Turds of Administration

If you are a regular or semi-regular reader of this blog, you know that, as a group, the administrative class at my school suffers from Diminished Interpersonal Capacity Syndrome or DICS.

This is a terrible condition that causes people to relate to others as if they were not truly human and to treat them poorly for no good reason. The organization New Leaders for New Schools has been identified as a carrier of DICS. Beware.

In celebration of the end of another year, and in the spirit of data collection, I would like to share with you some sobering numbers from my school. I believe these numbers are a direct consequence of DICS, but more research is necessary. Here we go:

My school is fully staffed with around 85 full-time teachers. It’s a big school, but not giant.

Just for fun I decided to try to list every teacher who has taught here since I started in 08/09. So that’s three years. Using my memory, yearbooks and old room and phone directories, I came up with a pretty big list. Then I started talking to other people from other departments. Forgotten teachers started coming out of the woodwork of people’s memories. Many people don’t show up on the phone list or the yearbook because they didn’t last a whole year. In my department alone last year there were 5 teachers who either started late, quit early, or both. (Do you remember that guy in the science department?…tall…always wore Polo shirts? Wow, he really hated this place. What was his name…? Just put down ‘Polo shirt’ for now.)

So I’m talking to people and the list is growing. The final tally came to 183 teachers in 3 years for 85 teaching jobs. Add to this the 25-30 people who I happen to be aware of who are leaving right now. You could also add another 15-25 who will jump in a heartbeat if they find something over the summer. That gives us well over 200 teachers filling 85 jobs in 3 years.

Anywhere else on the planet, maybe in the galaxy, this would be considered a colossal failure of leadership. But at my school, the principal has achieved something close to sainthood in the local system. She is the longest serving principal in the system, by far. Some would say she is experienced. Some would say she has ossified. Everybody agrees she has been there for a long fucking time. Everybody agrees that there are a great many plaques in the hallway trophy case bearing her name.

Indeed, she has been called The Visionary.

She is nazi-organized, but a little less friendly in one-on-one meetings. She knows her business, because she has been doing the same job since probably Reagan’s second term. But instead of becoming more comfortable, self-confident and amiable, she seems to have become more paranoid, self-protective and self-righteous. I’ve only known her for three years, but the small handful of people who have been around here for 15-20 years say that it hasn’t always been like this. She seems to not care at all about the satisfaction of her teachers. That explains why most people flee from her as soon as they meet her. That explains why I have never heard any administrator in the building utter the phrase teacher retention.

I don’t want to get too personal, but she is not only authoritarian in her rule, but she is also unsettlingly anti-social. Her very nearness makes people feel sort of cold and empty inside. She has a bit of a cult following among the New Leaders crowd, but lacks the charisma of a big-time cult leader. If it came right down to it, I think the APs would spend all day spewing talking points about the achievement gap and data assessment action plan profiles if held in stress positions, but they wouldn’t take a bullet for her. They know the game. They know she can be good for their careers, but she is ultimately full of shit and primarily concerned with protecting her little fiefdom and her own reputation above all else. They know she will eat them alive as soon as she would me if they cross her.

The irony is that most of the hundreds of teachers who have been here in the last three years were really excited to get these jobs. I was. I sent my resume directly to her and she responded within 24 hours with an interview and demo lesson date. This school stands out as one that is not a total cluster-fuck in a city full of cluster-fuck schools. Then you realize that she is long on demands and dogma while short on rationale and long on DICS. She is an authoritarian drone who shapes underling enforcers in her image. They appear to share a brain, or at least part of one.

The entire building is subdued by her creepy, stiff smile that says I know being around me makes people feel tense and uncomfortable; and I have long since stopped trying to correct this.

So, how’s summer going for everybody?

Mr. Teachbad

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I Feel So Cheap And Dirty, Part II

Before you go on, you may want to read I Feel So Cheap And Dirty, Part I. But I can’t make you.

The four come into my room, and I know what’s going to happen. (By the way, Timmy has no IEP, 504 or anything like that. He’s just lazy.)

The social worker introduces me to Timmy’s parents, who speak no English. And I don&##8217;t speak what they speak. It’s unclear whether the social worker speaks what they speak, but I think not.

So with no communication happening on most fronts, the social worker just hits me up and lays it out there: “Is there anything Timmy can do to make something up or somehow pass the class? He has been working so hard in English and spending so much time on that research paper…you know.”

Me: He already failed the class. I already put in grades.

Her: Well, I know. But is there anything he can do?

Parents are standing to the side smiling, nervously.

Me: I don’t know. Like what? The class is over.

Parents looking at me, expectantly.

Does he want to take the exam over again? I don’t care. How about this?…I’ll give him the same final exam, his actual same final exam with his writing on it right now, and he can make corrections on it. How about that?

Her: Would that be enough?

Me: For what?

Her: For him to pass?

Me: Thinking: Jesus Christ…how much time do I want to spend on this? How many people do I want to involve? At what cost? For what purpose?

Yeah…it’ll be fine.

Her: OK. Well good. Thank you, Mr. Teachbad.

I walk the smiling, nodding parents out of my room and shake their hands.

Me: Thank you so much for coming down.

Parents: Thanks you. Ees no good. I know. He working.

Me: Thank you. Bye now. Very nice meeting you.

Timmy sits down to take his exam. Again.

After 20 minutes he brings it up to me. I set it down and keep writing the email or doing whatever I was doing. He stands there for a few seconds watching me. I ignore him.

Timmy: Aren’t you going to grade it?

Me: Yeah. But not right now.

Timmy: But I need to know if I passed.

Me: I’m not going to grade it right now. I’m busy. But you passed. It doesn’t matter what you did on the test. We both know that, right?. You walk up in here with your mom and dad and the social worker because you didn’t want to do the work before. You wasted every little bit of time I gave you to study and work on projects. You’ll pass. But we both know you don’t deserve to. Congratulations.

Timmy: It wasn’t my idea for my parents to come here.

Timmy walks out.

So, Timmy passes. But he still has to go to summer school to make up something else. Fudging his grade didn’t graduate him. I may be cheap and dirty, but I’m not a total whore. A man got to have a code (For fans of The Wire.)

Ten minutes later as I continue to send email and work on my resume, in comes another student to get his senior stuff signed. It’s Tommy.

Tommy has severe attendance issues, but when he is in class he works pretty hard. And he is a lot more pleasant that Timmy. But here’s the thing: Tommy is doing even worse in the class than the pathetic Timmy.

Then I was struck with a thought. The timing was just right. Like God himself wrote the script. The arbitrary justice of injustice slapped me right across the forehead: If Timmy can pass, you bet your ass that Tommy will pass.

The moral of the story? I don’t know.

Two wrongs can feel like some kind of existential, ironic sort of right.

Accentuate the arbitrary.

Nothing you do really matters.

These are all just rough drafts. Once we set on and revise it, we’ll make up some shirts.

Jeez…I’m sorry. Was that a terrible story? I’m having some end of the year melancholy.

Mr. Teachbad

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I Feel So Cheap and Dirty, Part I

Three days after I published the last video, the sadly prophetic one about teachers being coerced into giving students grades they don’t deserve, here’s what happened to me:

I had entered senior grades on Sunday night. When I checked my email in the morning I found a few papers that had been turned in overnight. I graded them. I entered new grades. No big deal. That was Monday. The seniors were officially done with classes.

On Tuesday they all started coming around to get things signed off for graduation. I have to “verify” that they have read a certain number of books in my class, that they turned in the text-book, and what grade they earned in the class just now ending. In order to graduate, you have to pass my class.

So little Timmy comes up to get his stuff signed. (Side note: I feel compelled to call him Timmy or Johnny so that no one will say Why did you call him Shae’Quan’trello? Why did you call him Jesus? Because black and Hispanic kids are dumb? No. I’ve been teaching for six years and I’ve never even seen a white kid. ALL of the brilliant, stupid, lazy and industrious students I have ever had have been non-white, none named Timmy. But I’ll stick to that in the spirit of avoiding controversy….(By the way, why don’t white people name their kids Jesus? And why are Muslim kids named Mohammed, but you get killed if you draw a picture of him with a ribbon in his hair riding a pony? Or, what if I had a student named Mohammed; I drew a picture of him and wrote “Mohammed” on the bottom and somebody found it? That would be just a terrible misunderstanding.))

So anyway, Timmy gets his stuff signed. Timmy failed my class. And, as I’ve said before, you have to be really committed to the idea of doing absofuckinglutely NOTHING in order to fail at this school. (And, mind you, this is one of the very best schools in the district.) Timmy showed a great deal of stamina and heart in this pursuit, and he failed. He scored 42 out of 90 on the final exam and a VERY generous 51% overall for the course. After all of the curving, hedging, denominator-adjusting tricks in my bag had been used and creatively reapplied, I still had that hard-core of individuals who resisted my every attempt to pass them. Timmy was one such case.

Later that day I had to go pee. When I finished, I walked out of the bathroom, as I always do, heading east. Coming straight toward me, maybe 20 yards away and in a crowd of students, were four people. I didn’t like the looks of it. Not one bit. One was some kind of social worker/counselor from the school. She was in front. I know her. Behind her were two adults I did not know, wearing bright yellow “visitor badge” badges. Behind them was the pudgy, apathetic figure of Timmy.

My pace quickened. I was headed right toward them. But suddenly I took a sharp right turn down the hall. I was out of sight. Ha-ha! I broke into a jog down the hall, unlocked my door and slipped inside; out of breath. I sat down. Seconds later my door opened. It was them.

You fucking idiot! You decided to hide in the place where they were most expecting to find you and certainly would have looked first before looking anywhere else? Your classroom? Shit. You’re as stupid as cardboard. I’m embarrassed I even know you.

My inner monologue can be pretty harsh. But he’s honest. And he calls it like he sees it. You have to respect that.

Can you guess what happened next…? Stay tuned.

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Teachbad Video: What Grade Would You Like?

Teacher in delicate negotiations with a student in What Grade Would You Like?