This is not a parody

Why do teachers say “professional development” is a waste of time and money? This seems like a parody of dreadful PD, but it’s a real training session for Chicago teachers, says Larry Ferlazzo. According to the video: “This presenter was one of several consultants flown in from California and the United Kingdom for the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Strategic School Support Services’ special network.”

At least, this trainer was modeling instructional strategies instead of blathering about trendy-but-vague educational fads, writes Paul Bruno on This Week in Ed.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    I used to say it humorously but it may actually be true, “The most useful thing about professional development is that you sit there thinking, ‘This is boring and useless. I wish I was somewhere else’ and then you think, ‘Oh, my God! Is that how students feel about my class? Am I doing to them what this PD presenter is doing to me?'”

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I am torn. Is it more disappointing that there is some administrator somewhere who, on the basis of either ignorance or malice, approves of things like this, or that children are being taught by people with so little self-respect that they would subject themselves to this?

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      And the alternative is …?

      “This is a waste of my time, [insert principal name here], and I’m going to do something useful instead. I’m sure you understand.”

      Besides, most teachers have gotten used to pointless presentations from their time in ed school.

      • Michael E. Lopez says:

        Well, yes. That is the alternative.

        You don’t need the sarcastic “I’m sure you understand” at the end, though. And there are many variations on the theme, some more politic than others.

        What might you say to a Principal who demanded that you come in on Saturday to wash his or her car?

        Where is the union in all of this? Aren’t unions supposed to be all about protecting their members from humiliation, mistreatment, and assaults on their adult autonomy?

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          Even phrased politely, that statement will get you branded “not collegial” or “not a team player.” In my state, PD is a state requirement and attendance has to be taken and submitted to the state department of education.

          The unions are fine with it. They get to say, “Just like doctors have to take Continuing Education to keep current, we have to take four days of Professional Development every year. It is one more indication that we are professionals who should be paid well.”

          As I said below, teachers have gotten used to sitting through pointless presentations in ed school. Seriously resisting the content of PD risks opening the question of the quality and usefulness of ed school. Unions and ed schools support each other and have no desire to rock that particular boat.

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    One of the Geneva Conventions has this to say:

    To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
    (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

    Now, this only applies to “Non-combatants, members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat …” Things get dicey for combatants who don’t wear a uniform.
    Was this the problem here? These teachers were captured out of uniform, so the Geneva Convention(s) don’t apply to them? Sucks for them …

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    Let’s not forget, Chicago is controlled by “reformers” and this is what you get when non-educators run the show.

    • Oh gee Mike, if only you’d followed the link:

      “This presenter was one of several consultants flown in from California and the United Kingdom for the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Strategic School Support Services’ special network.”

      No wicked “reformers” involved. The district, in its infinite wisdom, has determined the way to claim a skill which the district has no use for is being improved is to treat ostensible adults like six year-olds.

      And Roger? If you can’t remember that far back or you’re suffering from traumatic amnesia , yeah, that is what the kids are thinking.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Some of them were. Most of them weren’t. A disappointingly common comment was, “I liked the class and I liked you. I just didn’t like the subject.”

        • Not exactly the sort of feedback that’ll see you bolting out of bed at the crack of dawn each morning to teach up a hurricane.

          But in the kid’s defense, they are required by law to attend school. Most folks, I’m thinking, would have a pretty tough time working up much enthusiasm for that which is mandated so you start out each day with a handicap. Of course there’s no particular value placed on your skill by your superiors so that’s got to sap some portion of your remaining enthusiasm.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            I am very aware that not many of my students wake up in the morning thinking, “Oh, boy. I want to learn what Mr. Sweeny is teaching today.” So I try to run things so that they nevertheless get something useful out of the class. Because it matters to me.

          • It had better matter to you because it sure doesn’t matter to your bosses.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Thinking about it, superiors do care about various teacher skills. They care about the ability to keep kids from misbehaving and being sent to the vice principal, one of the essentials of “classroom management.” They care about the ability to pass the kids in your class. And if your state has statewide tests, they very much care about the ability to prepare your students to pass those tests.

          • That’s what I’ve been saying for a while.

            “Teaching skills”, in the traditional sense, are immaterial to your bosses and what’s really interesting is that it’s not due to some grand cabal on the part of all those administrators. It springs from the public education system itself.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Of course, charter operators will have similar incentives–and will care in similar ways. Generally, they won’t want a teacher who can’t maintain order, or who fails a lot of kids, or whose students score below the cut score on statewide exams.

      • PhillipMarlowe says:

        The schools are run by the mayor Rahm. He brought in the very short timer Brizzard (a Broad bookclub grad) and the current Byrd Bennett, another Broad book club grad. They have closed 50 schools to give more to charters.

        • Is any of that true?

          Well, OK. Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago although the meaning of “Broad book club” is anything but clear unless, I suppose, you’re a stalwart defender of all that’s good and right, i.e. the district-based public education system. Then it’s a clear guiding light towards who and what you should hate.

          The implication though is that the mayor of Chicago selected a particularly stultifying and inherently insulting professional development class from among the many terrific, exciting professional development classes in order to undermine the school district?

          Dang, you’d think the mayor of one of the biggest cities in the U.S. would have more important things to do but then there’s no telling who the quite left wing mayor of Chicago might see as worthy of his attention.

  5. Really? Is that like ALL PD sessions? I don’t have to attend them but if I had to, I think I’d burst out laughing!
    Reminds me of that 1984 Apple ad

  6. And you wonder why students lack any real knowledge. It’s too painful to watch. What are they trying to inculcate with this so called professional development? Brain dead teachers, who in turn produce brain dead children.

  7. I have added closed captions to the video to make it easier to understand the amount of knowledge being transferred in this session.
    For some reason, the leader speaks in Comic Sans.

  8. Catherine, I must agree with you. The technique the presenter is using is called “choral response,” (can also be choral reading) and it works well for English language learners and when teaching all students new vocabulary terms. The *way* this PD presenter used it was totally off the mark, though — it should not have been modeled, as it was, with lengthy prepositional phrases and choppy segments.

    I find it surprising that people on this site would dismiss all teacher PD based on one short video clip taken out of context.

  9. Roger Sweeny says:

    I dismiss most PD based on having had to attend many of them.

    That’s not to say all PD is useless. If your school has invested in a lot of new electronics, say Smartboards or the equivalent, they better offer PD on how to use them. And it better be good PD. Not a day’s worth of lecturing, but several days (not in a row) of at least partly hands-on practice, with homework in between that forces you to get familiar with using the technology.