Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A new academic year

This week means back to school for most educators around the nation. It's not, however, back to school for the students of those educators. No, they will arrive next week, after their teachers have spent an entire week getting ready for them. Theoretically, this week is supposed to be a time whereby we in the profession re-acclimate to the pedagogical halls that have laid dormant all summer, learn the latest and greatest educational acronym emerging from the vapid halls of academia, and most importantly, meet and greet all the new incoming teachers to the campus. In practice, only the last one comes close to being a reality.

If you ask anyone in the education profession about required in-service, you're likely to get a grotesque look accompanied by a sound not unlike a dying man being forced to eat rotten meat while lying on a bed of nails in a dust storm while John Tesh plays in the background on an out of tune piano in 100 degree heat. It has been said, or at least written, that the only difference between death and in-service is the act of breathing, which means there is some dead guy some where still exchanging oxygen. In fact, there is so much pseudo-sensational, platitudinous inertia surrounding the start (and end) to any given school year that I would be willing to teach year-round just to circumvent the red-tape cutting, hoop-jumping histrionics.

It is times like this that I realize that public education is run as a business, albeit one with reactionary qualities, rather than a vocation, much less a profession. I know that the administrators on the local level are merely acting upon the trickle-down mandates of the highest, out-of-the-loop legislators in the land. We are required to teach x number of days, are required to get y hours of professional development each year, and must sit on our rears listening to highly-paid preachers of common sense and endure absurd team-building activities for z hours each year. I imagine there is a real sense of panic among administrators in the days and/or hours leading up to the return of the teachers as to how to spend the required time in such a way as to minimize any damage and depletion to the energy and enthusiasm we teachers regenerate over the summer break.

As a professional, I realize that meaningless, valueless in-service is just the price we pay for having time off during the summer, and it's one I'm willing to pay. Also, as a professional, I try as hard as my impatient mind will allow to squeeze as much juice from the presented pulp without giving the impression of being disinterested, much less disruptive (although I am in the minority on this.) For instance, when stumped on a nine-letter hyphenated word for drudgery in the crossword I am covertly working, I try not to make a scene when asking my neighbor for advice, opting instead to gently and quietly wake him, then whispering the clue to him. Nor do I shout out loud in acknowledgment when he whispers the words "in-service" to me. In other words, I refrain from the obstreperous, impatient, disrespectful behavior I disdain in my own students, but then again, I know that as their teacher, I thwart that disruptive, deviant behavior by delivering invigorating, enthusiastic, meaningful presentations laced with humor, wit, and cunning.

I know that if I can survive this week, I can survive another academic year with 250 adolescents . . and their parents.


Anonymous said...

Have a great year. I hope all the drama I keep reading about doesn't reach down onto the classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I hope we all have a great year. How's retirement bob s????

Dmac said...

Hey now- my teachers were enveloped, engrossed and entertained and inspired. Even though the pyrotechnics weren't synchronized with my data presentation, I still got an encore. Life is good in AH.


Anonymous said...

Wow, everyone is checking in today.
Hi dmac -- it's good to see you on the comment board.

Where are you now? Principal?

I'm loving SCUCISD.

Anonymous said...


Found it -- Congratulations!!!!!

kwkorpi said...

Congrats Dmac on your new leadership position. Someday we'll all be fortunate enough to work for you.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that!!!