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In-Service Workshops

    What ARE the teachers doing? The kids have the day off, because the teachers are having an "in-service workshop." It might be productive and useful, or, it could be the kind of session discussed in these articles below.

  • "Beware The Worthless Workshop" by Jerry Jesness, Principal Magazine, February 6, 2001. There seem to be a zillion self-appointed "experts" out there charging big bucks for in-service workshops, speeches, and books based on unsubstantiated claims of how children supposedly learn. Excerpt: "Pedagogical consultants who make ... absurd claims ... do quite well. There is no shortage of gimmicks offered to improve discipline, cure learning disabilities, motivate students, and raise test scores. ... To describe all of the in-service snake oil products would require an encyclopedia. ... There isn't that much new under the sun, even in this modern era of great technological advances. The odds of a newly-minted EdD coming up with a pedagogical method that is superior to all that has been done in the past five millennia are slim. The odds that such a revolutionary method could be explained to teachers in two or three hours are virtually none."

  • Workshop Wonderland: Who's teaching the teachers?, Reason Magazine, August/September 2000. Excerpt: "It makes sense to pursue advanced study in the field you teach, and we teachers ought to stay abreast of such topics as new laws affecting schools. But most other workshops are misguided, or foolish, or actually dangerous, should the ideas they present fall into the hands of teachers or administrators naive or ignorant enough to take them seriously."

  • Workshop Madness, Dallas Morning News, January 2000. "Anyone who can get enthused by teachers' workshops probably either profits by giving them or has never attended one."

  • Visit From the Technology Consultant by Kevin Killion. With the money flowing freely for expensive computer equipment (even while teachers complain that pennies are short for basic books and supplies) it's no surprise that there are a number of self-appointed educational technology "experts" offering advice on computers in schools. Here's a report on a teachers' in-service that featured one such "expert".

  • The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America's History Teachers; Part II, Professional Development by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, school of education, Northeastern University. "Professional development workshops are the mechanism par excellence for legitimating the content, thrust, and providers of manipulative supplemental resources, and for spreading their influence." The author explores, in detail, half-truths and mistruths regularly presented to teachers at in-service workshops in such areas as Islamic history, the exploration and early settlement of America, and African-American history.

  • Read Two Sonnets and Call Me In the Morning by Jerry Jesness, Education Week, March 22, 2000 "The in-service training session began like so many others. The consultant sang a cute song and then chastised a group of schoolteachers for putting too much emphasis on thinking and not enough on emotions. 'Schools don't need more worksheets,' he said. 'First you must help your students get in touch with their feelings.'... [In] the modern American school ... the importance of knowing facts is trivialized, while feelings have become the focus of much instruction. We teachers are bombarded with suggestions and mandates to 'teach the total child.' Build the self-esteem, we are told, and everything else will fall into place. Do not merely teach times tables, but strive to end math anxiety. Lower the affective filter, and children will somehow magically absorb foreign languages. Teach them conflict resolution and anger-management skills, and good classroom discipline will ensue."

  • How To Fad-Proof Your School by Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 1998. "The key to fad-proofing your school is to look for things that work and avoid those that don't. Here are suggestions from some top superintendents and teachers:
      [Excerpt: first three points]
    • Remember that the most entertaining consultant does not always have the best ideas.
    • Textbook publishers or consultants rarely provide data or evidence that their materials or in-service programs are effective. Insist on it.
    • Take a hard look at the research base behind a proposal: What's the evidence that students will learn more under the new program than under the program it is replacing? What is the experimental design of the study and how strong is the evidence?
    ..."

  • Here's an interesting perspective from one vendor of an in-service workshop program:

      Pop Quiz: Teacher Workshops are:
      1. Extremely meaningful,
      2. Essential for Professional Development & Growth,
      3. Integral components of Educational Pedagogy and Practicum,
      4. The most worthless way to spend a teachers time outside of cafeteria duty!
      If you answered 'A' above, you must be an administrator. 'B' indicates you are a Curriculum Coordinator. 'C' is a dead giveaway that you just received your MEB, Master's of Educational Bull----, and can't stop yourself. 'D' is a sure sign that you are an experienced classroom teacher and have some semblance of time organization.


Schools, Teachers, Parents and the Community

    For more information on the role, perspectives and involvement of teachers, parents and the community with schools, see these other pages on our website:

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