Things are totally imploding at work right now.
It went downhill so fast I still can’t really wrap my head around it. We are piloting a new schedule this month; there has been a big push from the district office to find a way to incorporate FLEX time into our schedule so that students have opportunities to different areas of interest or different ways of learning. Our school is relatively small so scheduling has always been a challenge. Many of us teach multiple grade levels, so changing the schedule around, which usually ends up moving each grade around independently of the others, can be a very real challenge. We also share our campus with a K-8 charter school and both schools are filled past capacity right now so space and resources are very limited and tight. There are many reasons why a simple month long pilot of a new schedule is difficult and stressful.
People generally dislike change, and our staff is no different. The pilot was not presented well and it’s being implemented poorly. Communication is a mess, we don’t have enough time to generate ideas or problem solve, and people are generally pretty upset about how it’s all going down. The pilot schedule starts this coming Monday, and we all have an extra prep, with a set of unknown-to-us students, to deal with us come next week. Even for someone who prides herself on being flexible and go-with-the-flow, it’s stressful.
Tuesday we had an emergency staff meeting to deal with some pressing problems with the pilot launch (most importantly we are seven teachers short for the first FLEX block on Monday morning). Many people couldn’t come and others refused to go, boycotting it out of anger and frustration. The meeting was high stress, but we left with some possible solutions in place.
Wednesday morning I showed up in my colleague’s classroom to borrow some computers (like I do every day) and he dropped a bomb on me. Two teachers from our staff had been told they would not be asked back next year. This is their second year so they are not tenured; the union can’t really do anything to help them (though one of them was not reviewed on the correct timeline or in the manner outlined in our contract so that might be grounds on which to appeal the decision). It’s not that we don’t need those positions filled next year, in fact our district is hiring, and we were the only site where teachers were asked not to come back.
I honestly can’t think of a time when a teacher was not asked back at our school. Maybe once? I have a vague recollection of it happening, but in that instance the teacher was clearly struggling and no one questioned the decision much; even the teacher herself seemed relieved. This year it’s different. The teachers are well regarded by their colleagues and have received satisfactory reviews this year and last. The staff was confused. And upset.
By the time I got back to my classroom there was an email from our union rep, announcing an emergency CTA meeting that afternoon at 3pm.
I missed the meeting because I had another one scheduled at the district office, but I found out afterward (from calling colleagues that attended) that my staff decided to present a vote of no confidence toward our administration. Whether that vote would be toward both the principal (it’s her first year) and vice-principal (she’s been there three years) or just the principal had not yet been decided. Those who wanted to do so were asked to send a list of specific grievances to our grade level leads by the end of the week. There was even talk of making a surprise presentation of our compiled list to the board at their meeting next week.
The colleague I called to get the low down is a friend and generally very leveled headed. She does not participate in water-cooler venting or gossip and always wants what is best for the kids. She NEVER participates in workplace politics. I specifically called her because I expected she’d process what was said at the meeting without getting sucked into the emotional gratification of talking shit just to feel better. To my surprise, she was very enthusiastic about the plan to compile a list of complaints and present them to the superintendent and/or board. Then she informed me that she was thankful she put in a transfer to the other middle school in our district before the winter break (for personal reasons unrelated to this drama). She ended the conversation by adding that our union rep was advising people to “get out now.”
I have heard grumblings about our administration for a long time now, but I don’t eat in the staff room anymore and being the only foreign language teacher (who teachers three grade levels), I don’t have a subject team or a grade level team to touch base with, so I guess I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten. The idea of presenting a vote of no confidence to the district office and/or board or education makes me incredibly anxious. I don’t like the idea of making our grievances public for everyone to see, discuss and judge. I understand that people are frustrated and want to see results, but there has to be a better way.
Then again, maybe there’s not?
And if we do this, what will the rest of the year look like? If things are hostile between the administration and staff now, what will they be like after we throw them under the bus for the whole district to see? There are still four months left until summer break.
Meanwhile, a highly regarded (and insanely expensive) private high school that I could WALK TO will be posting a Spanish position for next year soon (a friend’s husband works there so he has the inside scoop). The pay would probably be comparable, but private school teachers don’t pay into the STRS retirement system, which would really mess up my retirement prospects. I also feel strongly about public schools–I plant to send my kids to public schools and I always intended to teach at them.
I know I was already thinking of leaving, and this is all just one more (GIANT) reason to seriously look for another job, but I didn’t want to feel desperate to find something, and with all that’s going on, I’m starting to.
It’s all just really upsetting. I’ve been at this school my entire professional life and watching it implode on itself is incredibly sad. It used to be such an amazing place to work, but a whole host of issues have worked to unravel it over the past decade. I hardly recognize what it has become, and I hate that I’ve been around to witness its demise.
I keep reminding myself that no matter how bad it gets, I can stay if I need to. I’ve been there long enough that I can keep my head down and teach my classes in relative isolation. I’m skilled enough at letting the disgruntled resentment of other teachers roll off my back. I don’t have to leave this year, even if I want to.
I guess I really need to polish up my resume and start practicing my interviewing skills (of which I have none). This whole finding a new job thing has taken on a new urgency.