Monday, June 30, 2008

A week in Madison

There's a post I meant to write every day last week, but I never got around to it. It was going to go something like this:

Just got out of my seven-hour lecture on teaching AP English. And when I say lecture, I mean it. I'm at a workshop being run by two UW professors and three experienced high school AP teachers, and all week, they've been talking at us. Standing there and talking. Actually, in the case of one of the profs, sitting in front of us and talking. No sharing of ideas by the participants, no collaborative work, no time to practice new teaching strategies.

It's funny how teachers preach something called "best practices," but when they stand up in front of a group of teachers they do what should never be done to students: lecture lecture lecture, blah blah blah, listen to me pontificate.

You would think it's been a miserable experience, but to be honest, it hasn't.

First of all, in a collection of 40 teachers, there are always at least a couple of really dynamic, brilliant people that have a lot to share during lunch and after class.

Second, forced to sit there, I've taken to perusing the materials, and I must admit to getting very psyched up to teach AP.

Most important, though, is that Madison has the perfect spot to have a beer after class: the terrace behind the Union. It's a collection of colorful metal tables and chairs set up in shade and sun, overlooking the lake where boaters float lazily by. There are loads of students hanging out, but maybe because it's summer, the focus seems to be on grad students, plus professors, tutors, locals with children, and a collection of brain-fried AP teachers. The Union serves great beer--New Glaris, Bell's--and it's cheap. Every day there are scheduled activities: movie nights and live music afternoons. If there is a better place to grab a drink, on a college campus or otherwise, I'd love to hear about it.

Whenever I attend a professional development activity, no matter how bored or frustrated I become, I always try to stay positive and look for that one moment, that one piece of advice that might change my teaching. I don't know if that moment came during the workshop this time, but it certainly did afterwards.

5 comments:

appopt said...

One of the nicest, most ego-boosting moments for me happened when my buddy FresH2O introduced me to a friend and the guy said, "Are you Chicago Teacher Man?" Yes, there are PhD candidates in Wisconsin reading this blog. I feel sorry for the future of education in this country.

Karla said...

I have been to that spot on Lake Mendota, and it is perfection. I've traveled to many college campuses in my time, but haven't found anything like this lovely place. Hope that made your time more fun up there...

freelunch said...

Well, if the University of Chicago would build a student union on the land that was Meigs Field, the Union Terrace might have some competetion.

As for your other observation about learning, I like being lectured at as the foundation of any program. Sure, there are lots of things that people can add and many do during discussions, but the lecture gives a frame of reference to work from. Seven hours? That's a bit much.

Shining Star said...

OMG My DREAM/FUTURE COLLEGE!! Isn't Madison just great!!
Now you know how we feel having to hear teachers just blab blab about everything...lolz jk
But yeah wow seems like you are famous, everywhere you go somebody has to know you. Awesome to tell people you were once my teacher.

Smarry said...

I have been to that spot on Lake Mendota, and it is perfection. I've traveled to many college campuses in my time, but haven't found anything like this lovely place. Hope that made your time more fun up there...

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Smarry
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