A delicious peek inside our
topsy-turvy education system
A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.
Until the bureaucrats get involved.
The incredible spin put on
data collection: what does
it really mean? And does a kid learn just because a teacher places a tick mark on a grid?
Finishing School tells the story of how teachers, students, and administrators play the learning game.
Trouble is, they didn't all get the same
Administrators want to impress the public with strong test scores;
Students don't care much about that, involved as they are in their own mini-dramas and smart devices.
Teachers are caught in the middle of a game they never signed up for: juggling the malaise in their students with the impossible demands of their bosses.
And then a new threat emerges, one that affects every teacher's ability to do their job.
Wendy Taylor tries to play nice but never imagined she'd be in a fight
for her very career over it.
If the new
assistant principal has anything to say
about it, she just might not make
it to Christmas.
With the help of her colleagues,
she hatches a plan to thwart his intentions
and save her job.
What she discovers in the process
upends her life anyway.
Veteran teacher Wendy Taylor
tries to like the new assistant principal because it’s the right thing to do.
Plus, he holds her career
in his hands, which he knows.
He's made it clear that the key to success in getting a good review
is to kowtow to his every whim.
But those whims
seem to change every time
he pokes his head into her classroom.
Wendy wonders why the joyful days of working earnestly with kids and helping them realize their potential have been replaced by endless documentation
and subjective reviews that form the majority of a performance-based evaluation.
So well written, I felt like I was
in the classroom with Wendy.
-Ms. Zempel's cousin
Too much emphasis on my mom's snarky inner voice.
-Wendy's teenage daughter, Cassidy
T.L. Zempel on her character Wendy Taylor:
Supposedly vs. Supposably
Why is this an issue? One is not even a real word!
As a former teacher, I cannot resist the opportunity to instruct people on the correct uses of language. But you can only do that with friends and family so often because, inexplicably, they find it tiresome.
So you get to be the lucky recipient of my language expertise.
Supposedly vs. Supposably
Which is correct? Well, since only one of them is a real word, the answer is easy.
Now don’t get all preachy on me with the notion that no word was actually a real word until someone coined it. This isn’t the case of someone making up a word that was sorely needed in the English language to express an idea. This is the case of people bastardizing a word that already exists, through their own ignorance. Or possibly, not paying attention in 6th grade English class. Which leads to the same result: their own ignorance.
So which word is the real one and which is the wannabe? Anyone who has sat through one of my grammar and usage lessons will know that. Supposedly, as in, 'Supposedly, we all want to improve our communication skills!'
What is syntax and why does it matter?
Syntax is the way words function within a sentence. Why do we put subjects before
verbs, usually? What does it indicate about our communication if we reverse these
Fluent speakers of a language use syntax as they read to figure out meaning and
nuance. Writers use syntax to do the same. The way we organize our words within
a sentence shares with the reader the context we want to create for them. Strong
writing manipulates syntax so that the reader is inspired to re-read perhaps entire
sections, searching for hidden meaning within the story.
You can practice your ability to understand how and why words work together
by trying to solve cryptogram puzzles, like the ones available at Cryptograms.org.
When I am attacking a cryptogram, one technique I use is to look for where the word "the" might fit in. I know that a noun will come after the word "the" -- maybe not immediately because of the possibility of an adjective in play, but soon. Nouns and verbs work together to create complete thoughts, so that helps me to make sense of the puzzle as a whole.
Have fun practicing your syntax skills with these great puzzles.
Did you know that Wendy Taylor loves doing cryptograms? Read how she solves one on p. 213 of Finishing School.