Thursday, February 04, 2021

Nobody Wants to Talk to the Principal

You know, any job you take in which you're a nominal leader of anything will be inconvenient. People don't always agree, and where there's disagreement, there's often blame as well. Someone is always mad at you for something or other. It's part and parcel of the job, no matter how much (or little) power you actually have. 

But usually, someone will stand up for you too. I'm not sure about principals, though. You'd have to ask them, I guess.

In my classes, whenever I give the first assignment of the day, I take attendance. I've gotten it down to a science. Zoom is very odd in that it generally alphabetizes students by their first name. Why that is I have no idea. And there are inexplicable exceptions.

We use Skedula to take attendance, and I've painstakingly arranged the seating charts in the same order as my Zoom attendance. While the students are doing exercise 26, or whatever, I match them up and it takes maybe two minutes. But you know how kids are, with their curiosity, with their questions, and sometimes a guy can't just take attendance peacefully.

"Why do you have to take attendance, Mr. Goldstein?"

"Well, the principal says I have to."

"What if you don't?"

"If I don't, I'll have to go to a meeting with the principal and explain why I didn't do it. Teachers don't want to have meetings with the principal."

"We don't want to have meetings with the principal either."

It's true. It's just about never good news when you get called into the principal's office. Either you're in trouble with the principal, or someone from the DOE is there to beat the truth out of you (figuratively, you hope) and the best outcome you can hope for is none whatsoever. Now I suppose once in a while some principal calls you in to tell you what a great job you're doing, but no one expects that, neither student nor teacher. 

Before I became chapter leader, I never wanted anything to do with the principal. It didn't matter whether the principal was good, bad, or indifferent. You'd say, "Good morning," and continue walking, hoping the conversation didn't develop beyond that. Usually it didn't. Optimally the principal didn't know who you were. If the principal actually gets your name wrong, so much the better. Since 1993 I've been in a building with around 300 UFT members, so if I didn't do anything stupid, like, say, run for chapter leader, my chances were pretty fair.

But it's lonely at the top, I guess. On top of no one wanting to see you, you have to go to meetings and more meetings. You have to call meetings, have impromptu meetings, go out of the building on meetings, and even go to meetings with the chancellor and other such DOE types. If you're ambitious, you have to nod your head in agreement no matter how absurd the actual meeting may be.

Then there are the people under you. For all you know, they're plotting to take your job. They're sabotaging you and planning to be as far as possible from the bus they're plotting to toss you under. There's some debate as to who said, "University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small," but make no mistake, it's true.

Now I'm not expecting readers of this blog to get all weepy eyed over the plight of principals. Bad principals make teacher jobs a perpetual misery. But even good ones are sitting behind that door in the picture. And that girl? The exception to the rule, the only one who looks happy as she sits outside the principal's office? 

She's gonna be no fun at all for that principal.

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