Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: March 2, 2010 Archive

Pakratz Replies

Posted at 6:06 AM on March 2, 2010 by Dale Connelly (43 Comments)
Filed under: Bubby Spamden

Here's one response to yesterday's complaint from Bubby regarding his grade in history class.

Poor Bubby - a good effort in mostly good faith. Ms. Pakratz may be tired of Bubby's efforts or she may be just tired (because it is the beginning of March) or maybe she has seen this paper before. Who knows why she would "give" him a C-? There are always two sides of the story and i'd like to know Ms. Pakratz's story.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | March 1, 2010 6:38 AM

Good point, Barb. So would I. As luck would have it, late in the day yesterday, I received a note Ms. Pakratz herself!

Dear Mr. Connelly,

I am not surprised to learn that Mr. Spamden took his complaint about my grading to an online group. As a public school teacher, I am accustomed to to the feeling that someone with an agenda is looking over my shoulder. I'm grateful to see that I did not receive instant condemnation from your community. That's unusual for the internet, where brutality is the standard in every forum.

I once worked at a grade school and was required to put in time as a playground monitor. One veteran "playground lady" advised me to take a deep breath each time an aggrieved party made the accusation that someone else had been "messing with me". I was instructed to ask this question before taking any action: "What was happening just BEFORE he or she started 'messing with you'?" I often heard enlightening accounts that described pushing, throwing or taunting by the alleged victim - details that were left out of initial complaint.

Here is the assignment Mr. Spamden was asked to complete along with the rest of the class: Folk wisdom regarding the weather is often based in truth, but does that make it true? Choose a popular weather "saying" and assess it against known scientific fact. 400 words minimum. List sources.

Mr. Spamden listed only one source, and that was an online blog. In the syllabus I specifically exclude Wikipedia and blogs as reliable sources of information. As a blog writer, I'm sure you understand why. The daily pressure to produce something, combined with the traditional allure of outrageousness and controversy will always favor opinion over truth. While Mr. Spamden's points about the activity level of lions and lambs are undeniably true, it should have been easy to find legitimate sources. Apparently he didn't go to the trouble.

More than a third of Mr. Spamden's paper is taken up with making a case for the lowering of standards in my class. I'm sure it was fun for him to perform that section when he read his work to the group, and he got the laughs he was after, but agitating for a reduction in the workload was not the assignment.

Like many teachers, I feel frustrated when I know a student can do much, much better. Mr. Spamden is coasting. Being a high school sophomore has become very comfortable for him, and it is my job to get him to sit up, pay attention and move on. I thought the C- would do that. I should have guessed he would turn it into an opportunity to trumpet his victimhood online. Too bad. He is smart enough to have a very productive and satisfying life if he applies himself, but by the time he figures that out I am afraid it will be too late.

Lucille Pakratz
History Teacher - Wendell Wilkie High School

Hmm. I don't think Bubby will be able to get that grade changed. And if Ms. Pakratz has her way, he might have to become a high school junior someday soon.

Who was your most challenging teacher?

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