Sunday, July 06, 2008

Ryan Goes Undercover at the AWSP/WASA Summer Conference

For the last two days I’ve been attending the joint AWSP/WASA conference right here in Spokane. Longtime readers will know that I was recently thrown out of my administrative program, but I had already registered for the conference and paid the fee, and I still don’t know where my career path will lead, so why not go and learn what I can?

The fools! Little do they know that a union operative has infiltrated their so-called “conference” looking for counterintelligence on what our enemies in administration are up to. What I learn from this conclave will be passed on to my brothers and sisters in the politburo so that we can proceed with our master protocol to turn the schools into liberal indoctrination centers—FOREVER!
The first day, Monday, was excellent. The keynote speaker for the morning breakfast was Dr. Tim Waters of McREL, who used a pretty neat aircraft controller metaphor to talk about what teachers do. He had some other thoughts on inter-class and inter-school variance that I’ll be exploring in a post another day. Good guy to listen to.

I clad myself in the style of one of the oppressors—a collared shirt made from a 60/40 polyester/cotton blend, dress shorts, and black socks with white shoes. As I entered their secret wing of the Spokane Convention Center I noticed some of the men wearing jackets, which made me briefly afraid that I was underdressed and my cover would be blown, but my mind was set back at ease when I noticed men walking around wearing socks with sandals. I mean, really, who does that?
In the interim I stepped into the hallway, where Randy Dorn and Terry Bergeson had tables right next to one another. Both were there mingling with the crowd, which was decidedly pro-Bergeson. It’ll be an interesting race.

I was pleased to see that Comrade Dorn had established a base of operations within the convention hall. We traded the secret unionist greeting (“May Shanker guide your hand from the teachers’ wallets to our WEAPAC fund!”) and then parted ways before we drew attention to ourselves.
For my morning session I attended a talk by John Hellwich of the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession on how to best use teacher leaders in the schools. I think the idea of the teacher as leader is one of the most important ones that has come along, and it could go a long ways towards strengthening the professionalism of the profession. You can find more information at their website above.

My handlers in the WEA had prepared me well with code phrases that would help me blend in with the adminis-traitors: “That’s what DuFour said!”, “How was the golf tournament?”, and “Are you going to the wine tasting?” I was also given a briefing on the research of Marzano and Reeves and told when speaking to relate whatever I could to them, because it would sound authentic. Sure enough, it worked.
It was then time for the lunch break, which ran 2 and a half hours from 11:15 to 1:45. A big part of that was the association luncheon where they installed the new officers in AWSP for the year, but for someone who doesn’t have the experience or contacts that they do, it wasn't time well spent. After wolfing down the lunch and chatting with the administrative team from Moses Lake I took the time to walk over to Auntie’s Book Store and do some browsing. Bookstores rock.

The corpulent bourgeoisie found it necessary to take more than two hours for their overly-rich midday gorging. I worked the crowd as best I could, then snuck to a local bookstore where I hid my early report in the bottom copy of a stack of “The Audacity of Hope” for my handler to pick up later. I also purchased the McSweeney Joke Book of Book Jokes. John Hodgman is a funny man!
After that, back to work. The first afternoon session I sat in on was presented by Dr. Larry Nyland of Marysville on the changing nature of math instruction in Washington State. There I chatted with some administrators from Blaine and Battle Ground, and it was interesting to hear their perspectives from their own districts.

Despite what Ian Fleming and John LeCarre would lead you to believe, not everything about clandestine work is glamorous. This was one of those times.
The final session of the day was a presentation on the joint WASA/AWSP/PSE/WEA/WSSDA school funding proposal that was presented to the Basic Ed Finance Taskforce early in June. It’s an aggressive, impressive plan for re-doing school budgets here in Washington State, but with the budget the way it is I think it’s all wasted effort. I ended up leaving this session early so I could come home and attend to my daughter. For more information, check out the BETF website, or one of the association homepages over in the side menu.

This is the session where I finally lost my nerve. I had fit in relatively well for most of the day, but with the leaders of the opposition in the room all together I was sure that they would be able to smell the union label on me no matter how hard I tried to cover it up under a veneer of false bravado and vague knowledge. After distracting the illuminati with a complex, layered question about the interrelation between local school levies and the cost basis imposed by local collective bargaining agreements, I ran for my life. My understanding is that Barbara Mertens and Gary Kipp once killed a union member just to watch him die, and I’ve still got a lot to live for.
I’ll talk more about day 2 in a different post. My overall impression of my first AWSP conference, though, is incredibly positive—they did a spectacular job, and I look forward to going again next year!

I have never been more terrified, but exhilarated. I feel like that guy from Into the Wild, and while I never did make it to the end of the movie things seemed to be going OK. The comrades will be pleased with the intel that I have gathered. Solidarity forever!

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