21 March 2007

Free For All

It's about every kid, every day.

How many in the education system are working under a different philosophy? How many teachers out there are laboring under "What's easiest for me?" The number of legislators thinking about "How many voters like me?" Can we quantify the amount of administrators who pick their battles on things other than student learning happening in their buildings? How many times will the Union step in to say that as long as teachers are happy, it doesn't matter what kids learn?

Maybe the problem is with me...maybe my philosophy about being in education is all wrong. Perhaps what happens in the classroom is not supposed to be about kids at all.

I was thinking today about a grade level group of teachers at one school who are having a bit of a tantrum about the new science kits this year. In their defense, I will say that they are teaching at the grade level which has experienced the most significant change to its curriculum and that the kits represent some heavy duty learning. Not so much in their defense, I will say that this is the school where their literacy coach had chest pains after trying to deal with their tantrums and was taken away in an ambulance. The staff there has quite the reputation. To wit, there is talk of involuntary transfers out of that building to shake things up...and the Union has already told staff there that they're not going to prevent it. The staff doesn't see themselves as bad apples---and there are some teachers there who are a delight to work with. But the ones who wrote me today? Not so much.

They have another curriculum they want to teach instead. So, here's where I am sitting...
  • The alternate they propose does not consist of district approved materials. It's not bad science, but does not necessarily address the same standards as the kit they're boycotting.
  • It's not my job to monitor what is or isn't used in the classroom: that task belongs to the principal.
  • The principal at this school is a lame duck. Not only is she being moved to another building at the end of the year (as are several other admins), but her staff as a whole does not respect her.
  • The Union keeps having a fit over the concept of academic freedom for classrooms...never mind that the case law doesn't back them up.
  • The WAC (state code) states that teachers must teach the curriculum which is selected for them.
  • Boss Lady 2.0 is certain not to back me up on anything I say to these teachers.
  • The legislature seems to be rather fickle about what it wants in the science standards, as well as their assessment.
  • None of the above have a student-centered philosophy.
In my own mind, finding a way to get the teachers to teach the kit is a battle worth fighting. As long as kids are (currently) going to be held accountable for the information in these kits...as long as their ability to graduate is based upon their proficiency with the standards...then they need to have a curriculum that supports their learning. Whether or not I can convince the other parties involved in this free-for-all is another matter.


Mike in Texas said...

I work in a school where we are considered "the bad apples" of the district?

Why? We have opposed idiotic plans put forth from various administrators. We have spoken out about ineffective curriculums being forced down our throats. Never mind that we were right. We "ran off" a principal, one who had a grand total of one and half years teaching experience and was all of 26 years old.

I urge you to listen to these teachers' concerns. Perhaps they view what you are trying to do as just another curriculum that will quickly be discarded in a year, whether from your admistration or your legislature. Who knows? Maybe some of them may not just be bellyaching and really do know what they are talking about.

The Science Goddess said...

There may very well be some valid concerns buried in there, but none of them are ever about kids. The teachers in these schools don't even talk to each other among grade levels---every grade is an island unto itself. They also complain about every possible thing. By now it appears as so much "crying wolf" over things. When a union as strong as the one here recognizes that some of its members are inhibiting student learning and professional growth of colleagues (and supports splitting up the staff and dispersing them to different schools), something is definitely wrong.

We had another negative school until two years ago. A few changes on staff---including the principal---has made a significant difference. It is a happy environment for both teachers and students and a real pleasure to visit.

As long as teachers are advocating for their students, they're not bad apples. It's the toddler-like temper tantrums of "I don't wanna" that give that reputation.