If you're new to the term "Jumping the Shark," it is defined by JumptheShark.com as "...a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on...it's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it 'Jumping the Shark.' From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same." Why the weird term? For you youngsters out there, "The aforementioned expression refers to the telltale sign of the demise of Happy Days, our favorite example, when Fonzie actually 'jumped the shark.' The rest is history."
There are several ways a program can show that demonstrate that it has run its course, many of which happen after the public is fatigued of hearing/reading/talking about the show---overexposure making the producers think they need something "fresh."
I got to wondering about whether or not this happens in education after reading Polski3's post about PLCs. If you haven't heard of PLCs, the acronym (we do luvs us some acronyms in education) stands for Professional Learning Communities. According to SEDL, PLCs are groups of "teachers in a school and its administrators continuously seek and share learning and then act on what they learn. The goal of their actions is to enhance their effectiveness as professionals so that students benefit." (As an aside, anyone who can find a single place on the SEDL website where they explain what their acronym stands for should get a big shiny gold star. It's apparently a State secret or something.)
There's nothing wrong with the PLC concept---in fact, there's a whole lotta right with it. Teachers talking about student learning and instruction? Downright awesome. But it is perilously close to jumping the shark when mass implementation occurs without the necessary structures in place. It becomes another one of those things that schools say they do, but---to borrow another perilously poised on waterskis term---don't "implement with fidelity." (RtI, anyone?) We toss out the idea of PLCs to teachers without working through issues of time for meetings, protocols for discussions, and coaching on which changes to instruction will move more kids forward. We assume that every teacher already has the skills and desire to make PLCs work. Worse yet, we think that PLCs will be a one-size-fits-all mode of staff development that will best serve all teachers. We do this because there is some good research coming out about the effectiveness of PLCs. Admins and teacher leaders go to conferences and drink the kool-aid. Some teams of teachers will thrive, others will implode due to personality conflicts, lack of administrative support, or other reasons.
It doesn't take a long time to find the grizzled veterans in a school---the ones who don't buy into anything new presented to them because they either believe "This, too, shall pass." as have hundreds of other initiatives over the years or because "Everything old is new again.": they've seen and done it before, only with a differently named package. Either way, they can smell a shark a mile away. Are there ways to prevent this? Education doesn't have a very good track record of starting something and then leaving it in place long enough to really determine if its working. With PLCs, you're talking about a significant change in the way many schools do business. Are we going to take care with how we do this...or are we just going to let it go and wait until the next feeding frenzy?