There’s nothing more terrifying than finding out your district administrators have just returned from a conference somewhere, and they’re excited about something. You know because they suddenly smile too much, and now they want to come talk to your department or hold a special faculty meeting. It’s enough to ruin your entire 17-minute lunch period.
It’s not because their conferences are always in Vegas or Honolulu or Mount Olympus or some such thing, while teacher workshops are in Moore, or at the Pawhuska Technology and Training Center. No, what’s scary is that they come back all excited about some revolutionary new paradigm-shattering approach to teaching – usually a combination of common sense stuff you’ve been doing for years and a few colorful twists slathered in cutesy rhetoric. They’re sure you’ve never heard of it, and that you’ll be so excited for them to share it with you!
They’d never send youto these sorts of conferences, of course – they’re so far away and expensive, after all. But they think they’ve come upon the Pedagogical Holy Grail – the one which will replace last year’s Silver Classroom Bullet, which superseded the rather durable Brass Teaching Ring, that of course overthrew the Era of Learning Unobtanium (ELU).
So you wait.
The details vary from revolution to revolution, but the need to unendingly build on the ruins of whatever was going to save us all last year remains sadly the same. It drives the world of educational trainery like dilithium crystals power the Enterprise, or infantile narcissism fuels the President. The same few themes do come back around eventually, however, like the Merry-Go-Round of the Damned, and you learn to look for them. Dread them. Fight them. And yet, the very predictability in the process forms a dysfunctional sort of affection for them after a while.
My personal favorite is the Periodic Awakening of Fact-Free History.
It’s a Revelation built on a simple truth – one recently discovered by your building principal or curriculum manager or whoever sits before you, eating your bagels this particular Friday morning. “When we were in school,” they always begin, “History was all about memorizing facts – names, dates, places. So many facts.”