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Dan Propp has some opinions about the education system for school teachers. He should know. He spent twenty-three years as a “chalk holder”. Stick would-be educators into a university and don’t let them really teach until they have five years of theory. Towards the end, provide a few short practicums for a bit of public relations window dressing. Charge a fortune for texts (that often change every couple years to improve “marketing”), provide wonderful rubber chicken fast-food cafeterias, all the high-end coffee franchises to improve the perks, and out-of-this-world fees for the privilege working for that degree. And what a useful education degree it becomes! Dan says, “Many teachers are tired being social workers and day care activity providers. Our field is teaching, not field trips.” He has a lot more to say about the education world, and he says it with his characteristic, quirky wit and a lick of biting sarcasm. Be prepared for an overdose of peculiar puns in this book that takes a piercing look at education today.




Public school teaching has become a “pun-ishment” and a giant grammatical run-on “sentence” for the chalkholders to “serve”.

It is “in-bred” with too many “social crumbs” and “degrees”, employing pleasant sounding professional yeast, giving “rise” to the slices that once belonged to the parental loaf.

Thus, though what academics consumed or absorbed often ends up “half-baked” the verbal and written pedantic pretense, is out of this world, and the “sodium content” far too high. The “you-name-it-we-can-do-it” “happy, happy” classroom ends up being pumpernickled to death.

I used to hold a piece of chalk. However, the chalk broke. Was it because of the board? Guess one didn’t have enough “class” and so, I retired twenty-three years later.

There are many fond memories. One classic “punner” was the experience of commuting in the old clunker and arriving at my school portable to find that the steps to both doors had been removed. When the principal arrived, I asked him what might the solution be.

His reply? “Steps will be taken.”

Of course, metaphorically steps were rarely taken by the system, and maintenance crews were probably happy with the extra overtime.

I handed out plenty of pun-ishment. For example, the Hallowe’en high of all that sugar really kicked in a couple of days after this academically charged period. When the recess bell went, the easy-going youngsters ran out the doors like lightning bolts.

Then a wonderful event occurred: the automatic bell refused to call them back. They ended up with plenty of extra time to run that sugar off.

Therefore, I said to one of the administrators they should receive the “no bell peace prize”.

Not even a smile!

It reminds me of trying a bit of stand-up comedy on amateur night at a downtown club. What did they tell me? Sit down!

All those years enjoying the delights of imparting academic insight to classes with a hunger for Roman history. Actually, it was Greek to me, too. I felt like the owner of a bicycle shop wanting to retire because even my jokes were going flat, feeling deflated and retired.

Which reminds me, what do you call a person at a bicycle shop who is in charge of marketing? A spokesperson?

After more than two decades in classrooms from Grade Four to the “graduating” Sevens, the system had no choice but to provide a reduced pension, not full, but still nothing to kick at. That provided more time to partake in the passion that provided some sanity from “edge-u-cation”, garage sales.

I’d never bought a garage but did buy practically everything else, including cameras, accordions, whatever one could “squeeze” into our double car garage. Of course, for many years, now, there has been no room left for the cars. The family was delighted!

Educating Teachers



I think the education system for school teachers is still perfect. Stick ‘em into a university and don’t let them really teach until they have five years of theory. Towards the end, provide a few short practicums for a bit of public relations window dressing. Charge a fortune for texts (that often change every couple years to improve “marketing”), provide wonderful rubber chicken fast-food cafeterias, all the high end coffee franchises to improve the perks, and increasing out of this world fees for the privilege of working for that degree.

And what a useful education degree it becomes. Like comparing Karl Marx to Ronald Regan. Everything from the ying to the yang include discussing Molier’s Tartuffe to Goethe. Everything, of course, focused on the daily life of teaching in today’s public school classrooms.

Finally the big day arrives, the graduation ceremony and that ticket to enter the profession in a school portable.

How outrageous it would be to suggest the following impossible changes. Allow students to learn the routines as they really are (not on Mt. Olympus) by apprenticing in a school for four years, Monday to Thursday, with an experienced chalk holder and attend university, if necessary, only on Fridays.

At least with that kind of a system, there would be two adults in a classroom, which would make a huge difference academically and socially. Why? Because student compositions in classrooms today, with so many breakups and problems at home, demand it.

But, oh no. It would interfere with that high upon the hill infrastructure and prestige associated with university.

Computerized Report Cards



Press the mouse and, bingo! Instant personalized comments such as, “is making progress”; “is meeting expectations in math”; “interesting research on designated nation assigned”; “have a nice summer”; “meeting criteria”.

I would suggest creative, rhyming report card printouts, such as:

Your child’s comprehension of our nation’s history

Still a mystery

Comprehending geometry?

Oh, me, oh, my, oh!

Making progress?

Take a guess

That’s right, not more, but less!


Next year, maybe, my pension!

Works well with one another?

Oh, brother!

Comprehends nouns, verbs, and adjectives?

Any negatives with the spelling? I’m not telling!


I’m still wishin’!


I need a vacation!

Long Division?

Gone fishin’

Involved in classroom discussion?

Yes, as an obstruction!

As an alternative, how about four line poetry comments:


Where is Mexico? Answer, “Close to ITALY?”



How about ROME? “Is it in Antarctica?”


9 times 9, plus 10 equals: 83

144 divided by 12 equals: 65

Please help ME!

No hope to survive!


What’s a noun…“Like a verb?”

A simile, “Like a smile?”

Are you trying to throw me a…curb?

Resignation sure seems worthwhile.

The description of university courses are such a delight. Something like:

A depth-filled, six-month program to weigh the merits and importance of teaching healthy food habits in conjunction and integrated with school hot lunch programs.

A credit program to intensively gain insight into North America’s divergent history through cartooning.

A comprehensive education faculty immersion into focusing upon concerns manifested by capitalist ideals.

An intensive study of odd numbers and their relevance to equations.

A five credit course to socially focus on the realms of yesterday as compared to today’s ideals.

An exponential insight into the powers and integers of political insight.

 Overcoming the status quo and comparing it to Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 simplified in today’s brave new world.

Teachers are Really Human

I remember a split Grade Six-Seven class in a portable that was oh, so much fun! The furnace woke up suddenly in the summer, and then only if it felt like it in the winter. Some of the student desks going back to the 1950s had openings for ink wells. There were mice droppings in areas where delicious-for-niblling books were stored. As far as the mice were concerned, they probably knew the students couldn’t digest them and therfore had no reason for guilt.

I was a confident and experienced educator whom the students worshipped, in equal measure to their love and worhip of learning about nouns, adjectives, and the other parts of speech. Thus, I gave them the unorthodox pleasure of listening to Beethoven symphonies on a record player I had dragged in. I assigned them the exercise of writing creative stories beginning with, “Suddenly one day…”

One student was such a challenge that it was necessary for me to escape for a long weekend holiday with my wife and our two youngsters, who were pre-schoolers at the time.

As we wheeled into a motel parking lot by the seashore, who should park next door? That kid and his parents! To my surprise, we had a great time. He played with our son and daughter and took them for walks along the beach. It was truly a fantastic weekend.

When school began the following Tuesday, teaching this boy was suddenly a picnic and continued that way the rest of the school year. He was the classroom leader and it seemed he never recovered from the shock of learning that teachers can be humans. too.

That Bachelor of General Studies

That’s quite a mouth full for a five-year degree! I still can’t figure it out. I was no longer a bachelor.

What did I know about generals except that general Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he became president, liked to play golf? What makes that last name a hole in one is from the German, eisen means iron, and hower translates as hitter. Ike always hit the iron. Guess that’s par for the course because Germany’s chancellor in the 1950s was Konrad Adenauer. There’s that joke about him inventing daylight saving time. No translation required. Just sound it out—Konrad…add an hour! My parents used to call him Uncle Adenauer. He helped provide compensation to the German Jews who were able to escape the Holocaust. This includes my parents who fled to Bolivia, where subsequently, I was born in 1944. But I digress.

When it comes to teachers and salaries, too often pay was based on how much university one has gone through, with no regard for the individual’s ability at the job.

I remember one primary teacher at our school who was a far better teacher than I, yet received five hundred dollars less per month than I because she had only a three year teaching certificate. My qualification was five years of university, so the computer spit out an extra five hundred smackeroos automatically into our bank account.

Newspaper in Education

The best practical hands-on training for the real world classroom was a two day workshop on the role of newspapers in education sponsored by a daily newspaper. It taught me more than I could use and eclipsed the five years I spent in university.

Of course, we have to be selective but the articles in sports, news, the features, local news, and world events, are probably the best texts in which to involve today’s children. (Much better than Beethoven on a record player.) They can be used in identifying the nouns, adjectives, and verbs, as long as one doesn’t overdo it.

Headlines are great because they often use alliteration and metaphor. Personification blossoms. If a student wants to become the dog, cat, or elephant in a news feautre and write from its perspective.

Here is another idea: Having students grade a photograph and give reasons why they graded it a C, B, or A allows opinions to be aired. Art or composition, of course, enters into their reasoning. The display ads are also great for connecting percentage, addition, subtraction, and costs. Math becomes relevant. What a concept!