Homegrown Professionalism

Guest Blog: The Voice of Mary Ollie on Professionalism

When I began teaching in 1970, I had doubts about my professional abilities. That was a good thing as it made me reflect on my practice and willing to seek out advice from those more experienced. When I began teaching, older and more experienced teachers helped the newbies. Heck, school districts even called upon them to do continuing education.

For much of my career, most continuing education was organized and carried out by experienced teachers often working with colleges of education associated with a regional university. Every so often, continuing education was courtesy of a grant that funded an expert or researcher in a teaching field.

Midway through my career, I became that expert and that grant writer. I had the opportunity to share what I knew to empower others. Topics ranged from instructional design to science safety and test construction. The benefits extended beyond the course objectives that identified the formal learning that took place. It was the informal learning – the opportunity for teachers to share and to network – that provided the biggest benefits.

That changed after No Child Left Behind as consulting companies sprung up like acne on a teenager’s chin.

Consulting companies were hired to do continuing education and the quality – well, let’s say it was variable. Sometimes the grizzled old veterans had to listen for hours to someone who had maybe one whole year of teaching experience. At first we grumbled, but are now silent and doubting our abilities.

Today most continuing education is outsourced and the workshop coordinator leaves on the next plane out of town. And it’s not cheap. Why is it that expensive programs are used to do something that teachers are perfectly capable of doing for themselves and doing better?

I had not thought about that question much. However I was troubled by the increasing silence and self-doubting of those experienced teachers, including myself. Recently, I read a commentary by Peter Berger who teaches English at Weathersfield School in Vermont. The title of his commentary in the Rutland Herald is “First do no Harm.”

Reading Mr. Berger’s essay made me realize we are dealing with something that is widespread and that there is a reason. “Gaslighting” is a manipulation tactic designed to create doubt in the mind of individuals so that they no longer trust their own judgment about things and buy into the assertions of the “manipulator.” In many cases, the manipulator changes history to accomplish his or her goals.

Why are those experienced educators silent? experience-matters-blogSitting though a Common Core presentation where the facilitator espouses this “new approach” that inspires critical thinking and deep understanding makes it pretty apparent that history has been re-written. The newbies in the audience are convinced that it’s time for the grey heads to turn in their clay tablets for rocking chairs. We are dead wood. We are old fashioned. We resist change. We oppose new ideas. We protect those who only want to collect their paychecks. I think you get the idea.

##### Thanks for sharing, Mary. Many are getting the idea; many more need to.

Well? Did we just find another good reason to fight to regain control of our public schools?

My advice, listen to experience.

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