Tuesday, November 11, 2008

After Fall Break . . . and the beat goes on

After Fall Break things might get easier? Was I nuts???? Yesterday, I was working with a middle school faculty participating in a project that emphasizes interdisciplinary teaching. Faculty members are mostly high school teachers who are very content focused - merely held captive in the purgatory of middle school. Just ask any high school teacher what s/he teaches and the answer is almost always framed in terms of the courses taught -- 19th century British Literature, or Anatomy and Physiology, or US History to 1850. The inservice workshop was scheduled at the worst time - 3:30-5:30, after a full day of school and bus duty. I had driven 2.5 hours to deliver a 2 hour workshop - and I'm thinking as I watch them set up the library, "I came here for this??" Chairs were set up close together, like an auditorium - no tables, no place to write; the library had a large supporting column that obstructed the view of about 3-4 of the teachers [those fast enough to get to the venue early and sit where they could not be seen]. As they came in, teachers kept alluding to the "presentation" or the "lecture" -- and were quite surprised when I began by telling them they would be working and needed several sheets of paper and something to write with. But as we worked through the lesson in which I had embedded some useful strategies, then discussed adaptations for core content areas, I could feel them begin to loosen up a bit and at least ask questions about using some of the strategies: Paired Structured Brainstorming; Structured Notes / Response Heuristic; Forced Choice; Cinquain. I hope they will try at least one of the strategies, and that the grade level teachers will at least talk with each other about what they are doing - but I'm not holding my breath. I so hate to do a one-shot deal sort of workshop, but perhaps there will be sufficient follow-up that the teachers will have enough support to take the risk of doing something different in their classrooms. And it is a risk - for "old" teachers and for "new" teachers - because most of us were never taught as we are asking teachers to teach, and therein lies the rub. I look at international comparison data and fear that nothing we do will get us out of the quagmire we have put ourselves in - and coupled with the economic down turn I see a long slog against odds that have rarely been greater. We have more dropouts, apathy is rampant, and still we persist in "telling and spelling" our way through a curriculum that is a  mile wide and an inch deep when it should really be the other way round. 

Man, this is depressing - I've got to get my attitude corrected before I go to class -- YIKES! I'm late for setting up for class - stay tuned.