This morning, we were treated to a staff meeting. My students know I am not a fan of staff meetings. I have to sit still, look like I’m paying attention and no one ever understands my questions, which is probably fine because I’m the only idiot who still raises their hand to speak. This meeting was about schedules. Teachers are obsessed with schedules, possibly because it’s something we can actually exert control over, thus must be micro managed to insanity.
So today–because we can’t control the steady retraction of money, the impending news that someone on staff will be asked to leave by the end of the year, the knowledge that it’s more likely that we’ll be able to stop time than get all kids to pass all tests under all circumstances–we talked about the schedule. The discussion ran circles around this central purpose: We need to implement RTI which requires that we organize our schedule such that SWAT teams can use AIMS WEB to gather data so that the PLCs can ensure all students can AYP on the PEs and GLEs, as established by OSPI and measured annually on the MSP. And yes, I only remember what half of those acronyms mean.
Acronyms, along with generally meaningless pop-culturey buzz phrases like “value-added” and “power standard”, seem to be another way for us educators to stay one step ahead of the avalanche. But instead of meticulously managing the only things we can control, these words are like landmines. They leave the listener stuck in a parallel universe of almost grasping what was said, only to have sense slip away like steam. It’s a complete inhibitor to understanding and communication.
Sadly, that never stops me from asking. Usually, I manage to keep the questions to myself but every once in a while I make the mistake of asking for clarification on some badly jumbled concept and or destroyed-in-the-process-of-communication idea. I’ve been told that there are certain staff members who love that moment when my hand goes up, just waiting to hear me try to understand, at the level we all talk about wanting the kids to understand, what’s really going on.
But to understand, we have to deeply know the words. And not just the denotation, we have to know the connotation, the bringing together of all the associations and experiences and lifetimes of each word until it is a tapestry of meaning with shining surfaces and dark underbellies and multiplicities of meaning. We have to expand the words, not crunch them all together into acronyms or strip them into buzzwords. And to get to know all the facets of a word, or the ideas built out of those words, we have to slow down.
Maybe we should revise the schedule and see if we can plan the time to slow down, but we’ll have to squeeze it in, because there’s a hell of a lot to do.