Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Simplicity Itself

I was at a DA meeting when Punchy Mike Mulgrew said something like if you aren't fighting with your principal, you aren't doing your job. Punchy Mike immediately followed up by boasting about his cozy relationship with Chancellor Carmen Fariña. One might infer that he was not precisely practicing what he preached. After all, this is the same Punchy Mike who urged us all to join Twitter but couldn't be bothered doing so himself.

Of course there are times when you have to be adversarial. A young teacher once told me she had an issue with a principal, and her chapter leader told her, "I can't take sides." That's absurd. It's the job of the chapter leader to advocate for members. You take the side of the member, no matter what. You don't necessarily have to agree with the member, but you do the best you can regardless. And of course, principals make mistakes. You have to call them on the mistakes. If you aren't willing to stand up for what's right, you ought to find a job more suited to your particular talents.

Sometimes things are easy. Yesterday someone double-booked the principal's office. An AP booked it for a lunch meeting with some bigshot from the DOE. I booked it for my consultation committee. Now the AP booked it directly with the principal, but I booked it with his secretary. Therefore, my request was valid while the AP's simply was not. I mean, there are plenty of principals who fancy themselves as school leaders, but anyone who actually works in a school and pays attention knows that it's actually the secretary who runs things. When the principal's off at some meeting or other, everything moves along well, but when the secretary is absent, the whole building falls instantly into chaos.

When the AP learned of this egregious error, it was instantly apparent who had the right to the office. We all know where the real levers of power are. The AP hemmed and hawed, contemplating a meeting in the far less grand department office, but I said, "Let me see what I can work out."

I opened negotiations with the principal's secretary, and we were able to move the consultation meeting to Wednesday. Sure, things were tense as we pored over the schedule and tried to find a good time, but we were determined to find a win-win, and that's what we did.

When you do things like that, you hope that when you need something, admin will reciprocate. Unless you're Andrew Cuomo, there's not a whole lot of upside when you insist on being an asshole all the time. The less you do it, the less you expect other people to do it. Sadly not all administrators know that, and it works both ways.

Of course I'm not President of the United Federation of Teachers, so what do I know?
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