Saturday, February 5, 2011

PD Follies - part six, Stepford Teachers

Sometimes people have conflicts. In a school, you can have some real petty politics with people choosing sides and teachers arguing.  There's always intrigue, spite and malice. There's that famous line about educational politics being "so nasty because the stakes are so small."

This person gets a department chair post over the objections of the members of the department.  That person gets a cushy schedule and glowing evaluations while this person gets slammed and is nearly run out of the school. A teacher commits a crime and the issue is ignored. The principal has an affair with the science teacher's wife causing a divorce. The other principal is committed secretly to a mental institution for three weeks in February; upon her return is even nuttier than before.

The faculty are evenly divided between hardline republicans and softheaded liberals. (I was the token liberal in the conservative camp.) The principal took the liberal side against the "Good Ole Boys," who were also the Upstanding Long-Time Members of the Community. When a G.O.B. can point to the classroom teacher's desk that had been used by successive family members for the last 50 years, any new principal should think carefully about taking on this cabal. This one didn't think. It wasn't pretty.

It got stupid, too. One teacher puts up a sign outside her door: "Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain.  And most do." The other replies with "But it takes a greater fool to say nothing."

Obviously we needed professional development to help teach us conservatives why we were wrong. Enter the

Conflict Resolution Specialist.

She was going to help us teachers get along and she was scheduled right after that infamous, vision statement debacle.  She was watching how we dealt with that and starting setting up.

Anything, I thought, would be better than mindless blathering about the differences between "21st century skills" and "skills for the emerging century." Maybe even conflict resolution training. Anyway, I would be wrong.

We had to role-play.

"If there were aliens flying above the school, how would they recognize the respect you show each other?"

The response:
"They wouldn't, because we would be inside the building and they couldn't hear us." 
"Why do we care what aliens think? We're all adults here and if someone can't handle a little disagreement why would they feel capable of being a teacher?" Which was priceless because the next thing out of her mouth was, "Some teachers feel there is a culture of intimidation here."

That didn't work so well.

We now had to role-play a conflict between a student and a teacher.
"You will be a student who failed a test and are upset that the teacher is keeping you after school and making you miss practice."
"Okay, that's fair. I'm good with that."
"No, you have to be angry."
"But keeping me after school is the right thing to do. I failed and the teacher's trying to help me."
"We're trying to practice conflict resolution. Maybe someone else?"

"All of you stick your stickers on the board next to your choice ... "

Then, the coup de grace: "One of you will be a girl who wants to use the purple chalkboard. Another a girl who wants to use the pink one. Show me how you'd resolve this conflict." (This gem was said to a burly redneck weighing nearly 350 pounds with a pocketknife hanging from his belt.)
"I don't want to use either board."
"You have to role-play."

This is No Shit. Did I mention that we're a high school?

I hate "professional development."

1 comment:

  1. So, she didn't stumble onto any good role play scenarios? She really stinks. Watch this...

    "Curm, pretend that you are a Professional Developer who only gets to leave if you get the teachers in the room to engage in infantile exercises. The rest of you? You are teachers. Go!"