Thursday, May 1, 2014

Teacher Merit Badges

Earlier this week, Metro Nashville Public Schools unveiled a new virtual merit badge system to reward teachers who take on extras. The idea was facing resistance about fifteen seconds after it was introduced.

Kelly Henderson, the districts executive director of instruction, compared the system to Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Jill Speering of the school board responded, "I'm sorry-- that doesn't impress me. Teachers are adults. They don't need a badge. It's almost a slap in the face."

This tells me one thing-- neither Henderson nor Speering have an XBox in their homes.

In the world of XBox gaming (this may also be true for Playstation, but we are an xbox & wii home), programmers stumbled upon a way to increase a game's replayability (the number of times you can be entertained by thrashing the same imaginary monster). That was to create achievements. Once you have finished a game, you can still go back and unlock achievements by completing the game without any extra power-ups, or blowing up all the left-handed mugwumps, or never driving your virtual car into a tree, or any number of things so silly you'd think I was making them up. And to commemorate each of your achievements, you get a little virtual badge on your Big Wall O'Achievements.

People love this. Love. It. There are corners of the interwebs filled with people just showing off their Big Walls O' Achievements. Some are skill, and some are luck, but people will sit and replay a game they've already beaten a zillion times just to get the badge for capturing all the pink fluffy mini-godzillas (at least, that's what I hear).

So I think the actual problem with the Nashville plan is that it doesn't go far enough. Virtual badges for continuing ed is swell, but let's really apply ourselves. Let's set some real challenges and have some fun. Here's my list of proposed achievements.

* Teaches entire unit without once using copies of publisher-produced materials

* Teaches for an entire week without shushing anyone

* Goes an entire month without doing any room prep on weekends (elementary only)

* Goes an entire month without running out of kleenex in room (bonus if month is March)

* Teaches an entire week without saying "When I was your age..." (over-30)

* Teaches an entire week without saying "When I was in college..." (under-30)

* For a full week, every student brings a writing utensil to class

* For a full week, computer tech does what it's supposed to every single time

* Calls every single parent in one week

* Goes entire week in the lounge without discussing students

* Correctly writes all standards tags on lesson plan without looking them up

* Turns in all office paperwork-eforms on time for an entire week

* Avoids least favorite colleague for a full week

* Goes a full day without being on the receiving end of student over-sharing

* Gets a different student to say, "Wow! I learned something!" every day for a week

* Successfully clears printer jam

* Successfully gets old mimeograph machine to work when printer suffers jam fatality

* Has worksheets and materials all run off and ready to go full month before needed

* Goes three months without a drop or add in classroom

* Get room full of six-year-olds ready for bus in December in less than ten minutes

* Get at least ten sixteen-year-olds to say, "This Shakespeare guy is okay."

* Goes full week without hearing, "Why do we have to learn this stuff, anyway?"

* Teach in nothing but sports metaphors for a full day

* Says, "Good job, [student name]" 150 times in one day

Teachers would compete like crazy to have their webpage on the school district site drowned in an avalanche of merit badge festoonery, and every day in the classroom would be like a big video game. If you've got more ideas for teacher achievements, leave them in the comments, or perhaps we can float the hashtag #teachermeritbadge.

1 comment:

  1. Quite right. I'm all about the titles and achievements in Guild Wars and GW2. The same applies in other games, whether they are on the pc, the wii, or the cell phone. I call it the Pokemon Phenomena (gotta catch them all).

    Off the top of my head, you could earn your wings by winging it (no lesson plans) for a class/day/week (bronze/silver/gold wings). How about long term badges? Dora the Explorer badge: Have taught in every wing/building/pod in the school.

    And don't forget titles (to appear on your letterhead, business cards, and teacher mail box): Peter Greene The Unsteady (best to worst VAM score) or The Cunning (studiously avoided attending any committee meetings for 3 consecutive years) or The Brave (500 school lunches bought and consumed).

    There's no limit to what we could do with this.