Sunday, September 28, 2008

Professional Development

It was 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon when I found the memo in my box saying that I would be attending professional development for a reading program on Thursday and Friday at 9AM in the school (no end time was listed). Annoyed that I hadn't been told with fair warning, but thankful I had been told at least a day in advance (sometimes you find out via a sub showing up at your door and you have no idea why you have a sub), I immediately began organizing the week's homework so I could send it all out with the kids on Wednesday and could avoid any substitute interaction with the homework (which is usually disastrous). All I could think was "I hope this is worth it."

You see, part of being a teacher is having the opportunity of professional development (PD). Another part is being forced to partake in PD that you don't necessarily want, need, or will do anything for your children. The Dept. of Ed. WASTES hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on useless PD. Like the time all FIRST GRADE teachers from my district gathered at a school for the election day PD. After spending the first hour opening boxes upon boxes of books and teachers guides that went along with this program, we were introduced to a year-long science program for THIRD GRADE (I know, not even our grade). It was the teachers (of course) who even noticed that the boxes were labeled "THIRD GRADE." The best part was that this particular curriculum spent an entire year covering "sound" which is only a small part of the third grade scope and sequence and covered nothing else. We didn't even get to take home the teacher's guides to at least give to the third grade teachers at our school. I felt bad about this because we had taken them out of the shrink wrap to follow the workshop. I'm sure those books ended up in a dumpster. We were promised that grade-level materials would be delivered to our schools. Guess what... we never got it. All I could think was that some bozo had the job of organizing the election day PD and probably had a budget of $40,000 or so and had no clue about what to do so he paid some company from Oklahoma (I kid you not) to come in and teach us something. This is how we WASTE money in the NYC public schools.

With all this talk of budget cuts I am often disgusted at how publishing companies and curriculum designers get rich off of these huge contracts with the NYC public schools. Like Everyday Math--- does it even work? Is it appropriate for our students? They make millions of dollars off of our kids. OUR KIDS, who have everything to lose if a program doesn't serve them. Or KAPLAN!!!! People would be shocked to know that our fourth graders are all given (excuse me, PURCHASED by the dept. of ed) a copy of KAPLAN test prep for their high stakes 4th grade test. Some people might think, "Oh, how great, they get a book to help them." NO!!!! Look who gets RICH off of NCLB-- KAPLAN! By the time we realize these programs are flawed, we move on to the next flavor of the month and spend millions of dollars on an entirely new curriculum, training, and materials. That's how it feels. I have been trained on so many programs that we don't use, can't use, or have become outdated.

This was my mentality going in to the PD this past week. I feel pretty bad for the facilitator, because I can honestly say that a majority of us were feeling this way when we walked into the cramped Literacy Coach's office on Thursday morning. I am happy to report that the program I trained for last week turned out to be something I truly believe in and something that will provide REAL intervention for our struggling readers in first grade.... but it is dependent on administration. This program requires one-on-one tutoring and it will ONLY work if the administrators schedule the time properly. We'll see. Hopefully it won't be another wasted PD.

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