14 May 2005

Alphabet Soup

Oh, how education loves its buzzwords and acronyms. Here in Washington, we have EALRs, GLEs, and the WASL all courtesy of OSPI. My district is into PTL (Powerful Teaching and Learning...not a holdover from Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker) and the STAR protocol (for classroom observations). We have CCL groups (collaborative coaching and learning) at many buildings. The list is, unfortunately, endless. Add to that all of the "new" terms such as capacity, readiness, and transformational leadership and working in education really does start to resemble a hearty swim in a bowl of alphabet soup.

My role as district Science Goddess makes it necessary for me to know all these terms and say them with a smile on my face. When I am working with other teachers, I often feel that I am a translator. We look at documents from the state or district and I work as an interpreter so that we can find some meaning together.

The biology teachers at my school, along with the science department chair, have recently been working on some curriculum alignment. We have spent 3 hours each of the last two Wednesdays to talk about making the standards a meaningful part of our work with students. Of the five of us doing this work, only two will be part of getting the work implemented. Our department chair teaches chemistry, another teacher is going to teach in Beijing for two years, and I will only have 1 class. The two who are going to have to "walk the walk" are still in the early years of their career. One is a third year teacher. The other has a bit more experience, but has only taught biology for four years.

A-ha! Now is the perfect time for transformational leadership.

As I understand it, transformational leadership is when someone with a bit more depth of knowledge and experience supports someone else to step up to a role so that the "mentor" can move on to something else. I've been wondering how this might work at my school. And on Thursday, I got my answer. One of the two biology teachers who is staying on sent the most amazing e-mail regarding our Wednesday meeting. He praised our work from Wednesday, outlined what he thought would be our best next steps, and assigned us some tasks to follow up on. He even set the next meeting date and time. How cool is that?

Okay, so maybe believing this is a cool thing makes me a nerd. But here is someone who is willing to step up and help other teachers (and we will likely have 3 new bio teachers in my building next year) work with the curriculum and promote student achievement. The real message is that out of all the alphabet soup, here is someone who is willing to make it into something palatable for kids.

For kids.

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