Wednesday, 09 July 2008

Why the variation?

Over the last week people have been delivering books to the English teachers. I have personally seen three deliveries, but I have no idea how many there really were. Yesterday I asked what it was all about and my co-teacher said it was new text books for them to look over.

This got my attention. I asked for more information and she said that the school will be using a new book next year. Strange, since I always thought all the middle school in the province would use the same text book. Turns out they don’t.

My first thought was that if you give different books to school, how you maintain the same standard in all the schools. Teacher standards, in theory, are maintained by giving everyone the same level of training at university, but there you basically want students to know as much as possible, so the issue is more with making sure the standards are high enough, not the same, and letting the universities do everything else on top of that if they choose to..

In order to evaluate test results you should, I would think, make sure that everyone gets at least the same basic education. This, in my opinion, is done by giving everyone the same book. After that you can’t stop a teacher from giving students more works or doing an excellent job, but at least you can say you gave everyone the same minimum chance. If everyone has a different book, how do you dictate this minimum chance??

My co-teacher said that the government sets the guidelines, give these guideline to publishes and tells them to create books. The teacher can then choose a textbook. I admit that the books will be very similar. I don’t, for one moment, think they will vary wildly, but they will not be the same. Similar is not same and similar will not give you the bottom standard that I was talking about earlier. It will give you a similar standard, yes, but not the same. I found this odd and said so. Why can’t I say so and try to find out more. I have to teach here, don’t I. Am I not affected by this?

(Every day I am starting to see why so many people basically just turn up at work, take their money and go home. Every day this whole job seems more and more pointless. I just home I don’t wake up one day and decide to join the people who just turn up for the money.)

Now, I am not expecting anyone to jump at what I say. I am not even expecting them to care, but I still have an opinion that I can maintain until someone gives me a reason not to hold it any more.

My co-teacher could not understand how I can say the books are not the same. In her mind, if the standards are the same then it is good enough. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but before I could tell her what I meant she started getting upset because for an example I called one of the Side by Side books a text book. According to her, unless the department give it their stamp of approval, it can not be called a text book. That has very little to do with anything, but according to…

Main Entry: text·book

Function: noun

Date: 1779

a book used in the study of a subject as a: one containing a presentation of the principles of a subject b: a literary work relevant to the study of a subject.

I use Side by Side to teach principals, which in this case is grammar. I use it in class. I certainly don’t need the department to give me permission to call it a textbook. Maybe it is a less than great textbook and maybe it is a terrible textbook, but it is still nothing other that a TEXTBOOK. She got mad and said MY concept and HER concept was different.

No, it wasn’t. I accept hers. I suggested that we just add the bit of “Department Approved”. Just because the government gives MY car a stamp does not mean YOUR car is suddenly not a car any more. The same goes for anything else. In the interest of not fighting, and coming to an agreement over a stupid problem, I asked her what she wanted to call the Side by Side textbook. I sill don’t have her answer.

I also still don’t have an answer over whether other schools use the same book because some people believe that the concept of a text book is more important than the simple question of standards and told tell me to find out for myself. Maybe next time an English question comes along related more to culture or politeness than correct grammar, I will just have to shrug and say “We don’t share the same opinions and you are not allowed to probe my mind to correct your concept because I am not allowed to probe your mind to correct my concepts, so Find out for yourself”. If I feel it is important enough I will ask the other native what books they use.

* While I was writing this post I was thinking about standards for teachers themselfes. Apart from the obvious talent of the teacher, the standard will depend on the TEXTbooks resources and the teacher’s own education. Talent varies, obviously and even thought education should be standard, it is not. If it was then we would not get, as an example, things like Ivy League School in the US. Anyway, that should not distract from the fact that the Department should at least try to give everyone a fair chance. OKAAAY! The do try, but surely they cam make things so much easier for themselves by picking one book, and after consultation, prescribing it to the schools? That was all I was every trying to say.

Man! If there were no people in the world who thought about the way things work then we would still have been living in the dark ages. I might not be Newton or Lock, but I am not suffering from an unusually low IQ either.

To think this post replaces my post on the beautiful changes that pop in to my vision over the last week.

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