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"What I Did During My Summer Almost Vacation..."

Chuckie Granger

Almost True Confessions and Almost Social Commentary of an Almost Professional

"This summer I participated in a mandatory, almost voluntary program to match our almost curriculum guidelines with the Missouri Show-Me Performance and Knowledge Standards." I guess almost any of us could write this generic scenario for the 1,774 Missouri science teachers in grades 6-8 and the 2,225 in grades 9-12 in the 525 school districts across the State of Missouri and use it for their first show and tell presentation at the beginning of the 1998-99 academic year. How long did your "vacation" last? "Well, until the money ran out." Some of us spent a couple of days, others a week, some two and I heard of one place (one with a nice tax base) spent more than a month on it. The length of time to carryout the job is a function of money available. Granger's Law of Educational Economics (GLEE) almost covers this principle nicely. GLEE = "The time it takes to accomplish a mundane deductive reasoning task in education is directly proportional to the funds available."

Whoa, you say. Let's not be too sarcastic here. I did make a little extra money and we can all use that. And don't forget we will need to dwell on the items almost suggestively dictated by the State so that our almost students will do well on the almost process oriented, almost not be held accountable for, mandatory, almost voluntary statewide assessment, Missouri (almost) Assessment Program (MaAP). This will make our administrators almost happy and we can spend more time at faculty meetings eating donuts, drinking coffee and almost enjoying the stand up, almost comic shtick by the almost site based administration rather than being harassed, threatened and condemned to be a "school of almost opportunity." Hey, besides the exercise did help to review the Roman numerals, knowledge that almost everyone needs.

I guess that narrative would almost cover most back to school reports and one should almost get an A- or B+ for attendance if nothing else. The nasty questions, of course, are what was really accomplished and will the curriculum and the students be better off upon the accomplishment of this task? Would we have been better off if we just commissioned Zorro (we could all kick in $6.00 from our summer workshop salary $6 x 4,000 = $24,000) to steal a few MAP examinations and distribute them in secret to the teachers across the state. (Now don't tell me you haven't thought of that. Oh, you did? I'll show you mine if you show me yours.) We then at least could compete with Lake Wobegon, MN in that all of our students would be almost above average. However, Zorro on a Missouri mule, somehow, loses appeal. Maybe we could take the millions of dollars spent on testing costs and buy the almost whole Watergate Gang to do the job. With money there are lots of possibilities.

Why haven't the almost politicians jumped on this almost reform procedure as a cost inefficient process? It seems sort of a waste of time for almost 4,000 (notice critical placement of almost here) teachers running around the state all almost doing the same clerical task, as if something novel and pedagogically effective is going to arise de novo in Sodbuster, MO 65102-0480 and almost completely change, "reform," the education process. Occurrence of random educational enhancement like that has the same chance as expecting life to re-originate in the Lake of the Ozarks. (Although I understand as the population increases logarithmically that the lake is becoming more and more like the organic soup of which life supposedly arose billions of years ago.) So maybe there is almost a chance. And to think it could almost just happen right here in our own backyard.

I guess what I am saying is that what real good does it do to say we perfunctorily attached the Show-Me Standards to an almost set of science concepts? Or even added a few almost new concepts? Actually, the number of new concepts in the almost "Frameworks" doesn't vary much from the 1966 edition of the Science - A Guide for Teachers, Publication Series No. 131 from the then called Missouri State Department of Education. (Lucky those who still have a copy.)

I am worried now that I have to meet a new crop of students this fall. Will my efforts this summer be a real help to them as students and future citizens? Will my teaching really improve? Will what I have to offer be more meaningful? More useful? Will the students be more efficient and effective in gaining insights into their total environment? Their total being?

I hope so. But maybe I'm just a sentimental fool.

Excuse me. I'm off to see Titanic, again, almost.