Teachers don't appreciate irony

Jul 31 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

With the new week ahead, I thought I might take two seconds to reflect on the completion of last week's workshop for teachers. It was an interesting experience and in some way exactly what I expected, whereas completely unexpected in other ways. This was not an easy assignment, based on the huge range of teacher experience and the grade range. We had everything from 6th grade science teachers who graduated undergrad with a business degree to 12th grade AP Bio teachers with an MSc. Suffice to say that lecturing to the median alienated both extremes, but we worked with it as best we could. Some quick observations:

1) Teachers complain about getting homework! I found this hilarious, since this was a course for graduate credit and we only asked the to read one article on each of the two nights. Despite this minor load, probably 40% of the course evaluations made a comment along the lines of "the course would have been better without homework". WTF?

2) Some things never change. The "students" who needed to pay attention the most where the first ones to check out and do things like play games on their phones.

3) Teachers are largely unaware that university faculty are willing to either host students for a lab field trip or go to classrooms. Although I wouldn't do this on a monthly basis, I would certainly be up for student interaction a couple of times a semester. One of the teachers actually asked me what the hourly rate is for me to come to classes. Hmmmmmmm.

4) Teaching this class with a grade school teacher has been tremendously helpful. I don't think the teachers would have gotten nearly as much from the course without the mix of our experience.

5) Overall, the group was engaged and asked really good questions. I would say that if the class populations was a reasonable representation of the local teachers, our kids are in pretty good hands.

6) Even when I am struggling a bit, I can convince a room of adults that I know what I'm talking about. Some of the questions that came up were on things I haven't thought hard about for over a decade. Between having to access the far reaches of my brain and having some out of class issues on my mind (a post for another day), there were a few points where I felt I stumbled a bit with the information. Despite this, the class evaluations were pretty supportive, which was nice.

7) No matter what the course is, the first time around is always an experiment. I was teaching in a new environment to an unusual group of students on material slightly outside of my work with a person I had no experience teaching with. Given all the unknowns, it is surprising how well it went.

Now we make our adjustments for round two and tackle that this week. Looking forward to tweaking the course and seeing if we can improve on the groundwork we laid last week.

7 responses so far

  • OgreMkV says:

    It's true. Teachers make the WORST students.

  • Alex says:

    Your reflections on this event leave out the things that really matter:
    1) Was this event with teachers in any way related to your grant-funded work? If so, broader impact brownie points!

    2) You talk about the amusing complaints evaluations, but were there enough positive things that you can say the outcomes assessment indicated positive outcomes? Or can you at least spin it that way in the "Results from previous NSF support" section?

    3) Were your grad students involved in the event in anyway, so that you can talk about student involvement in outreach?

    4) Do these teachers work in schools with large numbers of disadvantaged and/or under-represented students? If so, that's an even stronger Broader Impact.

  • Dr. Dad, PhD says:

    Now the self-centered question: what did you get out of this? Any warm fuzzies or are you left with a dread for the future of the country?

  • namnezia says:

    Did you have to pay the teachers to take your course? I know that's sometimes an issue.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    The teachers do get paid and they also receive the money their district puts in as money they can spend on technology in their classroom. It wasn't until the second session that started today that I ran into a teacher who was just there for the money.

    As far as what I get out of this, it is not part of the Broader Impacts for our current funding but I will work it into future proposals. I wanted to establish a record to give "BI cred" to my future applications. Better to say "I will continue something I have been doing" than "sure, I'll totally BI the shit out of stuff!"

  • Genomic Repairman says:

    I helped with one of those old Woodrow Wilson courses that Flynn Scientific used to put on and teachers would come out here for a "vacation" course. One guy showed up the first day and never showed up the rest of the week. Our program director sent a letter to his principal and superintendent regarding their teaching representatives absence and then billed them the full amount for the course.

    Apparently afterwards we heard back that heads rolled and that guy was suspended for misuse of county funds.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I got involved with a similar situation within a university program for disadvantages students. I was offered a month's pay for two weeks contact, and said OK. It turned out, due to their scheduling problems, that I only had four contact days. I heard through the grapevine that the director of the program was not happy with paying me a months salary for four days contact.

    So, in self protection, I wrote a report on how wonderful it had all been, and my recommendations for improving the program. My report was taken seriously, and I was personally thanked by the teachers in the program. My report was eventually presented to the state legislature as evidence of the great work the university was doing with disadvantaged students. Some years later I showed the report to a colleague. She said it was the most obsequious, self-serving thing she had ever read.

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