It’s All About Communication
At my school, as I have noted before, there is a razor-sharp, iron-clad, diamond-tipped division between the teachers and the administrative class. Most of the VPs are young and relatively inexperienced at being a VP and at teaching. They are thus insecure and do not wish to appear or become vulnerable/ignorant around their charges.
So they sort of hide out. They walk fast and look busy. They slip into your room, take some notes, and email you about what you did wrong. They are sort of comfortable in meeting situations where they are “in charge” officially. But outside of that context they don’t know what to do. At all. They say hello in the hall, but nothing more. It’s sort of up to you, as the superior, to signal an openness to something more than elevator banter if you want. Go ahead…ask me about my weekend or something…my kids…throw me a bone. I guess they’re just not into us. Or me, anyway.
So, communication…I have had three different bosses in my little division of about 20-25 teachers in three years. It’s been three people from the New Leaders for New Schools program. (Note to self: Who the hell are these people?) The latest one showed up here in August.
We had a week of extraordinarily valuable professional development before the school year started. During that time I noticed that the value of meetings was inversely proportional to their size. That is to say, value was maximized when I was left to do my own shit to get ready for school, all by myself; while value often dipped into negative territory when the whole school met together. The week clearly had negative value if you added it all up.
Back to communication: My new administrator, whom I had never spoken to or exchanged email; who I had met only once in a 45 minute meeting with 20 people, thought that the following email was the best way to initiate one-on-one contact with me (context: this is the weekend before school starts. My room obviously is not ready and I am obviously coming in over the weekend to work on it):
Hello Mr. Teachbad:
I have examined your classroom to assess whether your class is ready for the first day of school. It is a part of your professional responsibilities to have a clean, safe, and learning-conducive classroom for your students. I assessed whether 1) you had areas labeled for a standards-based classroom (i.e., student work, data, etc.), 2) it was neat and tidy, and 3) other room guidelines were adhered (i.e., no adhesives on the wall, classroom library, and accessibility of textbooks). Find below what you still need to do prior to the start of the first day on Monday, August 23. I will visit your classroom again on tomorrow to ensure it is ready for the students on Monday. You may visit the online staff handbook to get further guidance on what is expected in all classrooms in addition to contacting me.
Areas labeled for student work.
Whiteboard is missing standards-based components.
Were the books in the glass-door cabinets your Classroom Library?
Suggestion – request at least 1 additional tables and 4 chairs from Mr. Williams to ensure you have enough space for your classes.
Tidy the room. There are too many items in the middle of the floor, which makes it unsafe anyone.
As you continue to work over the weekend, I would like to thank you for your dedication and remind you to rest to mentally and physically prepare for the school year.
A friend of mine a thousand miles away had the best response: “I can feel the stick up his/her ass from here.”
I felt so loved. Everybody got the same basic thing and we were all pissed. Another friend, still at the school, email me and said “That kind of shit puts me in attack mode.” My point, again, is that these folks have learned a great many slogans and they have a lot of chutzpah and they have read many literature reviews, but they don’t know a fucking thing about people or how to handle and motivate them. Given their training and experience, I suspect it is unfair to expect them to. Which begs the question: Why did we hire them to manage a bunch of people?
Now, in all honesty, this person has gained my respect since then. But why put yourself in a position to have to win it back before I even know you? Why not just start out being nice?