Another Pointless Day of Professional Development

This one's all about school stuff. I'm sure you'll find it fascinating, as I did (cough).

Session 1: Narrowing the Gap
This was an hour long lecture about how we should help young black males raise their standardized test scores.

First of all, the "lecturer*" is this guy who used to be an assistant principal at my school, then was principal at the middle school (where he proceeded to run it into the ground), then was principal at the magnet school in our county (where he proceeded to run it into the ground), and has now been promoted to the Board to work on ... narrowing the gap, I guess. His qualifications include ... um ... he is black.

Second, he told us that one reason black males tend to score low on tests is "it's cultural." Seriously, that is a quote.

Third, he told us that another reason black males tend to score low on tests is that there is a lack of strong black male role models in their lives.

I actually agree with both these reasons; however, he did not give us any solutions or ideas on how to help these kids out. Like, am I supposed to change a culture? Or provide a role model who is both black and male? Because those are both sort of out of my realm of power, and anyway I'm sure there are far more valid reasons to do it than just to raise someone's ACT score.

GOOD GRIEF! When are people--administrators, testing officials, NCLB police--going to understand that scoring high on these tests is not the crowning achievement of people's lives? I mean, really, in ten years is one of my students going to walk up to some chick in a bar and say, "Hey, baby, guess what I got on the ACT."?

Ironic side note: Last year, all of our professional development days were about multiple intelligences. We are to design our lessons around the seven intelligences (except I think there are nine now), and not just use multiple choice tests to assess student learning. BUT. In spite of those sessions on how students all learn differently and showcase their learning differently, THEY ARE STILL TESTED IN ONLY ONE INTELLIGENCE. How on EARTH am I supposed to be an effective teacher--or show that I am, in fact, an effective teacher--when my own administration cannot make up its mind as to how I'm supposed to teach or how I'm supposed to assess?

Anyway, this "lecturer" told us that we are supposed to try to bond with our students and tell them about our lives and let them get to know us better. I guess we're only supposed to do that with our black male students, though. Because knowing my birthday will help them score higher on a state-mandated test.

Well, God bless us, because one of the best teachers in the whole world--who is a black woman--gave us all a five minute speech about how race does not matter. She has the same expectations for her black students as she does for her non-black students, and as long as she encourages and prods and believes in her students, they will work for her. She said, "I know I'm black. You don't have to tell me that. Tell me I'm smart, or that I can succeed, but you don't have to remind me that I'm different."

And, really, I think the "lecturer" would have had us say to a kid, "Honey, I am making an exception for you because you are a black male. I have really low expectations of you, because historically, your demographic has not been as successful as others, so you just do the best you can and if that is still failing, I want you to know that that's okay. Because you're black." I mean, why go to all the trouble of fancying it up with pretty words? Maybe I could just say, "You're probably going to wind up in jail, or dead, so you don't have to read Romeo and Juliet if you don't want to."

Just how, exactly, does that help him? Well, it helps him to buy into an unfortunate stereotype; it helps him to sit back and do nothing because that's what's expected of him; it helps him to perpetuate a cycle that he COULD break out of; it helps him to expect nothing of himself so why should he bother.

That will, I'm sure, help with the test thing. So, good job, lecture-man, I guess you took care of THAT problem.

To sum up: I learned ... NOTHING.

* It's in quotes ("lecturer") because he is not, in fact, qualified to lecture. Here's why:
a. His speech is practically untelligible. I remember that during my first year of teaching, he evaluated me, and when we had our meeting afterwards, I just kept nodding and smiling because I had no idea what he was saying.
b. I don't think he knows what he's talking about.
c. I didn't do this, but some other teachers who were in his second session counted the number of times he said, "you know." Seventy-five.
d. He didn't have a real objective, which means he couldn't achieve an objective, which means that he just talked aimlessly for an hour, and that is not what a professional lecturer does.

Session 2: Incorporating Reading Comprehension in the Content Area
This was an hour long lecture--with PowerPoint! and handouts! of the Powerpoint!--on how to start using reading assignments in your classes.

Um, I am a member of the English Department.
I teach a freshmen course that could easily be named How to Comprehend What You Are Reading (for Dummies).
I teach theater; we read ALL THE TIME. Out loud. With lots of discussion. To help with, you know, COMPREHENSION.

To sum up: I learned ... NOTHING.

Session 3: How to Make Tests That Are Aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy
I did actually learn something in this session, which was ... my butt goes to sleep if I have to sit at a cafeteria table for longer than 45 minutes.

Also, I was learning Bloom's Taxonomy when I was in college, which was a gerjillion years ago. I believe I learned about it during my sophomore year. By the time I was a senior, there was another assessment tool being used. When I first began teaching, there was another method being bandied about. This is my sixth year of teaching (because I took some time off after my second year--to recover), and I think I have been told to use a new method each and every year of my teaching career. I'm sure I have binders full of all these wonderful new ways to teach and assess, all of which are now outdated or proven ineffective or not as fun as the newest one.

My point is, are we back at Bloom now? Like, are we sticking with him? Because if I have to learn another model after Spring Break, I am really really going to explode.

I believe the main point of this session was to tell us that we are stupid at making tests and we should spend at least four kazilldred hours creating our tests and then TESTING OUR TESTS to make sure that we have included questions from each of the six subsections of the affective domain because otherwise we're just gonna look dumb.

Well, I'm convinced.

To sum up: I learned ... oh, you know.

1 comment:

Carol said...

LOVE this post! I can SO identify with it. I hope it's okay if I link to it in a post I'm writing. Here's the link if you want to read: http://themediansib.blogspot.com/2006/02/professional-development-in-literacy.html


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