First of all, every teacher needs to realize that the best laid plans that you've worked on all summer - to make your classroom better and take your students further - can be thrown out pretty quickly when wrenches are thrown into the works during a before-school-begins inservice. This is when we get the biggest changes that administrators have been cooking up all summer. A few years ago, I ran into a big ol' wall when this happened. Initiatives flew at us left and right - programs and data collection and common assessments that were stifling and crippling. It all came to a breaking point for me, and I was ready to throw in the towel in the middle of the night.
That's why I still cringe when I see that envelope in the mail:
Welcome back! I hope your summer is going well. We're getting ready for our biggest school year ever.
Well, it was.
Then I get that feeling in my bones like my college girlfriend of six months has just cancelled our relationship. It's an anxious tingle that I just can't seem to shake - a complex mixture of anger, confusion, and frustration that, for some reason, the powers that be can't seem to understand. That's because certain bosses seem to think that we need to be welcomed back by spending hours upon hours telling us things what could have been put in a minute-long email. They don't understand that teachers have things to do. Open House is on the horizon, and they expect the rooms to be clean and presentable, parent handouts to be ready, and smiles broad, but all contract time is stripped away because we needed to have a pep rally first, and then we have to hear about new programs and initiatives that we're implementing for everyone alike. I've written about cookie-cutter professional development until I'm blue in the face, and there are certainly more "surgical" methods to training teachers if we would just seek them out.
That's when we realize that if we're ever going to have things ready for our new students - to make the right impressions up front - teachers are forced to break into the school before our official contract time begins for the year. This is especially true at the elementary level where considerably more decoration is expected. I know the room doesn't have to look perfect for Open House or for the first day of school, but something's amiss if it's not. We can really feel like we're behind the eight ball.
Why not relocate the training? Put it a couple of weeks into the year. Or better yet, tell us the necessary information for the next school year before school lets out for the summer. That would give teachers the summer to stew and simmer and plan for the next year. It would also allow for more time collaborating with our peers (if needed), getting new teachers acclimated to their new lives, and making things presentable for the hopefully-smooth months ahead.
There is always room for improvement.