Trying to boil the ocean

Today, cruising the Globe and Mail, and contemplating getting up to make a cup of tea, I ran into this quote from Ann Snowdon. The quote is from an article on health care reform, Why not try after-hours care the Dutch way. It entirely captures how I feel about the current ‘climate’ of education in BC at the moment:

Last year, I was very excited to attend a conference on RTI. The main message I brought home from that professional development was that we need to be much more systematic in our approach to intervention when students don’t learn. There was no prescription, aside from the types of questions we should be asking over and over as we build, LOCALLY, the responses our students need, at this time, in our school.

We know who our students are, and who we are as a staff. As a school and community, we exist in this culture, in this time, in this space. Solutions built elsewhere, based on research and best practice, can and must provide us with fodder and direction for our local collaborations. However, the best solutions will be designed here, implemented here, on the ground, if we are given the time and the tools to do it.

My training and experience also tells me that when solutions are grown locally, through collaboration, buy-in will be more likely to happen. Student buy-in, administrator buy-in, teacher buy-in, community buy-in.

Instead, I see a government working hard on an imposition of a new plan. I see provincial bargaining that cannot, by its nature, address local issues.

They are trying to boil the ocean. It’s painful.

Better still to make a pot of tea. Sit down together as a school and community, with time to think, with time to act, with time to ask what is working and what is not. Time well spent. Many pots of tea.

Time to put the kettle on.

2 thoughts on “Trying to boil the ocean

  1. I love the imagery your writing evokes because it is what good teachers are already doing whenever they can find the time – and it is what most of us visualize when considering how to solve learning problems as professionals. The message of RTI is, as you suggest, a tea-pot approach: local and specific to the needs of the students teachers have in front of them. The approach is getting buy-in by teachers who recognize that in a system that appears to be constantly contracting, it offers an opportunity to expand our capacity as professionals to help students – no matter what those outside the building decide to do. This collaborative, local, professional approach is in sharp contrast to the boiling the ocean plan clearly suggested by the Ministry of Education’s approach to bargaining and mandated changes that not only leave teachers out of the equation, but suggest we add up to a negative in system.

    Interestingly, the quip, “Boil the Ocean” originated from Will Rogers’, who gave this answer when responding to a reporter asking him how he would handle the Nazi U-boats who were conflagrating the war problem for the USA and her allies. When the reporter asked him how this ocean boiling might be done, Rogers answered: “I am just the idea man here. Somebody else will have to work out the details”.

    It may be where the Ministry ends up in all of this. The people who have to implement the plans – the ones who deal with day-to-day details – are the teachers who are already trying to do more with less all the time. And that less includes less respect for the profession. There is an even older adage that may apply here: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”. This is especially true if it is all a little tough to swallow.

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