Inservice My Way

boring-lectureAs the new school year approaches, I find myself cringing… not at the thought of classes full of teenagers; I love my kids. Not at “having” to plan and present lessons; this summer I have found some great ideas that I’m excited to try out. No, I cringe at the thought of inservice meetings. It is as if these sessions are designed to crush whatever enthusiasm for our work a restful summer might have instilled in teachers. Now, I’m not talking about the quick reiteration of rules and policies that starts each year. The soul-sucking meetings I dread are the ones purportedly designed to help us teach better.

It’s Lego-tastic!

Teachers reading this already feel my pain, but for those of you who have never suffered experienced inservice, I’m going to give you a picture of a typical session. First, these sessions are generally not broken up by discipline; often they are not divided by grade-level. This is frustrating because techniques presented for second grade have never had any practical use to me as a high school teacher. I went to one inservice “training” in which we –I am not making this up– made telescopes from the cardboard cylinder at the core of a roll of toilet paper and played with Legos. Now, I like Legos; they are fine toys, but their relevance to my teaching high school English was non-existent. (I don’t remember what the point of these exercises was supposed to be, so obviously it had no long-lasting effect– other than to vindicate my disdain for such activities.)

What’s Your Sign?

022014-3d-transparent-glass-icon-culture-astrology-libraAt another inservice, we all learned what “color” we were.  (I’m a Gold, meaning that Oranges are going to get on my nerves; at least that’s what I took away from this. I’m also a Libra, and I don’t know how that’s going to affect my teaching either.) The validity of the color personality theory is questionable, but even I allow it some, it designed for learning how to cooperate with one’s co-workers to “leverage individuals’ distinct skillsets to form a cohesive unit,” or something like that. It is less applicable in working with classes of students whose colors you don’t know. We spent all day learning about our colors : We made posters with colored markers, mixing in groups of both same and different colors to compare results. I can sum up the probable point of this inservice in two sentences: Teachers have distinct personalities and styles as do students. Of course, I wouldn’t make $20,000 a pop presenting this clear and succinct truth: It’s just not flashy enough. Nor would I be able to market books, mugs, T-shirts, and full theatrical performances to suckers administrators and executives around the world. It is important for teachers to keep varied learning styles in mind and to adjust teaching methods to appeal to differing student learning styles as much a possible. This should not be an epiphany to any teacher. We never discussed this overtly, the presenters not being experts in education. We never discussed how we would apply the “color theory” to our teaching. It was just a day. As an uptight Gold, I was ready to peel my skin off at the waste of time.

So, What Would I Do?

Inservice is not a bad concept. I have attended some useful inservice meetings. This summer, I went to a workshop with training on using Google’s suite of Education tools. One reason it was useful is that I chose it to fill a specific need I had. To make inservice useful, individual teachers need to find tasks that meet their individual needs. Our inservice guidelines specifically state that personal, independent study is not applicable for inservice credit.

hand shakeWhy not? Well, part of this goes back to the fact that teachers are not accorded respect as professionals. Check out my article on whether or not teaching is a real profession here.  We aren’t trusted to select meaningful training for ourselves. Sadly, not everyone is worthy of this freedom. This means that administrators will have to interactively monitor these individual pursuits and award credit when it is of genuine worth.

A teacher could present a proposal for a course of study, indicating what direct impact it will have on student learning; at the end of the course, said teacher would present his or her findings to the principal– or ideally in a PLC (professional learning community) meeting as proof the learning was accomplished. For example, if a teacher has never had an online classroom sets up one, this teacher could get inservice credit. Having set one up myself, I know that this takes far more hours than would be traditionally required in inservice, and most importantly, it directly benefited my students.

Old letterStarting my blog has been a very valuable experience to me as a teacher. In striving to do something I’ve never done before, I think I am getting a picture of how my students feel when I introduce new concepts to them. I will be able to empathize more with their frustration when they just don’t get something. I believe all teachers should try to learn something outside their comfort zones to help us better experience the educational experience through our students’ eyes.

If you’re a teacher, have you attended any especially good inservice trainings? Are most of your inservice meetings run by extras from The Walking Dead? What are staff meetings like in the rest of the professional world?

9 thoughts on “Inservice My Way

  1. In the business world, meetings are also too often a waste of time. I think they all should have a 15 minute time limit so people are focused, get something done, and leave.
    Your inservice stuff sounds like people in charge either have no clue on how to help teachers, or pick things just to fill up mandated “training” time requirements. Shame to waste teacher time, as well as to prevent them from using that time to actually improve or learn tools that work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely! I think one of the worst part is that it quashes our enthusiasm. I become anxious for the year to start; then I go to that first meeting, and by the time it’s over, I’m thinking, “How long till Christmas break?”


  2. My in-service week begins next week. I’ve felt the same cringe of dread. Next week won’t be so bad as it is the APSI that I begged to take this summer, but the following ones…man, oh, man! Two weeks of tediousness and very little meaningful time. I feel your pain, too, because I teach at a K-12 school, so much of my time is geared toward lower grades. I have found a way to pass the time, and I hope this doesn’t make you think less of me, but my high school colleagues and I invent games. One of our favorites is “Buzz Word Bingo” and another is “How many questions will Pat ask today?”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Tracey!

    What an insightful piece you have written. I think we are twins separated at birth. Is that possible?

    I am SUPER LUCKY to be working in a school that does not buy into the trendy, this-new-education-innovation-is certain-to-improve-your-life in-services. Since I just finished my first year at this school, I’m not sure why, but I am certainly not going to ask. We have meetings, but they have (so far) been valuable.

    I do, however, have feelings of irritation at faculty meetings. I used to love faculty meetings! The people, the snacks, the prizes, the laughs, the information I never get because I only talk to students all day…but, lately, I’ve been extremely distracted by those teachers who can’t stop talking! I want to stand up and scream! Instead, I eat more snacks. I am not much of a confronter. I wonder what color I am…

    Keep on bloggin’!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed the color training…but then I’m really touchy-freely. I’ve never had to attend anything with elementary people except Convocations, which I view as giant wastes of money, I mean, pep rallies. But MY least favorite thing is when you’re told, “Come on! Let’s get out of those chairs! It’s time for GROUPWORK!” Grrrr. Yes, it a tactic we use in clas, but I’d rather just get through the business at hand and go back to things I find useful, like preparing my classroom, looking at my data, and planning my lessons!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel just like you about”Let’s get out of those chairs!” I always think, “Well, if I get out of this chair, there’s a good chance I’m heading for that door.”
      The color “training” was kind of interesting in the way that I have a secret enjoyment of taking pop-psych personality tests online, but it had no relevance to my testing, and I cringe when I think about what it must have cost. (The people at Sephora told me I’m an Autumn with warm undertones; ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ that was neat, too and had just as much effect on my teaching.)


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