on the planet that can copy material in a timely manner without a presidential order or the copy machine breaking down? Now, I know you all know what I'm talkin' about. (Can I get an AMEN, brothers and sisters?) 

How many of you planned to give an assignment or test one day, only to discover the stuff you needed wasn't/couldn't be copied? How many of you then decided to go to Plan "B" only to discover that Plan "B" needed three more copies of something you had stashed in your filing cabinet. And, of course, in order to get copies you had to either (1) dash a 100 yards like the school's star runningback to the nearest copy machine or (2) turn it in the requisite five days before you needed it with the proper form filled out in triplicate. It would be easier and quicker to kidnap Harry Potter's Owl, Hedwig, and have her fly that paper right over to the nearest office store to be copied.

Oh, and before all of you techie types start tsk-tsking that if teachers would just use  all that paperless technology, this wouldn't be an issue, let me point you to Item #3.

#3… Technology & the Vanishing Cabinets
It's not that teachers don't love technology, they love working technology and access to technology, but those of you who read teacher blogs know the following:

(1) Teachers complain that most nifty educational sites they learn about and want to use tend to be blocked by their school districts so they can't use them. 
(2) Many school districts tend to buy programs that create more work, not less work.
(3) Technology never consistently works when it's raining outside.
(4) And finally, anytime a teacher plans a whiz-bang, over-the-top lesson using technology, that technology will invariably fail, and, it is at that point, that the teacher desperately searches for that vanishing closet. 

Now, I suppose we could go to our low tech filing cabinet and pull out that Plan "B" lesson. But, oh wait, remember? We're three copies short, and Hedwig is still cooling her wings and waiting over there at Kinko's.

#2…PowerPoints are Dementors…
Nothing sucks the life out of teachers more than attending a professional development session where the presenter shows a PowerPoint, gives them a hand out of that very PowerPoint and then reads the entire PowerPoint to the group. Just like a dementor, it sucks all the happiness and life right out of you. Given the choice between sitting through such a "presentation" and going face-to-face with a dementor, all of us would rather take our chances with a dementor because at least there's the hope of a Patronus saving us.

And the Number 1 Dream Killer, the thing that sucks the life right out of teachers… drum roll pah-leese…

#1…Polyjuice Hocus Pocus Professional Development

Before school districts across the country open their doors to students, they first subject their teachers to professional development days, and you know from the intro to this blog and from my book, how I feel about that.

I always marvel how teachers from coast-to-coast are forced to attend meetings instead of working in their classrooms and getting ready for their students, or how they are subjected to speakers who try to sell them some alleged newfangled educational panacea that's sure to cure all the educational woes of the day. Sadly, most times these newfangled things are just the same old thing re-tooled, re-fashioned and re-named into something else.

It's all just…Polyjuice!  That's what it is.

Just like in Harry Potter where the Polyjuice potion temporarily allows the drinker of the potion to assume the form of another person, this educational Polyjuice allows these questionable theories to masquade as something new and successful.

Educational Polyjuice.

You might as well as hand out the snake oil.

No comments: