Monday, August 31, 2015

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

People don’t quit at CISD.  They get “let go.”

I’ve pondered this phenomenon for the last week or so, as I've heard back from teachers I worked with at CISD who stayed and who left.  The teacher turnover rate at my CISD school, hereby known as Low Expectations High, stood at more than 60 percent by May.   So each year, Low High and the rest of Crappy had to replace two-thirds of the staff.  Since we all know (or should know) that kids tend to like stability and routine, this doesn’t bode well for any campus.

Most of those teachers quit.  A handful left within the first week.  A third left at the end of the first semester.  Meanwhile, teachers dropped out here and there as they burned out or decided they’d put up with enough.  The rest of the deserters refused to re-up their contracts when the year ended. 
Only a tiny amount got fired, or their contracts weren’t renewed.  A school like Low, which is hemorrhaging teachers, can’t afford to boot out a lot.  Low High had a reputation in the area, and attracting new talent was extremely difficult.  But the administration still put out the story that each teacher that left was “let go.” 

For example, take Coach Johnson.  Coach Johnson is extremely imposing in appearance, at 6 foot 6 inches tall and 260 pounds.  If he decides to stand over a student, that student’s speech immediately begins to falter, and his/her eyes grow big and round.  Despite this, Coach Johnson is the most polite, soft-spoken and gentle man you could ever meet.  But he sure knows how to turn on the intimidation when he needs to, which helped since he oversaw ISS students and ran detention every day.

Coach Johnson left at the end of the first semester.  Like most good teachers, he could see that working at CISD was a dead end.  I’m sure Coach didn’t like his job – I wouldn’t if my job was to be in charge of behavior problems.  But he did like coaching football, and he was highly skilled at it.  Coach found a job at an organization where he would contract out to coach independent youth football leagues in different communities.  I’m sure he’s much happier now, and he didn’t leave on bad terms with the school.  Still, the school put out the story that he was fired.

That’s ridiculous, especially if you know anything about Low, Texas, and football.  Coach Johnson was a phenomenal offensive coordinator, with a wealth of experience, and Low had tried to go to state for years.  There’s no way the administration would have fired him unless they caught him with a stash of child pornography.  Everyone knows that football coaches are pretty much above the law in CISD.  If you can win games, the administration will hang on to you like grim death, or start throwing money your way if it suspects you're looking at other options.

A freshman English teacher left one morning in early February.  The students said he was fired.  But once again, I know the teacher and the real story.  Mr. Kammel, a thin, nervous, goateed, horn-rimmed glasses hipster, had only taught for two years, and he started at Low Expectations High.  He seemed nice enough, and I wondered aloud to some of my coworkers how he’d lasted here for more than a month, much less two years.

Mr. Kammel had come in before school started on a Tuesday with a note from his doctor, saying he needed to go on leave for extreme anxiety and stress.  He had left before first period started.  But the students apparently got the message from someone that he was fired, since that is the story they spread.

I’m sure it was the same when I left.  I quit, which looks bad because I’m the yearbook teacher, and it means that the new yearbook teacher will have to start from scratch like I did. But the administration probably said I was fired, so it looks like they’re in control. 

Realistically, no business can boot that many people.  A school doing that much firing has an administration that doesn't know how to hire. It says more about the principal than the teachers who leave.  No one is going to sympathize with her for having so many unreliable teachers.  I don’t get why she keeps claiming that teachers were “let go,” thinking it makes it look like the problem is the teachers, not the school.  It makes it look like Low is completely out of control, which it was, and still is.  We bled out staff like crazy, and no one tried to stop it.  If Low were a stabbing victim, blood would be pooling under his gurney while nurses yelled at him to get up and change his own damn gauze and to quit making so much noise as well.  

During the last week of school, Mrs. Gibbons, the principal, sent out an email, saying that we had eight teachers out one day, and she needed our help to cover those classes.  She was “trusting us to step up and help out because it takes a village.”   

I appreciate a good cliché as much as anyone, but I just couldn’t see the silver lining, and didn’t feel like making lemons out of lemonade.  I deleted the email, because the village was burning into the ground anyway, and she never said what the village is supposed to DO.  This villager had already loaded up her cart and was heading for the highway, waiting to flag down a passing car.
Although I'm sure the official story is that I was "let go."

Monday, August 24, 2015

There's no "team" in "IT"

So, school is now underway.  I’ve met my students and walked them through the expectations and procedures for my class.  I’m feeling pretty upbeat about this new school year.

Except when it comes to tech support. 

Remember how I said tech support here is a bit lacking?  It’s more than a bit.  Granted, it’s just a minor part of the day to day processes at Debut Academy, but it still has me worried. 

During the first two days of school, the attendance program didn’t work.  We were all trying to enter our attendance during each class period, but it didn’t work.  The computer cursor kept blinking and cycling.  After third period, I was frustrated enough to quit trying to make the program work, and instead just called the office with my attendance.  I had to leave a message on the clerk’s voicemail because 30 other teachers were doing the same.

Since attendance is KIND of a big deal, I emailed IT during my off period to let them know that mine wasn’t working, per the office secretary’s suggestion.  Teachers kept popping their heads in my door as they passed to ask, “Is the attendance working for you?”

Luckily, Kevin, our doughy IT guru, got back to me pretty quickly.  Nothing could have prepared me for his baffling response. His email said, and I quote, “Did you try hitting Send?”

I resisted the urge to email him back and say "Oh my gosh, that NEVER occurred to me!  And you're saying I need to open the program before trying to use it?" What are the odds that every teacher in the building was so clueless that we all screwed up attendance at once, for the entire day, in the same way?  Wouldn’t that suggest a system problem?  But hey, he is the “expert” (I think it’s appropriate to use quotation marks here.)

Attendance issues aside, this wasn’t the first sign that IT isn’t functioning well.  I found out the other day that Debut's IT doesn’t fix or improve our technology; it actually makes it worse.  Adam, another teacher in my department, can’t use the computer docking station provided with his school-issued laptop.  You use the docking station from your computer to control the ELMO, smart board, LED projector, printer, and even the microwave. 

I’m just kidding about it controlling the microwave, but seriously, I still can’t figure out why each room in the school comes with a microwave situated right next to the docking station.  I use mine to heat up my chimichangas.

Adam tells me that every time he docks his laptop, the screen turns blue and begins a memory dump.  Apparently, he kept bugging IT about fixing it last year, and as a result, Adam’s laptop disappeared for weeks so the tech guys could fix it.  When it came back, several files were missing, and the printer driver had been reconfigured so that it would only print to an inkjet on the other side of the building.  Oh, by the way, the laptop STILL wouldn’t work with the docking station. 

Yesterday I was talking to Adam in my room when Dave, one of the IT guys, came by to ask if everything was working okay.  Personally, I think he was just there because he smelled the chimichangas cooking.  “Everything’s good here,” I said.  Dave nodded and turned to go when I remembered.  “Oh yes!  Adam still can’t use his docking station.”

Adam gave me a frantic look that said, “Shut up, you moron,” but it was too late.  Dave looked concerned and stepped back into the room.  “Oh, I’ll need to take a look at that!”  Adam quickly assured him that he’d bring the laptop by later when he finished with what we were doing (nothing).

Dave left, after telling Adam to make sure he came by before 2 pm.  Adam turned to me and said, “You know what?  Don’t help.  Really, just don’t.  He’s not tech support; he’s a butcher.”

“So why is he still around?” I asked.

Adam shrugged.  “He responds to emails promptly.”

Adam still can’t use his docking station, but on the upside his microwave doesn’t work either, which could explain why he’s the only member of the 9th grade team whose rear end doesn’t spill over the sides of his ergonomic desk chair.

IT is the one non-bright spot so far at DA.  But if that’s the only tradeoff for working in a decent place, I’ll gladly take it.  I don’t mind tackling the occasional computer problem myself.  Anyone know what startup error code 0x00000074 means?

Monday, August 17, 2015

The horror, the horror! No, really!

For my next horrifying story about teachers who think it’s good to be friends with their students or who don’t draw appropriate boundaries, I’d like to touch on areas that are the stuff of parent nightmares.

Everyone is concerned about adults possibly preying on children.  Teachers and parents know the warning signs of possible abuse and have information about who to inform if said abuse is happening.  Administrators also strenuously warn against being overly affectionate with kids, calling or texting them, or spending too much time alone with them.  People who go into teaching generally do so because they care about students and want to help them.  Thus, the warnings come with the explanation that teachers need to be careful and “above reproach” in their behavior, in order to protect themselves from false accusations and teach students appropriate ways to interact with adults.  Most teachers follow those guidelines.

But Tony decided he didn’t want to be like most teachers.

Tony worked with me at a middle school, and it was his first year in the classroom.  He decided he wanted to be the “cool teacher.”  Even though Tony was married and had small kids of his own, he decided that the rest of the staff was too uptight in dealing with students.  We just didn’t “get” them the way he did, and we weren’t properly “balancing work with fun.”

We all noticed that his classroom tended to get pretty loud.  But the things that followed were weirder.  He covered up the windows on the door of his classroom, which doubled as the computer lab.    Tony said that people “peeking in constantly” disrupted class.  Why no one questioned him on this, I’ll never know. 

 Lunch detention was for those students who didn’t do their homework or classwork.  Students had to eat lunch in silence and then work on their assignments.  The teacher was only to talk if he or she was helping a student.  I’ll skip the slow build up and just get right to the horrifying part.  Tony was supposed to be in charge of lunch detention one day, on a day that all the administrators happened to be off campus for a district meeting. 

Lisa, the grade level chairperson, was in the teacher’s lounge when she heard loud shrieks and squeals coming from Tony’s room.  She tried to enter the room, but the door was locked.  Lisa rattled the knob and knocked, but no one answered, and the noise continued.  So she pulled out her master key and unlocked the door.

Tony was in the midst of a pillow fight with a group of seventh grade girls.  He had gathered the cushions from the reading room and brought them in so the girls could “have some fun.”  When Lisa opened the door, Tony was leaning over a girl who was lying on the ground and he was pushing a pillow over her head.  The other girls were wandering around the room, some participating, some on their cell phones.
I have to hand it to Lisa, who was not Tony’s boss, but was his supervisor.  Lisa looked around, ordered the girls back to their seats, collected the cell phones, turned to Tony and said, “I’m sending you home for the day.  I’m sure the principal will want to speak to you, so expect her call tonight.” 

Tony never came back to work.  After grilling his students, administrators learned that pillow fights were a regular staple of his lessons, and one of the reasons why he covered up his windows.  He had also been texting several of the girls.  More horrifyingly, Tony was using class time to help his seventh-grade, 12-year-old students set up their own Facebook and Tumblr accounts, because he knew how important it was for them to “talk to their friends.”

Friends like him, maybe?

You may be thinking, “Charly, this guy was an idiot.  You don’t have any proof he was a predator.  Yes, he showed poor judgment, but that doesn’t make him a creeper.”

I submit to you that yes, it does.  Do you want someone like this spending time with your teenage daughter?  Not only that, no predator starts abusing kids right away.  He or she has to gain their trust first. 

Right now, a well-known and nationally celebrated teacher is fighting with his school district because he was barred from the classroom.  The story is that another teacher overheard him making a mildly inappropriate comment to his fifth-grade class, and the teacher mentioned it to someone.  News of the comment reached school administration, who opened an investigation, necessitating the teacher’s removal from the classroom.  This teacher claims he’s being targeted by small-minded bureaucrats who can’t see how much good he’s done for these students and who are conducting a “witch hunt.”  After all, he’s done “wonders” with his students and has turned down multiple opportunities to work elsewhere because he “cares” about these kids.

Maybe.  But here’s what I know:  An incredibly trustworthy teacher friend of mine who worked with this teacher for years said this man continually made sexually-themed comments to his FIFTH-GRADE CLASS.  This same man is well-known for badmouthing the prior teachers of his students and encouraging students to openly criticize other teachers at the school.  In the time they worked together, my friend caught this teacher in several small but troubling lies, and most damningly, walked in on him “tickling” two ten-year-old girls who were in his classroom hours after school had let out. Granted, this teacher regularly has anywhere from 15-20 students working in his room during after-school programs, but when my friend walked in, the programs had wrapped for the day and my friend expected to find the teacher in his room alone—that’s why he went in the first place.

Does this sound like a predator who grooms his victims and who is trying to create a cult of personality around himself?  It does to me.  Having met this man myself, I can tell you that he is a phenomenal teacher, with legions of teacher-fans.  I can also tell you that talking to him caused alarms to go off in my mind.

Teachers, you probably aren’t a predator.  But if you regularly allow kids to swear in your room, tell off-color jokes, allow them to ignore certain school rules while in your classroom, field inappropriate questions (Boxers or briefs?  Yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. President,) gossiped about other teachers with the class, badmouthed administration, or allowed excessive physical contact in any sort of way, then you  have seriously failed your students.  Any behaviors that you wouldn’t display with an administrator in the room shouldn’t be displayed at all.  An adult teacher needs to teach appropriate, responsible adult behavior.   

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sharing really ISN'T caring

I always end up sitting next to an oversharer, either or in a training meeting, at church or on public transportation.  Maybe there’s something about my face that screams, “Share your life story with me!”  People do, much to my ongoing horror.  Oversharing is awkward and uncomfortable, and no one likes it.

No one, that is, except teens.  Teens don’t always know what is socially correct, so they have no problem oversharing or listening to oversharers.

I’m sure most of us have some bad habits that we wish we didn’t have, like biting our fingernails or binge-eating during Cadbury Crème Egg season, just to name a few that have nothing to do with me.  Most of us either try to break those habits or at least hide them.  But a very few persons like to parade those habits in front of others as some of their most defining characteristics.  And some of these persons are teachers in classrooms for whom a captive audience is a dream come true.  They share everything, gratifying their need for attention and approval.  Usually, these teachers argue that oversharing is an effective teaching strategy for “keeping it real” with students.

Let's call two of these teachers Mr. Randall and Ms. Boggs.  I worked with them at TCS. The way I found out they were oversharers is the reason revealing too much about your life is a terrible idea.

“Ms. Marlowe, you ever have a hard time going to sleep at night?” Taylor, a 17-year old junior asked me one day during advisory.

“Sure, sometimes.  Most people do,” I answered.

“So what do you do if you can’t go to sleep?”

“Usually I try to read a book that I know is boring or something I’m familiar with so that it tires my eyes out,” I responded.

“Mr. Randall says he always has a hard time going to sleep,” she informed me.  I feigned polite interest by tilting my head and raising my eyebrows.  I was trying to grade some essays, so I didn’t care about his sleep problems, nor could I figure out why she cared about them.  “Huh,” I said noncommittally.

“He drinks Michelob Lite until he passes out at night. Otherwise, he says he can’t go to sleep.  So does that work?” Taylor asked.  She looked, frighteningly enough, genuinely interested.

“Wait – what?”

“Drinking beer until you fall asleep.  Can you really fall asleep drinking?”  Her eyes looked solemn and curious.

Apparently, Mr. Randall had been regaling the class with stories about how it sucks to get older because you lose your hair, your looks, and your general mojo, making it harder to go to sleep.  Taylor informed me that since Mr. Randall and his wife no longer share a bedroom, (insert my coughing fit here) he watches TV and drinks Michelob Lite until he passes out.  Mr. Randall taught social studies, so I don’t know how this was part of the curriculum standards, unless he was talking about the general depression of the American populace before, during, and after the second Gulf War.

Did it ever cross his mind that this little nugget of information might be detrimental for them to know?  Did it occur to him that students might use this information against him in the future?  Trust me, if you think that won’t happen, then you don’t know teenagers.

I don't know what ended up happening with Mr. Randall since I left TCS as soon as they left the door open.  But I do know that people who overshare tend to have other issues that can spill over into the classroom.  That should be a warning to students, administrators and other teachers alike.

Ms. Boggs also liked to share more than what is appropriate.  She, like Winnie, wanted students to feel comfortable in class, so she encouraged them to share their thoughts, feelings, and favorite curse words with impunity.  Students said Ms. Boggs was “keeping it real,” making her beloved by many of the younger students. 

Fortunately, she didn’t discuss her current vices with the class, for which we were all grateful.  Most of the teacher’s lounge knew what those vices were, and they may or may not have included prescription drug abuse and shoplifting. But she did like to reminisce about her young, wilder days with the students. Guess how I found out? 

“Ms. Marlowe, did you ever smoke pot?” a student, Kevin, asked me once in class.

“That’s a pretty personal question,” I responded brusquely. I probably should have been surprised by it, but nothing seems to surprise me anymore. 

“No seriously, did you?” he insisted.

“No, seriously, that is none of your business.” I insisted back.

Kevin seemed surprised.  “Why won’t you just tell me?  It’s no big deal.” 

“You don't need to know and I'm not obligated to answer a question like that.”

“But Ms. Boggs told us!”  Yes, reader, she did.  AND she told them how old she was when she lost her virginity (15).   

“Good for her,” I said, mentally punching her in the face and deciding to contact the department head as soon as class was over.  “But it’s an inappropriate question for you to ask an adult.”

“No it’s not, ‘cause she told us!”

Here is the problem oversharers create.  They set the expectation that teachers are obliged to answer these sorts of questions, even though they absolutely shouldn’t.  Fellow teachers are now in the awful position of trying to fend off curious questions while finding out that these are the kinds of conversations going on in other classrooms.  I know I certainly didn’t appreciate it, and I can guarantee that most parents wouldn't appreciate it either.

The oversharing and lack of appropriate behavior was one of the reasons Ms. Boggs was let go at the end of the year.  I think constantly trying to sleep off her hangover during study hall might have been another reason, but fortunately (or unfortunately), I didn't learn about that one from the students.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG - This is when you know you really need to get a life

School is starting up soon, and things are looking good.

I’m working at a new school this year, and so far there are no red flags.  Believe me, I’m spending a lot of time looking for them, thanks to my prior experiences.  I imagine that my suspicious nature hasn’t endeared me to my coworkers yet, but there’s time.  Every workplace has to have that “glass is not just half-empty, it’s also cracked” person, and I’m okay with filling that slot for a few weeks.

Seriously, I don’t think I’ve felt quite so upbeat in the past about the upcoming school year.  My class schedule is great, and I’m not teaching multiple subjects like I have in years past.  Class sizes are extremely small (yay!) and I have a lot of leeway in how I can design my lessons.  My emails get returned quickly, questions about procedures yield answers that make sense, parents have already contacted me and seem supportive, and the administration has planned a huge pre-school year get-to-know-you bash at a private club for the teachers.  Tech support is a bit lacking, but you know, you can’t have EVERYTHING.

This means I’m going to die, right?

Look, I know that the last few years have left me pretty jaded.  But I’ve never had to NOT worry before school starts.  I’ve never had an entire class roster so soon or had my equipment requests in and processing so early.  What do I do if I don’t have to argue over the schedule with the administration?  Is this a natural reaction after years of teaching in what seemed like a foxhole?  Or am I suffering from some PTSD? 

It's nice that my mini-freakout is happening at the same time as IWSG post day. That's convenient. Clearly I’m used to worrying and stressing out about the situation I’m in.  I don’t need to do that, but my crazy brain has to occupy itself somehow, so instead I’m worrying about what MIGHT happen and I’m planning for possible disaster scenarios.  

I need to learn how the other, non-crisis-ridden population lives, if there is one. I hear they have hobbies of some sort. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Love can build a bridge that's structurally unsound

Last week I talked about why it’s such a bad idea for teachers to curry student favor. Trying to be students’ friends and “get down on their level” seems like a good idea, but Communism, skinny jeans and Katy Perry seemed like good ideas too.  Mr. Greg is a prime example of what happens when teachers don’t set boundaries and getting too huggy or familiar with kids.  Winnie can tell you what happens to teachers who hate to disappoint their students and try to be the good guy.

Winnie, a TCS coworker of mine, wanted students to like her.  She was a first-year communications elective teacher who felt that the students needed to feel comfortable in class and with her.  The way she got them to do that was by showing lots of videos, spending a big chunk of class time “chatting” and letting discipline fall by the wayside. She was always afraid of “upsetting” students, so the only discipline strategy she ever used was a half-hearted, “That wouldn’t be acceptable in another class!” or “You really shouldn’t do that.” 

The classroom wasn’t just out of control; it smelled.  Because she never introduced or enforced any structure or procedures, the room often looked like a war zone.  Wads of paper and broken pens constantly littered the floor; desks were often gritty with chip crumbs, Starbucks coffee cups rolled under desks and occasionally a Jack-in-the-Box bag could be seen stuffed into the bookcase.

When people like me commented on the mess, she claimed she “never really noticed” while trying to pick up stray Cheetos.  If you mentioned the smell, she always said she had a cold, as though that explained it.  Most of the other teachers just started avoiding her room; not just because of the mess and smell, but because you could feel the students getting dumber when you saw them in the room.

Even though some students complained about the mess, those same students were quick to tell me that hers was their favorite class, because “we can do whatever we want in there.” High schoolers know their priorities and very low on that list of priorities is completing work. Near the top of that list is being allowed to leave class whenever your boyfriend texts you from the hallway for a quick, uh, study session.

The administration wearied of the complaints from other teachers about the noise, the smell, and the students always seemed to end up roaming the halls.  After a few visits from our assistant principal, Winnie was told to keep the students quiet and in the classroom, or else.  So she tried, sort of.  But her attempts were met with mutiny.  Winnie had never required her students to abide by the most basic school rules, let alone throw away their trash, so they sure as heck weren’t changing now.  
Shortly after Winnie had adopted her new Viola Swamp persona, Nick, a senior, had enough and decided to walk out of her class.  To everyone’s shock (including mine when I heard about it later) Winnie actually told him to sit down. He left anyway. And why not? Nick walked out of her class most days, and she’d always let him go before.  Winnie, under pressure from administration to keep her students out of the halls, and desperate to keep her job, did something she had never done before: She followed procedure and called the office to report that a student had walked out of her class without permission.

The following is Winnie’s account of what happened later that day when she met with Nick and the Dean of Students in the Dean’s office.

Ms. Cohen, the dean of students, addressed Nick. “Why did you leave Ms. Henderson’s room without permission?” she asked.

Nick looked down at his hands and mumbled, “She said I could go to the bathroom.”

“You didn’t have a pass,” Ms. Cohen pressed.

“She forgot to give me one.”

Ms. Cohen turned to Winnie, “Is this true?” she asked.

“No,” Winnie said.  “He asked to leave, but we weren’t done with instruction, so I told him no.”

Nick looked irritated.  “Yeah, but I HAD to leave,” he told Ms. Cohen.

“Oh really?  Why?”

He looked at both of them and then said baldly, “Because she hit me.  I asked to go to the bathroom, and she said no.  When I kept telling her I really needed to go because I might throw up, she slapped my face.”

Just as Nick threw out this little nugget, the principal walked into the room.  Winnie said the principal’s face quickly went white, and he stared at her.  She felt sick herself.

Luckily, Ms. Cohen wasn’t an idiot.  She just shook her head and said, “You’ll have to do better than that Nick.  Mr. Randall saw you in the halfway through third period, and he called me as well because you were laughing and throwing paper at another student in the hall.  So if she hit you, and I’m sure she didn’t, you certainly weren’t upset about it.”

As Mrs. Cohen pressed Nick for the truth, he just smiled stupidly and said, “Well, I really had to go, for real.”

Nick ended up in ISS for two days, but he wasn’t punished for basically threatening a teacher’s job with a false claim.  Winnie told me she spoke to him in the hallway the day he came back to class.

“Why would you make up a story like that?  Do you know what could happen?  That is a terrible thing to say about a teacher, especially me!” she said because I'm sure she didn't deserve it since she's "nicer" than other teachers.

But Nick didn’t see it as a problem.  “You always let us go before.  You weren’t fair.”

“Nick, it is fair.  You can’t just leave whenever you want.  And I’m really shocked that you would accuse me of doing something so awful, something I would never do.”

He smiled stupidly again.  “Oh Miss, it’s just a joke, anyway.”

“You don’t understand,” Winnie said.  “If the principal believed you, I could lose my job.  Is that what you want?”

Nick didn’t seem disturbed at all.  “It’s no big deal.  Besides, I can’t get in trouble again, or my dad said he won’t let me have his old car when he buys a new one.”

Winnie said she wanted to scream or sob.  “Nick, I’m the teacher.  You don’t leave my class without a pass, understand?”

Now he seemed irritated.  “Miss, why you being so uptight?”

Nick was only in Winnie’s class for another few days.  She went to the principal and asked to have him moved out, saying that she didn’t feel safe with a student who had no problems making false accusations against her.  Nick was moved into MY class after that, but his time with me will be described in another post.  I can tell you that he didn’t find me “fun” or “cool” at all.

Winnie had thought if her students liked her, they would do well in her class.  But she got them to like her by letting them have their way, which as most parents know, typically backfires, because it’s impossible always to let a child have his or her way.  When Winnie tried to insist on students completing work and finishing projects, grades plummeted, and students complained to the dean and their parents that she made the class “too difficult” and “played favorites.”  The administration was sick of hearing about her shortcomings and drew up an improvement plan for her.

The sad thing is that by not drawing clear boundaries and trying to win students over, Winnie ended up hurting the students and herself.  The class members learned nothing, and she got a poor evaluation in the process.  Winnie didn’t dare try to look for a job elsewhere; unless she had positive evaluations to show a principal, no one would consider her.  So she’s stuck at TCS.  Her chances of improving or getting mentoring help are nil, and she now has a reputation among the students as a teacher who’s both a pushover and “two-faced.”