On the 2022–2023 School Year

not a rant

Posted: 2023-06-26
Updated: 2024-04-13
Stats: 1089 words / ~6 minutes

Reflecting upon this school year as it draws to a close, the word that comes to mind is “predictable.” Perhaps with age and experience, I am becoming overly critical, and predictable as well. I must say, though, that many of the frequent criticisms of education and GenZ proved all too (predictably) true this past year.

The schools where I work are also businesses. They are not public. The students are also clients. You may have heard that “the customer is always right.” Well, in predictable fashion, all of my employers have decided to double down on this maxim. Here are some examples:

I could continue and go into details on cases. I could also tell you about how, while teaching a class to future notaries, I was informed that I should avoid the use of the word “testament,” because it could trigger some students. I respected those instructions. I thought that it was quite forward of them to make that suggestion. And, I managed to avoid it most of the year. But, there came a time when we had to cover the subject of inheritance. Let’s just say they were right, because there was crying.

There are those who might roll their eyes and scoff at this. They may mutter that overused word — snowflake1 — and grumble about how society has ruined the youth. Broken records, predictable and perhaps uninformed. This is not that at all. The fact is that in my short career as a teacher (16 years) I have observed a slow and steady uptick in what can only be called anxiety.

Carefree students, able to laugh at their mistakes and take things with stride, are few and far between. My students are increasingly and visibly worried about their futures, fatigued and irritable, and some even suffer from panic attacks in class. They constantly police their own verbiage, find it difficult to give their opinion, and need more time to complete tasks.

As a teacher at multiple schools, I also watched as the number of students given extra time (called tiers temps here in France2) grew from 0 to 10 in a class of about 25 students. Not only are they granted extra time, but also access to computers, dictionaries, Internet, etc., in order to complete the same task.

This is worrisome for me. It should be worrisome. Let’s all be worried.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief, though. The administration got us. Wellness centres and school nurses are available (counselling services upon request).

With those bases sufficiently covered, we can focus on teaching and content. And, what’s on the table?

Predictably, whatever is trendy. And what’s trendy is the not-at-all-anxiety-inducing subject of sustainability. And in order to talk about sustainability, we sometimes talk about such joyous topics as:

It goes without saying that teaching this makes sense. Teaching, not force-feeding. This material is crammed and stuffed into students of all disciplines. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen The True Cost. I avoid watching it in class now because it makes students uneasy.

If students need to be taught the material, the professors need to be trained too. That means training days and workshops. I love free training, and I adore paid training. I am not an expert and learning is the flip-side to my career, so you might expect me to be first in line to sign up for such a thing.

Well, I surprised myself this year — I never would have predicted that! I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like we’ve been over this topic. I grew up when we were all flustered about the hole in the ozone — and saw how when people put their minds to it, such a thing can be overcome. I watched Captain Planet on TV and learned about reducing, reusing, and recycling year after year at school. I took a class trip to a dump (sorry, “sanitary landfill”), another to a recycling facility, and yet another to a composting facility. I sorted (by penalty of law) my garbage. I returned my bottles for the deposit. I did the beach cleaning and the park cleaning. I haven’t owned a vehicle since 2006, and I only wore second-hand clothes until I got to university.

So, forgive me for rolling my eyes when my employer — who only started sorting the bins three or four years ago — tells me that I need to watch 40 5-minute YouTube videos from 2021 produced by a multinational insurance company. I’ll do it, begrudgingly.

And while we are on the topic of computers, I’d like to make another statement of fact. The newest cohort of students is undeniably worse than the previous when it comes to computers. I ranted about this in 2022. No more ranting. Pure observation.

It is unacceptable that a student can assert their expertisemastery, even — of Office when they are unable to add [expletive deleted] page numbers, a [expletive deleted] table of contents or [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] headings and subheadings. I realize that Word processors are notoriously convoluted, and I know — all the teachers know — that students are using ChatGPT and online translators to complete their work, but, dear students, there is this thing called a search engine that can help you learn how to format a document.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

As someone with a geeky side, I followed the development of GPT. I even included a slide in a lesson about how GPT-3 wrote a song. I played with the different image creation things in class. When OpenAI dropped ChatGPT I immediately sent a message to my manager and colleagues. It took until last month for the school to form a task force. For some reason I received an invitation to said task force. I refused and shared my thoughts (summary: me no likey) but was not removed from the mailing list.

It will (again) come as no surprise that we will (predictably) work on finding a way to use GPT-4/LLM/ChatGPT/whatever to create content for classes and find ways to allow students to use it in class.

And so the 2022–2023 school year comes to a close… FFS

  1. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/snowflake#Usage_notes ↩︎

  2. https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/tiers_temps ↩︎

You can or contact me if you wish to comment or propose a correction.