Friday, March 20, 2009

Money Makes Things Too Easy

People who have a lot of money do not have to think too hard about problems.  They just throw a few dollars at the problems.  They may complain the whole time they are pitching the dollars, but they pay just the same.  People without money have to be a lot more resourceful, creative and innovative.  Maybe I can't afford $300 for a diagnostic on my car when it flunks the smog certification.  So I ask around, pay $8 for a fuel additive, drive my car over the grade, and voila, it passes the certification with flying colors, and I keep most of the $300.

The very act of idea-generation can highlight areas of waste and profligate spending. A good example is professional development.
"Any district hiring a consultant to come in for a one day for $10,000 or $15,000—that's a waste of time and money," says Ed Wilgus, a former district professional development manager who is co-founder of Systemic Human Resource Solutions.

There are lots of options for planning a satisfying DIY professional development program.
Here are some ideas:
1. Veteran teachers share their best practices.
2. A conference format with several options within any particular time frame
3. A longitudinal lesson study Japanese style (a fuller explanation of the Japanese model of professional development I forthcoming).
4. A collaborative discussion addressing a specific concern within the district.
5. Teachers design, conduct and share the results of active research within district classrooms.
6. Reflective analysis of the rational behind specific teaching strategies.
7. Reviews of books and journal articles of interest.
8. Demonstrations of math manipulatives and other resources.
9. Presentations by parents.
10. Classroom swapping-teaching for a day in a very different grade or subject area with no more preparation than an average substitute teacher.

One school district had a great idea for using the Internet.
Instead of hiring presenters to come to their schools, they downloaded free archived video presentations from the Web site of the K-12 Online Conference, an annual grassroots gathering of instructional technology aficionados. Then they featured the videos as part of a special series of staff development sessions for teachers on technology topics. Members of the district's tech team and Web-savvy teacher leaders facilitated the sessions, leading discussions on the presentations and addressing teachers' practical concerns. In some cases, they even conducted live follow-up interviews with the original presenters via Skype, the free Internet phone service.

P.S. A school can get me for $1000-$1500, (not $10000-$15000), depending on the amount of time, distance, hotel, etc. I do presentations on math, science and foreign language teaching, ESL, art, curriculum and the Japanese education system. I help teachers plan and organize their own self-facilitated professional development. I also write education grants for schools.

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