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Teacher inservice days need more connection

By BY PATRICK HUBBELL
Jan. 6, 2013 at 4 p.m.
Updated Jan. 5, 2013 at 7:06 p.m.

Patrick Hubbell

Anyone who has spent time in a classroom knows that the most dangerous words one can hear are: "Research shows." Teachers with common sense and experience possess survival instincts that filter out anything that follows those dreaded two words. Nothing personal to those of you who do research in education, but most of your work is on a level with research in UFOs. As Dan Aykroyd in "Ghostbusters" said, "They gave us money and facilities. We didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college! You don't know what it's like out there! I've worked in the private sector. They expect results."

But even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then. At Virginia Tech, research shows that the performance of people in IQ tests after meetings is significantly lower than if they are left on their own. The lead researcher stated, "You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain-dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain-dead as well." Results of MRI scans and IQ tests backed up the research. That sounds like bad news for producers of butcher-paper and markers or researchers in education.

Our school year began with three extra days of inservice, starting with a motivational convocation at the biggest box church in Victoria with all employees in attendance, including the cafeteria workers - oops! I mean, "nutritional experts" - and the bus drivers - make that "educational delivery experts." Where would we be without the intrepid souls who brave the elements to deliver all those federal average daily attendance gifts to the doorsteps of school districts all across this fruity plain?

If we could put all this inservice in a bottle, we could sell it. Wait, someone already has. It's called NyQuil.

Thirteen years ago, teachers from both high school campuses gathered at the convention center under darkening skies to create another set of goals for the newly voted Memorial High School. Baskets loaded with markers and sticky notes sat on long tables. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck a generator nearby. The power went out, disabling the overhead projector AND the microphone. Butcher-paper hung with freshly-minted mission statements blended into the darkness. It was the best inservice I ever attended.

But even the worst motivational inservice I've ever endured could never compare with an event that caught fire this past summer.

Would you walk on a bed of hot coals for your beloved? I love you dear, but couldn't we just have your mother over for a week? Okay, how about for a motivational speaker?

Twenty-one gullible snake-oil consumers did. Attendees at an event in California featuring motivational speaker Tony Robbins were invited to walk on one of 12 lanes of superheated coals at an event called Unleash the Power Within. Well, they unleashed, all right. According to a witness, they unleashed full-throated screams of agony. Or were they just screaming affirmations of life? Most of the power-unleashers were treated for second- and third-degree burns. You just can't make this stuff up. If this doesn't make you wet your pants laughing, I'll retract every word I said and hose down your feet.

Some administrators might think this would be a swell idea to test our commitment, but insurance agents would probably balk. Besides, stupidity is a pre-existing condition. Better stock up on aloe vera.

Well, as P.T. Barnum famously said, there's a sucker born every minute - especially a sucker that'll pay good money to burn his feet on hot coals. I say hooray for Darwin. Sometimes the gene pool could use a little chlorine - or a cleansing fire.

Patrick Hubbell lives in Victoria and is a Spanish teacher in the Victoria school district.

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