Professional Learning | Really?

You may have seen this YouTube clip that is circling social media at the moment.

It was taken at a Chicago Professional Development session and was shared as an example of why teachers are going out of their minds on the Washington Post blog, Answer Sheet. In the last couple of days I have also read Wes Fryer’s post, with a good reminder not to turn this into a stereotype and also Larry Ferlazzo’s blog, who felt “Yes, you can make a lot of things look bad taken out of context, but I don’t think a case can be made that this is appropriate for any professional development, or classroom, context….”

When I first watched it many emotions swarmed inside me; sadness, horror, embarrassment, anger, disbelief. At one stage I may have laughed at the outrageousness of it all.

There is one part of the video which continues to niggle at me. What makes me most upset is that no one stood up to it.  Are we so disempowered that we can’t stand up for what we know is right? Every teacher in the room knows this is not learning. But still they responded and chanted. And if I had been there I would have done exactly the same thing. I know that because I do already. I sit through “content delivery” at professional development after professional development and I feel myself being patronised but I continue to put up with it. I know better but still I let it go on.

If there is anything I can learn from this video it is that I need to speak up. I shouldn’t sit by and let this happen. I need to offer support to those facilitating professional learning and offer feedback. Not in a  survey but in a real face to face feedback.  I need to use my knowledge and experience about learning and share this with others.  I need to encourage others not to accept this either and nor should our students. I need to take a stand so this doesn’t become the stereotype of professional learning in any setting.


8 thoughts on “Professional Learning | Really?”

  1. I hope we’ll hear more from the teachers involved… I agree this seems like a time to speak up or refuse to comply. Since we don’t know a great deal about the context, however, it leaves me with more questions than answers. One of the bigger questions is who this presenter is, what company they represent, and who contracted with them on behalf of CPS to “deliver” this format of professional development? Was this kind of chanting behavior something that took place in multiple sessions, or just those led by this one presenter?

    1. Yes, I agree there is a lot we don’t know about the context. And I too have many questions unanswered. I guess it reminded me of many times I have been in a similar situation and didn’t do anything. I think the point you have raised about other people involved, such as the company, who employed them etc is a very important one. If this video is as it appears, it is not only up to the people experiencing it but those who set it up who should be standing up.


    2. This still rings alarm bells and for all the right reasons. Perhaps as has been mooted, the context was that this activity was demonstrating a pedagogical technique. If so, it still simulates an education hell that no teacher should ever find themselves trapped within. I ask myself the same question that Mel posed, would I have been brave enough to stand up, point out the education nonsense and demand to see the research?

  2. It seems to me that this looks like a teach to the test classroom.
    The lack of enthusiasm generated by these teachers leads me to think that it was not even one of those Rah Rah sessions.
    Sad really. The person with the camera was clearly trapped too. I have walked out of sessions, never thought to film and spread… In itself a sad form of passive aggressive vengeance.
    I would like to believe that the rare PD sessions I give are not like that!!

  3. I love this video. Since watching this I have been checking myself each time I open my mouth with an instruction for my young learners, each time I go to write a learning intention on the board, each time I ask my young learners to chant something. Learning, Brette? Really?
    I can’t recall when I last attended a professional learning session like this. Perhaps I have been choosing professional learning that’s a bit more nourishing (teachmeets, Twitter, podcasts) which afford conversation rather than regurgitation. However, I can recall enough moments in my own school when I didn’t speak up when I should have: planning a ‘chomp-n-stomp’ Harmony Day celebration at the staff meeting, smiling politely when a colleague shares a pointless place-value worksheet. Can I consider every interaction with colleagues as professional learning? I need to be braver and sort out issues in my own schoolyard. With courtesy, of course.

    1. Thanks, Brette. It has been a long time for me also, since I attended professional learning anything like this. As I choose my own professional learning it is definitely more nourishing. The point you bring up about students is a good one. For me I can choose my own nourishing professional learning but what choice do our students have? I am saddened to think that out there somewhere there is teaching just like this.

  4. I’m hoping there is a Paul Harvey moment to this video. Maybe the rest of the story is the presenter was demonstrating what not to do with students.

    1. I too hope there is a “rest of the story”, Gwen! It would be nice to find out it is someone demonstrating how patronising this type of teaching is!

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