TAH and Historians: A Two-Way Street
Models of Professional Development
I guess I've been in four models. I've been in the parachute in and out, which I've attacked while I was there, and said, "I don't work this way." Now, what I've learned from that is that most of the teachers don't follow up, because their—you know, the model says, "I'm going to take notes. Forget it. We don't have a relationship.”
The other model is just, you know, you come in for maybe two days of work. I always want to come in for two nights or three nights, depending upon the flight schedule, because that way you have time to have meals with the teachers, and I think that's really important. And so I think that if you're there for Model Two, which could be a two-day presentation, that you should build into your budget a minimum of two nights so that you can meet the teachers outside. That way they feel more comfortable and you can begin to develop relationships.
The third model, which I think builds on that, which is really effective, is if you do the two-day, but you commit maybe to a week that will be spread out over the year. So that you could do let's say, a weekend or maybe three days in the summer, but you go into their classroom for a day, and then you do a two-day institute with them in the weekend during the school year, so that you can see how the work progresses. I think that's a great model.
Then the fourth model is where you're there for a week. And you spread your material out, and you work with master teachers. You work with curriculum folks. And you really get to know the teachers. And the last day is spent really working at the tables with the teachers, helping them personalize their own lesson plans and helping them incorporate the material, or find out what material you should have brought that you didn't bring, to help them. And that's what I think is the most effective.
Taking Lessons Outside the Classroom
And I really believe that if I had not done TAHs that I've done with kindergartners and with elementary school folks, as well as with challenging high school environments, I never would have been able to take the material out of the country and use it in different environments, with people with limited English skills, or who understood concepts, but didn't understand the vocabulary.
I think it is more important to reach the teachers and the students in a way that sets them on fire [than] to write a book, that maybe 450 copies are printed of, that sits on a library shelf, and one person checks out every eight months.
And you can see, if you pay attention, how people interpret the material. Sometimes they're way off the mark. But the vast majority of the time, they're right on target. And they use different language to talk about it that helps me as an editor, as an annotator, as a pundit, and as a public historian, go out and say, "As a scholar I do yada-yada-yada," but TAH makes it real. And I think it is more important to reach the teachers and the students in a way that sets them on fire [than] to write a book, that maybe 450 copies are printed of, that sits on a library shelf, and one person checks out every eight months. If you're lucky.