This post is, at best, a hash. It is a stew, a blend, a conglomeration of thoughts. It is not there has been nothing to blog about lately. Mercy me, there has been too much. Then again, I have been fighting an energy-draining cold all week while teaching more than 170 students each day in six classes of four different sections of Latin, maintaining video uploads for independent study students, giving midterm grades, attending a workshop on poverty, supervising the making of our Latin club's banner for homecoming tomorrow night, and finishing a 26,000+ word book for our son's twelfth birthday in November. But enough complaining.
I truly do not know what to make of the Chicago teachers' strike. I am not a part of our union and never have been. In any state where I have taught, I could never rationalize the high dues with mediocre to none-existent results by the union. In the state where we now live, this is even more the case as what few teeth the union had have been knocked out by repeated punches from our state legislature. I am also opposed to the idea of teacher unions in the first place. We are not pouring metal in the foundry here. There should not be a labor-management mentality in education. Bambi-esque, I know, but teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers, custodians, and bus drivers really should all be on the same side with the same basic goal.
That said, I wonder if the Chicago teachers have a point, at least when it comes to evaluation. I will never agree that an enterprise like teaching is capable of being analyzed the way chemicals are studied in the lab. This is a human endeavor, and there are simply too many factors to control to be able to say conclusively that X was the cause of Y. I am not naive here. I know that I have had a hand in the success of some of my students and that others probably did not grasp a particular point because I presented it poorly. That said, my absolute best students would likely have achieved their gold medals on the National Latin Exam had they had the Latin teacher from Dead Poets Society. Most of those who have failed, a small number in more than twenty years, did it to themselves by not studying. I am. Not sure the Chicago teachers do not have a point.
I find the whole anti-American brouhaha in the Middle East too wearisome for words. Nobody in his right mind sets things on fire and kills people for a stupid video. How much of a mindless sheep do you to be to let your strings get pulled like that by rabble-rousing leaders? Of course the video is offensive, but so is over half the crap coming out Hollywood with major corporate sponsors. I don't see Christians blowing stuff up because of The Simpsons. And why on earth would our embassy in Egypt release a craven, ass-kissing statement condemning an idiot with a video camera and iMovie more harshly than legitimately criminal activity? Why would our Secretary of State do the same? Ancient Rome also had political and business dealings with Egypt. Can you imagine for one second either Cato or Caesar, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, blaming the most hack poet for writing scurrilous verses about Isis if this had been the claimed reason for attacking a Roman outpost on the Nile?
I mentioned earlier that I attended a workshop on reaching students from poverty. I had hoped to learn specific tips or strategies. Sadly, this was not the case. Oh, it was not the worst workshop I have ever attended, although I could count on one finger the number of truly useful educational workshops I have been in. It was just the typical vague sort of thing advocating for building relationships with students, something a good teacher would do with any student, and silly slogans on silly posters. My favorite was, "If the bum is numb, the brain is the same." This was to promote physical movement in the class. There was more of the false idea that teachers are more significant than parents in the lives of children. This was stated explicitly. I stayed through the end, although I was tempted to leave and return to my classroom (the workshop was held at my school). I am always happier with my students, engaging deep matters in meaninful way while having the kind of fun that can only be had with teenagers.
As I said, this post is mishmash of things that do not necessarily connect one with another. If you find a sentence or a paragraph sparking a thought, please share in the combox.