21 June 2007

Old Yeller

You know that scene at the end of Old Yeller? The one where the kid has to go outside and put down the pet he's nurtured and bonded with? Part of today reminded me of that as I watched the elementary math and science cadre bite the dust at a meeting today, because its greatest champion was the one who had to pull the plug.

Our elementary administrators are very much focused on promoting and developing writing skills, even though science scores lag far behind. At the district level, things don't vary much. The supe, understanding that there will be enough externally motivated change next year, has put the kibosh on any deviation from this course. Each of the Boss Ladies we've had in our department was also unwilling to take a stand for kids in the areas of elementary math and science. It was a bloody battle last year just to get a nod for a go-ahead on the cadre for this year. If you've been hanging out with me on this blog, you know that there was a very positive response from teachers this year and it made for some powerful professional learning.

Today, as we Curriculum Specialists sat down with Boss Lady 2.0 in order to begin to calendar events for next year, three dates for cadre meetings were in place. The elementary math specialist was fervent about keeping them on there...but I could tell the jig was up. Without any administrative backup, there was no way to win. Everyone there had to engage in some give and take. There are so many ways in which we would like to support teachers, but the reality is that it can't all be done. My math counterpart was strong enough to get everyone else to admit that they didn't consider the cadre to be a district commitment or initiative...and then she had to get up and remove all of the requests from the calendar. Ouch.

I have some mixed feelings about all of this. I hate to see a good thing be put down, but I am already overwhelmed with commitments for next year. I feel like I can breathe again now that those dates are off of the radar...and my guess is that there are teachers out there who will, too. It's possible that some of the cadre might make a return. The state has set aside some monies for professional development in math and science for teachers of grades 4 - 12. (There go my weekends next year.) In the meantime, I hate having to watch the elementary math specialist suffer the death of a particular dream. RIP, Old Yeller Cadre.

1 comment:

Hugh O'Donnell said...

There are many directions to go in professional development, but the most hard to bear is the backwards direction, especially if you've worked your a** of and it's been well received.

In 2003, our district was at the tail end of the effects (a whiplash, really) of a statewide recession that had a devastating effect on education finance. Not only did professional development disappear entirely from the map, but both my wife and I (and every other employee as well) lost a total of 17 days of work apiece so the district could remain solvent. The district was featured in a nationally syndicated comic strip -- not as a role model.

With the recent economic recovery, we've made a lot of gains in our state, but it still hurts to hear about losses elsewhere.