Not Less Weary

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Those of you who read this blog regularly know that this year has been particularly difficult in our school. The seeds had been planted for troubles and we were not disappointed; troubles we got.

We tried to overcome some of them by creating a committee, we got rid of a few students (which is not as easy in real life as it may look in writing) and we had a useless meeting with the chief school administrator. Finally last week one of his collaborators came to see how the school works and advise us on “how to do better with less”. I won’t go into this much as it was both frustrating and a total mockery of what our job is. To put it in a nutshell we were told that teaching is all about running a group and never about sharing knowledge. I ended up feeling even more disillusioned and helpless.

The last straw came on Friday evening. We had some friends over for Shabbat: the mother is a retired teacher and her daughter teaches French, History and Geography in a vocational school. Her school has an annual show run by the students with drama, songs and dances. It is a rather small school by French standards with only 300 students, a hundred of which are boarders. This year forty students were taking part but only six parents turned up, the audience consisted mainly of teachers and boarders.

Her story just made me sad about the society we have created. People who do not hesitate to call the school whenever we say something that their children do not like, people who often threaten and verbally abuse the teachers and administration but cannot drive a few kilometers when their kids are on stage.

I do no think that I can really analyze this incident but I know that I find it depressing. At a point in the school year when we are usually looking forward to the following year and trying to come up with wonderful ideas that we hope will inspire our students to learn more, I am not sure I even want to teach for the rest of my working life.

Latest Musings

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– I am very busy again. Our school is being audited this week and I have been asked to participate in two informal talks: one about the projects we have (because of the exchange we have had with a Swedish high school for 11 years) and one because I am on the school board.
Unfortunately two other meetings had been planned prior to the audit – a parents’ evening and a school board meeting. They have neither been cancelled not postponed, which means going back to the school every evening of the week, except Fridays.

– The parents’ evening was last night. I saw just over half of my students’ parents (only one class was concerned,) which is not too bad for a language teacher. French and maths teachers are the stars. Parents often seem surprised at hearing how accurate our perception of their children are. Do they think we only see the grades and not the personality behind the results?

My trainee will be unofficially inspected next Tuesday and I am beginning to feel the pressure too. The “real” thing will take place in May once she is supposed to have learned the trade.

– I ordered and received Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn by Ayala Fader. I hope to read it soon and write a review on this blog.

– How is your week?

Snow or Thoughts of a Ranting Teacher

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For the first time in years we got a lot (by our standards) of snow on Monday. Because of the weather and the road conditions all public transport was cancelled on Tuesday morning but the town buses were up and running at the beginning of the afternoon. However there were still no coaches for those who live outside the town this morning.

As a result very few students were present yesterday and this morning – less than a third at best, sometimes a little as 15%. The kids present were those who live in town, the boarders and a few from surrounding villages whose parents had driven them to school.

To my surprise, while talking with the head this morning, I realized that 50% of the students live in town. Which means that, with the boarders and those whose parents could transport them, I should have had about 60% of them in front of me.

This got me wondering about the students’ parents. Why don’t they send them to school while in my hometown everything is within reasonable walking distance? How can they expect so much from us (teachers) when they don’t even manage to kick their own children out of the home in the morning?

I suppose some students twist the truth and tell their parents that the teachers will be absent anyway or that there will be so few students that they won’t do any work. Nevertheless the parents choose to believe the kids rather than phone the school to check what is going on. All the teachers were present and we did work although I chose not to go on with what we were doing but did a review of 2008 instead.