Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer training?

I just sat through two days of professional development. The trainer was actually really good - very knowledgeable with classroom experience, good pacing. The problem was that the content, Reading Mastery, is something I've probably had a half dozen times in my career as a Special Education teacher. "Someone" decided that this year in order to get supplies to teach that teachers in my county would have to go through training in order to get their materials-regardless of how many times they had already had the training. Who makes these decisions? This is the same training whether you have never taught Reading Mastery or whether you have been teaching it for 20 years! Most of the teachers in my group these last two days were seasoned and had taught the program. They were there for the same reason I was. They wanted to have materials to teach their children on the day school started. They didn't want to wait until school was in session for a month, set up a training and miss days of instruction, and then wait for the materials to come until... maybe Christmas! Sure, there's a new Reading Mastery edition so the pictures are in color now and they've added a few new pieces, I'm sure to align with state requirements, but two days of summer vacation - just to have materials to teach on the first day. The truth is I have gotten a little rusty on the Reading Mastery signals and connection procedures over the years but that's because I haven't actually taught my own small groups of Reading Mastery in the past ten years. I have one of the most masterful paraprofessionals in our building teaching my groups, so I sat through the training knowing that I will never use one second of the program! But my para needs materials so we can start interventions on day one. The children are already behind. We don't have a moment to lose!

The parts of the program were ordered in bulk, so regardless of your needs, one size fits all and everybody gets the same thing. Efficient, I guess, if you are the person ordering and I suppose you get a better price if you order all the same pieces for everyone but how many pieces will sit on shelves and gather dust because teachers know they will not use specific pieces. I, like almost every teacher sitting in the room today, made a decision as the trainer described each piece we would be getting if we would use the piece or never plan to open it. If I had had the chance to customize my order for my needs, there are certainly pieces I would have omitted. I never plan to use them. However, there is a vocabulary piece where we are getting the Teacher's Guide but not the books that make it possible to teach the program. Many of the books may be ones that you might be able to find - if you take all that additional time to find them - but for me, it would have been a perfect supplemental program for a group of second language Special Education students. It's based on the same research of Beck and McKeown that Text Talk is based on which we use to supplement the Core with our general education students. I guess it's the waste - and the trees - that bother me so much - and the waste of taxpayer money and, of course, the waste of my own time... on my "vacation." As much as I love professional development and learning something new, this was my idea of how NOT to do PD!


Mrs.Mallon & Mrs. Dillard said...

Thanks for taking one for the team :) I am happy to have the materials on the first day though - and I know you are color pictures...WOW - can it get any better? :) MM

dayle timmons said...

You know, Maria, as I was sitting in the training, I was thinking of all of your previous experience with Direct Instruction and how we really haven't used it to the max -especially the way you incorporate the signals into your Skills Block. Like it would be nice to show all of our first grade teachers how to do a Good-bye list, but instead of using words that the children miss, use it as a way to introduce new sight words or teaching teachers about stop and continuous sounds and how you use different signals to blend the words. We should sit down and discuss some of the techniques because they could be generalized in much of our regular Skills Block.

Melanie Holtsman said...

How can we expect teachers differentiate when we don't do it with them.,. Ugh,,, I feel your pain.