Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Path of Least Resistance

I know change is ultimately good. It is what keeps us alive. Without change there would be no growth. There would be no progress.

When I was younger I used to have these ideals in my head. I thought that world hunger could be solved. I thought if you worked hard everything was going to be ok. I believed in a divine presence in my life. I thought everyone was truly equal. I watched the Berlin Wall fall and thought “wow world peace is right around the corner”. I watched the NY Mets win the World Series and thought “life is just amazin’”.

But then life got hard. At age 30 I just got tired. I started to give up on some of my ideals because it was easier than dealing with them. It became easier in my head to coup with life just believing that there just isn’t enough food for everyone. I rationalized that just because you work hard, luck has much more to do with success. Watching BBC News clips of displaced war-torn families pushed me to question my faith. I came to believe that world peace isn’t always in the US’s best interest. After 20 years of ringless teams I also came to realize that the Mets are not that amazin’.

When I came to QHST I entered a real culture that was full of idealism. School administrators encouraged teachers to be involved in school-wide decisions. Here there were classrooms of learners of different abilities all making progress. Here there was an encouragement of a reflective practice. Here students were placed in small dedicated learning communities. There were never going to be tracked classes. There were mixed grade advisories. The concept paper was understood by each incoming teacher and referred to regularly at SLC meetings.

But life is hard. At age 6 our school is getting tired. Are we giving up on the ideals too? Are teacher voices still being heard during decision making meetings? Mixed ability classes? It is easier to differentiate instruction when all the kids are learning at the same standardized test score level. CFGs? It is easier to meet for a couple of minutes at a faculty meeting rather than critically working during one. Cross Communities Classes? I assume its easier to program cross community classes. Single grade advisories? Communication between content area teachers and advisors would be easier, but would communication skills between teachers be any better? Tracked classes? It might be easier if all the level 4s were in the same class. Are the common areas too much freedom for students? Is it just easier to lock bathrooms on alternating floors for students? Would bells and hall sweeps just make the halls a hell of a lot more like school should be?

I hated turning 30 and losing some of my youth and idealism. Please don’t let QHST lose its youth at 6.


Superfly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Superfly said...

Uuummm.... I love you and QHST. Y'all just need a little boost; drink a redbull, or one of those six-hour energy shot things. Don't forget what an amazing space you helped create. Sometimes, people need a little reminding, a little nudge in the right direction; the fact that you can write this and, in a sense, take stock of where you are and where you've been in such a fashion means that you can see that direction. Don't go to sleep just yet.

Anonymous said...

Isn't possible to combine some of the things you see as growing old with the things we have established and still be vital? Why does it always have to be one way or the other at QHST?

Anonymous said...

Funny you should write this, lately this has been a topic on my mind as well. I feel this way simply because I realized the other day that we have come to a point where we are stealing or hiding copy paper from our colleagues. Seems like a small act of selfishness but the underlying idea is huge. We have become like most NYC public high schools....every man for himself. This means no unity in community.

I think people are "tired" of poor planning and re-creating the wheel every year. It is burdensome. What is the point of small learning communities if we have to ration out copy paper? What is the point of SLC's if we can't service our students and or "know them" well enough to schedule a class for them that might foster their interests? What is the point of SLC's if you only meet and communicate with your grade cohort? Grade cohorts have become the SLC not the three communities!

I wish it was easy as drinking a red bull, but we need to re-focus, adapt, differentiate if you will just like one of our lessons. The experiment at QHST has changed and we need to change with it, keep our ideals, and philosophies as best as we can but make sure that it is helping our students not hurting them.

We were never supposed to have this many students, this large of a budget cut, three split schedules, equipment that has become "tired" broken and unfixable etc. Now we need to adapt. The other two schools that opened up with us dropped the entire SLC, DEAR, ADV idea within two years after opening? I am wondering why? Did they simply change with the times? Did their schools become "tired" as well?

This is a year of big change, QHST getting "tired" might just be a positive thing. Let's look at works, what doesn't and meet somewhere in between. We have many and I mean many positive things happening here, lets focus on that and work with it. A union meeting sure would be nice!!!!!

deirdre said...

So what is this really all about Brown?

As far as I know we are not tracking classes, do not have nor are we offering honor or AP classes or offer cross community classes, decisions have not been made so far without community input. As for grade level advisories montessori has not voted to go that way and the vision behind grade level teams has to do with grade level advisories and this was a big belief back from Captain Brenda Butler's days.
So has QHST stopped growing or are we simply reassessing? We do not do everything well. Why make this the year of differentiated instruction if we are going towards tracked classes.
Perhaps those of us who think we have stopped growing and losing ideals or the standards by which we teach should invigorate us.

Life is amazing but one has to appreciate what they have and the strides they make whether large (like ending world hunger) or small(like having a student who has accomplished very little in class finally ask questions and be excited about what she is doing just because I changed how I delivered my lesson).

And if you are tired at 30, so tired that you gave up on your own beliefs and ideals, what the hell will you be like at 40 or 50??? You might as well be dead.

Anonymous said...

Am I living under a rock? Who is hiding paper from colleagues? I am not sure what this "path of least resistance" is all about. Are there not constructive ways to deal with the issues you think are a threat to the school's vision?

Anonymous said...

Complain, complain, complain! While I appreciate healthy discussion, I can't stand bellyaching about small stuff that teachers in traditional, top-down, bureacratic schools endure all the time. The are little axioms like keeping "an attitude of gratitude", "keep it simple, stupid", and "getting off the pity pot" that some of us should recall from time to time.

Superfly said...

Just a little note to the anonymous poster complaining about what he/she is reading as complaints: this type of discourse is how we keep our school from becoming one of those "traditional, top-down, bureaucratic schools," of which you don't sound terribly fond. I think it would be a more effective use of time to think of ways that would prevent QHST from going in that direction if you don't think that this is meaningful discourse.

Anonymous said...


It isn't going in that direction, and that's the point.

Some of us need to realize the difference between our own personal issues that we need to work out on our own and those that are real and effect all of us.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any of these points are personal. These are legitimate concerns that anyone who has been here for a while are noticing. There is nothing wrong with observing what is working and what isn't working it is called being transparent, one of our practices here, I believe far from bellyaching. Being transparent helps us become better teachers/administartors and I would like to go as far to say better humans.

Here is the next question.....NOW WHAT? We are seeing some problems and areas we need to work on, how do we solve them?

I do think it is funny that the anonymous person is complaining about people complaining! I though that was kind of funny. Also good SAT word.. axiom!


Anonymous said...

It's all about the journey. QHST is not perfect, but there is experience in the classrooms, conversation among the educators, and an enduring committment to being different by design.

Education exists in the place between reinventing the wheel each year and developing a deeper understanding of how to use the wheel, why we needed it in the first place, where it can take us now and the possiblity of better alternatives.

If we are to be models of life long learning, we must continuously review, revise and re-envision the what, how and why of teaching and learning. The willingnes to accept the fluidity of the educational process, rather than demand concrete permanent resolutions is what makes the QHST teams great. After six successful years, to admit that it is exhausting and imperfect, while still being willing to do more and do better, is a testament to the school we built and the capacity that remains.

One last note, as I recall, there have been incidences of paper hording in the past. As a matter of fact, check the bottom draw in the 307 suite, there may be some still hidden.


Anonymous said...

Its always interesting to read this blog. I work for a very large, traditional, old fashioned high school in another city that is one of the top public schools in the nation.

We jave schools organized the old fashioned way- by department. We have numerous electives- too many to mention. We have tracked classes, and both an amazing gifted track and vocational track where students graduate HIGH SCHOOL with an associates in nursing, electrical studies, mechanics- never go to college, and make much more than the starting salary teacher.

Your idea for a high school always sound interesting- progressive, 'new', etc.

Is it the only way?

LiLintangiable said...

Like Superfly, I ♥ QHST.
Of course, I haven't been there for awhile. So, I'm not familiar with the changes since I've graduated.

Personally, QHST did not prepare me for college. However, I chose to pursue medicine where you are forced to memorize details and prepare for tests every week. So, my college experience is very different from QHST. It's a different philosophy on teaching and learning. I've learned to adapt to that type of learning so, I can succeed.

In the end, there is always going to be a disadvantage or something that doesn't work. What matters is how you adapt and work around that disadvantage, but not lose sight of the philosophy that QHST was founded on. Become versatile.