Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Change and Big Decisions

Like the amoeba, the elementary school teacher is often asked to morph and change year after year to accommodate multiple teaching/learning decisions and changes. Our voices are typically small when it comes to big decisions that affect the work we do, and that's why our unions are important. We have to work together to promote optimal teaching/learning conditions--the kinds of conditions that allow us to do our best work to serve students and their families well.

Decision processes differ from decision to decision and group to group. There's no one overarching decision-making process in place. Yet as I think about this, I think it is important to make decisions with as much transparency, inclusion of all stakeholders as possible, good researching and rationale, and adequate timelines.

I am amazed at how much transportation issues impact school decisions. Last year the school committee spent tremendous time and effort on the issue of where to park the school busses, and now the busses are impacting the decision of when to start school too. I never realized that transportation impacts what we can do to educate students so dramatically. It would be a big job to look at this impact in depth--a job that requires looking at districting, bus costs, and the many,  many routes needed. Recently an MIT group created a new way to look at bus routes. I imagine they used discrete math to maximize the time and busses. This same group will be working with a local system to figure out their bus situation too.

Every decision at school seems to be a big decision since all services and school efforts are tightly woven together--new start times for our schools will challenge lots of systems and efforts that are in place, effort like field studies, extra help, commutes, schedules, child care, after school events, and time available for learning will all be impacted. Yet, this is what happens at schools as we continue to change.

I worry about the impending change of later school start times given the tremendous expectation of rigor and time-on-task at the elementary school. I worry that students, families, and educators will simply run out of steam given so many changes, and changes where the needs of elementary school students and their families seem secondary to the needs and schedules of others. I am concerned about the impact these changes will have on our well-crafted programs and schedules.

I wish the current change, a change in school start could be made in a way that profits all rather than only some. I think it could be done, but that depends on whether it's a priority to those who make and fund the decisions. Onward.