Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Crazy PD lovers

I was just reading this adorable blog called mybilingualclassroom and the author said something interesting: "I'm crazy. I actually like PD." It was kind of funny that I read this today because I was recently re-reading Harry Wong's book The First Days of School and he talks about how great teachers like meetings and don't complain about or get annoyed by them.

I happen to work in a district where we have meetings all the time. We do an incredible amount of meeting and PD-ing and training and clustering and PLC-ing and focus-grouping and session-ing and whatnot. The sheer number of hours we spend in meetings would probably blow my mind if I actually counted.

Anyway, I'm writing about it because I just read that blog and the book, and also I just spent 6 days (yep, our workshop week was a day longer this year) attending meetings and trainings and related things. And I can say with confidence that teachers do not actually hate meetings, and we do not hate being professionally developed. (WHAT?! SHOCKING!! You don't believe me? Well I'll explain to you why I'm right in a minute.)

Think about it: teaching is a job where you get paid to talk all day. Also, most teachers are women, and women (stereotypically, anyway) really like talking, especially to each other. So if you think about it, meetings are times when people who like talking sit around and talk to each other about things. And yet...they make so many teachers feel like this:

Why is that, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

What bothers us isn't the existence of the meeting. What bothers us isn't the new learning. What bothers us is inefficiency. I imagine this is true in any industry and/or company, but it's especially true for teachers (I say that because I am one). Sometimes meetings are longer than they need to be for you to learn the information or finish the conversation. Sometimes the information isn't new or isn't differentiated enough to be meaningful to you. Sometimes you spend a lot of time doing independent reading of an article or a teacher guide or a book excerpt and not enough time discussing and applying and planning. Sometimes it's summer and you really just wish you were at the beach. And sometimes (or most of the time), you're thinking about how much needs to be done in your classroom, and you can hear the mental clock tick-tick-ticking as your shape-cutting and pencil-sharpening, and crayon-picking-up and book-choosing and lesson-planning and flipchart-creating time float away. And when those things happen, you get tired. And cranky. And hungry. And distracted. And hot (especially if the building doesn't have air conditioning).

We don't hate meetings. We don't hate PD. We like accomplishing things, and we love to learn. (I mean, we're educators, aren't we? Learning is what we do.) So when you have a really good session or a really helpful training (like one I went to last Friday) or a really meaningful discussion or a great opportunity to apply new information, or just a really productive conversation that ends when it's done (and not at an arbitrary scheduled time), it's like a breath of fresh air. And you leave better for it.

I'm back!

Oh man, it's been so long! I am happy to be back at school. I only had ONE back to school nightmare this year, so I'm getting better... the weird thing is, even though I stopped dreaming about sleeping in and forgetting to go to work and leaving my precious darlings teacher-less for a whole hour on the first day of school (I feel like First Day Jitters was written about me!), I've still been having weird dreams this whole month.

I dreamed about massive insects running around my house. With shoes on. On the walls.

I dreamed about my coworker, though I can't remember what she was doing.

I dreamed about more weird bugs. Possibly in my classroom.

Maybe I should lay off the sushi and ice cream?

Happy school year!

If you tell a kid a story...

If you make up stuff when talking to your students, don't forget to make up an explanation to go with it.

One of the things that I love about first grade is that I can spend the entire day saying totally ridiculous things and my kids ALWAYS go along with it. Every inanimate object is animate, superheroes hang out in our classroom when they are at home, and Ms. M is over 100 years old. (Okay, they sometimes question that last one.) The problem is that sometimes they ask me why things are they way they are (in my invented first grade world), and then I have to come up with an explanation that logically follows the thing I just made up that I hadn't intended to explain (oops).

For example, we were working on letter formation today, because we're not so great at it. And I was explaining that letters don't have wings and they don't have claws, so they don't float in the air (above the line) and they don't dig in the dirt (below the line) they just sit on it. Except then we started writing lowercase g's, and I had to explain that lowercase g's and j's have roots, like plants, or are friends with the worms or something, so they like to hang out below the dirt. And why sometimes uppercase J wears a hat, and sometimes he doesn't feel like it. And how the little i doesn't touch the sky because it's the big I's baby, and the big I is its dad (or mom?) and so it doesn't have a hat, just a little dot. And then I said that uppercase I has a gorrita y zapato and then someone had the nerve (ahem) creative curiosity to ask me how he takes his shoes off since he doesn't have hands and so I just said he wears them all the time.

Kids and their pesky adorable questions...at least they'll remember the uppercase B, now that he has a cabeza y panza.

Leave a message after the tone...BEEP!

Today I did something I've never done before.

I did not ignore a call.

I did not pretend to be my voicemail and ask someone to leave a message after the tone (although sometimes it's tempting to do that).

What I did was say "Just a minute, please, excuse me" to a parent who walked into my classroom unannounced and interrupted me in the middle of my sentence as I was explaining to a child how to count money.

And I felt a little bit bad, because parents are important people. And I also felt a little bit annoyed, because children are also important people. And because I have 25 children, not just one. Not just yours. And because you walked into my room in the middle of learning time and you want us to stop learning so you can talk to me. And then you want your child to stop learning so you can talk to her.

I know there are only a few days left in the school year and it should be no big deal, but...learning time is important! AndwearelearningsomethingtotallynewbecauseIdidntgettoitearliersodonttellmybosslolbutreallythough!