Friday, May 09, 2008

I'm Either Insulted or Going Crazy

I think I may have stumbled on to one of the causes of the high rate of new teacher attrition.
Wednesday night, I finished session 4 of 5 of the School District of Philadelphia's New Teacher Induction program.
My blood pressure wasn't as high as it had been for sessions 1 and 2. I got out of session 3 by presenting with Marcie at Penn State's 1:1 Laptop Conference. Coincidentally, it was the session where we talked about whether or not technology integration was important to differentiated instruction. (Had I been there, I'm pretty sure my eyes would have bled or I would have rocked back and forth in the corner humming "The Farmer and the Dale.")
I had to go through new teacher induction my first year in Sarasota. The process took the entire year. SRQ uses a mentor/mentee model where novice teachers are teamed up with veterans. I'm pretty sure my mentor didn't like me because our meetings usually consisted of the following:
Her: How you doing?
Me: Fine.
Her: Good. I guess I better initial those papers.
It was a synergy to make Stephen Covey proud.
Philly's induction, like Philly's core curriculum, is scripted, minute-by-minute. You can imagine what that does to class discussion. Not surprisingly, this also means, we have avoided the topic of differentiated instruction.
Wednesday, as we began looking at data and AYP and core curriculum and needs assessments and PSSA trend analysis and everything else, I could take no more.
"This is insulting," I said, "We are all professionals, we have been trained as teachers."
The instructor/facilitator/swami agreed, but pointed out that our ability didn't mean a few bad teachers didn't enter the profession.
"Yes, but I've had a few weeks with the 20 people in this room, and I'm pretty confident we're not those teachers, but we've allowed for the building of a system that treats us as though we are."
At this point, the train had jumped the tracks.
It was wonderful. We had an honest discussion of race and the history of Philadelphia, about systems and the like. For the first time, the car ride home was filled with discussion not of how things could have gone, but what things can become.
I've more thoughts on this swimming around. They'll appear shortly, but the crux of it is this: I know new teachers need support in their first two years or they'll revert to teaching the way they were taught when they were in school. But shouldn't that support be dynamic? Shouldn't that support be about what teachers need? Shouldn't we be engaging each other in the kind of dynamic discourse we're hoping for in our classrooms? Shouldn't we?
More later.


Louise Maine said...


I think if your eyes would have bled that it would be a side I had not seen of you. How great you are in the mentoring program and have a chance to make a difference there.

Hmmm... scripted mentoring... sounds like a corporate we are not professionals...

What would it take to break this - to be treated like professionals and move our profession along...

It would be great if the model way we should be teaching were the way we were all treated...

We are all attempting this in our own districts. How do we get this conversation heard?

Kauffman said...


You'll find that the numbing tedium extends beyond teacher induction... it infects nearly all teacher professional development. It's not so much about professionalism, but more about risk. As a profession, as a system, education is afraid of risk.

I saw you present at the Penn State conference and you clearly come to education with a positive and refreshing paradigm of what education can be. I hope that you are able to parlay that into continued success at SLA and influence others far beyond.

Here's to the Crazy Ones. ; )

Mr. Ross said...

I cannot agree more with your assessment of what passes as professional development. I am still numb from a session of standardized assessment pd yesterday!
You are definitely on the crazy side, Mr. Chase (but I like it!) It's nice to see you back posting again, dude!