21 November 2007

California, Here We Come

We had a faculty conference/professional development the other day. The main feature was the California Standards for the Teaching Profession, which we are now expected to incorporate into our teaching practices. Apparently, this is going to be the “next big thing” in New York City. After all, we have a great union, small class sizes, an abundance of materials to engage the students, and supportive administrators and parents. So it makes sense that we seek to further improve our practice by following the lead of a state that elected as governor a quasi-articulate ex-bodybuilder.

I engaged myself with a Sudoku puzzle and tuned out, but when the time came to evaluate the session in writing, I had total recall. I questioned why we were investing time in this when there were so many other needs. For example, and since I am in the mood to beat a dead blog horse, how is it that we have a coach AND a lead teacher, but we have no real curriculum or month-to-month plan?

As of now, nothing was said about what I wrote, and I even put my name on the sheet. I have, for now anyway, quelled my urge to wage verbal destruction in favor of expressing my anger in a professional manner. I resisted the temptation to write a very bad word somewhere on my evaluation because I wonder if anyone’s even going to read it. What bothered me the most was someone's comment that "these are things that you are already doing." So why put the time into it?

Several years ago, as a beginning teacher, I attended a workshop at the UFT office on reading activities and strategies. I left with several hands-on ideas, I’m pretty sure that I started using some of them immediately, and I even use some of them now. And I’m a little sad to say that I think that’s one of a small number of meetings I’ve attended where I’ve left with something I could immediately adapt to the needs of my kids.

During the two “lost years”, when I had the misfortune of being the literacy coach, my main criterion in planning PD was the “hands-on” factor. It was important that the teachers leave with something they could use as soon as possible. My motto was “Theory? What’s that?” (Of course, one person did complain that I was not featuring enough theory in my sessions.)

Of course, I was “encouraged” by the ReBots to present certain things for PD, and being the dutiful little soldier, I complied. So I understand that the coaches and LTs have their marching orders. But I also think that effective coaches and lead teachers have an obligation to the teachers to be aware of what we need. Neither person ever approaches me to ask how things are going in my classroom, or what I’m doing with my students. Neither one ever comes into my room to see how I do it without textbooks, without my beloved overhead, without photocopies. Instead, I am handed vague documents to put in my “assessment binder”, another sore subject worth its own post.

Now that we are an Empowerment School, we don’t have people up our behinds on a regular basis. We used to call them “seagull managers” (a term coined by someone much more clever than I.) because they’d fly in, make a lot of noise, crap on everything, and leave. So there’s no accountability on them- they don’t have to worry about someone walking in and asking them what the teachers are doing.

I would happily trade my clandestine Sudoku sessions for a few meetings where I had the chance to collaborate with my colleagues, to share ideas, to do work that means something.


Schoolgal said...

Wouldn't it be great if PD sessions were geared to meet the needs of the teaching staff.

My admin handed out a survey, but it was all for show. She stilled picked the topics. Usually it meant more paperwork and stress for us.

Jane said...

Oh I am sorry! I am in CA and my professional development this week was brought to us by the letters Z,Z,Z,Z and sponsored by the Committee to Kill The Earth and most specifically Pine, Oak and Fir who died to make us endless handouts and copies of the two inane powerpoint presentations.

I too was told before I moved out here how progressive CA is. Then I got here and well its appalling. Must be some good marketing going on because I see little for any other school system to copy.

There is some good stuff going on, but it's not particularly new or inventive. Just a return to teaching.