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Where Are the Teachers?

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Just back from the National Council for Social Studies' annual conference, Polski 3 raises an interesting question: Why don't the people who organize these things get more actual teachers to make the presentations?

Way too many of [the presenters] were NOT teaching students using the materials they were presenting. And why is this? Because they were college/university/publishers people. Browsing through the convention program, I'd guesstimate only about 1/4 of the workshops were actually presented by practicing classroom teachers. Personally, I prefer to hear about activities, ideas, etc. from someone who is doing these with real kids, not from some ivory tower of "research says," or they are presenting material from something they'd like to sell you. Am I being too harsh about the presenters?

Probably not. It bears noting that, here at our office, we frequently get press releases about think tank conferences and panel discussions on teacher quality and sundry other ed policy issues affecting classrooms throughout the land. It borders on shameful, to our thinking, how seldom teachers are featured as speakers or participants at these events.

But then, there may also be a good reason for this: Teachers have actual work to be doing.

6 Comments

I too was at the NCSS conference. I also was a presenter and am a long-time substitute teacher, author, and media producer of original DVD productions on American history. Our work uses the power of theater, song, and relevancy.
The presentation I gave was a team presentation, my partner was an academian. This way, both pedagogy and practice was provided. I think this would be good model for presentations.
With regards, to more teachers presenting it may simply be the case that presenters are focused on their work and those in audience. Teachers are focused on their students, not themselves.
Lastly, it might be fun to create an opportunity for a mosh-pit event where all teachers can gather to simply talk, as Hawaiians say, "story."

What I hear from people who are teaching is that they have no time and no money
to do anything other than keep at the
schedule until they drop. Then, when they
drop at retirement age, they have even less money and more time, but by then they
are so tired. Ah, to have the time and the
money to go out and give presentations and
teach in Hawaii part time and "story."
Dreaming is fun. Dream Big.

There are plenty of practicing classroom teachers who are more than capable of making these presentations using classroom tested materials and experiences. These teacher leaders are a valuable and under-used resource. Full disclosure: I am a member of the Teacher Leaders Network. If our society valued teachers and education as much as some of the countries who are outperforming us, we would build time into the regular work schedule of teachers specifically to share what works in classrooms with each other.

Early in my teaching career I enjoyed giving presentations at educational conferences. While teachers weren't compensated for their time, at least our registration fees were covered by the organizers. Then things changed and we were expected to not only speak free, but pay all our own transportation, registration and other fees as well. That's when I lost my enthusiasm for educational conferences.

Very few of our teachers are allowed to go to conferences. In some cases, teachers are even willing to pay their own expenses but are still denied. We even have cases of teachers being PAID to attend something being denied. Of course, district administrators are still attending nation-wide conferences, racking up $$$ taxi rides and hotel bills. I'm infuriated every time I read the monthly financial report that is posted for public view. It is also VERY difficult to get subs, which can be discouraging.

Why this really bothers me is that many of my best teaching activities are ones that I learned at state and national conferences, including NSTA, NMSA and others.

I love professional conferences especially the NCSS since I teach 8th grade Social Studies. I have presented at several but fallen into the same "trap" that others have mentioned. I have to take sub days from my district, pay my registration, pay my travel, pay for lodging and then leave plans that are engaging and something "anybody could walk in and do". I religiously attend NCSS and especailly look for sessions by teachers with good ideas and not someone trying to sell me something or preaching something they haven't tried out. If I had more money, time and ... well you get the picture.

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  • Susie Highley: Very few of our teachers are allowed to go to read more
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