There's Always a Flip-side

One thing we forget so often is that there's always a flip-side.   When you think one way, someone else thinks another.  Experience and culture play a significant role in how and what we believe.  We bring this with us, and it impacts us.  People that hunt have a very different feeling about guns than people that have had a family member that's been murdered by a gun.  

Keep the following in mind, as you read Ed Blog, pt. 24: 10 Things in 5 Days.  It will help you understand where I'm coming from, and goes in conjunction with How We Tackle the Problem: My brother and I have both been told we slam car doors.    

On separate occasions, in separate states, we've had multiple people complain about the way we exit a car.  Apparently, we 'slam' the door.  When we've stepped out of the car of an uber or friend, they give us a look like, What are you doing?  Our response: shutting your door. 

We grew up in the same house, with the same parents.  We were always told to make sure the car door was shut.  Nearly every time we got out of a car, we were asked this question.  It was a big deal.  If a door wasn't shut, the interior light would be left on and the car battery could die.  This could result in being late or missing an appointment.  Making sure a door was closed properly was much more important than leaving it slightly ajar; so, for us, it was better to close a door with a little extra force than it was to leave it open.  'Slamming' was much preferred to not closing the door properly.  Thus, through our reinforcement, we err on the side of 'too hard' because a 'soft' close could inconvenience someone. 

But even the terms 'slam' and 'soft' in this context needs definition.  I would define 'slam' as an intentional act that uses excessive, intentional force.  And I certainly don't to that.  I simply make sure the door is closed, which - apparently - others disagree with.  The 'culture' we grew up with goes directly against the culture of what other people grew up with, and there is the difference.  

This matters.

It also extends to every area of life and teaching.  The important thing is to have a dialogue about the issues at hand, and listen to people that think differently than you do.  If you don't, you judge them as insufficient, when really you are simply unaware. 

Why this matters is that things that are normal to you could be an inconvenience for others.  Things you naturally bring to the table, may be insulting others, and knowing this, and acknowledging this can save a lot of time and pain.  For instance:

  • Some people view sarcasm as a form of humor; others view it as a lie.
  • Some people say, "If you're on time, you're late"; others think being 10-minutes 'late' is on time.  
  • Some people think wearing a hat in a building is extremely disrespectful; others consider hats part of the outfit and fashion.  
  • Some people think saying what's on your mind is helpful and honest; others think it is blunt and disrespectful.  

Wherever you stand on any of these types of issues, you must remember that other people think differently because of their culture.  

Ways that this really effects someone, though, is when you don't have common terms and language, you can get into very unhelpful situations.  Two examples:

  1. One principal I had thought his job was to listen to any parent, any time.  This meant a parent could have a 'conflict' with a teacher; the parent could run from the teacher's room, and talk with the principal.  They could be angry and ranting, and do so to the person at the top of the power structure.  This helped no one.  Often, when a follow up meeting would occur, and the parent would calm down, the incident was past and a tiny misunderstanding was fixed and that was it.  The problem was that the principal then judged his teachers based upon the angry responses of parents.  His 'culture' told him you had to hear people out.  Mine said you don't speak in anger.  This led to a lot of problems that need never have happened.  
  2. I heard of a place that accepts students anytime.  So if they walk in, they can be enrolled.  One teacher signs up anyone for any place, at any time.  She does this because she thinks it is helpful.  One of her coworkers asks that any student going to the location and program he works at, be informed of the class time and place.  He prefers enrolling the students himself.  The coworker refuses to honor his request, and continues enrolling students.  She does this because she cannot turn people away.  The result, however, is that the other teacher doesn't get to know the student.  She judges him as unhelpful, never asking why he likes it that way.  He likes to enroll students himself, because when he does, he can get them set with everything they need, and show them the processes of class.  He finds this more helpful.  With no dialogue, people slip through the cracks.

These situations can be difficult, because they come with tension.  This tension, though, we must live with.  You don't have to agree with someone to respect the fact that they have an opinion.  We all do.  Just remember, there is always a flip-side.  


I've had the same conversation with two different people in two different schools districts in two different states.  They'd each been in their respective job/district for about 15-years.  What they said (paraphrased) was this: the old guys used to tell me, 'just wait, it'll all come around'.  And then I noticed that what I'm hearing now is about the same thing I heard my first year of teaching, just in a different package.  

What they meant, reduced down like a delicious sauce, is this: students need to learn the same things they've always needed to learn, but a lot of people get paid a lot of money to pretend this is not the case.  So old things are packaged in a new format, and the same dumb people buy in, thinking they're hearing something brilliant. 

Here are some 'new' things in education (with their old counterpart); google search them, if you do not know what they are:

  • Guided-highlighted reading (underlining what's important)
  • Cornell Notes (taking notes, wring definitions, and summarizing)
  • Sustained Silent Reading (reading silently, by yourself)
  • Differentiated Instruction (not teaching everything the same way) 
  • Think-Pair-Share (talking about something you learned)

What's hilarious is that many adults sit in meetings hearing these things thinking that the revolution is coming.  Really?  Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic are still very important and still make up the core of everything we learn.  What and how we read and write changes, and thinking is more important than ever.  People come along, trying to reinvent the wheel.  They give a new fancy buzzword to an old term.  Instead, we should focus on doing what works, well, and improving that thing. 


Rubrics are a great example of educational bullshit.  They have a value, no doubt, but that value is this: setting expectations for an assignment.  They give a shared language for talking about outcomes.  Many dumbasses think that this means they are fair, and that grading is fair, but they miss this important fact: rubrics are not impartial. 

When we pretend they are, we neglect the reason for needing them in the first place. We've all (probably) had it where we received a grade that was lower than what we expected.  When we inquired as to why, we were told we didn't meet the requirements. In our mind, we disagree.  While rubrics do give a shared language for this, a teacher that cannot communicate requirements clearly has some work to do.  

Proponents of rubrics as the ending point for equity miss the entire fucking point that a rubric is not impartial; it if filled out by a person that has just as much bias and agenda as someone that doesn't have a rubric.  Three of the least competent people I've met in education have said this exact phrase, "It's not me.  I just filled in the rubric."  

In some cases, a rubric becomes simply a legal way to fuck someone over.  

In my first year of teaching, I had a very advanced writing class.  I offered students the option of a rubric (impartial) or teacher based grading.  I warned, as I always do, that the rubric will be harder than I will be.  I'm a softy, so I err on generosity.  But I had rubrics at the ready, because, beyond a certain point, the debate of a grade is a stupid argument, and one I was unwilling to have.  If a student wanted, they could use the rubric.  The thing people forget is this: Teachers create the rubrics they use for a given assignment.  (If they don't - which is the case of the three Incompetents - the rubric is at best ineffective and worst unethical.)  This means they know the rubric when they grade.  A grade is often explained in the comments.  

The reason this is so is because they don't allow for trial and error.  I introduced the - and ( ) to the class, and one of the students really liked trying the use of ( )'s.  The thing he neglected was that (he used them for essential information).  Which made sentences read how I just wrote them.  This is errant use of the language, and could be considered at the bottom of the rubric's scale.  But if he tries and fails and then receives a failing grade, I essentially stifled his voice, which was the opposite of the class's intent.  Instead, I marked it a little bit down, encouraged his creativity, and taught the difference between essential and inessential information.  A win for both of us.  

When you're a teacher, you're making a judgement call anytime it comes to grades.  Unless the rubric is 'yes' or 'no', there is room for debate.  What's the difference between a 1 - 2 - or 3?  Depends on the teacher.  Some teacher's 3 is another teacher's 1.  It's all a judgement.  

So I'm not blaming rubrics.  I'm simply warning against anyone that suggests a rubric is impartial.  When we make this mistake, we can hurt people.  


Probably nowhere is the impartiality of a rubric quite as evident as when it comes to teacher evaluations.  Teacher evaluations are about as equitable as a Baptist Sermon - and probably just as dangerous.  A Baptist sermon promises hell, but at least provides a way to avoid it; in the teacher evaluation, it depends upon the 'preacher'.  

I would never have thought this to be the case - and it wasn't really until school districts went to the rubric - that two dumbasses could wreck a career.  But that's just what happened to me, and it's happened to several other people as well.  Incompetent administrators come in, trained on the rubric and use it gradeteachers.     

The problem is: An evaluation is only as good as the person doing the evaluation.  That is precisely why I spent so much time early in the series saying it starts at the top.  If you live in a bad school district - you have a shitty superintendent, shitty principals, and a shitty school board.  The people who will tell you different are probably the people in those positions of power.  

Good teaching does not look the same every day.  It does not use the same methods every day.  And there are days it will look boring.  A in-depth, very involved dive into law consists of some class periods of studying just the facts of what a law is.  Then you must learn the history and practice.  After you know these things, you can apply.  It will look different each day.  Some days, the teacher will have to give lectures, have students write notes, read or watch cases and examples, and do some role play.  The teacher - the same person doing all the instruction - would be evaluated differently for each part of the assignment, as based upon 'the rubric'.  They'd be considered minimally effective on the note-taking day, but highly effective when students are doing the entity of the interaction.  

Think on that.  It's fucked up.  What it means is that, depending upon the day the evaluator comes in to a class, an evaluation changes.  The rubric has no room for teaching.  One class, then, represents an entire school year.  Before the 'impartial evaluation', this wasn't the case. 

The most popular evaluative tool currently in use is The Danielson Model.  (  A lot of them are using it wrong.  With this rubric, I had four different people evaluate me.  Every one of them said this line, "I just fill in this rubric."  If, as a teacher, I said that same thing to a parent, the administrator would mark me down for doing so.  The first evaluator couldn't spell.  I had to help him actually fill the thing out.  That was fine.  He was also the only one that had a suggestion for how to 'improve'.  The second two principals - the two people that got me fired - had zero advice.  I asked each of them directly how I could improve.  The first one offered zero advice.  I asked him this question, "You marked me down.  How do you suggest I improve?" He had nothing.  I asked the second person the same question, and she said told me to talk to someone else.  

This is a major problem.  We're losing good teachers to incompetent administrators using a bad device to be impartial.  Charlotte Danielson realized teachers needed a better evaluative model.  The same people that were doing it badly for years now use her model badly.  Often, it's promoted through educational consultants.  

Educational Consultants - Day 5

Educational consultants are an extreme waste of money.  School districts spend a thousand dollars a day to bring in someone to tell what is wrong with a school, and do nothing to follow through.  They don't work for the same reason that child support doesn't make up for love and attention from a parent.  

Throwing money at a problem, without addressing the root need and cause does nothing to fix that problem.  In some ways, it makes it worse.  In the worst case of child support, a parent gives a lot of money to provide for their child(ren).  Through this act, the parent believes they are filling the needs of the child(ren).  What the child(ren) wants is love and attention, to matter, and  a positive presence in their life.  If someone doesn't get this, they won't be a good parent. 

This is exactly how it goes in a school.  When there is a deficiency, you cannot simply throw a lot of money at the problem.  If you do, the problem will not change and you'll simply have less money to fix the problem.  Rather, you must look at the cause of the problem, dissect the cause, and make a change from there.  

Ironically, a consultant often has almost the opposite incentives from the school district.  It's better for the consultant the more problems they find.  The more negative they are, the better for them, financially.  The more suggestions they have, the more money they make. 

This sucks.  

True change needs to come from competent people that care and can do something about it.  In almost any school, you'll find a group of people willing to do this for free.  They'll look into how to help, how to train, and how take an active role in doing os.  Why not use that?  

There is obviously a time to ask questions and seek advice, but if this comes through taxpayers dollars, and goes to someone that has an incentive to extend a problem rather than fix it, you've got a problem.  Using this person as a crutch is not the answer.  It's simply a bandaid.