In the biology realm, there are two schools of thought when it comes to classification of living things: lumping and splitting. The Lumpers, as the name suggests, like to group organisms into larger clumps based on commonalities...unlike the Splitters, who want to separate everything based on minutiae. The field of taxonomy (classification) is a constant tug-of-war between these schools of thought.
I was thinking about this analogy the other day after having a conversation with an elementary school principal. He was talking about having to go to a workshop on Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in science...and then a couple of weeks later, attending a workshop on Professional Learning Communities in reading. Guess what? It was the same stuff. Why did he need to go to two workshops? And why should he encourage different PLCs for each subject area in his building (when there are only 3 or 4 teachers per grade level as it is)? This was a man in search of some good lumping for his teachers...and I can't say that I blame him.
I'm speaking to other professional development specialists, department of ed reps, administrators, instructional coaches, and everyone else who is outside of the classroom "supporting" those who are inside (yes, I am pointing the finger at myself, too): What are we doing to schools by being Splitters? By assuming that instruction for each subject is so highly specialized that we must provide support for it separately? I admit that content knowledge greatly differs---but good instruction is good instruction. Collaboration tools for teachers are collaboration tools for teachers. It's time to get over the idea that we have some special sauce to apply for a subject area. It's way past time to walk the talk and show schools how integrated we are with our work.
I said some goodbyes this week---farewells to those in science education who are going to continue down that path while I move in a more general direction. I wish them well. I admire and understand their passions and commitments to science ed. I know that they intend good things for kids. I think that I have just reached a point in my thinking where I am struggling to see the point in being a Splitter anymore. I don't see that I can do schools any good by being one of many competing voices for attention---instead, I can provide a more unifying message by modeling integration of these things. It's time to lump.