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Awkward Conversations with my Superintendent, Part Three

July 9, 2016

If you haven’t yet done so, read part two here.

It was clear from his invitation he wanted this to be a one-on-one meeting, but given his accusatory tone, I certainly wasn’t going accept those terms.  So I invited a union representative.  Given the superintendents’ response, it also appeared he didn’t have a clear comprehension of this issue, and seemed unaware of the consternation and frustration experienced by the faculty.  Thus, I invited two other teachers who would have been directly affected by the schedule changes to convey their concerns and clarify the extent of the problem.

The meeting day arrives and he is shocked to discover he is not meeting with me alone.  He tells me “I just wanted to have a conversation with just the two of us about why you made this decision.”

I responded that if that is the meeting he wanted, he should have sent an email that was far less accusatory.

He replied that he just wanted to understand me better.

I said, “Then don’t send an email that suggests you’ve already made up your mind.  There is a way to invite someone to have that sort of conversation. That wasn’t it.”

“Oh. Well, I’m sorry if you felt intimidated.”

“It wasn’t a matter of feeling intimidated,” I replied.  “You send a message like that, the only way to interpret it is confrontational.  If you’re bringing confrontation, then I’m bringing a union rep.  I invited the other teachers here because I wanted to make sure you had a clear picture of what was going on.  Frankly, it doesn’t seem like you do.”

Bad-Boss-new

He went on to reiterate what he said in his message: that he couldn’t understand why this would be a “first response” to the situation, and why I didn’t try to go through channels to solve this problem.  I pointed out that this was not a first response—indeed, it was a last resort.

At this point, the other teachers jumped in, and made it abundantly and passionately clear that they had been going through the proper channels for weeks and had gotten nowhere.  After that, the conversation took a surprising turn.  The superintendent made it clear he was aware of what’s been happening, and knew about the conversations between teachers and administrators.  Indeed, he supported the decision to make the schedule changes, along with the administration’s reluctance to contact the state for guidance.  Thus, his confusion had nothing to do with a poor reading of the situation; he just didn’t understand why I was personally involved.

As far as he knew, my name had not been mentioned in any part of these conversations.  He also pointed out I wasn’t at a key meeting where it was discussed, and it wasn’t going to affect my classes directly.   In short, it had nothing to do with me.  He was clearly under the impression that I had recently stumbled upon this situation, and took it upon myself to go rogue and call the state about something that was clearly none of my business.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” I replied. “This is all the staff has been talking about for the last two months. I have been involved in most of those conversations.”

“It has?”

“YES!” This was shouted in near unison from all of us.

“Trust me,” I continued. “I am well aware of this situation, and every step that has been taken to resolve it.  And students don’t have to be in my classroom for me to care about them.  If you think that’s the sort of teacher I am, then you clearly didn’t collect enough data about me.”

He gave me something less than a kind look.

In spite of this, the meeting ended well.  His misapprehensions about me, I think, were largely cleared up.  He also had a clearer perception of the extent that the faculty had been upset by these proposed schedule changes; it appears the building administrators had downplayed our frustration and anxiety.  Although he wasn’t happy with me, I think he understood where I was coming from.

He also took credit for the abandoning of the schedule change plan.  That was fine—I didn’t care who took credit for making the right decision, as long as it got made.  Plus, the fact that he was now pretending that he was responsible for stopping the changes suggested to me that he wanted a better option.  And as luck would have it, I gave him one.

A couple of days later, I got a note from a colleague: “Just wanted to thank you for doing the intelligent thing and contacting the state. Much appreciated!”

Hey, someone had to.

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