The Problem With Teaching Today: Told Through Two Anecdotes

The following stories are

non-fictional and depict

actual persons and events.

I was observing a teacher’s classroom; she had been having problems with a student who was a behavior challenge. The student was being disruptive and unruly, not at all ready to learn. I walked over to him, and I calmly asked him, “What do you need?” He yelled at me, “I need my crackers!” I turned to the teacher and asked her why she wouldn’t let him have his crackers. She replied, “because it isn’t snack time.” Can you imagine? Here is a student telling you he’s hungry, and you won’t give him what he needs because it isn’t snack time? I asked the teacher, “Which would you rather have, an unruly student who is being disruptive, or a student who is ready to learn? Let him have his crackers.”

As told by a behavioral specialist

I was talking to my colleague, who happened to help me develop our curriculum, and her kids happen to go to your school, and she was telling me that her children hate your class. They were talking about it over dinner one night, and she said they told her that they hate your class because it’s boring and they never do anything fun. This concerns me. You should be making it fun for the students, you should be doing projects with your students. This is unacceptable. What are you going to do to change this?

An overheard conversation between a supervisor and a foreign language teacher

The first story was presented during a professional development session. Based on the faces of the other teachers at my table, they were all thinking the same thing I was. Here is a student who has just been handed control of this poor teacher’s classroom. If a behavioral “specialist” is telling us that we need to give students everything they “need,” whenever they demand it, then we are all screwed.

The second conversation I was privy to because I share a classroom with the foreign language teacher. Here was a teacher who was being reprimanded, scolded, by a supervisor for something that wasn’t even true, based on one conversation that occurred at the dinner table. Because one family of students reported that a class was boring and not fun, two teachers were subjected to the criticism of their supervisor. Like the foreign language teacher remarked, they were assumed guilty and must now prove their innocence. Going forward, they must provide their supervisor with photographic and video proof that they are following the curriculum and engaging students through projects. Things they were already doing, but now they have to prove it because of the remarks of a couple of students at the dinner table.

During our PD session, after hearing the cracker story, another colleague remarked, “We’re no longer teachers. The students have all the power.”

Art Teachers Hate Glitter #tbt From the Archives

#tbt: Art Supplies Gone Wild

Portions of this post previously appeared on Art Teachers Hate Glitter on December 14, 2011 and on March 25 2011.

I’m not sure how this happened; I’ve never seen it happen before, but this pretty much says it all about how my day went. Of course, it could have been worse. I could have been the poor man I saw get hit by a service van this morning (he was okay. It was definitely his fault. The orange hand means don’t walk, kids).

Read the full story.

Why? I mean, seriously, why? Why, oh why, would you do this to us poor teachers? Apparently your new marker design is “greener” since they’re made from recycled bottle caps, and I’m all about being green, BUT I am not a fan of dumb ideas. And this, Crayola®, this is a dumb design.

Read the full story.

For more things that really burn my biscuits, check out more gripes. Or check out more #tbt posts.

Art Teachers Hate Glitter #tbt From the Archives

Spring Break! and #tbt: I Know Why the Art Teacher Cries

Portions of this post previously appeared on Art Teachers Hate Glitter on February 23, 2013.

Spring Break… because of paper cuts. And cardboard cuts.
… because she just sat in a puddle of water. Again.
… because it’s only Wednesday, but it has felt like Thursday for two days now.
… because she just stepped in green paint. Again.
… because her clock won’t stop buzzing, no matter how many times she beats it.
… because working in a tiny octagonal room with no windows and 30 sixth graders triggers her claustrophobia.
… because she’s on bus duty and has realized that she left her gloves inside.
… because she’s on her way to her car and has realized that her gloves have been in her pocket all along.
… because a 1st grader corrected her math. Continue reading

Art Teachers Hate Glitter #tbt From the Archives

#tbt: Crafts Are For Summer Camp. I Teach Art

This post previously appeared on Art Teachers Hate Glitter on June 11, 2011.

Dear sweet, innocent, substitute teacher,

I don’t even think you realized what you said today when you said it. There we were, discussing the fact that you’re new to the county, you were asking me questions about schools in the area, I was giving you tips on where to apply, all while the Kindergarten students you were assisting with were toiling away on their creations. The conversation was going alright, albeit a little distracting and inappropriately timed, but pleasant nonetheless.

And then you said it. Right there, in the middle of my art class, “I never understood how to teach crafty things to little kids. All that glue and stuff. How do you manage it?” Continue reading



My Instagram feed has been filled with fun, celebratory, #lastdayofschool posts today. doughnutThey’re only outnumbered by the insane number of colorful, candy-colored, National Doughnut Day posts. Meanwhile, I’m over here crunching numbers for my SMARTR goal and definitely not eating doughnuts, f* you very much. Some of us still have a few weeks of school left, and some of us have egg allergies. Whatever. I hope you choke on your doughnut on your way to the beach.

Ok, not really, but I am feeling a little bitter. Did you read that part about the SMARTR goal? I’m basically in art teacher hell right now, trying to calculate the achievement of my students using math. [shudder]

Fun fact: I suck at completing things on time, returning emails, completing paperwork, and pretty much anything that involves the phone, a calendar or planning ahead. Which is why I find myself pulling my hair out trying to complete my SMARTR goal data and paperwork a week after it was due. I expect a scolding email from my assistant principal any day now.

I hate SMARTR goals. When they were first introduced in our schools, I cried. I’m not kidding. I had no idea what I was being asked to do, and I had even less of an idea of how to make it work for art. Thinking about it made my head buzz. Fast forward a few years to today, and I have a better idea of how to translate it to art, but not necessarily a better idea of how to make it work. But I understand that I have to set a goal to meet by the end of the year, and I understand that this goal has to be measured in percentages, and I understand that if I don’t meet this goal, I will need to come up with some sort of plan to do something that I don’t understand because I didn’t bother paying attention to this part because I always expected to meet my goal. It’s art, for crying out loud. How can I not meet my goal?

I didn’t meet my goal this year.

What’s worse, I missed meeting my goal by 3%. 3%! That’s like, one student. One student! So now I’m over here trying to decide if I’m going to go back through my data and fudge my numbers or create an imaginary student who achieved an exceptional amount this year. Hey, if presidential candidates can win elections this way, I should be able to achieve my SMARTR goal this way. In case my conscious wins out, and I end up submitting my real data, I’ve already gotten a head start on my plan for achieving my goal next year.

My Plan For Achieving My 2015-2016 SMARTR Goal

  • Set the bar low. I mean, amazingly low.

Maybe I’m trying to measure too much. Maybe I’m expecting too much from my students. Next year, I’m setting the bar really low. Next year, I’ll measure student achievement by how many students are able to put their name on their work at the end of the year. 85% by the end of the year? That shouldn’t be too hard… um… on second thought… maybe not. I just remembered the insane frustration I felt last week when I discovered that not a single student in one of my second grade classes managed to put their name on their painting. Not a single student. Come to think of it, more students are capable of putting their name on their work at the beginning of the year than the end. I wonder what happens when your SMARTR goal percentages decrease throughout the year?

  • Insist that students show up for class on snow days.

I’ll also expect them to skip all assemblies, concerts, field days, field trips, and yes, even SOLs so they can come to art class. You want to know why I didn’t meet my SMARTR goal this year, Principal? Maybe because the class that I chose for my SMARTR goal missed 20% of their art classes this year. 20%! Now there’s a percentage for you.

  • Assign art homework.

Classroom teachers have SMARTR goals. Classroom teachers get to assign homework to ensure that student achievement is occurring. 2015-2016 will be the year of art homework! No, I don’t care about your dance class, Chinese lesson or the math homework you have. You need to analyze these five pieces of artwork and label the illusion of depth techniques used in each one. How else can I be sure you’re actually learning and achieving anything in my art class, huh?

  • Ask my principal to write an achievable SMARTR goal for me.

Watch as panic and confusion overtakes him.

Seriously though, one of the most frustrating things about being an art teacher, or a “specialist,” if you will, is the discrepancy between being told we’re all equals, and the reality of not being treated as an equal. We’re expected to meet all of the same requirements as classroom teachers, attend all the same workshops and meetings, meet all the same standards for student achievement, and yet, we aren’t given the same time or resources as classroom teachers.

It was a requirement in my school this year that all teachers’ SMARTR goals be math related. Um, except for you specialists, because, um, you’re different. All teachers are expected to attend staff meetings and CLT meetings, even you specialists, because all teachers are equal. All teachers are required to learn the information being presented during this workshop, even you specialists, because, again, we’re all equal, therefore we’ll have subs available to cover classrooms during the workshops so all teachers can attend one of the sessions, except for you specialists, the subs aren’t available for you, so you’ll have to get the information on your own time.

So in conclusion, equal means different, but also the same, and if you don’t have your SMARTR goal in by the close of business on the Friday following a span of two months in which you only saw your SMARTR goal class twice and have yet to have time to deliver the post-assessment within the given time frame, that’s going to be a problem.

Now excuse me while I go and finish inputting the data for the new student who just joined the fourth grade class into the spreadsheet. Do you think John Smith is too obvious a name?