Woke up. Fell out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and had a cup. And, looking up, I noticed I was late...
I wasn't quite sure what morning song would match my mood on my first
day back to work following the Christmas break. The above is from the
Beatles "A Day in the Life." It wasn't my first thought, but seems to
work the best.
Having come of age in the '80s, my first thought ran: Woke up in my clothes again this morning. I don't know exactly where I am...
from Sting's "Shadows in the Rain" off of "The Dream of the Blue
Turtles" album, but I realized that that would have been more accurate
20 years ago and, even then, a bit pretentiously too cool.
Then there was "Good Morning" from the 1940s movie "Singing in the Rain": Good morning, good morning, we've talked the whole night through...it's great to stay up late... which is more reflective of the insomnia I endured last night, but was way too cheerful about it.
What really happened, while thinking through three generations of
morning songs, was that I rolled out of bed after a rotten night's
sleep, went to the gym for my morning workout, went through the drive-thru
at McDonald's and arrived late for the conference I was attending
today. But, for once, I was glad I was at a big, full-auditorium
conference because nobody noticed I was late.
Normally, I would make some comment about how the conference topic
wasn't worth the effort of making it on time. I teach in a large
suburban school district, and most of our professional development
seminars fall into two categories: "dull as rocks" and "interesting but
irrelevant to anything I happen to be doing." Occasionally you run into a
hybrid "dull as rocks and irrelevant" conference or seminar, but
that's usually because a lower level district administrator is trying
to impress the superintendent.
Today, though, we had an educational researcher and consultant who was a
very good speaker, anyway. And his topic was what keeps schools from
I've been teaching for fourteen years now, which is long enough to know
that reform efforts come in about three-year cycles. Somebody at the
district--any district--is charged with finding the newest, trendiest,
reading or math program and imposing it on every class in every school,
whether it fits or not, so that when the superintendent moves on to a
bigger district in three years he'll have something to put on his
But sometimes, while the ulterior motive is the same, the program that
we adopt is actually worthwhile. We get excited about it, go to lots of
meetings, do a lot of extra work to get things into place and then watch
it be dropped at the first budget cut.
There are times, however, when it is the teachers who get in the way of a
good initiative and that was the topic of our speaker's talk today.
Probably, the guy was hired by the district because we are in the midst
of "The Next Great Reading Program" and the superintendent wants us all
Well, I'm on board. Mostly because I don't teach reading but despite the
fact that I've got to go through the training anyway. I can see it has
merit. I'm what our speaker today would call a "Believer." I'm willing
to make the changes that are necessary to enhance student learning. And,
while my faith in the bureaucracy is flagging, I still am open to the
idea that we need to teach kids differently in the 21st Century
than we did in the mid-20th.
However, as a Believer, I am up against those people our speaker
described as "Fundamentalists," the teachers who don't want to change
either because it doesn't suit their personal interest or because
they've seen enough three-year cycles to just not want to fool with them
any more. There are various levels of Fundamentalists, from the
well-intentioned but mistaken, to the teacher who is going to be a
roadblock to any new initiative just because she is happy with the
status quo and doesn't want any of us changing it until she retires in
the not-near-enough future.
There are two other groups, the new teachers and the burn-outs who need
our care and concern and can have an adverse impact on change depending
on how they're handled. But, the deck-of-the Death-Star light saber duel
is between the Believers and the Fundamentalists.
I'm fortunate to work at a school where there are only a few of the
latter and a lot more of the former. And, I know for a fact that none of
the Fundamentalists are my father. So, that won't throw me when it
comes time for a fight. Of course, I'd have to want to come out of my
classroom and storm the teacher's lounge first--which I don't. Because,
you see, my classroom is where the kids are and that's where I want to
be. I guess I'm a sorry excuse for a Believer.