30 September 2006

Trying Times

"It's merely a continuous and mostly vain attempt to keep several groups of people with opposing needs and agendas happy, and knowing in your heart of hearts that you cannot, and being lambasted for your hard work in the bargain."
---Jasper Fforde

One of my Curriculum homies sent me the above quote. In her mind (and now mine), it is the perfect way to sum up what it is like to work there. From a classroom teacher's perspective, "The District," including Curriculum, is often viewed as meddlesome. I should know. Up until this year, I was in the classroom---and for 15 years, I often had a similar mindset. However, I have been walking in other shoes part-time (and now full-time), which results in a more broadened opinion of things.

We had our first district-wide content area meetings on Thursday. You might remember me talking about the Pretty High School and their not so pretty attitude. The final outcome in terms of the meetings? Not a single teacher showed up to talk about science. Only one had e-mailed to say he might not attend. Whatever respect the other schools had for them---which wasn't much considering how they've ingratiated themselves in the past---is gone. People were angry. And me? I'm caught in the middle. I have the responsibility to run the meeting, but no authority to have people attend. The one who had the authority (their principal) felt it was easier not to have to tell his staff he made a mistake about things and blamed us instead. Once again, The District has to be the scapegoat so teachers have an excuse to be selfish.

Other content area meetings were similarly sabotaged. One showed up for Language Arts. Three showed up for Math and acted unprofessionally. Social Studies apparently had a decent turnout. We all looked like the walking dead when we returned to the office, ready to curl up in balls under our desks.

These district meeting days were set aside by principals---not us. I was at the meeting last year. I saw each and every one of them vote with a "thumbs up" to doing this. But now, all of this is moot---because late on Wednesday, The Union made them negotiate away those times. The reason? Because Special Ed teachers can't attend the content area meetings due to having to go to their own meeting. Never mind that I have never seen a SPED teacher at a science meeting in my 16 years in the district. I smell a rat in all of this. It smells a lot like the Not-So-Pretty High School. Meanwhile, my junior teachers---who were excited about finally getting time to meet---are pissed off.

So, what do we have? Two high schools mad that the other doesn't make any effort. All junior highs mad that they no longer have the opportunity to collaborate. Boss Lady 2.0 has the same look on her face at this point in the year that her predecessor had by late spring (not a good sign). And me, caught in the middle of all of the agendas. Everytime I think "Why bother?" to myself, I only have one answer: it's about kids...every kid every day. And until every teacher is ready to set aside his or her selfish agenda, until every administrator is ready to to be accountable for their own decisions and staff, until all of us at The Head Shed get out into classrooms as often as possible---then students will continue to lose out. Can't we all just get along?

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