Who goes to these things?
There are two types of teachers: 1) Actively avoids any type of PD and 2) Seeks out opportunities to learn. I feel like the first teacher hasn’t been to many good sessions, and I feel their pain. Bad PD is like the fourth circle of Hell. Who wants to sign up for something that makes you revisit that? Maybe they were put off by staff development that had nothing to do with them (the WORST), or they had a presenter that was actually rude to them (yep, that happened to me). Whatever the reason, those teachers don’t want anything to do with PD. They’re fine in their classroom with their kids, thank you very much.
Then there are the second kind, the seekers. These guys are always flitting off to a conference or training of some sort, and they inevitably have to present what they learned at a faculty meeting or campus-level training. Who wants that kind of pressure?
I have to admit, for a long time I was Teacher #1. I have been to LOTS of staff and professional development sessions in my 20 years. Many acronyms along the way: PLC, PDAS, T-TESS, MAP, TAKS, STAAR, TEKS, ELAR, IEP, ARD, ESL, ELL- basically new teachers should have a cheat sheet because education likes its acronyms. There were some that were interesting, but not practical to implement in the classroom. Or they were expensive to implement. Or my school wasn’t interested. Basically there were a lot of wasted ideas because someone wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on the bigger, better deal that was coming down the pike.
Then I got on Instagram, and I started to see all these teachers going to these cool trainings, and I got a bit envious. Though I didn’t like school when I was a student, I always liked learning, and that is still true today. I began searching our region calendar for some topics that might interest me. Somehow I heard about the TALE (Texas Association of Literacy Education) Conference that was happening in Waco this year. Waco! That’s only an hour from me! I could drive there each day and they wouldn’t even have to pay for a hotel room! So back in September, I asked if I could go. Then came an opportunity to attend the NWEA MAP training. Yes please! Then they listed a two day intensive look at our new ELAR standards. Of course I need to go to that. I teach ELAR!
Unfortunately, after I got approval for all three opportunities, they end up being all in the same week. Yep, four days out of my room. In. A. Row. Let me tell you, I’m not out often. I usually use my 5 local days and bank the state ones. So my students aren’t used to me being out. Heck, I’m not used to me being out. And we all know the nightmare that is sub planning. The thing is, there wasn’t one of these trainings that I felt was less important than the others. So I went. To all of them.
Day One- NWEA MAP Training
Our charter school gives the state test, the STAAR, but our board cares more about MAP results than the STAAR ones. I never got really good info about the MAP test from the “trainings” our school gave us, so I felt I needed to learn more. I asked for a chance to take the test myself because I had been giving it for four years and had no idea what it looked like. The MAP test is a progressive, intuitive test that gets more difficult as the students answers correctly, then it backs off when they start getting things wrong. It’s a norm-referenced test, so there is no “grade” you can equate it with. It measures growth, and that’s why our board likes it. Every student may not pass a one-time test, but they need to be growing all the time. After taking it, I was pretty impressed. As I continued to get answers right, it got difficult pretty quickly. There were some weird philosophy passages that I had to read a couple of times before I felt like I understood. I could definitely see the value of that test after taking it. It’s not something I can teach to, but I can tailor some of my instruction to the skills that are present on that test that aren’t really addressed on the state test.
At the training, there were 5 sessions, and you could choose the ones you felt addressed your needs. Except for one, I felt like all of them were pretty good. I learned how the test can predict performance on the STAAR, ACT, and SAT, which can be the motivation for students to do well (since we can’t give them a grade). I learned how to disaggregate the data more thoroughly, and I also found reports I could share with students to help them see where they are and to make goals for where they want to be.
I would definitely call this training a success and consider it valuable time spent outside the classroom.
Stay tuned for Part 2- A Deep Dive into the ELAR TEKS!