"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sit and Get

I’ve been doing some reading, and an odd coincidence occurred.  I wasn’t an educator today.  Today I became a "hub worker". 
First my NEA Today magazine came in the mail today.  Although the website does provide interesting reading the site is not updated yet with the magazine’s cover story “An End to ‘Sit and Get’ Workshops”.  Essentially the article describes educators as being low on morale and tired of professional development calling sessions “Spray and Pray”, “Drive By,” or “Sit and Get”.  Worthwhile professional development is considered indispensable, yet the time is “wasted listening to a so-called expert who hasn’t spent a day in the classroom, with participants in a windowless hotel conference room filled with an endless parade of PowerPoint slides.”  (Ah, I’ve see many a deck!)  The experiences are described as ending with “We’re done.  Now, go ahead and successfully replicate what you’ve learned in your classroom.  Good luck?  Follow-up training?  Don’t count on it.  Collaborative time with colleagues?  Hmmm… no.”  The conclusion is so accurate that I cringed from experience. 

Second I picked up Belfiore and Folinsebee and suddenly I was comparing the two discussions.  The similar practices observed included “Sign-off procedures”, “Lecture-style teaching”, “Print materials with dense text”, “Long stretches of reading aloud by the trainer,” and “Written tests”.  Although I don’t want the educational system to be treated as a business, the comparisons in training are huge.  Enter an expert (trainer), leave the work environment (for some office) and enter the deck (training manual – read aloud time).  Although Bozena seemed a little more oriented toward the workers, Janet, for all the wisdom she displayed in reflection, was definitely spraying her employees and praying it would take.  She seemed to have blind faith that they got it, because she was so good at her job I wonder?? 

So if professional learning is to change, regardless of the field, be it business or education, we must “get through to them” as Janet states.  As one of the “them” in the education field, I think Janet is spot on.  In public education I want to get it, I hope to get it, but quite often the administration’s message is lost in test scores, bureaucracy, and a trail of paperwork that proved I performed as one of “them”.  Did I learn as I went along, or did I just check another thing off my list? 

To again reference the NEA article they state that “professional learning needs to be conducted – continuously, collaboratively, and with a focus on teaching specific content to particular learners.”  A remarkably similar quote ends chapter 5 of Belfiore, “Educators’ effectiveness then is greatly dependent on the extent to which they can work collaboratively and strategically with a number of different others in a role that facilitates learning, rather than delivers teaching.”  So maybe today, as I was reading the text, I was framing myself as one of the “hub workers” just trying to do my job with a lack of trainer collaboration. 
Deciding that “collaborate” was a key word in both texts, I looked for a definition and again coincidence struck me.
Collaborate –

: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor

: to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one's country and especially an occupying force

: to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected
Although “enemy” in definition number two is a strong word, definition number three is the one that fits both of my readings today.  I didn't feel connected to my training, and I couldn't even begin to credit Janet with any wisdom when I have suffered through her "Sit and Get" practices myself.

1 comment:

  1. Lisa, I feel your pain! In an era of high stakes accountability, fear often trumps trust, unfortunately. Learning circles are radical and dangerous when the curriculum is narrow and prescriptive. Nevertheless, I witnessed an awesome example of teacher-centered professional development last February in Philadelphia. One of my literacy heroes, Susan Lytle, at U. Penn, has been running a National Writers Project with teachers from Philadelphia Public Schools since the late 80's. The teachers band together weekly (I think) to write and read each others' writing. There is no agenda, no pre-set learning outcomes, no set genre. Some write short stories or poetry, some develop teaching philosophies, some keep journals, some write manifestos! But collaboratively, these teachers have figured out how to survive and grow as a community, all their own. Their retention rates are much higher than other teachers. And the school system administration respects their work, even read their manifestos. Go figure....


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