Monday, May 14, 2012

A Little Disappointing

I was a little bit disappointed today. It was our culminating event for PLP, and I wasn't there. The thing is - I could have been there to share all the amazing work my Whole Teacher / Whole Child team did making connections. But I wasn't. And that's what has me so disappointed.

Let's go back a few weeks, shall we? In looking ahead to my May calendar I realized that our fourth grade Field Day was scheduled for the same day as our PLP culminating event. Field Day is a unique day for our students to put into practice all of the Phys Ed skills they have been learning throughout the year. Picture a high school track. Scatter 300 fourth graders and many parent volunteers around the track and surrounding fields. Now make some announcements calling students to their various events like the 400, potato sack races, hurdles, the basketball shoot, the 4x100 relay and long jump (this is just a few - I think there are over 20 different events running throughout the day for both boys and girls). Now, imagine those 300 students basically getting themselves to every single event without help from their teachers. It truly is an amazing sight - the kids love it, and I love being there to help out. I also recognize that my students who struggle is less-structured environments need support on Field Day, and having a substitute there was not going to cut it. With a heavy heart I knew that my PLP event was not in the cards - I had to be at Field Day with my kids so they could have the best day possible.

The decision was made, and I really didn't give it two thoughts. Until yesterday around 2 PM.

The weather, while beautiful on Mother's Day, was forecasted to be a downpouring nightmare today. The weather on Wednesday, our raindate, is forecasted to be BEAUTIFUL - 80 degrees F and sunny skies. So without further ado the PE teachers postponed Field Day to Wednesday. "Perfect!" I thought to myself. "I can still go to the PLP culminating event!" I quickly sent off an email to the appropriate people to see if I could re-request my substitute and started preparing sub plans for today.

And I waited. And I waited some more.

I sent another email including more people to see if I could go.

I pondered whether or not I should just request the sub and go anyway.

I waited. And pondered. And waited. And went to bed.

The response I was waiting for came around 8:15 this morning, and it basically said that we had made the decision to go to Field Day rather than the culminating event, and that decision was final. Done.

I was disappointed. My teammate who was supposed to represent our team was called for jury duty could not be there to share and get feedback on our project. We knew well in advance that the day was postponed so subs easily could have been secured, and we could have attended and represented not only our year 2 team but also our school and our district. Instead the decision was made, and it was final.

This is not the first time in the recent weeks that I have seen such inflexibility in education. It comes from all levels, it comes from many different people, and it always involves, "No."

"The decision is final."
"You can't do that."
"That will never work."
"What were you thinking?"
"I'm not doing anything different."
"Why do we have to change? It works just fine."
"Is this really THAT bad for the kids?"
"We just need to give it some more time."

When are we going to see that this type of inflexibility and unwillingness to try different things is what is killing education? We have got to be willing to try new things when the kids' best interests are at hand. We have to be willing to change our minds when teachers have the opportunity to learn. We have to be more willing to say, "Yes!" or, "Sure, let's give it a try and see what happens!" instead of always assuming that new ideas will never work.

The problem with education is not the tests. Or the lack of funding. (Okay, they're big problems, but I'm trying to make a point here!) People in education who are unwilling to look at things from a different perspective and handle every situation in exactly the same way are a huge part of the reason why public education can't keep up. With a, "No," or a, "That can't be done," we are certainly going to leave every child and every teacher far, far behind.

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