Rule # 37. If you want to be a better teacher, be a better person.
I was just asked to teach a methods course at a local college, one that is historically this city’s normal school. I said no for three reasons. First, I don’t teach 16th grade. Second, I consider methods courses inane. Third, I don’t need the money – in fact, even if I was that desperate for cash, I’d rather blow elephants a nickel a herd.
But about # 37. It isn’t just methods courses that are inane. There’s a process throughout the whole profession, one I refer to as ‘self-ninny-fication’. I can’t count the number of times I have participated in professional development workshops for 7th grade teachers, that are actually taught on a 7th grade level.
I was once heading to a workshop and, just before I left, my wife said, “Well, at least they won’t ask what animal you would be if you could be an animal.” First thing, I was asked to write what animal I would be if I could be an animal. It wasn’t an elephant.
I’m not actually opposed to professional development sessions. I’m just opposed to the dumb ones. I’ve been hired to do p. d. myself. When I teach a room full of teachers, I teach it like a graduate school seminar. After all, everyone in the room has at least a bachelor’s degree. Once, when asked to reflect upon my feelings about being an inner city teacher, I did a poetry reading.
So a friend was on his way to a p. d. session, when he passed Dorothy’s classroom. He says, “Hurry up. You’re going to be late.”
She responds, “It’s OK. I’ve already been.”
Steve stops and asks her, “How can that be? It hasn’t started.”
Dorothy says, “Oh, I’ve been going to the same professional development session for thirty-seven years.”
So I told the normal school hiring person, who was really nice and said she kept my resume “on the top of the pile”, that I would be glad to teach a course someday – but in the philosophy of education, or the history of education.
We are in an oppressed profession. Inner city teachers are, for instance, routinely blamed for everything that’s wrong with public education, and routinely blamed – I just have to say this – by folks who won’t so much as substitute in an inner city school. Which makes it all the worse when we self-ninny-fy ourselves. Thus, # 37.