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As my regular readers know, I am writing from China these days, and have been doing so four years so far. Sometimes the blog becomes inaccessible to me, making it impossible to post regularly. In fact, starting in late September 2014, China began interfering with many Google-owned entities of which Blogspot is one. If the blog seems to go dark for a while, please know I will be back as soon as I can get in again. I am sometimes blocked for many weeks at a time. I hope to have a new post up soon if I can gain access. Thank you for your understanding and loyalty.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Teachers Misbehaving

Purveyors of professional development don't like it much when the teachers they are supposed to be teaching misbehave. I have been on both sides of the podium. Teachers have good reason for regarding professional development sessions as a monumental waste of time. Usually the sessions are mandatory, and the presenter has been commissioned to present specific information whether or not the audience is interested. One school district asked me to present a hands-on literacy session to high school teachers on developing questions that build critical thinking.

It quickly became clear that what these high school teachers really wanted was tips on phonics, and how to integrate phonics into their content lessons. I converted my presentation to phonics on the fly. Because I had not brought any phonics materials with me, I had to abandon the hands-on part. I ended up delivering mostly lecture, but the teachers loved it. Six months later I was commissioned to present an overview of the six traits of good writing to a group of elementary teachers in a completely different geographical area. What the teachers wanted to do was vent their complaints about the district's adoption of the reading curriculum, Success for All. When they were done, I carried on with my presentation. Only later I found out that the administration canceled my future presentations because I did not shut down the criticism.

So you never know.

For every expectation, there are other conflicting expectations. If some teachers expect presenters to model hands-on techniques, other teachers want the presenter to just tell them the info and let them go back to grading papers. The presenter comes prepared with the information commissioned by the administration only to find the audience deems the information irrelevant to their needs. I gained appreciation and sympathy for presenters when I became a presenter.

The worst problems with professional development can be avoided by letting teachers create their own professional development. Administrators are notoriously out of touch with the teaching staff.

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