0077: #Teacher Training, Professional Development, and the Mysteries of the Hotdog Fold
#education #critical #edreform
I gave my students a quiz this morning and I asked them to fold their paper lengthwise and pass it in. They didn’t exactly understand lengthwise so I said “a hotdog fold”. They quickly made the correct fold and passed in the papers.
The term “hotdog fold” brought about a series of flashbacks to undergraduate education classes and useless professional developments I’ve attended that spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing and explaining the difference between a “hotdog” and a “hamburger” fold. I mean I’ve had this explained to me at least fifteen different times in different settings. I’ve been appalled every time. The instructors or professional developers have defended that teaching a common language for folding paper is important for classroom procedures. And, that instructional time was often lost because of things as simple as passing in papers. I couldn’t agree more. But, how wasteful and insulting is it to send a teacher, pre-service or in-service, to a workshop on folding paper. Additionally, the reason behind folding the paper is never explained without the presenter being asked. Wouldn’t it be better to help teachers learn to reflect properly about their practice? Or, teach them how to conduct effective discussions that foster critical thinking and dialogue. Teachers could be taught how to teach lessons in a way that allow students to arrive at answers on their own, or even how to design problem-based learning activities. They could be instructed on ways to properly teach and help build their learners vocabularies, so they can read, write, and think more freely. Instead, teacher training is often limited to a few principles of classroom management, memorizing the definitions of the elements of literacy, a class or two in how to write lesson plans, and of course a lesson or two in folding paper. These basic lessons are repeated in new teacher orientations and at schools PDs. They’re all focuses on standardizing teacher methods to produce a similar product. I had one professor in Undergrad who focused entirely on critical literacy and social justice. One three hour course out of who knows how many was the only reason I completed a degree in education. That combined with past study of linguistics and literature.
Teaching is not limited to coloring within the lines. Thusly, neither should teacher training or education or whatever you call it be limited to such narrow outcomes either. I am not suggesting that teacher education programs produce only activists and social reformers, that would be ludicrous. Such activity must come from passion, awareness of injustice, and deep reflection. But, programs should produce cognizant and critical teachers who understand that their roles go far beyond that of folding paper and writing plans. Teachers should understand their roles as advocates for their students and themselves. They should have the skills walking into their classrooms not after they’ve been struggling as a teacher or five years. There is an abundance of literature focusing on teacher training. It should go beyond preparation for the praxis and a lifetime of coddling children. That is in no way what teaching is. And, regarding PD, it’s seldom that it is more than an occupation of valuable time that results in blank stares and checking cellphones. If you teach paper folding, perhaps shake things up, and focus on the way the information and critical thought is going to be put on that soon to be folded paper. Teachers are dedicated and hardworking people who are far more capable of complex thought than they are treated. Give us some credit.