26 August 2006

Setting the Table

It's that time of year---the time when teachers collectively moan about all of the back-to-school meetings that take up the precious time and headspace they have before the kids arrive for the year. Common complaints include not being treated as professionals (How many cutesy icebreakers does one have to endure?), useless information (Who cares about the changes to the bus schedule as long as the kids still get here?), and conversations that go nowhere (Do we have to spend 30 minutes talking about the tardy policy...again?).

Meetings are often poorly executed, too. I can't remember all of the times I sat there marvelling that these were the only days all year that the principals had to plan and deliver, and yet they were terrible. What kind of modelling was that?

This is my fourth year serving as a Curriculum Specialist, which means that parts of these days are my responsibility, too. I am spending my weekend putting the finishing touches on the table I'm setting...for 300 people. I'm feeling pretty good at this point about the elementary day, which is when I'll have seven different presentations running simulataneously (yes, I have help). There are still plenty of reasons why things could go sideways. The curriculum will be brand new for teachers and we only get two hours to present it. The day is optional, which means that we'll likely have ~70% attendance.

The day for secondary science is starting to shape up, but I still have a long way to go. These teachers are fussy eaters, so making the table appealing is never simple. My 7 - 9 group has more training on their new curriculum and should be pretty happy and busy. The 10 - 12 group still prefers to think of themselves as independent contractors---there's not a lot of cohesiveness to draw upon.

My goals on these days are to avoid the things teachers hate the most about professional development days. So, there's nothing cute, we're packing in as many useful and directly applicable to the classroom pieces as we can, and focused agendas to keep conversations moving along. I'm hoping for good appetites on these days---a hunger for things which will improve student learning and make life in the classroom simpler. I'll do what I can to salt the oats.

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