What’s the Point?

I’m usually the optimistic one. I am certain that this causes occasional agita for some close friends who may get a teensy bit tired of me seeing the brighter side or looking for ways to rationalize a situation. However, I have become annoyed and alarmed by my own recent binge of cynicism, frustration, and chagrin. My colleagues seem to be at an all-time low; whining and kvetching seem to be at an all-time high. We are all suffering. I hear it everywhere. Morale has never been lower. [Well, it probably has been, but I can no longer recall the time and place, so, I’ll let this statement stand.] 

Professional development is one of many current and long-term concerns shared by the teachers I know (and love). This is my 39th year of teaching. However, I can probably count on both hands the worthwhile PD that I have attended over the years. Penn Literacy Network (PLN) courses, science kit training, the Delaware Science Coalition’s Lead Teacher training sessions (1997-2002), the state’s on-line technology courses, a UD science literacy course (2000-2001),  a 2010 RTI (Response to Intervention) conference arranged by DSEA, a field trip to the Holocaust Museum in D.C organized by the Halina Wind Preston Committee with orientation and specialized training for teachers, workshops for teachers offered at Ashland Nature Center, and some excellent pre-visit workshops for teachers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art come to mind.

I am no slouch. I am one of those folks who has repeatedly sought out workshops, trainings, and other learning experiences. If they built it, I would come.

However, much of the PD that is provided for teachers these days by their home school districts–I use the term provided in a loose way, since attendance is usually mandatory–has devolved into bits and pieces of disconnected, meaningless, unfocused, meandering presentations of whatever it is that someone else determines ALL professional staffs need to be exposed to. Some of the material may be poorly presented, and the entire process goes against almost all of the research that was touted 10-15 years ago about what signified excellent PD for adults, what was proven to actually work in bringing about change in classroom practice, and how PD should be structured in order to encourage the implementation of “best instructional practice.”

Everyone is expected to attend, no matter what the topic is. One size apparently does fit all.  Analysis of reading test data is required for ELA teachers, as well as for math, science, social studies, plus P.E., music, art, technology, the librarian, the school nurse, etc. And, this year, with the advent of 90-minutes per week of “collaborative time” as part of our state’s Race-to-the-Top initiative, the former once a month PD has been expanded to include three hour-long sessions each month.

[I am likely to get in hot water with someone for this commentary, but, it’s time for somebody somewhere to speak up.]

Faculty meetings–you remember those–have become required opportunities for “professional development.” No more staff sessions where you actually got to talk about the school, the kids, the classes, the program, plans for the future, or, heaven forbid, talk together about resolving problems in the afore-mentioned arenas. Not any more. Those days are over.

Now we dutifully sit and wait and watch the next district-structured PowerPoint presentation.

That’s right, folks, it’s: PD VIA POWERPOINT

The most conversation that we are allowed comes with an occasional “think-pair-share” or during a gallery walk. Obviously, these sessions do not come anywhere close to being COLLABORATIVE. The people one really needs to work with are locked up doing the same thing—all at someone else’s discretion and bidding. This is happening at school after school. Month after month.  

PowerPoint PD: It’s downright painful. It has become counter-productive. It’s unintentionally pernicious. It feels perpetual. Most of all, it seems pointless to most education professionals.

One more thing: it does not appear to be professional, and it is certainly not developmentally appropriate.  But, no one asks the teaching professionals what is needed.

This entry was posted in Accountability, Education Professionals, Faculty and Staff, Professional Development, School Administrators. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to What’s the Point?

  1. John Young says:

    But I thought RTTT was a panacea? Is it really snake oil?


  2. Gilda says:

    Snake oil of the worst kind-the folks behind it really seem to believe in it.

  3. Gilda says:

    Dear Doesexperiencecount:
    You show true grace under the oppression that is public education today. I’m glad you are still able to be optimistic!

  4. Frederika says:

    John: I do not think that RttT is all snake oil. Neither is it a panacea. The problem with the PD is long-standing, and is not just limited to my district–some of us have had years and years of inadequate and even inappropriate PD. For example, how could veteran teachers need the same PD as newbies? Why should the school nurses have to attend the same PD as classroom teachers? Why can’t teachers be trusted to assess which PD they think would help, know that they need, and would benefit their classroom instruction?

    However, this year’s RttT 90-minute collaborative time mandate has some problems. Here are some comments:
    > for years teachers have recommended building in some collaborative time–now we supposedly have gotten what we asked for–BUT,…
    > 90 minutes may be too much for starters
    > what many of us are getting is not at all collaborative–someone’s idea of “collaboration” is for them to put together something that they think all teachers need to know something about, show us all the same PowerPoint, and ask us to talk briefly to our neighbor about what we have just seen–like “brain-based learning”–the big mahofs go to the sessions with Eric Jensen in the summer, and then we get a very much synthesized, summarized, and watered-down presentation on PP–what the heck is that?
    > the method for each presentation goes completely against what is known and recognized as a good model for PD: PD should be on-going; in-depth; long-term; well-organized; with opportunities for practice, processing, and implementation; with follow-up sessions for reflection, trouble-shooting and retraining.
    > PD does not = collaboration
    > many of us are provided training in classroom strategies in which none of the strategies are utilized within the training–a wasted learning opportunity if I ever saw one
    > teachers have no input into the agenda for these sessions
    > “It ain’t collaborative if no collaboration takes place.” (overheard during one of these staff sessions)

  5. Yeesh, this is on par with MY WORST EXPECTATIONS. And Markell crowed about not spending down the RTTT too fast? How about this as an example of spending it down as a total waste of time and resources while DDOE pats itself on its collective back. And how about when they start to punish teachers for poor student performance while touting that these teachers had the ‘expert PD exposure’ after all.

    • Frederika says:

      I doubt if this actually costs much money. These meetings are after school, not during instructional time. The PowerPoints are home-grown. I do not mind professional development. I like it–when it is well-conceived, expertly delivered, valuable, targeted to my needs, immediately useful in some way, and can actulaly improve my teaching to improve my students’ learning.

  6. jack says:

    To me this is another example of a very flawed decision making process which does not include input from the employees who work in the classroom. I do not understand how a PD program can be developed without taking into consideration the issue being faced day in and day out by our teachers who have been in the classroom for many many years. I understand all teachers being provided the same PD regardless of length of service, nor do I understand why population of our schools is not considered, clearly a teacher in North Star does not have the same issues as a teacher in Warner.

  7. jack says:

    In my sentence that states I understand all teachers, it should read, “I “do not” understand all teachers being provided…

  8. Frederika says:

    I agree. If they can insist that teachers differentiate classroom instruction, then they can learn to differentiate the professional development offered to staff. If they can tell teachers that they have to use a particular model of instruction, like LFS, then they could adapt professioanl development to actually model what they are telling teachers to do.

  9. jack says:

    The question is; “Why is it not being done?”

  10. Frederika says:

    Hmm,… perhaps it is cheaper and easier to just issue canned, PowerPointed PD. I believe that it is first tried out on principals or on BLT’s (bulding leadership teams) and then they are supposed to replicate the original experience in schools around each district. One size fits all is just what it sounds like–should be acessible to all and easy to try on. But, the wearer may find it too tight, or too loose, or just not right.

    The other issue may be control. Everyone gets spoon-fed the same pablum (oh, my, I am stepping out onto thin ice here) and the same results are possibly expected. On the ground–where the action is–where the rubber meets the road–the results are not what someone may hope for or expect. It ain’t really workin’.

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