Tuesday, April 4, 2017

After a while you give up.


Consider the following scenarios:

A conference at St. Michael's College in Burlington, Vermont. The speaker is Professor Robert Talbert (@RobertTalbert) and he is presenting his work with flipped learning to an audience of college professors and a few HS teachers. He speaks well, he is prepared, and he has given out material well in advance that he expects that everyone will have read, and questions that he expects everyone will have answered. Not surprisingly, everyone has. We discuss FL and his new book. We see what he has done with FL: what works well and why, and what doesn't and why. People work throughout the time, notes are taken, the food is lovely and the workshop is a success.

Or a Bio-Ethics conference at UVM Medical Center. Similarly, everything is straightforward, talks are given, information is presented, people listen and take notes. the food is lovely. The workshop is a success

A running theme throughout is the assumption of competence, treating everyone as if their time was valuable and that they were there because they wanted to be, that they wanted to hear what the speaker had to say.

Then, there's a conference geared towards high-school teachers.

Invariably, there's a bowl of candy. Your choice is used to sort you into groups. Most of the time, you need to stand up and hold hands with the next person and play "telephone" to demonstrate that ground-breaking idea that teenagers don't always listen attentively to your instructions.

There's a stack of post-it notes to stick to chart paper. Here's some colored markers. This presenter uses grade-school vocabulary and that sing-song voice one uses with 10 year-olds. That coordinator has 60 people crowd into a 20x20 foot space and then "Move to that side if you agree that that differentiation is a good thing, move to this side if you are wrong."

Did I mention that you have a Master's degree?

You'll be handed a paper copy of an article that was emailed out a few days before because "Not everyone is as advanced technologically as you" and couldn't be expected to have read anything ahead of time. I know, right? We can't expect anyone to know how to read something sent by E-Mail, apparently.

"Read this article and find the sentence that means the most to you."
 The "scribe" will write it on the chart paper.

"Find the phrase that means the most to you."
The "scribe" will write it on the chart paper.

"Find the word that means the most to you."
 The "scribe" will write it on the chart paper.

90 minutes later, you are done with a 3-page double-spaced article on the wonders of Common Core State Standards. You'd think we'd be further along in this process eight years after the introduction of CCSS, but no, we're examining a propaganda piece instead of developing course material to align with standards.

Did I mention that you have been teaching this material for 30-odd years?

Did I mention that the state of Vermont has decreed that all public school will be using the Common Core and that there's no particular reason to read about how wonderful it is?

I am not exaggerating. The whole thing would be demeaning and ridiculous but you get the feeling that the presenters aren't capable of anything more strenuous intellectually than 6th grade social studies -- your course work is gibberish to them.

"We're going to use the Gallery Walk protocol today."

"You have thirty-two minutes to discuss this topic in your groups of four. Person A will speak for 3 minutes with no interruptions. Following that, the table with remain quiet for 2 minutes to deeply consider what was said. Then persons B, C, and D will take 1 minute each to respond."

"There are easels around the room. Please take your Post-It note and attach it the the chart paper next to the statement that most closely matches your opinion."

You can resist only so much. After a while, you begin to go along with it all just to keep some progress happening. You know that if you ask a question, the gears in their heads will seize and jam and you'll never get anything done.

You dutifully watch the videos in the group, even though everyone is watching it starting at a different instant and the cacophony is making people twitch.  The video could have been viewed on our own time, but I guess not. In Bizzarro World, it's better to have us all use the limited time we have together to not work together. Again, it's not informative; it's a college kid's project touting the glories of the work we're going to begin doing someday.


Then, you'll write down what color the video was ... I chose "FUSCHIA" because it included lots of letters from the word I really wanted to use.

It becomes easier to let them ramble, to let them play their games of "Pass the ball of yarn back and forth and then it will represent the network of caring that we have here." You resign yourself to never getting anything actually finished during inservice. Proficiency-based grading isn't slated to be implemented for another three years because "some people can't even use Google Docs" and "I'm trying to teach the faculty how to fill in my template for learning" - you know we should be doing this more quickly but it's easier to just give up.

Let's call it: "Inservice Stockholm Syndrome."


  1. I hate all inservice because of this! I am constantly flummoxed by the ineptitude of nearly everyone with responsibility in education.