The organizer of the camp dumped books on my desk and had me make the decision about the suitability of the materials for each level. Unfortunately I had to sit down with two series only, and we were mostly deciding on cost, then the content materials of the book. Once the book series was selected, I tailored the materials for the teachers that weren’t available today.

This breaks one of my rules as a worker at a university. It is my personal policy now that whenever someone is using a book they didn’t personally select, don’t be the one to select it for them. I’ve found that all blame goes towards the person that did choose the materials if there are any problems in the classroom. If the books were perfect (and they never are) you get no credit for the selection, so it is a lose – lose situation.

This goes back to when I helped pick a previous camp’s books (one of the nine times). One of the books for one of the intermediate levels (the lowest level for older kids that didn’t read or speak well) was too difficult. I selected levels without meeting all of the students personally.You need to order books well in advance (usually twice, because someone messes up).

When you start with level “A” in a book series, then assign progressive levels as students get older, there is a plateau where the incremental ability required to understand books won’t match the incremental ability of struggling students. When limited to a single book series, the best thing you can have hope to happen is that you assign a book that is easier for struggling students, which might be in use with a younger age group that has higher level ability. Since books are ordered from publishers, it is very rare to find a suitable series at every single level for a camp, and this is the best compromise. But when you try to explain to parents why students of different ages are studying the same book, it can sometimes be hard to change their minds about the suitability of the books and the enrollment suffers.

I had a coworker that took his “unsuitable level book” argument and used it as an excuse to abdicate responsibility in the class. He had students rolling around on the floor, fighting, or playing on their phone while he tried to “teach the book”, and when the students found the book too difficult, rather than changing his approach he gave up and said, “They picked a bad book, it’s not my fault!” and continued his half-ass teaching.

Ultimately, this behavior was grounds for termination of his University contract. So many people complained about the poor class that it went straight to the director of the entire language program.  That’s someone you should never want to be interacting with in a complaint receiving capacity. The person that got fired for the book I picked had multiple problems, and had no friends in the office, or the administration because of his behavior. The book was the impetus for his removal according to the contract renewal (the camp actually occurred before he was hired full time at the university, which makes it a trumped up issue, but whatever).

Anyway, I am now “on the hook” for two teachers that have not taught a camp at the university that will arrive next week. I have no doubts they have a better idea of how to handle a class than the guy that got fired. I don’t think there is any problem with my selections this year, but I don’t know the students, so there is always a potential for conflict.