Friday, March 8, 2013

The Professionals: A Class Full of Teachers

I have been taking, as I have mentioned, some professional development classes in teaching. Here is what I have observed, in regard to enthusiasm, among this particular group of professionals.

Talk about contract issues -- talk about tenure issues and retirement benefits and pay questions, and the room buzzes with energy. Hands shoot up. Heads nod vigorously. Side-conversations erupt. The poor professor can barely field all of the questions before moving on to the next topic. Everyone in the room is engaged and sitting bolt upright, eyes wide and inquisitive.

Except me. I'm doodling in my notes.

Talk about bad student behavior; about trends in poor student attitudes, and the energy again erupts. The phrase "these kids" flies about the room like a boomerang. Everyone wants a say; everyone wants to share his misery. The professor looks on, helplessly, fingering the pages of his notes to show he wants to move on. He waits politely. All of the students are fired up.

Except me. I'm finishing my sketch of the Sistine Chapel.

Talk about accountability -- talk about hard-line grading; about "zero-tolerance"; about numbers being numbers and that is the way it is in the real world, and it's like a Zumba party in there -- everyone is dancing and working up a sweat.

Except me. I sit silently, until one person says that a kid (in a case study) who does "A" work and who is a big discipline problem doesn't deserve to get an "A" as a final grade, because he is disruptive. I come awake and point out that his discipline has nothing to do with his academics. He gets punished with detentions and suspensions for discipline infractions; his grades are his grades and should not be reduced for bad behavior. The class calms a little, a bit taken aback by my blunt tone.

"What if he misses work while he is out for discipline issues? His grade has to be reduced, then," says one fellow (who is not afraid of my wrath) with much smugness.

I look lazily at him, doodling as I speak. "You are going to let him get away with not doing the work? So, he gets off easily because he was bad? I guess you would rather just reduce his grade. Saves you some effort."

No response.

The mob allows the professor to move on, now.

Talk about teaching strategies; talk about techniques to bring students to higher levels of cognition, like creativity and synthesis, and, all of the sudden, the room becomes a tomb. Students are doodling in their notebooks.

Not me. I am bolt-upright, engaged and wide-eyed. All of a sudden, I have the professor to myself.

Somewhere in the back, a "teacher" snores. This is no longer about his rights and power. He is no longer the center of the questions. He is no longer the performer of demonstrative actions. He dreams of tomorrow, when he will again be able to put on his eye-rolling show for the lowly.

No comments:

Post a Comment