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.