From Awful Group Projects at 11D.
Professional development is snake oil, writes Mary Morrison, a Los Angeles teacher, in American Renaissance. Useless in-school training cuts students’ instruction time, but the out-of-school training is even worse, she writes.
They always start with an hour or two of silly “getting-to-know-you” games. One began with a tug-of-war, and then proceeded to a “blind walk,” where one teacher led a blindfolded teacher around, supposedly to build trust. Next, we were matched with someone according to our favorite day of the week and according to the results of a personality test we had taken. We were supposed to cozy up to a “camp fire”—blankets thrown over half a dozen flashlights—and confide our innermost thoughts and feelings to each another. Often a school administrator lurks nearby, noting if anyone lacks enthusiasm for this silliness.
Workshops, training sessions, and professional development are mainly about how to teach the majority of LAUSD students, who are “of color:” non-English speakers who enter school two grade levels below whites and Asians of the same age. Asians are not white but are not exactly “of color” either, since they do well in school.
In these sessions we invariably learn that in order to teach students effectively we must foster “trust.” To do so we must have “compassion, sensitivity and understanding,” and acknowledge our students’ “cultural authenticity.” This is because they will not learn from teachers they see as “hostile to their reality.” Most of the people who run these sessions have never taught a class in their lives but believe me, the LAUSD is deadly serious about this stuff.
Teachers can’t discuss intelligence or racial differences in “behavior, focus or drive,” Morrison writes. If black or Hispanic students score below average, it must be due to “racism, oppression, cultural differences and textbooks.” White or Asian students who don’t learn must be victims of “poor teaching methods, run-down school buildings, or lazy and uncaring teachers.” Above all, “students are never to blame if they misbehave, fail to study, or can’t understand the curriculum.”
The fads come and go and then come again with a new name.
Professional developments I have been subjected to include: Left-brain/Right-Brain Strategies, Self-Esteem, Relevance, Alternative or Authentic Assessments, Values Clarification, Critical Thinking Skills, Inventive Spelling and Writing, SLCS (small schools within schools), Rubrics, Metacognition, Tapping into Prior Knowledge, Differentiated Instruction, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, Learning Centers, and Multi-Sensory Education. And there are many more.
A huge PD bureaucracy makes lots of money selling snake oil, Morrison writes.
Parents are driving teachers out of the profession, writes Ron Clark, founder of an Atlanta school and author of The End of Molasses Classes.
We’re educated professionals who can advise parents about their child’s development, Clark writes. “Trust us.”
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, “Is that true?” Well, of course it’s true. I just told you.
Stop making excuses for your children, Clark adds. “Be a partner, instead of a prosecutor.”
Not all teachers are trustworthy, responds Charlie Zegers, a teacher’s son, on Dads Good.
We’ve been burned by lazy teachers who don’t want to deal with kids who might need extra help, or by short-timers counting the days until retirement, or by inexperienced newbies who don’t know how to handle difficult situations. And we’ve been burned by layoffs and hiring decisions that push good young teachers out the door in favor of the entrenched, the tenured, and the politically connected. And while we know that most of you are dedicated educators that go above and beyond the call of duty to help our kids learn, we’ve also seen your unions work just as hard to protect the jobs of the least-deserving among you.
If parents seem unreasonable, “there’s a better-than-average chance that our trust has been betrayed in the past by another member of your profession,” Zegers writes.
Update: Parents deserve respect — and rarely get it, writes Gwen Samuel of the Connecticut Parents Union on Dropout Nation.
Why is it that when parents advocate for their child’s well-being and right to a high-quality education, we are called “anti-teacher”?
Don’t fear parents, Samuel writes. Parents love their children and will support effective teachers.
Why do Finnish students ace international tests? The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System, a 60-minute movie by Robert Compton (Two Million Minutes) and Harvard researcher Tony Wagner (The Global Achievement Gap), credits a “culture of trust” created by the absence of high-stakes testing, teacher-evaluation systems or homework.
Very smart, very well-trained teachers are the real secret, argues Gadfly’s Daniela Fairchild.
What is most interesting about the film, though, is its depiction of Finland’s rigorous, intense, and competitive teacher-training programs—a more probable explanation for the nation’s academic strength. These programs accept a mere 10 percent of applicants (akin to Ivy League acceptance rates in the U.S.)—and kick out teacher trainees who aren’t up to snuff. Candidates observe veteran teachers, co-design and execute lesson plans, and receive feedback from peers, mentors, and even students.
Finland tracks students in 10th grade: Half go to academic high schools and the rest go to vocational schools.