Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bureaucratic Sister Ruby Etheridge Explains It All For Us

After school today we're having a hastily convened "mandatory" staff meeting to hear District hoo-haw Ruby Etheridge answer a bunch of our simmering questions. I guess I'm a bit on pins and needles about the shindig because:

  1. it was kinda my idea to have this "Gunfight at the SBA Corral" de-brief;
  2. teachers, especially those at the end of a day (and nine-weeks) are notoriously lousy "students", in that we don't listen, talk while the "teacher" is talking and seethe with defiance from the get-go
  3. without proper prison guards facilitation, these meetings always turn into melodramatic bitch sessions, featuring those faux martyr types who just cannot avoid complaining about Johnny in their sixth period class, the toilet paper in the teacher's lounge, and these hastily called "mandatory" meetings.
So why have a meeting, especially a "mandatory" one? Well, as directly and indirectly mentioned previously, my little school is, uh, what's the word? Hmm...imploding still seems like the most appropriate choice here. You certainly wouldn't know it from driving past the place, and, to be honest, my tiny corner of things is going swimmingly. But the internal mechanics of the place are simply drowning.

Drowning in a sea of misinformation, "mandates" and actual/perceived machinations that go far beyond "taking the fun" out of teaching. It's difficult to sum this up in a sentence, at least it is for me, but I'll take a swing at it (via my friend, the "bullet"):

  • No Child Left Behind has a infamous "mandate" demanding that by 2014, quite literally, no child will be "left behind" (i.e.: every single child will be proficient in Math/Reading by that date);
  • Head cheerleader for No Child Left Behind, the Bush Administration, has crumbled to the point of becoming unrecognizable. I don't want to become distracted, again, by politics, but the degree to which George W. Bush has become irrelevant is truly astonishing. For example, I believe the McCain Campaign has gotten a court somewhere to institute a 1,500 mile restraining order for "W", ordering immediate arrest if President Bush is at any time within one time zone of Sen. McCain;
  • Despite this irrelevance, the inexorably churning wheels of Bush "doctrines", especially No Child Left Behind, keep clunking along;
  • Our new Superintendent, Winston Brooks, has publicly stated that the whole 2014 100% proficient mandate is unrealistic and will never happen;
  • Mr. Brooks also has some far more achievable numbers for improvement (3% per year sticks in my head) and keeps talking about those figures;
  • Well, stuck awkwardly between the rusting cogs of the Bush Administration and the unclear promise of the Brooks Administration, lies the twisted body of my school and its teachers.
Okay that was pathetically longer than a sentence. But the image of a group of school staff caught between the moving and un-moving gears of a large machine seems to fit. And that's where Ruby Etheridge, APS Assistant Superintendent for Middle Schools (or something like that), who I don't know from Eve or Linda Sink or anybody, comes in.

The idea is that she will extricate us from these massive gears somehow, make clear the unfathomable depths of where we go from here, and give us enough direction and leadership to have us safely and confidently move, on our own, into a post-Bush standardized testing environment.

Now that's a tall order to fill. Good luck, Sister Etheridge. Speaking of being on pins and needles, I think we'd have an easier time answering the question of how many angels can fit on a pin. Still, as a friend of mine always says....onward.


Anonymous said...

As usual, a lot to think about in your current salvo.

Mr. Brooks wants 3% per year for three years as a district average improvement in scores. This, too, will never happen.

I would assume that at the end of three years Mr. Brooks will retire and we'll have another boss with another set of goals.

It's all rather sad!

Abuelita2 said...

What did you learn at the meeting? How is it going to work for us?

Anonymous said...

Yeah that was as clear as mud. I was more impressed with what she didn't know.