Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," home from the annual state gathering of public school teachers, aka NJEA Teachers' Convention! This shindig is held in one of our nation's premier pustules, Atlantic City, New Jersey.
I believe I was living in New Jersey when casino gambling was given the A-okay for Atlantic City. The A.C. boosters promised that bringing Vegas-style casinos to the hurricane-prone coastal zone would rejuvenate the economy of poor old Atlantic City. Well, the casinos have come, in all their excess, but the rest of Atlantic City still looks like Detroit. Where they also touted casinos as the tonic for urban blight... and were also dead wrong.
I went to the teachers' convention because my teacher-mentor suggested I attend a few professional development seminars. In other words, I got the message that I'd better get my butt to Atlantic City by hook or by crook.
Thursday I drove to Atlantic City. It takes about an hour from where I live. I found the convention center with no problem and even got street parking nearby. So far, so good.
I had about two hours to spare before the seminar started, so I browsed the mammoth exhibit hall. Didn't they used to give away pens and magnets and stuff at these things? I walked out of there with two re-usable bags and a few business cards. And a snobby sinking feeling that I was in the company of multitudes of morons.
This feeling was confirmed in spades when I attended the seminar.
One of the recurring complaints about Anne as a teacher is that she does not activate higher level thinking in her students. The seminar was called "Strategies for Activating Higher Level Thinking in Language Arts Settings," or some such ... in other words, just what the doctor ordered.
The meeting room was very small. Good thing I got there early! (My regulars know that this is a TGAB maxim: Always get to a meeting 30 minutes early.) I got one of the last seats available.
So the seminar leader dude launches into his presentation. He does so by modeling.
Those of you in the teaching biz know all about modeling. I even did it as a substitute teacher. How modeling works is, you show a person or a group how to do something, and then let them practice. This dude was modeling "vote in your seat," which I've seen before in teaching settings. But in this case, the "vote in your seat" was just a prelude to the strategies for higher level thinking.
Except we couldn't get to the strategies for higher level thinking, because some of the morons in the conference wanted to talk about how teachers get blamed if students don't succeed. It was totally off topic. Totally. And no matter how hard the presenter tried to get the two loud morons to stop talking, they just kept at it, because they wanted to make their points.
Pinky swear, I wanted to yell, "Hey, you! You with the bald head and beer gut! Shut up, moron! I want to learn something!"
When the fat moron finally shut up for 30 seconds, the presenter launched into his presentation. And it was good stuff. Stuff I can use in my classroom. I was drinking it all in, taking notes (sort of), and imagining how it would work with my students.
And then someone's cell phone went off. In that small room, it sounded like a tornado siren. And the moron it belonged to TOOK THE CALL AND STARTED TALKING OUT LOUD INTO HER PHONE.
New Jersey, do you want to know why your students aren't learning anything? It's because they're being taught by apes!
Can it get any worse? I'm sitting in a windowless room (which I hate), in Atlantic City (which I hate), being thwarted in trying to learn new skills (which I really hate) by a top-notch selection of Garden State morons (hate, hate, hate!).
What really nailed the coffin shut was the end of the presentation, when the presenter said, "Well, I had three strategies I wanted to share with you, but we only got two finished." And that was that. He packed up and left.
With much gnashing of teeth and many dirty looks toward the seminar-ruining morons, I found my way back to the doors of the convention center. New Jersey teachers were strewn everywhere, in long lines and packs, waiting for ... what? Oh, for the love of fruit flies! They were boarding casino buses! Bally's, Harrah's, Trump Plaza, Caesar's! Time to gamble, teachers! We all know how much money you make! Now it's time to revel in that largesse!
Those who can't do ... gamble.
As for me, I got in my dusty Dodge and drove south, to the family-friendly and casino-free tourist mecca known as Ocean City, New Jersey. There I passed a quiet evening grading papers in a cozy bed and breakfast inn.
One final moron moment, and then I'll bung off.
Friday's seminar was called "Creating Writing Communities in Your Classroom." This one was held in a huge room with plenty of seats. And they filled--at least 250 of 300. It transpired that the seminar was going to be about the wonderful uses for web cams in the classroom.
There was one problem. The presenter couldn't get his web cam to work. He admitted he'd been trying for an hour before we even filed into the meeting room. He then admitted that at his school, he had assembled the entire 7th grade -- more than 150 students -- in the cafeteria for a "virtual field trip" to a New Jersey zoo. On that occasion the web cam hadn't worked either, and 150 7th graders sat for an hour in a cafeteria, waiting to see lemurs on a screen. Vividly recalling my own behavior as a 7th grader, I could clearly imagine the mayhem that must have ensued as our earnest presenter tried valiantly to bring his "virtual field trip" to fruition.
I left that seminar vigorously vowing never to try anything ... ANYTHING... involving a web cam and oovoo in my classroom.
Oh yeah. I forgot to mention. The Friday seminar was shaken by another cell phone bleat and another supposedly-educated professional who wanted to entertain 250 people by talking on the phone during a meeting! Somewhere there's a college that granted a degree to this semi-human potato blight.
I won't argue that the person most responsible for a child's learning is the teacher. But I will say that many teachers bear responsibility for their students not learning, because the teachers themselves aren't active learners. If you spout your pet peeves, or talk on the cell phone to your friend Wanda, in a seminar setting, you aren't learning anything new. If you schedule a fancy presentation about the latest online technology, and then can't get it to work, you're achieving a negative. No one will want to make the same mistakes. It seems to me that a good many New Jersey teachers are leaping into Moron Lake and dragging their poor students along for the swim.