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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Duval County's culture of fear (rough draft)

I went to a Jacksonville Public Education Fund teacher round table this past Saturday to talk about the sorry state of professional development in the county and more on that at the end.

The 25 or so teachers divided into groups and answered questions on huge post it notes (JPEF loves its post it notes) and then shouted out our answers to the other groups. The hope was that at the end of the day we could come up with some solutions that we could take to the district and others.

One of the questions was "what can we do right now to fix the problems in professional development" and one of the teachers in my group said, there are two many gotcha moments, that the district isn't looking to improve teaching through professional development and instead they are looking for reasons to get rid of teachers or to ding them on the cast.

Another teacher spoke about how a district person had done a walk through and complained to their principal about what they were doing and that the person didn't look at context or ask them any questions. They just saw something they didn't believe was perfect and tried to rat them out. Spoiler alert it's usually not perfect, when you are dealing with children even if you have the best plan in the world in place there is a certain amount of winging it going on.

A third teacher talked about how the district ruled with fear and intimidation, that it trickled down from the district administration to school administrations and then to them. I up to that point hadn't even mentioned I had a blog and that I routinely cover that subject and mind you the round table wasn't about teacher morale, it was about professional development and where generally terrible its way down on my and I think most teachers priority list.

The bottom line is we as a district cannot reach our potential as long as the districts leaders think teachers are easily replaceable cogs that can be cajoled into improvement and that friends. The district cannot continue to lead using fear as their chief motivator.

Okay about the workshop, I am often critical of the JPEF but I believe here where they bring teachers together to discuss issues is what they should be doing. It is valuable and important and its a shame that the district itself isn't doing it.

I still have serious concerns about JPEF but I think their teacher forums if done right can be a benefit to the district. The next one is on October tenth at 9:00 at the Hayden Burns library, the old main library downtown. You should consider attending.

As for professional development one of the questions asked was what is working and I swear for a minute or so you could have heard crickets chirping.

Welcome to Duval County


  1. I'm sorry I wasn't there. Here are three things the District should do to improve professional development:
    1. Ask the teachers what they need. Allow teachers meaningful input into the selection of professional development areas.
    2. Choose one topic and stay on it for an entire year. Don't try to do a couple dozen professional development topics over a year. Focus will bring improved results and actual implementation. No one can do everything at once.
    3. Sessions then should continue to develop and revisit the training. After the session, teachers can try out the idea, gather results, and bring feedback to the next session. Provide support and follow-up. Teachers can then identify what's working and what could be done a different way. Go back to the classroom and keep on the emphasis. The District does these one-off sessions as if they have a list to check off. Little follow-up and support is provided. This is why professional development often is wasted time. On her own, a teacher tries something, it goes rough, and, with no support, the logical thing is to forget about it.

  2. My PLC's are just mini-faculty meetings. We NEVER discuss strategies to improve student learning.