Monday, July 17, 2017

Grubbing your way to the top

Ms. Grubbs is quite the character at TCS.

She was hired on to be a teacher, but she’s never been able to pass her certification exam, despite taking it at least five times.  I’m not one to pooh-pooh test anxiety, having seen it in some students, but five times?  The tests aren’t that hard.  I know, because I’ve passed them.

They made her an academic counselor her first year while they waited for her to pass her exam.  Understand that in Texas, being an academic counselor actually requires administrative certification.  If someone can’t teach, he or she certainly can’t be advising students on classes they should take.  Maybe they used finger quotes when they told her she’d be a counselor.

This didn’t go well.  By the end of the first year, Ms. Grubbs still hadn't passed and was generally seen as a disastrous choice as a counselor.  But the school still couldn’t get rid of her, because she was a college student hired under a contract wherein she’d have to commit to working at TCS for about 5 years.  I’m sure TCS never thought this arrangement could backfire on them, but fate can be cruel that way.

The next year she was asked to be an administrative assistant and substitute.  This also didn’t work out.  I’m not one to say that Ms. Grubbs is incapable, but… I’m not quite sure how to end that sentence.  Suffice it to say that there was not a menial task she couldn’t mess up.

She developed a strange relationship with the students.  Like many people new to working in schools, she thought the best way to make the students respect her was to loudly correct them and talk to them with what she thought was a teacher's voice.  The students found her ridiculous.  They ignored her when she spoke and called her Ms. Chubbs or Ms. Tub behind her back. When a student was dismissive of her (as most students were), her voice would get higher and sound more like she was pleading with them to acknowledge her.  It’s not the best way to talk to a student, particularly when you’re talking to a student’s back.

Ms. Grubbs was a short, squat woman without any discernable waist.  That’s no shame in and of itself unless you saw her strike her authoritative pose, such as when she’d put her hands on her hips.  Then you realized that Ms. Grubbs didn’t know where her hips were.  It looked affected, as though she’d heard or read that this is what teachers do to make a point, and it certainly didn’t convey trust or power.  She’d clamp her hands along her ribcage, as though she were trying to keep up an imaginary corset. 

Sadly, Ms. Grubbs was always afraid she was going to get fired, and rightly so.  She didn’t do anything well, so it was a legitimate fear.  After another year of not passing her certification, she was demoted again, this time to the library assistant.  I was teaching and running the library, and at the end of the year, the principal offered me the chance to oversee the library full-time, at a considerable pay cut.  I passed, he offered me another teaching position, and Ms. Grubbs took my place, for what I’m sure was even less money than I was offered. 

After “running” the library for two years, she’s now working in the office.  The library is permanently closed until they can find a teacher to take it back on. 

I found this out the other day when I ran into a former colleague of mine from TCS.  She left at the end of the school year, feeling that she’d put enough time at TCS to deserve the state mandated minimum salary that Texas requires.  TCS told her “we’re a charter school so we can’t pay as much” and she politely declined to sign a new contract.  She’s now going to a better district where she’ll teach fewer classes for more money.

We chatted, and I asked her about our various former co-workers.  Almost everyone we worked with there that was competent has left, and the incompetent ones got district positions.  We pretty much ran through the list until I remembered Ms. Grubbs.

“Is Gina Grubbs still there?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said shortly.  “But she’s not running the library.  They lost so many books last year that the administration wouldn't let her be in charge of it anymore.”

“So… what does she do?”

My friend coughed.  “She’s the office manager.”

“Oh,” I said, nonplussed.  “Um –“

She interrupted me before I could ask.  “I seriously doubt she actually gets to order any supplies.  Mostly I think she answers the phone.”

“Well, at least she has a job still,” I said brightly. 

“Yeah,” my friend said.  “Lucky them.”

They really are, aren’t they?  I’m sure she’ll be in a district job soon enough.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Some people just want to watch the world burn

When you're teaching summer classes for credit recovery, oftentimes you hope that your students will push themselves, and do more, or be more, than what they were during the school year, which was apparently very little.

Most of the time, that hope is vain.

Sure, some of my students did better, but those are students who didn't pass because of things outside of their control.  Or the two kids who had a worse than useless English teacher, so even a mediocre one would be an improvement.

Still, one looks through their writing and realizes that God has a sense of humor, and a pretty dark one at that.

What is the difference between one man and another.  This question can be very tricky or easily to respond.

Would you rather be yourself or something that you’re not?

Have you ever noticed the same similarities on people?

It is best to be unique like anybody else.

We were all born to be abnormal, not the same.

I think it’s pretty cool to be customary.

We the people have many feelings some may be bad and some may be good.

I mean, you can't spell "thesis" without the word hell.  At least if you're these students, you can't. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

And so we enter endgame

After all that buildup for the last two weeks, I'm tempted just to say something stupid like, "Everything worked out fine.  We had a standoff, and Mr. Glick was goaded into admitting that he wanted to get rid of me because my fabulous teaching made him look bad, but when he turned around, the entire school and PTO and board was there, listening, courtesy of my sidekick, fellow teacher Jill. Mr. Glick was fired after parents stormed the office, demanding I be reinstated. The board realized that I was the blameless person and shook hands with me as the music swelled and students cheered."

Well, that didn't happen.  I wish it had because it would be a whole lot more cinematic that what actually occurred. But sometimes I like to pretend it did if only to use that scene sometime in the future.

What did happen?  Ken got busy negotiating.  He'd call me every evening with gleeful updates that made my stomach churn.  I had to find every email, every meeting recording I made and turn them over after transcribing them. It was exhausting and felt like I had a colonoscopy every day.

A week after I left, I got my dream job offer, one that is more flexible, pays better, and will propel my career forward in a way that DA never would.  Ironically, I started the day that Ken finally finished negotiating a settlement.  Basically, I got everything I asked for, plus more.  Ken couldn't actually believe it.  He was giddy; I was relieved.

I'm just glad I'll never have to deal with Debut Academy again.  I'll miss my students, but all my teacher friends there either quit this year or retired. Mr. Glick is still there, but I honestly wonder how long he'll last.

I never thought I'd say it, but I'm glad it happened.  I might have stayed and become used to working in a dysfunctional environment, and that's never good.  I might have missed the opportunity to apply for the job I have now.  Unfortunately, this has made me more suspicious of the people I work with, and I don't know that that will ever go away.  But to quote the poet, "My head is bloody but unbowed."  Which still sounds overly dramatic to me and a bit pretentious, but when am I ever going to get the chance to use that line again?

Monday, June 19, 2017

What doesn't kill you makes for a pretty inspirational story

Now, the next chapter in what sounds like an incredibly horrifying story.  

Once my anger wore off, the freak-out started.  How was I going to pay rent?  How was this going to affect my career long term?  I'd stomped out and not signed anything, so did that mean he fired me or I resigned? Yes, I could probably use the unemployment pay, but I really didn't want it to look like I was told to leave.

There was nothing I could do at this point except start applying for jobs, fast.  But still, it was May, and as most teachers know, interviews for open teaching positions start in March.  The only jobs available at this point would be for awful schools or substitute positions. On the plus side, I'd started putting feelers out in April when it looked like I might not get my contract renewed, so I'd already had some applications in. 

I left on a Friday.  The following Monday, I got a call, asking to set up an interview Thursday for one of three administrative jobs that I would KILL for.  It almost seemed to good to be true, so I didn't get my hopes up.  Meanwhile, my phone was blowing up with calls and text from other teachers at DA asking where I was, what was going on, and did I need anything?  Debut's administration put out a story that I would be out for the rest of the year, period.  I just responded with "I'm okay, but I can't talk right now."  

DA emailed me a paper to sign, saying the school would call it a resignation if I promised not to badmouth the school.  I laughed and laughed, and then called my brother-in-law, who's an employment lawyer.  We spent the next two nights on the phone, figuring out what to do.  Did I want to sue them for wrongful termination?  He warned me that I might end up fired anyway with nothing if I tried to pursue action against them.  What I wanted was to get my paycheck for the month and walk away clean, but that didn't seem likely.  Still, I wasn't ready to sign the paper, because I felt the school owed me, even though Ken said I should just do it. I can be pretty reactive at times, but for some reason, I was stubborn now.  Ken kept telling me to sign, but I dug my heels in. 

Out of the blue, I got a voicemail from Mr. Glick.  He asked me to call him, saying that we had some things we needed to talk about, and he didn't want to communicate over email.  I called my brother-in-law.

"Ken, what do I do?  What does he want?" I felt weird and panicky about it.

Ken just laughed.  "Holy cow, Charly.  I don't know what you did or what dirt you have on him, but this is great."

"What do you mean?"

"It's time to make a deal."

Monday, June 12, 2017

If this is moving up then I'm moving out...

So, it's been a bad last few months, but a great last few weeks.

I'm no longer at Debut Academy.  The perfect job ended up turning into a perfect nightmare.  I'm not sure how it happened, except that I DO know how.  It began with the new principal, the one who came my second year, whose real name and whose euphemistic nickname, the one hurled at him behind his back, rhymes with "Glick."

Mr. Glick has never been a principal before.  He thinks that to be a good principal, all teachers have to agree with everything he says and does.  He doesn't like differing opinions or new ideas that aren't his.

Mr. Glick is also "highly concerned" with "maintaining the school's image."  So when I found evidence that a teacher in my department was giving out answers to the upcoming test and turned in proof of it (a photo of a student's notes), I was disciplined for "unprofessional behavior."  Apparently, cheating on tests is okay, but finding proof of a teacher's dishonesty and notifying the administration is conduct "unbecoming to a DA teacher."

I spent the rest of the school year angry and defending myself from accusations that got weirder and wilder as the year went on.  My principal said he kept needing to "check in" with me, because he'd "heard some stories and complaints," but wouldn't tell me who told him these stories or made the complaints.

When I told the administration that if they had such concerns about me as a teacher that they were welcome to come sit in and observe my classes, they all declined and said they were "too busy."

Things came to a head when I was told that there were serious concerns about my performance.  Mr. Glick said I hadn't followed through on a series of tasks that he hadn't given me.  I blew up and told him that a) he wouldn't know about my performance since he'd NEVER been in my classroom, nor communicated with me about anything other than his "reservations"; b) if I was such a bad employee, why was he basing this on rumors that had no basis, rather than conducting an investigation or putting me on a performance improvement plan?

When Glick said, "You think I have time for something like that?" I laughed and stood up.  "I guess it was a bit much for me to expect you to act PROFESSIONALLY, wasn't it?  Are we done here?"

Yes, I walked, though he would say he asked me to leave.  Campus security escorted me out.  I probably would have started crying if I hadn't been so enraged.

Do I care?  Only about the students I left.

Don't worry, there's more...

Monday, June 5, 2017

I before e except, uh, some other time

So yeah, I haven't been writing much lately.  Life has been horrifying and chaotic and pretty much has felt like I've been on a roller coaster for the last two months.  It's not been fun, but the outcome of all this horror has been more than I could even hope for.

Yes, I owe you an explanation.  But unfortunately, it's still not that entertaining or humorous, even though I keep trying to write it that way.  So until IWSG day here's some more bad writing to keep you entertained.

A junk food tax would cause health problems to go down, and people would choose to exercise regularly.

The porpoise of this is to affect everyone’s health.

Eating junk food has always been around but some people take atvantage of it and become overly large.

Being overweight or being constantly told they are causes people to get depression which makes them worst.

It becomes a long chain of bad things.

Meanwhile, I'm working on my not funny story in hopes of helping both you and me to see the humor in it.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Illiteracy of the soul

So, I've had an explosive couple of months, which has lead to my posting falling way, WAY off.  It's been hard to "bring the funny" under those circumstances.  But next week I'll fill you in on the chaotic state of my life and work now.

In the meantime, I thought I'd crush your hopes for the future by sharing more fun student writing.  One of these sentences will make its way to a motivational poster in the future - I just know it!

In this society, adults are considered to be older people who have more than teenagers.

Adults are the number 1 role model that children look up to.

Adults need to stay in their own lane, and get out of kids way.

When an adult has something their kid likes, they tend to understand their kid a little bit better, unlike parents who don’t understand their kid at all.

When their child has a problem they can help them work it out. Like when a child is failing the parents bribe them to do better because they fix the problem.

Kids are the future and the past.

Typically the outcome of depressed students is suicide, wrong decisions and anti-socialism.