The Wire: a guide to modern teaching

I made it to the end of term one. This meant no sleeping, not enough eating, and a lot of marking and grading for the final couple of weeks. And, in the same way that I encourage the students to reflect on the gains in their work and find the areas they need to improve in, I am trying to work out the same things in my teaching.

Of course (although they haven’t worked it out) when I ask them to reflect, I’ve already written out for them in no uncertain terms what they are doing well and what they need to improve.

Who does that for me?

Ex-officer Pryzbylewski of the Baltimore Major Crimes unit, that’s who.

Night after night I wade through hours of planning and marking before falling hollow-eyed and pale-faced into bed in front of the computer to catch up on Mr Prezbo’s progress as the newest member of staff at Edward Tilghman Middle School. “Ah, bless!” I sigh as he discovers one of his charges managed to solve his maths puzzle while the rest of the class were throwing things out of windows or slashing each other’s faces open. “No!” I cry as he releases detention half an hour early. “Mmm,” I tut approvingly as his classes slowly come under some kind of control.

Accordingly, I measure how things have progressed in my room. And here’s how it looks:



Percentage of students presenting completed homework – average per week 30% Percentage of students presenting completed homework – average per week 80%
Percentage of students submitting major assignments on time 20% Percentage of students submitting major assignments on time 90%
Number of verbal warnings given per week – a lot Number of verbal warnings give per week – very few
Number of times ADD child has to be asked to stop chasing invisible butterflies around the room – many Number of times ADD child has to be quietly reminded that singing while working can distract others – a couple
Chance of aura of studiousness, dedicated intellectualism and dedication to learning in the classroom – slim to none Chance of aura of studiousness, dedicated intellectualism and dedication to learning in the classroom – fair to middling, occasionally high

I like to compare my progress over the year to Mr Prezbo’s progress between season four – where full blown armed fights errupted in his classroom – and his cameo in season five, where he has grown a beard and has the scourge of Baltimore’s urban youth eating out of his hand.

True, a private, for profit semi-international school on the outskirts of Lima probably doesn’t face the same kind of problem as a middle school whose intake area includes the meanest streets of Baltimore. The ‘scourge of Pachacámac’s urban youth’ includes the surf kids who live out at the southern beaches and would rather surf than do homework – an entirely understandable set of priorities. The scourge of Baltimore’s urban youth appear (according to an admittedly gritty show) to include a rag-and-bone boy on smack, the son of a lethal – and now imprisoned – gangster on a mission to live up to his father’s reputation as a dealer and hard-man, and a charming boy who just unfortunately happens to be gifted at shooting people who annoy highly temperamental gangsters who have not yet been imprisoned, shot or otherwise disposed of.

Nevertheless, aside from messages such as ‘don’t annoy gangsters’ or ‘beware Greeks bearing gifts that arrive in unregistered shipping containers’ this show has coated me in the warm, fuzzy glow of seeing a fellow professional rising slowly above the morass of bad administration, tiresome children and impractical dictates to become the lord of all he surveys.

So tonight when I retire to my cosy Wire cocoon, maybe I won’t have finished marking 8th grade’s papers; perhaps a lesson plan or two will be a little ratty around the edges; but leave me alone, I’m watching serious TV. And when I’m done I’m going to teach the socks off the lot of you.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. magix
    May 29, 2013 @ 08:50:05

    more more more – if you can fit it in with all that wire watching! lol



  2. Pieces of 8
    May 27, 2013 @ 11:27:29

    I’m not sure to what your ‘wow’ pertains, but I’ll take it as a compliment!



  3. Pater (obviously a translation)
    May 27, 2013 @ 10:17:29




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