Tried to set a context where emotion could be honestly spoken without conflagration or a detonation of intensely hostile feelings.
December 16, 2005
Department of Education Meeting
I was asked to moderate this meeting this morning and I respectfully accepted. I’d like us to think about the following ground rules for a discussion that will be undoubtedly charged, intellectually and emotionally.
• Use I statements.
• Let people finish before you speak.
• Be respectful of time. I may ask individuals to wrap it up if individual statements go beyond five minutes.
• Be cautious about premature solutions.
• Have Dean Miller speak first and move us into dialogue.
• Be aware of language…feeling language and thought language
We gather here in quite unusual circumstances. I suppose there are as many reasons for being here as there are people in the room. Regardless of what drew us individually, two things are for certain. 1 — We walked through these doors tied together in our own unique and constructed history. Histories built upon relationships…some relationships close up, some relationships at arms length, distant but still within operational distance. We sit here tied together by necessity…our professional existence strangely interdependent but mostly privately negotiated. Also we sit here bound by a kind of trust, an institutional trust that what we do is important and useful and contributory to a grander scheme that has given each of us professional purpose, professional challenge, and professional reward. And now, we sit here, in a state where that trust has been shaken, even shattered, worried about programs, concerned about colleagues, distraught that some of our partners of 18 years, colleagues with whom we have created our various programs of teacher education up close and personal, may not be our colleagues any more after this decade and a half crisis of budget shakes out. Some of us sit here angry, angry that our world is so vulnerable and unprotected, angry that we are being asked to act precipitously. These are felt, human feelings that sit beside each or us this morning as we try to discern what is real and what it is that we must do.
The second certainty that draws us here is the need for information. We sit here knowing and not knowing. We sit here with a new Dean, an administrator still quite new to us, a person we are getting to know, a person many of us supported as a candidate, a Dean who has prevailed upon our current Chair to effect a budget correction that has been literally decades in the making and has in times past been taken care of by processes beyond the department. In the past, this deficit was passed over, so it seemed, as part of the business of doing good work. Now it is not. And we are being asked to fix it by mid January, really, the time Fall semester catalog copy is due…roughly 45 days from today.
We’ve decided to ignore program boundaries by accepting the elementary education program’s invitation to offer up their time with the dean to talk about a strategic plan situated in a newly altered context. We come together as a department desperately needing information…to try to understand what’s really needed, what the real time lines are, to find out if we are adjusting current programs, or ending current programs and creating new ventures. We are being encouraged to think outside the box but the box remains elusive, clouded by disbelief, uncertain information, and shifting realities. We come together as colleagues needing information to take those first steps forward, to acknowledge the pain that occasioned this meeting, and perhaps to glimpse a tiny glimmer of opportunity in what feels all too unreal at the present moment.
Our purpose this morning should be to gather the best information possible as we determine our next steps, individually as programs and collectively as UVM’s teacher education community. While we do that, let us not forget that we have attracted our 400+ students because we are award winning faculty teaching in cutting edge programs that have taken years to craft and shape. Programs that we are immensely proud of.
What are the timelines we must adhere to?
What are the negotiables, and non-negotiables as we decide what it is we must do with the future of teacher education at UVM???
What are our next steps?
What is the current situation?