Can we talk?

I’ve recently come from yet another cross-level meeting of English teachers in my state. This time it was representatives of the state’s public four-year universities (they’re called Institutes of Higher Learning) sitting down with those of us who teach English at the 15 community colleges (so what are we…Institutes of Lower Learning?). The IHL representatives, in turn, had recently met with high school English faculty and representatives of the state DOE. And just a month ago, all of us from the community colleges got together to work on aligning our course content.

While all of these sessions were productive and collegial, it struck me as sad that each meeting ended with participants saying, “Why haven’t we gotten together before now?”  Why don’t we talk to each other more across the PK-20 spectrum (as opposed to talking about each other). Rather than the annual litany of “what-a-lousy-job-those-teachers-at-the-lower-levels-are-doing,” why aren’t we spending that precious energy gaining real information about what is taught and how it’s taught to students along the continuum of which our classrooms are just one small part?

Supposedly, we have professional networks through which we should be talking with each on a regular basis. In reality, only a few teachers are actively involved in these state-level professional organizations. Sadder still, even within the organizations, teachers tend to be grouped by grade-level with very little vertical interaction.

Is this phenomenon unique to English teachers, or just to my state?