Edubabble: A glossary of teacher talk for current, retired, and aspiring teachers
In over thirty years as a teacher, counselor, principal of elementary, middle and high schools, as well as six years as superintendent of schools (a CEO position in the jurisdiction in which I worked), I have found the vast majority of teachers to be dedicated, some to the point of being altruistic. They possess high levels of intrinsic motivation and may be broadly described as individually conservative and collectively liberal. They appear to eschew flamboyant attire, often sporting forgettable, almost dull, fashion. They seem to prefer practical rather than flashy cars. These are generalizations to be sure, but there is enough fodder in these idiosyncratic character traits to form a thematic thread throughout the glossary.
A second overarching topic is the school as a unique employment venue. From supervision duty to the tyranny of the bell, and from lesson preparation to marking student work, there is much to say about how schools differ from most workplaces. Of course, the most obvious distinction is that schools are populated by students; and what children and teenagers say and do can make for some entertaining descriptions. Several entries attempt to capture such shenanigans and comprise a third thematic thrust throughout the glossary.
A fourth leitmotif focuses on so-called “experts”, who are forever telling teachers what to do and how to do it. While these people range from politicians to bureaucrats and professors to self-proclaimed visionaries, the one trait they share is that they have rarely, if ever, worked in a school or taught in a classroom. Why some teachers pay so much attention to these people has always been a mystery to me.
I do not know why teaching is so prone to jargon, nor do I know why there are so many acronyms in education. I only know that much of the argot can only be described as nonsensical. Perhaps jargon and acronyms enhance understanding, though they seem more likely to contribute to further obfuscation. The continuing trend toward more edubabble is such a promising field that it made for an encapsulating title.
The themes are wrapped with intended humor. Of course, what constitutes humor depends upon the perception of the receiver, not the teller. As an educator, I am not a comedian. I do not tell jokes well and have never regarded myself as wryly sarcastic. I have tried to insert what I believe to be at least a dose of dry wit in most of the entries. There are comments offered for over three hundred terms or phrases, and I hope people will find at least a few describe a truth hidden within the humor. I am sure some readers will groan at what they believe to be poor comedic satire expressed in some of the listings. Others may manage only a mild snicker at a comment or two. Some may be insulted by a few descriptions which may hit “too close to home.”
A teaching career is a wonderful yet challenging expedition that is full of adventure. A little edubabble humor can help navigate the more difficult terrain and make the journey that is teaching all the more enjoyable.
Good luck and good reading.
(there are close to 400 entries in the glossary)
DATA-DRIVEN DECISION MAKING
Occasionally initials are an excellent indication of the usefulness and/or shelf life of an educational trend. This style of decision making; DDDM, seems to be dangerously close to an amalgam of DDT and ICBM; see Abbreviations, Accountability, Benchmarking, Diving Into the Data, Expert, Number Crunchers, Number Fudgers, Politicians.
It is a wonder that several politicians, and even a few teachers, listen to what these people have to say. With a few exceptions these “experts” in teaching have rarely, if ever, taught in a public school classroom. They work in an environment where research is more valued than teaching competence. Their attempts to make education a respected research discipline have been unsuccessful. They occupy one of the lowest rungs on the university status ladder, battling it out with the Sociology professors to avoid falling to the bottom position; see Assessment for Learning/Assessment of Learning, Edubabble, Expert, Illich, Inquiry-Based Learning, Nadir, University (2), Visionary, Workshops and Seminars.
Unlike exemplary learning programs and quality teaching, the football team receives a great deal of local media coverage which enhances positive public relations and burnishes the school image. Young men can let off a little steam so they are not butting heads in the hallway or brawling in the change room. Thanks to football, the school can encourage aggression and mayhem while charging a fee for people wishing to watch; see Gender-Based Sports, Golf Team, Oxymorons, Recruiting, Testosterone Poisoning.
While most would agree that a teacher should be hired solely on ability, there are limits. A prospective teacher who has not moved on from the Goth scene of the 1990’s may have a difficult time finding employment despite solid instructional skills. Walking into the job interview wearing black pants, black shirt, black eyeliner, black nail polish, a black dog collar, metallic chains, and sporting spiked, dyed black hair will ensure that the candidate stands out from others vying to teach first grade. If by some miracle the person is the successful applicant it would be wise not to get hopes up regarding an imminent move to the principal’s chair; see Dress, Fads (Fashion), Job Interview, Jocks and Jockettes, Versace, Gucci, and Armani.
More edubabble, the phrase is also known as cutting edge and is closely related to terms such as vanguard, lighthouse, and visionary. The proponents are almost always non-teachers, providing a significant clue as to the practicality of the proposed ideas. The life span of such innovative thought is roughly equivalent to that of a pop music group for the nine-to-twelve-year-old crowd; see Edubabble, Expert, Flip Flops (2), Innovation, Inquiry-Based Learning, Open Area Classrooms/Open Concept School, Principal (f), Zig-Zag (b).
Revered by most of their adolescent peers, there are few detection systems these students cannot beat. Ruthless and cunning, the risk takers have little respect for the rules, making them viable candidates to be future CEO’s or CFO’s of major corporations; see Frankenstein, Informal Leader, Number Fudgers, Self-Esteem (Student).
These students did not have as much fun at elementary school as one may think. It is difficult for a child to break a rule without a mouthy peer tattling. The squealers will then berate the teacher with a memorized litany of all the school rules, some of which the adult had either forgotten or didn’t know in the first place; see Budging in Line, Tattlers and Squealers.
VERSACE, GUCCI, AND ARMANI
Sounding more like an Italian law firm than a trio of famous designers, teachers never wear their fashion creations, principally for two reasons:
teachers do not have fat wallets. The price point for the clothing and accessories is far beyond their means and available only to people working in positions of great benefit to society such as baseball players, tax-evasion lawyers, and hedge fund managers; see Informal Leader, Pay Slip (2), Self-Esteem (Student);
for many teachers, high fashion appeals to those who are weak-minded and easily led, and teachers tend to favor the practical over the sexy. Many male teachers believe that wearing a tweed jacket, corduroy pants, and cheap brogues is still a fashion statement (it is though not in the way they think). When hitting the nightlife, female teachers usually wear a dress or skirt more likely purchased at Sears than Nordstrom; see Conservative-Thinking Liberals, Dress, Fads (Fashion), Goth Look, Jeans, Jocks and Jockettes.