Saturday, April 26, 2008

A sense of peace descends

This week I was able to let go of an obligation, a burden, that had turned my life inside out for the past six months.

In November I wrote here about agreeing to tackle the modularization of introductory sociology for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System's Virtual Learning Initiative (KCTCS VLI -- don't you just love alphabet soup). During those six months I have put in at least 120 hours (John says he thinks its more), in developing proposals, attending meetings, leading meetings, writing and responding to e-mails. Not only did I get involved with the actual VLI project, but I was appointed to the system social interaction curriculum committee that had to approve the basic structure of any course to be modularized.

I made a strategic error -- I showed up for the first meeting of the curriculum committee very prepared, with handouts for everyone. I was immediately elected chair of the committee.
Even when I was not actively working on the project I was working on it, thinking about how to accomplish the various steps of the process. Then there was also the time I spent worrying (and having nightmares) about it as well.

From the beginning it was clear that the sociologists in the system had deep concerns about the plan to fractionalize sociology and about the VLI as a whole. I wrote about some of those concerns in Sociological Stew . I had a very difficult position to maintain. On one hand I was the leader of the VLI project to modularize introductory sociology, and had developed and presented the proposals to the committee. As the proposer, I had a responsibility to make the very best case I knew how, to persuade people to view this project as viable and reasonable. On the other hand, I was chair of the committee with an equal commitment to insuring that ever sociologist in the system had an opportunity to be involved, to express their concerns, and have a say in the decision-making.

As the discussion emerged, via face-to-face meetings, phone conferences, phone calls, and more than 600 e-mails, more and more negative views of VLI and modularization emerged. Finally this last week it came down to a vote, would the curriculum committee approve this project or vote it down. All though not all the votes are in yet, a majority of the schools have reported back, and all so far have overwhelmingly said "no" -- this is not a project they think should go forward.

Even if I did have some doubts from the beginning, I believe that I truly did give this project my very best effort, presenting it, promoting it, defending it. However, when I finally realized that it was not going to get the support of the curriculum committee, a great peace descended over me. A great burden slipped off my shoulders, and I breathed freely (at least metaphorically since I'm suffering greatly from bronchitis and asthma this week) for the first time in six months.

I feel like I got my life back. Suddenly I'm looking forward to the end of the semester rather than dreading it. When school ends May 3, instead of having to shift into high gear on designing a whole new type of course, and even longer days of staring at computer screens, I can do anything I want.

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