Friday, September 07, 2007


A couple of weeks ago I was speaking with a neighbor whose wife is a teacher. We were talking about how much earlier kids go back to school around here then when we were young (about 150 years ago, I suppose). Anyway, he said his wife's chief complaint besides losing some days of summer were the stupid teacher "meetings" held for several days before the start of the school year. She found them to be an incredible waste of time and money. Below you'll find an essay of sorts by someone who agrees.

Anyway, as you are reading the post think about all the school programs that are underfunded.

Think about how all the hardworking teachers must feel when they listen to the complaints of other hardworking people about how their money is flushed down an endless drain called the education system. Those teachers, who work hard, on the front lines so to speak, they know they ain't getting that money and they know they ain't wasting that money and yet the bullseye is too often painted on them.

And then dear friends think about your own job. Chances are wherever you work and whatever you do someone upstairs is making some real absurd decisions and they are wasting your time and money and everyone else's time and money (and depending on your job probably the famous tax payers money as well). And you, like the teachers, know it isn't you getting the bucks and it isn't you making the decisions, but it is likely you who will pay the price one way or another.

And then wonder why the party that represents best the interests of those people wasting the money (stealing? the money) gets away with being seen as those who are out to defend the simple tax paying American from the "tax and spend" liberals.

What a joke.

How do THEY get away with it. Why do WE let THEM get away with it.

Would that other party which claims to represent working men and women be any better? Do you remember it being any different?

I don't.

And we wonder why so many people refuse to pay attention anymore.

And then there is US. We're so busy speaking to each other (singing to the choir, as they say) that we can't seem to touch base with the bulk of the folks out there. Duh! Their issues are too mundane for us. We've bigger things on our minds.

Now, I'm not here to knock the bigger things WE have on OUR minds, but I'm here to try to remind that we'll never, ever (and haven't ever) get the bigger things dealt with if we don't even understand the little issues that dog people every damn day.

Anyway, somehow I've gotten way off base and I'm not sure I'm even making any sense.

Some of you may have noticed that for the past little while the Oread Daily has been including one article every day that deals with real life issues facing real people. I'm trying to do something a little different than the usual leftist spiel. Can't be sure that it matters. Can be sure that it is difficult even to dig up some of these and then to write coherently about them, but it has been fun.

And today, I've gotten away with it by just ranting on semi-incoherently for a while.

The following is from a site appropriately named the Mad as Hell Club.

Welcome Back, We’re Going to Bore You Now
By Dennis Danziger

After 66 uninterrupted days of vacation, I felt energized, joyful, and almost ready to return to work.

So the Sunday night before my first day back, I set the alarm for 6:30 AM, done more out of ritual than necessity. I fear over sleeping. It’s one of the things you can’t do as a teacher - show up late. Which is why I woke Monday at 4:12 A.M. and again at 5:17, turned off the alarm at 5:38, showered, walked the dog in the dark and arrived at school at 6:54.

At 7:50, after perusing a summer’s worth of accumulated school mail, I enjoyed our welcome back continental breakfast which was composed mainly of sugar, white flour, starch, fructose, caffeine, a wide variety of artificial sweeteners, some fresh fruit, cream cheese, and diet sodas, you know, brain food. Then the 100 of us teachers were steered into the un-air-conditioned auditorium and following a brief ice breaker, we sat through three days (18 hours) of speeches and meetings designed to…well, what?

I looked around the auditorium. Teachers were spread out. Back walls were favorite spots. The most gung-ho, “I wish school was year round” types sat up close, near the mic, and tried to hang in and pay attention, but the heat and the never-ending speeches were wearing them down.

Fourteen years ago in a teacher training class I was taught that the human brain shuts down, what was it, after 12 minutes of listening to one voice speaking? Avoid lecturing all period, the master teachers preached. Use graphics, visuals, audio. Break off into small groups, role play, draw, experiment, meditate. Whatever you do, don’t lecture, lecture, lecture.

So we teachers sat and ignored the lecturers who droned on about earthquake drills, lockdowns, parking privileges, attendance procedures, photocopying procedures, library procedures. We half heard presentations on how to work the new telephones and the computer system, how to initiate student suspensions, how to order supplies, how and when to check out textbooks, where to park during construction, and dozens of other things, most of which I’ve heard every August for years and years.

Those who had come to school unprepared (no reading material or crossword puzzles) shuffled from the auditorium to the bathroom, to the Main Office, to the copy machine, to their classrooms, to Starbucks, to the benches outside the auditorium to talk with colleagues or to answer cell phones or to let out primal screams.

One of the best teachers on faculty, who is a staunch backer of the almost everything our administration does, nodded toward the guy doing the power point presentation and said, “This is like trying to learn to drive a car by watching someone drive a car. These are teachers, you’d think they’d pick up on the fact that almost everyone stopped listening hours ago.”

But the presenters kept on presenting. I took out a calculator and multiplied:

$50 (approximate teacher hourly pay)
x 6 hours (our work day)
x 100 (approximate number of teachers gathered) which came to
$30,000 (per day)
x 3 (Professional Development Days)

= $90,000 of taxpayer money spent on teachers like me working crossword puzzles on company time.

And we’re only one school. Multiple this waste (and I’ve taught at other schools who welcome back teachers with the same sort of soul destroying activities as these) by the over 600 schools in our district and we’re beginning to talk about throwing some serious money down the drain.

Ninety minutes into Day Two, a colleague nudged me and said, “We should break off in groups, grab a new teacher and take her out for coffee and just sit and talk and get to know her. Make her feel she has some fellow teachers she can come to for help. That would be better than this.”

“That would be constructive,” I said.

“And what would be wrong with that?” she asked.

“Well this is clearly what the administration wants. To numb us out. To bore us to death. To make sure we know that they’re in charge and they can do anything they want to with us. And that they’ve got the money to do it.”

“But this is all so boring and humiliating,” my colleague said.

”Yep,” I said. “And I think that’s exactly the point.”

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