"I'm not angry with anyone, but I did notice some grids of Buzzword Bingo and several people who were passing notes or drawing pictures instead of using their paper for note-taking. To avoid the distractions, we will add this to our collective norms."
I feel split on this issue. On one hand, I agree with him. Members of our staff are not truly present when their head is in a notebook. Often, the note-passing becomes a distraction and they miss crucial information. Besides, it can feel disrespectful to the presenters when the teachers are playing a game of Buzzword Bingo. I don't buy into the teachers' claim that they are taking notes. Who could possibly find the need to access information from an incredibly dull professional development?
However, I see this as a bandage on a massive open wound. Teachers are not actively engaged in professional development, because the meetings are not engaging. If I sit silently without a paper in my hand, my mind will wander. And, while the system would love to take that as well, as long as I have self-determination, I have my own mind.
Honestly, when I am sketching pictures I am listening. It's a hands-on way for me to keep my attention. Would a presenter rather me focus on a sketch or on that person's bad comb-over? It's not about physical engagement as much as mental engagement.
A better solution would be to change professional development so that:
- It is relevant and job-embedded so that teachers feel that what they are doing connects to the subject they are teaching
- It is collaborative and horizontal so that teachers can provide their own expertise
- It is assessed on a student or school-wide level
- It is interactive
- It takes into consideration issues of self-efficacy and motivation and not simply skills. Yes, it's cool to know a skill, but what about the conceptual knowledge and the notion of how a skill will be used in the classroom?
- It models how we would want to teach. Don't lecture to me about the vices of lecturing to students.
- It is pencil-integrated. Yes, allow teachers to use our binders and paper and pencil in graphing data, writing up proposals and creating lessons together.
So, instead of banning binders, I would use them in a pencil-integrated approach to professional development. If you make it interesting, you might find that I won't be sketching cartoons making fun of former president Grover Cleveland.