A Language All Its Own

Having had been an educator for so many years, sometimes I felt like I was in a foreign country speaking words that only my colleagues and I could understand. Now that I’ve retired, it’s taken me almost five years to begin speaking in normal English again, rather than acronyms and phrases only my education friends could understand.

There have been so many new educational ideas throughout the years, some which have fallen by the wayside, some which have been resurrected under other names or acronyms – probably so people who don’t want to admit that they now realized some of them worked, they came up with a different name for them and put their moniker on them. Others have been idealistic programs that just weren’t financially feasible in areas suffering significant declines in student enrollment, employment and industry over the past 40 years.

I realize that there are unique terms and phrases in any job, but education has to rank near the top with its very unique set of terms, phrases and acronyms. There were times, when using some of them in “the real world,” people looked at me strangely, some may have questioned my morals, and if my mom (R.I.P) heard some of them, she may have driven me to confession right away.

To my colleagues in education, I’m sure these are familiar to you, to my fellow retirees, these may bring back memories for you, and to those of you not in education, these may mean as much as being alone in a foreign land, not knowing the language or having a dictionary and needing to find out where a bathroom might be located.

See if you’ve heard of these …

Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy, Piaget’s Theory and whole language education? How about whole group instruction, small group instruction, cooperative learning or skill centers around classrooms? Does anyone remember high-intensity reading?

Does anyone recall discussions of Heterogeneous Groupings, and the often “taboo” labeled Homogeneous Groupings in classrooms? Throw into the mix terms like interdisciplinary teaching, holistic scoring and project-based education. Quite a list it is, but nowhere near the end of this language story.

Do the terms rubric, benchmark performance and literacy based make hairs on the back of your neck stand up? What about Venn diagrams and other graphic organizers? Have these ever come up in your daily conversation? How about terms like at-risk, critical thinking and manipulatives?

If those don’t conger up some great thoughts and/or memories, how do the phrases outcome based, performance assessment, portfolio evaluation, tickle your fancy? (Wow! Did I just say, “tickle your fancy?” I think I just dated myself.)

And then there are the ever popular behavior intervention, crisis prevention and sadly Child Protective Services. Oh yeah, how can anyone from my generation of educators ever forget the mentor-mentee discussions which were subject of many an In Service Day during our careers?

Back in the classroom there’s modeling, scaffolding, standards, and the new, extremely favorite phrase of today: Common Core. (I bet that one made a few educators cringe somewhat. I’d compare it to fingernails scraping a blackboard, but blackboards aren’t used anymore and scraping fingers on whiteboards just … pardon my poor grammar … ain’t gonna have the same effect.)

Those are just some of the hundreds of phrases and ideas stored in the archives of education phraseology, and will be there as long as the archives exist. But wait, the language doesn’t just include words and phrases. There are, what seems like, unending lists of initials and acronyms which make up the other half of this vernacular of education. Just ask an educator what some of these are …

Remembers the ITBS and the CAT? And how much fun did we have DIBELing in our day? And who can forget ORFs and fluencies while we were DIBELing? (By the way, when I spoke of DIBELing in public, that’s the one that drew double takes, or would have made Mom rush me to confession.)

Who remembers how much fun those SDM meetings were and how much fun for today’s educators the new and highly popular PLCs are? All of the fun educators have sitting through them is necessary though, to make sure those APPRs do what they are supposed to do.

And if those acronyms aren’t your cup of tea (Oh my God, I am old), what about things like ADD and ADHD? Those are very important in making up a teacher’s file drawer, and then throw in having to keep track of who is in ISS, or OSS, or the ALP, which used to stand for Advanced Learning Program, but now carries the title, Alternative Learning Program,

How about having to note, refer to, and sit in on meetings discussing IEPs, 504s, 1:5:1s, 1:15:1s. What about calling call IS if you need a new “dongle” for your iMac and SAFARI in your classroom?

Remember DBQs which were added to testing strategies and ran concurrent with NCLB (sorry Mom, I’ll go to confession for that curse)? And of course, who can forget Title 1 and Title 9? (How come no one ever talks about 2 through 8?) And one more, ever ask your kids about FACS? They can probably tell and show you a lot.

So there it is, a new language for many of you not in education. No it’s not found in the highly advertised Rosetta Stone, but it was, and is, a language foreign to many, but understood by the community of educators who teach our children.

In my retired years, when I hear many of them that I’ve forgotten, and many of the new ones that are raising blood pressures of educators, I kind of like saying that this new language is “all Greek to me.” (I do hope, though, that this language doesn’t require the performance of CPR or the use of an AED on those dedicated educators who have to learn this language.)