Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An open dialogue where we sit silently and get blamed

Our principal asked to meet with each of our departments so we could have a “dialogue” about what’s going on at our school.  (If you need some background, check out my previous posts.) I don’t know exactly what she expected to happen.  Maybe we’d all pour out our hearts and come to a deeper understanding of how at fault we, as teachers, are for the problems the school is facing?

Our first meeting got canceled, because she had to go to another meeting.  I can’t imagine why the other meeting would be more important.  If I was told I had to go to an emergency meeting, I might say, “My staff is mutinous, and unless I want more of them to walk and cause me to spend the entire second semester scrambling to fill teaching slots, I need to calm them down.”  Instead, she blew us off because she had a "highly important meeting" with the superintendent.  I guess I can assume our meeting wasn't "highly important."

Our department meeting was combined with two other departments.  The  mood was not a joyous one, as school was just over.  Most of us had to pee, some had students waiting on them, and everyone had grading to do. 

Is it a bad sign if your leader sits down and says, “Okay, we’re all here.  Let’s talk.  What’s on your mind?  Anyone have something to say?”  Maybe it’s just a personal issue, but I’m always looking for that meeting agenda first, then donuts.  Neither one of those were there.

I don’t want to seem critical, but in case you couldn't tell, I am.  Who the hell is going to air their grievances in front of 40 other teachers?  Why would you want to?  Nothing gets fixed, and you’re automatically seen as a whiner, or singled out as a potential problem. 

That was especially true for us.  Our principal is a genius.  Rather than stroke and praise her staff to win them over to her side, since we obviously DON’T trust her and are tense, she managed to turn everything back onto us.  We don’t understand how much the administration has to do.  Our expectations of action are too high, given that there are only nine of them.  It takes a village to run this school, and how many of us are volunteering to help out?  Teachers are afraid of the kids?  That’s ridiculous!  WE are causing the problems by being rude to the kids!

I think I speak for all of us present when I say I left with a renewed commitment to try harder, volunteer more of my free time and take every opportunity to show the kids how much I care about them.

But first I went to the bathroom, where I carved, “this school sucks” into the stall door. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Professional Development - Where Excellence is our Vague Idea

Today I had required professional development – you know, something that will help me develop professionally.  Five women presented on various random things that either my school or the district decided was important. 

I wasn’t in the best mood because a) I was at work, and b) this was taking up my conference period, which I really needed, and c) I had already had a rough day with my students.  So when one of our assistant principals got up and talked about SLANT, I wanted to throw something at her head.  Instead, I nodded respectfully and took “notes” in my interactive notebook, which was thoughtfully provided by the school. 

SLANT is familiar to me.  I used to work at KIPP schools, and I’ve read “Teach Like a Champion,” so I know what it means.  But I had just broken up a fight in my classroom between two girls and had listened to freshmen complain about having to complete classwork they deem “boring,” plus had to send another student to the office for laughing in my face when I told her she couldn’t eat in class.  So frankly, the importance of making sure students sit up, nod and track the speaker at all times seemed kind of irrelevant, at that point.

“This is what the district wants to see in all classrooms,” Ms. Hansen informed us.  I know what I want to see in all classrooms, but I doubt that’s going to happen, especially from a school that tells me not to send kids to the office, “because that’s what they want, to get out of class!” and instead tells me to write up a referral and someone will come take the disruptive student away.  I’m not holding my breath on that one.

I did feel like I developed professionally today.  I learned 21st century skills of ignoring my supervisors and trying to get actual work done, despite being hampered by upper management idiocy.  All in all, I’d say that I definitely walked away with real life skills and a commitment to care less and do less.