Surely our top priorities in a school must be teaching and learning…right? We know that a lot of things get in the way of those priorities, but still they’re the essence of what school is all about.
At some point, however, the “things that get in the way” overwhelm what we’re really trying to do it. This point was forcefully brought home to me by the Math Curmudgeon, a somewhat anonymous high-school math teacher from Vermont. His blog posts are always worth reading, even when I disagree with him, as I frequently do. But in this case he’s right on. His long list of “things that get in the way” will sound all too familiar to anyone who has spent time in a public high school recently. Fortunately Weston is much better off than most schools in this regard, but still there are far too many items on the Curmudgeon’s list that actually apply—even in Weston. Take a look at his list, quoted here verbatim:
- Fire Drill/Police Dog Drug Search
- Professional Development
- Addressing Damage in the Bathrooms
- Sports in all its forms (mostly afternoon disruptions, but we’re coming up on skiing and snowboard season, and spring has golf … 8am meets and competitions are the norm.
- “Pardon the interruption for this announcement.”
- Service Organizations.
- Class Fundraising going door-to-door.
- Class Meetings
- Pep Rallies
- Anti-Bad Things Assemblies
- Teacher Education/School Visits/conferences/workshops
- Principal doing Teacher Evaluations (Major disruption when he sits clicking his laptop)
- Anything the Administration finds on their calendars.
- Send the kids to the office if they’re late … to get a pass and come back to class.
- Talk to the kid in trouble, set up a detention … for missing class.
- Meeting with the State College Scholarship rep who tells them they need to be sure they’re attending class. Said meeting happens during class.
- Anti-Drug counselor pulls them to have them sit in her comfy chair and eat cookies.
- Volunteer Fire Department Rescue calls.
- Field Trips for non-academic things.
- Family vacations and appointments.
- Illnesses that mysteriously occur on test days.
- Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice. Inservice.
Some of my readers are currently at Weston, many used to be, and all of you have been in a high school at some point in your life. Does this list ring a bell? And go read the Curmudgeon’s entire post, including his observations about the importance of predictability. We’ve gone a long way toward rectifying this problem at Weston, to the point where there are usually only two bell schedules within any given week, though every once in a while we suffer through the dreaded “five schedules in five days.” Just do a Google image search for “bell schedule,” and it will boggle your mind. (Note that what you’re seeing just reflects regularly scheduled events, not the myriad of exceptions as the Curmudgeon describes. The image below is from a randomly chosen school, not Weston.)