How do you handle it when you are in a lengthy inservice and already know the material being presented, or have completed the task assigned to you? How do you stay engaged in the process (so you don't get in trouble for doing things like grading or going online to keep from being bored)?
In response to #9: I have to politely but adamantly disagree. A seasoned teacher who is experiencing success on a daily basis does not, in fact, deserve to be treated like we have not mastered the basics.
I'm not speaking for every teacher. But I will speak for myself.
A good principal is someone who knows where his/her staff is at, what they need, and seeks to bring the level up school-wide. Where, in this, is the need for redundant inservices re-covering the same topics, year after year?
As an English teacher, I know that most of my students do not love reading and writing. But I can say for a fact that from the moment they enter my room until the moment they leave, they are personally engaged, with me, if nothing else. Because I know them. I know how to apply the boring stuff to the stuff they are interested in, and show them the value of the things they think they hate.
If an inservice leader was as charismatic and entertaining as I (or many other teachers) am in my classroom, I wouldn't be tempted to play bullsh*t bingo either. (By the way, great idea I'm going to have to introduce to my staff one day.)
This is probably one of the most difficult things that teachers face. For those of us who are used to being up and doing, sitting and discussing things that have been beaten to death year after year is such a waste of time. In our district, it is always about rewriting the curriculum. How necessary is this to do every single year? It is not more important to share ideas of how to better engage students? To have more experienced teachers share ideas and strategies that make teaching more beneficial to students?
I find that sitting in a room beating a dead horse frustrates me. Facing apathetic students, unsupportive parents and administrators is already more than challenging. In-service days that are there just to say there was one, or to guarantee that teachers are doing something valuable (and that is a questionable term depending on who is defining "valuable") is just one more thing that leads to teacher burnout. Let me grow. Help me learn. Give me a speaker who can tell me something new and relevant. Don't waste my time.
Otherwise, I sit in the back and half-listen and grade papers. I NEVER use my cell phone to text or do anything rude or disruptive, which some teachers don't have a problem with. I know I'm not the only frustrated one, but there is no point in insulting whoever has to face a room full of frustrated teachers, either.
The mental preparation aspects of teaching can be saviors in situations like this! I found I could look at the presenter with an expression of rapt attention, all the while reviewing in my mind what went right or wrong in class earlier in the day, what materials I needed to get collected and ready to go for tomorrow, which students I could change in the seating chart without creating a new set of conspirators, what to prepare for supper if the inservice ever ended....
Like #7, I consider teacher trainings the price of admission, and I always take home a great lesson from every teacher workshop. It's a lesson that would benefit any teacher, and one I recommend you all join me in. It's this: however boring that consultant is, however mind-deadening the presentation, however numb your rear is from that chair, you DESERVE it. Because every single day there are students in your classroom who feel exactly that way about you. Playing games, checking email, grading, making to-do and shopping lists (that's my workshop vice) - all these things are adult parallels of the student misbehaviors we work to avoid or quell in our classrooms. So take note...it is difficult for you to sit in a hard chair and listen to a speaker for an hour straight? Then think how it must feel to that ADHD brunette in the back row of your last period class. Maybe we should view consultants as an object lesson in how not to conduct our classrooms.
I will honestly admit that I have played games with colleagues during these sessions. We would sometimes pass an iPod game around the table to avoid falling asleep. Usually, I would half listen while grading papers or working on lesson plans. I tried to stay attentive enough that if something new was said I could stop working and tune in without being lost. This is also a good idea if the presenter (or the boss) is going to call you out or question you about the presentation. It's difficult to disguise a stack of papers (ie grading), but easy enough to work on lesson plans, new seating charts, etc. Sometimes I would bring a laptop or other device so I could write emails to parents during that time. Of course, I could quickly switch my screen to notes of the presentation if someone appeared to be checking up on me.
I cannot disagree with the above posts which all indicate the uselessness and total waste of time which comprises most in service presentations. I find myself tempted to either sleep (cant--I snore); or grade papers, etc., all of which can get one in trouble if the boss is watching. I have found the best approach is to consider it the price of doing business and force myself to sit there and be bored while some "expert" tells me how to solve problems I don't have. I do think that those in administration should take note of the waste of time and precious resources for these presentations which by and large accomplish nothing.
Has nobody else used inservice training as an opportunity to engage in a little bit of light-hearted gambling with your colleagues? Maybe it is just me then. What we used to do in my last college was play bull*&%$ bingo. We would each of us select about 10 words that we thought would come up in the address, normally taken from recent teacher jargon such as "cascading" and "outsourcing." Then we would each put a bit of money into a pot and then during the talk we would eagerly try to listen out for our phrases and then cross them out as they were mentioned. The first to cross his or her ten words out one the money! You would be amazed at how attentive we became!
It's harder and harder to take such things seriously, the longer I am in the profession. That being said, I will give my undivided attention to someone (especially another teacher) that is worth their salt and has something practical and useful to show me. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen very often.
I'm polite when the inservice is something that just fills the administration's allocated professional development time, but I have done everything from writing poetry (some of my best stuff, actually) to making xerox copies of a book about teaching (that is worth my time) and reading them during the presentation. I've also been doing this long enough that I call the administrators out when they are wasting my time.
I also found/find most inservice presentations overly long and borrrring. I had one principal who scheduled one on every teacher work day of the year, further putting teacher planning and grading behind. So, I, like the previous poster, usually ended up grading papers or at least mentally preparing for the next day. In 25+ years of teaching, I can only remember one inservice vividly: It was a great presentation by the local police on gang activity, and particularly gang graffiti and tagging. They deciphered all the gang lingo and code. I was able to identify various gang graffiti around town for months!
Inservices are certainly one of those inconvenient but necessary evils of education. Often, the information does indeed need to be given to a majority of the group. I say that as a teacher and previous inservice presenter. As a young teacher, I did not understand that there were cycles in education... now, I feel as if I have heard several concepts presented in different ways, but they are essentially the same concept.
Stay attentive enough in appearances to keep yourself from trouble in this era of reductions in force, but get something done. Don't let that time be wasted even if you think you won't get anything, maybe you'll gain a new perspective. Or if you bring work you can slyly finish, you will at least get something done.
Pretty annoying sort of a thing, isn't it?
I never really tried to stay engaged. What I do is try to do things that could plausibly look like I'm paying attention even though I'm not. Typically, what that means is that I try to outline lessons for the next unit I'm going to be working on. When I know an inservice like that is coming I'll come prepared with something in mind to work on. I'll make like I'm taking notes on what they're talking about while I'm actually writing about my own stuff.