During Principal S.T.’s first year (2004-2005), we were exposed to the joys of teaching according to the WORKSHOP MODEL.
WORKSHOP MODEL RULES
1. All desks must be arranged in groups of four. Students must do all their work in these small groups.
2. Teachers must avoid writing on the board at the front of the classroom.
3. A detailed Learning Objective which begins, “Students Will Be Able To” must be displayed at the front of the classroom at all times during the class.
4. Class time must be divided into three parts: Minilesson, Group Work, and Share.
5. An AGENDA must be displayed on chart paper at the front of the classroom detailing the Learning Objective, Minilesson, Group Work, and Share
6. MINILESSON: The teacher must limit direct instruction to the first 7 to 10 minutes of class. No more than 10 minutes of direct instrution can take place in any class period.
7. GROUP WORK: For the next 20 minutes, students must work in pairs or groups of four to try out the concept or skill that the teacher modeled in the “mini-lesson.”
The teacher must circulate from group to group helping as needed, or conduct five-minute “conferences” to assess students individually.
8. SHARE:For the final 10 minutes of class, the group must share the results of their group work. The teacher must ask “higher order thinking questions” and allow sufficient wait time before going on to the next question.
9. By the end of the period, the teacher must be able to provide evidence that most students have fulfilled the learning objective.
Principal P. went around with a timer, making sure that teachers taught for no more than ten minutes. However, she was concentrating on Math and English Language Arts teachers during her first year, so she pretty much left the science department alone. Still, I received feedback from my Assistant Principal that I had been observed to be talking past my ten minute limit and to make sure that I didn’t do that during my formal observation.
To prepare for my observation, I started bringing in a dictaphone to record my minilessons. Perhaps if I listened to myself I could find ways of explaining things in less time. I also brought in a camera to take pictures of students performing some of the hands-on activities we did in class. We were being asked to cover every square inch of wall space with student work and I thought it would be nice to accompany the lab reports with pictures of students actually doing the labs.
On April 8, 2005 Principal S.T. called me into her office and told me that students had come to her and complained that I was tape recording them and taking pictures of them without their permission. I made them “uncomfortable”. She didn’t tell me which students from which class, but I knew exactly who they were. They were from the same class that had been making bird noises back in September and October of 2004. A few days ago one them had noticed the dictaphone and asked what it was. I explained that I was taping my voice to see what I sounded like while I was teaching. During that lesson, one of the boys had made a bird call. The girl got up and said she was going to talk to Principal S.T. and stomped out of the room without a pass.
I told Principal S.T. that I was just trying to record my minilessons so that I could perfect my presentation, and that the students’ voices were barely audible (unlike the bird calls which could clearly be heard, but I didn’t mention them). However, she was adamant—no tape recordings were to be made in class.
As for the photographs, I told her that I wasn’t taking pictures of anyone without their permission. I offered to give out parent permission slips and then photograph only those students who brought them back. I also offered to take anonymous pictures that didn’t show any faces. She again “directed me” to stop taking photographs.
I asked why other teachers were allowed to take photographs of students and put them on the bulletin boards in the halls. She didn’t answer my question, but just repeated that she was directing me to “cease and desist” from photographing students.
I asked if I could take pictures of the science equipment after school when there were no students present. She told me that I would be guilty of insubordination if I took any pictures at all or even brought a camera into the building.
I filed a Step I grievance, which was of course denied (The Principal decides the outcome). I took it to a Step II, where I lost again. During all that time other teachers took pictures of their students and displayed them. I continued to see pictures of students all over the school in the years that followed.
So I would have to add one new rule to the WORKSHOP MODEL RULES.
10. Teachers must never use cameras or tape recorders in the classroom that could serve as unbiased, impartial evidence of the teacher's competence--or of an administator's incompetence.