So, I wrote on Thursday that I would not be updating until Monday due to the teacher inservice meetings I had yesterday. When I was in school, we always knew when teachers had these inservice days, although I don’t think I ever knew what the word itself meant, other than the fact that my teachers had to go to school and I didn’t.
A friend of mine asked me today what an inservice day is. And since I am working mightily to procrastinate other tasks I really need to do this weekend, I figured I’d do a quick post about what teachers do on these days.
First of all, a teacher inservice day is, quite simply, a day that teachers attend professional development meetings during the school day. That’s why it is an “inservice” day–most professional development meetings are held after hours or on the weekend. I believe that there are a total of four inservice days each year, at least in my district.
Most of the meetings this year are going to focus on auditing our curriculum materials and seeing how well they align with the Common Core State Standards which have been recently adopted by Illinois and 43 other states. Without boring you too quickly with the eduspeak that is my professional world, the CCSS are replacing the Illinois Learning Standards that were adopted in 1997. The ILS set forth the specific concepts and skills that were to be taught in each grade level in Illinois from K-12. The CCSS do the same thing, but they have been aligned with standards in other nations that will, hopefully, allow the United States to be more competitive in our global society.
I actually really, really, really like the CCSS and am excited to see national standards being implemented. My next hope for public education in the United States is for a kind of national teacher certification process that is adopted by each state, but that is most definitely a soapbox topic for another day!
In addition to the CCSS, my school district, as part of its Strategic Plan, has recently adopted what are being called the Safety Net Skills for each grade level. These are the learning standards that are absolutely fundamental for students to succeed. These, too, are pretty awesome, and very useful to have as the foundation of everything else we teach.
The inservice meetings yesterday had two parts: the first was meeting with all of the teachers at my grade level across the district; the second was meeting with all of the teachers in my building. I spent the morning discuss the Core Content and Safety Net Skills with my fellow fourth grade teachers, trying to develop a framework for understanding how they will be implemented. Then we began to explore which standards are already part of our curriculum, and whether or not the materials we have are able to support us in our efforts to teach. Believe it or not, this was a lot of fun! My grade-level partner and Wiley and I are going to start team-teaching some of the standards, and we have some pretty awesome things in the works!
The afternoon was spent with my building colleagues in a kind of extended staff meeting. We spent good portion of the afternoon discussing ways to identify students who internalise and students who externalise their emotions so that we can better serve their social and emotional needs (SEL being a big part of the 21st century curriculum). Then we wrapped up the day with training in implementing Visual Teaching Strategies in our classrooms. (Odd… I thought I had mentioned VTS before, but I can’t find any posts about it. Oh well.) I have done a bit of VTS with my class, but I want to do more in the future, and am hoping to get some more formal training soon.
Anyway, that was my first teacher inservice day. Lots of meetings that would probably seem dreadfully dull to others, but are so important to the philosophy and methodology of what I do as a professional educator!
And now I really do need to start grading those papers!