Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 23 2011

Thoughts from a district training

Before I worked in education, people would say that it is the district and the bureaucracy of  teaching that kills you; the kids themselves are never the problem. As I sit in a continuous improvement training of a district that shall remain nameless, I have never agreed more.

I’m not saying improvement is bad–I sure as heck am trying my best to improve, and fast! If improvement wasn’t going to happen, I wouldn’t be here at all. But there are 4 objectives to this training: mission statements, PDSA identification, SMART goals, and data folders. My school has already done trainings or sessions on three of these four things. Two of those trainings were done with the exact same presenter who is doing them today. In the end, I had to spend 4 hours making plans for the sub who will cover my class and 3 hours here at this training in order to relearn, in the exact same presentation, things that I have already implemented in my classroom. Plus since the sub can’t really be introducing new material, it is a review day for my class. This would be fantastic, because they do need review, but because I’m not there for any of it I have no way of knowing if they really are reviewing and how quality that review is.

Maybe the sub will be fantastic, and a better teacher than I am (which, to be brutally honest, would not be much of an accomplishment) and the kids will learn a ton today and will understand time and clocks by this afternoon. But if not, this is 7 hours of my time, 4 hours of theirs, and 8 of a substitute’s in order to tell me about data folders. Which I could learn from my co-4th-grade teacher in 20 minutes.

Bah. Sorry I’m always complaining. Here are some happy kid stories to end on a good note:

  1. One of my student’s stepmom asked for nightly emails listing homework assignments so she can make sure he does them. She’s started emailing me back to tell me how he’s doing and which parts are hard. He’s started turning in almost all his homework. AWESOME.
  2. Another student got in trouble yesterday for talking when I told him not to–4 times. In a row. Not because he’s being bad, but because he’s impulsive. I call home, turns out he didn’t take his ADHD medicine that morning (whoops) but also his dad is super dedicated to his education and wants to work at home on anything that his son is having trouble with. He wants extra homework, text message alerts, maybe even extra time after school to push his son’s learning (because he’s actually near the top of the class, especially in math). AWESOME.
  3. My kids LOVE science. And it’s not like we’re doing fake science! We have a question, we come up with a hypothesis and a procedure, we list materials, we make results tables and a conclusion. It’s the best–so far we’ve tried to figure out if we can eat 6 saltines in 2 minutes without water (conclusion: some can, most can’t) and what things sink or float. Scientific method: check. Student happiness: check. Teacher happiness: check that too. AWESOME.
  4. One of the 5th grade teachers, Mrs. Discipline (pseudonym, obviously), is THE person for classroom management. She handles behavior improvement plans and discipline calls when the principal is out (which is often). Invoking her name is akin to invoking the bogeyman, as in, “You need to be paying attention. Do you need to visit Mrs. Discipline?” Yesterday she came in to yell at one of my kids who was being disruptive in the bathroom. She read him the riot act in front of the whole class. Afterwards, one of my girls asked the best question ever: “Ms. EMinNM, are you afraid of Mrs. Discipline too?” I couldn’t help it–I laughed out loud. Hysterical.

One Response

  1. Michael

    I’ve given a lot of thought to subs. Some are babysitters, some are teachers. Expect them to teach. Have a good lesson plan for the day and make sure they follow it. No movies or games. As a sub, I hate it when the teacher assumes I’m there to babysit. I’m there to teach. I’ll tell you something else about subs. If they have two brain cells to rub together, they know more about the teachers abilities than the principals. Sadly, we are there at the teacher’s request. Last year I was standing in the hallway looking at the huge labeled maps of the continents hung up at the end of the hallways. Another sub said, “Aren’t there two t’s in Antarctica?” “Yes,” I said.”Are you going to say anything?”. “Nope,”, I said. If I correct a teacher’s lessons, I’m damned unlikely to ever work for that teacher again.

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