Unprofessional development

Mr. AB of From the TFA Trenches complains that Unprofessional Development treats teachers like children.

We want to learn like we are in law school or grad school. That means no gimmicks, no games, no group work, and no, absolutely no, teacher-voice. If you could end that sentence with “Boys and girls,” don’t say it. Do not play chimes or a recorder to get my attention, do not make me sing, and do not make me sit on the floor. I teach elementary school, that does not mean I am in it!

Via Eduwonk.

Many teachers regard staff development as a waste of time, says an Education Week story about attempts to make teacher training more effective.

Experts know, for instance, that programs focused on the academic content that teachers must cover and on how students think about that content are more effective than those that impart more generic teaching techniques.

They know that longer-lasting professional development tends to produce better results. They also know that such programs work best when they link to teachers’ daily classroom experiences—the tasks their students will have to do, for example, or the texts they will use.

To a lesser degree, researchers also have a hunch that it’s important for teachers to engage in learning sessions collectively—maybe with other teachers from the same department or grade—so that they can meet later to reflect on what they learned.

No area of education is so prone to fads as professional development, but Education Week says some research is now underway to determine which training models leads to better student performance.

About Joanne


  1. In-service training is the most fascinating element of my profession.

    The director of personnel thumbs through a catalog of self-titled consultants and selects one, if there’s money in the budget, with the biggest ad. And it usually has a photo of the consultant with a smile too broad for somebody who is actually sane.

    And they’re smiling with enthusiasm for the topic they just can’t wait to share with you. Something like “Taking The Work Out Of Implementing Authentic Rubrics Aligned With Standards Based Portfolios for Reluctant Life-Long Learners.”

    After they’re flown in from some place far away, they take their position behind a podium set up in the library and they proceed to spew pure nonsense and smile and have volunteers write answers to obvious questions with thick felt pens of various colors on big sheets of butcher paper taped all over the walls. Everything is written down. There are no wrong answers.

    After there’s no wall space left, the presentation is concluded and the school secretary dutifully copies down everything that was written, types it up, and puts a copy into each teacher’s box.

    And she only does this because the sheets are too big for the laminating machine.

  2. tsiroth says:

    If it makes you feel any better, it’s not just schools and teachers. I worked for a multinational telephone company for 4 years, and our training sessions were exactly like this.

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    I once had to spend two days learning how to color code a paper, with different colors signifying different kinds of sentences.

    The example paper, written by a 4th grader and considered “OK” by the presenters but nothing to get excited about, was a complete page written on “How to Eat a Tootsie Pop”. I had to hold the edges of my seat the entire time so I wouldn’t jump up and scream, “You take the wrapper off and stick the damn thing in your mouth!”

  4. Kyle Randall says:

    If Professional Development classes were to be ranked in descending order of usefulness among the pantheon of other schools, I imagine the ranking would look like this:

    Medical School, Engineering School, Law School, Business School, Elementary School, Education School, Professional Development classes.

    They are insipid and insulting to anyone other than the consultants and it won’t change without a huge change in the whole system–and I’m not holding my breath for that.

    However, teachers and students of the Ed schools and Prof Dev schools CAN increase their own education. Simply put, they need to CHALLENGE their teachers. I would almost go so far say they need to act MEAN to their teachers by DEMANDING, in class, to know the usefulness of the knowledge being imparted.

    It does pain me to think of the feelings possibly hurt by the truth in this venture, but it must be done, because the continued suffering of teachers will only lead to worse conditions in the schools.

    Teachers need to stand up for their right to a meaningful education in such an important venture.

  5. ragnarok says:

    “…Teachers need to stand up for their right to a meaningful education in such an important venture.”

    Not going to happen. Administrators want to show that they’re doing their job and “adding value”, and it makes a nice entry on their resumes.

    If you were to try to cut it, there’d be loud howls about “massive cuts to education”.

  6. BadaBing says:

    Presentations at mandated faculty meetings, which we have to endure every Wednesday at my school, are for the administrators, not the teachers. How else do you expect administrators to justify their existence? How else are consultants from UCLA going to get to strut their stuff? I correct papers during these revolting and demeaning idiot sessions, but sometimes I’m required to get out of my seat, parade around the cafeteria with the rest of the herd, and write some bullshit on poster paper hanging on the walls. Why the teachers voted for the weekly meeting is beyond me. Stop the meetings and in-services. I’m a big boy now. I can do my own freakin’ teacher development.

  7. To teachers who think they want to learn like they were in law school, I have to ask: do you have ANY idea what you’re talking about? I learned a hell of a lot in law school, but it’s an intense traumatic experience I would not exactly enjoy repeating, especially the first year. This is, I think, a part of what bothers me about teachers talking about being a “profession.” I’ll buy that when your ed classes are based on one blindly-graded exam fit to a strict curve, and when I hear being teachers facing serious professional discipline and/or huge malpractice judgments.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    JJ, animate your blog and charge schools 5 or 10 K to hear you recite “The Best of JJ.”
    Then you might make enoough money to home school your grandkids.

  9. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I forgot the most important part – serve cocktails.

  10. Katherine C says:


    I think when they said they wanted to be taught like those in law school or grad school, they simply meant they wanted to be treated like the educated adults that they are and not like the children they’re teaching. My mother taught elementary school and preschool and the people who were supposed to be aiding her professional development did the most ridiculous things. She took a class on how to cook with kids, and the instructor told them they should use barbeques! She took another class where the teacher was always railing about how horrible televisions were and how she didn’t have one in her home and wouldn’t allow one in her class rooms. Meanwhile, the class was broadcast on television from the local community college. Once, her boss got the teachers together, had them sit around in a circle, and read to them as if they were a kindergarten class.

  11. I think when they said they wanted to be taught like those in law school or grad school, they simply meant they wanted to be treated like the educated adults that they are and not like the children they’re teaching.

    There is some, well, karma to all this.

    First of all, a certain number of teachers, elementary ones the most, hardly strike me as educated adults. If the education faculties had the same standards of admission as law school or grad school, then teachers could more reasonably compare themselves to students of law or grad school.

    And consider, that in these Professional Development classes, the teacher-students are all treated the same, regardless of individual talent, or individual need. Sound familiar? It’s sad that the more talented teachers feel “dumbed-down” the most, but that’s life, isn’t it?

  12. Professional development needs to be geared toward the needs of each individual teacher, and the teacher should be allowed to select which workshops would best suit his or her needs.

    I just finished a week-long summer institute put on by The College Board for AP Mathematics. Although I have taught AP Calculus before, I have been out of the loop for three years and needed a refresher. This course was excellent, and I learned several new things and got new ideas to try in my classroom. More workshops need to be geared this way.

  13. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Can’t be as bad as some sensitivity training seminars some corporate types get dragooned into. Take Maumauing the flak catchers and subtract the cocktails.