Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How to Truly Waste Educational Time and Money

I attended a PD (professional development) yesterday.  I knew ahead of time that it would a) focus on literacy and b) be of no practical use whatsoever.  I knew this because every other PD I've sat through was the same; they have some sort of formula to make it as condescending and useless as possible.  Rather than present any helpful information, all presenters ask the participants what they think the topic means or how they do things in their classrooms.  For instance, in a training where we were supposed to be learning how to structure group work, the presenter asked us "how do we add fractions?".  Then, we're supposed to put our ideas on chart paper.  Then we share our work, and everyone oohs and ahs about all the different ways we came up with to add fractions.  And that's the end of the PD.
Ah, the money spent on the graphics, actors, programming that
puts a very fancy veneer on common sense and basic teaching

So, first of all, that doesn't teach us how to structure group work. And second of all, educators know how to add fractions.  How are 11-year-olds supposed to know how to add fractions?  If they came up with a way, as we did in the so-called training, they would incorrectly add the numerators and add the denominators.  This is what they do even after being taught how to add fractions.  So, even if we did this exact lesson in our classroom, that would not be useful or practical for the target audience.  It's aggravating.

Some frustrated former film student made this and
finally got to use ''unique framing", a la 1996.
And, so I went to the PD, on a beautiful spring afternoon, entitled "Creating a Common Core Task".  Sounds good on paper, since we're changing the curriculum to common core.  The presenter, naturally, asked us what we thought a Common Core task entails.  (If we knew that, would we even be there?)  Next, put it on chart paper.  Share. Then, she went over a lesson plan; objective, prior knowledge, standards, materials, time frame, mini-lesson.  General, generic stuff that everyone learns in their ED101 class.  Then, we did the lesson: read an article and underline one fact and one opinion (another literacy lesson, what a surprise!).  Then, we were to turn to our group and discuss our facts and opinions.  For over 30 minutes.  I already know what a fact and opinion are!  I've known this since fourth grade.  I want to know how to structure a common core task!  This was the actual "professional" development; she didn't even close the lesson, it just fizzled and we left, pissed off.  The presenter and her company were paid a boatload of money, and the school paid teachers overtime for this utterly useless training.  No value came of it to any teacher.  Zippity doo, diddly squat. 
Gosh, is it C?
The money spent on these trainings is obscene.  The NYC DOE created "modules" at great expense that cover the importance of basic teaching skills.  For instance, Designing Coherent Instruction.  Because teachers are so often designing incoherent instruction, I'm guessing.  And the module involves an obviously non-teacher actor reenacting the equivalent of a drivers' license exam: Sally approaches a pedestrian crossing against the light.  Should she A) Veer wildly into oncoming traffic B) Accelerate and aim at the pedestrian C) Check if it is safe to gradually decelerate and do so or D) Drive erratically and swerve judiciously?  I mean, c'mon, enlarge the image above and see if there aren't glaringly obvious clues as to the correct response.
Graphic artists are getting paid.  What budget crisis?

What I'm getting at here is the same thing I've been getting at all along.  We have an educational crisis.  These slick videos and expensive PDs are not the solution.  Paying specialists and test makers and voice-over actors and PD presenters are not doing a blessed thing except lining the pockets of big business.  Spend the money on giving us lessons and textbooks.  If teachers are being evaluated to keep their jobs, shouldn't a federal curriculum just provide teachers with the lessons already?  Invest in one Common Core textbook that all teachers will use, give us the lesson plans, and then we'll all be rated as Highly Developed, unless we deviate from the lesson plan.  It's so simple.  Do they really want us to succeed?  Or do they just want to spend more money.  I think we all know the answer.



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