No connections

Driving home today I heard a great story on NPR. I liked it so much that I thought I’d put it here to remind myself about it. I might have forgotten some of the details, but I think I still remember the gist.

Teachers without their PLCs

Principals have been realizing lately how hard it is to get their teachers to do good work. Too many of them have been spending time talking to each other to find better ways to teach. That takes away from the time that they could be interacting with their students. Now a few schools around the country have started to use a new approach: locking each teacher away from all others.

When the teachers get to school, they can be seen smiling and chatting with their friends in the parking lot. But when they get to the school, they’re met with a phalanx of administrators just inside the door who put all the teachers in bags and cart them off to their classrooms where they’re locked in. At the end of the day they are brought back out, and only then are they able to interact with their co-workers.

“It really sucks because it’s usually so great to get good ideas from people in similar situations that I can incorporate into my teaching,” said one teacher, clearly pining for her friends. Another added “I can’t believe that they’re painting us all with the same brush, assuming that all we want to do it talk with our friends instead of teaching. That’s not fair. I love to teach!”

But the principals have come to understand that any sort of access to professional development that might bring in new ideas can only take away from the tried and true approaches to working with students. While their teachers are complaining, the principals are sure this is the right approach.

Some brave teachers have pointed out that the lack of access to their professional coworkers has changed their behavior. Now if they can’t figure out how to work with a student, they just keep trying other things that they come up with off the top of their head. “Before I would find a friend at lunch to brainstorm ways to help, but now I have way more time to really focus on the problem.”

The bag and lock technology is being pioneered by BeAlone, whose founder realized just how bad things were when he asked how his daughter was doing in school and only got a response after the teacher checked in with all his daughter’s teachers. “I couldn’t believe how long that took! I just wanted to know if she was getting an A+, not whether she was developing lifelong learning strategies.” The company’s clients also include comedians and musicians who like to make sure their audience is only listening to them. The cost is $200 per bag or schools can rent them for $30 per teacher for the school year.

Your thoughts? Here are some starters for you

  • That’s weird, I listened to NPR on the way home today and I didn’t hear that story.
  • Wait, I feel like you’re being sarcastic, but I can’t put my finger on it.
  • You forgot about my favorite part: …
  • This is dumb. Principals who do this just don’t realize how creative teachers can be when they can work together.
  • This is great. I think we should seek to have this in all schools!

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
This entry was posted in fun, teaching, technology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to No connections

  1. At leas they didn’t put the bag over the heads of the tenured faculty to get rid of them….

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