Nutraloaf: Why Teachers HATE Professional Development

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

An Open Letter to Administrators

If you haven’t heard of Nutraloaf, it’s basically a substance given to prisoners who haven’t made good choices.  I’ve read that it contains fruit, meat, grains, and veggies all ground up and packed into a warm, moist brick and served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! It looks gross and probably tastes worse.  Prisoners complain, but what choice do they have?  Officials say it’s food and provides proper nutrition to keep prisoners healthy. They’re required to feed prisoners, and Nutraloaf does just that.  End of story.

So, what does this have to do with teacher professional development?  Before the kids come back, teachers spend a week participating in icebreakers, listening to repetitive trainings, and completing random tasks that feel more like busy work.  Most of us hate these days.  Why?  Because it’s Nutraloaf.  It meets the requirements of PD, but is less than appetizing to our teacher brains.  It just isn’t meaningful or relevant.  Teachers don’t hate professional development.  They hate professional development that wastes their time.  

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

The vast majority of us work hard to improve our practice everyday.  We want to do what’s best for our students, and as new instructional strategies are developed and new research is published, we want to know about it and try it out with our kids to maximize the student experience.  Unfortunately, we’re still spending hours talking about learning styles (not really a thing) and being told how to implement district non-negotiables such as posting objectives and teaching the new Pearson curriculum “with fidelity.”  

How do we fix this?  A week is too much.  Truly.  Towards the end, my excitement about starting the year is gone.  I’m overwhelmed and only remember a few things.  The new requirements weigh heavy on my teaching soul and I want to go back to lazy summer days!  Here’s what needs to happen that week before the kids come.

Day 1–Schedules and procedures training

Day 2–Work in my classroom

Day 3–Work in my classroom

Day 4–Plan with colleagues

Day 5–Plan my personal lessons and prep for the first week

But don’t teachers need to learn new things?  Of course!  So let’s try something different.  

First, SPREAD IT OUT.  Let’s embed PD into our practice throughout the year.  Perhaps a day per six weeks without students, where we focus on what makes us better.  Give the kids a Friday off, and host a helpful PD session that day.

Host a training on Saturday, but give us that Monday off so we still have a weekend.  This way, as we see what our kids need, we can learn how to address those needs with meaningful PD experiences.

Second, PUT TEACHERS IN CHARGE OF THEIR OWN GROWTH.  We want our students to be self-directed learners, so why isn’t this encouraged in teachers?  Let us plan what we need to learn and how best to learn it.  I personally struggled with a class that was difficult to manage this year.  I spent a few hours reading new strategies and watching Teach Like a Champion videos.  It was relative and had a direct impact on my students.  Give me credit for this.  I’ll gladly write a short reflection.    What about book studies?  Let us choose a book and chat with our colleagues about the new things we’ve learned and how we’re trying them with our kids.  Offer a variety of trainings throughout the year and let us choose what we’re interested in.  Key word: differentiation.  A fifth grade science teacher does not have the same needs as a 1st grade teacher, just as a veteran of 20 years does not need the same training as a brand new teacher.  Let us take advantage of the multitude of PD available online.  Many of us are doing it anyway, so why should we still have to sit through a week of mediocre activities at the start of a new year?  

Third, BRING IN EXPERTS.  Pool resources with other schools and districts and bring in leaders in the field of education like Page Keeley, Donalyn Miller, Lisa Van Gemert, Gretchen Bernabei.  Or put the funds in place for us to go see them and spend time at state and national conferences.  

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

Finally, TREAT US LIKE PROFESSIONALS.  I swear, if I have to walk around and do another human bingo about who has 3 cats or went to the beach this summer, I’m going to explode!  I doubt they do these activities when lawyers, medical professionals, and engineers gather.  Limit, or ban, stupid icebreakers and busy work that fill our days.  I don’t need to make an anchor chart of the non-negotiables I learned about at today’s training, nor will I benefit from you reading PowerPoint slides to me VERBATIM.  Ugh!

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

It’s time for PD to adapt and venture into the 21st century. Our classrooms are moving forward, why is teacher PD still the same as it was 30 years ago?  We’re hungry, we’ve made good choices, and we deserve better than Nutraloaf professional development.  

–The Pensive Sloth

Looking for back to school humor?  Find out what teachers are REALLY thinking!


Teacher New Year’s Resolutions–Version 2017!

Christmas is over and I should be putting away my holiday lights and taking down the tree.  Instead, I spent the day making these!  It’s cathartic!  Year 2017 is just around the corner.  Happy NEW YEAR from the Pensive Sloth!  You can click here to see the lists from 2015 and 2016 if you would like.

Teacher New Year's Resolutions from the Pensive Sloth 2017 slide2 slide3 slide4 Teacher New Year's Resolutions from The Pensive Sloth 2017 slide6 slide7 slide8 slide9 slide10 slide11 slide12 slide13 slide14 slide15 slide16 slide17

Oh Yay! Back to School.

Back to School Teacher Humor from The Penisve Sloth

Yes. It’s that time. Back to school season. I honestly love the beginning of the year and getting to meet my kiddos, but I’m not quite ready to start setting the alarm every day.


In honor of Lesson Deli–my bloggy buddy group–reaching 1000 fans on Facebook, four of my best-selling resources are only $1.00 this weekend.  If you teach about insect metamorphosis, persuasive text, financial literacy and taxes, or weathering, erosion, and deposition…stock up now!

Visit TPT and use the #bestfansever hashtag to search for other great resources on sale for a buck.  Thanks for being the #bestfansever.

#bestfansever sale July 2016 Lesson Deli

Results From That Silly STAAR Test

Funny STAAR Test Meme

STAAR scores for Texas students finally came out on July 5th.  For 4th grade writing, it literally took 13 weeks.  The other tests took forever, too.  We took the tests in early May and got results in July???  Really.  For reference, it took longer to get STAAR results than it takes to get SAT scores and about the same amount of time as it takes to get bar exam results back.  That’s not the purpose of this post, though.  I thought I’d make some fun graphs to show the growth, or lack there of, from last year to this year across the state of Texas.

Funny STAAR Test Passing Rate Teacher Humor

Here are the scores students need to pass the tests.  In my book, passing is a 70 or above.  On STAAR, you only need to get in the 40s and 50s to pass.  Most of the passing rates went up by one question, except science.  Science stayed the same.  The writing test was also cut in half this year compared to last, but the percentage needed to pass still went up a wee bit.

STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

Don’t get me wrong…As teachers, when our scores come back, we’re glad that the passing rate is so low. But 48%, really? It doesn’t feel right. And we talk about it.


STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

So, now we look at whether or not students did better.  The passing rates went up slightly, so that makes it a little difficult to compare.  It would be helpful to know the average score on each test.  I couldn’t find that data.  Here’s how many Texas students passed the tests.

STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th GradeSTAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th GradeSTAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th GradeAnd here are some of my thoughts about this data…

  • Minimal growth at the elementary level between 2015 and 2016.  There were just as many downs as there were ups.  None of them very significant, but it is hard to compare considering that kids had to get one more question right to pass this year.  Plus we have a new publisher running the tests.  Lots of variables in play!  You can read the press release from TEA here.  I wish I could find averages.  I’d love to see those!
  • I’m guessing there is more test prep happening now that publishing companies have had a chance to produce materials.  Necessary, but certainly not my favorite part of the year.  For me, it seems to last from January until May.  And our low SES students get even more of it than our high SES kiddos.  Scores will probably continue to rise slowly because of this.  Plus, teachers can see the released tests now and make sure we are using the question stems.
  • I wonder why they didn’t raise the passing rate for science?  They did for all the other elementary tests. And they said they were going to raise it.  Hmm…

Want to see the data directly from TEA–

In my book, I’ll give the STAAR test a 48% and I guess that’s passing, right?

Funny STAAR Test Meme

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below.

–The Pensive Sloth