Saturday, April 18, 2009
posted by Q6 at 6:48 PM
If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I got transferred to a different campus this year. (If you haven't, let me bring you up to date: I got transferred to a different campus this year.) As we head into the month of May, most site administrators are all asking the same question, over and over: "Have you heard anything?"

More administrator shuffling is about to happen and all we have to go on is rumor at this point, which is odd because these moves are usually decided upon and announced by now. This isn't any longer a question of "if" moves will be made, it's a question of "who" and "when." One intermediate school site is losing an administrative position (from 2 assistant principals to one), and someone's already been let go at a high school. It's now just a question of shuffling people around. Yes, it would make sense to just take the intermediate odd-man out and place him in the hole at the high school. Done. Finito.

There are, however, a number of mitigating factors that make the whole thing much more complicated--really, what in a school district ISN'T complicated? There are rumblings that the district brass plans to make some principal changes in the future (or sooner--more on that in a moment), and might want to place APs at certain schools with the intent of making them the heirs apparent for the principalships. That would shuffle quite a few people, and might even reverse one of the changes made last year. Moreover, the budget crunch thing has got everyone battening down the hatches and putting people where they'll do the most good with the least amount of expense or worry. I guess if we're all going to bury our heads in the sand we should make sure someone's feeding the dog and bringing in the mail as needed.

The whole principal thing is interesting, actually. A couple of months ago the district announced that there would be no principal moves for next year; not long after that, the sh*t started hitting the fan. One high school principal (one who can't retire too soon, in the opinion of most) has his teaching staff gunning for his head AND he's not reacting to his testing data to the district's satisfaction. A second principal actually defended his crappy data to the Assistant Superintendent, and a third principal is facing not only an angry teaching staff, but an ACLU lawsuit as well (this one's also, apparently, taken to yelling and screaming at those both below and above her on the chain of command, which isn't making matters any better). So there may be a few principal changes in the making--or at least in consideration--after all.

This is the part of the blog post where the image morphs into a dream sequence.

What if they ask me to step up to interim principal? Or principal? Or one of the Assistant-Principal-On-Deck-for-Principal spots? Am I ready for such a move? Do I want to give up more of my time to my job? Am I reading too much into the idea? If last year's administrative shuffle has taught me anything, it's that I serve at the pleasure of the district. I guess I'll go where they put me.

At this point, I'd just like to know where I'll be next year.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
posted by Q6 at 12:49 PM
Educators have grappled with the issue of student motivation for decades, and I'm no exception. I've been working all school year with lower-income seventh and eighth graders who, were it not for the constant prodding by the school staff, couldn't be bothered to walk upright let alone learn anything. As many of you know, I spent seven years before that working at a school site where most were competing for some of the best universities in the world and were motivated to do much more than the minimum requirement.

Why are the two groups so different? I refuse to believe that either group of students has enough forward vision to anticipate what they'll need to accomplish. I know that every parent wants the best for their kids (though I admit that the latter group probably has parents who are better at expressing it and more empowered to give rewards). I know that both groups have an equal chance for success (not for the all the reasons that Malcom Gladwell explains in Outliers, though I'll get to my review of that book in due time). So why is the motivation missing from my current students? What am I missing?

About a year ago an unoffical black mark was put on my record. It was said that I didn't believe that all kids could be successful. (This apparently came from an interpretation of something I said at some point, though I couldn't tell you what it was I said that gave people--including some district officials--this idea.) It's a misunderstanding I've tried to clear up since it happened; I honestly don't know if it's worked.

Here's what I do know: Every kid CAN be successful, but not every kid WANTS to be successful. We can deal with different definitions of success and this statement is still true. Some students set the bar too high, some set it just high enough, some set it far too low (by any standard), and some don't set a bar at all. It's like having given someone a gold brick only to discover he's been using it as a doorstop.

So I'm left with this overwhelming feeling of frustration because I can't get these kids to care enough about themselves to do well. It's a terrible feeling that comes from watching young people blow off the opportunity to succeed--not miss it, but actually turn it down--and I try not to let it get the best of me. Chuck Palahniuk put it best in Fight Club: I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn't screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.

I wish I could figure out a solution to that problem. Of course, if I could, I'd probably be writing the books instead of reading them.