Friday, October 10, 2014


in service
phrase of service
  1. 1.
    in or available for use.
  2. 2.
    employed as a servant.

Parents in our district are groaning this weekend; the kids are home for FOUR STRAIGHT DAYS.  The reason that the parental groans are not actually audible is probably directly attributed to the collective exhale-sigh from the lips and very being of every teacher sitting in the dreaded In-Service.

We all recognize the value of looking at data and analyzing trends.  We all secretly hope (or maybe not so secretly hope) that the School Performance Profile (SPP) that kept at least one administrator pacing the floors with the anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus is fabulous -- so fabulous that it far exceeds the neighboring school districts that always seem to get better press on the front page of the paper.

In Service puts every teacher at the hands (or the mercy) of the district for one, or both, of the two reasons captioned above:  1)  We are IN and available for use.  and 2)  We are employed -- it seems -- as servants.

Taxpayer dollars pay my salary.  I am fully aware of this.  I have even had people within the community tell me directly to my face that as a teacher, I WORK FOR THEM as tax payers.  I've never had one of these individuals take it to the next logical step and somehow indicate that I should also take direction or advice from them in terms of my actual pedagogical skills, but the implication is there.  In the hierarchy of servanthood, teachers are near the bottom of the list these days.  (Or so it seems to me, given recent attacks on education, accountability that requires drastic improvement or change in outcomes with minimal responsibility on external forces like funding, home support, class sizes, mental health, truancy, and students suffering from sleep deprivation.)

The famous quote, "Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.",  (sometimes attributed to Einstein,** but I've been corrected into believing this is not the case...)  anyway, it continues to be pushed to the forefront of my brain as I consider the psychological hoops we force upon everyone in education these days.  We're collectively sitting in training seminars learning to create uniformity in our teaching, while simultaneously requiring that we recognize the individual differences and needs of our students, and the necessary accommodations or differentiation for student success.

The good news, and I seem to be celebrating/talking about this much more, is that during this stint of In Service, our district is allowing for meaningful conversation.  Soak time.  Discussion.  Collaboration.  Teachers are being provided with quality time to focus on analyzing data, improving instruction, and working together to improving the quality of the education of the students in our charge.  This collaboration time, if you ask any teacher, is far more valuable than any guest speaker or webinar.  Productivity, levels of excitement, and a greater sense of organization and accomplishment prevails after such opportunities.

Am I celebrating?  You bet.  If only the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would realize that this time is worth considering as "Act 48 Worthy" and afford some point value for certification renewal as well.

I look forward to Monday.  Not because of SLOs, GIEPs, PVAAS, SPP, EQs, AS, or any other acronym.  I look forward to Monday because I get to collaborate with Sara, Sarah, Sue, Heidi, Kasey, John, Leslie, Moriah,  Amanda and many others who support me as an educator, even if I feel, much like that tree-frustrated fish  --   like I am Not the Gifted Teacher.

**Oh, and Einstein DID say  "Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."   I'll refrain from applying this quote to In-service, and suggest, instead, that I shouldn't quote Einstein without first consulting a qualified librarian.  (See what I did there?)

Happy Weekend!

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