Administrivia - A portmanteau of “administrator” and “trivial,” administrivia describes work upper-level managers imagine to be essential but is unnecessary. For teachers, such work includes meeting to establish the names of professional learning communities, meeting in professional learning communities to agree on norms for late-start mornings, and meeting in department teams to re-work recently approved changes to the school’s mission.
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Lost Boys - According to Pan legend, the Lost Boys fell out of their baby carriages when their nurses and nannies weren’t looking. Unclaimed for seven days, the boys went to Neverland to live with Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up. There are no Lost Girls, Peter explains, because girls are too clever to fall out of their carriages, too smart to explore the world outside strollers. They stare at clouds and contemplate girl things.
Not all boys are lost, and not all girls sit comfortably. Farah, the motocross fan and soccer player with bruised wrists, sits with her binder in her lap, head down, hair swishing in front of her face like car wash curtain flaps. Farah’s teacher says he cannot do more for Farah because fifth period is overrun with Lost Boys, and while the boys make their needs known, Farah stares at her lap and contemplates girl things, like bruises and dirt bike break fluid.
Infodump - Spurred by teachers realizing students are “behind,” “below standard,” or unprepared for tests, infodumping allows teachers to share remaining handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and lecture notes in one fell swoop.
Classically, infodumping is the domain of history teachers. Per the President’s order, every American high school has at least one History teacher who teaches the whole textbook and infodumps the entire year, usually in a Hawaiian shirt, while the rest of the department falls behind and leaves several decades or centuries “uncovered.” These remaining teachers understand the second-halves of history textbooks are not meant to be read.
The phrases “No time to waste,” “Let’s get to business,” “Stay on track,” and “We have so much territory to cover” foretell infodumping. Pedagogical shamans note the use of words like “territory” and “tracks” especially. Students may not be on literal trains headed West, but Westward Expansion lurks in the back of textbooks and on the horizon. Teachers may plan a unit for the end of the year, but only skilled infodumpers get to the content. Everyone else settles for talking about teaching in metaphors of “progress.”
Antonyms: edutainment, funderstanding.
Waking the giant — 1. An endeavor (illustrated by the story “Jack and the Beanstalk”) in which children unwisely interrupt the slumber of a dangerous creature. 2. A phone call in which a teacher provokes an apathetic parent into action by providing unexpectedly negative information about a child that will incite or enrage.
Recently roused giants, however benevolent they may have acted in the past, may seethe and storm, so a teacher must use extreme caution.
The end of the call heralds what is to come. Perhaps a parent will say, “Tomorrow Eric will show up to class in a body cast,” and if the teacher remains silent, the parent will continue, “Oh, that’s right, you’re from the Oprah generation.” Or perhaps, if the parent is slow to hang up, the teacher will overhear something like, “Get the fuck over here, Eric.”
Either scenario will cause the teacher to wonder what punishment awaits the young person. Because a teacher cannot predict if or when an awoken parent will punish a child—or know the type or degree of punishment—a good teacher wakes the giant only when absolutely necessary.
Canary in the coal mine – 1. A highly responsive bird capable of sensing dangerous accumulations of methane and carbon monoxide in early mine shafts. 2. An unfailingly optimistic teacher sensitive to levels of toxicity in a public school.
Well into the twentieth century, mining crews would bring a canary into tunnels, and as long as crew members heard the bird’s song, they could continue working. Similarly, twenty-first century educators knew as long as they heard the whistling of an optimistic teacher, they could ignore signs of building-wide listlessness and gloom.
When the canary stopped chirping, miners knew to don protective respirators and evacuate their mines. Staff members likewise knew to close their classroom doors and pack their things. The educator most immune to the hazards of the profession was at risk, and all faculty should move toward the light.
Crab Bucket Syndrome – 1. A phenomenon where one crab tries to crawl up the sides of a bucket to escape but other crabs grab it and drag it back down. 2. A culture of low expectations in which students who attempt to do good work, improve a school, or elevate collective standards suffer ridicule and torment from peers.
“I’ve never read a book,” one influential teen yells across a classroom while a teacher distributes novels. “Me neither,” his friend responds. Ambitious and obedient students are targeted. “Why did you do your homework?” one student asks another. “Do you want to make us look bad? If none of us do the work the teacher will extend the deadline.”
Preparation H may begin at birth and continue through a child’s senior year of high school and beyond, requiring parents to monitor and manipulate a child’s social experiences and academic development. Parents do not mind visiting a school’s registrar to ask for a change of teachers; they do not mind standing outside a teacher’s classroom until the bell rings to advocate for a change in the seating chart; they do not mind stopping a teacher after Sunday service to ask why Joel received half credit on a Biology lab. One or both parents sat by Joel at the kitchen table until he completed the work, so what happened?
With a few additional grades like that, Joel will not be eligible for Harvard, or even Yale or Princeton. Without eligibility to Harvard, Joel will never graduate a contender in the worldly competition for status, expertise, and wealth.
Donut class - A group of students divided to such a degree as to leave nothing in the middle. Alternately stellar and stupid, inspiring and insipid, these students exhibit strongly contrasting beliefs, inclinations, and behaviors. Some students help maintain the academic environment (“Be quiet, my friend is talking”), and other students undermine the learning (“Shut up. This assignment sucks ass”).
Teachers contribute to the “empty middle” by backing good students with letters of recommendation, burdening bad students with referrals and detention slips, and writing little, if anything, about anybody else. Students in the middle do not complain, as this is par for the course, the way things are and will be; students in the middle know if they want attention from a teacher, they must join their peers on the bloated perimeter.
Documented existence of donut classes is rare. Some researchers attribute this lack of proof to teacher bias; having “nothing in the middle” reflects the lens with which a teacher views a class more than the reality of the class itself. Other researches say it’s because contemporary school and community infrastructures often divide young people before they get to class; students live in gated developments on hills or subsidized apartments in valleys; there are no regular houses. They enroll in Advanced Placement, Honors, and International Baccalaureate classes, or they do not.
A circular image for a linear concept, “donut class” is a term with limited productivity.
Syn: mayonnaise sandwich. See also: crab bucket syndrome