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THE FINAL YEAR- PART 1

by captain on May 1st, 2013

I’ve been released.  Finally.  After 13 miserable years, some more miserable than others, I’ve been given a new assignment for next year. One that I’m quite happy with, and hopefully will utilize the skills I have.

I have concerns, for SURE about this reassignment, but it will be better than this.  It has to.

My concern is that they’re going to try, in the interest of saving money, try to force me to wear too many hats, and teach too many different skills.  This is something that is occurring more often in public schools with recent budget cuts, changes in standards, and increased expectations.

The logic is that if Teacher A can teach a certain subject, then he/she should also be able to teach some other subjects in the same category.    They view the arts, in the same way they view subjects like math and science….

For math, this philosophy normally works.  If a math teacher is teaching a period of Algebra, and a period of geometry, and maybe a couple classes of pre-algebra…it’s not too far of a stretch to ask them if they could teach a class in Algebra II…math teachers go to school and learn all forms of math, and because they usually have some overlapping skills at the core, the transition isn’t too different.

English Teachers, same thing.  If someone is teaching English II…it’s not too much of a stretch to ask them to teach a class in English IV, or creative writing, or literature even.  Those classes overlap a lot in the required skill and knowledge, and type of work they require.

Science and History become a little more difficult, as the overlap is smaller…but most science teachers take a lot of courses in life, and physical science so they are able to do both, and chemistry is also a big requirement in the science field.  Most science teachers have probably had at least 4 different chemistry classes.  History becomes a little more clouded.  It’s very possible a history teacher is well versed in U.S. History, but lacks a lot of deeper understanding of world events.  History usually has more focus into one course of study than others. 

When you get to the arts, things get VERY difficult.  People lump all art forms into the same folder.  IF you teach art you should be able to teach ceramics, or sculpture, or photography, or commercial art, and if you can teach photography, that uses a computer, so you should have no trouble with video production, illustration, animation, or even web design.  People think ANYTHING visual falls into the same category…and it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Just because a person is skilled in one medium, does not mean they are skilled in all of them.  Creativity CAN be strictly related to one medium.   Creative people can probably learn a new skill in a creative field, but it still takes years to perfect and master.  Thinking that just because someone is a good painter that they will be a good potter is so flawed, but it happens all the time.  When I originally got hired to teach in the arts, I was hired to teach in a medium that I had little to no experience with.  I literally had taken 1 class in the subject.  Granted, I’m a creative dude, so I learned HOW to do it, but even after 3 years of “teaching” it I was still just average at it.

My fear is that our school system has gotten to a point where quality of instruction and creating a worthwhile program takes a back seat to saving money.  I also have yet to really meet an administrator who understands the visual and performing arts in any real way.  By nature a majority of administrators are analytically charged people.  They understand budgets, statistics, and streamlining processes.   This usually results with people being treated as numbers, which leads to a very micromanaged environment.  People no longer have feelings, or input…they are categories that can be slid from place to place to fill voids, and increase statistics.   If I need to add class A, B, and C to my schedule, and those all fall under category X…I can use Teacher 1, who is classified to work in category X to fill that spot, and save money on having hiring two more teachers to do the job.

What always happens is that when you force a teacher to teach a subject she/he is NOT comfortable with they will struggle with it.  Those struggles are obvious to the students, and that leads to them losing faith in their teacher.  When they lose faith in said teacher, they will, not only suffer in the subjects the teacher has trouble with, but they will not learn as much in the subjects the teacher DOES know…because their credibility has taken a hit.

Take sports.  IF you took Phil Jackson, who regarded by most, as one of the best basketball coaches ever.  If you put Phil as a coach of the US Soccer team under the philosophy that because he is a good BASKETBALL coach, he’ll be a good soccer coach…though he has never played the sport.  I promise you his team will get beat.  Then when people talk about his coaching legacy they will ALWAYS question it because of how bad he was with soccer….

”He’s not THAT good of a coach, look how badly he screwed up the soccer team…they were terrible.”

“Well, he’s not a soccer player…that’s why.”

“Well he’s a coach, that should amount for something…he knows how to coach…”

Do you see the logic here…makes no sense in this context, but schools do it ALL. THE. TIME. It never ends well.  My fear is that it’ll happen to me, and though I’m happy to be in a new situation, I’ll be in a no win situation from the start.

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