One of the reasons that I like being department chair is that I'm kind of bossy and know-it-all-ish; I think it's that eldest child thing. But one of the reasons that I really don't like being department chair is that I want everyone to get along all the time and agree with one another and also to like me; maybe that's my child-of-divorce legacy.
But my department is always of at least three minds on pretty much everything, including what day it is today. In a way, of course, this is lovely, because it means we're all interesting, quirky, opinionated people. But it certainly is hard for us to get anywhere.
So here's the situation we're currently struggling with: What to do with our new international students whose English skills are not quite up to snuff. Our current system has some problems, and we want to improve the situation. But of course, we are divided between two approaches:
(A) creating ELL versions of our freshman English and Western Civ courses, and then the students would be in "regular" courses from then on; or
(B) mainstreaming these kids into regular freshman English and Western Civ, and having students take an extra course that's essentially support for those two courses. (So then they'd have only two additional major courses, unlike the usual five major courses a year.)
So we wrangled and wrangled about these plans at our department meeting last week, and then I created a handy-dandy table comparing both of these plans and our current system and asked everyone to sleep on the issue for a week and then send me their votes (or "votes," really, since it's not like we're a straight-up electoral democracy). Today was the deadline.
Naturally, the vote is split evenly between A and B (plus Ex-Co-Author decided to go off-road and vote for her own plan that would involve oodles of extra money and is just not going to happen). So much for my hopes of consensus. Sigh.
Of course, it's not like we're the first group to wrestle with the question of mainstreaming versus tracking! And both of these plans are better than what we have right now. So whichever plan we go with, we're making progress.
But the question remains: Which one do we go with? The vote is literally 3-3 right now; two people refused to vote, saying that they could live with both plans and saw benefits to both. Here are questions I'm pondering:
- Does it make a difference that the previous department head and I both come down on the side of Plan A? Should our votes somehow have more weight?
- I also asked our learning specialist, and with her vote it becomes 4-3 in favor of Plan A. Is that a preponderance of department weight behind one proposal?
- At the same time, the two teachers who are actually teaching these ELL kids this year are in favor of Plan B. Should their vote have more weight?
- Of course, one of those folks is in a part-time, one-year sabbatical replacement position, and the previous department head, who usually teaches one of these ELL courses, is, as I said, in favor of Plan A. So does that all cancel out any differences?
- Should full-time folks' votes have more weight than part-time folks?
- Does the fact that the history department -- which is obviously part of this decision either way -- already said they were happy with Plan A make a difference? Is that tantamount to a vote? Of course, we didn't formally ask them to vote on Plans A and B, but the history department head was in a meeting with me and the academic dean and the head of the upper school when we came up with Plan A. Maybe they'd all like Plan B, which would actually be easier for them; but maybe I shouldn't worry about what they might like, because they already said they liked Plan A.
Sigh. There's one faculty member who didn't vote, even though I reminded her today. (Grr.) I will track her down in the morning and make her take a stand. It would be awesome if she voted for the plan I want, which happens to have the slight edge already if we count the learning speicalist's vote; that would give a clear majority. But it wouldn't really surprise me if she took the "I can live with either of them" stance, especially since she didn't actually bother to vote today.
For lack of any clearer direction, I'm now trying to gauge the force of people's feelings about the issue. Sure, even if folks voted one way, can they pretty happily live with the other way? Ex-Co-Author will be unhappy either way, so whatever. If we go with Plan A, the part-time, one-year sabbatical replacement person will be unhappy, but she'll be super polite about it, and she'll be gone in two months. If we go with Plan B, the previous department head (who of course will be department head again next year) and I will be unhappy. But since both plans are better than what we have now, no one should be over-the-top angry.
(I'll add here that my problem with the mainstreaming option in Plan B has a lot to do with the FGS Western Civ course, which is kind of a nightmare; what I'd love to do is overhaul that course, but I don't have the authority to do so, what with its being in an entirely different department and all. I also don't like the idea of having a course that is entirely set up as service to other courses; there's something about that that just rubs me the wrong way.)
What are your thoughts, on either the Plan A versus Plan B question or the whose votes count for what question?
Whatever we decide to do, we'll have a one-year "pilot project" version with some evaluation, so I figure that we can ease into this and can change our mind if it turns out that our original plan just doesn't work. Also, have I mentioned that all of this is for only 5-10 kids per year? So I need not to worry about this issue more than it deserves. (I've been having bad dreams at night about the department, which is really not a good thing.)