Friday, January 18, 2008

Is this a high level of collaboration and communication?

During the fall of 2006, the new principal began the year in an open and friendly manner. Although I had been promised by Tam that the new principal would be informed of the events that lead to the investigation it did not happen. When I met briefly with her, she told me she had chosen not to be informed. (I found this particularly troubling as Tam had asked me to move forward. I expected him to keep his word and he did not.) At the meeting with the principal I requested additional computer training. She said that it would be provided. I am always ready to begin anew, so the first 4-6weeks went well.

Civil: (adj) Adhearing to the norms of polite society; not deficient in common courtesy.

My academic team was working on a new classroom based assessment (CBA) with minimal time together. Both of my colleagues coached sports after school so our weekly 6th period plan was cut short. When we reached our scheduled start date for library research, no one else was ready to start. Consequently, I started the project without a guide (the finalized rubric) to show the students. I eventually used my own roughed-out rubric to correct the CBA because my class finished before the others. This lead to two unpleasant events.

First, I went to talk to the principal (the vp was present); I tried to explain to her that our team was having difficulties with the CBA for lack of time together; the department chair had failed to complete the rubric. I was trying to request problem solving, but instead was demeaned. She told, me in a nasty tone, to do my own work, that he did his own work and I should take my own notes. It was not up to him to do my work. (I did not bother pointing out that I had offered to complete the rubric for the group and was turned down. Or that both of these coaches were wearing many “hats” and working extremely hard. This was not a matter of finding anyone at fault, it was a matter of scheduling sufficient time together to accomplish what she had requested.) I pointed out that the rubric is supposed to be identical for all students, that historical laws/guidelines are written down so there can be no question as to what is expected. I felt attacked. I left realizing that the beginning of the year had been a sham; that the new principal was behaving in the same bullying manner as the previous one. It is troubling that we teach problem solving and teamwork techniques to our students, yet our administrators do not model and use these skills.

Second, I again requested additional technical training and the principal gave me a terse answer. She told me to contact one of the two tech trainers in the building and do it after school or during planning (which we did not share.) Do it yourself. I did not contact the lead tech person as he left immediately after school because his wife was seriously ill. I let it go. In November or early December there was a staff meeting where the new three-tier technology guide was introduced. The principal introduced it by assuring the staff that nobody was expected to be in the second or third tier this year. She then asked us to take a few minutes to skim the document and mark anything in the first column we had used. After a few minutes she began by praising a new technology practice used by Mike Kendrick. She asked him to explain the project, which he did.

Then she asked for volunteers to tell what technology they had employed. I raised my hand but she called on a new staff teacher who mentioned an item from the first tier. She spoke encouraging words to the woman. She asked for more volunteers, but no one raised their hand, so she called on me. I began with the first column and noted about half of the items. In the second column I noted about 1/3 of the items, and in the third column I pointed out about 1/3 of the items. I was explaining what we did and the tech advisor broke in, “That’s right. You’ve done a lot of that during your National History Day research.”

Actually, while much was done during research, much was also done during other class projects. When I finished she said nothing to me, did not look at me or acknowledge my presence. She turned away from me to a table and picked up some papers saying, “Now for the next item on the agenda . . .” She had a choice to admire and encourage but instead she chose to ignore me, a form of shunning and certainly not a model courtesy for staff or children.

The other troubling incident occurred on a non-student day. To make the training “more fun”, we were going to do an activity. The principal had brought a toy to school. She had placed a target at the front of the room and asked the vp to model how the toy GUN work. He looked extremely uncomfortable. However, after a couple of mishaps he did shoot the dart onto the target. She asked several people to described their goals, then shoot the target. The point was “reaching your goals.” So in a school where we had removed all weapons from the drama department when we put up signs at the entrances about a gun free zone, the principal provides a different model. I found this disturbing.

When I retired and left the school in December of ’06 it was not the school I knew and loved. Although I had gone out of my way to email the principal before school began concerning hall management strategies we had been using, it became obvious that there were few teachers in the halls. I opened my doors in the morning to children who were uncomfortable in that atmosphere. Years of systematically developing rapport with students, applying respectful corrections to discourteous and off-task students, looking to administration for support, guidance and inspiration had disappeared. In place there is a top down, punitive attitude. And hounds pestering, bothering and attacking their hard working colleagues.

Harass 1. to disturb persistently; torment as with troubles or cares; bothercontinually; torment as with troubles or cares; pester, persecute. 2. to trouble by repeated attacks, incursions, etc., as in war or hostilities; harry; raid. MF harasser Equivalent to hare, interjection to urge hunting dogs on.

Editorial: Thank you for sharing.


Anonymous said...

I read this story with great interest; this happened to me as well, just a few different circumstances, but basically the same procedure was carried out. I was forced in to retirement and I am struggling financially, as I was forced to retire at 62 rather than 65 years of age. My heart goes out to you (the author of this article).

Anonymous said...

Me, too. Any more out there? Any who have managed to "tough it out" after being treated this way? Maybe not you but a colleague?