In some ways, the Thanksgiving Break is a vile tempter (I’d say the usual “vile temptress”, but that phrase has always struck me as sexist in the same way that women can be called “bitches” and men don’t really have a identical word to be dropped on them).
I’m sorry, where was I…oh yeah, Thanksgiving Break can be a vile tempter-person. It is a highly anticipated break, especially in public school, but it’s so darn short. Or maybe when you’re conditioned to teaching summer and winter vacation, it seems like a piddly excuse for a respite.
Faithful readers of Burque Babble, all 20 of them, have probably noticed an even higher level of acerbity in recent postings. I’ll admit It’s been a bit of a tough haul these last few weeks heading up to Break. And, as usual, solving the ever-changing puzzle of how to best motivate and inspire schoolchildren has been a two-hour therapeutic massage compared to wrestling the broken puzzle that is Albuquerque Public Schools, K-12 education “policy” and the adult human population in general.
So when I read stories like the one in the Tribune yesterday (I’m guessing it was yesterday as see it online this morning) about teacher in-services, my acerbity-meter goes to eleven, at least on this first morning of break. I mentioned yesterday that APS seems to be in the news, almost always for the wrong reasons, enough to put out a daily newspaper entitled APS Sucks Post-Gazette. Perhaps the Tribune should be purchased just for this purpose.
Anyway, this story about in-services is maddening in that way news stories about your profession often are. It starts off with the fine premise that in-services are a complete waste of time. If one polled teachers throughout APS a strong super-majority would be in agreement. So I’m expecting a story with specifics about what a waste of time they are.
Then the story switches gears with this “graf”:
An evaluation summary released this month for the September in-service day showed an 86.4 percent endorsement of the “usefulness” of the course material.
As the famous book title says there are “lies, damn lies, and statistics”, but you’ve have to go way past “damn lies” to capture the uselessness of the 86.4 percent number above. This number doubtlessly comes from these little quickie eval forms that presenters pass out at the end of their in-service spiels. I’m here to tell you they are statistically worthless (unless your job is to defend your existence via useless evaluation forms).
There are two main reasons for this:
- Teachers are far too nice on these forms because they, too, are professional presenters and feel empathy for a in-service presentation regardless of how useless it is.
- Teachers know these evaluation forms mean nothing, that in-services will continue to be worthless as they have been from the beginning of time, and instead of ruffling feathers why don’t I just circle a few Likert Scale 5s for “outstanding” and get the Hell out of this education-forsaken room and have a two-hour lunch?
I’d like to conduct my own survey for teachers. It would have one question on it. That question would be:
“Do you prefer an in-service day or a day teaching students?”
Even in my presently still-acerbic state it would be highly pleasurable to see the results of such a survey question posted along with a newspaper story entitled “Albuquerque Public Schools Teachers Ponder Worth of In-Service Days”. In fact, I think I’ll start my Thanksgiving Break winding down from the intensity of the past few weeks by daydreamingly contemplating the publication of such a survey.
I could then dreamily envision a special meeting in which the survey findings result in the decision to cancel all future in-services and burn all the Likert Scale evaluation forms in a ritualistic ceremony at APS Central Office. Then the fire from this huge bonfire of wasted paper would get out of control and start to engulf APS Central Office itself. Firefighters would try, but be unsuccessful as the APS towers burn to the ground, orange flames visible throughout the overly-gigantic district as ever-larger numbers of on-lookers rejoice and perform primordial dances of ecstasy.
Like I said, I think I need a longer break.