Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And Now For Something Completely...Normal

We started our week of teacher inservice yesterday. You know: the week where what you really need to do is set up your room and lesson plans, but what you end up doing is participating in continually scheduled  meetings. While you plan your room setup and lesson plans in your head.

It was a lot easier to return to school then I imagined. All my colleagues have been sweet and encouraging since hearing my version of "What I did over summer vacation." I can already tell that the routine and schedule will be a big help. And when the six-year-olds roll into my room next week? Well, what could possibly be more healing then all that enthusiasm and life!

Today's schedule of meetings was completely different from anything we had ever experienced before. I teach in a large central Texas school district, and our superintendent of ten years retired last spring. Our new superintendent scheduled a convocation to introduce herself and to get some input from the district's employees.   Our district has over 84,000 students and over 12,000 employees. There were two sessions of the convocation because of the sheer size of the audience. My campus drew the afternoon time slot. 

I am a product of the district that I teach in: I attended grades one through 12 (before there was mandatory kindergarten). Let's just say my relationship with the district has spanned several decades, but nothing has ever been as informative or inspirational as our gathering today. 

The point was made through a powerful powerpoint presentation that we are now preparing children for jobs and technology that have not even been invented yet. We were reminded that most technology is now obsolete after two years. I looked around the crowded arena, and saw dedicated teachers from all walks of life.I knew that this was a crowd that would rise to the occasion of training the next generation to embrace the rigors of learning and preparation for the future. 

The superintendent told us she wanted our input, and then had us text answers to her questions American Idol style. The answer totals were shown in real-time so that we, and she, could immediately know what the opinion of the audience was on five key questions.

With a district budget shortfall, would teachers be willing to contribute to health care costs? The answer was an overwhelming yes. Would teachers be willing to consolidate under-enrolled schools? Again, yes.  Would teachers be willing to give up specialized general education classes in high school that had less than 15 students? Yes. Would high school teachers be willing to change to block classes and enlarge class sizes to help with the budget? Yes.

These four question were answered in a way that proved teachers are willing to help the district out through giving of their already low salaries, and to take on additional responsibilities and students to make programs and campuses more viable.

The final question appeared on the screen, and a collective moan rose from the audience: would we be willing to see music, PE and art programs cut or eliminated from our campuses? A high 90% said "NO".  As teachers, we know the value of the arts and physical education for our students. The new superintendent noted our strong response to that question and seemed interested in preserving these programs. 

We left to the beat of one of our high school's Drumlines, a little extra spring in our steps. So often, dealing with administration is like going to see the Wizard. The great and powerful Oz has spoken, and input is not considered or valued. It seemed today things were different. Fingers crossed for a new era of exemplary education.

And for time to set up our rooms and finish lesson plans before Monday.


Buttercup said...

What a neat experience. I wish we could do something similar with my big and lumbering government agency.

Anonymous said...

Wow! You do have a big district. Thanks for letting us peek into the behind the scenes meeting of 21st century teachers. I used to work for a large district on the east coast. A nostalgic feeling surfaced as I read your post today! However, I don't miss the congested commute!

God Bless you for your dedication in the teaching profession!

Gina said...

This blesses my former teacher heart!

JMom said...

This sounds awesome. Terrific leadership. What a great district.