Seriously, Teachers, You’re Being WAY Too Difficult
Looking back it’s clear to see how Dr. Todd Whitaker’s management techniques were used at my school. I’ll illustrate a couple of examples and I encourage you to send in your own.
Recall the last post in which Dr. Whitaker’s path-breaking book Dealing With Difficult Teachers was viciously skewered in an evenhanded review. Dr. Whitaker encourages principals to use misdirection and dis-ingenuousness in their treatment of the vile subhumans they have deemed difficult teachers. Many readers think it likely their principals have read this book. This should please Dr. Whitaker.
As a follow-up to the book review, I will describe some of the tell-tale signs that I was a difficult teacher as well as some of the management techniques used to neutralize me.
Dr. Whitaker: The difficult people sit together, in the back, and near the door. p66
Mr. Teachbad: Check.
Dr. Whitaker: I noticed that she was grading papers and pretending to be disinterested in workshop activities.
Mr. Teachbad: Check. But I wasn’t pretending and I’m not a woman. The meetings are terrible and a waste of time and we all know you know that.
Dr. Whitaker: One teacher who resists change can be harmful. A negative leader who resists change and recruits others to fight change can be catastrophic to school improvement. p122
Mr. Teachbad: What if the principal’s new idea is insane or would simply take a great deal of time and yield no benefits? Is every idea a principal has automatically a good idea? I never tried to resist change, I just couldn’t possibly do all the stupid crap she wanted and neither could anybody else.
Dr. Whitaker: Attempting to alter difficult teachers who are held in some regard by their peers is a special challenge…p32 Instead, we need to be the ones who are prepared. We should also plan so that they will not be. p95
Mr. Teachbad: This is possibly the position I was in. Though technically anonymous, the blog was an open secret by January 2010 with many people in the school reading it, enjoying it and passing it around. Ultimately I believe the blog is why I was fired.
Do you remember the assistant principal who had Dr. Whitaker’s book on her wish list? She started treating me very differently after the blog became known to her. Here’s how she tried to keep me off guard: We had a huge snow storm and classes were canceled for a whole week. The day school reopened was pretty strange. Attendance was low. People had a hard time remembering their names. So Amanda came to give me a formal observation first period on the first day back. I can only interpret that as hostility and an attempt to make my score lower by conducting my observation in the most adverse circumstances she could put together. Even so, it took them two years to get my scores low enough to get rid of me.
Dr. Whitaker: One factor that often affects the development of informal relationships is room location. If a follower has a room located next to or near a negative leader, this can easily encourage support for the negative leader. p. 139
Mr. Teachbad: For two years I had been on the 4th floor on the high school side of the building with other 11th and 12th grade teachers on my floor. In my third year, after I had been found difficult, my room was moved to the middle school side of the building. I was now teaching 12th grade social studies in a 6th grade science lab. Everybody else on my floor was a 6th grade teacher with a different bell schedule. The principal strolled into my room the first week and, with a shit-eating grin asked “How do you like your new room, Mr. Teachbad?”
“Fine, bitch. I think nine sinks will be plenty for me to teach U.S. Government.”
Dr. Whitaker: Optional meetings open to all staff offer exceptional opportunities to reduce negative influences. The nice part about an approach like this is that people who are interested can come; others stay away. If negative people choose not to participate, not only will the meetings go better but you can reduce their power of resistance at later meetings…Do not speak sarcastically…Share that you hope to see them at the next planning meeting. p143
Mr. Teachbad: The optional meeting strategy was definitely a staple. Every Monday the Leadership Team, which you could be a member of by simply showing up, met after school. It seemed to me that people went to these meetings for the right reasons and then one of two things happened. Either they became disillusioned and disappointed and stopped going because they realized that the Leadership Team did not lead and was not a team; or they kept going for the wrong reasons…to be recognized as being a person who goes to the Leadership Team meetings. I never heard anybody, except the principal explaining at other meetings how great these meetings were, ever make any mention of the Leadership Team meetings being helpful or useful in any way. My impression was that the Leadership Team was essentially a club of people who wanted to be seen in the club.
1) Keep sending your examples of rat-like management practices;
2) Think about this question for next time: As a teacher, what is the difference between being bullied by your principal, being harassed by your principal, and your principal just being an asshole?