Monday, August 29, 2011

My Experience With Irene:Catastrophic::Most Classroom Observations:Effective

Disclaimer: To those of you readers out there who suffered through a terrible weekend, I hope you and your families are now safe, drying out and cleaning up. The images I saw of the storm as it hit the Southern portions of the East Coast looked awful. Up in Mimi country, however, the storm turned out to be one big waste of a weekend.

The coverage of "Hurricane" Irene was brilliant. I mean, they had dramatic introductory graphics prior to each broadcast. I found myself glued to the screen as wind tunnels crisscrossed before my eyes and waves crashed into a giant red sign announcing the arrival of Irene. Ominous music played as broadcasters went live to their colleagues who clearly drew the short straw and were made to stand outside and think of forty different ways to say, "Yup, it's raining and windy."

Because I am a teacher, we were prepared at Chez Mimi. We're talking patio furniture moved to the garage, candles at the ready, batteries newly purchased, flashlights in convenient locations, coolers filled with ice, non-perishable goods (read: piles of carbohydrates that I normally keep away from), and more cat food and diapers than you can shake a stick at. We were all, "Irene, get your storm on!" And for what? Hour after hour after hour, we watched weather maps colored with fifteen different paths that Irene might take. Fifteen? Yes, Mini Mimi could have literally drawn them with a crayon herself and called herself a meteorologist. They were that accurate. I say that because the consensus of those fifteen potential paths all converged on Mimi Country and yet I found myself repeatedly asking, "Was that it? Has it hit yet?"

By Sunday midday, the sun had come out, there was virtually no sign that it had rained at all and we went for a walk. Again, for those of you that are currently cleaning up and surviving without power (or worse), I'm sorry. I know we are the lucky ones.

As I waited for something that looked like more than a passing shower, I had a strange feeling of deja vu. Why, this was almost exactly like waiting around for The Weave to conduct my formal observation for the year! The parallels were uncanny! Observations were always proceeded by several hormonal unnecessarily bitchy assertive emails that announced their arrival and what one had to do in preparation for The Big Event. Then there was the actual preparation. Oh, the preparations! Instead of waiting in endless lines at various grocery stores buying food I normally wouldn't but was told to, I would spend hours crafting a lesson plan that fit into The Weave's narrow vision of what she wanted to see that day. Just like I wasn't shopping from my authentic, usual grocery list, my annual formal classroom observation demonstrated very little of my normal interaction with my little friends. Rather, it represented my ability conform to whatever buzzword bullshit was hot in education that The Weave had latched on to and decided was the only way to determine if I was effective or not.

Then there was the waiting. The waiting always feels the same. And I'm so not good at it. We would schedule a date and nothing. I would re-write the lesson, schedule a new date and nothing. New date. More nothing. Until one day she would just show up, look through my work folders rather than watch me actually teach and then write up some mystical version of what she thought she saw complete with little to no constructive feedback. Ah, yes, the accountability was impressive, my friends.

So while I think that basing teachers' ratings on the tests students take is ridiculous, I am very well aware that our current system is flawed. Kind of like those weather maps.


Angela Watson said...

The parallel to your observations is a hilarious! And unfortunately all too relatable!

Personally I am thrilled that the hurricane was not what they thought it would be in the NYC area. These storms are incredibly unpredictable and we are SO fortunate that the last minute weakening occurred.

I remember when Katrina hit Miami--wind speeds were about what they predicted for Irene and many people lost power for a week or more. Next of course the storm went across the gulf and walloped New Orleans. Totally unpredictable.

Then there was Hurricane Wilma. She was supposed to hit the west coast of Florida so those of us living on the east coast were told we didn't need to prepare. Wilma then shot across the state in 24 hours leaving us all with no power or running water for weeks, and no supplies because we didn't think it was heading our way.

So I say, always err on the side of caution. The east coast was prepared for the worst and the outcome was much better because of that.

Another reason I don't mind all the hurricane hype: did you hear about the kayakers off of Staten Island during the hurricane and the rescue workers who almost died getting to them? Imagine if Bloomberg hadn't hyped this storm. People do stupid things in dangerous situations, so I think our leaders have to make the situation sound really dire to avoid even stupider outcomes.

It's kinda like when we tell students that they must hold onto the stairwell rail and walk when going up the stairs or else they could bash their heads open. Truth is, they could probably jog on up without holding and be just fine, but if we tell them that, then they'll race and jump and act like maniacs. So we make the threat sound worse than it is. :-)

Unknown said...

ummm....there are lines all through your blog on just about every word. And I agree with you about teacher evaluations. I had one principal sleep through mine!

The Teacher Geek said...

Well, I would have to say that NYC itself didn't get much, but the suburbs did. Here in Fairfield County, we got clobbered. Going on 5 days with no power or water. Dozens of trees on houses and in roads. We have delayed the started of school by three days. So starting the school year off with three "snow" days is just peachy.

I once had an observation by the SUPERINTENDENT rescheduled 4 times, and then I never had a post-mortem nor did I receive a copy of the observation. He retired about 5 months later. I wonder what he was typing up on his laptop that whole time?

Who's Peeking?