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Friday, October 7, 2011

School In-service Days

A teachers perspective from the 321 Learn blog on in-service meetings:

The concept of an in-service day is very beneficial – providing direct, up-to-date, relevant training to teachers that they can turn around and apply within less than 24 hours from the time of the meeting, in many cases. The reality of in-service training is a bit suspect, in my opinion.
First, the “experts” in whatever the topic might be, prioritize all the most important information that all the teachers MUST know, including, often, the history, research and other miscellaneous facts that are not applicable to the classroom at all. Then they type up all of this information, along with the more useful information about how to use the new idea, and make a copy for everyone.
These information packets are usually a good idea, unless they are simply a printout of the power point presentation. Honestly, teachers have to go to college to get a teaching certificate, which means they know how to take notes. Pass out blank sheets of paper and you’ll likely have more teachers paying attention and use a lot less paper and ink in the process.
Then, the presenter reads the packet to the group of gathered teachers. This only insults their intelligence. I mean, really, I’m pretty sure reading is a prerequisite to teaching! It’s even more insulting to stop halfway through a paragraph and comment, “I’ll let you finish reading this later, instead of just reading it all to you” like you’re saying “I know you can read, but I am supposed to fill the time and yet on second thought, I don’t find this information interesting or useful myself so I’ll stop reading now”. Waste of paper and time.
Then comes the inevitable group activities, designed to make the lesson useful and interactive and keep teachers from grading student work that is hiding in their laps, or sitting in plain sight on the table in an open statement that says “you are wasting my time”. The problem with these activities, at least in elementary schools, is that those in charge are often elementary school teachers and so the activities are a bit (or a lot) elementary, and often result in being just plain dumb, or at the very least, a frustrating waste of precious time.
Time is valuable to a teacher, it would be so much easier to just have someone run through the important points, give a few illustrative examples and then take questions. It would cut the time in half and still have the same outcome of teaching the teachers something new to do with their students.
So, are in-service days a waste? Not at all! Providing:
  1. The presenter remembers that their audience is well educated adults, not elementary kids who can’t read or take notes.
  2. The information is presented clearly and succinctly.
  3. Extraneous information not relevant to the classroom is avoided at all cost.
  4. and finally, that the time is kept as short as possible, leaving off the group activities and instead allowing for time for questions and answers.

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