Sunday, May 6, 2007

ProCert Update

Man, what a week.

It was only a "3" day workweek, not including a stupid meeting on Friday which was technically only 2 hours long but occurred at 9am and caused me to sit in rush-hour traffic so it feels like it makes up for a day of work. Anyway it was a shorter week because I was on vacation on Monday, but I still worked 35 hours and it took a long time for Friday afternoon to arrive. On the upside, because I worked 35 hours I only had to take 5 vacation hours for Monday, saving me some extra time for later if I can ever afford to go on vacation again.

Friday afternoon (after an entertaining lunch with an extremely hungover Puritannica) I began writing my Professional Growth Plan, which was my final assignment for my StupidClass. The entire 6-month course has had this objective, to understand the "12 criteria" that I have to demonstrate competency in by the end of the program. Some of these criteria (read: standards) I am already competent at. The others are "growth areas" I had to write a plan for and will now take classes on. At the end I will have to write a(nother) portfolio in which I demonstrate that I am "competent" at all 12 things. Of course anyone who was not already competent at these things should have already been fired from his or her teaching job, but then anyone who had a teaching job should not have to take 30 hours worth of class time to get 12 "criteria" explained to them. But I digress.

Anyway it took me about 15 minutes to write the whole Professional Growth Plan except for one box, which read "What will your students be able to do as a result of your professional growth that they are not now able to do?" The reason for this question is that they schmucks who designed the setup of this program want everything to be demonstrated from the "student voice." That is all well and good when the goal is something about the students, like teaching them to be metacognitive or offering them multiple ways of demonstrating their knowledge. However, two of my goals are things that I as an educator do that do not directly affect the students (assess my own performance using professional standards and contribute to school-wide improvement through collaboration). Yes, I know that somewhere along the line this will affect students. I am a teacher. Everything I do affects students somewhere down the line. But this is just stupid. I spent about 5 hours trying to figure out what to write in that box and at the end of the night (about 1 am, very frustrated and starting to get upset) I gave up and went to bed. I had to meet with my StupidTeacher during class the next morning for 15 minutes and get her to sign off on The Plan, so I wanted it to be done and perfect so everything would go smoothly and I could get out of there and never have to see her before, but since I had left a box on The Plan blank I thought as my teacher she could help me figure out how to answer that question and complete The Plan, as it was the entire objective of this StupidClass in the first place.

Little did I know that during that 15-minute meeting she was not even going to READ the plan. She smiled a lot, didn't listen to a word I said, replied with a bunch of vague BS, and signed The Plan anyway. Even though it was incomplete. She said that it was a "work in progress" and that I would continue to revise it as I was doing my professional development, so not to worry about it.

a). WTF!?!

b). Continue to "revise" my professional development plan as I do my professional development? Doesn't that sound a little shady to you?

c). It would have been really nice to know this before I sat and tried to answer that question for 5 hours.

d). This class is such horseshit.

But I didn't ask her questions, and I didn't say any of the millions of things I wanted to say. I smiled, I took my signed The Plan, and I got the hellz out of there. I will never have to work with that dipshit again, and I spent a glorious half hour filling out my course evaluation about how absolutely worthless the class was (not to mention how the instructor was incapable of answering a question).

This is how the remainder of my professional growth journey will go (because I'm sure you want to know), and why I will never have to work with that dipshit again:

Step 1: Take a 6-month Saturday intro seminar in which I learn what the 12 criteria are and write a professional growth plan. Stupid. But DONE.

Step 2: Participate in professional development activities to grow in my 3 identified areas. This can take as long as I want it to, apparently, up until my teaching certificate runs out. However, since my certificate runs out next June (and since I would like to get this over with), I will be doing these activities between now and the end of 2007. The goals and their activities are:

A) "Stay current" in content knowledge, pedagogy (teaching stuff), etc. This is Ed. Dept. BS for learn stuff. Since I teach any subject at any level, I could pretty much take a class in anything to satisfy this requirement. Since I actually do want to learn stuff, I am excited about this goal. I want to learn about several different learning disabilities, and so I am going to read some books and compile an annotated bibliography about them. I am also going to take some distance learning classes about them through SPU, because SPU offers a lot more options for distance learning classes than UW and I don't have time to take classes during the day because I don't get summers off. *sad violin music* I cant wait to take real classes in which I will learn things! I saw some kids (well you know, college kids) at the coffeeshop today doing homework and I was actually jealous, as I was when I read about Brig taking her finals. I like finals. I like classes, and syllabi, and homework. I know that makes me some kind of masochist but it's true. Anyway I am pumped about getting to take real classes about real subjects instead of just a bunch of educational jargon bullshit. Oops, sorry, bullpucky.

B) Assess my performance using professional teaching standards and plan and implement appropriate growth activities. Now if you can decode that, you will see that it is actually what the professional certificate process is supposed to be anyway. Take some standards, see where you are, do stuff to fix the remaining areas. So by doing the program I'm doing this criterion. Funny. It's like recursion. Anyway, I also said that I'm going to assess myself against the federal "Highly Qualified Teacher" standards that are part of No Child Left Behind. Since I work at a private school I don't have to follow these federal rules like public school teachers do, but it's actually pretty easy to get certified: you fill out a little worksheet that has a 100 point rubric. You get points for various things like having a certificate, years of experience, etc. In fact, you might already have 100 points and then you can just have someone sign the worksheet and bang! You're done! No portfolio, no class, no nothing. Easy peezie, lemon squeezie. Of course I teach all subjects and all levels so I could in theory fill out 52,403 worksheets. But whatever. It'll be nice to have another thing I can put on my resume too, just in case I decide to get a job that pays me some real moneys.

C) Contribute to school improvement through collaboration. Now everybody knows that Fartless School only "improves" in ways its infamous founder wants it to. So whether this goal really makes any impact on Fartless School will remain to be seen. But what I'm going to do for it is basically share what I learn with other people and if they want to improve they can. I will give a training about all this procert crap for anybody at school that's interested, as well as the Highly Qualified stuff. In theory, then, Fartless would be able to say things like "we have 80% Highly Qualified teachers!" or discover that they in fact have only 13% Highly Qualified teachers and offer incentives to improve staff quality. This is a very good idea, and would benefit the school enormously. However it will almost certainly not happen. But whatever, it'll still hold up my end of The Plan. :)

Step 3: Take a "reflective" seminar. This can (and will) be done concurrently with the "core" activities (the stuff in step 2). I assume they will offer the course in the fall at UW and I will take it then. The best part is that I don't have to take it with the same dipshit instructor that taught my current class. It will still likely be a StupidClass, in which we sit around and "reflect" on our performance and talk a bunch of jargon. Hopefully, however, it will be fewer hours, and there is at least a small chance that my instructor will be someone a little more practical and useful. Not a big chance (it is still a "reflective seminar" after all), but at least some chance. If the same instructor is teaching reflective in the fall, I will wait til the spring to take it. Or complain to the department. But I'm not paying one single more $$ to the UW to take a class "taught" by this moron. Anyway the point of the reflective seminar, as far as I can gather it, is to see how the growth process is going along, make sure we're on track about gathering stuff for our portfolio, and make any necessary adjustments to our growth activities. What it will most likely be, however, is just more bullshit. But it's a required hoop so through it shall I jump.

Step 4: Final BS class in which I create a portfolio. I've done this before and plan to organize this portfolio the exact same way I organized the last one so I think it will be fine. Again, hopefully I will have a more practical-minded instructor who will give us concrete expectations for the portfolio, like it must have x number of artifacts, etc. I am also hoping that it will be structured in more of a mentor-like way, as in I bring in what I'm working on, she says what's good and what I need to fix, I fix that, wash, rinse, repeat. Again, if it is taught by the same dipshit instructor, I will wait to take the class another quarter. Because I'm not putting thousands of hours of work into something to make it pass what I assume will be high standards (having made that assumption because the dipshit instructor won't tell you what the standards actually are) only to find out that there are barely any standards at all and anyone who makes any kind of portfolio passes. I want to know what the requirements are, I want to do them, and I want to be done.

I will tell you quite honestly I do not care about the portfolio process or any of the procert structural stuff (seminars etc.). It is a complete waste of time and is very poorly set up. I will make the "core" activities into something relevant, interesting, and meaningful--because I actually do want to learn things and become a better teacher. But as for all the BS stuff I'm going to try to stay as detached and calm as possible and just get it over with. That way I will not develop high blood pressure or end up in jail.

I am so, so unbelievably glad to be done with Step 1. Now I get to start setting up activities and learning stuff. Yay, learning!

Anyway that's why I didn't post all week. Then we went out for Airbear's birthday so we could have an in-town celebration for the people who couldn't go to Vegas. We had really good (albeit really slow) food and went out for drinks afterward. Some people were still lame and old and went home early, but some people who usually do that actually stayed and caught up with Airbear and I was very glad to see it. Also LaRue...enjoyed herself. But she says I am teh deval and she hopes I gain 100 pounds and grow 10 extra asses.

Ha ha ha.

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