Algebra, root canals, and Satan’s squirrels

Brief synopsis of the last few months:

  • Proposed PLC
  • Met with Principal (P); was asked to look at teacher schedule (TS) to assess feasibility (F); determined it was feasible, but would require larger avg class size (CS)
  • Met with P and Dept Chair (DC); DC disliked CS hike; asked for other options
  • Met with P; generated other PLC models, took two or three more looks at TS to assess feasibility; realized it would require one or two full-time hires (FT) to meet everyone’s requirements
  • Met with P and DC; proposed Plans A, B, and C, where Plan A=JH PLC, Plan B=JH & HS combined PLC, and Plan C=status quo.
  • P and I (in this case “I” is not an acronym, rather the first person subject pronoun…am I starting to make you angry?) obviously prefer A; DC would take A, B, or C, as long as the CS isn’t affected.  With expectations clear, P took A, B, and C to the Director of Business & Finance ($).  Did I mention we’re in a hiring freeze?

Where does that leave us?  P & DC are interviewing FT.  $ is considering the F of FT re: the budget.  And Ted (I), now seeing the TS imprinted on his eyelids when he goes to sleep at night, wonders how his JHFLPLC turned into an algebra equation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that my would-be co-facilitator Kristen has done the lion’s share of the work with teacher schedules.  I tried to help early on in the process, but it turns out I was the equivalent of the young nephew that tries to help you put together a puzzle during your Thanksgiving visit, but succeeds only in scattering puzzle pieces all over the floor, or trying to wedge puzzle pieces into improbable parts of the puzzle.  All this to say, she is largely responsible for the success of the conclusions to which we have arrived in this four month process.

So, now we await the results of the hiring process, that is if they are to hire anyone at all.  In the meantime, I find myself fidgeting uncomfortably, feeling very much like I do at the dentist’s office before a costly and/or painful procedure is to take place.  And like I normally do in those occasions, I look for some light reading.  PeopleNewsweekHighlights magazine, perhaps?  I never get tired of looking at two pictures and asking myself “how is this one different from that?”.  But thanks to my own learning network here at school, I’ve come across some much more germaine reading, and some names that I’ve heard repeated often or referenced in other readings.  Therefore, I’d like to share them with you, my fellow supplicants in the waiting room:

Sparks and Loucks-Horsley, Five Models of Staff Development. Journal of Staff Development, Fall 1989 (Vol. 10, No. 4)

It turns out, I wasted 1.5 years in college taking education classes when all I really had to do was read this article.  It is comprehensive, and therefore a bit weighty.  But my Lord does it spell out the basics!

Eaker and Keating, Deeply Embedded, Fully Committed. National Staff Development Council.  December, 2009. vol. 30, no. 5.

Bob Eaker, who co-wrote the DuFour book that I’m now finishing, explores with Keating the result of White River School District’s experiences with professional learning communities.  Of particular impact to me were the sections on the changing role of the Principal and conclusion titled “What has White River learned.”  If you’re looking for bullet points on how to get a PLC started, you could do a lot worse than this last section.

Lee, From Group to Team. National Staff Development Council.  December, 2009. vol. 30, no. 5

A few months ago, when we began on this journey, my principal handed me this article.  Although we have yet to have a conversation about the article, I assume that his message to me is “It’s harder than it looks, bub.”  Judging by some of the common assumptions and misteps made by aspiring facilitators that are expressed in the article, it’s a GOOD THING that I read this one.

So, that’s that.  I’ll just keep reading until my name is called.  Oh, I forgot to mention that some squirrels came to live in my attic, chewed through my phone, internet, and alarm wiring, and tore a hole in my roof which caused water to seep into the soffit, leading to wood rot and possible chimney replacement.

2 thoughts on “Algebra, root canals, and Satan’s squirrels

  1. Ooh, demonic rodents. I myself have some small animal gnawing at night near my bedroom window. Hasn’t kept me up, but then I have a deep capacity for denial.
    Way to link algebra to your process. I knew you were a mathematician at heart. My process for developing a new course with colleagues, and creating a PLC, has followed a similarly winding path. I think we’re on Plan E at this point. Dios Mio! (with the inverted exclamation point in the front and an accent over the i’s). (Such a limited font here.) (That, or I haven’t figured out the tool.) (See? I can link Spanish and digression to my work, too.)
    Anyway, I just want to add some support here. Over the last six months I’ve concluded that change outside my classroom is going to look very different than I envision it, usually less profound, and possibly less effective, but it is what it is, and any movement could be positive. Our US PLC, for example, is labeled a “study group,” and we will be researching 21st century teaching literature and current practices. Not necessarily a support group for like-minded teachers, although we may well be like-minded and will probably support each other. Nor is it designed to provide guidance for standardizing student outcomes, as is the case for PLC’s I read in DuFour. It’s not quite what I thought, but it is a going concern and it’s what will work with the US we have now. I’m willing to trust the system at this point, and help what I can, and learn something. It’s a step in what I think is the right direction at any rate.
    And I didn’t have to plan it, which REALLY matters now. God bless those colleagues who run with the ball.

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