Monday, August 27, 2012

I do not think this means what you think it means...

Going into my 15th year as a teacher in my present school, I have participated in many, many professional development sessions.  We have 5 days before each school year, 2 full days during the year, and an hour and a half every single Friday.  While I can't say that every one has been essential, meaningful, and valuable to me, I can say that for the most part as a participant I feel my school's PD generally has the best of intentions to be purposeful and relevant to the school's needs and the needs of its students.

Tuesday's afternoon session was an exception.  This session was as out of place and as wanted as okra in the Northeast.  On our schedule it indicated that the topic of the session was on Bullying (awareness and prevention - not how to be a better one).  The presenter was from the outside world (i.e. not my school). This generally perks everyone up as novelty is preferable to the same typical voices that present our PD (mine include).

I was almost immediately confused. I really couldn't tell how the presenter was going to work from his introduction into bullying awareness and prevention.  Well, he didn't. He never touched on it.  The presentation turned out to be on peer-led conflict resolution.  After a half hour my brain finally shifted out of "this is supposed to be about bullying prevention" and opened to actually listen about what was being presented.  While in theory much of what was presented seems like it might work in a larger, public school setting I really couldn't see how this process could work with the systems we already had in place and with the language/cognitive challenges of our students.

The one bright spot in the training was the playing roles of students from (actual) scenarios we had contributed. My favorites included:

  • the poorly received assistance from an avuncular upper clansman and resulting hurt feelings
  • the vainglorious drama-seeking-center-of-attention-hogging-mean-girls and their rotating exclusion of each other
  • explosive-red-head and his paranoid response to what he thought was name calling, but turned out to be an unrelated discussion about an orangutan and his red butt
And the best
  • Hemmingway-esque student with economic use of words and understated style of speaking tries to help low-energy-work-avoidant student take responsibility for his actions.  This particular scenario caused our outside presenter to become so frustrated with the lack of resolution being brought about that he declared "this kid needs help desperately" and the entire role playing group laughed and said "ya think?"

I'm thinking I probably will not find and everyday use for this particular training, but I did come out with a few labels/terms that may help me articulate some problem solving in the future.  My favorite term was in the materials on what escalates conflict.  Conflict archaeology is when a student throws in stuff that happened from the dawn of time causing an increase in the complexity of the current conflict. This often derails productive conversation because they are no longer discussing the present issue. I have been victim to this.

Maybe our presenter doesn't know what Bullying Awareness means.  Or maybe some lines got crossed and he misunderstood what he was asked to present.  Either way, I'm thinking we will be having some professional development on Bullying Prevention and Awareness as this is a state required topic to be addressed yearly.  Perhaps it will be the same day we review procedures for blood-born pathogens.


  1. Impressive :)

    One of the best bullying presenters I've ever heard was Barbara Coloroso, author of "The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander". She was quite amazing.