Basic Wisdom: Teaching and the Value of Experience

Basic Wisdom: Teaching and the Value of Experience

Yesterday marked the first time in my 18 year career that I have had a brand new computer on my desk for just ME to use.

A brand new computer that showed up still in its box, with a fresh new keyboard without dust bunnies, and a mouse that was not pre-grubbified by years of other people’s cooties.  It still had the clear sticky protective tape on it.


Cue perky Pharrell Williams song here.

It’s so fast–click it and you are there.  I was giddy with excitement.

And then the internet crashed.

So just as I was about to use my teacher Youtube channel and a cool PowerPoint from the cloud: Poof. No internet.  This meant no pre-planned technology-infused lesson integrating various learning styles. I put my phone and my two remotes down. I turned off the projector, I went back to basics and I taught the old-fashioned way, remembering to angle my body just right so as not to have my back to the class while I wrote on the board.

And I was proud of myself, and all my former English teachers would be too.  I went technologically back in time to about 1995, the land of the whiteboard and erasable marker, and me and my ninth and tenth graders had an almost one-room school house kind of fun.

I taught grammar.  Now, anyone who knows me well knows how much I hate teaching grammar.  It’s almost like math.  And yes, I hate it that bad. But as a teacher, I don’t always get to do what I want (go on, if you’re a teacher, laugh at how silly it is to think that we get to do what we want in our classrooms.)

That afternoon, I taught coordinating and subordinating conjunctions like a boss. Dependent and independent clauses, and compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences like, well, like a pro.  (And later on, ask me about the cool metaphor I came up with help to explain it.)

Because when it comes down to it, no matter what happens in the classroom, teachers adapt to it, and do what needs to be done in that moment.   Would I have been able to do that in my first couple of years teaching?  Doubt it.  I’d have gone on to whatever was in the plans for later that week that didn’t require technology, grumping all the while about not being able to use my new toy.

But with experience comes wisdom, and wisdom says we don’t have moments to waste, or energy to burn skipping around the order of things, so I went on with what they needed to learn, and I got a very minor-league buzz from the board markers in the process.

Kidding about the buzz, but my years in the classroom have helped me learn my content enough that I can teach most of it off the cuff, with no notes if I have too, and those same years have also taught me that I can make it more interesting using technology, art, music, and yoga balls.

However, the State of Georgia, specifically Governor Deal, wants to change the teachers’ pay scale so we wouldn’t get credit for those years that gave us the wisdom we put to work daily.  He envisions a plan that would measure our value by what our students score on one test, compared to the scores of the kids who took it the year before.  There are so many flaws in that logic.  Stick around. I’ll write about those, too, eventually.

But even with other pieces of flawed logic, the core of Deal’s suggestion that experience and education don’t count in a classroom is so many negative things, I have to make a list.  It is:

  • fallacious,
  • insulting,
  • ridiculous,
  • politically-motivated,
  • financially irresponsible.

I could go on, but it really comes to this:  Governor Deal, if you think you (or anyone with your classroom experience) can teach kids barely into their teens how to develop fluidity, flexibility, and frequency in their writing by revising sentences,  go for it.

We teachers with our useless experience and education would love to learn from you, and hear the great metaphor you can come up with to help the kids remember the different types of sentences.


For more information on this kerfuffle:

And because I think it’s awesome that teachers are finally, tentatively, starting to speak out, read the comments posted on the Governor’s Facebook page:

PS:  Miss Hawley, Mrs. Pearson, Miss Garringer, Mrs. Bishop, Mrs. Pallant: Thank you.


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