Friday, December 02, 2005

Dumpster ruminations

It’s that fraught time of year. Reports. Deadlines. Desk cleaning. Dust. Desiccated old moths, the dried remains of old insects swept from the top shelf of my desk. Today, finally free of teaching duties for the year, I’ve successfully disposed of useless lessons and out-dated texts that I’ve been hoarding, some since 1999 when I began teaching at my school. Four long round trips in the rain to the dumpster to fling boxes full of crap. Despite my inclination to hoard, just in case, I rarely reuse materials from past years. Somehow, they lose something in translation from year to year. Success with one class doesn’t guarantee success in another, or in subsequent years.

I dislike working in teams writing VELS units with over zealous teachers. Why expend all that energy for what will inevitably, for me, be a one off?

In fact, I detest writing ‘units’ of work. I haven’t really done this since I was a student teacher. It was a requirement. Still have my leatherette book of handwritten lesson plans. I wrote units when I had the luxury of only being required to teach two lessons a day on teaching rounds. Once out there, teaching twenty-one forty-eight minute periods a week – Ah! The early ‘eighties! – I abandoned ‘the unit’. How else could I get through the shitloads of marking?

Would I become a better teacher if I began preparing units, filling in tables and ticking boxes? Recently, with other members of my faculty I’ve spent time working through the Essential Learning Standards and the Principles of Learning and Teaching and planning a Year 7 unit of work on the novel, “Parvana’s Journey”. I still haven’t completely written up the ‘unit’. Yes, it was beneficial to work with colleagues to talk about what we do and why we do it. And we had the luxury of a dedicated curriculum day to fill in the documentation; tick the VELS and PoLT boxes. But if I had to articulate a ‘unit’ in such detail for everything I teach I wouldn’t have survived in this profession. Don’t fancy tagging an extra ten hours onto my forty-five hour weeks for the sake of writing up ‘units’. I’m not sure of the point, for me. Considering what I’ve dumped into that blue bin today, it would be a waste of paper.

VELS and PoLT. Teachers making a difference. Supposedly, anyone can be a successful teacher if he or she thinks about ‘what is powerful to teach’. For more buzzwords, check out the Sofweb site. It all sounds so brainstorming pizzazzy. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here watching the wheels turn round and round. Trying not to be cynical. Trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid writing fragments, rather than sentences.