We’ve all been to meetings or professional workshops/seminars where you walk in and can tell in a few minutes that you are going to be bored…the WHOLE time.
Here are two complaints I hear from teachers about meetings or PD yet it seems to accepted in the classroom:
1. Reading things off the screen with no discussion.
Teacher’s experience: Don’t you hate when a speaker reads off a Powerpoint screen? Not that it cannot be used well. I have been to great PD where powerpoint is used to keep the meeting moving and start discussions. I have also been where everyone just sits with a glazed look on their face and the speaker starts to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. “Mwah, mwah, mwah…” There’s no time allocated to discuss what you are learning (if you have learned anything) or how it applies to you students or your teaching. Even if good points are made, it rarely makes it from notes to the classroom.
Student’s experience: How boring would it be if you spent the whole day listening to someone else who takes the role as an “expert”? The only time you get to speak is when you are answering questions the teacher asks. It’s still one person speaking to one person. The whole class is not involved. They just sit there. As a result, I imagine the learning goes about as far as the previously mentioned teacher’s meeting notes. In one ear and out another.
SOLUTION/IDEAS: I know every lesson cannot be “amazing” or “exciting.” There’s just not enough time in the day especially for those of us who are self-contained and teach many subjects a day. However, we can allow students to be active and involved. We can focus on making one or two lessons a day stand out. Some concepts lend themselves better to this than others. Pick and choose wisely.
2. Reviewing things you already know.
Teacher’s experience: There are some meeting topics that I have heard 20 out of 20 years of teaching. Or there are things sent in an email and then we talk about it AGAIN in a meeting. Procedures and guidelines are important but there has to be a way to just quickly review already learned material to make time for the new.
Student’s experience: In a classroom of 18 students, let’s say that 12 already understand the concept, 4 have a pretty good grasp of it, and 2 do not. Most students have to go through the entire lesson for the 2.
SOLUTION/IDEAS: This is not easy and I admit this is something I have failed at miserably. It’s just easier to teach to the middle and add on enrichment at times and remediate the ones who need it. BUT what if we knew it ahead of time? I have been thinking about this problem. Here’s my current thought. I want to try to have a mini pre-test for each week containing a question or two for each of the most important concepts for the next week. It will be a quick glance. This would help me guide instruction. I would want to give it at the end of the week prior to teaching the new concepts to give me a few days to adapt lessons.
I just don’t want to waste their time. I know what that feels like and it’s frustrating.
You know the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This SO should apply in teaching. We are all learning. Which way do you want to learn? Don’t you want to leave a meeting or PD session excited and ready to share what you learned? Our students feel the same way about their school day.