Professor Umbridge Teaches English

, , , , , | Learning | February 27, 2019

(Somewhere around fifth grade, a new English teacher, who I hear used to be an elementary teacher, starts at my K-12 school. I get in her class, excited to finally move on from grammar English to literature/essay writing and the like. On the first day, all she does is:)

Teacher: “Do you know nouns?”

(She talks about them for the rest of class, although everyone in class has assured her, multiple times, that we know our basic grammar. This continues for about two months. Finally, she decides to bring an ACTUAL BOOK to class, with the type of stories found in standardized testing. She doesn’t hand out books or copies or anything:)

Teacher: “You don’t need them for yourselves; just listen as I read.”

(If we ask her to reread anything, she refuses and says we should have been listening the first time. Worst of all, she constantly trails off from the story to tell us about how this reminds her of her childhood in the 60s or 70s or something. She takes time when we are supposed to be learning reading comprehension and writing to tell us her life stories about growing up in Minnesota/Idaho/Nebraska somewhere — it seems to change every time. After this, she gives us a one-page test to take home, mostly defining vocabulary from the story, and maybe one question about summarizing. No homework or assignments or anything. RIP any hopes of actually studying literature. This goes on for two more years. Fast forward to this year; we get a new assigned curriculum from the administrator, who happens to be teaching third-grade English due to budget cuts. Although we actually have our own books with grade-level literature, the teacher insists on reading it herself, continues to go on rants about her own life, and ignores the papers and assignments specified in the book in favor of her very own grammar worksheets, of course. Someone must smarten up and complain, because after two weeks, the administrator decides to sit in on a class. She catches so many mistakes she actually has to stop and basically co-teach the class to make sure things are done right. Then, this happens:)

Admin: “Today, you’ll be doing a group reading of the story [Short Story]. Because there are so few of you, we only need one group. Each of you will have a role in the group.” *gives out roles* “Now you guys can start.”

Classmate: *reads a long word*

Teacher: “Ah, yes, [long word]. That means [definition].” *administrator tries to interject, but she ignores* “So, it looks like he’s doing something I used to do, which is—“

Admin: *louder* “[Teacher]! This is a group study. We want then to problem solve on their own. If they need look up a word, they can decide to use a dictionary or context clues. We will not be commenting on the story unless something gets out of hand. Now, continue, [Classmate].”

(This happens a few more times before [Teacher] seems to get the idea. However, the minute the admin goes to the bathroom…)

Me: “So, the book says to circle any that show emotion.” *my role is to ask all the questions and write everyone’s answers* “We have to give at least ten. I have about three. Do you guys—“

Teacher: *takes book from classmate and rattles off a list of words* “You write that down. Now, I will continue. So—“

Admin: *rushing back* “[Teacher]! Like I said, this is a group reading. You can’t comment on it.”

Teacher: *pointing to me* “She had a question! They needed help!”

(I did not ask her anything, but I am shy and afraid of making things worse, so I say nothing.)

Admin: *to me* “If you have a question, try asking the group or using a resource. We want you to practice—“

Teacher: “Actually, I don’t know how I feel about this new system. I’d prefer to go back to my way.”

Admin: “This is the state-approved curriculum, and students need group and independent skills.”

Teacher: “I’m a teacher; I’m being paid to teach!

(They argued for a bit more, but the admin made it VERY clear that she was in charge of what happens. The teacher retreated and sulked in the back of the classroom. But the next day, a Friday, the admin was not present, and the teacher once again tried to revert to “her way.” When we returned on Monday, the admin had officially taken over the class, and we have continued with her ever since. As for the teacher, according to my younger sister in the third grade, she is teaching third grade English, instead. I hope she’s better back in her element with the elementary kids. I still don’t know why I didn’t complain sooner!)

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