The Fifth Cosmic Labor: Augean Parking Lot.
So, this post is ostensibly about going back to school today, to retrieve the remainder of my things…since I do not intend to be going back to that location. Unlike Project 42, which was about the legacy that we leave behind us on purpose, this is about not forgetting your things.
A diverse list of items will be thrown into the bed of my friends truck. A chess set or two, some good for tournaments, some very showy. A complete suit of Kendo Armor. A box of Roman Armor, complete with fancy helmet. Books of course, loads of those, and these little furniture pieces that I like for no reason. A rug that has seen too much use, but makes the class feel like a proper lecture. All of it should pretty much fit in a single trip…it’s interesting how four whole years can fit into such a small space.
I got an e-mail yesterday from a student from my prior school…who I haven’t seen since that place closed. She was charming and wonderful and hard working…I only ever had the highest confidence in her, despite the evil nature of the neighborhood and school. She wrote to tell me that she had graduated high school, and was going to college. This young person reached out, to say hello, and to say thank you….and to make sure I was proud of her. It was pretty huge, and at a time that I could use some reason to see the value of this whole endeavour.
Apparently, while I wasn’t looking, one of my charges became a successful adult, and in all probability, a friend. Go figure.
That’s not to say that I’m all sweetness and light here. I’m really not. I’ve found in the last few days that where most people have Internal modifiers to their actions, most of my modifiers are EXTERNAL. A large number of those are now absent, in many cases, by choice. That leaves me free in a way that the comic book “Superior Iron Man” suggests…in the absence of real checks and balances, how does one handle their impulses? Both positive and negative? An interesting question to be sure.
I know only how I can do those things. There are a remaining few actions that need to be taken, a remaining few items on the docket, that need to be cleared. I some cases, it’s setting things straight for certain individuals. In other cases, it’s a matter of liquidating the relationships with educational organizations, of making sure certain fiascos can’t happen again. Between the other activities I’ve been focused on, I’ve been hard at work to make that happen.
When my team was hired in, as “fixers”…we had a clean slate. A blank school with a new staff with which to write our own plan, our own message. For two years we were successful, in fact, one of the most successful gains anywhere. For two years, that decline was as rapid.
I owe it to the people that come in next to leave them with the same opportunities. The same “blank slate” with which to scrawl their own educational vision. As a result, setting things right, and clearing the decks for action in the same way that I will be clearing out my room today is vital. Ensuring that partnerships with educational organizations will be productive, or dissolved, ensuring that staff are in place and not disgruntled about it, and ensuring that the leadership team from this point forward can be just that.
As I packed my things, I threw away a whole lot. It got me thinking, afterward, that this was not a bad plan, and could be extended to the thought process of school management. Sometimes, often for reasons that we don’t like or cannot control, we need to be like Hercules, and run a river through to start over. That is definitely the case with the school that I will be going to, hopefully for the last time, this afternoon. It needs to be washed clean, paved over…perhaps with no shortage of upheaval and cataclysm.
That’s also what the art is about. My intentions to do just that, in my wake. One key issue is Pledge LA. Pledge LA’s Supreme Leader came to talk to me while I was packing. She expected, I think, something different than she got. I wasn’t angry…I had no hard words. I was depressed. I was disappointed, and since Pledge LA claims to “manage the school” I laid a lot of the problems there at her feet. There wasn’t any debate, any denial…it was pretty straightforward, and sad. Apparently, she had wanted to “make things right” between us.
At the end of it, though…she didn’t really want to hear that maybe, just maybe, a part of all this mess and chaos had to do with how her firm did business, managed the school. Later on, she commented to another teacher how we all sounded like a kind of “broken record” with the same problems and complaints.
Heads up: if the whole staff of a school is telling you something…it’s a problem.
Possibly a heads up with no relevance. Pledge LA was up for management of another school, a middle school, and ultimately didn’t get it. Teachers, staff, and people in general might lie, or have agendas, but numbers don’t. The numbers for our school influenced that decision to not hand over another…and most probably will result in a change to the way the school that I am leaving is run. Pledge LA’s basic strategies almost certainly will come under review, if not a more serious set of consequences for the firm.
Again…it’s sad. Everyone there means well. They don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Let’s mismanage schools! Yeah!” I just don’t think that the firm was ready for the kinds of things that were going to happen…and when they hired Darth, they made a poor leadership choice that made a crazy decline occur. Removing him just wasn’t enough to stop that power dive…although supporting him as aggressively as they did was mistaken.
I had talked with her about that, but it got lost in the shuffle of Suit Talk. Again, depressing.
The school is set up with a new curriculum for English, which is good. It was my hope, and Amanda Waller’s, that if we could standardize to some degree what happened in English classes, we might have some control of the product…you know, student work. You can have that happen with a teacher generated pacing plan and materials, but the teachers involved need to be more of a team, which I can’t say that we really had. Turnover was part of that problem, but not all of it.
Pearson is out. America, take note. Pearson is just out. That huge mega publisher failed to deliver on the most basic of products for eighteen months. No sane individual would continue to pay them.
Pledge LA may follow them out the door, if they don’t prove to someone what they bring to the table. When ISIC did it’s big Darth investigation, few stakeholders could identify what Pledge LA did for the school, where all the Gala Fundraising money went. It’s depressing because the Pledge LA idea is sound, it good, but the execution, like many things in education, not so much. Still, with no external modifiers upon me, doing in a Pearson contract seems like a good thing. Potentially removing Pledge LA from the school, to start completely over…seems like a good thing.
Like hitting “reset” on the old Atari 2600 system. It had no memory, so you could just start over.
A few people get caught up in the wake of that change, opportunistically. I learned yesterday that a hardworking VP at the school had been liquidated. That was a surprise to me, because of the “leadership team” at that place, that individual isn’t the one that I would liquidate. Of the remaining Grade Eight teachers, it spurred a near open rebellion, for one. I imagine that there were solid motivations for that decision, but in terms of keeping the lid on, it wasn’t that great.
In terms of someone you could work with, that’s committed to getting things done…that VP was serious about their job. Active. Involved with kids, staff and the community. Far from a perfect person…but who really expects that? We are talking about an asset that could have been put to better use, with a different group.
Still…as change happens, it often is sweeping. In this case, a huge staff exodus, new management guidelines (at least) for Pledge LA, and the removal of an active AP…that’s pretty big stuff. Add to that a new curriculum, a new bell schedule, and the reformatting of teacher collaboration, and you have sweeping change. Almost like a reset.
Sometimes when you reset the game you do better, sometimes you do worse.
I won’t be around to see it. Today, we put the last of my gear, including the Hebrew Hammer which causes such change, into the truck to leave. Without looking back.