Friday, May 12, 2006

Re-Connect to the World

From a post by David Warlick:
There are a large number of teachers in our (U.S.) classrooms today who are around my age, fifty something. In the last half of our careers we have witnessed astounding changes in the very nature of information, and these changes are only accelerating. So here’s the math.
  • Thirty year teachers
  • Teaching 6 to 18 year old children
  • Preparing them in a time of rapid change for a future of accelerating change
  • Where they’ll change jobs 10.2 times between the ages of 18 and 38 (Number of Jobs Held)

OK, I’m still figuring on this, but does this scan? Does it scan that teachers, who we encourage to make their profession a 30-year career, are preparing children in a time of rapid change to prosper in a time of rapid change? If we could just factor in ongoing, casual, professional development and make it an explicit part of the definition of being a teacher and give teachers the time to pay attention and adapt, then the numbers I’m grappling for may cancel each other out.

He goes on to suggest:

Every fifth year, all teachers take a paid sabbatical. They can take on an internship related to what they teach for that year. ..Or they can propose a project to produce some significant advancement of the practice (a new textbook, new type of textbook, significant research, instructional materials, etc.). The result would be that after every five years, teachers would re-enter their classroom re-connected to the world that we are preparing our children for.

I don't have a lot to add to this, just wanted to share with the group. But I think it's an interesting point. How can teachers - who typically do stay in the profession for a very long time (at least compared to other folks) - keep themselves current and passionate and relevant? Obviously, I think on-going staff development is one way to go (hence this project we're all involved in), but even that is something of an "echo chamber." We're talking and listening to each other - and our students - which is a very good thing, but how much exposure do we have to ideas outside of education? As a teacher, I've always wanted a chance to "intern" with various businesses to see what was going on in the so-called "real world." But outside of a few special programs that you have to apply for, I haven't run across anything. I think we run a real risk of becoming the K-12 equivalent of the "ivory tower."

I really like David's suggestion of a periodic sabbatical, but that seems a little unrealistic (even to me - proposer of bold ideas). I think the district finally looking at staff development issues in relation to the calendar is a good thing, but I think the restrictions they've put on it might doom it to failure. They need to think a little more outside of the box. If this is worth doing, then it's worth doing right - not restricting it to early release or late start which have a whole host of problems. So, anybody have some bold ideas of how we could make on-going staff development a reality in LPS?

Listen to the podcast.


  1. I wonder if there is a way to offered paid summer interships with companies. There are many companies that hire summer interns and I don't know that teachers need an entire year to reconnect. It seems that short term connections would be a good first step and still give exposure to the "real world."

  2. Ok, I will make a confession. I am addicted to documentaries, especially travel documentaries. At lunch, when many teachers in our department talk about their favorite soap opera or reality TV show, I end up quietly listening because I like to watch Globe Treker or Railway Journey. So what does this have to do with the post? I believe teachers (and students) learn so much from travel. I agree it is different than WORKING in the real world, but travel opens one's eyes to the world around us. Not all my friends are teachers, and when I visit (physically and electronically) with my non-educator friends I also learn a lot. is lunch duty time. To be continued....

  3. Watching political forces at work - parents of young children whose primary concern seems to be day care, district money people, elementary focus-driven "managers", building admins and teachers who see change as hassle rather than potential - I also fear with Karl that the two ingredients for doing this well (TIME and MONEY) are going to be difficult to find. The calendar is becoming a battle ground where, it seems, as if the potential will lose out to the practical. PERA demands and declining enrollment combined with little ability to ask the voters for more (for about 4 more years) will make $ tighter.

    So how do we provide people incentives? Is it credit? On the downside, people who take on opportunites for credit as their major motivation will only go so far. On the positive side, work has been done the last two years to make credit easier to get ... no more need for Adams State tuition, doubling the tuition reimbursement potential from 300 to 600 (Side note to all of those complaining that they aren't getting the full amount of is still much more than was available in prior years and is very competitive with other imprtant districts), accepting more opportunities for credit, etc.

    But credit only goes so far. So the key is understanding why those of us that are MA60 and have no financial benefit from credit continue to take part in order to get better. Some just aren't satisfied with where we are. We want not to get bored. We want not to get stale. We have pride in what we do and are never satisfied. People like that will look at summer oppotunities or taking a year to learn because of a motivation that comes from within (the same motivation we hope our students develop). Maybe the key is to find a way to recognize and reward those who undertake the efforts...beyond a 3 credit thank you that you pay for.