08 December 2005

One Step Forward, Two Giant Leaps Backward

I had a meeting yesterday. Sort of. You see, I'd been asked to hold this meeting. I arranged for subs to cover the teachers and spent several hours planning for it. Other staff at central office stayed late to gather data for me, made accommodations in terms of timing, and provided other help.

And when I arrived on Tuesday morning, the entire thing had been hijacked.

The teachers were the biology crew from my school. This was not the first meeting this year and there have been a few growing pains in the meantime. It's not simple to automatically move to a standards-based curriculum, but at least we'd had a start.

My department chair had been asked to be there by the other teachers. I had some reservations about this as I know that our priorities are different. He wants teachers to be happy. This is not a bad goal---I like it. But I also want students to learn what they need to, not just teachers teach what they want to. So, he had the teachers for ~90 minutes before I got there after my class.

So much good work was undone. Now they were back to planning out of the textbook, going chapter by chapter. What do we want to teach here? I tried to get things back on track, but the five of them were unwilling to budge. Why should they? They had what they wanted: permission to just keep doing what they'd always been doing.

Another colleague arrived a little over an hour later. He is of a similar mind to me in terms of what our jobs are as teachers. He, too, tried to get the group out of the textbook and back to the standards. But it was no good.

The day was a complete waste: of sub time and my time. Not a single thing happened that will make an impact on what happens in the classroom.

I'm not sure what the future will hold for this group. I can't supply them with subs anymore if this is the direction they want to take. And I certainly want nothing to do with another meeting with the department chair present. I know that the teachers want more time to "plan," but until they're ready to focus on instruction and kids, there's no point in me being there.

The really depressing thing is that this was one group that was at least open to looking at the curriculum from a kid's perspective---but they've given up because it's more comfy to do what they want. There are six other secondary science staffs that I will have to "move" to standards-based...hopefully with better results.


graycie said...

When we went to standards-based several years ago, we used a method we called 'unpacking' the standard. This may be adapted to bring in your reluctant teachers.

We looked at each standard one at a time and listed what the essential knowledge and skills were for each. The we looked for materials and activities that supported the knowledge and skills. This allows the text to be used as a sort 'spine,' but requires looking beyond that to outside material and especially kid-centered activities.

You may have tried this already, but if not, it is a way for the entrenched teachers to still feel 'safe' with the material while opening up the 'arsenal' quite a lot.

The Science Goddess said...

This is a great suggestion. I had prepared something similar to this to use with teachers on Wednesday.

If my meeting isn't taken away from me next time, I hope to teach them how to "unpack a standard."

Thank you!

Christine said...

I've been reading this for awhile. I finally have something to add.

I've been through this process - it started during my first year of teaching. I was lucky, because I was often clueless and using what the curriculum specialist came up with certainly made my life easier. Her job was to have us "unpack" the standards - for one subject only, certainly a job with a smaller scope than yours.

I became friends with the specialist and saw what she went through. I was happy to have her in my classroom because I always learned something new (that is still true 6 years down the road), but most of the teachers were not.

It did become clear that this was the direction the district was moving and you could either get on board or get off. Many teachers left. I know it won't be easy, especially when people in positions of authority are resistant, but in the end, it was worth it.