Back to School – Are You Ready?

IMAGINE…

You walk into class the first day, ready to teach. You look out across the room, examining the the group of learners you see before you. What do you see? Usually it’s a combination of the following…

  • Golden Retrievers – Sitting in the front row. Always wanting to please and requiring constant affirmation. “Is this right? Is this what you wanted me to do?”
  • Storytellers – Constantly have their hand in the air, not because they have a question, but because they need to tell you about something that happened to them once – or maybe it was someone they know – or maybe it was someone on TV.
  • Otters – They don’t care what they’re doing, as long as it’s fun. These are the ones that were talking when you were were giving instructions so they have to ask the person next to them what you said. Then because they are talking to the person next to them, they miss the next thing you said so they need to find out what to do from the person sitting on the other side. Usually when you’re all done, an otter will ask, “Can you explain that first part again?”
  • The Insecure, “Hanging by a Thread” Emotional Mine Field –  Ready to snap at any moment. One wrong comment or look can set them off. Tread carefully.
  • The Eye Rollers – Don’t want to be here. What ever you’re saying must not apply to them so they don’t care. They usually sit in the back of the room with…
  • The Know-It-Alls –  Who are not paying attention to you at all and are working on something else or constantly staring at the clock wondering when you’re going to be done. The two most common replies from both of these types  are “Fine” and “Whatever”.
  • The Space Cadets – Their body may be in the room, but their mind is in a galaxy far far away…
  • The Organizationally Challenged – You don’t see them in the room because they’re running late. When they do arrive, you can’t miss them stumbling in and juggling four times as much stuff as anyone else. After they’re settled and ready to pay attention, that’s when they realize the one thing they need is back home on their desk.
  • The Defense Attorneys –  Known by their familiar battle cry, “That’s not fair!”  These are the ones that will put more time and effort into arguing why they shouldn’t have to do something than it would have taken to actually do it in the first place.
  • The Perfects – Perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect teeth. These are the ones that really DO know it all. They’re always one step ahead of you and are your built-in spelling and grammar checkers.  You’re just one more rung on the ladder they’re climbing for future success and ultimate world domination.

Are you getting a mental picture yet?

Wait a minute! I forgot one important detail. Imagine that room you are in is not filled with students, but with teachers, and YOU are leading their back-to-school technology training.

Ever notice that a group of teachers is not that different from a group of students? Each one has their own issues and idiosyncrasies. Each one has their own unique set of experiences and learning styles. With a group of students we all know the importance of building relationships, building trust, and getting to know the way each student learns so we can tailor our instruction to help them meet our educational goals.  Yet so often professional development for our teachers is delivered in a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all technology in-service.

This year our school principal has us reading “Leading and Managing A Differentiated Classroom” (http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108011.aspx) As I’m going through the book I can’t help but think that teachers need differentiated instruction too.  Just like with our students, our goal with professional development is make sure that all our teachers master the skill we are presenting. If we want to do that effectively then we need to design a flexible technology training that takes into account the various strengths, weaknesses, and learning needs of our teachers.

For the Golden Retrievers it could mean providing that extra affirmation and feedback they require, but it also might mean answering their questions with other questions getting them to think through what they are doing and helping them to become independent learners and problem solvers.

For the Otters it might mean stopping every once in a while and asking them to echo back what you just said. or have them explain or “re-teach” the last few steps to the rest of the group one more time for reinforcement.

For the Emotional Mine Fields and the Organizationally Challenged, it may mean taking time to meet with them individually to find out what is going on outside of work. We know from Maslow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs) that higher level learning cannot occur if a student is lacking one or more basic needs (physiological, safety, love/belonging). Often times we don’t know all the crap that our fellow teachers are dealing with, so learning to empathize with their situation can help you understand better how you can help them learn.

The Eye-Rollers and the Know-It-Alls need you to show them how they can use what you are teaching them next week. Help them understand the relevance of what you are presenting and that this is not just one more thing that’s going to go into a desk drawer never to see the light of day again.

How do you deal with the other types of learners? I haven’t finished the book yet.  What strategies might YOU use to help them?

Not everyone in the room is starting with the same technology skill set, and not everyone is going to take what you’ve taught them and use it in exactly the same way. How boring would it be if they did? I suppose the important point to remember when leading your teacher trainings is not to focus on the technology, but rather all the wonderful faces in the room. Let them know it’s not about the tool, its about them.  Let them know you’re not just teaching a skill, you’re helping them to grow as professionals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *