Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Handicapper-General at Work

In "Welcome to the Monkey House", Kurt Vonnegut writes about a future where all men are finally equal, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the United States Handicapper-General. It seems the Handicapper General was at work in Sweden this week, as we read what happened to the head cook in a school cafeteria who was reined in for daring to prepare better food for her students than the other cooks in neighboring schools.

My readers will know that last year I was expelled from the Teacher Certification Program at the University of Winnipeg. While I was in the program I learned a lot about what is wrong with the system. One aspect is the enforced mediocrity similar to what we read about in Sweden. I have a small example in front of me. I am looking at a Unit Plan I prepared for teaching Grade Nine Static Electricity. I was docked five marks because my work failed to satisfy the following criterion:

"Could this Unit Plan be used by a Substitute Teacher for 2 weeks?"

Apparently the fact that I know more about electricity than the average substitute drawn from the random pool should not be a factor in how I teach. Presumably if I had stacked my lesson plans with two weeks worth of worksheets on Ohms Law I would have gotten full marks for this line item.

I knew when I wrote my lesson plans that a typical substitute would not be capable of what I could do in class, but I refused to limit myself according to the philosophy of the tin-pot Handicapper-Generals who make up the Education Faculty at the U of W. I gladly sacrificed the five marks. This apparently enraged the professors, because I was given a failing grade (almost unheard of in Education) on the next set of lesson plans I handed in. I think I'll have more to say about that later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marty, sorry to hear about your troubles with the U. Some comments:
1) You can still get your teaching credentials - just maybe not with the U of W.
2) As a student you have a number of rights, so you can pursue that further. But, at the end of the day, you have to decide how much energy you want to put into this vs. just getting your teaching credentials elsewhere. You could end up wasting a lot of time on this potentially.
3) Try to find a trusted advisor who can give you some independent advice. Try to keep an open mind.
4) Think about what you can learn from this situation, and what you can do differently in the future.
5) You can choose to teach outside of an institution, and not have to deal with Admin.
6) If you choose to teach within the system, you will need to learn how that system works, and adhere to its limits, particularly early on. Once you are well established you can start pushing the envelope - to a point. If you are a University Prof with tenure, then you can push the envelope further. In the meantime, you kind of have to pay your dues and learn the ropes.
7) Maybe you should try to get a job teaching at University rather than at Public School.
8) While you may have been treated unjustly. At the end of the day, it may not be worth the effort to try and prove your point. If you move on, sooner rather than later, you can put your extra energy into something that helps you achieve your real goals.
Good luck.