“I am sorry to report to this board,” Bearings stated, “that the district’s curriculum has not yet been reviewed nor has it been redesigned. And it’s not for lack of effort either. Our entire department has been involved in this initiative.
“I mean, we met. We met a lot. We met hard. I can’t believe how hard we met. And we talked. I know I made some lucent points. Others did too. We talked long and we talked hard. Sometimes we pushed back and sometimes there was pushback on the pushback. We met and we talked and we talked and we met. We said a lot of words. And we listened to a lot of words too.
“And we took positions on the right side of things. We criticized those on the wrong side of things. We said things like ‘building capacity.’ We were intentional and we said that we were being intentionally intentional and we wrote on chart paper and we hung the chart paper up on the walls too. We all talked about ‘the work’ and about ‘moving the work forward.’ And we talked about ‘buy-in’ and ‘fidelity.”
“I can’t believe that nothing happened. We met and we met and we met. Sometimes we had food and sometimes we didn’t. But we always had coffee – well, most of the times we had coffee. But even when we were eating or drinking, we were meeting hard and talking hard. Some even kept notes. Some wrote really hard. Really, I mean, we are talking about some really hard work for this entire department. I don’t know what else we could have done.
“I do deeply regret not being able to report any real progress. But now I know what needs to be done: more meetings. We will call meetings and we will meet like no one has ever met before. We will meet so hard we’ll all be exhausted. No effort will be spared. We will give our all in every meeting. We’ll meet hard, we’ll talk hard, and we’ll write hard. We will approach every meeting like there is no tomorrow - even though we all know there is always another meeting tomorrow. We’ll be more intentional, we’ll build more capacity by asking for more buy-in, we’ll demand fidelity, we’ll focus on ‘the work’ with lucid intentionality, we’ll ‘move the work forward’ and we’ll try to find new meeting-talk lingo over which to perseverate. Then – in a couple of years, of course – we’ll share it all with you at some meeting.”
And that’s it this week from Fuddle River Schools.
"What is your reaction to the cooperative learning part of the course?" the question had asked.
"It is really bad," he had written, but not in those words. Instead, he had used that one verb that students use more and more to describe something they find distasteful, unfortunate, or undesirable.
"What is your reaction to the homework project part of the course?" the next question had asked.
"It is even worse," he had written, but - again - not in those words. Shawn's answers really irritated me. What little tolerance I once had possessed for that verb had completely evaporated. It was then that I decided that it was time to do something about that kind of language in school.
"Look," I told the entire class the next day, "the last thing I want to do is limit the free expression of your true feelings. But I want to give you a chance to express yourselves in more socially acceptable and appropriate ways. I know that those words are used regularly on television and in the movies. But, while you are in school, you must have a higher sensitivity to what is proper expression and what is not."
With the students' undivided attention, I wrote on the board all of the inappropriate expressions I had heard this year. Then I asked the students to brainstorm more acceptable and appropriate expressions to replace the others. They yelled out ideas with great enthusiasm, and soon a long list of expressions covered the boards on three sides of the classroom.
"Look," I said. "It's obvious there is no shortage of alternatives. I would like each of you, for the rest of the term, to try every day to replace otherwise inappropriate expressions with more appropriate ones."
And they did try. When Stacy Nguyen accidentally destroyed her map project, she yelled at the top of her lungs, "Oh, my goodness! I am so disappointed! How foolish of me!"
When I informed Tom Klametz that he would have to stay after school for detention, he exclaimed, "Holy, holy smokes! You have to be kidding! What a big, rotten bunch of baloney this is!"
After being caught copying another student's paper and receiving a failing grade on a quiz, Sheldon Finkle bit his lip and mumbled, "How unfortunate. How terribly, terribly unfortunate."
When working in a group not of her own choosing, Amy Hellbein proclaimed to the world, "I rue this activity!"
Countless other times I heard disappointment, pain, and frustration expressed as "Drat," "Shucks," and, "Oh, my stars!"
It was fun for a while, but the students eventually seemed to lose all interest in reforming their language. I was proud of the efforts I had made, but at the same time, I felt discouraged. Who was I to think I could compete with television, the movies, and the popular culture? It seemed that my efforts had failed.
At the end of the term I had the students again complete evaluations of the course. As before, Shawn carefully filled out his form and proudly presented it to me.
"The cooperative learning part of the course pulls about 2000 cubic feet per minute," he wrote, "But the homework part of the course easily pulls well in excess of 25,000 cubic feet per minute."
Sometimes you just have to take your victories where you find them.
Top Ten Signs Your Students Are Math Avoiders
10. They prefer to Google answers for their homework rather than to calculate them.
9. They always say “just a moment” – never “a minute,” never “a second.”
8. They bring brown bag lunches so they don’t have to deal with currency in the cafeteria.
7. Because percentages make them anxious, they insist that their papers have only letter grades.
6. When you described a faculty meeting as “protracted” they all broke out in a sweat because they thought you said “protractor.”
5. They believe that the factoring of polynomials should be done only in polynomial factories by trained professionals.
4. Because of the calculations related to train departures, speed, mileage, and arrival times, they vow never to visit New York or Los Angeles.
3. Whenever someone mentions anything related to “angles” they hijack the conversation to “ankles.”
2. The only units of measurement they use are “some,” “a few,” “a bunch,” “a mess,” and “a boatload.”
1. The only two geometric shapes they know are the “roundish thingy” and the “roundish thingy with corners.”