Vertical Alignment or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

What does Vertical Alignment mean and how exactly does it cause a Dr. Strangelove reference? Keep reading to find out, and trust me this is more about teachers than anything. Plus, anything that engenders a good laugh and also involves a young James Earl Jones is worth the nonsensical mention.

Stop Worrying and Love (The Bomb)

For the previous two years I’ve had the privilege of teaching at Clewiston Christian School (CCS), located in Clewiston, FL. Wonderful staff, exceptional administrators, and top notch students. Working at the school opened many professional, spiritual, and personal doors for me. Indeed, it is a workplace that felt more like a second home. One professionally enriching opportunity provided to me while at the school took place back in February of 2020.

CCS is a member of the Christian Schools of Palm Beach County (CSPBC) (@ChrSchPBC), an organization that brings together numerous schools across the county. CSPBC offers a staff development day, which includes a keynote speaker and workshops. The keynote speaker was Dave Weber (@dave_weber), and his words were all things engaging, enlightening, and emboldening. In short, he was the bomb.com.

After the morning address participants were dismissed to their workshops. Going into the development day I was not certain which workshop to attend, so as I was flipping through the listings and came across a topic described as “Vertical Alignment: Collaboration and Curriculum Development.” This immediately caught my eye, I’ve had a keen interest in teachers working together across grade levels and this fit right in. Yet still, I did not know exactly what to expect. Questions always linger before a workshop, like will this actually help me? Those things crossed my mind as I walked up the stairs to the meeting room.

As I walked into the meeting room I was greeted by the four presenting educators. At first it seemed odd to me that there would be four presenters, but as the session began I understood why and I also realized that if your going to be talking about collaboration then it would make sense to present collaboratively. The four presenters have worked together for several years at Berean Christian School (@bereanwpb), located in West Palm Beach, and they taught English Language Arts. Their group cohesion was obvious and admirable, it provided a glimpse into what a well functioning group should look like. Truly, I was thankful that I could listen to their presentation and I gleaned many nuggets.

Vertical Alignment – I Promise You’ll Want To Read This

Vertical alignment broadly speaking is the process of putting standards-based content in a consistent order from one grade to the next. As with all things education, vertical alignment is an ever evolving thing. Its a process more so than an end product. The educators from Berean had revealed to me a real life manifestation of a concept that had been in my mind for some time. To put it bluntly, they were doing what I had only imagined and I was taken by the notion of why. Why had I not thought of that? Why had I not started? Why was I waiting? I suppose you could call this inspiration. I am inspired by their efforts, which span years, and the effect of vertical alignment on their ability to effectively educate students from one grade level to the next.

During the process of studying for my M.S. in Educational Leadership I researched and wrote about what I had seen that day back in February. What I wrote contained more education jargon than I care to mention here, but it did not say much about the educators who presented that day. In fact, much in education leaves out the educators, and rather than rehash all the things that need to be done (salary for starters) for teachers that show how vital they are to society, I want to say thank you to the educators from that day.

Thank You, and You, and You, and You

Being that this posting is in late August, I know they are in the throws of school prep and student engagement. Spending time and energy one things that most will never see, and doing their job with genuine joy in spite of the new difficulties this year brings. I say thank you to them to inspiring me that day, and for their every day efforts. Without further adieu, the educator who help me understand vertical alignment and how teams of teachers can effectively work together:

  • Adrianna Gatlin
  • Sarah Stegall
  • Antoinette Earnhardt
  • Sheri Fyke

I have no doubt that these educators, and the many more like them in our country, are facing each new challenge with the knowledge that their work matters and with the reassurance that they have each others’ back.

My only regret is that not every teacher gets a thank you.

Maybe you can help?

UPDATE 8/25/20: After sending this blog post to the aforementioned educators I heard back that they had in fact published the labors of their efforts into a Language Arts Manual. It retails for $19.95 on Amazon, the cost is like a trip to the movies (or at least when theaters were open). I have ordered my copy. If you’re interested in what the process of vertical alignment can produce, then you’ll want a copy as well.

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