Notetakers, Part 2
In his documentary ‘The Cartel’, Bob Bowdon said that “overhead” is the “kind of spending that seldom faces any scrutiny locally when the money is coming from the state”. The following is based on the philosophy espoused in ‘The Cartel’ and on characters from ‘St Bart’s High, Or How I Had a Love for the Classes Beat into Me’, a novel by DS Palmer.
“All right,” Spurlock coaxed with both hands raised to his forehead’s level, “Let’s all try and settle. Settle down, please… BRITTANY!” he yelped as a girl stood from her chair and raised a closed fist at the boy behind her, “Sit…down…please…”
As the rest of the class realized someone had made the instructor genuinely angry they gradually settled into their seats. Brittany sheepishly followed suit, though her shoulders twitched the irritation she felt toward her neighbor for landing her in the scolding spotlight.
“Thank you,” Spurlock said as he clasped his hands near his waist, “We have a lot to do in the next couple of days because, remember, you have your first exam on Friday,” the class groaned in disapproval, “I know, I know, lousy schools trying to see if you’ve learned! What are we here for anyway?” the teacher tried to joke.
“So does that mean you’re gonna give us a study guide today?”
“A study guide?” Spurlock asked with an arched eyebrow, “What do you mean?”
“Uh, you know, something to study…,” the reply came with looks to each side in search of laughter. The delivery was not disappointed.
“Yeah, you mean study guides in addition to the notes that I have so generously been printing out for you guys?”
“What? These!?” a different student in the back hollered, “These don’t even have nothin’! They don’t have no notes! There’s like, 10 words in each picture! It’s the same stuff you’re always puttin’ on the screen!”
“I…I know,” Spurlock said through genuine surprise, “They’re exactly what I told you they would be. I said when I first started giving them to you that they would not be sufficient notes by themselves and that you would still need to write down anything that you think would best define the concept that we were discussing. Remember that?” Spurlock asked in more of a hypothetical tone, “’Cuz I know I said it. Everyday…that we’ve…ever…taken…notes…”
His class was not amused. They all looked up at him as if they were being cheated and that their teacher had not fulfilled his end of their learning contract. A couple in each corner started shaking their heads and whispering to one another. Still others angrily swiped their printed notes off to a side of their desk. The less challenging students merely looked down at their handouts as if they could wish information onto the pages.
“Well,” a third defiant student began, “I can’t get nothin’ from these notes. I can’t study from them! Nobody could!”
“OK, this is a conversation we should have had last week when I started printing them out,” Spurlock countered, “Better yet, this is a conversation we should have had a month and a half ago when I started lecturing. The expectations have been laid out to you repeatedly. If you don’t understand, it’s your responsibility to get the proper instructions.”
“Nuh-uh,” the first outraged young man countered, “I thought it’s the teachers’ jobs to make sure all their students know how to do everything!”
The class murmured its approval.
“All right, fine, but what if this was a job,” Mr. Spurlock suggested, “And what if I was your boss and I told you to do something and you didn’t let me know that you didn’t get it. And then that thing was done incorrectly. And let’s say this happened, oh, I don’t know, everyday. What’s going to happen? Are you going to keep that job? Or should I go hire somebody who can either listen or clarify?”
“Oh! So now you’re sayin’ that none of can get no job! Huh?”
“No, I’m saying that it sounds like none of you are going to do well on the test.”
A series of cries about how that would be patently unfair rose out of a third of the class. Another third warned Spurlock about how bad it would make him look if his entire class failed the test. The final third pled with him to just please provide a study guide and then they would do fine.
“Tell you what,” Spurlock offered after they had quieted themselves, “If you don’t feel that your notes are adequate, come by tomorrow during homeroom and I will answer any question you may have short of, ‘This is the answer to number one…’”
“Any question?” a young lady asked.
“Any…question,” Spurlock confirmed. The class nodded its head in agreement that such an arrangement was fair if nothing else.
The following day Spurlock had no additions to his homeroom.
To be continued…
Author’s note: As previously described, the concept of printing out instructional crutches is not only fiscally wasteful, it’s furthermore conditioning a generation of students that even the most simple responsibilities, such as writing down important information and asking clarifying questions, to expect such basics to be provided to them. And while that is being provided in the name of ‘learning’, other ‘skills’ go by the wayside. Skills like, you know, writing information down that stares them in the face…
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Contact DS Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org