Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tread Marks

I think school administrators like a world that is black and white. They like problems to have expedient and inexpensive solutions.  So do all of us for that matter. Unfortunately most real world problems are complex and take some time to solve. The world can't be wrapped up into neat packages of right and wrong. Our imperfect world can be hard for the folks in charge. Too often they mistake being in Command for being in Control. All too often dishing out punishment gives them a sense of order and purpose. It makes them feel that they are doing something and therefore they must be in control.  Control is a myth. And lets be honest here, school administrators are in the business of covering their asses. Perhaps this is true of all of us at some point, but it certainly seems pervasive in those folks who gain authority over others.

Far too many administrators I know are guilty of this kind of thinking. They are not, in fairness, bad people. Just flawed leaders living in a flawed world. The problem is that courage or conviction of purpose gets trumped by survival every time. In their world success is measured by how much they can appease the squeakiest wheels. This system, as you might imagine, has created a lot of squeaky wheels- all trying to out squeak each other for attention. That is when the hyperbolic chorus of privileged suburban parents tends to run amuck. When the rhetoric hits the fan the survivalist administrator reaches for the most expedient solution to appease the swarm of suburban privilege. That solution inevitably involves throwing a  teacher under the wheels of the bus. After ten years in my system and seventeen years of teaching, I've got the tread marks to justify my cynicism.

Once, just once, I'd like to hear a principal acknowledge that this is the way the system works. Just once, I'd like to hear someone say, "I'm sorry, I know this sucks, but it's the only way I can get this crazy vindictive person off our backs".

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