Yesterday, I went to a workshop led by the Ministry of Education that was intended to help publishers incorporate assessment tools into educational resource materials for teachers. The point, I think, was to integrate assessment with actual instruction, as opposed to saving it all for the big unit test at the end.
"But you just edit kids' books, don't you, Christie?" I hear you ask.
Au contraire, mes amies. We/I also create teachers' guides for our books which are available as free PDFs on the Fitzhenry & Whiteside website. So, Cathy Sandusky (our publisher) and I went to find out the latest in pedagogy down at the Marriott Hotel in Toronto.
For those of you who don't know me that well, I should tell you now that I'm a wee bit leery of the whole educational institution thing. I used to teach high school and was a substitute teacher for years. I was also an in-house tutor at a private school in Toronto for 10 years or so. And I homeschooled my own kids for the greater part of their elementary school years. So I'm not totally unfamiliar with various ways of educating kids. And I'm not a big fan of "the man" in education.
Especially the man who was running the workshop yesterday. He was an older Irish gentleman who seemed to have missed his calling as an evangelical tentshow preacher. Within 2 minutes, he was hopping up and down between tables, gesticualting wildly, and pontificating at the top of his lungs in a manner that would have scared little children.
"We are not here to give you a sermon; rather, you are here to listen to one!"
Before we left for the workshop, Cathy was worried that we had misunderstood the purpose of the event. That's because she read the "details" of the event in an email. So I read it over with her, and after about half an hour, we managed to parse their convoluted prose enough to take a good guess at what we were heading into. It seemed to be something that might be useful. So we went. Besides, there'd be food.
Convoluted prose seemed to be the modus operandi of the day. So, thank goodness, our first exercise that morning was to write out the stated purpose of the workshop in our own words -- just to make sure that everyone understood why we were all there. To give us a sporting chance, the organizers had written out the purpose on a "placemat" for us. This was excellent since it gave me an opportunity to rewrite the purpose with, you know, punctuation and appropriate prepositions, thereby (in fact) altering the purpose of the workshop as it was written on the placemat to the actual purpose of the workshop.
Glad we got that cleared up.
(One of the ladies running the workshop looked at me funny when she saw my placemat and said, "You're an editor, aren't you?" Damn straight.)
I wish I could tell you more about the rest of the day but seriously, that would take more space on this blog than I probably have room for. Let's just say that by first break, I was in need of both valium and alcohol. I think Cathy was afraid my head was going to explode. I still have kids in the school system, after all.
But lunch was good. And in an effort to keep from making snarky asides, I kept stuffing my mouth with croissants and danishes. Yum.
Then I discovered the healing power of doodling and made some very pretty floral patterns.
At about the 4-hour mark, we'd even managed to pick out a few useful nuggets of gold from the leprechaun's Orwellian pot of double-spoken crap. So at least I have some good ideas about how to improve our teachers' guides.
I also have a new-found sense of pity and appreciation for the publishers of actual textbooks. I can ignore most of the mumbo-jumbo that I had to listen to yesterday, but they actually have to buy into it and be able to spout that stuff when they put together their materials and grant proposals etc. Judging from the expressions on their faces and some of their questions and comments, they were almost as twitchy as I was. Good luck with that, folks.