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Saturday, September 22, 2007


Mrs. Bluebird

The dumbest and/or biggest waste of my time was a conference my best friend and fellow teacher went to a few years ago. It was billed as a "best practices" hoo-ha, with lots of talks by "experts" in the field, and lots of "new and innovative ideas". It wasn't cheap either, but the school paid for it. What it was in reality was a chance for this new, upscale school to show off how very great they were and why they were better than every other school in the state. We got to tour their new, state-of-the-art science lab (better than anything we had in middle or high and this was elementary), where we were constantly reminded that the local taxpayers "support our school" and that the local big companies "donate millions to our schools". Well whoop-de-do. Lucky you. My favorite was a talk by an "expert" on technology who stated that "all of our school communication with parents is now done via email." I raised my hand and asked what they did with parents who didn't have email. "Well," said Snotty Presenter, "If they don't have it at home, then they certainly have it at work." My friend then raised her hand and asked what they did if the parents, who didn't have email at home, didn't have jobs either. She arched her eyebrows at us and said, "Well, we don't have those types of parents here." Well guess what, lady, we do have those types of parents at our school so you can blow it out your ear!

We only stayed for the catered lunch and left and went antiquing.


during my first year teaching, our "professional development" during preplanning was to go to the library and sit through a video made in the 1970s about sexual harrasment in the workplace. the best part were the examples.


Mrs. Bluebird, you might have asked what they do about unsecured emails containing confidential information going out over the internet. Non-encrypted emails are basically electronic post cards -- anyone along the way can intercept and read them.

Mike in Texas

The worst inservice I ever had to sit through was for a program called Writer's Academy. We spent 6 hours! analyzing a paper on how to eat a tootsie roll. In the end, the presenter claimed it was an average paper. I countered that in the real world you unwrap it and stick it in your mouth, and if some poor kid wrote an entire page on how to do that more power to him!


Well, there have been so many horrendously bad inservices, but one does sort of stick out, in a completely deranged, it could hardly be worse, sort of way.

Our faculty was subjected to four or five "consultants" from an "Education Service Center" in Texas. The tentative topic was how to teach non-English speakers. But ultimately, they provided these jewels of wisdom and best practice (there are many more, but here are a few of the howlers):

(1) If you do not have scissors in the classroom you can adapt by actually tearing paper (mirable dictu!).

(2) When teaching students who do not speak English, speak slowly and loudly (WHY CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M SAYING?).

(3) A single sheet of paper may be folded four times. Perhaps even more.

It pretty much went downhill from there, but they gamely tried another little best practice demonstration that went like this:

Two of the consultants held up small transparent tubs filled with water, smiling and gesturing like The Price Is Right models, while a third demonstrated how oranges might be used to demonstrate, well, something more or less related to science. Heat transfer? Thermodynamics? Bouyancy? Chaos Theory? Animal husbandry? It was very hard to tell, but the oranges would magically allow students to predict outcomes, and transfer that knowledge to every other discipline in ways that would change the world (when we weren't speaking slowly and loudly to them or folding or tearing paper).

The third consultant dutifully mostly peeled one orange and, dramatically holding and orange over each water filled tub, asked us to predict which would sink and which would float. The great moment arrived, they were dropped, and...they both more or less floated. Some quickly embarassed peeling of the mostly peeled orange later, it floated a little less than the non-peeled orange--well, at least the consultant said it did--conclusively proving that the consultant's IQ's added together would not exceed that of the orange.

By then even the consultants were so embarassed (somthing I did not think possible)--we had taken to openly laughing at them--that they cut the whole mess short and fled.

Liz D.

Bill Ferriter, writing as The Tempered Radical, has a Professional Development story worth reading.

Carol Richtsmeier

Jeez, I've attended so many bad professional development days, it's difficult to pick just one. Quite frankly they all meld together like a bad dream. Two stick out, though. One was some guy with a puppet who tried to do a ventriliquest act. His lips moved the entire time. I could have done a better job, (heck, a third grader could have done a better job), and for that, the school district (of which I am thankly no longer with) paid him $1,200.

Then, there was another guy who attempted to teach us how to be sensitive and more diverse in a multi-cultural world. He put cotton on everyone's table and told us that we probably didn't know what that was since we were mainly from European stock. It went downhill from there.


My biggest waste of time professional developemt was a pull out session called "motivate your students" and the presenter, apparently a well known presenter, showed us expensive toys to do magic. One trick was actually a book that you opened up and it had real flames!!! (i'm middle school??) Another was a cup of "snow" that you put water in it, turned it upside down and it snowed and snowed and snowed. About 20 minutes into a different trick, he knocked the table over that was covered in snow and then his pants, shoes and carpet were also covered in snow. The last trick was an optical illusion that made his head grow...

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