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Matthew Miles described professional development as it existed 1995 when he wrote the foreword for Thomas Guskey and Michael Huberman’s book, Professional Development:

"A good deal of what passes for 'professional development' in schools is a joke-one we would laugh at if we were not trying to keep from crying.  It is everything that a learning program shouldn’t be: radically under resourced, brief, not sustained, designed for 'one size fits all,' imposed rather than owned, lacking any intellectual coherence, treated as a special add-on event rather than part of a natural process, and trapped in the constraints of a bureaucratic system we have come to call 'school' (p. vii).

What do you think?  Is Professional Development in 2015 still a joke?

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Lots of great ideas.

I think I have learned most from my co-teachers at previous schools. I was working at a stellar international school in Singapore. I am currently teaching in Tokyo, but I would have to say I am not learning much from my co-teachers here; they are really all about keeping the status quo. Their mantra is "But this is how its always been".

I stumbled upon Alfie Kohn lately and I want to make my HS Literature class even more student-centered (perhaps radically student-centered).

Do you have any suggestions for resources on how to pump up some student-centered learning in a HS classroom?

Hi!  I have a few ideas, but would like to learn more about Alfie Kohn first.  What is the most interesting aspect(s) of his approach?

Andrea Ray

Some things I have gotten from him are that:

1 Educators should try to diminish (he says eliminate) grades since they undermine learning.

I have been at some schools who have done this very well and students have a pure joy of learning;

other schools I have worked at students and even parents are pestering teachers about grades and single percentage points.

2 Students should have more ownership of learning than teachers are comfortable with.

for the past 12 years I have been using UbD unit planning and I really like it, but the thing is that I create the essential questions and I decide what is important to learn. I want to move to/ figure out a way to let students be more active in deciding that (I am still in the earliest stages of figuring out how to do that).

I think I would like to start out by presenting my essential questions, but allow students to change these questions or add additional essential questions. The problem is I can't really do this until my HOD resigns in June because she, although very young, is very old-fashioned in her approach to teaching and abhors change.

I want to rewrite our grade 10 memoir unit. Right now it is a standard "read one memoir and write an essay about it" unit. I want to make it a genre study unit where we investigate what are the conventions of a memoir unit and how to writers break or bend these conventions. For this students would have to read more than 1 memoir and would probably have to read extracts of a number of memoirs. I am kind of doing that now, but I don't have the power to change the assessment. Do you have any suggestions to turn this unit into a ultra-inquiry unit? What is a meaningful assessment for a memoir unit? Alfie Kohn would probably have students design their own class assessment, but I'd like a few back up plans in case they don't want to or their ideas are terrible.

Students can write their own memoirs with a reflection about how they followed, bent or broke the conventions of a memoir, but I wonder if there is a better memoir that we can do.

Any thoughts?

I can help you turn it into an "ultra-inquiry" unit.  I am finishing a guidebook for teacher educators that focuses on using a design process that individualizes professional learning.

After reading your message I believe the process will produce learning activities that meet your needs.  Would you like to try the process?  If so, when would you need to start on the memoir unit?

The publisher has seen the first draft of the book and I am currently revising the content.  The process does not need to be revised.

Thanks Andrea,

So basically I would like to give them the ability to chose any memoir that they want to read. But I was thinking it might be more interesting if they had at least 1 other person in the class that read the same book.

But I also want to expose them to a bunch of extracts from other memoirs from various regions, cultures and text types. These are used for them to see how different memoirs can be in voice, subject matter and form.

So far I have had them read extracts from: 

Male writers: "Into Thin Air", "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid", "Showa" (a graphic novel about WWII in Japan), "Me Talk Pretty One Day", "The Things They Carried"

Female writers: "The Glass Castle", "An Angel at My Table", "The Hiding Place"

(Can you suggest any other male or female memoirs?)

In the past I have had students write their own memoirs. They also need to write a reflection to explain their choices and how they followed, bent or broke the conventions of a memoir. The problem is most students tell me they don't have anything exciting to write about.

Do you have any thoughts on a better assessment? Any suggestions on what to do with classtime?

My essential questions for the unit right now are:

"What does it mean to know yourself?"

"How truthful are/can memoirs be?"

"How are conventions used, bent, or broken in memoirs?"


I also have generic essay topics that can be used for the semester exam; students can write an essay on the memoir they have read.

Any thoughts on this Andrea?

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