Monday, August 29, 2005

Math Equation: (Con) Plus (Insult) Often, But Not Always, Equals "Consultant"

Show me a classroom teacher who hasn't been subjected to this type of "professional development" and I'll show you a teacher who hasn't been teaching very long:
Ice breakers. Stupid signs. White people with fake grins. Soothing tones from a phony xylophone. Lots of emphasis on feeling good. Happy happy happy learning learning learning.

And terminal dorkiness.
With a great big tip of the mortarboard, the above comes to us from Joanne Jacobs, who was also given the following advice from an elementary teacher about how she could fill-up excess classroom time in the college news writing (print and online) course that she will soon be teaching:
At the San Jose State journalism faculty barbecue yesterday, I was talking to a professor's wife who's an elementary teacher about my fear of filling the class time. (My class will meet one evening a week for two hours, 45 minutes.) "Break them into groups of four," she said. "They'll waste most of the time chit-chatting. Give them a problem to work on and have them write their ideas on big sheets of paper with markers. Then each group presents to the class."
Joanne is looking for effective instructional techniques that don't necessarily include the use of small groups and felt-tipped markers.

Whenever a presenter or consultant takes out the butcher paper and markers at our junior high school, I can actually hear the eyeballs of my colleagues rolling in their sockets.

Ever since I began my classroom service 14 years ago, consultants and other "professional" development speakers and have been having us classroom teachers split into groups of four to gossip and waste time design and make presentations, mark-up miles of butcher paper, make countless drawings on posterboard, pop a circus big-top full of balloons, and do idiotic little "humorous skits" that are supposed to punish teachers show everyone what we have learned from the Wise One who has been imported for The Occasion.

And let's not forget the almost inevitable (and infantile) introductory "icebreaker" that so many presenters insist on their audience participating in.

I would be the first to say that there are a number of excellent consultants who are working in the field of education. Having said that however, the type of modus operandi given above seems to be endemic to folks who work with (and train) those in education. If I didn't know any better, I would say that many consultants are lifting their delivery-of-presentation strategies from the same how-to guide for consultants: How To Both Patronize And Alienate Your "Captive" Audience Of Teachers In Five Easy Baby-Steps.

I have the same sentiments as
this guy. If teachers are indeed professionals, they deserve to be treated as such and not be "professionally developed" by the hordes of consultants who sign lucrative contracts to "help" teachers but spend all their time insulting our intelligence by having us play their little "consulting games."
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