I was reading this entry on Facebook from Jenn Wagner about how central office people or consultants treat classroom teachers.
"I thought I would bring this conversation here — rather than twitter - for a variety of reasons. (grins). To be brutally honest, I am becoming quite frustrated with the tone being giving to teachers especially from those who are no longer in the classroom….. I sincerely believe that if you have been out of the classroom for more than 5 years, please step back and rethink before you tell a teacher "what they need to do." I won’t go on and on about how much it has changed — but OHMIGOSH it has. And I am exhausted. I love the ideas other share with me — I need the ideas other share with me — but the condescension and the utter lack of kindness needs to diminish. For those of you who are being kind, who walk along side teachers and encourage, share suggestions, nudge when necessary, and continue to reinforce all to do their best. THANK YOU. For those of you who are haughty, judgmental, condescending, and unkind….I am not listening to you anymore. Returning to the classroom has been the HARDEST thing I have ever done…..I almost gave up 4 or 5 times this year…..it was the kind comments, the encouraging comments, the helpful comments that kept me going. THANK YOU
I understand Jenn’s frustration. First of all, there should be no instance at all where a person “from the district” treats any other person in a district without the utmost professionalism. “Haughty, judgmental, condescending, and unkind” should never be tolerated. We are all on the same team. Central office people are there to support the schools. As Jenn says to “walk along side teachers and encourage, share suggestions, nudge when necessary, and continue to reinforce all to do their best.”
I agree 100%. But…(and don’t you hate it when there is a “but?”)
On the other hand, any relationship takes both sides to make work. A marriage requires both spouses to work together or the marriage falls apart. A business requires the customers and the business to work together, or the managers and the workers. A football team requires the coaches to work with the players.
I know that there are bad staff development and bad staff developers. Someone droning through a powerpoint presentation is not necessarily helpful. I wrote about ways to make bad PD good PD here.
I have been in professional development (and at the district level) long enough to have observed a lot of negative behavior on the other side of the fence as well, teachers working against the central office. Sometimes even working against them before the training even begins.
Let me give a few examples of teacher remarks that completely dismiss a training within a few minutes of it starting:
How many teachers do you know that have said this at a staff development session:
"We tried this before." (or it’s variation: We did this ten years ago and it didn’t work.)
"We don’t have time." (or it’s variation: When do you expect me to do this?")
"This is a waste of time."
"This doesn’t apply to me."
"This won’t improve my scores." (or its variation: My scores are fine, I don’t need this.)
Or the all inclusive, all dismissive: “This is bullshit.”
Now I am not saying that every teacher in every PD session says these things. In fact, over the years, the vast majority are open to new ideas. I have seen however these behaviors by teachers during staff development:
Reading the paper
Surfing the web
Doing Crossword puzzles/Suduko
Talking on a cell phone
Reading a book
Taking a call and getting up and leaving during a PD session
Not coming to the PD with the papers / handouts/ materials they were asked repeatedly to bring
(I once even had a teacher actually turn around and leave when she saw there were no morning snacks for her to eat.)
Of course I am not saying everyone does these, but they are common enough for me to have noticed. And as trainers, just like teachers do, we sort of focus on when things go wrong as opposed to when they go right.
In my speciality of ed tech, I cannot count the times a teacher comes into a training and the first words out of their mouths are the dismissive “I am not a techie.” That person has tuned themselves out of a training (In many cases that took the trainer hours to prepare) before the first words were uttered.
Could central office do a better job of making all training relevant? Of course.
Could central office make training more time sensitive so teachers don’t have to feel they are wasting class time by having to attend a session that was poorly scheduled? Certainly.
But we also could use a hand.
So let me rewrite Jenn’s original paragraph from the POV of the trainer:
“To be brutally honest, I am becoming quite frustrated with the tone being giving to trainers especially from those who have been in the classroom for more than five years….. I sincerely believe that if you understood the requirements of our jobs, which includes training teachers and making sure that mandates that we have no control over are understood and carried out, please step back and rethink before you tell a us “this won’t work.” I won’t go on and on about how much the requirements for training have changed — but OHMIGOSH it has. And I am exhausted. I love sharing new ideas with you — I truly believe that I have something good to share with you — but the immediate dismissal and the utter lack of open mindedness needs to diminish. You tune me out before you even allow me to utter a single word.For those of you who are being kind, who walk along side trainers and encourage, share suggestions, nudge when necessary, and continue to reinforce all to do their best. THANK YOU. For those of you who are haughty, judgmental, condescending, and unkind….I still have to train you. It is my job. But just like a student who won’t listen, you make my job more difficult and like any human, I get irritated. Training adults when I was educated to train children may be the HARDEST thing I have ever done…..I almost gave up 4 or 5 times this year…..it was the kind comments, the encouraging comments, the helpful comments that kept me going. THANK YOU.”
It takes everyone to make a team. The central office and the campus must work in sync. So work with us. I promise it will be so much better if you do.