A Bad Administrator In The Classroom: A Fairy Tale

Keeping with my theme of make-believe and fairy stories, I began to think the other day during a staff meeting (where we discussed what we had already received in a memo), what would happen if people long, long, long out of the classroom, such as bad, out of touch administrators, were thrust back into duty?

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Now I know some Admins. make it their mission to never loose touch with what it was like to be in the classroom. Some will even substitute on your sick days to get a feel for the students. I don’t know these people, but I’ve heard they exist.

I’m talking about, however, the ones safely behind their desks in their shiny, clean offices, decorated with live plants, carpet, breakable things, and state of the art technology. The ones with access to intercoms, a copier that works, food delivery, 2 hour lunch breaks, special parking, and the ability to call a meeting because…eh…why not. Those people.

Now granted, many Administrators worked in classrooms for years and have earned their chance to relax a little because they have their own set of responsibilities we know nothing about, such as running an entire school without the place flooding, exploding, catching fire, being shut down from a lice epidemic, etc. etc.

Think of one that you really didn’t/do not like. One that snuck in on the ‘good ol’ boy or girl’ system. One that spent the bare minimum amount of time in the classroom before working their way up to Assistant Principal, where they spent another bare minimum amount of time on that before they received a Principal position.  Let’s call her Mrs. Jones. Here’s her fairy tale….

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Donna Jones had been a teacher for precisely 3 years before attending a 3 hour course to be an Assistant Principal. She got the next open position and spent another 2 years there before barely passing her Principal certification. Donna Jones didn’t like being in the classroom, but she had big ideas. She was going to go all the way, to Superintendent if she could. The test scores at her school were very good, thanks to her solely of course, and the teachers were well trained to ask no questions, make no suggestions, or challenge any of her ideas. She was always right anyway. What did they know.

Donna arrived at school one morning with a smile plastered across her face. After splashing some water on teachers crossing the parking lot full of holes, she parked right next to the door prepared to begin her day as she always did: Announcements.  The Principal before her had always allowed the Students Council to do the announcements, but Donna liked to hear herself talk as she believed she had an excellent speaking voice, so she did all of them now. She had also planned a last minute staff meeting that should take up most, if not all, of the teachers’ conference periods where she planned to discuss changing all the curriculum at the Semester because of a book she read. She liked the ideas in this book and, although none of the book had statistics to support the curriculum theories, she thought it would be a great idea to change. And if the teachers didn’t like it? Well, she would assign them terrible duties and that would put an end to the whining.

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Upon entering her office, Donna was dismayed to find students lined up outside her door. ‘What are you doing here?” she asked. They stated that they needed retests and homework help and since no one else was there yet, they had been instructed to come to her. “Homework”, she thought with a huff. “Sorry, but that’s NOT my job,” she stated squeezing her way in the door. “What are we supposed to do?” a student asked. “Go ask a teacher,” she replied. “None of them are here,” they said.

How could this be? She worked her way into the receptionist’s office. “Where are all the teachers?” she asked, in a grumpy tone. This was not how she wanted to start her day! “Everyone has called in sick!” the receptionist said, dismayed. “I’ve called in enough subs for all but 1 class. Could you take the class? We’re desperate?”

Donna thought it over. It wasn’t the way she wanted to spend her day, but how hard could it be? “Alright,” she sighed. “I’ll do it.” The receptionist looked relieved and assigned her to a class in the adjoining building. Science. “The teachers always seem to make this look easy, ” she thought. “If THEY can do it, I’m certain that I can do it”.

Donna had not had a Science class in 25 years, but being as brilliant as she thought she was, she headed off to the Science building.

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The bell rang and the students haphazardly began to enter the Science classroom. “A Sub!” they squealed! “We have a Sub!”

“Now sit down young ladies and your gentlemen,” Donna began, but it seemed like no one was listening to her. She raised her voice a bit and repeated the request. Students milled around the room, one chased another and two were fighting with IDs on cords. Donna raised her voice a little more. Nothing happened. A teacher stuck his head in from across the hall. “Sit down and shut it!” he bellowed. The students scattered, finding their seats, and settling down. “Oh hello, Mrs. Jones,” the teacher said. “I thought they were in here by themselves. I’ll leave you to it.” As he disappeared, Donna had a fleeting thought that she wanted to call him back, but no. She had this covered.

She began by calling roll. It wasn’t until the 12th student or so when she realized that some of them had answered multiple times. “Are you giving me your correct names?” she asked. Heads bobbed. A few chuckled. “Because if you aren’t,” she said, “You will receive a stern discussion with me.”

“What did she say?” whispered one student to another. “I don’t know,” the student replied.

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“Hey,” said one student. “Aren’t you that lady that does announcements?”

“I,” Donna said, standing up a little taller, “am your Principal. Don’t you know who I am?”

Students shook their heads.

“How come you never write anything down for those announcements?” another student asked. “You make a lot of mistakes.”

Donna was shocked. How DARE they be so insolent! “Your teacher never makes any mistakes?” she asked, determined to show them by logic that their comments were faulty. “Not really, ” replied a student. “She’s very smart and funny and we like her.” Donna sniffed.

Clearly these children couldn’t be reasoned with.

She passed out the worksheet and the students began working, except for one. “Why are you not working?” she asked him. “I don’t have a pencil,” he said. “Why do you not have a pencil?” she asked. He shrugged. She returned to the teacher’s desk and dug through it looking for a pencil. “Here,” she said, presenting him with a pencil. “It’s not sharpened,” he said. “So sharpen it…” Donna replied. “Nah,” the student said and continued to sit there. “What was wrong with these students?” she thought. Clearly, she needed to address students having supplies and showing respect at the next staff meeting. This was ridiculous.

A student asked her a question she couldn’t answer, and then another, she also couldn’t answer. She referred to a Science book and then realized that Pluto was still a planet in the book. “Why are these books so old?” she thought. Students couldn’t learn with outdated material. Another student raised his hand because he didn’t have a pencil either. “This is unacceptable,” she mumbled to herself as she dug through the desk again.

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The class ended and the next came in, worked up as before. She tried to politely settle them until the teacher across the hall came over again and yelled at them to be seated. Four more didn’t have pencils, everyone asked who she was, 1 wanted a Band-Aid, everyone had questions she couldn’t answer, and one wouldn’t stop talking to save her life.

Another class followed, this time with 4 students without pencils, 2 wanting to use the restroom while she was trying her best to give directions, 2 were arguing like an old married couple and wouldn’t be quiet, one kept throwing paper airplanes and another kept wandering around like Moses looking for the promised land. No one knew who she was…again.

Papers stacked up on her desk like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. How in the world did the teacher grade these, keep class under control, make lesson plans, make copies, help with homework and retests, attend staff meeting and do duty? Right then, a student came up and asked for paper. “Why?” Donna asked. “I like to eat it,” the student said. Donna gave her the paper. At this point, who cared.

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The rest of the day was a blur and when the last bell rang, she sighed with relief. That is until the receptionist came in and told her that the teacher she replaced had parent pick up duty. Off she trudged to the lot. Did her shoes hurt this much when she put them on this morning? Students milled around and talked while parents were clearly waiting in cars. Another teacher had a megaphone and was calling names, sometimes 3-4 times before the student responded. “Great,” Donna thought to herself. “Now they don’t even know their own names.” Forty-five minutes later, duty was over and Donna drug herself to her car. She couldn’t remember where she had placed her keys so she had to go back to her office. Finally, after searching for some time, she realized they were in her pocket.

Donna was in bed at 7:30 pm. As she tried to sleep, she realized that being a teacher wasn’t as easy as she remembered. “I really need to do things to help those teachers out,” she thought to herself. She drifted off to sleep planning all the things she was going to do to appreciate and value her teachers, including buying each classroom a supply of pencils. “Ridiculous,” she mumbled into her pillow.

The end.

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Do you Duty?

I wanted to talk about another teacher hot button topic: duty.

Before I do so, however, I am taking a poll to get a general feel of how everyone else functions. For those non-teachers, duty can be extra work around the school either before or after normal contract hours, and/or, during the day in place of an off period or a break. Generally, in my neck of the woods, it is not optional and receives no extra compensation.

Feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts on the subject, how your school applies the process, if it works/doesn’t, etc. I’m withholding my thoughts for the moment so I can hear some of yours.

Please take the poll and look out for my new blog on this topic coming soon! Thanks!

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http://poll.fm/f/4dty7

Get On The Bus…

The dark side

I hadn’t planned on writing another blog quite so soon, but the response to my use of humor to share teacher misery was overwhelming!

99% of you understood that it was meant to be funny. <1% (well, actually 5 of you out of over 66,000 hits) were actually looking for ideas to make In-service better, and the last <1%, (2 of you), well, I’ll save them for later on.

To start, let me tell you that I’m required to attend 8 days of In-service and 2 work days. Quite a bit of these days are not led by Administrators but people hired to teach a seminar.  I have the greatest of respect for good Administration who are there to do a job many of us would rather not do. We call it “the dark side”, but really, they get to see some of the worst of the worst as far as situations, student behavior, etc.  Many of them DO have their hands tied and can’t do anything different for In-Service, or they are afraid to do something different because ‘this is how it’s always been done’. Every now and then you get an Admin who is open to new things and that’s when we, as teachers, need to jump at the chance to share our ideas.  So as we commiserate, we can remember that they are probably just as un-thrilled as we are about what’s going on. Now, people who are hired and get paid to do this for a living…that’s another thing!

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One fella we had brought cotton balls and gave them to us as a ‘reward’ for ‘participation’.  I teach Junior High, so we think like them from time to time, and we brought cotton balls in our purse, and the guy couldn’t understand how the bowls had become so full.  THAT’S the kind of In-Service I’m talking about….

People had some great ideas about what teachers really want and need in an In-service, so to help people out who were looking for this, I compiled the suggestions.

1. Have a separate training day for new teachers. They can get all of their paperwork finished, learn about campus and district policies, and receive all of their supplies and assignments. (I always wanted them to wear beanies for a week, but that’s probably teacher hazing).

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2. Have the whole staff attend a 30 min – hour meeting where new teachers are introduced, any finished/ongoing changes to the campus/district are discussed, and teachers receive a folder of all paperwork that needs to be completed by the end of the day (contact forms, etc.).

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3. The rest of the day is spent with Departments creating lesson plans for at least the first grading period. While they are together, the Principal can stop by and let them know test results and what the department needs to focus on for the upcoming year.

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4. Technology can come and meet with teachers by building and make sure all technology is working/installed/updated. (Did you know that if you put in a tech request and they fix the problems quickly, they close out the request by typing P.I.C.N.I.C which means ‘Problem in chair, not in computer’? It’s true…)

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5. All extra-curricular teachers and sponsors can meet and work out their calendars for the year. Hopefully this will help and little Johnny won’t be expected to be in band, in choir and on a Student Council trip at the same time.

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6. Teachers can join one of several different teacher led campus committees, such as PTA Reps, Secret Pals, Special Events, Sports Support, Grants for Teachers, Pets in the Classroom, etc. and plan how to involve teachers throughout the year and how to use activities to not only help students, but that also build teacher morale.

6296_fundforteachers7. As an In-service activity, teachers can be grouped with different departments and they can discuss what works, what doesn’t work, ideas for classroom management, etc. They create notecards full of ideas that work, and all teachers receive a copy to give them new ideas.

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8. Anyone who needs a specific course in bullying, harassment, discipline, management, etc. can use this time to take an online course. Many are offered through region training centers and can be taken at school. Results are printed and filed in the front office to make sure they have credit.

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9. And last, but certainly not least, teachers are able to make copies, clean and decorate, and get ready for the new batch of students.

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Now, as for the <1% who obviously didn’t understand that my previous blog was to be humorous, my advice: don’t read my blogs. It’s that simple. I am truthful and I try to present truth in a way that makes people laugh. I believe I was called a ‘whiner’ and told that my classroom scores must not be good, and that I needed to ‘get on the bus’.

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I got news for you. All teachers are ON the bus. We LIVE on the bus. We eat there, cry there, celebrate there, and fall in love with our kids and career every year there.  One In-service activity last year actually had us get on a bus and tour the neighborhoods we served so we had a better idea about the kids and their home life. Some people threw up from motion sickness, some got heat exhaustion from the AC not working, and others just stared in awe at the ‘homes’ that these children lived in. But we were ALL there, and we stay there long past the day we retire.

What people who don’t teach don’t understand is that we don’t do this for the money, certainly not the insurance or the retirement. We do it for the kids, and if we have to use humor now and then to commiserate, then so be it. Like it or no, the truth is funny.