When I was writing last year, it was a joke based on the idea that I could retire, but wouldn’t be doing that. I was having fun with this until there was almost a situation where I would have had to retire. (Personal reasons – no one at the school was forcing me out or anything.) With that, the musings and speculations became less of a joke and more of a reality…and I couldn’t keep up with the discussion because I didn’t really want to retire, but it looked like I might. My principal was very happy when I told her after things were settled that I was coming back. I was happy about it too.
Then, this year happened. This has been the toughest year I’ve ever had physically. My schedule was the hardest I could imagine. There were some communication failures, and I am as much to blame as anyone about those, but I was feeling left out, ignored and was wondering why I didn’t retire after all. We got our scores back and missed getting out of our “Improvement Required” status by less than one percentage point on one area. That was disheartening too.
But, our principal hired great new people as part of our reconstitution process. I’m still trying to get to know all of them, but they seem to be a fun loving bunch. (I think that I need to get together with a couple of them and then we need to work one of those maps that we clear by saying “Mischief Managed.”) Our scores seem to be heading a lot higher. The disappointment turned to determination and the intensity returned. Then, Mike Mann (not the real name) stepped in. Mike knows everything. Don’t you just love people like that? He let us know that we, not only our school, but practically every teacher in the district, was doing things wrong, but that he, great guy that he was, would fix us with ease. He could tell us every little thing to do to fix all of us rotten teachers. (Ok, he didn’t use those exact words, but you get the point.)
Are Mike’s ideas bad? No, not all of them. Does something need to be done? Of course. That being said, ticking off all the teachers in the district and demanding that they change the way they are doing things just before state testing doesn’t seem like a wise thing to do. Making those demands “non-negotiable” doesn’t seem like a process learned in any Dale Carnegie course. Changing the word “non-negotiable” to “expectations” just leaves most of us with the question of “what’s the difference?”
One of our teachers is getting all kinds of advice from Mike, or is it that expectations are being passed along, or is the advice non-negotiable. Anyway, as a result of Mike’s advice, he is asking her to print out a lot of stuff in color. Only there’s a problem. She doesn’t have a color printer in her room at school. So she goes from color printer to color printer like a wandering vagabond seeking someone who will let her use their color printer. It seems to me that if you set demands, negotiable or not, give binding advice or set expectations, you should be the one to pay for the materials to meet those expectations. Do you remember that desire I had at the beginning of the year to retire – yep, it’s rearing its ugly head again. Come on Mike, you know how to do this; you know everything. Pony up the money so that we can meet your expectations.
Now, the optimistic side of me, the side that doesn’t want to retire, sees a challenge. I get a curriculum from an outside source. It’s set up a certain way. Mike would understandably not like the way we go through it. Perhaps I can be inspired to revamp and redo the curriculum so that I can flip the classroom and be the guide on the side instead of the sage on the stage. If I can find a way to flip the classroom, perhaps I can enjoy the victory of meeting this challenge and keep on teaching. I really want four more years after this one – if I can keep on going.