“...journalists are tasked as seekers of truth. Fabulists find the truth quotidian and boring, insufficient to convey them to the renown they seek.”—
I have pretty harsh feelings about the willful plagiarism displayed here (by Zakaria and Lehrer, of course, not Carr), not just because it’s the product of lazy work and the general hubris of feeling like you’re untouchable, but because it’s all that and a deception of your readership and a betrayal of your colleagues. Fabricating quotes and snagging tidbits of prose from other journalists and arguing that “Weeellll, it might be true, who knows, sounds close enough,” corrodes the trust that links audience and journalist.
PSA for All Women Using Public Bathrooms
For the love of all that is good and holy, SIT DOWN TO PEE.
You want to know the absolute worst disease you can contract from sitting on a toilet seat? IMAGINARY HERPES. BECAUSE NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU SIT DOWN TO PEE.
You know the absolute worst thing that can happen if you sit down on a toilet seat in a public bathroom? YOU SIT DOWN ON A STRANGER’S PEE. THIS ONLY HAPPENS BECAUSE HORRIBLE PEOPLE HOVER AND THEN DO NOT CLEAN UP THEIR PEE.
YOU ARE THE PROBLEM WITH PUBLIC BATHROOMS.
At What Cost
I had an interesting conversation with my department head yesterday. I don’t think super highly of her for a lot of reasons, but I do readily admit that she is trying to do her job and pull our department together and wrangle in some of the really crazy stuff. She hasn’t been particularly successful, which is partly her fault and partly not, I suppose. My problems with her stem mostly from my disagreement about her style of leadership and the methods/attitude she employs as she tries (vainly, most likely) to shift culture in the science department. Anyway.
Her favorite buzzword is “collaboration.” We should all be collaborating all of the time and doing common assessments and common planning. This is the way forward!
I have lots of feelings about this. On the one hand, I enjoy a productive collaborative relationship as much as the next person. I’ve had a hand in co-creating some pretty cool tasks and lessons given the right context and the right colleagues. Even with the teachers I love and respect, though, I don’t think I’d want identical classrooms. It makes teaching seem rote and procedural. A few teachers sit down together and script a lesson plan and make a couple of assignments and then everyone reads the script along with each other in different rooms before giving the same test. I prefer to think of teaching as a dynamic craft; I’m a little more improvisational than most, which is exactly the opposite of my department head.
I’m also extraordinarily particular about my teaching materials. I pay considerably more attention to words than most of my colleagues do. Rigor and content accuracy are important to me. There are some science teachers who will sacrifice accuracy for the sake of making something “simple” or “neat.” I refuse to do that, and I spend a lot of conscientious thought on whether my phrasing or sequencing or choice of example is going to perpetuate a misconception.
Finally, of course, I have many strong opinions about using open-ended tasks that are inquiry-oriented, data-driven, and structured for small group work. I create/revise stuff so that it can be used in that sort of classroom environment. Those are not tasks/assignments that can be easily scripted, packed up into a neat little box, and delivered to a teacher next door. My craft is more complex than that, and requires lots of active thought and work on my part as the students are working because my next move is entirely dependent on what they come up with.
Frankly, a lot of the other biology teachers I work with don’t have the content competency or the pedagogical determination to make stuff like that happen in their rooms. And I’m fine with that. I’ll work in my room and they’ll work in their rooms and maybe one day they will finally retire.
So when my department head goes on and on about the wondrous beauty of collaboration, I am super skeptical, because aside from having my things stolen off of the copier none of my colleagues has shown the remotest amount of interest in how I teach. Even if I wanted to hand over my meticulously crafted lab manual to the colleague who is taking on a section of gifted next year, the labs would not work for her unless she radically changed her classroom environment. It’s not a passively transferable thing.
Yesterday, the topic of me collaborating with the Old Biology Teacher for AP Bio in the fall came up again. I was told that Old Biology Teacher is excited about working with me and willing to try new things. However, OBT also still wants to feel like all of the work she has done up until now is relevant and I need to respect that.
I’m with Department Head so far. Sure. I’ll give this collaboration thing a try. I won’t openly tell OBT that I completely disagree with her entire teaching philosophy. Makes sense.
DH continues, telling me that I’m going to have to “give a little” if I want my collaboration with OBT to be successful. “Even though your stuff might be more rigorous and more inquiry-oriented, you still need to be open to what she has to offer. Maybe that means one lab is less inquiry driven, or you teach something in a way you wouldn’t normally teach it.”
DH has lost me now, though I am still nodding thoughtfully. Because, see, what she suggests I do is compromise
my teaching philosophy
the learning experience I am providing for my students
my philosophy on the nature of science
my professional identity
in order to protect the feelings of a teacher who has children older than me. Do I plan on being disrespectful? No, obviously not. Do I plan on communicating with Old Biology Teacher about what I am doing in my room? Yes, sure, certainly at least in the beginning. Will I share my thought process and resources? Yes, sure, at least in the beginning.
Will I willingly teach a lower-quality lesson to my students just because that is the way some other teacher has done it for 20+ years?