Thursday, March 30, 2006


Imagine being in water fifteen feet deep, your arms are getting tired, and your feet can no longer help you maintain buoyancy. You begin to panic; your heart races; you desperately grasp for air. Nothing must be more frightening than those first moments a person realizes they are drowning. Those moments just before panic sets in. Those moments when you begin to question all the decisions that brought you to this place in time. Panicked you grasp for someone, something, anything to hold you above water, if you could just have one more second of footing, something solid to sustain you. Just then a Good Samaritan shows up to attempt to help, desperately you lunge you grab, you pull, you will do anything to get out of your current situation. The Samaritan has to make a choice back off and wait for a trained lifeguard, or attempt rescue and risk becoming a second victim.

While training for lifeguard certification my senior year in HS I admittedly do not remember much (except for maybe the school issued Speedos the entire gym class was mandated to wear). One thing I do remember though is “drowning people panic.” Panicking people do not think. They do not recognize help. Rescuing a flailing victim is almost impossible.

Being in a school that does not seem to embrace the same educational philosophy as you do must be similar to drowning, First you are swimming thinking you can ride out the progressive thought in the school, then you realize you are slowly being left behind. You grow tired. Occasionally you lash out (outwardly criticize colleague for “buying into” the philosophy or as some say, "drinking the Kool Aid"or playing around at "Camp Quest") , you begin to grab and grasp at things you thought were solid non-negotiable educational standards (tracking, the “teacher vs. student mentality, departments, mixed cohort classes, homogeneous ability level classes for certain subjects). Others will attempt to throw out lines (Professional Development, Critical Friends Groups, and open Small Learning Community discussions) however you fight them off. You acuse “them”(people who seem to be swimming) of not understanding you. You claim your needs outweigh anything “they” have to offer. You reach and grab for something. If I could just get this one tracked class, if I could just have that one class without so many students that need my help. I was a good teacher. You start to think, “These people are just doing this wrong. This progressive crap will eventually pass. Come on guys lets face it we are really just a department. Eventually this community stuff will just pass. Soon we will be just like every other school. Just wait until they see my regents grades.”

Victims must realize when they are drowning and stop flailing their arms and let Samaritans help . Swimmers must listen for those who are already panicking, and spouting negativity and avoid being pulled down by their desperate grasping. Above all else we must remember these are our colleagues both swimmer and non-swimmer. The panicking victims and the trained lifeguards are both trying. We are all in the same small school, we all have so much more to learn.


Ms. Mayo said...


Love the Speedos...

It is weird to be picked on for buying into a philosophy that we all supposedly bought into. Comments like "you drank the Kool Aid" or "Camp QHST" attempt to ridicule people for trying to maintain the vision of the school that they supposedly "bought into" from day one.

It's funny. I have always been a maverick progressive in traditional schools. Sometimes, in a progressive school, I feel more traditional tendencies. I know some of that comes from being a parent of "successful" students. So much of what happens in schools is a mirror of society-- class plays a major role in all of this. I guess, like everything else, there needs to be a balance.

What I like about our relationship, Brown, is that we respectfully have the conversation. In other words, we don't knock each other, we listen to different perspectives and try to think things through together. The factions that seem to be developing are unhealthy. Yes, the concerns need to be surfaced rather than swept under the rug. However, there is a right way to surface concerns and a right way to say the difficult things without it getting ugly. That's something we all need to work on.
Talking less, listening more.


Anonymous said...

You make some interesting points here.

As a person involved in the sport of weightlifting/bodybuilding for more than half of my life, I often find myself making comparisons to other areas of life to weightlifting.

At first, when a person steps into the gym, their performance on exercises is awkward. The weight that they can handle is limited, and often pales in comparison to other lifters. However, if they stick with it, they will get stronger, and they will become more proficient in the exercises.

Having observed your school in the past, and having participated in some PD sessions with you and your colleagues, I've admittedly sat there thinking to myself "could I do this?" I also thought this the first time I put 200 pounds, then 300 or 400 on the squat bar. I also thought this the first time I tried to play Paganini's Caprice no. 24 on the guitar. My point is that you have to go outside the comfort zone to grow.

I'm not accusing anyone of not working hard. However, I know what it is to try something new, and be frustrated when it doesn't work. All I can say, is if you truly want something, whether it's a 400 pound bench press, to play Van Halen's "Eruption," or adopt a new means of teaching, stick with it through the rough patches.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly buying into the educational philosophy is the key phrase here. We have a nice brand new facility that does not have a "bad" reputation, in other words bad kids who give teachers trouble, located in a "nice area" with a parking lot, and now everyone wants in. It is easy to pass an interview...just use the catch phases of the day, read the material sent to you, make like you know what you are talking about and you are in. To put theory into practice is so much more difficult than to just ramble on and on about it. So what is to be done about it? I, for one, want to belong to Camp QHST and want it to continue to be a place that offers a progressive education striving to meet the needs of all students. And so, when we are working together it is important for us to constantly remind ourselves and others of the vision and goal of our school. It is essential that we are careful as to how we handle those who are losing the vision...they become cranky and lose their way. We must lead them back with a guiding hand so light they hardly feel the push. To force down ideals and goals that are difficult to fulfill and require true change will only cause someone to choke and continue to turn the other way. We must be persistant and constant, firm yet gentle. Those that have the potential to move forward and back in the right direction will do so but we must also accept that not everyone will find the way back.