Staff development had begun. Eduspherians sat in their table groups, dubious of the need for the day’s events. The Science Goddess could see that a few teachers had already snuck out their marking to do during the training.
“Now, now...none of that. Give today a chance! I promise that there will be no cutesy icebreaker games.”
There was an audible sigh in the room.
“I understand that the Right Wing Prof has something to start us off?”
“Ah yes,” he replied. “I have some fabulous tips for new teachers. I really think those new to our group would find them helpful.”
“I agree,” said the Goddess. “In fact, I’d like to contribute some advice for those new to blogging. By the way, I’d like to introduce the Exhausted Intern and The Teacher with a Bad Attitude.”
The perky Intern stood up, not looking exhausted at all. “Thank you! I’m hoping that someone today can help me understand why the least experienced among us are often given the most difficult of teaching assignments. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.”
“That does seem a bit counterintuitive” said the Teacher with Bad ‘tude. “It reminds me of the issue around trying to provide every student with some sort of award. Is it really such a hot idea to falsely beef up their self-esteem?”
Several heads nodded in agreement. “I’d like you to work with your table groups for the next few minutes,” the Goddess said, catching a few eye rolls. “You were asked to think about some current issues and brainstorm some ideas for the next meeting. I’ll leave you to it.”
The Grading group immediately started their banter. There appeared to be a great deal of interest in this topic.
“You know,” said DeHavilland, “maybe the issue isn’t grade inflation as much as it is the system. What would happen if teachers did the grading but there was an independent evaluator?”
Joanne jumped in next. “That might at least be one way to take steps. I’m trying to get some advice on how to help a kid who wants to learn, but whose teachers seem to only grade for effort, rather than academics.”
“I’m not sure how much grading might actually have an impact,” Dan said. “I’ve spent part of this week thinking about what it means to be able to predict failing grades.”
“Perhaps what’s important is how you choose to intervene when you think a kid is at risk of failing,” probed DeHavilland.
“Intervene? Are you kidding me? I have a story about a school board which is continuing its attempts to change the grade of a student. I just can’t believe it,” said Dr. Homeslice.
“Nice job with the Carnival last week!” said the Goddess before moving to listen in on another group’s conversation.
Miss Profe seemed a bit flustered. “How can you say that, Colossus?”
“Because I saw it. At least one university is now teaching world languages without professors. It does seem problematic.”
“But,” said Miss Profe, “Learning a second language requires thinking...although this week my students didn’t seem to want to engage with that.”
The Intern perked up at this conversation. Many years as a world languages teacher had provided many similar frustrations. “See?” said the Goddess. “I told you this would be a good place for you.”
“English can be just as frustrating...or exciting,” said Dana. “Just this week, I had a great experience doing a seminar with my students on who really killed Romeo and Juliet. Maybe I could share a few tips.”
The Hoosier Schoolmaster giggled. “My classes worked on Romeo and Juliet, too; but things did start off on an interesting note...after I asked for a kid to play Peter...a small part. Ahem.”
Scenes from a Battleground overhead the comment from his table. “Have you had any parent complaints?”
“No,” said the Schoolmaster.
“You’re lucky. I’ve had such ridiculous complaints made against me.”
“Some people just don’t get it,” said Ms. Cornelius.
“You’re telling me,” claimed the NYC Educator. “I had a kid who was bound and determined to be busted for throwing a bagel—not a muffin, as his teacher claimed.”
Aquiram looked up. “So what happened to the kid? I’ve been trying to sort out whether or not there’s a difference between a punishment and a consequence. Maybe you would have some insight to share.”
“It’s not just the kids,” added Ms. Cornelius. “The apple does not often fall far from the tree—which can be a most unfortunate thing. Let me tell you about a parent conference I had this week. Perhaps the world is truly made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness.”
“Just send those kiddos over to me,” said Mrs. Bluebird. “I’m a magnet for bad kids as it is.”
Chris laughed. “Some kids are just plain gullible. Have any of you had students playing with that ‘Peter Answers' site? Let me tell you how it works.”
“Technology can really be a double-edged sword sometimes,” remarked the Goddess.
“Indeed,” said Matt. “It’s turning out to be one more thing which enables helicopter parents. As if they needed more help.”
“On the other hand,” remarked Rebecca from Information Age Education, “something like Squidoo can be a great classroom tool. You should see what I’ve been able to do with it for math.”
Denise asked, “Have you made a page about story problems? I’ve just written some helpful hints for solving those.”
“You could certainly Squidoo with something like that,” Rebecca replied.
IB a Math Teacher sighed. “I’d just be grateful to have kids in class once in awhile. What’s up with all of the field trips these days? I had to send a note to my colleagues excusing kids from these so they could be in my class!”
“Brilliant!” exclaimed the Intern.
“Once you get them there, you have to carefully consider how best to reach the kids,” said the Elementary History Teacher. “I know that some of my colleagues dread such staff development, but I think that until we expand our knowledge of instructional strategies, we’re not going to be able to support more students’ learning.”
Linda nodded. “Effective teaching should aim to prevent mistakes. And that can include direct instruction.”
“Schools do have big issues to handle these days,” said the Goddess.
“Case in point,” said Darren. “How should a school deal with the death of a student? It’s a rare event, we hope, but different each time.”
Mr. Lawrence jumped in. “Or what about the school with the meth-dealing principal? I’ve subbed at that school. I’m thinking that since society doesn’t place a high value on educators that they’ve begun to believe it. Maybe that’s why there’s all these stories in the news.”
“Speaking of news stories,” said that Education Wonks. “Have you seen how upset people are now getting that Pizza Hut rewards readers with coupons for free pizza?”
“Sheesh,” said the Goddess. “I wonder if those same people complain that libraries are making kids obese by encouraging them to sit still and read?”
Carol nodded her head. “There does seem to be a lot of junk food out there. Just last week I was working with some reading groups. We got to talking about their breakfast habits and I was amazed at what they ate, if anything. It made me wonder if this was part of the reason they were low readers.”
“Maybe parents just aren’t good at arithmetic these days,” said Mamacita. “You know, the kind that shows they understand value, not cost. It sure would help their kids.”
“Schools do have a lot to handle these days, especially with AYP concerns,” said John. “They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t in terms of the support they provide the lowest achievers.”
Bill looked over. “And what will happen as school choice becomes more of an option? It doesn’t seem to me that we can really treat them along a capitalist sort of model. A failing school is not the same as a failing business.”
“It isn’t,” said JD, “but just as we are mindful of supporting student learning, we must also be mindful of eroding teachers’ contracts. We can’t expect teachers to take on more than they should.”
The Goddess made it over to the final table. “What’s been happening with your curriculum this week?”
“My kids and I worked with some owl pellets—even started off the week with a poem, if you can believe it,” said Terrell.
The ChemJerk added that he had been thinking about the teaching of comparative religion at the high school level. “It’s not the material, but the approach that makes the difference,” he said.
“That sounds a bit philosophical,” said Allison. “It reminds me of what I’ve recently been pursuing. I’ve been interested in examining the idea of whether or not literature makes you a better person. Maybe it just makes you feel more alive.”
The Tour Marm smiled. “Nothing could be better for that than getting out and flying a kite. I brought some ideas to share for integrating it into your curriculum. This might be just the thing to do with kids after all of the spring testing.”
“Very good,” said the Goddess. “What a fabulous discussion today! Please take a few moments to reflect on your conversations and jot some notes in your journals. Remember to bring these with you to next week’s meeting. It will be over at The Education Wonks. Please be on time—just to remind you, that’s 9:00 PM (Eastern) 6:00 PM (Pacific) next Tuesday. Send your agenda items for this 110th convocation to owlshome[at]earthlink[dot]net or use this link. See you there!”