Monday, April 30, 2007


But I can't sleep. This has been happening a lot more lately, and I'm not sure why. I'm sure it's connected to school though. Tonight's particularly bad, and I'd call in sick tomorrow except that I need to get the crickets to the gecko. So I'm settling for calling in sick on Tuesday.

I think that a lot of this insomnia has to do with a vague feeling of dread about school. It's been that way for a while. It's sort of a fear of being "in trouble" that is really a little irrational but built upon by administrators and the district. I'm tenured - they can't fire me unless I really really mess up. They can give me an involuntary transfer, but not until the end of a school year, and as Warren says, "What are they going to do, move you to a hard school?" But still, the feeling of being about to be in trouble persists.

I'm not the only one either. I have a co-worker who is taking leave for the rest of the school year because the principal said to her something along the lines of, "Watch out; if you're absent one more time..." She said, "What are you going to do, fire me? You've already fired me! You can't do anything else!" But then she decided to take a leave just in case he could. I don't think she's really been absent that much, and she is a single mother with two young children.

From my first principal, I got a lot of comments like, "I can have your job at any time, you know!" A lot of those. And I hadn't done anything wrong! It was like it was just her way of blowing off steam. Can someone really be that unaware that constantly threatening someone's job is counter-productive, stress-inducing, poor leadership, and just plain mean? I was tenured soon after that, but I've seen other principals do it to colleagues of mine over and over. In fact, I think Principals Three and Six are the only ones who didn't do this.

It is exacerbated by the strict schedules we have to follow, the people who come in to see if we are on the right day of the right lesson; the exact right page that we're supposed to be on - not taking into account that students might be particularly interested in something or have had something traumatic happen that could knock us off schedule. Every one of us has been reprimanded in some way - gentle or otherwise - for not following the schedule to the minute.

No Child Left Behind just makes everything worse. I heard Condoleezza Rice talk about how our government was setting out benchmarks for Iraq as far as their progress in governing themselves. She added that Iraq would not be punished for failing to meet benchmarks, because that wouldn't be helpful or productive. (Or something like that - I can't find the exact quote.) But the same administration has punished us - yes, they use the word sanctions - for not meeting benchmarks on our tests. No matter that it's neither helpful nor productive, nor logical!

The atmosphere of blame and punishment isn't probably unique to my district, and probably isn't intentional. I would imagine that the principals have all been getting crazy amounts of pressure on them and some of them - most of them - just don't know how to deal with it in any way other than to take it out on the next level of people. (I don't know what the hell the Bush administration's excuse is!) But we can't last in this environment. Neither can the kids.

As for me, I'm tired of feeling like I'm always sort of in a nebulous state of being "in trouble." I'm a professional. I've been trained extensively to do my job, and I could be quite good at it if I was left alone to do it. Being watched and monitored to such an unreasonable extent doesn't make me a better teacher. It makes me a bitter, burned-out, tired teacher who is awake at 4 a.m. and can't explain why.


justducky said...

Keep the faith for a few more weeks... hope for the children's sake. Give them all you have and let go of the rest.

What day are you on your countdown?


did you see A's funny you-tube about ping pong?

mmnpr said...

I missread your title...
I thought it said "Tried".

I think that also applies.
You've tried so hard.

mm n pr

Tom said...

Your principal said "I can have your job at any time, you know!"

Why would he want your job? Judging from your blog, your job is not all that great.

If he says it again, perhaps you could say "Fine, you can have it if you want it. But if you do take it, can I have yours?"

On second thought, it's probably not all that great a job either.