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24 September 2014 @ 10:43 am
Wait a minute!  
One of the professional organizations suggested devoting an additional 60 seconds over 60 days to improve literacy. Teachers would read aloud for 60 seconds and then follow up the reading with some activity (they provided page after page of activities). Given that reading aloud, class time for reading for pleasure, and allowing for choice in reading material is not part of many classrooms, adding 60 seconds is, well, pointless. I wish I could say a minute is better than nothing, but 60 seconds is barely time to dive into a picture book. It might be sufficient for sharing a short poem (couplet, haiku, cinquain), but I do not see it permitting much more than a breathless rush through materials.

Instead of trying for something catchy like 60 for 60, how about putting the power of the organization and its members into a larger push for literacy? How about 60 days of PD available online through webinars and tweetchats. Imagine 60 days of in person PD spread across the country FREE OF CHARGE and on weekends when teachers might attend. How about making books more available? Supporting public library card drives? Maybe some lists of books to share with K-12 classrooms (and not just lists from the organization's won awards, etc.)?

Our professional organizations need to find ways to involve more and more educators. Make conferences more affordable (even my accountant asks me each year if I have receipts for what he thinks are some incredible registration fees). Pack more into each day so perhaps a one-day pass might be even more valuable. Make exhibits FREE of charge. Provide time for networking during the day. Recruit members to serve in various positions virtually if they cannot come to conferences.

Our professional organizations all report that they are bleeding members. I can point to some reasons: increased dues and decreased communication (journals are general the first to be cut back) to members. I think professional activity is important, but even I am beginning to question what some offer me other than CCSS 24/7 or cutesy promotions that do not address the challenges I face.

I know that this sounds very curmudgeon-y. I chalk some of that up to my age and all the experiences over these nearly 40 years of teaching. But I do not think it is all because I am old and easily irritated. I am quite concerned that the professional organizations that welcomed me, that put me to work, that gave me a platform for my voice are no longer the organizations that are doing this for a new generation. I worry that the voices heard these days are the ones that are more politically correct. I worry that sometimes organizations, in an effort to involve new members, put their more experienced members out to pasture (and I know this is true from personal experience). I worry that conversation gets shut down before it has time to really get to the heart of the matter.

Last year, I received a reply from the leader of a professional organization to an email I had sent about some of the problems I saw at a conference. They included reps from an exhibitor being rude to attendees, an organization worker shrugging off a problem when it was brought to this person's attention, etc. These were not tiny irritations nor did they all affect me. As someone who has coordinated conferences for many years, I am attuned to these situations and how they can be fixed. The response to me was, in essence, that I would never be happy no matter what. In other words, DISMISSED. Now when it is time to renew my membership I pause and think about being treated this way. I wonder how many other members are leaving or are gone. But then I pause for that minute and submit the form one more time. Perhaps this 60 seconds will make a difference.
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