20 January 2007

Tyranny of the Urgent

The other day, a colleague and I were having a beer and trying to solve the problems of the education world. I don't know that we really got much sorted out, but he did have one good point for me: don't give up on the high schools. He was referencing science departments in particular, and he was very right. This year, I have given up on their faculty. Part of the reason (though not a good one) is simply that when schools don't even list anyone curriculum as a resource or as part of their professional development on their required school improvement plans, then there isn't much of an "in."

Most of the reason I have put high schools on the back burner this year is simply that I'm a slave to the "tyranny of the urgent," as the supe likes to say. Right now, the elementaries have good reasons for their attention seeking behaviors. They have brand new curriculum, science scores are in the toilet, and the kit center has been a bear to get up and running. This week alone, I taught five different fifth grade classes...and more are scheduled in the coming weeks.

Teachers at all grade levels are overwhelmed with responsibilities. These vary, of course. Third grade teachers don't have to sweat the details of the culminating project for seniors, but teachers with juniors and seniors don't have the WASL on their backs. I understand the temptation to just shut the classroom door and hope that keeps all the noise out. The Urgent does tend to howl at the door.

I don't know that I'm going to make the effort to change course this year. Tyranny will continue to reign supreme as we work through the details of closing schools, redrawing boundaries, and reassigning elementary teachers. Their cries will only get louder...and those quiet ones (the ones you usually have to keep your good eye on in the classroom)---the high schools---are going to slide underneath my radar for awhile longer. I hope not forever. I hope that I can mount some sort of insurgency of my own and get out from underneath the tyranny of the urgent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My hall principal once said that our jobs force us to practice triage with the tasks that we are required to accomplish -- to consciously choose which required tasks simply will not be done because of a lack of time. I like your phrase 'The Tyranny of the Urgent' to describe this.