Monthly Archives: February 2008

What picture do you see?

With the words “professional development” as part of my title, it immediately creates a picture in people’s minds about teaching teachers. What picture do you think of?

This week I sat in a meeting talking about training our district-wide lead teachers. We asked them to answer a survey and identify their needs, but it wasn’t enough because we don’t know how we are going to deliver the training. Now, anything I read about PD research speaks to job-embedded PD as the way to go. What does that mean for teachers?

  • Should every classroom have two teachers? Does that automatically mean they collaborate? Does that mean while one is teaching, the other could be learning?
  • Should all teachers be asked to attend training on a routine basis?
  • Should there be a standardized test for all teachers?
  • Should all principals inspire all teachers to believe failure is not an option?
  • Should all teachers self-identify their needs?
  • Do all teachers know enough about adult learning to choose their professional development options?
  • Does the coaching model work for all teachers?

The more I brainstorm questions, the more I find them completely ridicoulous. Yet I find myself planning training for the programs that staff members want, not what they need. How do I know? Not all of our students are successful.  What should the picture of professional development really look like?


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Yoga for Knitters…Average?

Yesterday, I decided that I learned enough to keep me going for a while. I had been making a conscience effort to keep up with Google Reader and all the professional journals that end up on my desk. I had been listening to NPR between meetings and while painting the bathroom. I had been taking and giving professional development. My brain just had enough!

Tonight, I took a yoga for knitters class. Yes, it’s true. If you think you have a specialty (teaching yoga) you can make it more special by adding another variable (in this case it was knitting). Tomorrow I’ll look for the class on grocery shopping while on roller blades. I digress… The class was part of the Rochester Knitting Guild, and was amazing. Matter-of-fact, I am sitting up a bit straighter as I write this. During class I learned that I like to wring out my organs, I like micro-movements of my neck, and I want to take another class. This last bit of information, that I want to take another class, totally pisses me off makes me crazy.

At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned NPR. It has become a bit of an addiction. I spent most of Saturday painting the upstairs bathroom. While balanced on the edge of the tub and a rung of the ladder, I listened and learned a bit about the “average american.” The A.A. is someone who, rather than knowing a lot about a little, knows a little about a lot. The A.A. lives within 50 miles of where he grew up. The A.A. takes a 10 minute shower. The A.A. eats peanut butter at least once a week. The A.A. is me.

It scares me to think that I am average. I do things like take yoga for knitters for crying out loud!!!! How could that be average? I want to be unique. I love to learn new things! I want to do things that not everyone does. For example…I am a curler with the Rochester Curling Club. I am a Macintosh junkie. I Skyped before it was cool. I have twice been nominated for Teacher of the Year. Yet, am I really average? What about the idea of being average makes me so uncomfortable?

Imagine that you are running for office. (Hard to imagine something political being in the forefront of your life, right?) It’s not the average number of votes that gets you elected. Oh wait, it sort of is…states have delegates. Delegates are distributed – you may not get the most delegates even if you have the most votes. Ok, bad example. Imagine you are taking a test. You have four hours to finish; you have to stay for two and they kick you out at four. It takes you three hours. You didn’t rush, you had ample time to check your work, and you feel satisfied when finished. Hmmm. Maybe it is okay to be average. Well it’s never okay to be average at work…right? Pretend you are hired by a company or school district, not as the first choice, but also not as the last choice. You work hard and are loyal to the company. You never receive a bad review. You never are courted by another company and have to become someone you are not. You stay at the same place of employment for your lifetime… Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad.

As we teach our students, we often assign them grades. Those grades are often called averages. Sometimes those averages do not represent learning.  Mine never did. It seems to me, we need to lose the term average.  If the “average American” knows a little about a lot, likes lots of different things, and enjoys being well-rounded, I say (drum roll please) I want to be average!!  (I just wish we had a better word for it.)

Some questions I leave you with:

  • Is average enough for our students?
  • Is being average a bad thing?
  • If average is good, does that mean catering to the top 10% and the bottom 10% isn’t going to work anymore?

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I spent the day with Drupal today. It was amazing. Led by Christopher Harris and his team from Genesee Valley BOCES. HOLY COW!! We moved quick, but I learned a ton about building a site…and now my interest is off the scale. I want to integrate our entire library management software into a site built by Drupal. Why, do you ask? Well, let me explain.

I see the power of what Chris has done, and I see the holes that our library management software leaves wide open. The idea that our site is open to multiple level of users is awesome. The idea that our site is linked to all our school libraries. The idea that we can design everything about the site just rocks my world.

15 minutes a day?? Ha! I want Drupal to be 15 hours a day!

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In October 2007, I bought my first house. What an awesome adventure. I have learned so much about painting, drywalling, down spouts, dry basements, drill bits…obviously a lot of house words start with the letter d. My latest home improvement is a new floor in my off-kitchen. (Thanks to mom for naming the room without a purpose for me.) My heart was set on Trafficmaster’s Allure Flooring after a brief demonstration in my local Home Depot. Sadly they did not have enough in stock, and they did not foresee anymore in the near future. For the last few weeks, every day began with a tab in Firefox of I waited and waited, but the flooring was not available online either. Finally, after weeks of disappointment, the day came. The webpage said, “Available online only.” Yay!!!I placed my order, I smiled through paying 50% shipping costs, and I waiting for Fed Ex to come.

The boxes arrived last Thursday. I had been reading up on installation, as I was going to install it myself. I laid out the boxes. I set the thermostat to a constant 66 degrees (much to my shagrin, as the usual while-I’m-at-work and while-I-am-sleeping temperature is 52) to acclimate the flooring to my house, and I waited for the weekend.

Saturday morning came. I jumped out of bed and headed to my friend Google for a refresher on installation. No worries! I had the right equipment, the room was empty and the time was right. I was proud of myself for learning all about the process! Downstairs, the boxes were just waiting to be opened.

I had ordered enough for 15% over the square footage of the room. Should be plenty. What I should have ordered was 50% overage. You see, when I opened the first box, every sheet of flooring was broken. No, not just a little crack, but it was like someone had put it in the freezer for days and then dropped it on a concrete floor. SHATTERED…just like my hopes and dreams. I continued opening boxes, hoping that maybe it was only one box. Out of ten boxes, five were full of broken tiles. Fifty percent. FIFTY PERCENT.

What did I learn?
(1) Paying $250.00 to ship a $500.00 product was obviously not enough. (2) Keeping my house at 66 degrees for days only makes my pet bunny happy. (3) Trusting big box stores to do something right is just wrong. (Don’t get me started about my trouble with Sears!!!!!) So, how is this related to professional development at school?

First, if the equipment is broken or is nonexistent, the teacher will not go back. (Seriously, you don’t think I’m going back to do you???) Second, teachers get excited about new things – new school years, new classes, new books, new computers…we need to capture and inspire excitement about new learning. (I am still excited about my new house.) Finally, there is an art in determining the needs of school staff members. It isn’t as easy as deciding to get new flooring. I had no choice in the matter; a plywood floor just doesn’t cut it for me. We must capture and provide for needs in a timely manner. Just as a plywood floor is unacceptable, so is a classroom where students are not learning. We all talk a good game about job-embedded professional development, but we don’t do a good job of it. Check out Sylvia Martinez and her take on technology PD. I am still mulling over what she has to say – so far, her thoughts and research have been good for my thinking…not that I agree with everything she says.

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