Monthly Archives: February 2016

Yes. Yes, This is a Fight I Want to Have

It happened again.

So, the last time I wrote here, I related the experience of having what essentially amounted to a confrontation with a coworker over the expectations about students using cell phones.  Since then, I had ANOTHER confrontation with the same coworker, this time about students not meeting reasonable deadlines.

The culture of this place is kind of a mess.  There are rules, but no one is really 100% sure about what they are and they’re not consistently enforced, anyway, so the bulk of us (those who are bothered by the wiggly nature of the official expectations) feel insecure ALL THE TIME.

I am trying to change that, at least in the spaces where I have some influence and control (like, you know, my classroom).  Case in point; a week or so ago, I handed one of my classes a permission slip to watch a film.  I gave them the slip on a Monday and told them that I would be screening the film on the following Monday.  I told them that, if they didn’t have the permission slip turned in by Monday, they’d be sent out of the room with an alternate assignment.  I sent an email home to the parents of every student in the class, asking for a signed permission form.  I reminded the students EVERY SINGLE DAY that the permission form was due on Monday.

On the Thursday before the Monday due date, I had a conversation with Stan about this.  I told him that I was planning an alternate lesson for the students whom I suspected still wouldn’t have their forms and asked him to find a space for those students to work (because that’s part of what Stan does).

AGAIN, I got the “Chili, is this REALLY a fight you want to have?  If some students don’t come in with the form, is there another movie you can show them – one that doesn’t require permission – that will do the same thing that this R-rated movie does?”

Um… NO.  NO, Stan, I WILL NOT change my lesson plans to accommodate students who can’t be bothered to meet a minimum standard of responsibility.  I WILL NOT push my lessons forward to accommodate the kids who can’t be bothered to meet deadlines.  YES, this is a fight I FUCKING WANT TO HAVE.

Of course, I didn’t actually SAY this, but MAN, did I want to.  Instead, I pointed out that I had put a lot of thought into my lesson arc and felt that this was an important component to the big picture concepts I was teaching in this unit so yes, I did want to have this fight, and I would appreciate it if he supported me in it.

He left the meeting pissy.

That was Thursday afternoon.  Friday morning, I took the bull by the horns and, in our daily all-school meeting, announced that any student in that class who doesn’t have a signed permission slip by Monday would be sent to the office with an alternate assignment.  I made this announcement in front of the principal who, to be fair, probably didn’t know about the “conversations” I’d been having with Stan, but I wanted to make my announcement public and in full view of the guy so he’d know, when it inevitably came down to a fight between Stan and me, that I’d been VERY clear about my expectations and VERY reasonable in the time and latitude I’d given the students to meet them.

Remarkably, it didn’t come to pass that I had to send anyone out of the room; the kids who didn’t have signed forms were absent that day, anyway, so, gratefully, I didn’t have to have the fight I knew Stan wanted to have with me.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

One of the other teachers is trying to run a field trip, right?  ALL week, she’s been making announcements in the all-school meeting that she NEEDS the kids to bring their… wait for it!… PERMISSION SLIPS in so that she can make the trip happen.  The kicker of THIS is that if she doesn’t get a critical mass of kids, she CAN’T MAKE THE TRIP HAPPEN.

This morning, the principal asked her, after her announcement, when the deadline for the trip is.  Her answer?  “Yesterday.”  She’s negotiating with the bus company and the folks at the destination for the trip to give her an extension on the deadline so she can collect enough kids to make the trip happen.

The principal had a meltdown right there on the spot.  He’s “tired” of students missing deadlines.  He’s “bothered” by how little effort students make at meeting their responsibilities.  He’s “disappointed” that he’s hearing that this is even a thing.

The whole time, I’m standing there thinking, “REALLY?!  This is NEWS to you?  Have you TALKED to Stan?!”

When I got to my room, there were THREE DIFFERENT EMAILS from other teachers asking me the same question.  “I found it completely unbelievable. He is so ticked off by this one thing. Why should we expect any different? How does he think WE feel?” one of them wrote.  “Yeah, I think we need to address this with the whole staff. It’s crazy to expect these kids to respect deadlines given the school’s approach,” another one said.

There’s so much more to say about today – the “deadline” tantrum was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg into which our putative leader crashed today, and not a single crisis that boiled his blood came as the least bit of a surprise to the rest of us – but suffice to say that I’ve been biting my tongue – literally and figuratively – all day.

Sometimes, the fortitude it takes for me to be discreet and professional is almost more than I’m cut out for.

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