so my school is a member of the coalition of essential schools. some of you may be familiar with their work. and one of the tenets is the idea of peer review and collaboration so we have critical friends groups (cfg's) and we've been doing it for 3 years. you can bring an issue to the group whether it's school culture related or a particular project you've had the kids do that was a success or a flop and have the full force of the collective brain to make it better or mull over the issue. so at my school it's the one really excellent progressive effective thing we do as colleagues. we've had some really cool things come out of it like a new senior project that became a school wide, everybody does it thing and a petition to have a fewer credit diploma than the traditional high school (excellent idea shot dead by the school board). anyway it's been really great to have at the school and i've really enjoyed participating in it.
until last year.
last year was the year my boss joined my cfg. and last year was the year i went for a training to become a cfg leader, in case our intrepid leaders decide they need to step away from the responsibilities of running the groups then i'd be able to step in and lead. and in the course of the training i explained that our boss had joined my group. and the trainer was absolutely appalled. she couldn't believe it. felt it was completely inappropriate since having the boss in a peer review group would automatically put a restraint on the conversation.
now, i understand where my boss was coming from in joining the group. she feels as though there's no real division between her and her staff. she thinks in a democratically run school such as the one she runs, she is on a peer footing with all of us. and i'd imagine she feels isolated since she is the only adminstrator at our tiny school. so i get all this. and still. when she makes a suggestion in the group there are a couple of people who automatically support her because she is the boss. whether the idea has actual merit doesn't seem to matter but her word changes the direciton of the conversation. and whether they realize they are doing it is certainly uncertain. i'd say probably not. however, it changes things. and it makes me nuts! i realize she and i butt heads ideologically now in a way that i didn't before--so for me maybe it's been a good thing! (i get the same thing in the damn class we're taking together too) but in terms of actual movement and exciting change in the group it's stifled.
today the question had to do with science and how could the teachers address the issue that test scores go down consistently here. well the question actually seemed broader than that at first but our boss reduced it to that. it was awful. tyler (science guy) brought this really cool concept map. he had placed the student at the center to organize science around these great questions: where did i come from? where do i live? good questions that adolescents might really relate to. and jamie took the whole thing looked at it and said well it comes down to vocabulary and that's where we went. we spent the rest of the time looking through the state standards and pulling out words we thought the kids wouldn't know. man. i just sat there. trying to figure out how to contribute to the conversation without blowing up. misery.
i have no conclusion to this story. just a wish that it was different.