Wednesday, August 03, 2005

10 Characters

Don’t worry, starting next week, I will be back in my classroom getting ready for the year and the posts about professional development will cease. Before that though…

First, credit where credit is due. I am currently taking a training at an un-named private Jesuit college in the Bay Area that has been, for the most part, excellent. We have been treated like professionals and given lectures with references to Plato and Lysistrata. We thought and talked about the interpretive rhetoric we cast into our teaching of history. I learned some new history and gained a valuable perspective on how I understand it! That pure academic part of my brain hasn’t purred so contentedly in a year. It is possible, folks. Even the food has been good.

Today, however, we took a break from the quality and spent a whole eight-hours pretending to be our kids, all in order to learn a teaching practice that could have been well-taught in an hour and a half. Glue, scissors, and markers were involved, I’ll leave it there.

All this time did afford me the chance to spy on my fellow teachers and I’ve decided that teachers in professional development trainings can be categorized into the following 10 types.

Sincere Sally – Sally believes that this training will transform her practice. She sits in the front row, nods constantly, takes avid notes, and is the first to “Shhhh” or glare at talking teachers. Sally’s are generally good, save for their willingness to shield bad instructors from righteous criticism.

Prickly Paul
– Paul is a 20-year veteran or newbie-know-it-all. Either way, he’s not happy about being here and doesn’t see the worth of this training. He comes late, refuses to participate and sits in the back in order to whisper criticism to his fellow teachers.

Eccentric Emily
– Probably well–meaning, Emily asks questions and offers comments that make you think, “This person is allowed to teach children?” She generally wears teacher-clothing gone to a horrible extreme and leaves you worrying about just how far from her you really are. You guiltily spy her sitting alone at lunch but nonetheless eat with your own teacher-clique.

Happy Harry – Always glad to be here, Harry goes through even the worst trainings with a smile on his face. You might complain to him afterwards and he’ll completely agree with your frustrations, but still keep on smiling. Often friends with Sincere Sally, they form that front-and-center table of do-gooders who make you feel bad for not participating like you were told.

Busy Brenda – Brenda has way too much going on to be stuck at this training. Because she’s so much busier than any other teacher, she believes it’s okay for her to grade, plan, or balance her checkbook during the sessions. She haphazardly tries to keep pace with the class but inevitably asks a question that flagrantly reveals her lack of attentiveness.

Dumb David – David just doesn’t get it. You don’t understand how someone so slow can keep up with students. You feel bad for judging a colleague’s intelligence but geeeez. Dumb David’s come in two species: introverted (only revealing their confusion during group work) and extroverted (heralding their misunderstandings with loud and awkwardly timed questions.)

Cash-Cow Charles – Fashionably dressed and always on his cell-phone, Chuck is a young teacher whose tax bracket makes these trainings more lucrative. He lives for his night-life and thus doesn’t mind twiddling his thumbs all day to make the stipend.

Sleeping Sarah – Five minutes into the training, Sarah is well on her way to nodding off. She’s friends with Charles and they were out late last night. Every once in a while, she’ll drink some coffee and show her true colors as another character.

Talking Terry
– Terry loves to talk. In participative trainings, she’s that one, with her hand constantly in the air and with a suggestion or anecdote to follow every point. Non-participative trainings drive her wild, she whispers constantly and explodes with pent-up loudness during breaks.

Wise Wanda
– The teacher we aspire to be. Wanda is funny, quiet, and as attentive as will be productive. She gives sage advice and interpretations when it is polite to whisper in your ear. Best of all, she manages to be at the front of the buffet line without uncouthly racing out the door.


Anonymouph said...

This is REALLY funny and oh-so-accurate. I am something of a strange cross between Sincere Sally and Busy Brenda. It really depends on the value of the session or class. If it becomes clear to me that I've heard it all before, I release my inner Brenda. I've been known to grade papers and cut out letters from bulletion boards during these times.

If the class treats some novel or innovative, something that I'd likely use someday, I'm a total Sincere Sally.

There is one other type at our staff development sessions. I would have to call her Grandma Gertrude. She usually sits beside me, presumably to keep me in line. When I correct the spelling errors on the photocopied agenda for the day, she pats my hand, shakes her head, and "tsk, tsks" me. If I disagree at all with anything the presenter or anyone else says, she gives me a look of warning. It's actually pretty funny and doesn't bother me at all.

Great post. I'm gonna' link it over on my site.

GuusjeM said...

Very funny and very accurate. Me, I'm a Busy Brenda, after 15+ years it has to be good to get me to buy in (I'm also a librarian and have sat through many an inservice designed for classroom teachers that have NOTHING to do with my job). You forgot Chatty Cathy who carries on a coversation with her neighbor during the entire session. The fact that the speaker is talking makes no difference.

NYC Educator said...

Where does Cash-Cow Charlie get all that money from? That must be some stipend.

Maybe I ought to quit and start over.

Dave said...

Yes, I am Prickly Paul. Now, if I ever get a training class where I'm treated like a professional and people talk about Plato, I'll mend my wicked ways.

But I've been doing this 12 years, so I'm not holding my breath.

Great post!

EdWonk said...

A stipend for professional development? What's a "Stipend?" It sounds like something that would be nice to have. Seriously though... you sure hit that nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you forget Coach Chuck?

Usually sprawled out near the back of the room; frequent use of cell phone; xerox of selected pages from playbook projecting from back pocket (or weekly sheet from local bookie). Likes discussions about "educating the whole person" and "building character." Subtle bullying/politicking to keep key players eligible.

How about "Loyal Larry"? Larry believes everything the principal/superintendant says; becomes upset when he hears suggestions that the school is, perhaps, not the best of all possible schools, even after being mugged in the bathroom or having his tires slashed. Often an alumnus. Attends all games and frequently a close friend of Coach Chuck.

Bobbi Burnout. Bobbi's circuits fried 10-15 years ago, but not having any other skills and being terrified of trying something else, she is soldiering on. Like a satellite whose attitude rockets have run out of fuel, Bobbi now occupies a very predictable orbit and never changes anything that she does. At meetings, Bobbi is a fierce defender of the status quo when it comes to curricular matters. In all other respects, though, Bobbi exudes weariness.

Overwhelmed Olga is a new kid on the block, fresh out of ed. school. Easily recognizable by stunned look on face; sporadically bursts into tears. Give her two years, tops.

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kevin said...

Despite being worse than a newbie, not having even started my student teaching yet, I'd sort myself as being close to a 'serious sam.'

Given the $ disparity between teaching and other professions, I'm not sure why people are surprised to find that the PD courses suck sometimes.

Out of all my elementary grade teachers, only a couple really stood out as good. Out of all my high school teachers, only a couple really stood out as good. Out of all my college instructors, only a couple really stood out as good. Out of all my future teacher PD courses . . . .

Anonymous said...

What about AWOL Andy, the guy who just doesn't show up?

Polski3 said...

And then there is ADHD Andre, who can't sit still. Andre is always in motion, either bouncing his leg up and down while seated, up to use the restroom, get more coffee, lick the crumbs from the donut box or just to quietly pace the back of the room and carefully examine anything that is posted on the walls.

Great post and great additions from commenters! And, so true.

SR said...

this is gold.

EdWonk said...

I simply had to link to this post here. But I should have added one: "Favorite Freddie"

Favorite Freddie-- Freddie is one of the principal's favorites. As such, he routinely comes to staff meetings late, doesn't volunteer for any extra duties, and verbally bullies other staff with impunity. Freddie behaves this way because the principal likes him. The principal regularly invites Freddie and his spouse over to the principal's home for those "secret" superbowl parties that Freddie makes sure everyone knows about because he likes to brag about being friends with the boss.

Uglicoyote said...

Great Post. I would add Coach Golden Boy to your list. He always has more important things to do and seldom shows at all. If he does pu in an appearance he always sits near a doo so he can make a quick exit. Since his team wins, the administrators allow him some "leeway."

I think I'm probably a cross between Prickly Paul and Wise Wanda with maybe a enought of a touch of Sincere sally to make me occassionally optimistic. I've linked to this one.