A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

With the best of intentions

Dear New Principal:

It's me, the Wizened Old Veteran of the Classroom here, trying once again to help you out, and I'll have to say it here, where maybe someone else can profit from your struggles:

Never judge a teacher based on ten seconds of walking past their class at the end of the day-- a day with a completely bizarre schedule that I know you had foisted upon you by Assistant Principal Mata Hari, who has his eye on getting a cushy central office job just as soon as he can possibly kiss the hindquarters of anyone with the letters Ed.D after his or her name manage it.

You need to get your assistants in line. One of them is actively trying to stab you in the back. One of them never shows up for supervision, and also ignores the behavior guide. I often watch this one leave her office, walk twenty feet, see a staff member, and then pirouette back toward her office, and then repeat this cycle five minutes later. One of them is getting fed up with being the go-to principal since she actually is consistent. One of them is busy trying to be "real" and trying to be friends with the students.

Stop talking to the kids as if they are actually little kids.

Stop talking to the adults as if they were little kids.

Give teachers more than one hour's warning before you demand some project or lesson or bunch of paperwork. We are also expected to spend our time teaching from bell to bell, and these two expectations do not go together.

We all want to see academic standards improve. But if you enrage 90% of the faculty through capricious little decisions that really don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, well, I'm afraid we'll be looking at you, kid. As you ooze right out the door, tired and defeated. And you're a nice person. I feel for you.

You are also making me consider leaving teaching.

I can't believe those words just left my fingertips.

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At 5/13/09, 5:01 PM, Anonymous Wendy Mueller said...

Oh, ouch, Ms. Cornelius! Does this principal have *any* idea how much pain is being caused by his actions/inactions? Your students--and the ones next year--will lose so much if you leave teaching. I hope those were just words of fatigue and frustration. Summer vacation is just around the corner.

At 5/13/09, 5:35 PM, Blogger Kristie Walker said...

I think you're living my year last year. Only I'm not teaching this year. This is partly due a new baby but largely due to the situation and the burnout I suffered. I was given five preps (all writing-intensive courses) and no support, and our admin was pretty much the same... right down to the AP that walked the other direction when she saw a staff member coming. I'm taking next year off too... and never going back to that building again.

Hang in there.

At 5/13/09, 6:12 PM, Blogger Lightly Seasoned said...

Hmm. We have two openings in social studies...

At 5/13/09, 7:45 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Wow. Sorry to hear that. Having to work for people like that is a huge bummer. Plus, since they already know everything, the chances of their taking your advice is minuscule at best.

At 5/13/09, 9:07 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I was distracted by the "Spy vs. Spy" graphic. I was a huge fan of them when I was in high school.

At 5/14/09, 7:33 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

Yikes, Ms. Cornelius. I'm sorry that this is happening to you, but I'm glad that you're being aware and mindful and that you recognize that you have a line. If it gets crossed, you have to do what's right for YOU because if you're not in a good place, you can't be an effective teacher to your kids.

At 5/14/09, 5:46 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Oh I have a line, all right. Unfortunately, it's just after this line, "How do I pay for my kids' college when the other thing I want to do requires I go back to graduate school?"

At 5/17/09, 9:18 PM, Anonymous Exurban Mom said...

Just a short note to say I'm sorry you're going through this craziness.

The end of the year approacheth! You will get a much needed break, which will hopefully be restorative and allow you to consider if it's the right time to leave and try something new.

And even though I'm not a parent of your students, I thank you on their behalf, because I should be so lucky to have a quality teacher like you in my child's school.

At 5/17/09, 9:48 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thanks, thanks so much, says the worn down, beat-up, exhausted teacher. Wish you were the parent of one of my kids....


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