Operationalized pedagogical equitability

I’ve talked several times lately about how I’m making a concerted effort to recommit to teaching as a profession I’m going to retire from and increase my profile as a leader in my building. To that end, and among other things, I’ve joined a committee that is going to require some extra work of me throughout the school year– and, amazingly, is actually stipended– and I have a two-hour meeting fifteen minutes from now that’s going to be the first real meeting of that committee. We had a launch event of sorts a couple of weeks ago but that wasn’t much of anything; I’m actually having to do some preparation for this one.

And, Christ, the first meeting hasn’t even started yet and I’m already exhausted. There’s a certain way of talking about teaching that is so infected with bullshit corporate speak that it’s barely comprehensible, and these documents they’ve shared with us for our perusal are so thick with it that I want to wash my hands. Tons of nouns being turned into verbs, unnecessary adverbs, piles and piles of acronyms and simple things being saddled with unnecessarily complicated names, and lots of taking words and phrases and arranging them into shapes that don’t actually carry any useful meaning or promote any particular kind of understanding. Linguistic cruft. I’d copy and paste some examples but I’m pretty sure it’d end up getting me in trouble.

Like, there is absolutely a way to improve failing buildings. Every school can improve. But creating a 26-page report that no one is going to read and which is so overwritten as to be incomprehensible is not one of the ways you do that.

(They’re still not gonna close the honors academy, by the way, and that school is noticeably absent from this process for some reason. This means that the single best method of improving the scores of all our middle schools, simultaneously is off the table before we even begin. And when it gets right down to it, this is about test scores, not learning, and they aren’t the same thing.)

I have faith that once we’re past this initial phase and actually talking about our building we’ll be able to make strides toward accomplishing things; don’t get me wrong. I’m just made extremely tired by the way we’re getting into the process.

No, not that way

I ended up accepting $50 from my brother yesterday, enough to pay for a tank of gas and my tolls for the trip, and he bought lunch. When I checked the votes upon arriving at his place yesterday they were pretty overwhelmingly in favor of not charging him, and I apparently phrased the entire thing as more of a fraught decision than it actually was, although I did manage to get him to admit that he didn’t actually expect me to jump at the offer the way I did. I figure we both came out fine; the drive to northern Illinois (what we used to refer to as “north Northytown” when I lived in Actual Chicago all those years ago) is not exciting, but it was definitely nice to get out of the house and it was a fine day to take a long drive one way or another. So all good regardless.

I also got to find out my new nephew’s name, which was surprising but acceptable, which is a nice combination. He’s due in about a month. I’m not sure when we’ll actually get to see the little bugger (although my wife gets her first shot on Tuesday and I get my second one on Thursday, so by the time he’s here we should both be good(*)) but I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough.


I had been tentatively planning on returning to in-person teaching after Spring Break, which is in two weeks. It was “tentative” because me returning means my son also needs to return to in-person instruction at his school, and that’s not a decision I can just cavalierly make on my own, obviously. A week or two ago we got notification from the district that any teachers who were working exclusively from home, all of whom had to provide a doctors’ note to achieve said status, would have to provide a second doctor’s note releasing us to return to work before we’d be allowed back in the buildings.

Okay, cool. Kind of an annoying hoop to have to jump through but my doctor didn’t throw up any roadblocks about the first letter so there’s no reason she’s going to get stubborn about the second one. I mentally filed it away on my List of Adulting To Accomplish and decided to ignore it for the time being.

Then, on Friday, at 4:30– so after everybody would have left the buildings and gone home for the day– we all got a letter from the district informing us that everyone was being “recalled to campuses” after Spring Break, no mention of doctors’ notes made. There was a snotty addendum that if your doctor still doesn’t think you should be on campus to contact Human Resources, but no mention of what had been described to us as a requirement just a couple of weeks before.

And, like, it’s okay to be pissed about this, right? I mean, I was gonna go back that day anyway, but it’s both deeply annoying and entirely in line with the typical way this district operates that we were first told we had to have our doctors clear us to return into a viral hot zone and then in less than two weeks that requirement was summarily tossed out in favor of an affirmative requirement that we return to school. This after not remotely enough time to collect any data about how things are going in the small handful of buildings that are piloting the four-day returns in the first place.

So, which is it? Did the lawyers decide the district didn’t need their butts covered after all? Was the initial requirement just HR deciding to create a minor pain-in-the-ass task for those of us planning to return just because they could? How much fight is the district planning on putting up when teachers who were allowed to stay home when there were fewer students in-building to be exposed to balk at returning with twice as many students in place?

Has anybody thought about any of this? At all? Bueller?

I don’t understand how we’ve cycled through multiple superintendents, multiple HR directors, multiple School Boards, multiple everything in the time I’ve been working for this district and this pervasive sense of poorly-communicated halfassedness continues no matter what else changes.

But yeah. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks regardless. So will my son, I guess.

(*) I am still unclear as to whether the shots confer any degree of noncontagiousness or simply that they keep the effects of the disease from being that big of a deal if it’s contracted. I know to keep wearing masks and such, and that’s not a problem, but I need to look into whether we’re safe to be around a newborn even if all the adults, at least, are properly vaccinated, and I bet there’s not a ton of data available about that. So it could be a while before we see him in any way other than over Zoom, and I’m not about to try and talk the parents into anything they’re not 100% comfortable with.

I hate daylight savings time

I beat Spider-Man: Miles Morales this evening, finally, and I think I’m going to count that as everything I needed to achieve today, because I am done, otherwise.

IRATE SHITPOST

Was this image specifically engineered to make me insane? Is this what we’re fucking doing now?

SIN NUMBER ONE: This is a seriously fucking milquetoast quote and it doesn’t need to be framed as a quote in the first place. It’s not bad as a sentiment! Throw it on the rainbow background and call it good!

SIN NUMBER TWO: If you’re going to phrase something as a fucking quote than take the ten seconds it takes to Google it and figure out who the shit said the damn thing in the first place. Don’t ever fucking put “unknown” as the source for a quote. It makes you look like an asshole. And if you’re going to insist on putting “unknown” as the source for your fucking quote…

SIN NUMBER THREE: fucking spell “unknown” right.

Christ.

Venting; ignore

My students have broken me already, and it’s only Tuesday. I try to be Mr. Positivity over on TikTok, and I’m also trying my damnedest to be as realistic as possible about what’s going on in my students’ lives. I put up a video the other day that basically boiled down to some of you are going to have to accept that your students have more important things to worry about in their lives right now than school, and you need to stop taking their grades personally. They’re not failing because they hate you.

And … like, I still think that’s true, or I wouldn’t have said it? But fucking hell, children. I have 143 kids and less than 30 did today’s assignment. About 35 have done yesterday’s. And that includes a handful of kids who faithfully do every single assignment

… within a minute of me posting it …

… by putting in completely random numbers for every single question. Every day.

Why the fuck are you bothering.

I just posted this to my Google Classroom announcements:

The thing is, while I can not let myself be this way while dealing with specific kids, the simple fact is that a number of my students aren’t struggling with the pandemic, they’re living their ideal fucking lives and playing video games all fucking day. They could do the work, they just don’t want to, and no fucker in their house is about to make them because their parents are lazy dumbshits too. And while I struggle with this part of myself every single day, there is very much a part of me that is absolutely fine with these kids deciding they’ve had enough education halfway through seventh grade (because that’s where they were when we went into quarantine) because, fuck it, life’s gonna catch up with them eventually, and we’ll see what they can do to feed their damn selves when they’re adults who can’t Goddamned read.

I had a kid today who did her assignment and got a 0/10 on it (important: I use Google Forms a lot, so the assignments get graded automatically) and immediately asked me if I could reset it so she could try again. I looked at it and discovered that she had the right basic idea but had forgotten to reduce all of her fractions– so, in other words, she’d put 25/100 but I wanted to see 1/4, for example. So I coached her through how to do that (she, an 8th grader, didn’t remember how) and she redid it. I told her to share her screen with me before submitting it so I could check it over again, and she’d gotten, like, three of them wrong. So I coached her through those, showing her how to do them right–

–and then she hit submit and turned the assignment in without changing any of the wrong answers. And, like, why did I just waste that time, then, if you weren’t going to bother taking the four seconds you needed to adjust those answers? And she signed out immediately afterwards, so she knew exactly what she was doing and knew I was going to say something about it if she’d stayed in the Meet.

Multiply that interaction by fifty or so and you have my last couple of days. I am right fucking there. I am in front of a computer fucking up my eyes and my back eight fucking hours a day so that I can answer questions and help kids and I will have kids who were present for instruction put in randomly chosen numbers and turn in their assignments. Yesterday we were doing something that I knew was tricky and so I actually did the first two questions on the assignment– an assignment that only had five questions to begin with. I pointed that out. I said “I am doing the first two for you, so you should get these right,” and then recorded myself saying that to them, along with the right answers. And I had kids who were in that Meet while I was doing that get the first two questions wrong.

I just …

Fuck.