Many teachers are starting back to work already. And along with the new school year comes in-service training. In-service is either good, it is bad, or it is downright ugly. The good in-service is really professional development. School districts should always aim for professional development and not waste teachers’ time with anything less important.
The good in-service or professional development:
1. Here, in-service is so great you think about it forever. In-service that has to do with the National Writing Project is like that. If you have the opportunity to attend one of these in-service programs, please do. This work-shop is usually presented by teachers, and it is all about helping students express themselves through writing. Students usually love what you take away from this preparation. Hear that, David “No one gives a s#$^ about narrative writing” Coleman?
2. Some in-service stretches what you know and might be difficult to master, but it gives you something you can take with you when you leave. Teachers know they will appreciate it later. Here, I’m remembering when I was introduced to the internet and www. It was confusing at first, but it opened the doors to learning and being a better, more interesting teacher.
3. The same thing goes with learning how to utilize new technology in the classroom. I’m talking here about having technology supplement teaching, not the teacher placing students mostly online. If you find yourself circling around carrels and monitoring students more than teaching, you are probably in the process of kissing your career good-bye!
4. Any kind of meeting where the PTA is supplying donuts and coffee, or a luncheon, or a breakfast, and you can smell the food is always welcome. It is especially nice, on a teacher’s first day back, to see swarms of lovely parents who like you, smiling at you from the periphery of the meeting.
5. Meetings where students show up are always fun. Maybe the head of the student council comes by to say hello. Even if they accidentally show up because they think school has started already, it is always good to see the students.
Bad in-service, in my opinion, includes:
1. The “let’s all get together meetings,” usually held at a sport’s arena where you would rather be watching a real game or listening to a James Taylor concert. Often this includes listening to administrators cheer for you since the union hasn’t been able to secure a spot at the table for teacher salary increases.
2. Meetings that discuss abstract notions about learning, that are meaningless in regard to down-to-earth teaching. Often this involves breaking into groups, choosing a leader, and coming up with lists of something. If you are lucky, the supervision isn’t any good, and you can all pretend you are doing the work when you are really catching-up with your teacher buds on the summer gossip.
3. Being made to listen to a sales rep. go on and on about a program you know you will have to teach even though you don’t think it is a good program. These meetings can be very upsetting.
5. Meetings about health insurance and benefits that have been cut. These meetings can be very frightening.
6. Speakers who are too happy.
7. Speakers who are too negative.
8. Meetings held just to fill in the time.
And the ugly in-service is this:
So I wish teachers good professional development, and if you are stuck in an in-service that is lousy, I hope you can learn to sleep with your eyes open.
On a slightly different note, I have been trying to think of ways teachers might lessen the difficulties with all the reformy programs they have to implement, when they feel those programs aren’t in the best interest of the children. I mentioned this in my last post.
I didn’t hear back from any teachers. Of course not, they are mostly attending in-service!
So here is my one suggestion…take it or leave it. If it were my in-service presentation it would take 5 minutes!
One of the best things I did as a teacher, that anyone can do despite a draconian environment, is to note all your student birthdays on a personal calendar. On a student’s special day lavish attention. If your class/es are small, a cookie or small treat would be great.
Now probably if you are an elementary teacher you already do this. But I suggest you do it for middle and high school students. They are far removed from the cupcakes they once knew on their birthdays in elementary school, but they still like to be acknowledged. In fact, it is amazing how just a little attention for an older student’s birthday can mean the world to them! Older students are sometimes dumbstruck that anyone in school would remember their birthdays. It is a grand surprise, and most students are very pleased to be remembered.
For students who have birthdays in the summer (they will remind you of this) surprise them during the year, or acknowledge them at the beginning or the end of the school year. And if you are teaching a gazillion kids, just a simple card or acknowledgement is better than nothing.
Personalize your teaching any way you can these days, because today’s reforms come up short on caring for the students for who they are as people. How to better care for young people would also be an in-service worth presenting. The teachers I know already do this.
Very best wishes for a wonderful school year, teachers!