Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers...
by Barbara Gruber, M.A. & Sue Gruber, M.A.
Choosing Workshops, Seminars & Courses…that are Right for You!
Every teacher has had the experience of spending valuable time and money at a seminar or course and going away disappointed. We'd like to help you avoid this scenario. There are some ways you can figure out if programs and courses are "right for you" before you register. The secret of success is asking savvy questions before signing up for programs and courses. Getting answers to important key questions can save you time, money and help you avoid disappointment. We can't provide a crystal ball, but we can help you select programs and courses that match your needs and expectations.
Step 1: Questions about program or course content:
- What is the program or course about? What does it cover?
Course titles are important---course outlines are more important. An outline or syllabus will provide detailed information about content. The outline should provide specific information about the topics that are included in the program. Read over the outline carefully---ask yourself if it focuses on the topics and issues you want information about? If you have a printed outline, underline the topics and issues that interest you. An outline is a window into the program or course. Take a look at an example of an outline for a course called Build Essential Vocabulary and Basic Word Skills. You'll see exactly what we mean when you take a quick look at this course outline.
Who developed the course?
Take a moment to think about how much classroom teaching has changed from five years ago, and ten years ago. Teachers know more is expected of them and schools every year. Is the course developer/instructor a college professor, a high school teacher, a consultant, an author, and/or someone who has teaching experience similar to your teaching situation? Is the instructor in touch with current issues teachers face daily in their classrooms? Can you picture the instructor stepping into your classroom and managing it for a day, a week, or for a month or more? Does the instructor have a teaching philosophy or specific method they want you to adopt? If so, will that method fit in with the way you like to teach?
Who are the experts when it comes to classroom teaching? We believe teachers are the experts when it comes to knowing what will work in their classrooms. They know the children, the materials, the classroom and the ways they like to teach. We do not ask teachers to change the way they like to teach. Instead, we share ideas and activities that are flexible and adaptable to fit any classroom and teaching style. A minimum of teacher time is required to implement ideas and no special materials are required. We know how busy teachers are---we have never met a teacher who was looking for more work to do! That's why the ideas we share are perfect for today's busy teachers---they can be used immediately in classrooms. Get to know who the course developers and instructors are so you know if you are in sync.
What is the cost of the course? What is the cost of each quarter or semester unit?
Have you noticed how difficult it is to find the price on some seminar brochures and ads for courses? Here is a rule of thumb that seems to work well---the more difficult it is to find the course fees, the higher the cost of the seminar or course. Find out if you must to purchase additional course materials. Be on the lookout for hidden fees.
What are the dates and time schedule? Are there specific days and times when participation is required?
Can you fit the course into your schedule? Or, do you need to arrange your schedule around the course? Are you willing to commute to attend courses? Do you prefer the convenience and flexibility of online courses?
Online courses may be the answer you're looking for if you have limited time. For example, Barbara Gruber Courses can be taken any day, any time. You can interact with others in online discussion boards, chat rooms and meetings for teachers. Or, you can choose to work alone and discuss topics with colleagues at school.
Step 2: Questions to ask yourself:
- What information and strategies do you expect to gain?
Teachers have different needs and expectations from courses they take. Ask yourself what you want to gain from the seminar or course? Are you looking for philosophical discussions and educational theories? Do you want practical ideas to use tomorrow? Are you looking for management tips to save time and work threaded throughout the course? If possible, talk to a colleague who has already taken the course or look at a sample lesson. When you look at a sample lesson, you can usually tell if the content and instructors are what you are looking for.
We'd like to share two interesting experiences we've had that relate to this topic ~
Sue attended a one-day seminar on teaching reading with Meg, a colleague from school. The speaker was dynamic, interesting and highly-entertaining. He had the audience laughing throughout the day. Meg loved the presentation and Sue was disappointed. Why did they have such different evaluations about the same program? They both enjoyed being away from school for a day. They both agreed that the speaker was very entertaining. When Sue asked Meg if she gained ideas for her classroom, she said no. However, Meg explained, the break from the classroom was just what she needed. By contrast, Sue wanted to go back to school with ideas to use in her classroom. Being gone from school for a day is a lot of work including preparing for a substitute and catching up on everything when you return. Being entertained is fun, but Sue wanted information and ideas about teaching reading. Sue and Meg did not want the same outcomes from the seminar; hence, the difference in their responses.
Barbara's school district hired a consultant for a back-to-school presentation on Teaching Strategies. The speaker's ideas were very specific.
Her approach required teachers to stop what they were doing and follow her step-by-step formula. Some teachers in the audience were very excited about the consultant's recipe for success. They put aside the way they taught and changed their classrooms to fit the speaker's model. Teachers who wanted a step-by-step method to follow, even if it required them to radically change their programs, loved the presentation. Barbara didn't want to change the way she liked to teach. The consultant didn't know Barbara, her teaching style or anything about her classroom! Barbara found some ideas in the inservice presentation that she could adapt to her classroom. But, she wasn't comfortable with the one-size-fits-all approach the consultant recommended.
If you can view a sample of the course, take a few moment to do so. It's part of the information gathering process that will help you find the right courses for you. Take a look at one of our sample lessons to get a feel for a classroom management course. Look at a sample lesson to see how practical and realistic our courses are. You will be able to tell if our approach and ideas are "a perfect fit" for you.
Step 3: Questions about earning credits:
- How many units can you earn? What is the cost per unit?
Will you be earning semester or quarter units? What is the cost of each unit? Can you take just one unit or is there a minimum?
What kinds of papers or projects are required to earn units?
You will need to spend a certain number of hours to earn units. The number of hours depends on the units you are earning. Most teachers who take Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers choose to earn one, two or three semester units of credit from University of the Pacific. A written assignment is required for each unit earned. Teachers can focus assignments on lessons, projects or activities they will actually use in their classrooms. Find out about earning credit through University of the Pacific for Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers.
In our view, worthwhile ideas and strategies stand the test of time and can be integrated into existing programs. Effective teaching strategies do not have to require hours of teacher development time or be difficult to manage. We believe the litmus test of any seminar or course is if you are actually using ideas and strategies from the program in your teaching. After a few months or a year goes by, how many strategies and activities are you still using? Did you use some ideas at first and then discontinue them because they required too much time to implement and manage?
We encourage you to do some quick "homework" before spending time and money taking seminars and courses. Before signing up for seminars or courses, ask:
- about the program or course content
- what your needs and expectations are
- about earning university credit.
Then, you will be better equipped to choose programs and courses that match your needs and expectations.
We believe teachers who "have a life beyond teaching" have more energy and enthusiasm---and, that's a win-win situation for teachers and children. We want to do everything we can to help teachers rediscover the joy in teaching within the reality of working in today's classrooms. We hope you find professional growth programs and courses that boost your enthusiasm for teaching and learning.
Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers
Copyright 2002: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers