Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Dog And Pony Show

I started writing this post a week ago. I read this story in Newsday today and finally feel ready to post it. Maybe it will help others who have to go through it.

I wrote the following paragraph way before I knew the Quality Review was going to visit my room. I still stand by everything I wrote.

Every day, I go into my classroom planning on doing the best job I can to help my students master the material and succeed. I have no idea what Bloom's taxonomy is and I have no interest in learning. I don't like group work. I find that it does not work very well. I went to college and have thirty years experience so in my classroom I am the center of the universe, I am the queen. When the Quality Review team arrives, I will do nothing different. I'll do whatever needs to be done to get the job done. If they don't like it, tough. The school's rating will be high or low, based on lots of things, not just my crappy attitude towards them.

I never expected the Quality Review people to come to my room. Some people were told they were going to be visited. I never received any kind of notice. Suit always kept them far away from me.

Everyone who knows me, knows I hate to be observed. I know that nothing anyone says matters for much, but I have a fragile ego and hate criticism.

At the Coffee House last week, I told Hula that I am not that good and asked him to keep the Brits away from me. ( I suspect he brought them on purpose.)

Thursday was supposed to be their last day with us. I was sure I was spared for another year.

About 20 minutes into third period class, Mr. AP came to my class and yelled "THE BRITS ARE COMING, THE BRITS ARE COMING.' (He wanted to give me some warning.) I showed him my flash drive which contains all my data.

I told him that I was prepared to tell them they could shove it [in a computer] if they needed to see my data. He looked horrified until I told him I was only kidding. (He always asks me to leave the office when anyone important comes in. He knows I have no verbal filter and even I do not trust what comes out of my mouth.) I quickly locked my door to prevent anyone from walking in without my knowledge and went back to my class.

I told the kids we might be getting observed. We joked about standing up and singing this should anyone pay us a surprise visit. I told them that I didn't care about me (which is true) but I wanted us to get a good rating because we have a new Principal who they all like. They were not fazed. To them, it was business as usual. All they cared about was preparing for a test on the following Monday.

Well, no one showed up period 3 and I breathed a sigh of relief. My period 4 came in and I told them the same story. We did a bunch of problems and again, I forgot about the possible visit. One girl took the pass to go to the bathroom. She walked back a few minutes later and yelled "One if by land, one if by land. The Brits have arrived." I continued what I was doing, the only change being a worksheet I hastily copied in the morning was distributed.

I looked out and saw Hula and two guys in suits. I looked away and kept teaching. I was hoping that if I ignored them long enough they would leave. I looked up again and they were still there. I went to the door. They asked permission to enter. I said, "I guess I can't say no, come in." Hula then did something I never saw an administrator do, he introduced the guys with him to the class. (I once got a principal to stop bringing people to my class by forcing her to introduce everyone who walked in the door with her.)

I wish I did not care what anyone thought about me. Whether anyone thinks I am good or bad has no affect on my life. I can be U-rated for the next three years and I will still be able to collect a paycheck and go on. I wish I had confidence in what I do, but I don't. I'm not any more than adequate at what I do. I'm so jealous of other teachers that just know they are good. I'm jealous of the ones that are not good but have confidence and think they are. I was totally stressed.

I announced that we were just going over problems for the test on Monday. I had no idea they were coming and had no special work planned. I did not even have a lesson plan, just a bunch of problems to go over. There was no aim on the board and no objectives written down. My room was not decorated. The bulletin boards are either empty or covered with ancient notices and half-ripped posters from the year 1965. My kids don't sit in a horse shoe or groups of four. I don't even use pairs. My room is chaotic. I like the kids to be comfortable and there are chairs all over the place. The only technology I use is a piece of white chalk on a green board. Sometimes I forget the eraser and use my hand to clean the board.

I know I made some stupid comments and jokes. I do that when I am nervous. I told the class we would not have time to do all the problems on the sheet and then I told them that #5 might be a good one to start with. I let them work for a few minutes and then sent someone to the board to do it. The problem involved a U-substitution for a function involving "e" and trigonometry. I reminded that "e" was the original superhero (you can differentiate it or integrate it and it will still be e). One of the Brits was impressed. He said he forgot, or never knew that stuff. I then thought about how funny it would be if I totally made up stuff as we went along. The write up would be hysterical. (I didn't do that but the thought of doing it helped me relax.) We went on to another problem, discussed different techniques. After about 20 minutes [it seemed like hours] they left. One of the Brits even told me I did a good job as he left. I found that hard to believe.

My day after that was shot. I spent the next two periods roaming the halls, de-stressing. I visited two of my geometry kids in the resource room. I de-stressed there by making a kid believe she failed yesterday's test and then I handed her a test with a 97 on it. As she hugged me, she told me I was mean! That made me feel a little better so I roamed some more and found more students to harass. I brow beat three of them into showing up for tutoring.

While roaming the halls, I ran into Mr. AP. He had just left the final debriefing. You better make sure you are sitting down before you read the next sentence--he hugged me and said "I shouldn't be telling you this but they said they observed 15 lessons and 3 were outstanding. Yours was one of them." I bet he heard wrong. They must have seen some pretty crappy lessons if they thought mine was good. Or maybe their standards are lower that the standards of NYS. Maybe being able to hear a pin drop is not all he cracks it up to be. Hula walked into my eight period geometry class while I was frantically looking for an exam to give a kid. I had papers all over the class and was a total disaster. I said "Please don't stay, once a day is more than enough." He just laughed and said he came to say I did great. I think he was just being nice.

I was just reliving the observation with a friend, trying to figure out what was good about the lesson. I want to know what I did that was good, so I can repeat it. I know what I did worked for the kids and if it worked for the Suits as well, I might have hit on something. And suddenly my friend said, "You taught." I taught the class as I have been teaching every class since I first started teaching a zillion years ago. And, these guys liked it. Maybe old folks like me still have some mileage left before we hit that retirement home.

Anyways, everyone knows this stuff is all BS. These guys saw me the way I am every day. I wonder how many other teachers were exactly the same? Besides, what does what they think really mean? Are they really qualified to judge the school? They are not worth the $$$$ they cost.

I know I am rambling in this post. One of the reasons I keep on hitting save instead of publish is because it is so disconnected. Unfortunately, I am pretty disconnected too, most of the time, so maybe this post is the real me.

Well, our school is well developed. I hope I helped get that rating. At least I know I didn't do anything to screw it up. I've never been considered well developed before. I think I will go out and buy a new bra!
I had to take the family out for dinner after all this. We finally used the Grand Lux gift certificate.

My tofu salad.

My good friend, Sam Adams.

I brought the kids cookies this week to thank them for being so cooperative when the Hula and the Brits were in the room. I wanted them to know how much I appreciated their help.


Miss Eyre said...

I really enjoyed reading your post on this. I don't know what to think about QR. On the whole I don't trust it. I feel like they fixate on whatever the year's fad is and if you're not on it, it doesn't matter what else you do well. This year's was clearly "goals." My own personal experience with the QR team was fine but it was a harrowing experience for our school.

My kids also know how to play along when we have visitors. I value their cooperation a great deal!

Anonymous said...


I love your posts.

I've been teaching math for 14 years after having been a computer programmer for 7. I never change anything when I'm observed.

Last week, I was observed by a parent who represents a committee that is protesting our math curriculum, a representative from the textbook company, and a school board candidate, all on the same day. I decided not to change a thing.

I figure that if you don't always know you're doing a job, you must be doing a good job. You're paying attention to the kids instead of to yourself.


Rachel Grynberg said...

I'm sure you are an excellent teacher. What the Brits look for is an engaged group of students. Your kids were engaged. Fortunately, they knew that was what really mattered.

I know good teachers when I hear/read them. I also know adequate teachers as I go to those meetings. You're not adequate. Anyone who browbeats students into tutoring and likes to be known as mean is way too professional for the "Dinners for Adequates" which consist of take out from the local average Chinese restaurant. I always get the dumplings even though they are never very good...

I love Sam Adams, although I think they are the wrong beer to be the official sponsor of The NY Yankees.

Bernie just came in to talk about breakfast so I better get out the food for the furry fellows.

I'm glad you got some of the complements you deserve. Good things do happen sometimes.

Pissedoffteacher said...

Thanks Floraine--now to convince myself.

Jim--even after teaching over 30 years, I don't have your confidence. I don't think I ever will. I envy you.

Three observations in one day, I would have freaked!

Anonymous said...

This post was very refreshing and reassuring. I'm in my first year of teaching (second career), and after talking to many experienced teachers, I find that many whom I consider excellent teachers don't feel like they're up to par. Although I hope, someday, to have a good amount of self-confidence that I'm doing a good job, maybe it's all part of what good teachers are. That way, they're always on the lookout for improvement.
Thanks for the post.

Highly Effective King Clovis said...

The Brit came by last week and was disgusted with the SS dept. He didn't see my class so I can't say anything. But if he did come in, I wouldn't have done anything different. I have a personal belief that the way I teach is beneficial to my students, and if they don't like it, then I don't want to be involved in a business with people who dictate how you exactly teach.

You sound like a much better teacher than you give yourself credit for. Maybe that's your edge.

Rachel Grynberg said...

The thing is to always know why you are doing what you are doing. Then you can't fail.

Grammatically Delicious Designs said...

Just read this post. Had to because of the title. This one made me realize how much we have in common. Real teaching does not happen a lot anymore. Most people follow a script by some company to assure themselves they are doing it 'right.' Right is when the kids understand and can use the lessons we teach. I wish people would get that.

Have a great weekend. I have the day off.