November 13, 2007

Sex, Candy Necklaces, and Stuff I Already Know

I try to stay positive about professional development days. I've been on the delivering end (to hostile audiences), and I figure that there is always something new I can learn so I try hard to make these days worth my time. Today, however, was more about trying my patience...

I had three choices of seminars this morning: Skillstutor training, learn about classroom uses for ComicLife, and create your own website that is hosted by the district. I've been using Skillstutor for years, so I don't want or need more training, I had training on ComicLife this summer (not too tough), and I already have a district-hosted website. What to do? I chose the district website because although I have one, I don't use it much. Yes, it is easy, yet it is limited. I'm still bitter that I spent many hours working on a class wiki, and now the district has blocked wikispaces, so I begrudgingly worked on making the district hosted website work for me. Only it really doesn't.

Later in the morning, we spent an hour working in groups trying to identify proof that we use best practices in our classrooms. I'm a little unsure what that section of our in-service was about. It might be a precursor to other trainings, or maybe it was a collaborative session for us to provide documentation for district hoops we needed to jump through. I'm confused by the short session on such a meaty subject.

The highlight of my day was the online course I had to take on sexual harassment. That was a series of lessons and quizzes I had to pass and provide proof for my administrator that I'd done it. Oh brother! Every year we've had to watch some video and sign a paper saying we understand why we should not try to have sex with our students. This year it's been taken to a new level with an online course! I do appreciate that the administration set aside time for us to do this on their time, instead of our own time, as it did take about an hour.

After that demeaning experience (you know, for those of us who are jeebed out about the mere thought of relations with our students) other teachers had time to collaborate with their departments or work in their rooms. My department had yet another training for a new differentiated reading program we are using: We were promised that we'd learn some new things, yet in the 90 minutes of training, I learned about 10 minutes' worth of new information.

Although my day was nearly over after that, I wasn't finished with having my time wasted by promises of new knowledge as I had to attend the longest two hours of training at my night school. We spent the first hour reviewing rules of the school. And for much of that review, the principal spoke to us through a bullhorn. There were about 40 of us in a small cafeteria. Yes, the room had poor acoustics, but I could not understand most of what he was saying through the bullhorn. I think perhaps bullhorns are for short statements and not lectures. Sure, it was irritating, so I just sat there eating my candy necklace he gave us. Bullhorn. Candy necklace. Bizarre.

(As a side note, the last principal used to bring in dinner from the Olive Garden for us. This principal had cheesecake, carrot sticks, and Cheetos--with a gift of candy necklaces for us. Uhm...)

The second hour I went into some training about how to set up my gradebook and upload the grades to Edline. Again, I already knew what to do, and I had already set up my gradebook. I was promised some swift tricks for making my life easier in using EasyGradePro, and yet again, I was sorely disappointed.

What I could have used is some tips in using Plato, which is a program I was asked to use with my students this year and have had to figure out on my own. (I'm just one of a few teachers slated to use it the program.) Because I have so much experience (in case you haven't figured it out) using web-based programs, it wasn't too tough, but it feels like I'm missing something because it isn't very user friendly, and it seems kind of lame. However, as you might have guessed, if I ever get the training I've been promised it probably won't offer any more insight for me.

This whole rant and reflection has made me realize how insanely jealous (instead of simply jealous) I am of teachers, schools, and districts who are exploring web2.0 ideas. I'm longing for more--something engaging and progressive--and I'm just bored.

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