Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Kill Your Teaching Career

We want our kids to learn the basics of English- spelling, grammar, punctuation – all that “boring” stuff.  All the more better if the teacher comes up with an interesting way to involve those lessons, more than a worksheet with “circle the noun, underline the verbs” instructions, the way I learned it way back in the ink-smelling copies and pencil days of school.  And for an English class, you’d think there would be a lot of options, whether an essay about a book that the class is reading or a creative writing topic. What you don’t expect is for your kid to be doing their homework and ask “mom, what do you think I could get a hold of easier, a machete or a gun?”

Recently, a middle school teacher in my county actually assigned kids the homework of writing an essay on how they would kill their teacher. Right. I thought the same thing, too. My high schooler was doing a project on dangerous chemicals, so I thought, maybe this was a similar project, although, much more sinister, to say the least. Nope. It was English class, the teacher wanted the kids to practice gerunds and infinitives and such.

I won’t belabor the point of how utterly ridiculous this idea was as a student assignment, especially given the concerns about school shootings, efforts to reduce school violence, and concerns particularly about children and violence, at a minimum. Though I do wonder, how was she going to grade these papers? Would she evaluate whether the proposed plan actually would kill her, earning the kid an “A,” or just merely maim her, in which the kid would fail.  And what if the kids went the extra step and made this into a “show & tell” project, would they earn extra credit?

As a parent, and former teacher, I can’t even imagine how the teacher – an ENGLISH teacher – thought, “hmmm, this is the best idea I can think of to teach grammar.”  One conclusion is that she really doesn’t want to teach anymore and couldn’t think of a way to write her resignation letter, so she thought she’d let the kids do it for her.

For other teachers, who are planning what tonight’s homework assignment will be, here’s a few questions to consider.  I’m not an educator anymore, but I’m still a parent. And if you answer “no” to any of these questions, you might want to rethink the assignment or you may just see a parent like me waiting for you in the Principal’s office.
  • Will this be a proud moment for me on the 11 o’clock news?
  • Will I be pleased to see parents for conferences?
  • Will this be a shining example of my work for my teaching portfolio?
  • Would I want my own kids doing this as an assignment?
  • Will any of my fellow colleagues agree that this is a good idea?
  • Does this instill any of the school values for academic learning and social development?
  • Do I really want that parent showing up at the school over this?

And if the best you can think of is writing about how to kill anybody, just go back to the "underline the noun, circle the verb" ink-smelling handouts.

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