04 June 2012

Smattering #1

It's been a while since I last posted. I've had a lot of things on my mind that never developed into coherent ideas. So here's a list of incoherent thoughts I've had lately.

iPad Teacher Apps Are Awful
I recently got an iPad and I've been searching for good apps to help me with classroom management, attendance, etc. However, they're all crap. A few have some good ideas, but either the app is too limited, or the interaction design is worse than the paper it's supposed to replace. And don't get me started on how every teacher app out there seems to think that anything designed for a teacher has to have a chalkboard background and Comic Sans everywhere.

Coincidentally, having an iPad actually led me to discover LearnBoost. It's almost everything I'd ever want in an iPad app, it's just web-based. Someday maybe I'll write up a complete review of LearnBoost and rant about what would make a great teacher app.

Tech Teachers Are Hoarders
I don't know about teachers of other subjects, but I do know that tech teachers are hoarders. Periodically the tech teachers in the district convene at a particular junior high to discuss tech teaching things. At every school I've been to, including my own, the tech teachers have whole storage units full of old books, outdated electronics, broken machines, and lots and lots of paper.

I can understand the tendency--I have to fight it myself. We spend all this money on equipment and then two years later it's outdated. We feel awful throwing it away, so we put it in storage. "It will be useful sometime in the future," we think to ourselves. A year passes, two, three, and suddenly we have entire rooms dedicated to crap we're never going to use, and we've developed a hoarder's habit of not being able to let go.

(Sidenote: I'm just finishing up my second year of teaching.)

Last month I cleared out a whole room of ancient supplies that haven't been used for longer than any teacher here knows. Yesterday I cleared out filing cabinets with worksheets 30 years old. Yes, 30 years old.

So my plan is to go through at the end of each year and if I didn't use something all year, it's gone. Maybe give outdated technology out as rewards to students.

Shop Teachers Shouldn't Teach Multimedia, and Vice Versa
Maybe that's ideal of me to think, but at least at my school, we have enough students and enough interest to have a separate shop teacher and multimedia/graphics teacher.

I can understand why they're the same thing: when graphics and video cameras first came out, it was more of a shop-style process. But now with all of it digital, the skills you learn in shop class differ greatly from skills you learn in multimedia and graphic design. More importantly, people who are interested in shop aren't generally interested in multimedia. Part of what makes a great teacher is a love for the subject, and I don't love shop, and my shop teacher coworker doesn't love multimedia. Thank goodness we get to stay in our areas of expertise.

I'm not saying it's impossible, of course, but I'm saying they should be considered different subjects, like science and english, each with their own set of courses.

What's the Point of School Districts?
I'm not so ignorant or belligerent to say that they're completely worthless, but so far I have little evidence that they add value to state education. No teacher has gotten a raise over the last several years thanks to the district, our health insurance premiums have doubled in the last two years, we're still using gradebook software that's at least 20 years old, and they seem to keep coming up with new busy work to pretend like they're improving our teaching. As far as I can tell, all they do is suck up as much money as they can before it can filter down to teachers and students.

Maybe they're there to address the needs of areas that are more specific than the state can handle, but by that logic they're still far too big to really know or care about it.


  1. I agree 100% whole hearted! I'm a Drafting/CAD/Engineering/Architecture/Interor Design teacher. While my degree and certification say I can teach every "tech/shop" class on paper, in reality I can't. My current district could care less about this fact. They have had me teach auto, and small engine repair and electronics with no training or experience. The kicker was after 13 years in HS, they moved me the 3rd day of school to the MS to teach tech ed and shop, like woodshop! I didn't know what to teach, how those students were, or how to operate anything!

    Trying to explain to my district that doing those things to me, would be like giving a french teacher physics went in one ear and out the other.

    Good Luck! I hope you fair better in your career then mine.

  2. That is one of my biggest fears as a teacher, that someday they simply decide to have me teach a class I'm neither qualified for nor interested in. The technology education certification/program is basically the same as 30 years ago, during which time you could say the subject itself expanded more than ever. At one point it made sense to have all these subjects bundled into one certification, just as at one point it made sense that Philosophy and Science classes were one and the same. But unfortunately, public schools are a function of government and we all know how fast they are at adapting to changing times... Good luck with your classes. I'm sure you can get creative with your shop classes and turn them into something more interesting to you, or find a school that needs your real skills. CAD is always in demand.