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.