Many readers in the Northern Hemisphere will just have survived another gruelling session of internally teacher provided teacher training, known as INSET (‘IN SErvice Training) days here in England.
It seems like such an eminently sensible and laudable notion: teachers take a number of days out of frenetic classroom activity to reflect and improve on their practice.
If only that were the focus of INSET, I would be heartily in favour. Sadly, many teachers will just have experienced several days of manipulative indoctrination in whatever trend their senior leaders have decided to follow this year. I have spent many a day sitting sour faced at the back of the room while unrealistic, unworkable or downright damaging theories are poured into my unwilling ear, thinking ‘I’ve actually got quite a lot of work I need to be doing right now’.
Teachers’ time is precious, and it’s expensive. Building things out of straws in order to learn about problem solving skills, or listening to the self-satisfied witticisms of an overpaid consultant, are not good uses of that precious time.
In the end, I’ve had to conclude that the best INSET I’ve experienced at the start of the year hasn’t really been INSET at all. I mean that it hasn’t been training; it’s been a bit of essential admin, a few reminders about school policy, and plenty of time just to get on with planning and preparation for the new year. It’s not jazzy, but it certainly isn’t a waste of time.
Training is best in small doses spaced out through the year, delivered by current classroom practitioners, with plenty of regular opportunities for one to one follow-up under minimal senior management surveillance. That way it might actually help people improve, instead of being a gigantic waste of taxpayers’ / feepayers’ money.