Friday, March 05, 2010

Are We There Yet?

I am part of a six person teaching team in a new program at an established middle school located in an impoverished and diverse neighborhood. As wonderful as this new program is, it has taken every ounce of energy we have just to keep our heads above water. This process of creating something completely new has been compared to building a plane while flying it (I know I shouldn't mix metaphors, but it is appropriate here as you will see).

As a team we hoped we would meet regularly to align our plans and make continuous improvements to our processes; however, reality is that only 4 out of the 6 of us spend any real time together, and that's during 20 minutes for lunch. With a curriculum that's never been taught (by any of us) and students whose needs we're just beginning to understand, this year has felt like we're barely treading water. I can see the shore from where I am bobbing up and down amongst the relentless waves that cause me to choke and sputter, but it disappears once the waves crash over my head.

Trying to reach shore has been difficult as the undercurrents of the needs of the many has definitely outweighed the needs of the few (or the one, as Spock would say). There are no life rafts in sight; only heavy weights thrown at us by those who were charged with being our life guards. It seems like they want us to sink. I have a real fear of drowning.

As far as building the plane as we fly it - we were given the schematics, we were told the final destination, but we're not there yet! First, the parts we were promised haven't come in. Then the average speed of the aircraft was unrealistically projected. There's no way you can reach Tokyo in six hours! (Unless you fly the Concord, which has been decommissioned anyway). And for some reason we have frequent flyers who continually ask "Are we there yet?" in that way that young children chant from the backseat on a very long car trip.

We're still headed for the planned destination. Navigation controls are functioning. I have a great flight crew. We have an experienced pilot on the stick. Air speed is nominal. But I think the communications system is not fully functional yet. The cabin is spacious and comfortable. Everyone has more than enough leg room. There are in-flight movies at each individual seat and they're FREE! You don't have to pay for a snack. In fact, you can choose from one of many menu choices. Everyone is in first class on our airplane.

We're safe. We'll get there. On time according to the original schedule. Who knows? Maybe we'll even land early. But what we need is for everyone to remain in their seats for the duration of the flight with their seatbelts fastened. Stay out of the aisles when meals are being served. And only push that service button if you really need it. It takes a carefully orchestrated and concerted effort to build a plane while you fly it. Distractions are dangerous. You wouldn't want to crash the plane, would you? Especially over open water.

"Are we there yet?!"

No, not yet. And we won't get there any faster the more times you ask.