16 November 2007

Blaming the Dog

A friend of mine has a saying about the school I work at: "They think their shit don't stink...but their farts give them away." True enough, unfortunately---but it's only outsiders who seem to smell anything. Most people at the school think the odor must be coming from elsewhere---they like to blame the dog.

As we ranged through a long list of standards for school performance, evaluating whether or not these were things we do or need improvement, it was amazing to listen to the excuses. For example, they recognized that they don't collaborate "to discuss and share student work and the results of student assessments for the purposes of revising the curriculum and improving instructional strategies." Why don't they do it? Because the district doesn't give them any time.

Um...this is the same school who brags about how they don't use the 90 minutes of time set aside every week for collaborative planning. How can you complain about not having any time and then feel proud that you never meet? They also mentioned that they don't have anyone with data team training. Gosh, I've had that and know how to do it. When would you like to start? Um...we weren't really serious about wanting to do that.

For every item that was identified as needing improvement, there was an excuse for why it couldn't improve. Not once was there any suggestion of personal responsibility---or ideas about how to put a plan into action to solve the problem. I never heard anyone take a student-centered stance and inquire what we should do to help kids. By the end of the meeting, a large cloud of noxious gas was hanging above their heads, but very few teachers seemed to notice anything. I guess you just get used to the smell after awhile.


Mr. McNamar said...

Science Goddess,
I do miss being in that prestigious sub-category of "Washington" bloggers. I understand where you are coming from. This school I am at now has many, many issues to fix. The difference is that we know we need to fix it, we just can't seem to do things the right way. And when I try to offer my experiences with similar initiatives, I have to endure the condescending looks that remind me "you're new, here. You don't know our school yet."

The Science Goddess said...

It's really hard to roll into a new school "culture." People assume you don't have anything to contribute because you haven't worked there before. Shouldn't we all be looking for some outside ideas to rejuvenate our work with kids? Inbreeding doesn't really get us anywhere.

Clix said...

Sure it does! I mean, c'mon, who doesn't want enormous sticky-outy ears???


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Do I detect a note of dissatisfaction here? ;)

I'm glad you vented. I'd hate to think of you taking all of that out on a case of good beer!

And we're back to the same old methane producer...lack of leadership at the building level and beyond.

You'd love it at one of our high schools. Not perfect, but nothing like what you're describing.

Hugh aka Repairman

The Science Goddess said...

I am quite sure that there are healthy school environments out there. The one here used to be one, believe it or not. But even now, some of the interns are being told by their prep program that would be happier finding work outside this dysfunctional district. I guess I'm not the only one who smells something! :)

Michaele Sommerville said...

Oh my goodness, or the opposite... work at a school district that has more meetings and committees (and sub committees for the committees) that meet after school for hours each week (and that's in addition to your After-School teaching time, personal time for doctor's appointments, college classes, ummm.... time with your own FAMILY....) all proudly proclaiming that all of these meetings are in the best interests of students. Most teachers at my last school were proud to martyr themselves in meeting after meeting "for their students" while almost all of them suffered marital and family problems that only escalated as the year went on. At least they APPEARED to be working hard for students, and that's what many teachers were proud of. (Many of the meetings focused on the school's application for consideration as a Blue Ribbon School.)

Sigh. Made me wish we could be caring AND efficient. Not to mention, honest. It was a pain explaining to my colleagues, "sorry, but my own childrens' plays, concerts, science fair projects, and homework time are just as important as everyone else's. I'm not staying for three hours after school today."

The Science Goddess said...

The pendulum can definitely swing too far the other way. I've had my share of death by meeting.

I think your point about efficiency is well taken. Meeting for the sake of meeting (or appearance) does nothing but waste precious time.